Conversations for Two [Book Review]

Book Reviews, Uncategorized

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These are pieces of my story. We carve out our world in sections of memory. Some things take root.

I finished reading Conversations for Two by Jacqueline Markowitz almost a week ago and it’s still haunting me (in the best kind of way).  When someone close to you passes there is a period of time where you are flooded with memories you shared with them. A period where you try to understand who they were, what they loved, and what they could have become.

When one woman comes across her brother’s writing twenty-five years after his death, she is transported through fragments of memories that piece together who he really was and what he loved most. As someone who diligently keeps a notebook at arms length, who writes down everything, I was completely enthralled by this concept. What would people learn about me from those notebooks? What kinds of emotions would it evoke?

Conversations for Two is filled with unanswered questions, quaint memories, and heartwarming poems. Written with sincerity and literary tenacity, this novel is reminiscent of Michael Ondaatje’s work. It is a dark, deep, and transcendent read. I warn you that this novel demands your attention. It requires your focus and your heart. It’s the perfect novel for those few days between Christmas and New Year’s when your heart is filled with joy and magic is around every corner.

Xoxo, 

Vanessa 

Disclosure:  I was sent a copy of Conversations for Two in exchange for an honest review.

The Bus Stop [A Narrative]

Fiction
From the Madai Website

From the Madai Website

She stands at the bus stop on a busy, yet small, highway on the first warm day of Spring. Her auburn hair is neatly curled, recently cropped short at the nape of her neck. She looks at her freshly painted red nails, walks her index finger up her chest to finger her pearls delicately. She catches her reflection in the bus shelter and grimaces at her dress; what once tickled her figure and hugged her in all of the right places now stretches around her mushy flesh.

When she takes her seat on the bus, she knows that she is over-dressed compared to the early-morning commuters. She cares but not enough to run off the bus and head home; in thirty minutes she’ll be sitting under the sun on the lush grass, talking to the man she loves most.

He won’t care about her weight gain; men never notice petty things like that. He’ll watch her strut toward him in his favourite black dress of hers and suddenly space and time will have no meaning. She is his happiness. Sitting on the bus, wearing the pearls he gave to her for her 30th birthday, she is anxious to see him. Little does she know that he already sees her and she is his beautiful, glowing widow.

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

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

The Saint Tavern and Tattoo Parlours

Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal, Restaurant Reviews, Toronto Adventures

Weekends are my absolute favourite; I get to catch up on my reading and blogging, spend time with my family, and have an adventure or two with my love. On Saturday Alex and I headed down to The Saint Tavern for breakfast.

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I loved the dark and cool vibe of the restaurant, the deliciously creamy and strong latte, and the delectable Duck Egg St. Benny. The service was fantastic, it felt like being at home, with a bunch of other brunching strangers enjoying their meals.

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After breakfast we walked around the city and ended up at a tattoo parlour near my house. I finally got the “writerly” tattoo I’ve been wanting. It’s a semicolon on my right wrist, which was inspired by this photo on Pinterest. I’m hoping that it will remind me to use my spare time wisely. To use every moment that I’m not at working, writing things down, creating characters, and stringing stories together.

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“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

New Mantra: Write Like A Motherf*cker

Book Reviews, Lifestyle/Personal
From Buzzfeed

From Buzzfeed

Over the last week or so I’ve been reading Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed. It was recommended to me by Kaiti from HarperCollins Cananda and my cousin Amanda. I don’t want to finish it. It’s a compilation of the columns Cheryl wrote for The Rumpus and goodness it’s gorgeous. It’s an advice column but raw, unfiltered, honest, and breathtaking. You get sucked into Dear Sugar’s words and end up feeling rejuvenated and ready to tackle the day.

One column in particular had me in tears before work. A twenty-six-year-old depressed writer asked Dear Sugar how to get out of her writing-funk. How she could write a book to be proud of. She asked: how does a woman get up and become the writer she wishes she’d be? Dear Sugar’s response is my mantra today and forever, I hope you’ll find solace in it too.

 

You need to do the same, dear sweet arrogant beautiful crazy talented tortured rising star glowbug. That you’re so bound up about writing tells me that writing is what you’re here to do. And when people are here to do that they almost always tell us something we need to hear. I want to know what you have inside you. I want to see the contours of your second beating heart.

So write… Not like a girl. Not like a boy. Write like a motherfucker.

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

*Quotes from The Rumpus Website

That Time I Met Noreen Flanagan [10k Coffees Meet up]

Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal
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Yesterday I was part of a lucky group of three that got to sit down for coffee with Noreen Flanagan, Editor-in-Chief of ELLE Canada. The group-chat was set up by Ten Thousand Coffees, a website I am currently obsessed with. For an hour, myself and two talented photographers got to bounce questions off of one of the most successful women I’ve had the pleasure to meet.

Noreen Flanagan greeted us in a warm and friendly manner, she had a look in her eyes that resembled quiet excitement. She was genuinely pleased to spend time with us, she even brought cookies. The four of us sat down with tea and coffee, and chatted about the publishing industry from both a writer’s and a photographer’s standpoint. Noreen gave us honest and whimsical answers — she’s a storyteller in her own right. She told us the blunt facts, gave us several suggestions, and even made us laugh. Sitting there, I felt like I was catching up with a co-worker or discussing future projects with a mentor. I’ve listed some of her advice below, but what I took most from coffee with Noreen was: Creativity and passion are key to landing any job. No matter how you communicate with people (media, writing, photography), FIND YOUR VOICE and be yourself. Dare to be different. Don’t be afraid.

Tips from Noreen Flanagan 

  • Ensure a concise 360 degree pitch. Show that you understand how the story will work in the book, on the iPad, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc.
  • When you apply for a job that you really want, find a human to talk to. A lot of times the first round of HR is done by a computer, if you don’t fit all of the criteria no one will even see your resume.
  • The six words of the subject of your email are the most important words you will ever write. Use these to get your potential editor’s attention and ensure that you’re contacting the right editor.
  • When you go for an interview create a narrative about yourself, something your interviewer will remember, but don’t lie. Come prepared with loads of questions and practice interviews with family members or friends.
  • Practice your phone manners, it really is a lost art.
  • If you’re trying to be a freelance writer, get a full-time job. It doesn’t matter what it is, just pay the bills.
  • Learn more about SEO, Google Analytics, and videography, they’re the way of the future.
Embrace the butterflies, what’s life without them?
 – Noreen Flanagan

– Vanessa

A HUGE thank you to Noreen for taking time out of her day to let a few aspiring writers and photographers pick her brain! An even greater thank you to Grace from Ten Thousand Coffees for making it all possible. Your website is a true gift for young people with big dreams! Oh and thank you to the older gentleman who was leaving the public parking lot and gave me his parking ticket so that I didn’t have to purchase my own ❤ !

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

Question: When does a blogger stop blogging?

Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal

I started my blog in 2010 as a way to get my writing out there, as a way to get comfortable with my words being read by family members and complete strangers. It’s evolved many times as my content expanded into book reviews, product reviews, travel diaries, restaurant reviews, and everything else in between. I’m proud of the my voice, the voice that this blog has helped harness and create, but when is it time to move on? When I started My Pen, My Voice I wasn’t sure how long it would last or who I would meet because of it. I’ve met some wonderful writers, publishing folk, and have made great friends that I am thankful for. I’m thankful for being able to share my life with other people and for those posts that actually resonated with my readers (however few they might be).

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I know fashion bloggers, lifestyle bloggers, and book bloggers who have made careers out of their blogs. Who have made so many opportunities for themselves in this vast place we call the Internet. They’ve made a name for themselves and stand out from the millions and millions of bloggers out there. I’ve been waiting patiently for my break, convinced that my blog would be turned into a book or that someone in publishing (or even Ellen DeGeneres) would stumble upon my blog and offer me a book deal. It hasn’t happened, but instead of being devastated I’m shifting my energy.

I love my blog, but I’m afraid that sometimes it distracts me from other writing projects, from a novel I’ve been thinking about, from short stories that I’ve started but never finished, and from pitching to other websites or magazines with different content than my own. I fear that since I am my own editor I’m not growing as a writer and that my content has been recycled. I find that to be a wasteful state for a writer, for a person.

“the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”
– Benjamin Franklin 

Long blog short, my last post on My Pen, My Voice will be published December 31, 2014. It’s time to make some changes in my life and make some room for other writing priorities. I will begin a new year not as a blogger/writer but as a Writer. You’ll still read my words on Chic Darling, Passion8, and CanCulture. I’ll still be writing every single day. I’ll still be tweeting and reading and sharing my adventures with you, but it won’t be here, on this blog. Maybe one day I’ll have an author website or maybe I’ll write for a magazine or freelance my ass off. I don’t know, I just know that it’s time to move on because change is good and I’m ready for it.

So, let’s make these last few months of 2014 and this blog count.

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…almost

Vanessa xo

Lesson Learned: Don’t Half-Ass your Life

Family Time, Lifestyle/Personal

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It’s a little-known fact that my mother and I don’t always see eye-to-eye, and yet I’m more like her than my father. I might shrug off her bits of advice and pretend that I don’t care what she thinks, but the truth is that her acceptance and wisdom mean a lot to me. My mom has this way of always doing things perfectly, she puts 100% of effort into everything she does. Whether it’s making dinner, grocery shopping, or reading to my niece, she never looks for a short cut. My mother is always put together. She ALWAYS has a pair of earrings on, long mascaraed lashes, and combed hair, even if she’s walking out of the house in track pants. If my mother had a mantra or a set of guidelines for life, it would look something like this:

Don’t half-ass your life.
Do things the right way, not the easy way.
Clean your room, make sure your clothes match, put on some mascara.
We might not be rich, but we can be presentable. 
Don’t do it for anyone else, Do it for you. 
Take pride in your life. 

Whenever I feel like giving up or convince myself that going out in a ratty sweater and old track pants is okay, my mom’s voice pops into my head, altering my choices. If you can’t show up to your own life and give 150% every single day, nothing awesome will ever happen. I think my mom is my number one (silent) supporter. She believes in me and knows my potential more than anyone else — it may have something to do with me living in her uterus for nine months.

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When I’m feeling uninspired, self-conscious, and down about my life choices, she sends me little notes of inspiration and positivity. When I don’t believe in myself, she does. When I don’t do my very best, she pushes me to. There’s no way that a daughter of hers is going to waste her life, or half-ass her dreams. She might seem like an overbearing mother, a nag even, but she’s my nag and when her green eyes burst with passion and her hands start flailing, I know she’s about to tell me one of those secrets to life, and I listen with an open heart.

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