• Bright Things,  Writing life

    Bright Things #15: Seaweed and Button Pendants

    One of the themes of The Memory Collectors is our relationship to physical objects — the memories, emotions, and power they hold for us. Every week leading up to the book’s release, I’ll share the story of an object that’s special to me.

    These are my newest special things. They were gifts to myself, in celebration of the upcoming release of The Memory Collectors. They came from Swallow Jewelry, who are a couple of Vancouver Island beachcombers and silversmiths. They use silver clay to imprint their finds and create these beautiful pieces. Shiny treasures made from found objects! Of course I could not resist.
    The pendant on the bottom is an imprint of seaweed collected on the beach along Dallas Road in Victoria, BC. That stretch along the ocean is very dear to me. My husband and I lived in Victoria during my earliest writing days. Dallas Road was our favourite place to hang out. Some of the ideas for my first short stories were scribbled on that beach.
    The top pendant is imprinted from a vintage uniform button, which is a perfect symbol for my book. A jar of old buttons appears on page 9, and its discovery sets the plot in motion. There’s even a uniform button in the jar.
    If you attend the virtual launch for The Memory Collectors (more info here), I will likely be wearing both of these. They’re kind of like a “How It Started/How It’s Going” for my neck, a pretty representation of my writing journey.
  • Publishing,  Writing life

    From Magpie to The Memory Collectors: On Choosing a Title

    Pictured right are notes from my attempts to come up with a title for what would eventually become The Memory Collectors. The working title for the book was Magpie, and it kept that name right up through the deal announcement and the editing process.
    Once we got to the cover design stage, my editor and I started talking about whether or not Magpie should stick. I liked its simplicity, but I wasn’t sure it quite fit. I just hadn’t come up with anything I liked better. After some back and forth, we decided on The Magpies. That stuck for a little while, through the initial versions of the cover. But then the publisher and sales team suggested another change. They thought the title should hint more at the magic within the story.
    I should confess here that decision-making isn’t one of my strong points. I started brainstorming, and so did my wonderful editor, Melanie Iglesias Perez, and even my husband got involved, until I had come up with a list of…108 possible titles. (To my editor and agents SO SORRY.)
    I’d put the The Memory Gatherers on my shortlist, and Melanie riffed off that to come up with The Memory Collectors. That title got the most votes, and when I saw it on the book’s gorgeous cover, I knew it was the one.
  • Publishing,  Writing life

    Before and After: Origins of a Novel

    Left: Pages from a hastily drafted short story, written at the Clarion West Writers Workshop for a Very Famous Author. A lot of sweat and panic went into that draft, and it wasn’t my best work, but I finished something, which I took as a triumph and better than Plan B (pack my bags and run away in the night, slinking back home never to write again). I called it “Magpie’s Dragon”; it was about a woman who hoards magical objects and the young girl who discovers her secret.

    Right: That little story seed stuck with me. I wanted to explore more deeply human relationships with objects, and how we imbue them with power through our emotions and memories. A few years and many drafts later, that seed grew into THE MEMORY COLLECTORS, a real live novel, a physical object that I can now hold in my hands. The pages pictured show the only scene that remains from the novel’s origins, but I owe a debt to the workshop, my teachers, and my classmates for creating a rich environment in which this writer and her story could develop and flourish.