Rail Jumping: Working Two Genres at Once

One novel, one poetry collection, and grant writing. In the midst of a heavy writing season here at the old homestead, (albeit a very urban homestead, but I generally like the idea of a homestead, so let’s call it a homestead) and I’ve doing some interesting mental gymnastics here. Maybe not gymnastics, but more a sport of some sort. Switching between dedicated fiction writing and then back to this more glimmer or lyric sense of the world is a little jarring. Maybe it comes from the fact that all three are projects that are more or less vastly different in content and focus. But it’s worth talking about the rail jumping for a second.

First off, for those that aren’t already in the know, I’m busy working on a historical fiction novel set in 1849 around this region. Currently the project is called “The Waters that Divide.” It follows a series of fictional events that follow the burning of the Jesuit Mission on Bkejwanong (Walpole Island) that draws the characters into circumstances that could break the relative peace of that region. Thanks to the support of the Ontario Arts Council on this manuscript, I’m getting pretty close to a complete first draft of work. There’s been a lot of research poured into this one, more so than usually,  because not only do have to world build in historical fiction, you have to do well at getting things accurate. It’s all a delicate balance for the writing, basically what is overboard and what isn’t enough information or homages to the era, all stuff that feels way off in this manuscript so far. It’s early though and getting the first round of this down is success enough. But this is and has basically been my day job. I’d better be getting this right.

Next up is the poetry. This is the stuff that’s been carrying the bulk of my work. With that first collection coming out with Black Moss Press this fall, I’m gearing up to get both some new work in as well as start to fill out and polish up  “Devil in the Woods” is the collection that needs to be finished up. It got started with some funding from the Ontario Arts Council’s Writers Reserve Program and now is being supported by a Canada Council for the Arts Aboriginal Arts grant to get finished up. The collection is a homage to both the great Richard Hugo and to my time in Peterborough, ON. A series of letter poems and prayer poems are told from the viewpoint of an Ojibway guy with initials J.W.. His letters are addressed to famous Canadians and look to engage the breadth of the Canadian experience with a Indigineous perspective. The prayer poems are an important tool to look more personally at J.W. rather than solely as a letter writer. Basically, looking to start shopping the finished manuscript in mid 2017 to late 2017. The Lit magazine circuit should start seeing these very soon.

The new work is another proposed poetry collection that will be submitted to the Writer’s Reserve Program for the fall. Not going to really say much on this one. Let’s make it a surprise for the all the recommenders on the list this year. Let’s just say it’s new work at this time. These two are my part-time job, but they are starting to eat more and more into that novel writing. I mean, they definitely should be starting to gain momentum and take time as the “Waters that Divide” project is starting to wind down. Eventually they will flip-flop time wise. I’ve got a fall and winter ahead of poetry.

So, I’m jumping the rails of fiction to get on the poetry line again. And this is good. Although jarring because at one moment I’m plugging away in 1849 in Sandwich or Amherstburg or Bkejwanong, then next it’s contemporary Central Ontario, then off to that third mystery location. But all of this good mental exercise. If only because when I get stuck, I can just hop the line to the other project. The three can and do feed each other in unexpected ways. Downside is less rest for the brain. So yeah, writing this year has so far been a train that I know I can’t stop. And that romantic in me can’t help but loving train travel.

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