Baum-kuchen: You are at an analogue meet-up introducing yourself for the first time. What would you like people to know about you?
Heather: Hey! Hi! Hello! It’s so wonderful to meet you! Happy (early) holidays!
My name is Heather; born and raised in the western provinces of Canada where you can experience the mountains, the prairies, and lakes in just a few hours drive. Between 7am and 3pm I work for an arts non-profit in a hospital, helping bring arts programming to our healthcare heroes and patients. I do double duty as the group’s executive administrator and communications lead! But my true passion is writing stories–short stories, long stories and stories in-between. You can often find me at my home desk with a cup of hot chocolate or milk tea in a tall (usually heavy) mug as I craft new worlds, magic and bring them to life for other people. I also love reading books and playing video games. Basically I love stories of all kinds!
On weekends when I’m not writing, I’m learning graphic design, and browsing stationery/analogue systems. These days I’m trying to focus on a more minimal analogue system that is thin and extremely portable, but it’s difficult as there are so many amazing pieces out there! Like TN! Hobonichi! Midori!
I’m a huge fan of The Superior Labor and their craftsmanship. I only discovered them in the middle of last year and I can wait to delve more into the pieces they create. The amount of detail they put into their work and the love they infuse into each piece… It's truly amazing!
Also, I love pastries and would be thrilled to hug a bear!
Thank you BK for the opportunity to chat with you! :)
Baum-kuchen: You frequently share about writing stories on your instagram. Any special occurrence that sparked your interest for writing?
Heather: Believe it or not I’ve always loved writing! I would write about my favourite characters in alternate universes or characters I created, but I never really thought about pursuing it as a hobby or a job. I was always told by my teachers that there was no value in such a career so I kept it a secret and wrote whenever and whatever I wanted. It was after I wrote several columns for a community newspaper that I thought I should pursue journalism as it was a sort of middle ground for me–I could keep writing even though it wasn’t about magical worlds, or alternate realities. While the program was fun, I wasn’t writing what I wanted to write about.
In my first year of university there was a program at the school called Book of the Year; each year a piece of Canadian literature would be chosen and students would study and discuss it, followed by a contest where students could submit an essay or creative piece of fiction that tied with the book. I was so inspired by that year’s chosen book, Lullabies for Little Criminals and its author Heather O’Neill, I laboured and poured my love for this book into a short story about the main character’s father. To my surprise, I won! I was shell shocked; when I submitted my work I felt confident in the piece but not in my writing ability as a whole. To receive such an honour was mind blowing and changed the path I was on. I remained in the journalism program but continued to write fiction and submit my stories to contests. That moment changed everything for me–it gave me the confidence to keep writing what I loved!
Baum-kuchen: We thought it was so lovely how you use your JIYU for story ideation! Could you walk us through the sections and how you use it?
Heather: The JIYU has been a huge help to me, and I’m so glad BK created it! I often carry it in my Traveler’s Notebook and it’s incredibly easy to pull from my bag when I’m immediately hit with an idea. It’s so wonderful to have a lightweight notebook with separate blocks to write in; it has given me a clear idea where my thoughts come from, important questions I may have about my story, character details, or why an idea was rejected or focused on. If I come up with an idea I write them down in each block, and if a story idea is prevalent I will use the bigger block as a plot diagram or a space to doodle what I think the characters will look like! Once I have finished that spread I will go straight to the monthly calendar in my JIYU and write down what the idea was under the corresponding date, almost like a table of contents. For example, on July 5-9 I wrote down “original story about a witch (reincarnated)”. It’s a story I hope to write–it’s about a married couple who are on the run from the law after the wife (a reincarnated witch) accidently casts a whole spell on her neighbourhood! Because it was an idea I was constantly thinking about, I drew an arrow through that week to show that it was a continuous thought, not just a single day's thought.
Keeping an open mind and letting my mind wander allows for something I’ve experienced to pour out onto the pages of my JIYU. It has been such a game changer for me! A few weeks ago I was able to leave work in the middle of the day and when I walked out of the building I thought: “There’s something magical about leaving work in the middle of the day. The sun is high in the sky, beaming down on you, and your day is open and free–you feel like something special is about to happen.”
Once I hopped on the train heading home, I immediately wrote it down in my JIYU. I was so charmed by that magical feeling I was experiencing; the sun high in the sky, crisp mid-day autumn air, and a calm energy from people around me; I let the words pour out onto the page. Just like it’s namesake, it has allowed me to be free no matter the time or place.
Unlike these pages that I’ve photographed, my handwriting can be really messy! I try not to be too precious about what my printing looks like because if I focus on the tidiness of my writing, I lose the momentum of the idea.
Baum-kuchen: Do you have a special routine or ritual for writing or is it more spontaneous?
Heather: My writing is very spontaneous! My day job forces me to think in two very different ways and after switching between two parts of my brain, sometimes I don’t have the energy to sit and write. And that’s okay! I’m always happy to let my mind wander and record the ideas I have until I can gather energy to sit and write. I found that forcing myself to sit and write is never any good–I’m easily frustrated by that, and I believe that no story should be approached that way. Back in the spring I worked on a writing project and between work, the looming deadline, and moving to a new place, I burnt myself out. I didn’t listen to what my mind or body was telling me! It was a horrible thing to experience, and that’s when I realized I need to take better care of myself, let the ideas flow to me, and write when I feel I can; I think that’s the right choice! My stories will be written and submitted when the time is right, so I make sure I put myself first. Those stories will undoubtedly wait for me.
Baum-kuchen: Besides your JIYU, could you share what your other analogue systems are and how you are using them?
Heather: I can’t express enough love for Traveler’s Notebook as my creative outlet! My JIYU is often accompanied by a TN refill in dot grid for journaling, and a blank refill for sketching. I can’t believe how long it took me to try TN, how did I ever live without it? I often switch between the camel and brown covers because they are gorgeous and each one carries a different texture from the other (my camel has a bit of a fuzzy texture, while my brown is a bit smoother). I’ve always had a fondness for textiles and the memories and feelings that come with touching them, so holding the leather cover brings a warmth and sense of peace to me. Inside my cotton zipper case from the B-Side Rarities line-up are a few analogue supplies, but the pockets carry special photos and cards that mean the world to me like photos of my family.
For my day-to-day planning (and a little gratitude journaling) I use my Hobonichi in A6. After my burn out I didn’t have the desire to do daily journaling anymore–the thought of picking up my journal felt like a herculean effort. I didn’t want my Hobonichi to go to waste and my Jibun Techo just wasn’t working for me, so I switched to using my Hobonichi as a day planner as a test and it changed everything. I absolutely love using it as a life book, and seeing what my days were like and the special little things that happen throughout the day. For three and a half years I used it as a journal, and it was only this year I discovered that using it as a planner worked better for me!
It’s so funny; earlier this year I was so frustrated and unhappy with my previous analogue system. It wasn’t working for me anymore like I had hoped. I watched Wakako’s video “Analogue Process”, and there was so much wisdom in her words. It helped me understand and come to terms with the knowledge that it’s okay to change things up when it no longer works. For so many years I followed one system so switching things up mid-year wouldn’t have been possible without that video! (Am I gushing about BK too much?)
Baum-kuchen: Moonlight or Daylight? When do you find yourself being the most creative?
Heather: Even though my day job sees me work from 7am to 3pm, I always make time for that moment where inspiration strikes so I keep my TN right beside me in a special spot on my desk. I find that daylight is so inspiring to me; to stare outside and take that moment to pause, letting the sun wash over me. It brings such energy and a smile to my face!
Night time work is usually a no-no; ever since I hit my 30s I found that by 6pm I’m in my loungewear, ready to curl up with a book or a TV show! I do try to take that time in the evening to write but sometimes it just doesn’t work and I’m okay with that. It’s important to do what’s right for you!
Baum-kuchen: You also seem to be an avid reader! Do you have a favorite book you have read recently?
Heather: I have so many books I’m reading right now especially as the weather gets chillier in Canada! One that I’m so excited to mention is Talking to Canadians by Rick Mercer. I’ve been a huge fan of his TV show The Rick Mercer Report. He took viewers of his show to beautiful parts of Canada, telling amazing stories as he connected with so many people. It makes you want to go out and explore what stories the world holds! I’m thrilled to pick up a book that’s about who he is and his life before his show.
I’m also an avid manga reader, and one series my friend and I are obsessed with is Kageki Shojo!!, a series about a young girl who attends a music/theatre school. She follows her dreams of acting in an all-girl theatre troupe, despite her height and what others are telling her what is and isn’t possible. It’s such a magical and positive series; a great reminder to work hard towards your goals, and don’t let others discourage you. To try and be positive, but to lean on your loved ones when you struggle.
I could go on and on–I love the places where books take me!
Baum-kuchen: Any favorite quote or words of encouragement you’d like to share with our readers?
This might be a bit jumbled, but here it goes! There are so many stories out there. You might be scared you’ll mimic a pre-existing story, but don’t be scared because you have a story worth telling because it’s coming from you. Feed your imagination by spending time in amazing places with different kinds of people. Let your mind wander and create brand new worlds. Know that the first draft of your writing never looks the way you imagined it, so revise revise revise. Each draft will get you closer to your dream story.