Clean and Elegant

Clean and Elegant

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

What Writing Feels Like, A Couple More Excuses for Bailing on Lent, Plus How the Equinox Brought the Resurrection of the Mouth Guard

I am having more dreams about losing my teeth.  First they become very loose and then they fall out one by one and my gums bleed and I wake up distraught because I have no dental insurance, and no money.  Time to start wearing my mouth guard again. 

There are now 18 more days left of Lent.  As I already mentioned, the Boatman and I bailed on our Lent sacrifices.  To our credit, I wanted to say that the Boatman and I already make stoic sacrifices all throughout the year.  Each time one of us gets a cold-sore, oyster-shaped or otherwise, we have to give up kissing and oral sex, sometimes for weeks at a time.  It requires an exorbitant amount of self-control, which I’m sure Jesus would appreciate. 

In other news, Suzanne Robicheau wants to feature me in her column St. Mary’s Writes, affiliated with St. Mary’s University where I work as a part-time writing tutor.  The column profiles St. Mary’s staff and students with recent publications.  Lucky for me, my self-published e-book, I Let Go counts as a publication.  Suzanne sent me a couple of interview questions which she will use to write her article.  I found the questions to be quite thought-provoking and I’d like to share my answers with you. 

Erica visits in 2016: Ultimately, the article was never published, perhaps because in answer to my first question, I mention a worm whose name is strangely close to Cunnilingus. I used to think the word for Cunnilingus was Cunningulus. I also thought Camel Toe was Camel Tongue. And that spooning actually involved spoons. I guess it was an information transmission issue.
How does it feel to publish your first book?

In my book, “I Let Go,” I forbid public self-deprecation unless you are a stand-up comic.  Hence, I cannot undermine myself by stating that anyone in the world can publish an e-book on Amazon.  As long as you don’t swear too much and stay away from pornography, they’ll take you.  You can even make spelling mistakes.  That said, I am very happy to have seen a project from start to finish.  If people read it, that’ll be even better.  My illustrator Sara Enquist and I have been talking about putting together a book for some time.  It was supposed to be about a worm named Cunningulus, who used to be a Very Powerful King in a different lifetime, but then we changed our minds. 
Why self-publish?

Publishing with a publishing house can take centuries, if not forever.  I am actually going through the traditional publishing process for the epistolary novel that I wrote with my ex-boyfriend Simon Girard. 

We found a publisher (Bookland Press, Toronto) in a miraculously short amount of time.  Maybe it’s because I’m an excellent speller.  Likely Simon’s previous novels also had a bit to do with it.  I’m delighted, but it’ll probably be another year before The Little Savage and the Hermit is released.  When you self-publish, you can theoretically get your stuff out there in less than a week.  And there is less rejection, although you still risk rejection and devastation if nobody buys your book.

Another perk is the royalties.  On Amazon, they start at 35% for a book under $2.99.  For books $2.99 and up, you get 70%, but you might have to pay for delivery costs.  Sara and I opted for the 35% royalties so that our book would cost even less than a Starbucks coffee. 
(Update from 2016: Alas, Bookland Press went out of business before they could publish, The Little Savage and the Hermit. Simon Girard jumped off his apartment building on January 4, 2015. I have tried to resurrect the redeemable parts of our epistolary novel in various blog entries.)
Why an e-book?

This is a first edition and we didn’t really have a budget.  Eventually, we would love to put out another print version with more illustrations.  You can put a print-by-demand book out on Createspace for fairly cheap; however, this raises the minimum costs for consumers.  Since we’re not yet that famous and we still want tons of people to read our book, for now, we have put out an accessible version than anyone can afford.  So it’s an e-book and it’s only two dollars.  If you can’t afford it, let me know and I’ll hook you up. (

What do you write about?

I don’t usually write self-help books.  “I Let Go” is my first.  In section (OO), I grant myself and my readers the permission to indulge in our obsessions, regardless of what everyone else thinks.  Here it is: 

(OO)  Feel free to have motifs and repeat them.  I am forever going on about Margaret Atwood and humping duvets and 1008 details involving my pelvis.  I keep telling myself that everyone is tired of hearing about my pelvis when in truth, hardly anyone has heard anything about it.  If I don’t know you, which will be the case for about 999 900 of my dear readers, this is probably your first time reading about it - my pelvis.  And so I’m allowed to go on and on.  You are too.  Whether your motif is your pelvis or your heart chakra or your favourite Nanaimo Bar recipe.  Own it and go on and on.

Therefore, I am free to go on and on about Margaret Atwood and the lime green duvet with turquoise daisies on it, and humping this duvet and the sensations in my pelvis, and the crookedness of my pelvis, and anything I want about my pelvis depending on the day.  On and on I go.  Me and Margaret Atwood and my pelvis thrusting on the duvet.  I own all of it.  I also feel very compelled to write about yoga, food, bodily functions and dysfunctions, Jesus, eating disorders, sex, and people with disabilities.  A lot of this comes from my own experience.  I had a writing professor who warned us “not to just write what you know, or you’ll never know anything else, and then you’ll be in trouble.”  I think you’ll be in trouble if you don’t write what you’re compelled to write.

What is the writing process like for you?

It can be a bit of a crapshoot, but no matter what, I show up to the page every morning.  I used to be a religious practitioner of “Morning Pages,” designed by Julia Cameron, author of The Artist Way.  Morning Pages entail 3 pages of uninhibited stream-of-consciousness writing to be done upon waking.   Julia Cameron views this practice as a sort of Active Meditation that is meant to bring you in touch with your Higher Creative Self.  Very often it also brings you in touch with your angst and frustration, and everything in the world that you have to do besides writing.  For around five years, I woke up every morning, drank a wackload of coffee and wrote my morning pages.  I have no regrets.  Sometimes my morning pages led to creative insight and artistic breakthroughs and my Higher Creative Self.  Many other times, however, it simply led to excessive rumination and self-absorption and creative paralysis.  Plus my stream-of-consciousness rarely became very coherent or legible.  Thus, for me morning pages are no longer a daily requirement.  That said, I still like to warm up to writing with a bit of a scrawled out journal-type entry first thing in the morning.  But I don’t force myself to write three pages and if I feel like working on something more concrete (such as answering these questions), I’ll do that.

Once the coffee is finished, my writer’s warm-up continues with two hours of Ashtanga Yoga.  I am a very physical person and I really need that outlet or else the angst is unbearable.  For the rest of the day, I write wherever and whenever I can.  I work in cafes, or on the bus, or at home with the dog.  I always carry my notebook with me in my purse.  No matter what I’m doing, writing is always at the back of my mind.  Everything else is preparation, inspiration. 

What are the rewards of writing?

For me, writing is the best way to get over the crappiest things that happen to you.  If you don’t write it down, then you suffer for nothing.  But when you write it down, that embarrassing and horrific situation is just a story.  And if you can make other people laugh, that’s even better. 

What impact does it have on your role as a writing tutor when you model professional writing?

I am very relieved to have switched from academic and professional writing to writing pretty much whatever I want.  Having made that transition, I have vast empathy for anyone who has to write an essay, particularly a literary essay, which to me seems about as challenging as performing brain surgery.  I hope that I am able to exude this compassion when students come to me at the writing centre.  I am also an expert on writer’s block, a common affliction for the students I see. 

Who are your mentors??

When I was seventeen, I corresponded a little bit with Carol Shields (author of The Stone Diaries, and Unless, among many other books).  She told me that I would never be bored because I seemed like one of those lucky people who could live in the moment.  She also said that all the excitement lay in words, literature, and in the life of the mind, and that these gifts would never desert me.  Every time I feel discouraged about my writing endeavours, I think of Carol.

That’s all for Suzanne’s questions.  Hope you enjoyed them.  Feel free to come up with your own answers.  

Happy Spring to All!  It’s a great day for a biodegradable poem.  And a toenail fungus appointment, for that matter.

Hope to see you in my dreams.  I’ll smile at you with a mouthful of teeth. 

The End.

Exuberant Bodhisattva on Facebook.
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor
I Let Go by Erica J. Schmidt

Why I am different from Margaret Atwood and what I don't gain from humping duvets.
Five Days of Creative Recovery
Simon's Genies, Creative Practice and the Exuberant Bodhisattva's Big Exciting Blog News


  1. that's exciting that you will be featured at SMU!
    also- interesting answers to the questions. I used to feel that way re: song lyrics while living in Montreal, but then being in school seemed to allow for more creativity- i'm working my way to rediscovering that now :)


    you are in good company...

  3. I've had the teeth dream too. Now I have a reoccurring dream of my dog drowning and usually I can save him. Recently, I couldn't and it freaked me out. I should write about that. So glad to have found your blog!

  4. Happy to have found yours! My dentist says that a lot of people who grind their teeth have dreams that their teeth fall out or crumble or both! My favourite recurring dream is the one when I find twonies and loonies all over the place. I guess that's a very Canadian dream. That's the money I was brought up with!

  5. HI Erika, I awarded you (and your teeth and pelvic floor) a Liebster Award. Hope you like it.

  6. Thank you, Robyn! I'm flattered! I will report on this within the week! Have a great day, Erica.