Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

Diana Gabaldon said to me… October 20, 2012

The green shoulder is mine. I’m cropped out because I look like a troll in this shot! lol Diana does not seem to be able to take a bad photo! Check out her funky turquoise nails!

Today I had a blue pencil appointment with Diana Gabaldon at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference.  A blue pencil is 15 minutes of time in front of a professional author, who reads a very short selection of your work, and provides some general feedback.

I knew I’d be completely starstruck, so I asked her a month ago via Facebook if it’d be okay if I recorded the conversation, and she was fine with that.

I arrived into the empty seat in front of her desk in a flurry because I’d been in a line and lost track of the time, so I was nearly late for my appointment (and we’re not going to even discuss what a trauma that would have been after counting down, sometimes by the hour, for 135 days!).  I pulled out my scene, which is a very early, poorly cobbled together start to Grace Beguiling, which is/will be a historical/fantasy novel set in 14th century France.  The scene is 6 pages, which is way too long for a blue pencil, so I’d highlighted parts I particularly wanted her feedback on.  She just smiled, said that she was a fast reader, and zipped through the whole thing, laughing out loud in places, and making corrections of typos.  It is very cool to have your favourite author laughing out loud while reading your writing.  It’s a little embarrassing to have your favourite author correcting your typos.

When she was finished reading, I turned my iPhone’s memo recorder on and recorded her observations, suggestions, and reminders.

The part I most wanted to know about (and had spent months researching) she dismissed with a wave as, “Fine.”  We had some discussion about language choice in historical work and development and structuring of a ‘very beginning’ where there needs to be some action to grab the reader and the story must be established right away.  I am so glad I have that recording to remind me of my focus.  Grace Beguiling offers a number of stylistic challenges, and she’s helped me think about how I’m going to solve them.  There was nothing earth shattering, just common sense reiteration of basic principles.  It’s good to hear those words from someone whose knowledge you trust implicitly.  “Remember that…”  Oh right.  I know that.

Do it.

I wish the piece I’d brought wasn’t quite so rough, but it was a worthwhile endeavour.  One quote is going to be artistically rendered and put above my writing desk.

My favourite author, Diana Gabaldon said to me, “You know how to tell a story.”  That will keep me inspired for a very long time.


be bad May 19, 2012

Filed under: OUTLANDERishness,Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 7:54 pm
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A colleague of mine was telling me yesterday that she wants to write.  She is terribly impressed that I have written these books.  She would like to write a play.


But she hasn’t.


Because she gets in the way.  She doesn’t know which direction to take a scene in, so she takes it neither direction.  She doesn’t know how many characters to use, so she has none.  She has so many things, that she has nothing.

I told her that she should give herself permission to write a crappy play.  If she can free herself from the idea that what she has written must be good, she can actually write SOMETHING.  Once there is something on the page, you can edit it into something better.  If there is nothing on the page, well, there’s nothing!

I read that Diana Gabaldon wrote Outlander as a practice novel.  She thought she’d try writing a novel, and since no one was ever going to see it, she could do whatever crazy thing struck her fancy.  She gave herself permission to have fun with the experience, and she did.

When you give yourself permission to be bad, you give yourself permission to take risks.  Let the voices in your head go nuts.  Catch what they say.  Don’t think about it.  Don’t worry if it’s ‘right’ or if it’s ‘good.’

Just let it BE.

Try writing the same thing from different characters’ perspectives.  Try different narrative styles.  You need to put the time in and explore the process.  You will find something interesting, but you won’t if you don’t let it happen.

Give yourself 15 minutes.  Tell the inner critic to leave you alone, and just write.  Don’t stop yourself from achieving your dreams.  Don’t be your own enemy.

Write it.


Yay! April 2, 2012

Filed under: Commentary,Grace Awakening,Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 9:40 pm
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Happy news! I have been assured that by the end of the Easter weekend, Grace Awakening Power WILL be back for final final final view before release to press!

Dare I hope?

Fingers crossed!

This is how I’m feeling:



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