Move Over Pumpkin Pie: things for which this writer is thankful

Posted by Jennifer Hatt on 10 October 2016 | 3 Comments

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Rarely do I gush about gratitude, because with all the good in my life, it's easier to list things for which I'm ungrateful. Snakes, rain on my beach day, a blank page that screams at me to fill it while my inner voice tells me what a lousy writer I am, those things that I think I could do without. 

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Five ways to harvest trade show success

Posted by Jennifer Hatt on 27 September 2016 | 1 Comments

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It was a glorious autumn day, perfect for harvesting or anything else that didn't involve being behind a table inside a conference room. Yet, that's where I was, at a conference, waiting and hoping to promote my story, my services and ... yikes ... myself as author, publisher, expert worth hiring... The creative side of me was screaming to go for a walk on the beach or hide at home with - you got it - a good book. The business part of me, however, knew this was the perfect place for me. I was at a conference of library personnel, folks who have dedicated their careers to the love and promotion of books, reading, writing, and all those things I, too, am passionate about. But how to connect with them, with only a display table and a few moments of their time to work with?

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Am I a writer without a cat?

Posted by Jennifer Hatt on 21 August 2016 | 0 Comments

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   is just one crazy idea my mind created as I deal with the one unavaoidable thing that life brings: death. 

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Camera vs writer's block

Posted by Jennifer Hatt on 28 July 2016 | 0 Comments

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Writing about myself was always a challenge, which is why I became a journalist and then a fiction writer. But like a river clogged with the silt of memories and ill-disposed junk, the flow of all my words became slower and more painful over time. The more space and opportunity I was given to write, publish and build my business, the more jammed I became. By this past spring, four books into our Nova Scotia love story, with two new authors in our stable and a fifth book on the brink, I was buried to the point where composing a tweet could be a daylong affair. School excuses took 30 minutes and three rewrites. Where there was once ease and confidence in my work, there was a suffocating pall of gloom. Writing was all I knew how to do, and now, I couldn't even do that. 

Then light appeared, first as a spark that encouraged me to drop everything and go to Hawaii in April, at a time when the dollar was tanking and my credit card was spiralling. Thank God I listened to myself. Ten days immersed in the energies and stories of more than a dozen amazing women coalesced into a pull forward and a beacon within. A month later, when I saw a blog post from fellow Hawaii traveller and awesome photographer Tanya Petraglia inviting photo shoots of 'creative collaborations,' the spark ignited into a flame of possibility. Creative collaboration: a perfect phrase for the creation of the Finding Maria series and the publishing company behind it. I had a business partner, but the partnership was far from being easily defined. He was generous with his story, which I gladly wrote as a gift for him, but then his presence seemed to fade like a shadow at midday when we formed a company and began the arduous task of selling our creations. You got this, he would call reassuringly over his shoulder as he dashed back to his own life, one he packed way too full for the new responsibilities of entrepreneurship, creativity, and, God forbid, friendship.  This 2-3 dance: one step forward, one step back, round and round, has gone on for more than a decade, ever since Finding Maria was first conceived. Yet, through the fog of fury I felt the distinct pull of a clear connection, that we were collaborators for a reason. Could images capture the words I needed to find? Several messages, an affirmative from my business partner and a few weeks later Tanya was in our presence, on our turf, with camera in hand ready to document this 'thing' of two people creating ... what? Stories? Books? Life?

See Tanya's blog of our adventure here.

As you can see, it was a picture-perfect day. What you may not see at first is that it accomplished exactly what it needed to do. It rolled over boulders of fear and frustration that had been in place for years, and tossed about stones that were newly planted, sharp and slashing. That was what I felt every time I sat down to write, a stone wall biting into my skin, threatening to crush me, while a stagnant trickle of festered fears hissed: forget all this, go back to where you were. Life needs to be defined, contained, controlled. Be safe, stay small, go back. And I blamed all of it on him, the person I call my business partner because I as a writer cannot find another phrase. In our actions and choices we appear more like strangers than friends, yet there remains this pull that brings us together and a conduit of knowledge flowing through us both that neither of us can define. I blamed him for blocking this knowledge, for his obstacle course of hoops and rules that he carefully crafted to keep his world safe while keeping our work, and by extension, me, at arm's length. The truth is, the photos revealed something very different, that I needed to see.

It is not him. It is me. 

I was given a chance to be an author and publisher, and I took it. I have the choice to remain in the partnership or leave. I choose to stay, because I continue to see an invitation to a life of enlightenment and adventure. If I want to get anywhere, though, I have to stop blaming others for how I feel and stop listening to the lurid hiss of fear. Does my business partner divert and avoid? Sure he does. But he also stepped up to be part of this photo shoot, knowing he was stepping into an earthhquake of soulful proportions. What did I do? What I always do: set it all up, fill my head with stories, then detach and cut the power. I have energy and insight to share, to break the 2-3 dance, to create the life I have envisioned. I have a voice. 

Do I use it?

No. I used the books as a shield rather than a map, created them as a means for him to explore his life, while completely shutting down to the fact that they also existed to help me explore mine. The stone wall I slammed into time and again was my yearning for authenticity, as chapter outlines and business plans for the creation and sale of fiction became confused with my vision of life itself. I was allowing life to unfold, the fear assured me, and when life didn't follow the script I conveniently hadn't written yet, another boulder of frustration rolled over what few words I could find. It was a nifty scenario that kept me small, sheltered, and safe, but increasingly miserable and isolated from my words, my voice, my essence. And I had only myself to blame. Bloody hell.

The photos showed it all, and through tears, blackness and emptiness I forced myself to feel everything they brought up: the distance between us, the isolation, the failure to thrive in a a decade of opportunity, the gratitude grown bitter from lack of sharing. I had to completely reframe how I approach our collaboration and our partnership. No more could I blame him for his choices. I have to take ownership of mine. No more could I hide behind the concepts of books and commerce. I have to rediscover and define myself, for me. And dammit, I can't even torment him about being short any more. A photo of the two of us, backs to the lens, eyes to the water, shows clearly he is just a shade taller than me. On another day, revisiting that photo, I noticed that the distance between us was not the unbreachable chasm as it had first appeared. We were closer than we were apart. Our stance, exactly the same. We even dressed alike. There is a connection, without a doubt, but not one I will label with carefully-chosen words. It is one I will identify by stepping into myself. 

Only these photos could show me that. 

As the boulders continue to shift and the concrete ramparts crack, the fears ooze away and words begin to flow. There will be much, much more written about these photos, this day, this experience. 

Where will it go from here? I have to say, for the first time since the writing of these books began, I really don't know. I only know there will be no going back. 

Thank you, Tanya Petraglia, for sharing your talent and essence with the world. A picture is worth so much more than 1,000 words.

Thank you all for reading. I hope to see you again soon. 

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Five summertime ways to combine work and play

Posted by Jennifer Hatt on 7 July 2016 | 0 Comments

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When the thermometer soars, my mind drifts on the sun-kissed breeze and my productivity takes a belly flop. My solution: multitasking. I don't mean laptop-on-the-beach kind of multitasking ... too much glare and sand in expensive parts for me. I mean the get-out-there-and-experience-summer-while-making-some-business-connections kind of multitasking. As a writer, screen time is a must, but so is networking: as a writer and publisher, I'm a small business owner, too, and while social media has opened the world to business of all shapes and sizes, face-to-face interactions, especially those in your home town, province or state, remain a key ingredient in building your business one relationship at a time. 

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Resolutions we can Keep

Posted by Jennifer Hatt on 5 January 2016 | 0 Comments

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It's fresh start time, but I have the attention span of a flea and am by necessity, cheap. Can I commit to anything workable? Here are my thoughts.

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Five things my father's life teaches me about writing

Posted by Jennifer Hatt on 18 December 2015 | 5 Comments

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     I am my father's daughter, a fact that both enriches and terrifies me. This will, however, make me a better writer. Here's how.
First, though, a bit about my dad. He wasn't a writer, he was an electrician by trade, both of us in the business of connecting: his medium was electricity, mine was words. We also didn't realize then, but it is apparent now, that we shared something else: battles with ourselves,  defining our lives from the time we both could remember. For him, it was being born a gentle, loving soul into a sandpaper world, a determined spirit in a body plagued by childhood illness and chronic pain, a  life lived, as a result, in the protection of intellect while the spirit starved. On rare days his spirit won, and in those moments anyone in his presence, ever so brief, was made to feel part of something special, warm, aware, trusting in the great potential and unseen of the universe, until intellect would slam shut the door and begin the lockdown anew. His battle ended, I pray, with his passing on Dec. 13, 2015. 
Reflecting on his life and death, however, has kicked my battle into high gear. I possess that same intellect, that same ability to talk myself out of things or even shut myself down rather than risk anything: stage fright as a child so severe that I quit the music I loved altogether at 16, and that by 30 was creeping into my writing as well. Shyness, self-doubt, fear of one's own voice are all butterfly kisses of death to any form of success as a writer.  
Life is choice.
So, should I ignore my spirit's desire to connect through writing and save myself a lifetime of combat? Or, do I take a breath and dive into the memories, risking pain and drowning to find treasures of knowledge my time with my father has created?
I choose memories. There are thousands upon thousands, so for this first attempt I didn't dive too deeply, and found these five. They came from our epic father-daughter battles, and from the quiet of just sitting together, saying nothing, knowing everything. Some things he taught me about what to do. Some are things I wished could have taught him.
Here they are, five things my father's life teaches me about writing.  

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Writing lessons from a drummer

Posted by Jennifer Hatt on 6 July 2015 | 11 Comments

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Then I spent a week at the Ontario School of Piping, where my name tag distinctly said DRUMMER. Not mother, not writer, but DRUMMER. To be honest,  I started drumming with our pipe band  a few years ago to hang with my children. I ended up at this school  in large part to chaperone my teenaged piper (and carry her instrument, according to her), then signed up for classes to avert the temptation of gadding about Toronto spending money having fun while she worked her butt off realizing her dream. Worlds collided in a skirl of drones, snares and clinking bottles as musical callings clad in Highland traditions waged war on my introvert's soul. And it was perfect. Here's why:

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