Art vs. Life

An interesting thing has been happening to me lately with regards to my work in progress, ‘The Bow and the Blade’.

In April, on a whim, I entered my manuscript into a contest ( The prize was to be a full developmental edit, and I figured I had nothing to lose. If nothing else it would be a great learning opportunity.

Much to my surprise, I was sort of a ‘finalist’. The editor of my choice requested the full manuscript to review. In the end I wasn’t the chosen author, but the editor (Jeni Chapelle, bless her wonderful literary soul), provided me with some great feedback on a video call, and since then I’ve really delved into the depths of my novel, cracking it open and expanding it in places where it will really make you FEEL.

But since then, since sitting down to a big plate of fantasy novel meat and potatoes, my life has started to imitate my art, and it’s freaking me out a little.

My main character, Ayfa, is struggling with an important life choice. Aren’t all great protagonists? She really loves plants and botanical work, and her dream is to write a book about them. I swear I didn’t realize this parallel to myself when I started… writing a book. I mean, it’s a pretty obvious one, but it wasn’t purposeful. Much to Ayfa’s chagrin, she is torn between the choice of what she wants (to play plants and potions and write a great book) and the responsible thing (to train herself up to follow in her mother’s footsteps as the magical leader of the Water Province).

When I started writing this novel, it felt like closing the door on the work that I’d been raised up to do all my life – teaching. As I mentioned in my Origins post, I had applied to teach, and hadn’t heard back, so I’d decided to try something else out – writing. And it turned out that I really, really liked it, and (not to toot my own horn) but I have a bit of natural talent at it. So I mentally rearranged my life around the new and terrifying goal of being a published author.

And then I was presented with the responsible thing.

I received a phone call for an interview to teach. And I took it, because I love to teach. And because it’s a great steady income with great benefits and with a big family like mine it’s just the really, really responsible choice, and I had to pursue it and see how it played out.

Well, it played out really, really well. I’ve started substitute teaching, and I’m weirdly good at it, and I am feeling so torn between committing time to the responsible thing and the thing of my heart, the books, the writing, the authorship.

(It’s not that I can’t do both, and I will. It’s a matter of how many hours there are in a day, and the feeling of being torn between family, income, passion, hobbies… this is a universal struggle and I know you all feel me on some level!)

Somehow, my life has placed me face to face with a strikingly similar choice to my protagonist, and I understand her far better than I could have possibly done in the past.

Similarly, I’ve been smashed face to face with another of my protagonist’s fears: travel. Yes, you read that right. I am the home-bodiest of home bodies, and I’ve been very few places in my life. The first time I saw the ocean was on my honeymoon. I’ve left the country only once, to meet my then-boyfriend-now-husband’s parents. I used to think of myself as quite bold and daring, but with regards to leaving the house, sometimes I just don’t want to. For an extrovert, it’s a weird quality, and I’m coping with it.

One of my favorite authors (Maggie Stiefvater, seriously check her out) had a lecture booked in Toronto and I desperately wanted to go, but Toronto is far and expensive and I decided it was just slightly out of reach for me right now. And I was somewhat devastated because she had mentioned she was going to stop lecturing after this tour, and I felt like I was really missing out on a once in a lifetime opportunity but I just couldn’t justify the cost (the responsible thing, sigh).

But then she took to Twitter and announced that there was a possibility of adding a Vancouver date, and I pounced. That was much more accessible! And I made it happen the very moment she opened tickets. What a growth opportunity as a writer.

But that night I lay awake realizing I have never traveled anywhere by myself, pretty much ever. And I was frightened.

And my poor Ayfa, she is leaving home by herself for the first time and making her way in her fantasy world, and I have written about her hesitance and fears around it, and now suddenly I understand her in a way that is much more deep and meaningful than it was before I was presented with this opportunity.

Plus, in my novel, the setting is loosely based on west coast Canada, and the opportunity to sniff the salt air will only deepen my descriptions of setting, right?

So, Universe, you win this round. Thank you for all the twists and turns and opportunities to understand my protagonist Ayfa, thank you for forcing me to grow as an individual and an author and to deepen my connection with my writing in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

If you’ve read this far with me, make sure you’re following me on Instagram (@thatchandrafisher) and/or Twitter (@MamaMinnow) for updates – #PitMad is coming, and I plan to pitch my book then. Who knows, maybe I’ll get a nibble, and I’ll be one step closer to holding my book in my hand and sharing it with you!

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