Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Conversations for Two [Book Review]

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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.

Fiction

The Bus Stop [A Narrative]

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

Lifestyle/Personal

The Perfect Word [Thoughts on #Writing]

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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

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

The Saint Tavern and Tattoo Parlours

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

Book Reviews, Lifestyle/Personal

New Mantra: Write Like A Motherf*cker

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

Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal

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

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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 ❤ !

Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal

Obligatory (& Necessary) Thanksgiving Post

 

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