We can be overwhelmed with our own and other people’s expectations when creating a writing project. Questions race through our minds, taunting us – Am I good enough? Have I really got the skill? or Will anyone think my work worthy? Don’t feel these insecurities are the soul territory of the novice writer as many well known authors still suffer angst of one sort or another, even if it is only – Will this story be as enthralling as the last? Self imposed expectations can stall or even stop your creative flow, a scary place to be for all creative minds and in particular writers, who sit before a blank page with a whirling dervish of emotion crowding out any creativity. In some cases this insecurity will be compounded by friends and family, who may demean your passion as a passing fancy or treat it with distaste or derision.
It is true writing is a solitary endeavour but there are ways to make connections. Of course there is the internet route, where everything from writing tips to author blogs to social media is at your fingertips, but do these give you a real connection? What we all yearn for is actually a more personal connection to someone (or even a group) who can encourage and support us in the real world as opposed to the cyber one. Isn’t it nicer to sit down with like minded people and share our work? Constructive critique over a coffee or within a writers group meeting is not only of practical help but gives us a feeling of community. An added bonus and one that truly boosts our confidence is when another writer will ask for help, an opinion, a viewpoint or even request mentor-ship. All of us can give as well as receive thus making our writerly life not so solitary.
Reach out to others – find a local group or even start your own! The benefits are countless and to be frank make our passion so much more enjoyable. Some of the following places may help:
Your local library. Search MeetUp or your local yellow pages. Your area’s Writers Guild or Association. www.wfscsherwoodpark.com
I lost a loved one to suicide and felt that there were so many misconceptions—or plain lack of knowledge—about what survivors experience, I wanted to shed light and give voice this loss like no other. The book also examines the cultural complexities that come with this kind of loss, as the characters of East Indian descent. Writing the book was also a way for me to process my grief and transmute the pain into something artful, hopeful.
How did you come up with the title?
SIDE BY SIDE refers first and foremost to the closeness of the relationship between the siblings in the novel, Kavita and Sunil. But it also refers to the themes examined in the novel, such as love and grief, loss and healing, self-destruction and self-discovery, universal experiences that often occur side by side.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
If the book is about anything, it’s empathy. The protagonist in the novel, Kavita, encounters ignorance and shame in many parts of her life after her brother’s death. But when she finally meets someone who treats her with empathy and she learns to give that empathy to herself, and later to others, her healing journey truly begins.
Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?
Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone?
My next book, CAUGHT IN A LIE, will be published by HarperCollins. It’s a mother-daughter story told in alternate timelines that delves into identity, belonging, and the cultural pressures placed upon women.
Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?
My favourite character in SIDE BY SIDE is Hawthorn, whom Kavita befriends at a bereavement group meeting in the third part of the book. To me, he is empathy. He is definitely the most aspirational character I’ve ever written. I wish I was more like him and I wish I knew more people like him too.
Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?
A bit of both, actually. I like having a skeleton outline, so I have some idea of where I’m going with the story. How I get there, though, is always a great surprise!
Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?
Depends on the day! I often find it distracting. But it’s wonderful to be able to connect with people and share what you’re going through. One of my new year’s resolutions is to be more active and engaged online. When things get busy, though, I definitely slack off. So, I’m trying to be more consistent with it. I guess social media has the potential to be both a great tool and a hindrance. Boundaries are important!
Anita Kushwaha grew up in Aylmer, Quebec. She holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in Human Geography from Carleton University and is a graduate of the Creative Writing Program at the Humber School for Writers. She is the author of a novella, The Escape Artist (Quattro Books, 2015). Her novel, CAUGHT IN A LIE, will be published by HarperCollins Canada in 2020. She lives in Ottawa.
SIDE BY SIDE Synopsis:
Kavita Gupta is a woman in transition. When her troubled older brother, Sunil, disappears, she does everything in her power to find him, convinced that she can save him. Ten days later, the police arrive at her door to inform her that Sunil’s body has been found. Her world is devastated. She finds herself in crisis mode, trying to keep the pieces of her life from falling apart even more. As she tries to cope with her loss, the support system around her begins to unravel. Her parents’ uneasy marriage seems more precarious. Her health is failing as her unprocessed trauma develops into more sinister conditions. Her marriage suffers as her husband is unable to relate to her loss. She bears her burden alone, but after hitting her lowest point, she knows she needs to find a better way of coping. Desperate for connection, she reaches out to a bereavement group, where she meets Hawthorn, a free-spirited young man with whom she discovers a deep connection through pain. After being blindsided by a devastating marital betrayal, she wonders if a fresh start is possible in the wake of tragedy. Will she escape her problems and start over? Or will she face the challenges of rebuilding the life she already has? Side by Side is a story about loss, growth and the search for meaning in the wake of tragedy, illuminated through one woman’s journey from harm to care.
Writing both energizes and exhaust me, depending at what stage I am in the writing process. Coming up with cool plot lines and ideas, as well as character development is fun and energizing but about half way through the book, I bog down and get tired. A bit of writing ADHD?
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Chocolate. Laundry. Anything I can use to procrastinate!
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Absolutely! Still haven’t ruled it out in fact.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I didn’t have any writer friends until I decided to go on a writers retreat. It was there I learned I could call myself a writer even if I didn’t have a bestseller.
Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Both. Some will be connected, some absolutely not.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Time away; retreats, get-aways, whatever I need to do to focus.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I remember coming home from grade one, waving my reader. I was so excited, and so amazed at the world that was opened up to me through the words. I have never forgotten that feeling of awe and amazement.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
I’m not sure it is under-appreciated but I loved The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. I was hooked beginning with the first paragraph; such lyrical words and such a beautiful picture she painted.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
Gosh, I really don’t know. Maybe the A&W Root Bear?
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
What does literary success look like to you?
People like what they read and my writings make a difference in this world.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I don’t do much research, as the type of books I have written don’t really require it. I may research the odd thing as I go along, just to make sure I have a name right or something. Most of my writing is based in some way on real life.
How many hours a day/week do you write?
Very sporadic and not disciplined. It can be from 20 hours to zero, sometimes one week after the other.
How do you select the names of your characters?
I try them on with their character to see if there is a fit or not. Pure gut instinct.
What was your hardest scene to write?
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
My first book just happened. I call it my accidental book. It is a collection of FB posts from the time I announced my son had taken his life until about a year later. The second was a children’s book. Coming up I have a novel that walks the line between romance and smut (lol!). I also have a collection of stories that all involved the same women going through different things in their lives.
There is no real balancing as I go with what I am in the mood for and tend to work on that one until I am finished.
How long have you been writing?
Since I learned to read. I don’t really remember not writing.
What inspires you?
If I can find a place of solitude and peace with little distractions, lots of sleep and nature, I find that is when my creativity flourishes.
How do you find or make time to write?
Honestly, I don’t find enough time. I fit it in for the most part.
What projects are you working on at the present?
Finishing a novel is my primary focus right now.
What do your plans for future projects include?
I have a few non-fiction ideas that I would like to work on when I have the time to do the necessary research and interviews. There just are not enough hours in the day!
Carla Howatt lives in Alberta, Canada where she helped raise four children, two husbands and a pug. She is a recovering politician and business owner. A communicator at heart, Carla is also a proud introvert, port inhaler, and dark chocolate hunter.
I measure every Grief I meet
With narrow, probing, eyes –
I wonder if It weighs like Mine –
Or has an Easier size.
I wonder if They bore it long –
Or did it just begin –
I could not tell the Date of Mine –
It feels so old a pain –
I wonder if it hurts to live –
And if They have to try –
And whether – could They choose between –
It would not be – to die –
I note that Some – gone patient long –
At length, renew their smile –
An imitation of a Light
That has so little Oil –
I wonder if when Years have piled –
Some Thousands – on the Harm –
That hurt them early – such a lapse
Could give them any Balm –
Or would they go on aching still
Through Centuries of Nerve –
Enlightened to a larger Pain –
In Contrast with the Love –
The Grieved – are many – I am told –
There is the various Cause –
Death – is but one – and comes but once –
And only nails the eyes –
There's Grief of Want – and grief of Cold –
A sort they call "Despair" –
There's Banishment from native Eyes –
In sight of Native Air –
And though I may not guess the kind –
Correctly – yet to me
A piercing Comfort it affords
In passing Calvary – To note the fashions – of the Cross –
And how they're mostly worn –
Still fascinated to presume
That Some – are like my own –
SONNET 64 – William Shakespeare
When I have seen by Time’s fell hand defaced
The rich proud cost of outworn buried age;
When sometime lofty towers I see down-razed
And brass eternal slave to mortal rage;
When I have seen the hungry ocean gain
Advantage on the kingdom of the shore,
And the firm soil win of the watery main,
Increasing store with loss and loss with store;
When I have seen such interchange of state,
Or state itself confounded to decay;
Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate,
That Time will come and take my love away.
This thought is as a death, which cannot choose
But weep to have that which it fears to lose.
Amass – definition: to gather many things for oneself; to collect as one’s own
Many of us have watched the TV program called Hoarders, which follows the plight of people literally buried under amassed stuff in their homes. Many have lived in these conditions for many years and become desensitized to their surroundings. It is probably a good thing there is no such thing as aroma vision as I’m sure the smell would be absolutely overpowering. Damage to the property and vermin infestation are common place in these homes and we denounce the hoarder for getting into such a dreadful state. However, once their stories are revealed we can only feel pity. A vast number of these poor souls have experienced devastating loss in their lives and holding on to things is a way of coping.
The items piled up are a mixture of waste products and newly acquired objects, from a wide variety of places, such as thrift stores, garbage bins or garage sales. As we watch the experts try to alleviate the trauma of discarding items, we acknowledge that for the hoarder it is emotionally discarding a loved one, the pain is still very raw. Many have never received help for their grief or depression. It is a sad reflection of the type of dysfunctional family that has become common in Western society as extended families are the exception to the rule.
Faced with such a huge amount of items must be really difficult to cope with for family and friends, many of whom have never seen the inside of the home for a long time, even years. Reactions are usually what we expect as we watch the program unfold but others are much more telling as to why the problem started in the first place. As human beings we need to be loved and love. If this is ripped away from us the natural instinct is to fill the void. The hoarders televised have taken their need to a whole other level, one we have a problem understanding but try to see its not the stuff amassed but the need for comfort, no matter how that is gained.
Have you collected objects to excess?
I collected Japanese and Chinese crockery and ornaments for some time but became bored and sent them to auction, only keeping a couple of favorite pieces. My main collection is postcards, brochures and tickets of places and events I have visited or attended since I was 5 years old. They are stuck in numerous scrap books, which one day I will renew.