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Guest Blogger: Novelist, Alice Kuipers

We’d like you to meet Alice Kuipers! She is a best-selling author based in Saskatoon and has recently released a new novel called Me (and) Me. Check out the trailer: 

We’re so inspired by her work and are thrilled to have her as a guest blogger!

As women in the music industry, it sometimes feels like we need to decide between pursuing our careers VS raising a family. Thankfully, Farideh, our fellow Riveter, has shown us that both are possible. We're curious about your story: did you ever feel like you had to choose between pursuing your career as a writer and raising a family? How did you navigate that decision (if at all)? 

Farideh is a great inspiration—I read her newsletter to give me ideas to help me cope with all the juggling that having a family and a career requires. I have four children and they are all under the age of eight. It’s bonkers at my house. But, years ago, when I was pregnant with my first child, I spoke to the novelist Lisa Moore about how to manage writing novels and being a mother. She told that to keep writing while my children were young, I needed to take it seriously and not try to do it all—she said she needed three hours a day with fixed childcare to keep her writing life going. Basically, I followed her advice, although now we have four children, we have more than three hours a day of childcare. For me, it was the notion of taking my writing seriously that stuck—seriously enough that I knew I needed to keep making time for it.

My children are my top priority. But if I don’t spend any time writing, I turn into a far grumpier and more unpleasant parent. I don’t know why that is, but knowing this about myself helps me balance my work needs and my family needs.

What are your tricks, tips and routines that help you balance your creative practice with family life? 

When I’m not working, at the back of my mind, I try to have the next scene playing. So, if I’m changing a diaper or playing with the kids or making supper, there’s a tiny part of my brain that has an image of a scene in it. When I sit down to work, I know what I’m going to write next. I also have a lot of lists—a weekly to-do list, a monthly one, a daily one. I’m pretty easy going on the day-to-day list. I understand I have to be flexible with four kids. But I’m quite good at getting everything done by giving myself a whole week to do it. Although I don’t have a full work week—until my children are older, I only have childcare on Mondays-Thursdays.

One piece of advice I followed was to set up an automatic email responder for Fridays-Sundays. People seem to need replies to emails more quickly than I can handle. The responder says: I’m not at my desk until Monday. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. It gives me a little breathing room when I’m with my children.

Another tip? I regularly give myself thirty minutes to recharge. Sometimes I just can’t do it all. Sometimes I need to not be working or with my darling-yet-exhausting kids. Sometimes I need to read a book or walk the dog or exercise. This has been something I’ve had to learn more this year. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a bit older or if it’s because I was just working too hard, but my body is making me take a bit more time to chill.

And finally, I try not to give myself a hard time. I don’t get it right all the time. But I try not to be eaten up by mommy guilt when I drop the ball. I try my best—I think most of us parents do.

Lark is the lead character of your latest novel Me (and) Me. We noticed she is the sixth of young girls/teenagers around which the plots of your novels are built: from Callie (The Death of Us), to Amy (40 Things I Wanted to Tell You) to Sophie (The Worst Thing She Ever Did) and finally to Claire and Elizabeth (Life on the Refrigerator Door). What draws you to making teenage/young girls your central characters? What goes into building their personalities, inventing their backstories and what informs their strength? 

Characters appear in my head needing my attention. It’s a weird thing. Often, I have a storyline playing around in my mind—so in Life on the Refrigerator Door, I was thinking about writing a story in notes for a long time. Then Claire’s voice spoke in my head and everything came together. I began the first draft. Right now. I have an idea that dances in my head for a new book and I know what I want the book to be about. Recently, a girl’s voice has started up and I hear the words: “My name’s Poppy. Not my choice. Obviously.”

The ideas for Me (and) Me started a long time ago—nearly twenty years ago. But the character I tried to write that book about was too much like me. The book didn’t work. Then Lark came into my head and she was writing a song and I knew she was the right person for this story. I use a character interview to start to get to know my characters (the interview I use is here on my website—for any of you who are writers, I have tons of other writing workshops on the site, and a free course for anyone who signs up to my newsletter).

After I’ve interviewed my character, I have to do research—with Lark I spoke to singer-songwriters, read books about songwriting, listened to bands, watched bands live and on YouTube, read memoirs of songwriters. That’s how I ended up signing up to Farideh’s newsletter—when I was reading about you all! I also did a lot of research into Parkour. Which was a lot of fun.

I’m drawn to teen characters because I think that age in life is when we make the choices that turn us into the adults we’re going to become—those years are so crucial and so interesting and so hard to live through. I’m not sure why all my main characters are girls. I suspect it’s because I’m always writing for my fourteen-year-old self—the confused teenager that I was, the one who loved to read. My love of reading has fueled all of my writing—when I write a book, I’m the first reader of it and that’s a thrill.

We've often been told to write about what we know - this informs our songwriting process. We love how you reference local restaurants in Saskatoon, prairie scenery and landmarks (like Pike Lake) in your novel Me (and) Me. How much local inspiration do you draw upon when writing? Is this important to you? In contrast, are there elements in your writing that are inspired by your hometown in London, England? 

The last two books I’ve published are set in Edenville, which I base heavily on Saskatoon. Our beautiful river seems to make it into all my writing at the moment. My second novel was set in London, and my first was set on a fridge door. In my head, Life on the Refrigerator Door was set in London, but the fridge could be anywhere. When that book came out, I had a long talk with local author David Carpenter about how I didn’t use setting and how important it was to his writing—he was very interested and interesting about how to write strong settings.

I think that the magic realism in the last two books needed to be rooted in setting to give them that realistic feeling—so I took Dave Carpenter’s thoughts to heart. I wanted to set the book somewhere vivid and real to me--I reference D’Lish all the time in this book because I wrote a lot of the book sitting there, drinking coffee. I did mean to change the name of the café in a final draft, but I never did and I like that the café where I spend so much time now exists in the heads of readers who have never visited Saskatoon.

Thanks so much for these great questions! And for hosting me on my blog tour—I really appreciate it. I’m a big fan and so it’s a real honour.

Alice is on a Blog Tour! Catch her other guest blog posts here:

April 10: Girl Plus Book - http://girlplusbook.com
April 11: CanLit for Little Canadians - https://canlitforlittlecanadians.blogspot.ca/
April 12: Library of Pacific Tranquility - http://pacifictranquility.wordpress.com/
April 13: A Cupcake and a Latte - http://acupcakeandalatte.com/
April 14: Stuck in YA Books - http://lovesbooksreview.blogspot.com/
April 17: Jaime D's World - http://www.jaimedsworld.tumblr.com/
April 19: Our Collective Muse - http://www.ourcollectivemuse.com/
April 20: Book Store Finds - https://www.instagram.com/bookstorefinds/
April 21: Mostly YA Lit - https://www.mostlyyalit.com/
April 25: Rosie & the Riveters - http://www.rosieandtheriveters.com/blog/
April 28: BookCatPin - http://bookcatpin.blogspot.ca/

To learn more about Alice, you can follow her everywhere online:

Alice on Twitter

Alice on Facebook

Alice on Instagram

Alice on Tumblr

Alice on Pinterest

Free Online Writing Course

ORDER HER NEW BOOK NOW:

Chapters Indigo | Amazon | McNally Robinson

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True Love

Starting next month, we're jumping 2 feet in and pursuing our musical dreams full time - 100% commitment to our band and no other major projects. Basically, the 3 of us are getting married.

I heard a quote once that went something like, "If you really want to get to know someone, see how they handle a slow internet connection." SO TRUE. I'd also like to add, "If you really want to get to know someone, see how they handle airport security at 5am with a screaming baby after sleeping in a sketchy Air BnB in 40 degree NYC heat with no air conditioning." In case you're wondering, Farideh handled it very, very well. 

Luckily, we've been through that and more and we still want to be in this band together. We’ve been there for each other through early/late flights, 9 hour car rides, NYC traffic, suspicious looking cot beds in one star hotels, and somehow we’ve all survived and still want to do this together. Farideh and Alexis have seen me (and taken care of me) when I had bronchitis, laryngitis, and a bad sinus infection all at the same time and it was really gross. If all that isn't true love then I don't know what is. 

Allyson xoxo

 

 

 

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TOP 5 FAVOURITE SNACK FOODS ON THE ROAD

Write here...

I’ve tried hummus, veggies, fruit, turkey bites, sea snacks and beef jerky. While they are all tasty snacks, they didn’t make the cut to be on my top-5 list. When I’m hungry between meals, I opt for one of the following high-protein options:

1) Unsalted nuts: I usually make my own mix of almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts and pecans from the bulk bins at home.

2) Qi’a superfood snack bars: I’ve been on the lookout for tasty high-protein bars that aren’t too sweet and these ones are the bomb (and every flavor is delicious too!).

3) Cheese slices

4) Hard-boiled egg

5) Canned tuna (Peanut satay is my favorite)

 

Happy trails!

Biz, 

Alexis xox

 

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Life as a Trio + NEW Music Video

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Life as a Trio + NEW Music Video

Rosie & the Riveters became a trio on January 1st, 2017 when our beautiful Riveter Melissa decided to step down as a Riveter in order to step up to her new paths and passions. 

When Melissa first mentioned she wanted to pursue her love for her community, farm and the environment we were very happy for her and we wondered what was the next best step for Rosie & the Riveters. 

Should we get a new 4th member? Would the show be as strong? What would the harmonies sound like as a trio? These were all questions we discussed and were worried about.

In the end, we took a January tour to Alberta as a test. Could R&R be a trio? Could we create a show that was just as engaging, tight, entertaining and fun? Could the workload be split between 3 people instead of four?

Our first step was to hit the songs again and adjust our harmonies. Almost every song needed a slight adjustment, either someone needed to take a new harmony or sometimes we all had to adjust slightly. In the practices, we discovered new blends and little tricks. We heard new things and had fun reimagining old repertoire.

Then, we took to the studio! The dance studio that is. Surrounded by mirrors we could see our dance routines and make the adjustments needed to balance out 3 people dancing instead of 4. We moved Alexis with the guitar to the middle for symmetry, we adjusted footwork so we were in sync and ultimately we were happy with the outcome.

Farideh found a tutu backstage in Fernie...then she found 2 more!

Farideh found a tutu backstage in Fernie...then she found 2 more!

For our 7 shows in Alberta and BC our goal was to see if: "we can do it". Can we give an incredible show and handle the workload?

The answer was a resounding YES! Many of the shows were sold out, the applause uproarious (if thats a word) and the workload manageable. We finally felt like we could commit.

SOLD OUT HAPPY CROWDS.

The day after we got home from tour , Matt Braden was kind enough to do a photoshoot and film us performing as a trio live. Here's what 100 hours of work looked like:

We're excited about the future of Rosie & the Riveters. This band has always been a side project for us, but now we feel that we can take it full-time. We've joined forces with the Feldman Agency (the largest booking agency in Canada), we're songwriting for our next record and we're ready to take us where ever Rosie is meant to go.

Thanks for being a part of our journey.

xoxox

Farideh

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4 Female Musicians You Must Listen To!

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4 Female Musicians You Must Listen To!

I don’t normally make new year’s resolutions…I suspect it’s because the fall is my time of renewal (must be all those years of school!).  Yet, a few days ago, I had a look at my new collection of vinyl and digital download purchases and realized that all the music I bought in 2017 is made by women… looks like I made a new year’s resolution after all!

This inspired me to make a more conscious effort to discover music made by women for the rest of the year – there is SO much great stuff out there! I’d like to share my top 4 discoveries so far.

Please note, this is music you listen to while doing nothing else …except maybe nurse a cup of tea. Get yourself some good-quality headphones, a quiet space and let yourself be taken away in song:

AURORA

AURORA

AURORA: I don’t normally listen to pop music laced with synthesized sounds, but this woman blew me away. Her voice and poetry are soft and visceral all at the same time. Her sense of melody is catchy, yet unpredictable. There is an innocence in her approach, yet so much depth. Her arrangements are so very well thought out – lots of sounds to listen for, surprises lurking in the layers, moving uses of dynamics, and some dance-like-nobody’s-watching beats.    

The Staves

The Staves

The Staves: I heard them for the first time last summer while we were gigging at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. These ladies have a soft and delicate approach to 3-part harmonies. They make it look and sound easy, yet their arrangements are layered and are surely the result of intricately honed vocal explorations. It’s breathtaking stuff.

Aoife O'Donovan

Aoife O'Donovan

Aoife O’Donovan: She’s been one of my favorite female voices of folk for a while. Her first album is so good, I’ve been listening to it regularly since its release in 2013…so much so, I didn’t even realize she released a second one last year (I seems that I’ve been living under a rock for most of 2016!).  Her new opus is a stunning collection of songs that feature her feather-soft voice and down-to-earth poetry that makes me want to fall in love and take a road trip. Her arrangements demonstrate a more ballsy approach to the genre with the use of atypical meters and spacy arrangements– certainly experimental in the folk world (and otherwise). I dig it.

Kaia Kater

Kaia Kater

Kaia Kater: banjo woman extraordinaire, Kaia’s voice, musicianship and songwriting breathe so much authenticity, I felt like I was being ushered into her kitchen, getting to know her over a cup of coffee while listening to her record. This is her first album (I think) and it won a Canadian Folk Music award in the Pushing Boundaries category. She’s also been nominated for an International Folk Music Award. Keep an ear out for Kaia – I expect you’ll be hearing a lot about her this year. 

Happy listening! 

biz, 

 

Alexis xox 

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Why Do I Still Have a Super Nintendo?

Not getting what you want isn’t always a bad thing. I’ve been looking for a new home for a while, and last fall I finally found a place that was exactly what I was looking for.  I put in an offer, it was accepted, and 2 days before I signed the final paperwork, it flooded. Badly. The floorboards were lifting, the drywall was disintegrating… it was a hot mess. Obviously I didn’t want to take on that headache so I backed out of the sale. 

I decided to just unpack the essentials and wait for the perfect place to magically go up for sale…But a funny thing happened when I was living amongst the boxes: I didn't miss anything that I hadn't unpacked. I really just forgot I even owned most of it. 

I'm still waiting to move, but in the meantime I’ve been working hard to organize, de-clutter, and prioritize which things I absolutely need to have in my home and which things I don’t. Clothes, papers, furniture, keepsakes, travel momentos, and my favourite - A SUPER NINTENDO FROM 1990 – it's all just stuff that doesn’t serve a purpose so why do I have it???

All boxed up & ready to donate! WHY DO I STILL HAVE A SUPER NINTENDO? I have no idea. 

All boxed up & ready to donate! WHY DO I STILL HAVE A SUPER NINTENDO? I have no idea. 

I’ve also been reading The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo  (amazing!) and watched the documentary Minimalism on Netflix at least 3 times. Both of these have been SO helpful in getting things organized and helping me to get rid of things that are just taking up space.

Anyone else working on decluttering their home this year? 

Allyson xo

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Farewell Dear Riveters

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Farewell Dear Riveters

In 2011 my favourite radio show on CFCR was "There Goes That Song Again" which played music from the 30's and 40's.  I was fascinated with the Boswell Sisters and and was wishing to incorporate those vintage sounds into music I was creating.  That same week Rosie & the Riveters asked me to audition for the band.  It was one of those moments where the stars aligned and I said "yes please and thank you Universe"!  We hit it off right away.  At the time the line up included Alexis Normand, Farideh and the lovely Kiera Dall'Osto.  I loved singing and arranging songs with them.  I was happy I had a good ten years of music making and touring under my belt to contribute to the group.  This group was different, in all the right ways.  We played to listening crowds and earlier shows that often paid better than the usual bar gig.  It was heavenly.  Shortly after I joined the group we recorded and released our first "Live" album.  The membership changed in 2012 and we toured as a 3 piece for a short time before taking on a new 4th member, the one and only, Allyson Reigh.  Shortly thereafter we acquired a 5th little munchkin on our tours, Farideh's daughter, Paulina.

The last five years that I have been a part of Rosie & the Riveters, in all it's forms, and all it's members, have been precious.  It has been such a pleasure to perform, create, sing, dance, run a business with and become friends with these extremely talented women.  To experience the joy, laughter and tears of each audience member at all of our concerts has brought such hapiness to my soul.

During these 5 years, the stars were aligning in other areas of my life as well.  I met the love of my life, moved to the country, built a straw-bale home and started to sow the seeds of my life long dream of having a small scale organic farm.   

Our concert on December 31st, 2016 at the Broadway Theatre will be my final performance with the Riveters.

I am looking forward to having a solid family life, to re-join my community and caring, conscious and connected network of friends.  To foster my connection with Mother Earth, and increase my environmentalist endeavours.  To build upon our small-scale organic farm, to create beautiful things and learn new skills.  Music will always be a part of my life.  I will continue to teach guitar, voice and songwriting through my business,  Prairie Songstress Music.  I hope to pick up the cello once and awhile for fun, and who knows maybe even "jam" with friends like in the good old days.  I am also joining Waste Not yxe to pursue and promote a zero waste lifestyle.

Mostly, I will spend more time with my chickens, my dog Winston, cat Elsie, and the love of my life, Reuben Ditmars.

I wish Rosie & the Riveters all the best and continued success in their adventures.

Hope to see you at the Broadway this New Year's Eve for an epic final performance!

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More feminism please!

Sexism still surprises me. I don't know why. It shouldn’t since I encounter it a lot in the music industry – as I’m sure many women experience in their own field. I can’t tell you the number of times male sound technicians talk down to me during sound check. Many think that, just because I’m a woman, I don’t know the ins and outs of live sound. The again, maybe it's the pin up curls, freshly steamed dress and ruby red lipstick that give the impression I don't know how sound works? Either way, they are mistaken: Yes, I know what a DI box is. Yes, please change the EQ on my guitar: there are too many high frequencies and it is causing feedback.

I put my foot down using my well-rehearsed sassy (and classy!) responses. Thankfully, some technicians have the decency to apologize (though they usually do so after they’ve heard us sing!). Most sheepishly just avoid eye contact. 

I was in Québec recently and surprised by the sexist controversy surrounding Safia Nolin – a francophone singer-songwriter who was getting a lot of flak for the clothing she decided to wear to the ADISQ awards (like the Juno’s in Québec).

The short of the issue: rather than choosing to wear a designer dress to the gala, she chose to be herself and wore what made her feel comfortable, what was distinctly “Safia”: a pair of jeans, a cardigan and a t-shirt on which was printed a photo of Québécois rocker, Gerry Boulet.

Safia Nolin, ADISQ awards

I watched in disbelief as I read statements like “How disrespectful to the awards!”, “How disrespectful to women!” and “What a terrible role-model for feminists!” appear on my social media feeds. Lise Ravary, a journalist for the Journal de Montréal even tweeted: “If Safia Nolin is a feminist icon, I’m turning in my membership card!”

What disappointed me most was the reminder that both men and women can be sexist. 

My heart went out to Safia.

The criticism drove her to publish an open letter on Urbania’s website to defend herself with authenticity. Parts of her letter echoed the acceptance speech she gave at the awards gala during which she encouraged girls to do whatever they want, that they can do men’s jobs and don’t need to give a hoot! (while everyone else seemed to be distracted by her wardrobe). Safia spoke to girl power in 2016. It was inspiring. 

Experiences like these reinforce the need for more feminism: more advocating for women's rights and cultivating an understanding that men and women are equal. 

And so, my heart smiles for Safia and recognizes her courage to dare to be herself. Women have the right to wear what they want. Clothing doesn't measure a person’s integrity and self-value.

Merci Safia!

 

Alexis xox

p.s. I also wanted to share Brendan Kelly's thoughtful commentary published in the Montreal Gazette about Safia. 

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Rare "behind the scenes" footage of the making of the "Good Clean Fun!" live concert

It's been just over a year since the release of our first studio album "Good Clean Fun!". I was just revisiting this footage of some rare behind the scenes moments of us putting the show together and felt the need to share it with you.

As I watch these videos I can remember leaving my ten week old daughter for the first time to visit Juliet's Dance Studio in Saskatoon to work on our dance moves. At home, while breastfeeding I'd practice the new moves in my sleep deprived mind. We easily spent 60hrs each in rehearsal that month (not counting the hours of mental rehearsal).

I remember feeling like what I was trying to do was impossible; being a new mom, touring, all this new material; it all seemed impossible. 

Backstage, at our first (of many) sold out concerts promoting the album, I wondered if we had bitten off more than we could chew. How could we all possibly remember all of these dance moves?  

Luckily, it all came together. We remembered everything, the countless hours of rehearsal and the support and love for each other all contributed to a flawless concert night after night.

Enjoy.

xoxox

Farideh

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The Meaning of Life & Love

Being on the road most definitely has its’ perks: I’ve hiked the Rocky Mountains, gone thrift shopping in Woodstock NY, eaten fresh oysters in Victoria, and played music with my best friends. I’ve met some fabulous people whom I wouldn’t have otherwise known if it weren’t for this career choice. It all makes me feel so very grateful.

Though I’ve always been an independent spirit, being away from home isn’t always easy. In fact, part of what I love about being on the road is coming home. It feels so good! I’m lucky that all my brothers and sisters live in Saskatoon and are becoming accustomed to having an artist in the family. I can’t tell you the number of times they’ve invited me over for supper…then breakfast and lunch the next day because they know how much I miss home-cooked food and that I’m usually too tired to cook when I get back.

My sister had twin girls the last time I was away. I've never felt so far away from home as I did when they were born. I had to wait a week and a half before meeting the two cutest loaves of bread I love. Meanwhile, I was receiving family group test messages, photos and videos to celebrate this new chapter in our family’s life.  They are the first grandchildren to join the Normand lot – so the oooing, awing and heart/love/baby emoji-sharing was out of control.

One evening, I face-timed my mom who was tending to the babies while my sister and her husband were napping. Mom told me something that really stuck with me: she said that she had never fallen in love. She’s grown in love, developed in love, but never actually fallen in love. Not even with my dad with whom she’s been married for over 30 years. The first time she experienced falling in love was the moment she laid eyes on her granddaughters. Mom told me it felt like falling off a cliff. 

That was beautiful. I most definitely cried for a few minutes when I hung up the phone.

My nieces and I! ...so much love :-) 

My nieces and I! ...so much love :-) 

 

I realized that this is what life is all about for me: relationship. Whether it’s spending quality time with family, holding my nieces (even changing their diapers!), enjoying the best poutine in Saskatoon with friends at The Relais (Saskatoon’s francophone community centre), playing music with my friends, sharing music with audiences, etc.

It’s what keeps me going. I leave because the journey is rewarding and meaningful…and I leave, so I can come home again. 

Bisoux,

 

Alexis 

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