From the Campfire to the Page

I come from a family of storytellers.

Not writers, although we have a few of those, too.


I would sit as a child, wide-eyed, listening to them craft whole worlds with nothing but their tongues and hands.

I have never forgotten that total immersion of voice and motion.

One of the hardest moments when I started writing was the realization of the frustrating distance between that performance and the words on the page.

There is a visual presentation that happens when we write to the page. We use a method of layout, of sentence structure that sits prettily between the running header and the page number, a neat visual symmetry.

I think there is a seductive power to this look and to this way of organizing sentences.

But I can always tell which stories have not been read aloud.

Maybe this is only something that happens to me, child of the children of storytellers, but I read as I write.

I set my sentences so that if you are to read them, all the visual breaks are where you would pause for breath, where you would look at your audience and watch them lean closer.

When I turn blue reading a sentence aloud, I chop it, because every sentence should aid the performance and not take away from its power.

This is a conflict between writing that is meant to be seen and writing that is meant to be spoken.

I know that there is a power in words, well-placed words, neatly set on the page.

I still cannot help remembering the strength of those fire-lit stories.

As I write, I lean into the flames with my fingers.

IMG_0586The grain of our stories fuels different fires

I’ve been thinking about some fundamental differences in approaches to writing. This is one of the pieces I teased out of those thoughts.

For my own fine-grained approach, my fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor, is available here.


A Splash of Colour

This one is for the spoken word.

In the in-between, head-down, pass-by world everything looks a little grey.

Colour teases the edge of our eyes but blurs out, as we move too fast to taste its richer accents.

Grey is not a monotone.

There are shades of grey and flavours of grey and sprays and days and ways of grey.

We sit at the center of a maze of grey.

And looking out-

Can we see the prize we sought in the first place?

Are we hugging walls, peering down dead ends to bends that take us right back to nowhere?

So let’s slow.

All those twists, those turns, those trends-

They’re not what is holding us back from earning our just reward.

In those walls around us, the path beneath-

Look down.

Look around.

There, in the cracks-

A splash.

When we open our eyes-

We bring the colour with us.

Let it spread.

IMG_0038See the shades


If you want some written style to go with the spoken style, I have also written a fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor. It is available here.


A World with a Thousand Suns

I used to dream of a world without a sky.

I wondered what it would be like to live in a world where the light came from all angles, where the view around you was obscured by the brilliance of the view above you.

Physics is not my friend.

Sometimes I remember those dreams when  I write.

Not because I write of impossible planets.

But because I think of the old Hollywood truism about children and small animals and the problems of working with them.

A good story has a few characters that dazzle and shine and obscure everyone around them when they appear on the scene.

A bad story has a thousand of them.

There are certain characters that, by their very nature, will either irritate everyone who meets them or will overwhelm the world around them so completely that all else is lost.

Because we only have the one sun, we do not always have light when we would wish it.

But with too many points of brilliance, too much heat and dazzling illumination, nothing is distinct and easy to recognize.

I think of a world with light in every corner.

As I write, I remember the power of light.

As I dream, I remember the power of darkness.

IMG_0615The character type that will always upstage you

Entertain Me (Act III)



There’s nothing like that moment of silence, every eye on me, when even the beer shuts up for a minute.

They came to hear the band, not the poetry, but I’m who they are going to remember.

Not because I’m better than the band.

The band’s pretty awesome- great drummer

Because I’m going to give them something they never expected.

I remember this feeling, every time I start writing.

I remember opening my mouth and giving them a poetry that matched their energy and interests.

Every time my words come out my mouth or my fingers, I pull that knowledge with it.

People walk into our words, our stories, and expect the safe path, the gentle path through the woods.

I respect that.

I will not lead you on path that will betray your trust, not take you to the other side.

But I’ll show you a woods you might not have seen, a view from the trees, not the road.

Are you entertained?

DSC01412A view from the trees

Act I is here.  Act II is here.

Here I Am (Act I)

Act I

I once stood in front of a hundred people at a metal band and open bar fundraiser and started to read poetry.

This is not the beginning.

We open on an invisible stage.

When I first walk out into the spotlights, everything slows down.

Ten, a hundred, a thousand people- it doesn’t matter.

There is a trick with spotlights.

They hide the world beyond them.

There are shapes in the darkness, flashes of movement and noise, but-

unless I’m at that hundred person poetry reading being held during a metal band/open bar fundraiser

-the watchers might as well not be there.

The other trick is that as soon as they disappear, I have to rebuild them.

When I look out into the darkness, I have to create the faces of my judgment.

I have to create me.

There is a joy, true and genuine, to performing for myself.

But that moment when I build the audience in my mind, for the story I am to tell-

That is the moment my words have power.

That is the moment my pen, my voice combine to look into the darkness, to say-

Here I am.

IMG_5453Beyond the lights, beyond the glitter lies the story.

Stay tuned for ACT II tomorrow!