Archive for November, 2010


It’s a professional day here in our school district, which means I have the girl at home and am doing low-attention catch-up tasks today rather than diving deeply into any project requiring all my attention. And somehow that leads to just a leeetle more procrastination than usual. Need an excuse of your own to procrastinate? How about a couple of mashups for your entertainment? (Apologies to readers who are averse to neologisms like mashup… these are fun even if you can’t stand the name!)

I don’t know whether this first one is technically considered a mashup, being a TV/movie combo. It’s an oldie but a goodie. If you’re a fan of Star Trek and Monty Python, and haven’t seen it, check it out. Thanks to my friend Rose for the link.

This second one I saw for the first time just this morning. Very well done.


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I had the pleasure of hearing Ivan Coyote speak at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference in October. She’s fabulous.

Before and since then, I’ve watched several of her performances on YouTube. They never fail to make me smile or laugh or cry or nod with agreement or all of the above, depending on the video. As a writer, I also wonder how she does it. What is it about the way she speaks that connects with me, with my friends, with everyone else in the audience? It’s a package deal, of course, of storytelling talent and presence and self assurance and all sorts of other factors.

Watching this particular video,

I realized one part of what it is, and it’s one I can work on in my own writing. It’s the same thing that makes the best comedians so funny, the saddest tales so sad: the details.

In this video, there are a few details that make the story for me, and they’ve stayed with me for weeks after watching it the first time. What works for me here – all of it works for me, let’s be honest – is partly the juxtaposition of the ridiculous-but-true details, like the re-naming of the hill, with lyrical details like the description of the clay cliffs. I’d quote it for you, but I think you should go watch the video instead. It’s masterful storytelling.

We sometimes get carried away writing, wanting every sentence to be beautiful, to be lyrical and lovely. But what really grabs me as a reader, as a listener, is the gorgeous, touching, lush essential detail in the middle of a simply told tale. Or the tiny, seemingly inconsequential one that speaks to a larger sense of family or community or love. And the funny, touching, unexpected-but-true little bits that connect audience to story, putting them right there in the middle of it. And isn’t that where we all want to be when we read or listen to a good tale?

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Remembrance Day

No matter what your opinion of war or of the military, today is about remembrance, not politics. Every one of the people who has given their lives to military service was someone’s child, and each had other roles, too, as someone’s parent, sibling, cousin, grandchild, coworker, neighbour, confidante, coach, teammate, or friend. Please take a moment today to remember them.

I’m a mother to a ten-year-old, and honorary aunt to another whose dad is in the Canadian Navy, so for me, one of the poignant moments today was when the pastor at the national ceremony in Ottawa read a poem written by Alexandria Grace Parker, a child who lost her dad in Afghanistan. You can find it here.

My friend kc dyer is going to the effort of posting the names of those Canadians who have died in Afghanistan. Please take the time to read them here.

And finally, my friend Pam reminded me of a British journalist’s tribute, a few years old now but still relevant, to the sacrifices of Canadians. Her blog about it is here.

To all the men and women who serve, thank you. We remember.

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On Balance

It’s a new year of sorts, for me. In my world, September has always seemed like the start of a new year, even more than January 1, no doubt because from the time I was old enough for preschool, September marked the start of a new school year, first as an elementary school student, then high school, then university, then as a teacher myself, and then, with only a three-year gap, as a mother to a kid in school. And I have a September birthday, too, so September is well ingrained in me as the time for fresh starts, for setting goals, for buying new notebooks and launching back into serious work after a lazy summer.

This year, September saw me already deeply immersed in my biggest project, coordinating the Surrey International Writers’ Conference. I was aware of the usual September excitement, that need for fresh pencils and new clothes, of course. It’s too much a part of me to miss completely, especially with my daughter starting a new school year and my continuing in my volunteer role chairing the PAC. But even so, it’s now, in the first days of November, that I’m re-thinking my goals, getting ready for a new start, looking for balance.

When the conference ended, I was spent, exhausted, and completely lacking in any sort of reasonable brain function. It took a few days to get past that overload and become a productive human again. But by the time November rolled around, I was ready to get back to work.

I’m not doing Nanowrimo, but the spirit of it grabbed me, and I decided to work on the book every day this month. That’s a huge change. Last year (conference-to-conference year, that is), I wrote 300 words. In the whole year. Not Good. This year, I’m determined to find more balance.

For the first four days of the month, I stuck to my goal of working on the book every day, and I got a lot done. I’ve been through the entire manuscript, picking up threads and re-acquainting myself with the characters and getting ready to move forward. The wheels are sticky and slow to budge after such a long hiatus, but I can feel a little movement, and I’m hopeful working on it every day will have them turning smoothly in no time.

But today I’m faced with the challenge of trying to find that balance I’ve promised myself. I have a significant amount of SiWC work to do today, and it’s hanging over my head. But I also want to work on the stuff I was thinking about yesterday. I can – I must – do both. I just haven’t figured out how to do it yet.

I think I’d like to write first, to be sure I do write, and then get to the work. But I’ve tried to do that this morning already, and the guilty, nagging sense that I should be doing the work on my plate first is interfering with the flow. But if I do the work first, I know the day, and the momentum, could both disappear before I have a chance to get to the WIP. It’s a challenge, and one I know I’ll be facing daily as I search for how best to be able to do both this year, plus spend time with family and friends, keep the house from failing apart entirely, run errands, volunteer at the school, be a good parent, not make a stranger of my husband… the list goes on, as it does for us all.

I failed at finding balance last year. I’m determined to get it right this time around. In big picture terms, by the time next September rolls around, I’d like this WIP to be finished, the conference planning to be well in hand, and to still have a family and friends who love me and who aren’t attacked by giant piles of laundry and papers when they come to my house. That’s do-able, right?

Care to share? How do you find balance in your own life?

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