Wednesday, November 7, 2018

IWSG: Wednesday, November 7, 2018 ~ Now What?

It's the first Wednesday of the month,
the day that members of the
Insecure Writer's Support Group
share their writing struggles
and writing successes
and offer their encouragement
and support to fellow writers.

To visit the IWSG website, click here.

To become a member of the IWSG, click here.

Our wonderful co-hosts who are volunteering today,
along with IWSG founder Alex Cavanaugh are:
Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor,  Ann V. Friend,  J. Q. Rose, and Elizabeth Seckman.  

I hope you have a chance to visit today's hosts and thank them for co-hosting.
I'm sure they would appreciate a visit and an encouraging comment.


Every month the IWSG that members can answer with advice, insight,
a personal experience, or a story in their IWSG posts.

Or, the question can inspire members
if they aren't sure what to write about on IWSG Day.

Remember the question is optional.
This month's featured question is:

How has your creativity in life evolved since you began writing? 


November's IWSG question has me doing some head scratching,
and it comes at a pivotal point in writing my memoir
when I'm asking myself Now what?

I'm not sure writing has had a big impact on my creativity,
certainly not in recent decades while I was teaching,
and now I'm wondering if it ever did.

I've always had a big imagination, and as a child it ranged far and wide.
I heard Santa's reindeers' hooves on the neighbors' roof.
I saw the tooth fairy.

When my brother and I crawled inside a culvert under a road in rural Alymer
to jump over a big hole that vanished into darkness,
we knew that hole went to the middle of the Earth
and we were the bravest of all when we risked our lives and leapt.

I roamed the world and the solar system in my imagination
before I ventured out of the Maritimes at the age of seven.

When Roy and I Were the Bravest
Back:  Me (Louise), Dad, and Roy
Front:  Donnie and Barbie (Bertie not even on the horizon)
Alymer, Southern Ontario, Canada
Fall 1957
Photo Likely by Sara MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I realize, as I look back, that most of my writing has been non-fiction,
and that even as a child, reality anchored any fiction I wrote.
Details obsessed me:
What is the name of that tree?  That rock?  That river?
Could imaginary events I was concocting in my simple stories really happen?
How fast does a tidal wave move?  Could a person actually outrun one?

A Big Wave

I remember making up a story when I was five
about an earthquake swallowing people alive.
A poignant picture of a cow's tail sticking out of a closed crack in the ground inspired it.
Even then I wanted the how of the story and the details of my story to be factual.

The more I think about my own creativity, 
the more I think it's rooted in divergent thinking
and a divergent approach to doing things.
I've always been different and didn't think like the people around me.

In grade six my nickname was The Professor 
because I was obsessed with dinosaurs.
That was painful for me as I learned to jive,
put on makeup, and consider boys and popularity;
but not painful enough to give up dinosaurs.

Sometimes I flat out refused to conform.
For example, I spent several years working on
my certification in paleontology in the early 1990s.
The now Denver Museum of Nature and Science created its certification program
to train and retain its paleontology docents and fossil lab volunteers.

The rigorous program required students to attend
a variety of night and weekend courses, workshops,
and lectures by visiting paleontologists,
to participate in a grueling fossil dig
in the Bridger Basin Badlands of Wyoming,
to volunteer as a docent and/or a fossil preparator,
to write a paleontology research paper,
and to pass a comprehensive exam.

The Bridger Basin Badlands
Southwestern Wyoming, USA
Spring 1993
Photo by M. Louise Barbour
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Around the Campfire
The Bridger Basin Badlands
Southwestern Wyoming, USA
Spring 1994
Photo by M. Louise Barbour
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Although I was teaching full time in a multi-aged, second and third grade classroom
in a four track, year round school during this period,
I lived for this program.  I ate it up!

I ate it up,
whether I was knapping flint to make a knife and slashing meat with it,
painstakingly extracting throat ossicles from rock matrix
containing fossil remains of one of Edward Drinker Cope's brachiosaurs,
or crawling on my knees over Eocene outcrops in the Bridger Basin
searching for elusive mammal fossils.

On My Knees on the Eocene 
The Bridger Basin Badlands
Southwestern Wyoming, USA
Spring 1993
Photo by M. Louise Barbour
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

DMNS Volunteers at Work 
The Bridger Basin Badlands
Southwestern Wyoming, USA
Spring 1993
Photo by M. Louise Barbour
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I rebelled when it came to the research paper.
Instead of pursuing a typical scientific paper, I drew on
a Tolkien bestiary and a favorite science fiction series and wrote
"A Bestiary for The Saga of Pliocene Exile:
A Science Fiction Quartet by Julian May
with Notes on the Pliocene Epoch."

"The Saga of Pliocene Exile"
by Julian May 
Photo by M. Louise Barbour
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Thank goodness, Dr. Stucky, the then Curator of Earth Sciences, got me.
He let me borrow paleontology books from his personal collection
and overuse his xerox to pursue my research
which included a critique of Julian May's science fiction series
and a study of the Pliocene crispy critters featured in her books.

Working on a Duck-Billed Dinosaur (Edmontosaurus) 
Fossil Lab, Denver Museum of Natural History (Then)
Denver, Colorado, USA
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

He also lent me a tent in the Bridger Basin
when the wind, hail, and floods destroyed mine;
then he refused to accept my money when the wind ripped
that expensive tent of his out of the ground
and carried it away never to be found ~ 
but that's a tale for another day.

Dr. Richard Stucky 
Former Curator of Paleoecology & Evolution
Southwestern Wyoming, USA
Spring 1993
Photo by M. Louise Barbour
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Most of the writing I did as an adult was non-fiction, 
everything from reports and newspaper articles,
to curriculum-based plays and report card comments,
to papers and projects related to my continuing education
and my Denver Museum of Natural History Certificate in Paleontology,
to applying for and getting significant grants.

But can I call my writing creative?
It's a question that eats at me.

And now I contemplate now what? with my memoir.
I accomplished publishing my father's Lansdowne Letters in my blog.
I worked through my memories without contaminating them with outside information.
Now I have to delve into the outside sources that will verify and augment 
my father's letters and my memories,
and I have to craft my memoir into a compelling read.

I get weak-kneed and overwhelmed when I think about it.
One step at a time.  One day at a time.

I'm currently studying one of The Great Courses,
"Writing Creative Nonfiction" by Tilar J. Mazzeo.
I'm about halfway through its twenty-four, thirty minute lectures.
It's excellent and inspiring!

"Writing Creative Nonfiction"
by Professor Tilar J. Mazzeo
Photo by M. Louise Barbour
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I'm currently reading "The President is Missing" by Bill Clinton and James Patterson.
Yes, it's fiction, but Patterson is a master at creating complex characters
and at plotting each and every chapter to propel a story forward,
while cutting anything that doesn't accomplish these two things.
You can learn a lot by studying Patterson's skillful writing.

I'm allowing all that I've written about the North so far 
to lie fallow for four weeks from my last Lansdowne Letters post;
I hoping that my story will grow like Tolkien's, 
"like a seed in the dark out of the leaf-mould of the mind:
out of all that has been seen or thought or read,
that has long ago been forgotten, descending into the deeps.”  Goodreads

In other words, I've stuffed it all back into my thawing muskeg
and am allowing the bubbling carbon dioxide and methane to churn it for a while.

Northern Muskeg
Flickr: Rover Thor ~ License

Then, finally, comes the task of hiring one or more researchers
to dig into information I've been unable to access,
like the Hudson's Bay Company Archives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, 
or the parliamentary records in Ottawa.

As soon as my four story-churning weeks are over,
I'm going to write a detailed, chronological outline
and decide the narrative structure my memoir will have
and how to develop the main characters, including myself.
I'm hoping that whatever my creativity is, it will improve my writing.

Speaking of creativity,
let me recommend a highly creative IWSG writer ...

I've read a quartet of Pat Hatt's novels in recent months.
Two I reread as they were the beginning books in two of his series:
"The Connective" and "Delivered."
I followed each one by reading its sequel:
"The Disconnective" and "Detoured" 
(which I stayed up late to finish a couple of nights ago).

Pat has an imagination that doesn't quit,
and I keep turning the pages of his books
because I have no idea what twist will happen next.

His characters in these books are everyman and his settings are anyplace:
ordinary people, often children, placed in extraordinary situations
and ordinary places, often vaguely Nova Scotian or Canadian,
that metamorphose into the unexpected and weird.
I admire Pat's boundless creativity.

Part of the fun in reading Pat's books is to watch his growth as a writer:
He improves with every book, and he has published well over 100!

Another part of the fun for me is to compare his writing with mine.
We're very different, and I've learned a lot about just telling the damn story,
not getting bogged down in precise details and explanations,
and moving the plot along at a cinematic pace.

I enjoy his books,
I'll buy more, and I definitely recommend them, but with a few caveats:
Pat pushes boundaries outside the polite and conventional,
the scenes can sometimes be gory or violent,
and the language can be earthy.
These things don't bother me.

Pat Hatt Books I've Recently Read
Photo by M. Louise Barbour
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I enjoy Pat's humor,
his unconventional characters and their outlook on life,
and his rollercoaster plotting.

I adore his cats Cassie and Orlin popping up in his fiction.

I admire his courage in tackling many genres,
in writing books and poems, rhymed and unrhymed, 
for children, juveniles, and adults,
in experimenting with Point of View 
and male, female, and animal protagonists.

And OMG do I admire his dedication to writing and his amazing productivity!
Writers who want to publish books can learn a lot from this prolific fellow Bluenoser.
(Find Pat at his blog "It's Rhyme Time." )

Wishing everyone a great IWSG Day.
I look forward to visiting and reading your posts!
Happy writing in November!

Link to My Website: Standing Into Danger

For Map Lovers Like Me:
Location of the Bridger Basin


  1. Geez, give a guy an ego boost a bit haha Cassie and Orlin do seem to work their way into much. I think Drazin is the only other one in as many as them, or near as many. There was a point where I detailed everything, but that just bogs things down so much. Go, go, go with a stop here and there is more fun. Plus, it's fiction. If you get too bogged down in it, one will never enjoy anything. In reality it is pretty darn hard to knock someone out for instance, but that's used everywhere. Thanks for the praise indeed, I'll write in any genre and point of view at least once. And if you think that language is earthy, I'll let you in on the title of one book I have sitting in the wings. Penis Envy lol And it isn't what you'd think. hahaha Not sure if that one will come next or if The Elusive(last book in connective trilogy) or A Not So Heartless World (9th in other series) or Zero Usage will come next. Hmmmm.

    But with non-fiction things are way different indeed, as the devil can be in the details. Although you still have to decide what details are prudent and what aren't, as if one goes on about the green grass for ten pages, they may need to mow the frigging lawn haha I've only ever written articles for non-fiction. After my 10th article on lawyer crap, I ended that freelance stuff. Sooo boring.

    1. You have me laughing, Pat!
      Where I'm at.
      I'm not surprised to hear there is a third connective.
      And I'm betting the Hirtles will be back with their unique perspective!

  2. It is interesting to see a President co-write a book about a president.

    1. That's the hook, Adam, and so far it's reeling me in. Have a good one!

  3. Got to love the life of a creative. Great pictures and memories.

    1. Thanks, Donna! Those memories are some of my best! What adventures I had!

  4. I do call non-fiction creative. It's just creative in a different way. This post enraptured me, especially when you described your love of dinosaurs and where that led you. It takes a creative soul to write that well, a soul that understands how to tell a story, even a real one.

    1. Thank you, Linda! Your encouraging words about my writing mean a great deal to me. I've had more fun over the years with dinosaurs ~ more than I ever dreamed of. To have the opportunity to prep brachiosaurus fossils collected by Cope, of the Cope and Marsh "Bone Wars," was one of the biggest thrills of my life ~ also one of the most nerve wracking, LOL! I will never forget! Have a great evening!

  5. Greetings Louise. I don't think it matters how you write, or in what genre, as long as you are writing that counts. We all get better the further along our journeys we get, and we all start at the bottom from a young age. I enjoyed school, and learnt a lot, and would often mentor others to get better. It sounds interesting digging up dinosaurs and fossils, glad you enjoyed it. It sounded like a hard task to become a palaeontologist! You got through it though. It seems you have a lot on your plate - and I wish you well with what you've got to do. I've got a lot on my plate at the moment, I'm editing over 1400 poems! I'm about a third of the way through. Pat sounds like a good author and you've done him proud. Sadly I don't find much time to read at the present time. Good luck to you. Blessings to you. Love love, Andrew.

    1. Hi, Andrew! Thank you for your thoughtful reply and sharing your experiences. It was kind of you to help fellow students. I loved school too.

      I did get over to your blog the other day, and I read enough posts to realize that there have been some changes in your life. Unfortunately I was pulled away before I could leave a comment. I've been tired because I had a packed several days of medical and dental procedures. I'm fine, and almost 100%.

      I think it's fabulous that you are editing your collection of poems, Andrew. I might have said this to you before, so forgive me if I'm repeating myself; but I think you should pick a 100 or so of your best poems and publish them in a book. I can see natural groupings: Love, Faith, Family, Friendship, Madness, Sadie, Nature. You have a lot of great material to work with, and I encourage you to consider publishing your work. All the best to you ~ I will get by and finish my reading, but I'll likely leave one or two comprehensive comments. Blessing back at you, my friend!

    2. Greetings Louise. Thank you for popping by, I appreciate it. I'm going to send most of my poems to a publisher when I've finished editing them - still a way to go. I'm trying to get the meter the same throughout my pieces, so am taking away words, adding words, changing words, and adding capitals and the right punctuation! I'm at a slow pace, but It's been enlightening to me reading my pieces again. I wrote about 250 poems about my Ex Clare! Blessings to you my blogging Friend. Love love, Andrew.

    3. I am really glad to hear that you are planning to send your poems off to a publisher, and I wish you lots of success! I'm like you ~ I don't want to approach a publisher or agent until I've got the manuscript(s) done to the best of my ability. Have a good one, my friend!

  6. Creativity exists in fiction and non-fiction. You still have to use your imagination to plan how your non-fiction will play out...the best way to set it up, the most intriguing way to engage your readers, the voice you will use. Best wishes to you. I hope the mind bubbling beneath spills boils up into a wonderful project.

    1. Thank you for your encouraging words, Liza! You've really summed up all the creativity that goes into writing non-fiction. I'm excited about the next chunk of work on my memoir, even if it is intimidating. I'll get there! Wishing you success in your writing!

  7. Pat is a great writer!
    You can do the research and complete everything needed for your book. You've already done so much of the work.
    And after reading of all your interests I can safely say you are one cool person.

    1. Thank you, Alex! I think you are the coolest! And you've done so much to support other writers! What you have done with the IWSG is inspiring! I know I can complete this memoir, even if I am so slow. I am excited about your new WIP, and I can't wait to read it. I'll be sending you mental shots of energy and encouragement throughout November as you push to complete your writing! Pat is a great writer!!!!! All the best to you, my friend!

  8. Writing is what counts for sure. Don't break the chain, and keep going. I always love your photos. Great post!

    1. I'm glad that you enjoy my photos, Adrienne. Photography has been a big part of my life since I took a photo of my Great Uncle Chester's hens when I was four or five. The downside of my love of photography is my collection of photos is ridiculously out of control. One step after another. One word after another ~ those are my mantras. Good luck with your writing. Take care!

  9. I love fiction that's based in the real world, so some of my favorite books are historical fiction. What a great adventure your life has been. I'm especially jealous of your encounter with that Duck-Billed Dinosaur!

    1. Hi, Lee! Working on the duck-billed dinosaur was lots of fun! The fossil lab made a cast of its head, and it was my job to clean the head after the casting. I told my kiddos at school that my job was picking the duck-billed dinosaur's nose ~ and it literally was.

      I was fortunate to work on a number of the museum's major dinosaurs because the Earth Sciences Department was taking apart its old dinosaur hall and constructing a new major exhibit called Prehistoric Journey. All the old mounted specimens had to be disarticulated, cleaned and stabilized, and remounted according to the latest scientific understanding of dinosaur anatomy and behavior.

      The Edmontonsaurus on display in Prehistoric Journey is really special, because damage to its tail vertebrae suggests that it survived being bitten by a Tyrannosaurus. We had great discussions about that theory with Ken Carpenter, our dinosaur expert.

      I loved every minute of the thirteen years I volunteered at the lab. I had to stop when we moved farther away, and my teaching and union leader responsibilities metastasized.

      All the best to you, Lee!

  10. Goodness but what an interesting life. And you wrote about it so well, you kept me reading to see what you would do next. Basing and old dry thesis on your favorite books certainly takes creative energy. You've got it! I find in writing my memoir, it is easier to make up a fictional character than to place myself and my story in the book. But the cornerstone of memoir is it has to be truthful. So I'm trying to creatively write the truth. Best wishes with your memoir project! Looking forward to reading your story.
    JQ Rose

    1. Thanks, JQ! You made my evening with your kind words! Memoir is all about truth-telling, and sometimes the truth is difficult to confront and to write about. I'm excited about the challenge. I'm finding Professor Mazzeo's course I'm working through really helpful in that it explicitly explains techniques for writing non-fiction in a creative way. We shall see what happens. Good luck with your writing. It would be fun to read your story too!

  11. You've had an amazing life, so far! The early part of your post took me back to my childhood imagination. I had completely forgotten how imaginative I was until I read this. Thank you! Creativity is a pliable thing that seems to bend and change throughout the threads of time. Even those of us who write mostly non-fiction weave a bit of creativity into it. We craft our words so they roll off the tongue, easy to understand and relate to. Like you, taking me back in time 35 years to when I was Nancy Drew, looking at a scrap of the stock page of a newspaper torn in the wind, thinking it was a secret code. Have a wonderful week!

    1. Hi, Heather. Thanks you for sharing your memories of being Nancy Drew with a secret code to crack. I read a lot of Nancy Drew mysteries. I wanted to be her! I'm glad I took you back to your childhood memories. I really liked your description of crafting words, and I work hard on each of those things. I was always telling my students, "Strong verbs. Precise nouns." Wishing you a great week as well!

  12. Studying dinosaurs! How fun. I was fascinated by them as a kid. I didn't care if it was a girl thing or not.

    1. Hi, Diane! Is there a kiddo who doesn't love dinosaurs? I had such fun taking my students to field trips to the museum to share "my" dinosaurs with them. Enjoy the rest of your week!

  13. i'm glad you're writing your memoir as you certainly have something worth telling. This post is too big to read in one sitting when I have to return bloggers' visits, but I'll try to come back. Those pics look amazing. And I too admire Pat for his prolific output!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Denise! I got a little carried away with this post. I so get what you mean about returning bloggers' visits. IWSG Day is always fun, but definitely a commitment. Happy writing in November!

  14. I love that your nickname as a kid was The Professor and that you turned your early love of dinos into a lifelong passion. So sweet that you shared Pat's books with us all. They sounds great - I'll have to check them out.

    Cheers - Ellen

    1. Hi, Ellen! I hope that you had a great time making the rounds as an IWSG co-host. I've always found it a lot fun. I'm trying to read more books by IWSG authors, and yours are definitely on my list. I always enjoy your funny posts; and if I flag in my budgeting goals, I'll just channel you and your spreadsheet. Enjoy your weekend!

  15. You are amazing girl! You really are! Keep being you!! I think you are very creative and wonderful!! Big Hugs!

    1. Oh thank you, Stacy! Sorry ~ I just found this comment. If only I could just stay on top of things ~ LOL! Big hugs back at you!

  16. Yes, let it all have time to meld, Louise. You will have your answer and will proceed from there.

  17. Dear Louise I have read books less than you though but it seems that I am away from my regular practice of reading since ages due to bussiness I have as mom and house wife.

    I find you a pure and enlightened soul free from worldly impurities, roaming about in the universe within numerous galaxies

    Yep same adventures I used to have but am not lucky enough to elaborate them as sublimely as you do my friend !!!!!!!

    You are one of the most creative writer with striking smoothness and geniun spontaneity which makes your writing remarkable and worthy to not only read but to be inspired!

    You are proud daughter who revealed the amazing story of your father and unusual childhood!

    And I adore and love YOU for all wonderful qualities you are blessed with!

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Thank you for your comments! I appreciate them very much.