Archive for September, 2012

Blog Visiting

This is the busiest time of my conference year other than the conference itself, so I’m afraid my ability to string sentences together is rather impaired at this point.

But when I’ve taken breaks, I have managed to read a little of what my favourite bloggers are posting, and some of it’s terrific. You should have a look.

If you’ve ever been or known a kid whose favourite stuffed animal never leaves his side, check out the video posted by my friend A Novel Woman on her blog. Also, more recently than that video, she has another posted that contains Hugh Jackman. Go look.

Over on the Knight Agency blog, agent Nephele tempest tackled the sameness she sees in manuscripts and how to use details to make your world different from what she and other agents see every single day. Great advice.

And I don’t remember how this one came my way, but it’s completely safe for work. Meet Nellie the Sea Otter:

More soon!

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Birthday Reflections

It’s my birthday. Back-to-school and my birthday always fall within a week or so of each other, so inevitably it’s reflection time, goal-setting time, a chance to figure out where I’m on track and where I want to concentrate my efforts on this particular trip around the sun. There are lots of things I wanted to accomplish last year that I didn’t, but I tried, and I’ll keep pushing this year.

Me at ten months with my mum

But this afternoon, sitting with my favourite hot chocolate and letting my mind wander, I got thinking about some of the things that are really great about being this age. I’m 41, and while I’m not sure I like how quickly the years are going by (actually, I know I don’t), some parts of it are pretty damn good. Here are some of the ones that appeal to me the most:

– knowing who I am and what’s important to me
– knowing whom I love and who loves me
– having a great kid
– not being too upset anymore if someone doesn’t like me
– not being afraid to have or express strong opinions
– liking what I like and not caring what other people think
– not being afraid of so many of the things that scared me when I was younger
– not feeling the need to conform to anyone’s idea of what’s cool
– not suffering fools
– being able to pick up where we left off with old friends whenever the chance arises to talk with them, no matter how much time may have gone by
– knowing so many great people who make my life richer by being part of it

And, as I recently discovered in a conversation about mutual connections, playing “six degrees of separation” is WAY more fun at 41 than it was at 21.

I know I’m forgetting a lot of things that could be on that list, but that’s a good start. What are some of the things you like best about being the age you are?

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We all have them: those souls who, going about their daily lives, doing the best they can, change ours. Some of you who know me well have heard about this one before, but today, I felt like telling the rest of you about him.

Me in grade 5

When I was a kid, the week before back-to-school meant riding our bikes over to the elementary school to check out the class lists taped up in one of the windows to see whose class we were going to be in.

On that fateful day right before the beginning of grade five, a look at the lists left me quaking. This man, the stern, strict, terrifying vice-principal of our school, was to be my teacher:

To say he didn’t suffer fools is probably an understatement. He had the kind of look, an old-school vice-principal look, that could quell misbehaviour without a single word, and we were all scared of him.

But what none of us knew until we started getting to know him in his class was that he was passionate about language. He pulled it apart and put it back together and taught us to do the same. And while we worked, he played classical records on a scratchy old record player, too. I loved it. Loved knowing how sentences worked, loved understanding the rules and how I could bend them to my will once I knew what they were. I was mostly alone, I think. Other kids grumbled and groused about grammar lessons, but I revelled in them. Thirty years after being in his class, I still have my grade 5 grammar notebooks tucked away somewhere.

That year changed me in ways I didn’t realize until much later. I became an English teacher, one who taught against the tide, closing my classroom door and, very unfashionably at the time, teaching my students the language to talk about this language of ours. I like to hope there are at least a couple of people out there who write better emails, at least, because I taught them how sentences work.

When I moved on from teaching and became a writer, what he’d given me became even clearer. I play with language because I love it and because I can, and I can, at least in part, because all the stuff I’d picked up from being a bookworm made even more sense after he showed me why it was the way it was.

For ages, I’ve been meaning to tell him. He’s getting old, and I didn’t want to leave it too late. When I missed last year’s reunion, I thought I’d talk to him at the retirement of a mutual friend this past June. He missed it for health reasons. Suddenly not leaving it too late became a bit more urgent. But I was a chicken. So much easier to run into him somewhere and seize the moment than create one out of nothing.

But today, I was thinking about Judy Blume. (howzat for a non-sequitur?). She’s been a theme in my world this week, popping up at least four different times unexpectedly. And that got me thinking about the first time Amanda Palmer made me cry, at her show in Vancouver last year when she sang this:

And I decided that if she could sit on stage and tell Judy and all of us, too, I could call Mr. Rawlins. So I did. This morning. When my books find a publisher, he’ll be there in the acknowledgements. I hope he’ll be around to see that, but I don’t know if he will be, so I told him today. I don’t know what he thought, but I’m glad I made the call.

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It’s the first day of school here in BC, and my girl is off to her first hour as a grade seven, king of the heap here, where grade 7 is the last year of elementary school. She’s torn about back-to-school. Excited to see her friends and to be back, but sorry to see summer end and to have to get up to an alarm again, something of which neither of us is fond.

While the easier work scheduling for me during the school year has its appeal, I am SO not ready for the summer to be over. Yes, I struggle to fit in as much work as I need to during the summer holidays, for sure. But I loved this summer. Loved going to sleep and getting up on my body’s schedule rather than an externally-imposed one. Loved balancing work with sitting on patios, having fun outings with my family, spending time with our best friends, and taking mini trips around our own area. Loved lazy afternoons reading and busy ones exploring.  We played tourists in our own town and relaxed on a Gulf Island and did all sorts of other things, too.

Summer was late in arriving after an almost non-existent spring here, and I’d happily take another month of setting our own agenda, exploring our world, and not worrying about having to be anywhere  or have our family time interrupted by homework or school-night bedtime.

Here are a few glimpses of what our summer looked like. One or two of these are from my terrible camera phone, so please excuse the quality.

How was your summer?

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