Wednesday, October 3, 2012


I'm pleased to have as my guest, debut fiction novelist, J.B. Chicoine, to Over Coffee. 
Bridget's topic compares her writing journey to creating a wedding gown. Creative skills become honed by deconstructing and reconstructing a piece of creative work.

Thanks Sia, for having me as a guest! I do believe this is my first guest post ever!

To start with, I’d like to share a little-known fact about myself: In a former life, I designed and constructed formal wear  specializing in wedding gowns. (Even now, I love to grab a handful of silk taffeta, give it a scrunch and see how it holds its shape like sculpted butter!) Just recently, a friend asked me to have a look at her wedding gown that was ‘doing something weird—the back wouldn't lay flat.’ The second I looked at it, I knew what the problem was and rattled off, “There’s more lining than shell, so it’s bunching.”

How on earth did I know what the problem was, let alone how to fix it? She asked, as if I were some sort of miracle worker. I just shrugged. I dunno—experience, I guess.

Later on, I thought about my learning process—about the first gown I made, when I was seventeen. I was so proud of it. Not only had I designed it, but I sewed it up and wore it to a formal dance in my senior year. *cringe* It was horrid. I mean the premise—the idea in my head was good, but in reality, it looked like a polyester sack hanging from two thin drawstrings. That undertaking reminds me of my first novel, written over twenty years ago. I was so proud of it. I actually made people read it *cringe again*. Sure, I had been writing since I was a little kid, just like I’d been sewing since I was old enough to thread a needle, but when it came to constructing something complex, I was just winging it.

So, with big aspirations, I attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan—oh yeah, I was going to be a big name designer! It took only one semester to realize that was not the career I wanted. I also learned classroom settings squashed my creativity. Just the same, in those few short months, I acquired some very important basic rules of design. I continued to sew for myself and, later, my children, but it wasn't until after I started doing alterations for a bridal shop that my skills improved exponentially. I had to muster the courage to deconstruct and reconstruct very expensive and elaborate formal wear  I figured out what worked and what didn't work by being methodical and taking my time.

Here’s the parallel with my writing. I persisted and wrote more novels, but it wasn't until I had to deconstruct and reconstruct them—because three years and over 200 rejections from agents told me my writing wasn't yet proficient enough—that I really figured out how to write a good novel. I read some helpful How To books (my favored way of learning) and figured out how to apply the basic rules and principles. I found a few good beta readers that helped me cut away ‘the unruly stuff that wouldn't behave.’ Then I put it all back together until everything fit just right.

Recently, I completed the phase of writing that is akin to adding the finishing touches to a wedding gown—final edits on my novel, Uncharted: Story for a Shipwright that has just been released by Rhemalda Publishing. It was like sewing on the last of thousands and thousands of beads, adorning luscious silk taffeta, awaiting its debut. It is complete and it’s breathtaking, finally out of my hands, out there for anyone to see.

Now, I’m off to ‘alter’ some earlier novels of mine that don’t ‘fit’ quite right.


When a peculiar young woman shows up at the Wesley House Bed and Breakfast with a battered suitcase and stories to tell, shipwright Sam Wesley isn't sure if she’s incredibly imaginative or just plain delusional. He soon realizes that Marlena is like no other woman he has ever met. Her strange behavior and far-fetched tales of shipwrecks and survival are a fresh breeze in Sam’s stagnant life.

Sam isn't the only one enchanted by Marlena. With his best friend putting the moves on her and a man from her past coming back into her life, the competition for Marlena’s heart is fierce. In the midst of it all, a misunderstanding sends Marlena running, and by the time Sam learns what his heart really wants, it may be too late to win her back. 

Bridget Chicoine has been coming up with characters and stories since she was a child. She started writing seriously in 2006 and undertook educating herself on improving her craft and about the publishing industry. Working on her painting simultaneously with her writing, one creative outlet stimulates the other. Much of her inspiration comes from having lived near the ocean and in New Hampshire's Sunapee Lakes Region. Bridget has a contract for publication with Rhemalda Publishing and is currently working on several other writing projects.

Currently, Bridget live near Lake Huron in Michigan with her husband Todd, renovating yet another old house, and painting when she can clear away the debris and sawdust. When she’s not involved with a painting she’s working on various writing projects 

You can find Bridget: ARTBLOG, FACEBOOK, WEBSITE, and TWITTER.


Anne Gallagher said...

Congratulations Bridget. I'm so happy for you that you're finally published. I loved this book and wish you all the best with it.

Thanks Sia, for hosting Bridget.

Suze said...

Lovely post, Bridget. A beautifully-executed metaphor with the wedding dress. The title pulled me in and the writing kept me reading.

Congratulations on 'Uncharted,' though it sounds like you have done plenty of charting.

Jo said...

Good luck with your first book

J. B. Chicoine said...

Thank you Sia for hosting me today! Guest hosting is another new experience for me--a real pleasure. :)

Anne, Thanks for all your support along the way. It has made a world of difference in the publishing process.

Suze, So glad you enjoyed the metaphor. Kind of makes me want to sew up some formal wear, but writing creates a lot less mess in my work space! :)

Jo, Thank you so much Jo--and thanks for stopping by. :)

Liza said...

So now we know that Bridget can write, and paint AND sew! She is an amazing woman!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

What a great metaphor, especially the "deconstructing and reconstructing" of something we really value that, even so, still doesn't work for anyone else.

J. B. Chicoine said...

Liza, Yes, it's true, I used to sew and even now I get the occasional hankering (silk chiffon is another weakness). I guess I just like trying out new projects and then they fall by the wayside, but writing and painting are the two things I always come back to.

Unknown aka, Carol: there's a lot of truth to that--someone once told me that 'my novels will never mean as much to anyone else as it does to me,' and that statement has helped me keep my perspective in this whole publishing process.

Thanks for your persistence in trying to leave lovely comments! :)

VA said...

A great analogy. I admire someone who can construct a garment, my needle skills are confined to the narrow field of embroidery.

Off to read the excerpt.

J. B. Chicoine said...

VA, Oddly enough, I tried my hand at embroidery and just couldn't quite get the knack! I have some framed samples from my great aunts and have always admired the talent which goes into that art form. Just goes to show how we each are blessed in our own way.

Thanks so much for stopping in! :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Two hundred rejections? Now that's persistence.

J. B. Chicoine said...

Ha, Alex, Yeah, that's a lot of rejection, for sure. Hopefully it has toughened my rhino-skin for upcoming reviews! :)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Bridget, I'm truly glad you were able to visit. Sorry I wasn't around I had an unexpectedly long day at work--we were missing a few people so it was nose to the grindstone for 9.5 hours.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Anne, I'm glad to have *met* her through another, ahem, favorite of mine. :-D

For any who haven't looked at Bridget's website, really should. I had a chance last night to look through her beautiful paintings. I have a favorite--bit hard to choose--but I fell in love with one of her still lifes. Let me say, her still lifes are anything but *still*. lots of movement and and flow. Great use of color. Just fabulous. I also really like the one she did of her husband, Todd, on the boat. That grin is infectious!

J. B. Chicoine said...

Thanks for your kind words about my watercolors, Sia! I'm so curious about which of the still life paintings you favored! Of course, it's a no-brainer that I'm rather partial to Todd. :)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Deb's Kitchen and Brandy's Daffodils. I like the composition and light. Both are pictures I could live with and enjoy. :-)

Donna Hole said...

Great analogy JB. I'm pleased to see the novel out, and in e-book. I love a paper copy, but lately packing around that Kindle is too convenient :)


J. B. Chicoine said...

Donna, I know what you mean about the convenience of Kindle. We'll always love our printed page, but we do so like the versatility of technology!

Thanks so much for stopping by! :)