brittni in ink

a writer's blog

christmas trickster

Every year, I read through A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. (Many people I know do as well – it’s a time-honoured reading tradition). And every time I read it, something different stands out.

I was struck this year by how much time Scrooge and the ghost of Christmas present spend travelling the world and visiting the homes of the poor. That section never makes it into the cartoon versions.

Or how Scrooge sends the giant Christmas turkey to the Cratchits, but doesn’t follow it up with a visit. He doesn’t need recognition or closure for his good deed – he does it joyfully from his heart. An almost ridiculous joyfulness! With it, he mischievously raises Bob Cratchit’s salary!

There is no other book that makes me smile as much as A Christmas Carol. But it’s also very serious in its portrayal of the systems which keep the poor miserable, and how individual action for change is important, all the year round, not only at Christmastime.

The Christmas Scrooge is hard to live up to, in theory. How am I supposed to help the people around me when I have so many concerns of my own? But the enjoyment Scrooge exudes makes his generosity something accessible for all of us. He buys a turkey for the Cratchits because it tickles him to think of it arriving at their house from out of nowhere! He acts the part of his old self to make Bob think he’s in trouble before shocking him with a raise! Scrooge is a Christmas trickster! And I like that, very much.

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looking back

It’s that time of year: When our calendar reaches the last page, when we finally find time to spend with friends and family, when we eat far too much knowing that the time to turn over a new leaf is at hand. We know what it’s going to feel like, because we’ve been here before. Thank goodness we have the cyclical seasons greetings to give us stability in our linear timeline.

Looking back from this point in the year, it’s been a good one. I got to see my play develop from cradle to stage. I was hired after a long search for employment, and I still love working there. I’ve read more contemporary novels and local authors than I have in previous years (all of the books I read this year took up more than the one shelf I thought they would need). P. and I learned a lot about relationships, and about each other.

We also went through some hard stuff: our dog passing away. Long swaths of unemployment. Ending our two-years-running podcast. These all come with their own kind of sadness.

But now, we can look back on all of these things, and look toward the future as well. There is so much to be thankful for. There is so much to grieve for. There is so much to reflect on, so much that can be changed for the better. So much life.

Merry Christmas, and a happy and joyful new year, to you all!

 

48 hr film

Every year, WIFF hosts a challenge: you can sign up a team to write, film, edit and submit a 1-5 minute film in 48 hours. I participated last year, so was very excited when our friend got a team together for the 2017 iteration.

We went to the kick-off event. We met around our dining room table to brainstorm ideas for the film. Two hours later, a handful of us remained, putting the finishing touches on our script. It was incredible how clear the writing was. The five of us in that room got to experience the ease and enjoyment of being creative with people who are on the same wavelength.

We filmed for four hours on Saturday and edited into the night. Sunday, we had a mini editing party with some of the team and sent off our finished product with 30 minutes to spare. The quality of the film was impressive considering the time restrictions.

It was a good reminder that if you have a project you want to do, you should go out and do it. If we can make a decent short film in a weekend, why shouldn’t we make another one? And another one? And another?

P.S.: Our film is being shown at the FlickFest screening on November 1st. Check out all of the amazing films made by local talent!

P.S.S.: JUST SAW THAT LOVING VINCENT IS PLAYING AT WIFF!!

 

post-show

I took some time off from writing. A play I wrote was onstage almost a month ago, and I thought a break would do me well. It’s draining and wonderful and humbling to be a part of any theatre production, and this one was no exception.

The play is called Runaway, and was about a family adapting to the dad’s increasing memory loss. The script wasn’t perfect, but it touched a lot of people, which I wasn’t expecting. I mean, I hoped it would turn out well and that people would enjoy it, but I didn’t expect people to cry. I still don’t know how to process the audience’s response. Should I feel bad for bringing up such a heavy topic? Should I feel good about writing something that felt real to people? Should I try to write more in this vein in the future?

As I’ve been thinking about what to write next, I’ve also been thinking about how the words we write can deeply impact the people reading and hearing them, whatever the medium. As writers, what are we saying with our words, how are we illuminating, how are we discussing? How can we support, and love, dig into the dark places and be surprised by what we find there? I just have to keep reminding myself that people are complex, that relationships are complicated, and although love doesn’t always save the day, it does change us.

Restful Reading

I took yesterday off. No writing, no editing. No mental scolding to vacuum or apply for jobs. Just a chill day.

So, I ended up reading, of course! It’s been awhile since I’ve really sat down with a book. And it showed – I finished half a book I started in March, and devoured another.

The first was She Dreamed of Dragons, a charming YA novel by Elizabeth J.M. Walker. I’d been meaning to read the book for a long time, but, as I’m constantly having to read books to prepare for co-hosting a podcast about books, it would constantly get sidelined. And this book is too good for that kind of treatment! If you love Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, and believe that young women should be encouraged to act instead of wait around for the knight in shining armour, you’ll enjoy this book.

The second was Looking for Alaska, one of my favourite novels. It’s also considered YA, but approaches topics like sex, personal and communal grief, and relationships in a way that resonates with older readers as well. It’s also my favourite John Green novel. It’s raw, philosophical, character-driven, and although the rapping is a little stiff, overall it’s a fascinating entry in American Lit.

Now,  the eternal question: what to read next?

 

 

one life

I haven’t written much lately. Our dog passed away last week, and it’s been really difficult to focus on anything where I have to be creative.

At the same time, a loss brings the important things forward. A reminder that time is limited, that lives pass on, that one life changes everything around it in ways that often go unnoticed.

The past week, I’ve been thinking that art is the way we can best remember. That all the excuses I make for not writing are white noise. That I should never use busyness as an excuse to be unkind. That everyday routine means something. That life is full of wonder. That one life is incredibly significant. That’s what I want to write about. That’s what I want to remember. That’s what our dog taught me.

second draft shakes

So I’m part of this playwrighting circle. Usually, we meet at a pub or a coffeeshop, read through a script together and then discuss it. It’s a chill and intelligent group and I enjoy talking theatre with them.

This past meeting, however, was particularly intense for me. I had an edited draft of my play ready and I felt pretty good about where it was at. It wasn’t until we were a page into the script that I noticed I was shaking. Like, trying to hold it in my core bursts of shivering. On some level, it didn’t surprise me, but on another, it was weird. I chalked it up to nerves, and kept going. Although I was relieved to hear that my play didn’t suck, and that the word “beautiful” was even applied to certain aspects of it, I carried the shakes home with me.

“Are you cold?” P. asked as I sat down on the couch with my arms crossed and my legs pulled up. Later, making coffee in the kitchen, he said “Ah, you’ve had a vulnerable day.”

And that was it, exactly. Writing is vulnerable. Sharing something you’ve written can be like telling someone you love them without being sure if they reciprocate. It’s bringing that solitary writing process into a public space and letting people go over every inch of it with flashlights. And for someone who prefers to run sound and lights over being onstage, it’s difficult to be vulnerable.

Yet, it’s necessary. Because without vulnerability, there’s a lack of authenticity. There can’t be deep relationships. Without vulnerability, there’s no story.