Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

I Exploded the Soap

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I have almost no soap left in the house because I exploded my reserves. Let me explain. I saw this video on line that showed how Ivory soap blows up in the microwave. So I tried it. A few times. My soap never got as big and awesome as the video and, after a bit of research, I found out why. The experiment only works with fresh Ivory soap, not stuff that has been sitting in the bathroom for six months or so. Hmmm. The bars were too big now to use easily, so I chucked them. Now I’m running out of soap and I wish I had some of those gigantic spongy bars of fluff. Oh well, live and learn.

But here’s the thing. You have to try things. You have to get out there and take risks. Yeah it was just a half a dozen bars of Ivory soap that time but a few years back it was my editor at Lorimer Publishing telling me to cut two characters out of my novel. Two characters! It couldn't be done! It would ruin the whole novel! But instead of freaking out and writing an incensed reply, I took a deep breath and said, fine – let’s see what happens. What happened was an amazing novel that I was proud of. And that wasn't the only time she challenged me. Whenever I thought – this edit is never going to work. I said – Let’s see what happens. More often than not, it worked out in amazing ways.

A long time ago I heard an interview with the members of Monty Python. They were talking about their philosophy when it came to writing their skits. They had a rule. Never say no. If they didn't like something, they couldn't say no to it. They could only say, yes and . . . and add something. Even they admitted this didn't always work. and some of their skits resulted in meandering things as a result, but more times than not – it did. I've tried to apply this type of philosophy to not just my writing, but my life too. I’ll try anything once (so long as it is not physically or morally detrimental). I've done things that have had me shaking but still stepped out and done them. Like my first time on a YA dark fiction panel at a writing conference. I thought for sure the other panelists were going to eat me – or maybe the audience would. It ended up being a marvelous experience and now, if I’m ever invited to do that kind of thing again, I won’t be as terrified.

Say yes. Say yes to every opportunity that comes your way. Say yes to those edits you don’t think will work and see where they take you. Say yes to meeting people who you wouldn't otherwise talk to just to see if it ends up being interesting. No - blocks everything. No is like a brick wall hitting your face. You can’t do anything with a No but Yes opens up vast biomes of possibilities and well – yes is way more fun.

So go explode some soap and see what happens. Just be sure to add it to your grocery list or you’ll run out and that is a sad, sad thing.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Kim Firmston

Kim Firmston is a writer and creative writing instructor in Calgary. Her teen novels Schizo and Hook Up were Canadian Children's Book Centre Best Bet Selections. Her short story "Life Before War" was shortlisted for the 2008 CBC Literary Awards. Her most recent novel for teens is Touch, about a teenage hacker with a troubled family life.

Go to Kim Firmston’s Author Page