DIY MFA Book Club: My zero moment

I am really enjoying these prompts from Gabriela (taken from the DIY MFA book). It feels good to write about my writing like this on a regular basis, it’s a good way to focus. (And write and finish something shareable in a short period of time!)

Today’s prompt is about identifying and celebrating your zero moment, which is the point where you switch from not doing writerly things to doing them. Gabriela makes the point that this step, from nothing to newbie is larger than moving from newbie to pro, yet rarely is it properly acknowledged.

I’m not sure I can pinpoint the exact moment when I really embraced writerly work and centred it in my priorities. But I do know it was around when my kids were starting school and, certainly, by the time the younger one was at school all day, in grade one, I had gone back to writing with a dedication that I had previously lacked.

I wrote before that, as I’ve said previously, as a kid and a teenager and, less so, in my early 20s. But that writing was more confessional than anything else and most of it was not intended for anyone else to read.

That shift in my mid-30s, though, was different. Because it wasn’t about going back to writing the way I had, it was about actually beginning to write in a dedicated way. Taking it seriously as art and as something that I wanted to share with others. Writing as a way of expressing the stories I felt bubbling up inside of me.

In so many ways, that shift changed everything for me. Being true to that writerly impulse made me see the ways in which I had made bad choices and compromises in other areas. And I changed those things! Out of that shift, I grew tremendously as a person.

I wouldn’t be who I am today without having taken that, at the time, very uncertain step forward.

DIY MFA Book Club: My Writing Space

Today’s DIY MFA Book Club prompt is to show and describe your writing space.

I have a wide, flat desk. I took three pictures (rather than a panorama) for ease of description.


So, here’s the middle part of my desk. I have a small laptop (it’s an 11″ MacBook Air). I have the smaller size partly as a function of cost, but I also prefer it for practical reasons. Its lighter and more portable and just easier to use sitting on a sofa or in bed.

The corkboard directly in front of me is for my current WIP. I do index cards for each character, with their name and photo and details about them.

The three magazine boxes are: one for unused or in process notebooks, one for completed notebooks ,and the third for a mix of magazines, papers, etc.

The horizontal trays contain a print out of my all but finished novel and some unused (larger) notebooks.


To my left, there is a little plastic box of used index cards for other projects. Another plastic box has post-its of various sizes, small notebooks, index cards, and ink cartridges of various types for my various fountain pens.

Then there’s my current research books (one about the Curiosity rover on Mars, one about the Solar System, and one about lesbians in Canada in the first half of the 20th century).

And then there’s my notebook and cards for the all-but-finished novel I’ve been actively working on.



And then on my right, it’s mostly knick-knacks and my knitting bowl (with current project in it). The other corkboard has various things on it, some drawings done by my partner, some reminder messages regarding writing, some random items.

I have a lot of writing books on the bookshelf further off to this side, so they’re close at hand.

And that’s it! I don’t do a lot of physical reminders of goal setting or anything like that.

DIY MFA Book Club: My reading list

So today’s DIY MFA Book Club prompt is about what we read as writers and is divided into two parts.

The first part is the “essentials” and these would be the three books that would have as you write if you could only have three — an anthology of short fiction, a book of prompts, and a craft book.

This is tricky. I don’t read a lot of anthologies, I don’t generally do prompts, and I have shelves and shelves of craft books. I’m going to work backwards.

My current must-have writing craft book is Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere) by Lisa Cron. I read it last summer and it has been really transformative for me in how I think about developing characters and plot.

The more I have reflected on the ‘book of prompts’ I realized that the only place I have consistently turned to for prompts is Story A Day, which runs Story A Day May, in which prompts are posted each day and the goal is to write a story, however short or long, each day for the month (this has expanded to include September, too). I have never gone to prompt books to work on specific areas of my writing, as Gabriela described in today’s prompt, but I find it an interesting idea and I’m going to look into the suggested books and see if I find something that catches my eye.

And, as far as anthologies of short fiction go, there are a few good general anthologies of science fiction published every year, like Neil Clarke’s The Best Science Fiction of the Year, so I would pick that.

The second part of today’s prompt is about building a short reading list of things to read in the short term. This list falls into a few categories. I still have some thinking to do, but a few things jumped out at me.

Competitive Titles (ones similar to what I am writing)

  • The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
  • The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin

Contextual Books (research materials, etc)

  • The Design and Engineering of Curiosity: How the Mars Rover Does Its Job
  • The Cambridge Guide to the Solar System
  • On an ongoing basis, I read a lot of reports and news items from NASA and the other space agencies, as well as listening to briefings and podcasts.

Contemporary Books (recent books)

  • The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander
  • Jade City by Fonda Lee
  • All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault by James Alan Gardner


  • I want to do a re-read of the Rama series by Arthur C Clarke