A request for you.


Some pretty exciting things are a-brewing over here & I need YOUR help.

Do you (or someone you know) have a family heirlooms that is a piece of handwritten work that is near & dear to your heart?

Perhaps a cookbook that’s been passed down through generations, a postcard, a letter, a journal, a scrapbook.

I’m curating stories for a new column I’m starting with the amazing folks at Handwritten.  If interested in sharing, please send a photo of the heirloom & a small paragraph explaining why it’s so important to you.  Use any of the questions below as a prompt to help you share:

  • How did you come across this heirloom? Was it gifted to you? Did you find it when you were cleaning out a cupboard?
  • What does it mean to you to have this piece of handwritten work?
  • What has it inspired in you?

I’d love to hear about it. Please email me at lifesletter@gmail.com.

Can’t wait to share more soon.

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When in doubt…DANCE!


I’ve officially lost count of the number of times I’ve filtered a pretty picture, and drafted up a status update to let you all know how I’ve been doing since the original agent pitch 2 months ago. Since then I’ve gone out to 22 agents, received 6 gracious rejection letters, 7 are currently reviewing the proposal & 9 I am yet to hear from, which is totally expected in the industry (most agents get hundreds of query letter submissions every week).

The in-between time of waiting to hear has been up & down. I’m happy to say that up to rejection #4, and a few days after rejection #4, it’s been mostly up. And it’s been that way because I’m at choice. Every single day we’re at choice of how we’ll handle things…and I’m choosing joy, connection, gratitude & trust.

After the first few rejections, I said that I was trusting the process, heck I was even hashtagging #trusttheprocess (we all know that shit gets real when you hashtag). But I really wasn’t fully trusting the process until rejection #4 came in. Rejection #4 brought me to the fetal position curled up on my bed, scrolling through my phone to find my dial-a-fellow-writer life line. I felt punched in the face. I was taking this one personally. I was sad.

With the help of a precious few, I slowly came back to a seated position. Still on the bed, still tear soaked and snotty, still bruised for sure, but I was slowly rising again. In that moment, I publicly declared to myself that for the rest of this process, however long this may take, I would be choosing joy.

So I starting making rejection dance videos & sending them to my nearest & dearest. The ones that won’t judge me, will laugh with me, and tell me that they’re going to hang on to the videos to send to the media when my book makes it big haha. Some people print off rejections letters & paste them to their walls, some give themselves gold stars…I dance.

Knowing that I’m not alone, has helped immensely too. One writer I know was rejected 15 times before finding her agent. Another took 6 months to “change her voice” because an agent didn’t like her writing style (she learned in the end that changing her voice was not the answer…and waiting for an agent who fell in love with her was). The author of The Help Kathryn Stockett was rejected by 60 agents. J K Rowling received 12 rejections from publishers before Harry Potter was picked up, and I saw on Buzzfeed that someone told her not to quit her day job. Ha.

I’ll admit, I got a little caught up in the romance of New York City dreaming, the talk of big book deals, and picturing my book on shelves. While dreaming is permitted in these situations & also encouraged and essential, losing touch with reality and unconsciously placing expectations on the manifestation of dreams doesn’t usually work in your favour.

So I’ve let it all go. I’ve done my part, and the universe will take the lead from here, as it truthfully has been since day one of this journey. I really do believe there is a plan for this book. I believe it has a life of its own. I believe that I was called to go down this road since that magical moment in Long Beach, California in March of 2012 as I stood in front of the Queen Mary doing the first recreation of a photo of my grandparents. It was the moment that gave me this whole idea in the first place.

So there ya have it. I wait. I trust (no hashtags required). I enjoy the calm, quiet space of the in-between. And I celebrate with dance videos.

Don’t give up your dreams, peeps. I’m cheering you on every step of the way!


New York State of Mind

And it’s off.  I’m currently listening to Billy Joel’s New York State of Mind on repeat, dreaming of what’s to come in the next few weeks.  Guys, I did it.  I officially sent my query letters off to New York City agents.  I’ve been thinking of this moment for months (years, even!) & it’s FINALLY here.  Like I said in my last post, I would not be here without the love, support and expertise of my amazing book coach Sandra O’Donnell…as well as my amazing husband, family and friends.

Since I was little, I’ve had a fascination with New York City.  I used my music for young children piano bag as a briefcase & remember pretending like I was on my way to a big meeting in the city.  I had no idea how I’d get there, or what that would look like…but here we are.

New York City, here I come!

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10 Things I’ve Learned about Writing a Book


I was on my way to the library to return some books, and decided to sit outside on the park bench and take in the sunshine.  I heard my phone ding, and clicked on an email from my brilliant book coach Sandra.  This is what it said:

“Okay honey.  I want you to take a minute and really take this in.  This is the first draft of your book.  All 59800 words.  Just 20,000 words shy of an entire book.   This is quite an accomplishment and you should be incredibly proud of what we have created.  It is by all estimations now A BOOK! Not a proposal, not a conversation “I’m writing a book,” but, the first solid draft of YOUR book.  Funny how it just kinda snuck up on you isn’t it?  So take a minute — send your grandparents a huge prayer of thanks and one to Brownie Dean and all the other guides and muses that joined in to get you to this point.

Lots of work still to do, but YOWZA! Such a massive achievement.”

My eyes filled with tears and I took a deep breath to really take the moment in.

She was so right.  Over the past few months, I have been sending her page after page, filling in all of the details that she highlights in yellow, not even concerned with page or word count.  I’ve just been sending and breathing.  Sending and breathing.

I went from utterly overwhelmed (see beautiful but chaotic photo of the material I was drowning in), to having a finished proposal and full first draft of my book!

Before working with Sandra, I was struggling.  Writing this book alone was so hard. I was miserable, and the joy was stripped from the process for me.  I made family members change my social media passwords and basically locked myself to the desk and had a huge shame storm on myself.  “You’ll never pull this off.  You can’t write.  You suck.” I was putting myself, and those around me (love you, Adam) through agony. I was on an emotional rollercoaster.  It wasn’t fun.

The second I booked a flight to San Diego, I knew things were changing.  Sandra rolled out a huge scroll of easel paper and busted out every colour of Post-it I’ve ever seen.

“Let’s start at the beginning, girl!”

In honour of this HUGE step in the process, I want to share some things I’ve learned.

10 things I’ve learned about writing a book

  1. Find other writers – A turning point in the process for me was finding other writers.  I joined an online writing group that changed everything for me.  Not only do I have writer friends locally now, but I also have them scattered around the world.  Like-minded beautiful writers, who get what we’re going through.  This was the first step to realizing that I didn’t have to do this alone.
  2. The fear never goes away – And great, seasoned authors attest to it too.  Brene Brown, Liz Gilbert, Cheryl Strayed. It’s scary putting yourself out there creatively…but in the end it’s worth it. Something that has helped me with this is listening to podcasts by fellow creatives. My all time favourite podcast series is “Magic Lessons” by Elizabeth Gilbert.  See the little purple icon on your iPhone that says Podcasts?  Open it and search “Elizabeth Gilbert.” Do it now.  You won’t regret it.
  3. Read – Writing has given me a whole new level of appreciation for books.  I appreciate every single sentence in them.  I know what kind of work went into every single word.
  4. Ask for help – Guess what, we don’t have to do it ALONE! There are options! Writing groups, retreats, book coaches, ghostwriters, beta readers.
  5. Find what kind of goals motivate you – For me, small tasks like “Tell me the story of meeting this friend,” or “Tell me the story of the first day in England” works wonders.  Big tasks like “Write Book” on my to-do list just overwhelms me.
  6. It will happen when the time is right – I’ll admit it…I missed deadlinesA lot of them.  And the reason I missed those deadlines is because they were unrealistic.  They were a pipe dream.  Sometimes the story needs to marinate for a little while.  Some stories take decades to write.  I really do believe in divine timing for books.  If it happens in a forced way, you might be missing crucial pieces of the story, or you might not be ready.  Trust the process, even when it hurts.
  7. Write to those you love – I have found that my best writing has come when I tell myself to write to my best friend.  Sometimes I even open up my email and start by saying “Dear Jess.  I just want to tell you this little story.”  And then it flows and flows and flows out of me.  Just make sure your email autosaves, or write it in a word document first.
  8. My name is Carly & I am a People Pleaser – As a recovering people pleaser, I worry a lot about what people are going to think.  Coming to terms with the fact that writers can’t please everyone, is huge. Some people might not like my book, my story, or me.  I will survive.
  9. Post-it’s, colourful pens & stepping away from the computer – Like I said, when Sandra busted out the Post-its, I was in awe.  As a visual person, seeing my book on a wall was exactly what I needed.  I also found that printing chapters out and editing by hand with colourful pens helps a lot too.  Pen & paper will never die.
  10. Exercise & talk it out – Yoga.  Walks.  Time outside.  Talk therapy.  It all helped me through the past year.  Find what works for you.

It’s been a challenging and rewarding year working on this book.  I learned a lot and am sure there is so much more to learn.  The best part has been celebrating these little (and big) victories with my amazing hubby, family and friends.  I couldn’t have gone this far without any of them.  For that I am grateful.  Stay tuned for more!


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Take time to CELEBRATE


Since January, I have been using the DESIRE map day planner by Danielle LaPorte.  I just LOVE it.  Sure, there are days when I only manage to fill out a few words here or there, but mostly I love the monthly check-ins around all there is to celebrate, recognize & acknowledge.  It gives you a chance to revisit your intentions & goals for the year, reflect on the month that’s coming to a close and visualize & plan for the month ahead.

This month was specifically interesting because I wasn’t very excited to sit down to go over it all.  I felt that February wasn’t very productive, that I had let some goals & intentions go, and that I hung out in the land of self-doubt a little too much.

To my surprise the section of celebration far outweighed the “recognize the negative so you can do something constructive with it” section.  And my biggest celebration was around the talk that I gave at the University of Fraser Valley on “Doing What I Love.” I not only faced a fear and learned more about public speaking, but I also met new people, felt part of a creative community, got to share my story, and created opportunities for the future.  In the below photos, you’ll see the sold out crowd of 150 people rolling in, confirmation that I talk with my hands, and that I totally started my talk with taking a audience wide vote (hence my nervously-excited raised hand)!


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The other thing that I’m very happy with is the daily reading & writing that I’m doing.  Since the beginning of the year, I have been working through a book called “The Assassin’s Cloak: An Anthology of the World’s Greatest Diarists” and read the daily pages as it reads chronologically. It’s so interesting to read diary entries  from as far back at 1650- 2003.  I love starting my morning reading personal encounters & perspectives of events that happened on this very day throughout time.  I’ve also been reading through my Grama’s letters again.  Life’s Letter 2.0, if you will.  I’m doing the retrace again, 2 years after the original retrace, to keep the ideas fresh in my mind that reflect in the pages of my writing.

As far as writing, although I try to work on book writing as much as I can, I try to remember that as long as I show up to the page & get my ideas down, I find that I feel positive about my progress.  As outlined in Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way,” I commit to clearing my thoughts and mind by doing morning pages as often as I can to not only get in the habit of a daily writing practice, but to also clear the space in between the ears to feel more present in my days.

I felt like sharing this here for myself to look back on what works well for my creative mind, and also to share with some of you who are looking to be more intentional with your days, weeks & months.  Or perhaps get into a more consistent writing practice.

Happy creating.

Photo credit for pecha kucha event HERE & HERE


Call Home



I have a confession to make.  This Oscar acceptance speech really got to me.  It literally made me pick up my phone, scroll to the top of my call log and actually see how long I talked to my mother earlier that day when she called.  2 minutes.  Mind you, she called at the exact moment that I sat down at my desk to start being “productive” – I tend to jam pack my weekends with writing & reading goals to balance out the full time work schedule with my writing dreams.  And yes, after our 2 minute call I was productive for a good 15 minutes.  Until I grabbed my phone that I could see out of the corner of my eye, and started to scroll instagram.

I can’t tell you how much I love instagram.  Really.  It is such an incredible source of inspiration to me.  Creativity seems to flow from the screen into my hands…it’s my krytonite.  Until a line is crossed.  Until I choose instagram over people.  People that I love with all of my heart.

Needless to say, I called home the next morning.  And came clean to my mom that I chose instagram over her.