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Archives | Sylvia McNicoll

Eye on the Prize–Canada Council Grant

Before last Friday a lot of writers were watching the inbox on their computers or even their regular snailmail box for a notice about the status of their Canada Council Grants. I couldn’t get a picture of anyone of them looking this hopeful. But Mortie trains his eye every day on some birds nesting in a cross tube on the baseball fence in Brant Hills Park. He became their metaphor. Mortie must know he’s likely not to nab one of those birds but he goes through this exercise every day. I know writers don’t apply for grants as often. But they slog away at stories that may or may not be published, lauded or appreciated.
I don’t know what Mortie will do if he every catches his elusive prize. I had a list for my grant funds. The money is supposed to be used for “subsistence” but what ever cash you normally use for mortgage and food can be channeled into VISA payments, dental work, computer upgrades, tickets to, say, War Horse.
But I didn’t win the lotto this time. It was lovely to receive the verdict “Highly recommended but we ran out of funds.” It

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reminded me of how sniffing close I sometimes come to the bird.

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Coffee Beans and Writing Process

Getting ready for author visits to discuss the writing process involved in the creation of my new book, crush.candy.corpse What really happened in the forty-first hour? I decided I had to make a coffee bean necklace. My character, Sunny Ehret, suffers from a hypersensitive sense of smell and when she visits Paradise Manor, she’s troubled by the “methane gas” odour. Certainly, I have been troubled by this smell when visiting my mom’s residence back when she was alive. Sunny’s best friend suggests dabbing Vicks VapoRub under her nose. When Sunny visits the perfume counter instead, the clerk waves a coffee bean under her nose to clear the palate in order to better be able to smell the nuances of the next perfume sample. Bingo, Sunny decides a coffee bean necklace might be a better solution than medicine up her nostrils. The medicine idea was something caregivers in Mom’s residence had suggested to me.

How does this tie in with writing process? Well the primary question every author needs to try to address is where to you get your ideas? The easy answer is always from a) my brain (and I carry a rubber brain around with me) b) from my real life–enter the coffee bean necklace and my anecdotes.
Another tie in–a practical prop to encourage using your sense of smell in writing.
And here’s another way to tie in the coffee. Laura Peetrom, one of my favourite editors, when reading the book in its infancy, suggested a plausibility issue. Coffee bean necklaces, is that possible to make on your own? Had I tried this? Eek. No. I had just imagined it possible. So I googled and found out you needed to stick the beans in putty (see my lovely homemade purple playdough) and then drill holes on a slow speed.
Okay, I didn’t try it at the time but I trusted the Internet and wrote that solution in. Her brother Wolfie suggests the drill when she finds it hard to poke a needle through. Now, when I actually have time to make the necklace, not really but I felt I needed to, I found that nine out of ten coffee beans cracked.
My designer daughter Robin Forsyth from Rubicon Publishing suggested soakiing the beans. I tried that. Eight out ten beans cracked.
Progress was very slow.

Then out of desperation, as I was threading what few beans had made it into bead form, I poked a needle through. It didn’t split. I tried it again. And again. Some still split and I needed to kind of push the needle through with something hard that wasn’t my finger. Eventually I strung two great necklaces.
So you can see the second application of my coffee beans to writing process–the plausibility editorial comment. To my readers who make their own necklace without seeing these blog corrections, I

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apologize. “Course they’ll never read this apology either. To my fab editor, Laura Peetrom, thank you.

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