Three hundred and ninety-four

Blogging used to be my ritual.  The one thing I had to fit in every day.  My release.  Now it’s my writing the book and blogging seems a little foreign.  I forgot what it felt like when I first started sending my thoughts out into the internet abyss – like I am sharing a part of my soul for the world to read and judge.  Happily, it turned out most people out there are supportive and encouraging, or are genuinely interested in an intelligent debate.  But it’s still more difficult every week now than it was once blogging became a habit.  By the end of the year I just wrote, whereas now I’m constantly questioning what I’m sending out there.

Around this time last year, at the start of the Toronto Football Club season (because my pub gets very busy for the games), I read some of my posts and think of how I managed to post something despite working twelve-hour shifts at the pub running around like crazy.  I figure if I can do it then, I can do it now.  When you’re passionate about something, you make it happen I guess.

Speaking of passionate, because I’m writing about my experiences extreme couponing right now, I’m starting to see coupons everywhere I go again.  There was a time last March when I would see anything to do with a grocery store and instantly think “coupon” in flashing lights in my head, like what I’d picture a Las Vegas wedding chapel to have.  (As a side note, friends of mine from Australia just had their second wedding at one of those.  The average number of weddings per day in Las Vegas is 300+, with the cost of a Nevada marriage license only $35.00.  It’s still a very popular wedding destination.  Although how much electricity those neon signs must take I’m sure is ridiculous!)  I still keep the occasional coupon in my wallet, but I’m now remembering the advantages of using coupons.

Since I wrote my posts last year, TLC has aired an Extreme Couponing All-Stars, pitting two couponers in each episode against each other with the person having the highest percentage of savings named the winner of the round.  The three couponers with the all-around top percentage of savings advanced to the finale.  It really is a sport now!

And an extra little photo of my vegan baking yesterday before I head off to serve beer to soccer hooligans:

Recipe from ohsheglows.com.  So delicious (and yes, I couldn’t wait and ate one before I took this photo)!

Three hundred and eighty-seven

Wednesday post day and the aftermath of St. Patty’s Day weekend

The biggest day of the year working in an Irish pub came and went and I survived.  I remember last year how absolutely tired I was at the end of it, but still managed to post something.  Good for me.  Although maybe not the best writing I’ve ever done!

I did manage to spend quite a bit of time working on the book this week, though, in my spare time.  I also heard back from the agent!!!  Her intern and her both read the prologue I sent them and liked it, with a few changes, of course.  I have a phone meeting with them tomorrow evening to discuss what I need to work on and “discuss the next steps in getting this book written!” (in her words).  Awesome! That also means I need to write the book.  For those interested, the book is about my personal journey behind the blog – my romantic journey (and that’s a good one), my physical health journey, my emotional journey, etc – filtered through what I am going through in the blog.  There will be small excerpts from the blog, factual information about the topics, but also my secret personal story of what I was going through at the time.  Well, at least that’s what I’m thinking it will be so far.  I’m all for adaptation, depending in how it is going.  I’m almost done the first section, so hopefully I can keep up this pace.  If I can still find time to write while working St. Patty’s Day weekend at an Irish pub, I can find time any time.

A couple of interesting things that jumped out at me this past week that pertains to topics from the year:

I found the image below on Quora.com answers from “When people look back on their life in their 30s, 40s and older what are some common regrets they have?”.  It reminds me why I do what I do.  And not that I kiss a ton of people (no that’s not what the book is going to reveal!), it’s that I try to live my life without regrets.  Sometimes I succeed better than others.  And I only kissed a few of the boys from date month (if I was The Bachelorette on television, you’d be disappointed if I wasn’t kissing them all, so no judging).  But the ones I did kiss were very special to me, and one of them is especially special to me still (oooo, hint at what my big secret is in the book).

(originally from http://xkcd.com/458/)

As I donated a bunch of money to the Daily Bread Food Bank during Good Deed and after Poverty months, I belong to their mailing list.  I’m sort of against snail mail lists because they’re just wasting paper and killing trees.  I know there are conspiracy theories that if we go completely electronic, the computers could crash or all our personal information will be stolen (you know who I’m talking to – father), but in cases of marketing I think going completely electronic is the socially responsible thing to do.  That being said, the Daily Bread Food Bank does a lot of amazing things, so I can’t hate on them too much.  In their package they sent me, there’s a leaflet about what causes hunger in Ontario and who the donation helps.  Here are a couple of those facts that remind me of what living at the poverty line really is:

  • The median monthly income for people using food banks in Ontario is $925, meaning 72% of their income is spent on rent/mortgage including utilities.
  • 46% of adults have not eaten for a day because of lack of money
  • 36% of food bank clients are children
  • 19% of children go hungry at least once per week

I am grateful every day for what I have and what I was born into.  And I remember every day to try and help those who have different circumstances in their life that are not as fortunate as mine.

Three hundred and eighty

Wow!  It has been quite the week.  Besides a hectic “first patio day of the year and therefore a completely s__t-show” (working not drinking) at the pub which left me feeling like a shell of a human being void of all soul, emotion, energy or drive to do anything, it’s been an educational and tough-in-a-good-way few days.  I started writing the book, beginning with the prologue and back story of why I started this project in the first place, using my parents’ house in the country as inspiration.  I came back to an amazing meeting with the literary agent I spoke about last week.  I love her!  She’s very calming, put together (both great traits to play off my occasional manic tendencies), and really passionate about her job.

We talked a lot about the role of the agent in the ever-changing publishing industry.  I know a lot of people who read this blog are writers, so therefore I’ll tell you what I understood from our conversation in hopes that you can learn from the information as well.  The agent is now as much of an editor, as someone who eventually pitches your work to editors at publishing companies.  What happens in steps is:

  • A writer sends a query to an agent to see whether the agent will represent the writer
  • If the agent is interested, they meet, the agent reads more of the writing and they decide if they will work together
  • The writer then writes the book or sections of the book and sends it/them to the agent
  • The agent edits and they work together to develop the book into almost ready-to-publish form
  • The agent then researches editors at publishing companies that would fit well with that particular writer
  • The agent sends out manuscripts (or parts of manuscripts – I’m still a little iffy on this step) to editors and waits for usually around 3-6 months, or maybe more, to hear back.
  • The agent also approaches editors at three majors book fairs across the world.
  • If or when the book gets published, the agent takes a percentage of what the publisher offers the writer.  This is how the agent gets paid.

This is how I understand it – although I’m just starting out and by no means an expert in any of this.  But I thought it would be interesting for you all to follow along on my thought process as well and help inspire you if you’re thinking about writing a book.

In my case, because the agent approached me, I don’t send a query.  However, yesterday I sent her the prologue I have written and she is going to read it, see if we are still on the same page in terms of what we both want from this book and how my book writing style is (versus blog writing – a completely different skill set), and then we go from there.  It’s pretty nerve-racking sending her what I’ve written. You think I’d get used to sharing my words with other people after blogging every day for a year, but it’s still hard.  It’s like sharing a little piece of your soul and waiting to hear back if someone likes it or not. Yesterday I spent the night at work trying not to dwell on the fact that the agent could possibly hate it.  Although it’s probably better than sitting at home refreshing my e-mail every ten minutes to see if anything came through!

Writing the book is different than writing the blog and I’m working on my description and dialogue skills.  And of course not letting my doubts, insecurities and nervousness get in the way of the writing.  I am not letting fear stop me from writing this book.  Although, it’s going to be even harder because the book is my personal journey behind the blog posts.  And sharing my personal life has always been the hardest part for me.

Anytime I doubt myself, though, I look through all the encouraging comments from my post a couple weeks ago and I remember this:

Thank you!  (And of course, I write it out, like I just did in this blog post and what I’m doing in the book.  I feel much better now.).

Three hundred and seventy-three

My first Wednesday post

As promised, here is my soon-to-be-regular Wednesday contribution – what I’m up to, what I’m interested in, and how the book is coming along.  (Although I’m having a hard time deciding what to call my posts now that they aren’t the date number.  Can I just keep with the numbering system even if it’s past 366?)

First of all, I’ve been approached by a literary agent and am meeting with her on Friday to discuss the book!!!  I’m not sure this is good form to talk about this (although I talk about everything else, so why not this too?), but it does make me very excited about writing this book and getting it out into the world!  I’m really interested to sit down with her and talk about the crazy world of publishing.

As I’m admittedly very new at this (another thing I’m not sure I should admit), I’m eager to get the ball rolling, discuss options and propel my ideas forward into the realm of hand held, tangible, beautiful, sit-on-your-shelf-for-years-to-come-or-lend-to-your-friends-even-though-you’ll-probably-never-get-them-back books.  As much as I love the blogosphere and the immediacy of writing daily on the internet, there’s something so special and sacred about the feel of the paper in your hands as you turn the pages.  I’m a little old fashioned that way, I know.  And they’re probably not great for the environment.  But I love them anyways.

All this talk of the book has inspired me to head out of the city and hole up in my parents’ house in the country to write for a couple of days.  I love the fresh air and quiet out here.  And I love my mom’s pinball machine, when I want to procrastinate.

The research rabbit hole

The internet adds to both my procrastination and my inspiration when I’m trying to write.  I tend to fall down into the research rabbit hole a couple of times a day.  How can you not click on a link in an article, that takes you to another article, which has another link, etc etc?  Knowledge is my drug of choice.  I get high off learning more about random topics I am interested in at the time (anything from the history of the Toronto FC soccer team, to how to bake gluten-free cookies, to whether it’s “pique” or “peak”).  My name is Lindsay and I am a Google addict.

One of the most interesting things about this past year has been the range of topics I covered and therefore the amount of subjects that now pique my interest when I see them posted elsewhere, in a link from a link, or in the news.  Such as where the items we buy and use come from and how that’s impacting other people in the world, economies, and our environment.  A huge topic, I realize, and one I can’t seem to wrap my head around completely.

My cousin Nikki has been a blogger for years (way before I got into it) and she often posts very interesting articles on fair trade, ethical shopping, volunteering, traveling, among other things.  Yesterday she wrote about how we buy shoes that are ethically made.  I was so upset to read that my TOMS – the shoes that I thought were helping the world by me purchasing them instead of another company’s shoes – are not so helpful after all.  They might actually be doing more harm than helping.

That led me to how TOMS are listed as one of the 7 worst international aid ideas on the independent travel publisher, matadornetwork.com.

“Shoelessness, such as it is, is a symptom of a much bigger and more complex problem. And while donating a pair of shoes helps shoelessness, it does not help poverty.

Things like jobs help poverty. Jobs making things like shoes, for example. But TOMS doesn’t make its shoes in Africa, it makes them in China.”

This article blew my mind!  It really opened my ideas to a lot of seemingly helpful ideas that are instead making things worse.  How did I not think of these things before?

A photo for no reason at all

One of the things I did in Montreal that led to me having to wear plastic bags between my socks and the inside of my boots (yep, it was very uncomfortable – especially when I found a hole in one of the bags!):

What happens next?

Wednesday February 29th, 6:33 PM.  My heart started racing and I couldn’t stop starring at the screen.  I was frozen for a second, then I started to laugh, walk around the room, talk to myself.  If anyone was filming me, they would think I had gone crazy – really lost my mind.  It had been three hours since I posted my 366th post and I had gone for a walk around Montreal – one of my favourite cities in the world and where I was visiting my boyfriend, who is working there for the month.  I came back with cheap bubbly and rosy cheeks from the cold and thought I’d pour myself a little glass and check my e-mail while I was waiting for my bf to be done work.  But when I turned on my e-mail it was full of messages from WordPress (the blogging site I use, for those who don’t know) saying that I had comments and “likes” from my final post – lots and lots of them.  I check my stats on the blog: 3,411 views in three hours!!!!  And that’s when I went crazy…

As I put up my last post earlier that day, I was a little disappointed I hadn’t reached 1,000 views in one day.  I have a regular group of readers, but never did hit the thousand mark.  Now I was over 3,000!  And it kept going up.  Six thousand views by 8:00. 11,185 by the end of the day.  Over 35,000 two days later.  I am still in shock – although I’ve stopped talking to myself, spontaneously laughing out loud for no apparent reason, and speaking so fast my mouth can’t keep up with my brain!

And the comments just kept coming.  So many encouraging, lovely messages from other writers and bloggers who enjoyed what I did.  I was so proud of myself for accomplishing my goal and getting through the 366 days of ups and downs, documenting it all the way through.  Now there were all these other people who I’d never met proud of me too!  Thank you so much to everyone out there who have inspired me to keep going.  I tried to respond personally to each of you, but it got a little much for a bit there (especially since I was also trying to enjoy my mini-break in Montreal).  I appreciate the comments and support so much.

I never really understood the power of the “Freshly Pressed” section of the WordPress homepage (for the non-bloggers out there, it’s the “best of” blogs from the day) until a few days ago.  It was the fact that my 366th post was featured in the Freshly Pressed section that caused all the other bloggers to see it, the chain reaction and all the views and comments.  For those of you who enjoy reading blogs, it’s a great way to check out some of the best reads of the moment.  (I made a screen shot of my post next to the “Freshly Pressed” sign because I was so excited)

The point of me writing all this (besides because I feel I need to write it and say it out loud to believe it’s real), is to thank you for all your support and to say that I am now going to have to keep blogging.  The momentum is pushing me forward and giving me all sorts of ideas of new projects to do and new adventures to take.  For now, though, I have to write this book…

To all of you: