Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Good Company

I'm thrilled that my essay "Words" came second* in Room magazine's writing contest! It will be published in issue 36.2, due out in the summer of 2013.

For more about the contest and a full list of winners, click here.

I'm especially pleased that this essay received recognition and will be published, because it (also) relates to my mother's Alzheimer's disease.

I'm also excited that my essay will appear with this one, "Loving Benjamin," so brave and honest! I'm sure the rest of the issue will blow my socks off, too.

Thanks, Room, for sponsoring the contest every year and for all you do to support women's writing!

*Did you hear that? "Came second" is a Canadian construction, much like "I had to be there for 8 a.m." vs. "I had to be there at 8 a.m." Am I...morphing?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


A couple of weeks ago, I bought strawberries. From that experience, I learned a couple of things.

1. Don't hoard. Use what you have. Because the strawberries are getting expensive, now that their season is done, I was saving them, doling them out a few at a time instead of just eating them daily for breakfast. (I know. Doesn't make sense. My parents were big on "saving" things as "treats," so at least I come by it honestly.)

Anyway, the strawberries: they got furry. I wish I had just eaten them, savoring them as I went along.

When I'm writing, I sometimes resist an urge to include an image. "I'll just have to take it out later," I think. "It's too many ideas," I think. And maybe I'm right. Maybe I will have to take it out later. But that's not what I'm doing -- I'm not revising. I'm writing. Maybe it won't fit -- but maybe it will inspire the image that does fit, perfectly, the element that makes the story take off. Writing and revising are two different things. Writing is not about hoarding or saving or doling out. That comes later. 

2. Don't assume. I mentioned that the strawberries are expensive -- they're going from a staple to a splurge. And speaking of cost, how does it make sense to eat something out of season when in-season produce is also available at less expense to the planet? Strawberries are only one kind of fruit, and all fruits have pros and cons. Apple pie, anyone?

About writing: I see metaphors a lot (as you may have noticed). Not necessarily good metaphors, but what I at least perceive to be Images of Great Meaning. Whether they end up in a finished work or come out (see above), they indicate Writing. I reason that if I've got me a metaphor, I must be producing writing of some kind. However, Images of Great Meaning are not the only tools in the toolbox. Perhaps this story needs a change in point of view. Or in narrator. Or in plot. Perhaps all the metaphors should come out. Try an apple instead.

Two lessons so far. Others? Probably. Time for pie!
Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What's That You Say?

While I was gone last month, I caught up on a couple of podcasts. One in particular has had me thinking ever since.

CBC's Under the Influence is about advertising, marketing, business, communication, and even some history of those general topics. I like this program, and its predecessor The Age of Persuasion, because they help me, the fish, stop and think about the water I'm swimming around in.

I haven't listened beyond this episode, It's the Little Things, because I'm not done thinking about it yet.

Late in the show, host Terry O'Reilly quotes Isadore Sharp, the founder, chair, and CEO of the Four Seasons Hotel Chain: "We are only what we do, not what we say we are."

Of course we've all heard "show don't tell." Show the antagonist kicking the cat. In the movie Titanic, the bad guy grabs a kid so he can get near a lifeboat. (Not subtle, but what about that movie is?)

Still, I think it's true: we really *are* what we do.

In the past couple of months, I have heard no fewer than three people say things like
* "I'm really a people person."
* "I'm all about my family."
* "I'm just too giving -- I put others' needs before my own."
* "I'm the kind of person who calls it like he sees it."

Perhaps you will be shocked to learn that their behavior was actually very different. A "people person" who gossiped and goaded and picked fights with others; a "family" person indifferent to the family's needs but instead imposed her idea of right on them; a person who enjoying fingerpointing and blaming and generally Monday-morning-quarterbacking.

In real life, these kinds of people are tiresome to be around for long. In a book, I enjoy seeing a character whose self-analysis and behavior are at odds, with a couple of caveats: I enjoy it IF I believe the writer is doing it on purpose and IF the character's growth (ability to see and correct the disparity) is an integrated and important part of the story.

But that's just me. And as you know, I am really and truly the kind of person who only thinks of others, which is the only reason I listen to podcasts and read and think about things -- it's all for you, Internet.

Yeah, back to work.
Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Walk on By

I'm part of an informal group that's working through Julia Cameron's Walking in this World, or as I like to call it, Walk Like an Artist (because then I get to do the Bangles Egyptian hand). We are part of a private Facebook group and check in periodically. I'm not even sure we're on the same chapter -- which doesn't matter in our universe.

A long time ago -- wow, at least 15 years -- I was part of a more structured, facilitated group that worked through The Artist's Way. I uncovered a lot of desires and fears during that process, many of which poked, prodded, and finally kicked me into pursuing the life I now live.

Walking like an artist has been a gentler journey for me, but still oh-so-valuable. What I'm discovering likely won't upend my life (I hope; I like my life a lot), but even in a life that's essentially supportive and rewarding, it's good to take stock. Through the exercises, I am remembering various interests from other times in my life, many of which still resonate (though that is becoming a word I hate). 

But of course I'm not planning to share that list any time soon. Instead, here are a few things I am not interested in: conspicuous competitive consumption, extreme sports, kickstarter campaigns to support someone's death-defying feats, following a ______ lifestyle (especially if the blank is filled with someone's name and/or involves food), creating the Halloween costume/Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year/wedding/honeymoon of my [insert family member here]'s dreams, powdered drink mixes, cleanses/colonics/restrictive approaches to the world, frugal living for the sake of living frugally, live-action comic book movies, reality tv shows, and either-or choices. 

All of those things weary me. So as part of my walk in this world, I'm just walking on by.