The Perfect Word [Thoughts on #Writing]

Lifestyle/Personal

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As a writer, using the correct wording isn’t enough, you have to use the ONLY word in the entire English language (or whichever language you write in) that will make the sentence perfect. And there is only ONE word — not a jumble of words listed in a thesaurus to choose from.

Days are longest when that word won’t come out from behind the bushes, when I’m lost in a labyrinth of possibilities and none of them stick out at me. There are days that turn into weeks when nothing sounds right. It is all crap. It’s those days or weeks that I question my abilities as a writer. Those days when I rush through a post or an email and scream at my reflection in the computer screen FRAUD!

Then there are days when all of the words are perfect; they exist one by one in perfect harmony. Together. Separate. They are my salvation.

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

That Time I Met David Nicholls [Event Recap]

Book Reviews, Just for Fun, Toronto Adventures

Once in a while HarperCollins Canada hosts an intimate gathering with their Facebook fans, one of their authors, and a spectacular interviewee. This event celebrated David Nicholls, author of One Day and Us (which just came out). From what the Facebook invite said, guests would get to listen in on an interview between the epic Laurie Grassi and David Nicholls, then get their book signed. My love for Us demanded that I attend.

On Sunday afternoon I headed down to the HarperCollins offices and was greeted with smiling faces, hot coffee, and yummy snacks. The interview got underway rather quickly, David Nicholls lit up the room with his warm English accent and humble disposition. With cues from Laurie Grassi, he spoke about wanting to write a novel about what happens next, what happens after the dating and the courting. Us is what happens after the I do’s.

He spoke about the theme of changing over time, about journeys and the way they effect you. He discussed the characters in the novel having reasons behind their actions — this is what the other readers and I found so loveable about them. Douglas, however maddening, always acts with reason. In response to Douglas’ annoying traits, Laurie Grassi brought up one of my favourite lines in the book: The fact was I loved my wife to a degree that I found impossible to express, and so rarely did (page 27 of the ARC). David Nicholls purposely chose Douglas’ point of view to tell the story because he has trouble expressing himself. That is what makes him so vulnerable and sometimes rather stupid.

Although I loved hearing about the inspiration behind the book, what I enjoyed most was the discussion on various writing tools. He spoke about how important structure was to writing Us, the short chapters and interweaving Connie and Douglas’ meeting with their trip around Europe 25 years into their marriage, had a purpose. The structure not only made it easier to write the book, but also made the reader want to just read one more chapter, one more chapter.

When asked about what makes him want to keep writing, he shifted in his chair, fixed his glasses and said, “I just really love it. When I was acting, what I really loved about it were the words on the page. It’s a great privilege to do it for a living. I just love it, plus I have a contract with my publisher…”

There’s something quite fascinating about listening to the author of a novel that you love discuss their own work. What struck me about David was how funny he is and how quirky his comments could be. He’s clearly very passionate about his work, and answered all questions with vigor and excitement. He was honestly humbled by the amount of people who turned up for the event and took his time signing books and chatting with each fan. While he signed my copy I asked him if he had any advice for an aspiring novelist. He paused for a moment, thought deeply, and replied:

If you’re going to write, you have to read, that’s where ideas come from. Then you need to show people your work, believe in yourself enough to show your family and friends. Oh and stay away from the Internet, it’s quite distracting.

Thank you HarperCollins for hosting such a lovely event, I’ve never met an author in such an intimate and charming setting. Count me in for the next one!

– Vanessa

 

The Songbird [A NARRATIVE]

Fiction

* This narrative is dedicated to my cousin Amanda. Thank you for always challenging my writing and inspiring me to write more, be more, be better. Enjoy! *

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The Songbird 

Written by Vanessa Grillone on October 31, 2014

It is a dead songbird that I nearly run over with my car on Hallows’ Eve. When I notice it, I assume it’s a dirty old sock that fell out of my brother’s car. I’ll make him pick it up when he gets home. I collect the empty water bottles thrown around my car, a mountain of plastic polluting the earth. With my hands full I somehow manage to grab my purse and swing the car door open. Incessant chirping floods my ears while goosebumps prickle the back of my neck. I thrust my booted feet out of the car and watch my phone sail away, it hits the ground face-first.

Fuck. 

I run to my phone, throwing the water bottles without care. My heart pounds as I flip it over. The screen is cracked in the shape of a lightning bolt. I press the home button in panic. It works. I cannot afford a new phone right now. I caress my fractured phone then stow it in my pocket and stand up. The clouds are dark and dreary even though it’s one in the afternoon. The cold runs through my bones, brain freeze strikes all of my limbs. The trees are fading around me, the bright fiery red leaves disappearing into a copper-orange and brown the shade of bark. The wind whispers, winter is coming.

The chirping gets louder. I look around and then up. I see thirty robins sitting in a tree, their shrill voices aren’t singing — they’re screaming. Squawking, judging, and belittling me. Oh fuck off you nasty animals and stop shitting on my car! They get louder, where is my stupid dog when I need him? 

I think about running inside, but I remember my brother’s sock and the water bottles that are now at the end of my driveway. One by one I pick them up and whip them into our dank garage. Next I walk around to the passenger’s side of my car, ignoring the party of robins hovering above my head. The sock is not a sock, but a dead robin. I step backwards slowly, trying not to show fear. I want to walk inside, to feel the warmth and comfort of my house, but I’m frozen where I stand.

He looks peaceful, sleeping with eyes open.

He’s almost beautiful with a deep orange breast, soft brown feathers, and a perfect tiny beak.

I hope he got to the end of his very last song.

– Vanessa

*The Songbird is a work of fiction*

 

Obligatory (& Necessary) Thanksgiving Post

Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal

 

book-page-pumpkin-1_thumb[7]Although we shouldn’t need a holiday to remind us to be thankful, we’re human. We’re self-obsessed beings who thrive on pity, and focus on the bad instead of the good. We need Thanksgiving to take a step back and think about all of the people and moments that make us happy. To remember that life is fragile and we should enjoy what we have before it gets taken away from us.

I’m thankful for… (equally and in no particular order) 

  • family and friends
  • my niece
  • my boyfriend
  • LOVE & LAUGHTER
  • sight and health
  • books and words
  • music and movement
  • travel and adventure
  • dreams and goals
  • traditions (new and old)
  • good food and sweet wine
  • inspiration and creativity
  • work
  • romance and hand holding
  • passion and dedication
  • YOU!
“Life without thankfulness is devoid of love and passion. Hope without thankfulness is lacking in fine perception. Faith without thankfulness lacks strength and fortitude. Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road.” 
― John Henry Jowett

 

Happy Thanksgiving!
Vanessa xo

Lesson Learned: falling into place

Lifestyle/Personal

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On my 25th birthday I held my breath and blew out the candles with such ferocity that my wish didn’t have a chance to exist…

The clock ticks faster these days and any attempt to slow down my thoughts results in a quickened heart rate and nervous tic. I noticed crows-feet digging lines into the corners of his eyes as I sang him Happy Birthday the other day. A mirror of those lines are in the corner of my own, not to mention the pillows of darkness beneath my eyes. We’re getting older, but we’re so young — the world is still ours.

Every rash decision I’ve made and every opportunity I’ve been afraid to take has led me to this land of mass confusion. All options are in the air — I’m a juggler throwing balls so high, losing them in the sky. I’m waiting impatiently for one to come back down, hit me in the head, and get me back on track. My mind is fatigued most days and this uncertainty isn’t invigorating, it’s a burden. I’m waiting for everything to fall into place.

“Falling into Place:
deciding everything is falling into place perfectly as long as you don’t get too picky about what you mean by place. Or perfectly.” ― Brian Andreas

Talk soon,
Vanessa

Word of the Week [INIMITABLE]

Word of the Week

It’s a well-known fact that if you want to write well you must read a lot and often. Reading improves your own writing  in style, form, and vocabulary. I read a lot of great books, magazines, and try to mix up the genres too. I love it when I find a word I don’t quite know the meaning because it’s kind of humbling. Also, I want to have a kick-ass and diverse vocabulary.

This morning I posted a photo of a word on Instagram. It’s a word that I read in Women in Clothesa word that I think is worth sharing. My bestie’s brother commented on the photo and suggested I post a word of the day every Friday. I liked the idea, so welcome to the first WORD OF THE WEEK segment!

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“The most compelling women are the ones who are distinctive, who are most like themselves and less like other women. There is no other Marilyn Monroe. There is no other Anaïs Nin. And being as iconic and INIMITABLE as they were would be better than being like either one of them.”
Talk soon,
Vanessa
Quote from page six of Women in Clothes *

LAUGH at YOURSELF, Joan Rivers said so.

Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal

Anyone who has access to a T.V., a cell phone, or the Internet knows that last week Joan Rivers passed away at the age of 81. I’m not going to pretend that I was a huge fan of hers or that I idolized her. However, after watching a few memorial clips about her I’ve fallen for the way that she looks at life. She was a comedian; a hilarious, smart, powerful woman who wasn’t afraid to laugh at herself. I read the jokes she made about her husband committing suicide, the jokes she made about her excessive plastic surgery, and the jokes she made about her sex life. Although they made me laugh, I admire her comments on laughter itself most of all. She had the ability to laugh at herself, to speak her mind, and to question how society is run. She proved that laugher is the best medicine.

I watched a clip of her on Larry King where she said something along the lines of if you can laugh about it, everything will be okay. My biggest problem lately is taking everything personally, cutting myself up because of what I think other people think about me. Whether it’s an interview I didn’t get, or a look from a complete stranger, or telling people I’m unemployed instead of freelancing, it’s like I’m punishing myself. If you think about my situation the way people like Joan Rivers thinks about things, the fact that I have six years of post-secondary education and can’t even get an interview for a receptionist position not only comments on how much of a failure our school system is, but it’s kind of funny. Who do you have to blow know around this province to be taken seriously?! I know it’s not personal, even if I sometimes picture HR printing out my resume and covering it with a bright red LOSER stamp.

The only thing I can do is laugh about the interviews I don’t get, smile at the people who think I’ve wasted my entire life on following a dream, become a Joan Rivers kind of optimist (see quote below), work hard to create the life I want to live, and laugh at all of the mistakes I make along the way.

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“I have become my own version of an optimist. If I can’t make it through one door, I’ll go through another door or I’ll make a door. Something terrific will come no matter how dark the present.”

– Joan Rivers

Talk Soon,
Vanessa

hazy drives

Lifestyle/Personal

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I love driving before cars spill onto the road from every direction. Before you become a sardine on that so-called highway. I love morning drives, sticky sweaty morning drives when the streets and trees are covered in a light fog, a mist. When the world is hazy — like waking from a dream. Your eyes are half-open but you can hear and feel everything all at once. The beads of perspiration forming on your back make you feel alive. The quiet roads allow you to think and make you feel like you’re the only one awake in this crazy world.

It’s drives like these that allow me to think, to breathe a little slower, and take an inventory of all my recent decisions. I may not have been the only one on the road yesterday but I still felt like it and I let myself get lost in a trance-like state. I thought about my last day at work (next Friday) and all of the people out there who have told me to follow my dreams, who believe in me. Their support makes me believe that I will land on my feet, regardless of the risks I take.

“I have come to accept the feeling of not knowing where I am going. And I have trained myself to love it. Because it is only when we are suspended in mid-air with no landing in sight, that we force our wings to unravel and alas begin our flight. And as we fly, we still may not know where we are going to. But the miracle is in the unfolding of the wings. You may not know where you’re going, but you know that so long as you spread your wings, the winds will carry you.”  ― C. JoyBell C.

Love Always and Forever,

Vanessa

Let's Just Say it Wasn't Pretty [Book Review]

Book Reviews, Family Time, Lifestyle/Personal

9780812994261Last year I read Then Again by Diane Keaton and fell in love with it. When I saw her second book on the list of books I could review from Radom House, I knew it would be the one I chose. In Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty, Diane Keaton writes with an honest fever about her own insecurities. She is the epitome of an unconventional beauty and uses this book to gain a better understanding of what beauty is.

In chapters entitled Corrections, Bad Hair Days, and The Eyes Have It, she tells stories about her thinning hair and slanting eyes. Both funny and not-so-funny, Keaton takes the reader through the ups and downs of her career, what it felt like to be in the public eye, and explains the purpose of always wearing hats.

Keaton dedicates this book to “All of the Women who can’t get to right without being wrong” — illuminating the fact that every women is different and beautiful in her own way. She discusses her admiration for strong, independent women who care not about what people think of them. She thinks that when a women is doing something deemed “wrong” then they MUST be doing something right (XI).

photo-7I spent most of my time reading this book in deep thought about beauty. Wondering about my own insecurities and jotting them down. I’m ashamed to say that I took comfort in knowing that a women in her sixties who is beyond successful, and who is beautiful in my eyes could have as many insecurities as I do. As I jotted down my insecurities, I also took note of what I deem to be beautiful. By the end of Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty, I decided that I too will try harder to look for what I don’t see when it’s staring me right in the eye (page 87).

 

Talk soon,

Vanessa Xo

Disclosure: I was sent a copy of Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty from Random House of Canada in exchange from an honest review. 

The first photo was taken from the Random House of Canada website. 

I took the second photo, it is page 75 of the book. 

Welcome to the pages of my diary.

Lifestyle/Personal

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I spit out words filled with poison because today I feel brave. I think of all the things I’ve kept to myself, all of the pain and anger I’ve hidden and unleash it on you. No, you did nothing wrong but you’re still standing there in a challenging stance asking to get knocked over

by my voice.

It’s not just white noise — my voice is the difference between a win or a loss. It’s the reason I’m here, asking for forgiveness. But look at you, you’re asking for it. That thick black cloud is my voice, suffocating you, silencing you, until I hurt no more.

My voice is a lot more than white noise. It’s more obtrusive than static and more electrifying than silence. It’s a beacon in the night, it’s a fire burning out of control. It’s lightning — no it’s thunder and it gets louder every moment

until it’s heard.

Talk soon,

Vanessa Xo

*This was written on February 20, 2014. Share with care.*

*Title of post is from an Alicia Keys song*