Author Interview: Jill Sooley

Today we are welcoming Jill Sooley to First Line blog. Jill’s first novel, The Widows of Paradise Bay, is published by Breakwater Books. Click here to read a description.

Random Exercise

Okay, I made it through Easter. The long weekend was lovely, but it whizzed by too fast. But I trust your brains are rested up and are ready to create something new. So...

If you were going to invent a holiday what would it be? What would it be called? How would it be celebrated? Feel free to go crazy here. I mean really, we just had a holiday where a rabbit delivers eggs?!?

Have fun!

Musing from the Desk


This is more like, "Whining from the Desk". But I have received three rejection letters in the last three days. Sorry, I had to tell someone. That's rough, is it not?

Dialogue Exercise

Use this line of dialogue to inspire a short story. Use it as the first line, last line or any line in between!

"There were too many to count."

Week #129

I admit, I have always had difficulties telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth.


"You do not even have to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait. Do not even wait, be still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet."

~ Franz Kafka

Random Exercise

Use these three words in a short story: sandal, asteroid, fortune.

Description Exercise

In this exercise you are going to describe a person. You can pick someone you know, someone you don't know but see around your neighbourhood or at your workplace, or you can choose a character from a piece of fiction that you are writing. Fix this person in your mind and then begin to describe them. Once you've got down their physical description, tell us how they move. Tell us what their voice sounds like. What are some of their favourite expressions? What do they say when they are angry? Can you describe this person in such a way that if I walked into a crowded room, I would recognize them right away?

Musings from the Desk

Time is the most democratic of things. We are all given twenty-four hours a day. Time is not like money where some people have lots and other people have none. Each day we all have the same amount of time.

As I rush through my days this is what I try to remind myself, if I have the time, that is.

I meet many people who want to write, but who tell me they don't have time. I understand this, but only to a point. (I'm also a yoga teacher and hear the same thing about exercise.) I have discovered that with writing (and with exercise) much can be accomplished in short periods of time, as long as you commit (and here is the trick) to it every day. For example, over the course of a month you will get more writing done if you write for 15 minutes a day than if you write for one hour once a week. Trust me, you will. Pick a time and show up at your desk or in your notebook and write for 15 minutes. Even if you are working on a piece of fiction treat it like a timed writing exercise: show up and keep those words flowing for your allotted 15 minutes. Then do it again the next day and the day after that. You'll be amazed by how much you manage to write in a month. You will be. I promise.

Week #128

For six years Sylvia had been saving money so she could go to Paris, France and eat one meal at the famous restaurant, Les Trois Souhaits.

Writing Adventure and a maybe a story idea....

For this exercise I suggest you walk around your own neighbourhood and try to see it the way a tourist or someone visiting it for the first time would. Look at it closely with fresh eyes. What new beauty do you see? Or what do you notice that is ugly? How many red things can you count? Do you ever wonder why the streets are named what they are? What do you think the neighbourhood looked like fifty years ago? A hundred years ago? (If you are really curious about this you can visit your city archives and look it up.) What do you imagine it will look like fifty years from now? Write about your neighbourhood.

I have to admit that the "Writing Adventures" are my favourite exercises. I love getting away from the desk to go exploring and let the world inspire me. Today I wandered around my own neighbourhood to "test drive" this exercise and I found something great. On the sidewalk someone has spray painted:
Jess 416-781-2053 Please.

Isn't that wonderful? A story just waiting to be told.


"If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would astonish ourselves."

~ Thomas Edison

Description Exercise

Choose an object that you see every day. Like your alarm clock, or keys, for example. With the object in front of you, write a description of it. Try to use all five of your senses.

Still searching for a name...

Remember when I was involved with the River of Stones project back in January? And I said I was going to keep posting 'stones' occasionally and then didn't? Well, I have kept writing them (they're fun). But I wanted to come up with a new name for them and so far haven't. I'm terrible at naming things. Good thing I don't have kids, huh?

Here's what I wrote yesterday:

Amongst the still brown grass
glows the purple crocus
- spring's shy face.

(*There is nothing wrong with the name 'River of Stones' by the way. It's a great name, in fact. It is simply that that project is ongoing and run by cool and stellar people and I didn't want to look like I was stealing the name.)

Musings from the Desk and an Exercise

One bit of advice that writers hear again and again is: write what you know.

I have never found this to be helpful. Some days I wander around not even sure of what I know (am I alone in this?). Anyway, I've always found it to be more helpful, and more interesting, to write about what you don't know, but are intrigued by. That way you are curious and enthusiastic, which will automatically make your writing more alive when the words start hitting the page.

So, think of something you don't know much about, but wish you did and then start doing research. Do a Google search, go to the library, talk to experts, read books, watch a documentary. Maybe a character in your latest short story loves Japanese food, but you've never tasted it yourself. Great! Read cookbooks, visit a Japanese restaurant (or two) and then learn how to make sushi (and invite me around for dinner). Learning about something new can be a great way to wake up yourself and your writing!