Thursday, December 30, 2010

Resolutions for Other People

The new year is almost here. I used to make resolutions but I don't do that any more. It's too daunting. And the older I get the more things there are that could be done, or should be done by me. But, I think it would be more fun to make a list of things other people should do.

Politicians - should emit only one lie per day. More than one lie should be punished with a pie in the face. Two lies, two pies - one for each side. More than two lies during any one speech and the audio will cut out and you'll be standing there with pie on you and no way to reply

Celebrities with addictions - should stop talking about their short stints in rehab. More than one "I'm cured now" comment should result in the celebrity being barred from all talk shows. If you have not used your addictive substance for many many years, I might want to hear how you coped without it. If you are not in that category, then make a large anonymous donation to A.A. or N.A. or what-have-you Anonymous and for heaven's sake, shut up.

Advertising copywriter - To the composer of the ad for the "Michael Jackson Tour - Greatest in the History of the World;" you should turn off the computer and turn in your writing badge now. You have gone past the hyperbole limit and your licence is hereby revoked.

I could go on and on, but I have to make a list of goals for myself. I prefer to choose modest goals that can be broken down into small steps rather than making huge and probably unattainable resolutions. Perhaps I should aim to keep any bitchiness to only two paragraphs or less, per blog entry,

To my readers - I wish you the very best for 2011! May you be blessed with health and happiness and every good thing you wish for,

And if you want to add a resolution for someone else, please do.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Another Mary's Child

The young woman struggled to get her baby stroller onto the number 8 bus because the driver had stopped too far away from the curb and there was a snow ridge she had to navigate. An older man who was standing near the front door came forward and helped her. She parked the stroller in the wheelchair space and sat down across from me. That's when I started to take in the details.

The baby was well protected from the cold in a snowsuit topped by a blanket. He slept soundly, his wee brown face barely visible under his blue wool hat. His mother leaned forward to check on him and tuck the blanket in more securely and when she did, her jacket which was too short rode up her back and revealed her knobbly spine. She wasn't dressed for the weather, but perhaps she was wearing the only coat she had, I don't know. I do know her running shoes were soaked and her hands were blue with cold. After she finished tending her baby, she turned toward me and smiled. At first I was taken aback by the six piercings on her wan face and the faint bruise over her eye and then I returned her smile. We didn't speak. I had to leave at the next stop but the questions that entered my mind are still there.

I wonder if she was going to Mary's Place, the shelter for women and children that's on the number 8 bus route. I wonder if the shelter was full, because it's usually full to bursting. I wonder why she had so little to wear. I wonder where the father of the baby was and whether he cared. And, I remember the story of the babe born in a stable on a winter's night because there was no room in the inn.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Where Are You?

First, a big thank you to all the people who commented on my personal essay about books which is posted on in the Culture Watch section, I hope that in this multi-media world there will always be a place for the traditional printed book. And now, on to today's subject.

When I telephone my old friend, The Bear, who lives in an assisted care facility, he always asks. "Where are you?"

"I'm at home," I reply.

Then there is a pause as I wait to see if he can remember the city. These days, most of the time he can't and so I remind him that I'm in Kitchener, and he is too. That is the factual answer but it doesn't address where I might be in my imagination.

Sometimes, I'm in two or three places over the space of a day. For instance, this morning I was in Britain during the time of King Arthur, while reading Gwenhwyfar, The White Spirit, by Mercedes Lackey. For a while this afternoon, I was in the Toronto beaches area while revising one of my short stories. This evening, if I return to the other book I'm reading, I'll be in North Carolina. I sure do get around. Just yesterday, I spent a brief time in purgatory when I received a Notice of Reassessment from the Revenue Canada Agency, but I was able to escape.

I also spend time in the land of daydreams where anything can happen. I like being there.

Where would you like to be?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Suits and Scruffs And Other Folk - Fast Times at the Local Coffee Shop

As I've mentioned in the past, I live a short block away from the nearest TH coffee shop/ice cream emporium. While I have limited my visits (cut back on my habit), I still go there once or twice a week, okay, sometimes three times a week. The experience varies.

During work hours, I often see lawyers, judges, police officers, and "the accused," because the Provincial Offences Court house is across the street from the shop. It's amusing to see young men who are totally uncomfortable in boring clothes with no street cred, and hair that has obviously been chopped off only hours before. I imagine their lawyers have counselled them to shape-up and behave with discretion in court. I wonder what they do after their cases are heard. Do they rush home and stash the offensive clothes at the back of the closet, or throw them on the floor, or are they magically changed by their new apparel ? I'll never know, but I like to speculate.

A lot of seniors frequent the TH coffee shop too. One man, staff have told me he comes in every afternoon, orders chili and coffee every time. I'd like to know his secret. How can he eat chili, top it off with strong TH coffee and avoid heartburn? Maybe if I offered him a small bribe, he would tell me. Yes, there are antacids and Beano and so on, but I have a sneaking suspicion he uses none of those remedies. Maybe he has a magic amulet.

I'm most fascinated by the snippets of conversation I overhear without trying. A couple of examples from the many:

"I told him, don't ever, EVER do that again, or I'll ...." and she drifted out of earshot.
I wanted to follow her and say " What? You'll do what? I have to know. It could be a story"

"And she was all, like, you know, Miss Innocence, and I said, like ...." and I couldn't hear the rest. I'm nosey, but I couldn't ask her, that would be rude. Maybe I'll make up a story instead because I rather like "Miss Innocence" it would work as part of a title.

I'd better go now and find my Christmas sheet music. My "magic fingers" have been asked to play at the annual condo party and if they are going to be magical, they had better practice.

Till next time.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Politi-speak 101 - Free Translations

It's dark, it's dreary, and I need to do something silly. So here are some politi-speak translations for you.

Let me be perfectly clear.
Translation: 1. I am about to say something you will not like and I will lie about it now and also later.
2. I am about to present an outstanding example of bafflegab which you are free to quote at length.
3. I like to throw this phrase in whenever I need a brief pause for breath. Don't interrupt.

I have not now, nor have I ever...
Translation: I'm sure you'll never find out about it, if I bribed the right guy.

The deficit is under control.
Translation: 1. It's under some country's control - China's perhaps? We don't know and you don't need to know.
2. We have these gorgeous gas guzzling cars for sale

The cost of the G8 summit was reasonable given the possibility of terrorism.
Translation: We want to keep our Muskoka voters happy.

The cost of the G20 summit was reasonable given the possibility of terrorism.
Translation: We don't care about Toronto, there are not enough Conservative voters in the 416 dialing area.
2. We don't care about Toronto
3. We don't care about Ontario. It's run by Liberals

Our troops will leave Afghanistan in 2011.
Translation: 1. What? Who said that?
2. Oh come now, they won't be soldiers, they'll be trainers. Don't worry, be happy.

Do you want the government to be controlled by separatists?
Translation: 1. We will keep up this fear mongering until you believe us. It's a great distraction and works at least 50% of the time on 38% of the people.
2. Why can't you just be quiet and let us get on with ruining, oops! running the country.

Th th that's all folks. Til the next time.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Literary Success and the Small Press / Publisher

Recently, Joanna Skibsrud's book, The Sentimentalists, was awarded the prestigious Scotiabank Giller Prize. That's a big literary deal here in Canada. Winning 'the Giller' pretty much guarantees that sales will go skyward. As a result, the small press/publisher, Gaspereau Press which is based in Nova Scotia cannot meet the demand for the novel. Gaspereau Press is committed to "reinstating the importance of the book as a physical object" and print and bind their own books.

I understand that arrangements are being made to print the book elsewhere in order to fulfill the demand. Gaspereau Press has been criticized for not responding quickly. Here's my question and I think it's very relevant. Would a larger publisher have accepted the book in the first place? I do wonder about that.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

They Didn't Know - Thoughts for Remembrance Day

It's Veterans' week and Remembrance Day is next Thursday. As usual, I'll attend the ceremonies at the local cenotaph. It's one small simple way to show some respect to all Canadian veterans. Perhaps some of the words below are another way of paying my respects.

In 1914, when World War I began, Canada had a population of 7,879,000. A total of 619,000 Canadians joined the armed forces. Over 60,000 of them died.

They didn't know where they would be fighting, that was confidential.

They didn't know that trench warfare could mean seeing your best friend blown up beside you and then staying in that muddy hole with the dead body for a week.

They didn't know that some generals would see the lower ranks as cannon fodder.

They didn't know that they would receive defective guns that could kill them and not the enemy

They didn't know that their family could be charged for the blanket used to bury them.

At the start of World War II, Canada had a population of 11,267,000 and 1.1 million Canadians joined the armed forces during the course of the war. Over 45,000 of them were killed and 54,600 were wounded.

They didn't know that they too, could expendable.

They didn't know that they could end up in a prisoner of war camp in the Pacific, or in a concentration camp in Germany.

In the Korean conflict, 416 Canadians were killed.

They didn't know that the Canadian government would refuse to acknowledge their contribution or provide them with veterans benefits, for years.

121 Canadian peacekeepers have been killed while on duty.

They didn't know that so many people would forget about them.

To date 152 Canadian soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan.

They didn't know that it would be impossible to recognize the enemy.

So many soldiers have died and many more have been wounded and yet, our government does not provide today's wounded veterans with the long-term support they need. I am ashamed.

I'm also disgusted that I have not received any response to my letter about this issue from my Member of Parliament. I hope that the pressure being applied by veteran's groups and others will eventually result in a better outcome.

What will you do on November 11th?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Freelance writing - Fame, Perhaps, but Seldom Fortune

Once in a while, I visit Waterloo's independent bookstore because they have a very eclectic selection of magazines and books. Earlier this month, I picked up a copy of the Ryerson Review of Journalism. One of the articles, "Battle Ready," is about the struggles of freelance writers for magazines. I use the word struggles advisedly. You won't get rich writing for magazines, you might, with luck and hard work, manage to subsist. Here's some of the info in the article that I found fascinating. In 1980 (using a phone, typewriter and tape recorder) - Typical rate for a feature article in a major magazine: $1.00 per word, Gold National Magazine Award value $1,000. In 2010 (using phone, computer, more software, printer, scanner, photocopier, digital recorder, transcription software, online services) - Typical rate for a feature article in a major magazine $1.00 per word, Gold National Magazine Award value $1,000.

And then, to add further insult to the already injured and probably impecunious writer's lot magazine publishers want writers to sign away more of the rights to their work. "Even when they pay writers reasonably for print pieces, some publishers are demanding digital and cross-platform reproduction rights without additional compensation." But wait - there's more (shades of those horrid gadget commercials) and it's even worse. Transcontinental Media which publishes some leading Canadian magazines introduced a document "that basically stripped contributors of virtually any control over their work, gave the publisher almost unlimited opportunity to reuse material -- and worse, would apply to all future pieces" (for them).

Some Canadian professional freelance writers have banded together to try to improve the situation. That will be a hard uphill battle since magazines often struggle to survive and there are many writers who are willing to take less for their work and cede all rights, just to get a foot in the door and their by-line in a national magazine.

As an occasional freelance writer who doesn't write for magazines, I am fortunate to have a specialty and to have a client who insists on paying me a good rate for my work, when she needs me. I'm also fortunate that I have a small but steady income from other sources. Once, I was solicited by an online publication similar to Suite 101 but I decided against it. Sites like that pay the writer a pittance only if the site generates advertising-friendly traffic. I agree with Kim Pittaway (very experienced freelance writer and writing teacher) who says "...with the students I teach, I tell them that they are better off creating their own sites and doing work that is distinctive and engaging to them and their readers."

It's an article well worth reading in full.

Now, I should probably get back to working on my short stories.

Friday, September 17, 2010

I Could Ask a Thousand Questions

But, I'll start with three.

On Monday, I received a personal rejection note for one of my short stories. It contained several compliments and ended with "a great story." Okay then, I'd like to ask why did you reject it? Of course that is not possible, but I take comfort from the words of Saul Bellow - "rejections ... teach a writer to rely on his own judgment and to say in his heart of hearts, 'To hell with you.' " And another writer friend recommends a short cry followed by storming another bastion. That could work. And, the story was a sim sub, so perhaps another publication will be moved by it enough to say yes.

On Wednesday, I attended a Regional Council meeting, because there was to be a discussion and presentations about the proposed federal legislation which would abolish the long gun registry. The Council heard from several presenters who support the need for the registry and a few people who want it abolished. The men, yes, they were all men, who wanted to do away with the long gun registry didn't hesitate to denigrate expert opinions, and to try to pit rural Canadians against urban Canadians. I could have asked them a thousand questions, but there was no time. However, I think the essential question is - Why shouldn't owners of long guns have to licence and register their deadly weapons? If you want to own a gun, you must take responsibility for it and must obey the law. If you can't afford the fees, then don't buy the gun, or guns. In Canada, the Supreme Court has ruled that owning a gun, bearing arms, is NOT a right but a privilege. Why is that so hard for some people to accept?

And now that the weather has become cooler and it is possible to do many things that were not possible during the extreme heat - why does my body want two naps per day and a good night's sleep too? It's 8 p.m. and it's dark, so I'll think about that tomorrow.

Do you have a question for which I can provide a frivolous, or even a serious answer?

Thursday, August 19, 2010


In the weeks following my brother's death, his 'remains' - what was left of his body after the undertakers turned him into a waxen effigy - have appeared in my dreams several times. Some burial customs give me the ultimate creeps and I have scribbled a few phrases about John which may form a type of free verse/poem, eventually. After a time, I hope this image of him will fade. I'm trying to help the process by looking at pictures of him when he was alive.

Some days ago, I wrote a personal essay that might become funny, but it's very clunky at the moment and needs a lot of work. So, I decided, after stabbing at it repeatedly with my revision pitchfork, to leave it for a while and return to an old story that needed to be fine-tuned and sent out again. I was more successful with that venture, and the story is now in the mail.

When I took the envelopes to the post office to be weighed in order to determine the correct postage for sending them to the United States, the clerk informed me that one of the zip codes was invalid. What the hell? went through my mind but, since I'm a polite Canadian, I didn't say it. Why do our postal service people enter those zip codes in the computer? Who needs that information and why do they need it? In any event, I told the clerk to enter only the first five numbers of the code and the computer accepted the info and produced a stamp label. With all that meticulous attention to detail, my MS is almost certain to go to the right country.

And speaking of countries, okay I wasn't really, but I need to pretend there's continuity here, I'm disappointed in the people that run ours. Members of the Canadian armed forces have a long and honourable record, and our government says it supports our troops. But our veterans disagree and so does the Veterans Affairs Ombudsman. The Ombudsman will soon lose his job. I hope that the injustices he has pointed out will be addressed and not forgotten. A paltry lump sum payment does not adequately provide for veterans whose wounds, physical, and or psychological can have long-term effects on them and on their families. I also hope that veterans, old and young, continue to speak out about this. I am writing a letter to my Member of Parliament. He is a Conservative and I expect a pablum-like response. Possibly, the PMO has already given him a form letter to send out to grumblers like me.

I think I'll go to Timmys now and listen to the grumblers there. Maybe they have a different topic.

'Til next time.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Yay! It Works. - Wait, No, It Doesn't.

When my computer crashed and I endured more than a week without it, I noticed how much time I spend doing stupid things on the Internet. I realize I'm not the first person to discover this. I also found out that computers have capacitors that become incapacitated. I'm told it's a common problem, but that made me angry. Capacitors have been around for a long time so why can't someone design one that is more durable? I suspect the answer is - we need to sell more computers, more often. Why should I be thankful that my computer innards managed to survive to the ripe old age of six years (likely equal to 110 human years)? See "we need to sell more computers ...".

In any event, the tech guys at Kober, a reputable local firm, were able to install my old hard drive, documents intact, into a new system that uses Windows 7. Update - But, I can't change or move any of my old documents. Waah!. So, I have three drives now. My sexy new black box boots up faster than my coffee maker can prepare my first cup. That's wonderful. However, my new technology isn't compatible with my old laser printer - that's not so wonderful. And, Outlook Express is no longer available so all my old emails have gone to .... somewhere.... email Shangrilah perhaps. A Bell tech in Mumbai told me they "might" be able to recover them but they would need permission from a supervisor. I will ask them again when I'm in the right frame of mind to let them take over my computer. I hate to relinquish control.

Maybe I should be glad for any forward movement at all, because it seems the dog days of summer have been with us since mid-June and the heat shows no sign of letting go. It has provided me with many excuses though. It was and is too hot to take out the windows and clean them, too hot to get the ladder out and clean the venetian blinds, and too hot to crawl around on the floor and spot clean the carpet. Yes, I have air conditioning, but hydro costs just went up 15% and I'm conserving energy, mainly my energy, because I haven't had much to spare. And furthermore, I've decided that major cleaning might as well wait until autumn now. There will be a lot of construction taking place in the neighbourhood, so as long as I can see out the windows, there's no rush and I'll try to take my mother's advice. The dust will be there after you're gone so - don't fuss.

Don't fuss is a good motto, I think. Maybe I can live up to it, someday. In the meantime, the shiny black box has to go back to the guys who installed the new drive and the new operating system, so they can to fix it and with luck, I can access my old documents. I do have hard copies of my stories and my novel drafts, so if all else fails, I can re-enter them. I sure hope that won't be necessary. Someone could compile a whole volume of short stories based on computers gone wild.

Do you have a computer horror story?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Hey Kiddo!

I was going to say "Dear John" but that wouldn't match your personality, even though you were a dear and loving father and husband. It's - hey kiddo - that reminds me of that far-off time when we were young. Sometimes you called me sis, but more often you called me kiddo, just as you did when I saw you for the last time.

Before we hit our teens we spent time in the basement, playing hockey on the concrete floor and using the cold cellar door as the goal opening. Neither of us was any good at it. But you made more goals than I did. I could say I let you, but it's not true. I didn't give my baby brother any hockey breaks.

When you reached those heady teenage years you were a prodigious sleeper, like many another teenage boy. And you could hold conversations while in the land of nod. You also talked when you dreamed. I think that's how mom knew you were keeping Playboy magazines under your mattress. She told me they were there and that she would not remove them, because if she did you might find something worse and because maybe, just maybe, you were also reading the articles.

When I married, we went our separate ways but sometimes you communicated by letter. You often offered advice and you were serious, even pompous at times. We seldom agreed about any important issues, but that doesn't matter much now. I'm old enough to laugh at some of my youthful opinions, and some of yours too.

Laughter is something you were always good at. Even when you were close to the end of your life, you joked with us about your jaundice making you eligible to play Big Bird.

And, it's very likely you would have laughed if you saw me going from pay phone to pay phone in the Windsor train station, looking for a phone book that didn't have the taxi service listing torn out. It took me twenty minutes to get smart, call directory assistance and twist the operator's arm when I couldn't think of a local taxi company name. A dark variation of "get me to the church on time" played in my head. I did arrive at the funeral home on time, thanks to my daughter. I'm sorry she didn't have the opportunity to know you better at first hand, but I promise to share my memories of you with her and with her children. I know your spirit lives on and if there is a bridge game in the after world, you are dealing the cards. You can teach me when I get there.

'til then.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Birthday Thoughts from a Word Nerd

My birthday celebration started a day early because my grandson's birthday, (he's 18 now - yoiks!) is the day before mine. I enjoyed Frankie's cotton candy flavoured ice cream cake and didn't have cake on my natal day. Instead, I ate the chocolate bar I received at Frank's birthday party. Everyone should be able to have chocolate for breakfast at least once a year.

I went for a walk on my birthday and stopped in at a downtown bookstore. I had intended to buy the latest issue of The New Yorker, but the latest issue features 40 writers under 40. I'm 67 now and I didn't want to be amazed by all the young talent when I haven't amazed anyone yet, and besides, I bet there's a lot of angst in there, so I purchased a Harper's magazine instead. Then, I took myself out for lunch.

Word nerds love books and I received 'Bird by Bird" from my friend Lori Hahnel and a gift certificate for Chapters/Indigo from my daughter, I'm delighted by both presents and can't wait to visit the local Chapters store, maybe we will be able to do that next week. The Viking tells me that there is a reading lamp in my future and I must choose the one I like the best. That will be fun.

On my birthday, I also spent some time in meditation. I send my brother love and light every day and hope that his leave-taking from this world will be peaceful. So, celebration and sorrow are intertwined this year.

And in the midst of all this, a story is nudging me and may emerge when it is ready.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Yes, I Did. No, I Didn't.

Earlier in the week, I had an idea for a light-hearted personal essay, so I drafted it, reworked it a couple of times, and finally sent it to my friend, Lori Hahnel, who kindly looked it over for me. Then, I submitted the essay to and the site's editor tells me it will be published sometime in next week or so. It's titled "Why Not Take The Slow Lane?" I'll add a link to the page here, when I have it, or you can look at my other essays, reviews and articles on the site by clicking on my name under authors. So, yes, I did make some headway this week.

On the other hand, no, I didn't get back to work on a different, and, goddess be with me, better Chapter One for the third draft of my novel. Instead, I've spent most of the latter part of this week working on various things that have an impact on the health of my friend, The Bear. Life has a habit of interfering with my plans and no doubt with yours too. In any event, things are almost sorted, so next week should offer me some more writing time.

Here's an almost pop culture question. Maybe I can think of a prize for the person who provides the most amusing answer, or answers.

What connects Eve Dallas, who is married to Rourke, and Tempe(erance) Brennan, who is not married to Ryan?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Technology - Our Fickle Friend?

On Wednesday, my telephone began to act strangely. At first, I didn't realize anything was wrong with it. There was a brief half-ring and then nothing. When I picked up the phone, there was a dial tone. That happened three or four times. My Internet connection which uses the telephone line, worked so I thought there was no problem. But - I didn't hear from The Viking. He always checks in with me by phone at around 11 a.m. So, I called him.

"Your phone's not working," he said.

I called B*ll Canada , and after a horrendously long wait and repeated recorded assurances that "your call is important to us," my call was answered by a person.

"We can send a service tech between noon and 6 today. If the problem is in your equipment, there will be an $89.00 charge, plus tax" he said.

That long time-frame conflicted with my previously made plans. So, I agreed that the technician could come on Thursday between 8 a.m. and noon. (Why can't they have two-hour time windows?)

He arrived at 10:45 and set to work.
"Where's the main telephone jack?" He asked.

I wasn't sure. I know there are three jacks in my apartment. All of them are behind furniture. He checked the one behind my bed. That wasn't the main jack and since it was connected to the jack behind filing cabinet, both were ruled out of contention. There's also a jack behind the china cabinet.

"I never use that one," I pleaded.
"Well, " the tech said "it could be the main one."

The china cabinet is filled with china and crystal and couldn't be moved unless it was emptied.

Then - fortunately, I had an intuitive flash.
"There's a weird thingie in the front call closet. It doesn't look like the usual phone jack cover, but maybe the line comes in there."

Thank goodness I was right. Then I held my breath while the technician wriggled and jiggled - the lines inside the box. He explained that in an old building like this one (old? It was built about 25 years ago) sometimes lines inside the conduit touch other lines, or something.


I pictured the lines groping each other in the dark. Yes, sometimes my imagination gets me into trouble.

Then he tested the line by calling my number with his cell phone. It worked.

So, now I'm reconnected with the world. However, I worry about what those pesky lines are up to, down there, where no one can see them.

I also worry about what I'd do if the phone line died and couldn't be repaired. I could get a cell phone but I would lose my current Internet service provider. That would be a huge pain in the neck. I might have to consider Internet connection through the cable company. That would be more expensive.

Technology is a wonderful thing, when it works, and our dependence on it ever increaseth. But it can be fickle.

Do you have a technology story?
p.s. I had planned to write about the horrendous cost of the G-8 and G-20 meetings, and about Harper's continuing disregard for Parlimentary democracy but at the moment, I am too enraged to comment on those issues. So, you are safe from another rant, for now.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Beep, beep. Beep, beep.

It was a weird week. But then, weird weeks are becoming quite frequent events around here. I finished my pen-for-hire assignment at 11 a.m. on Tuesday. It was due Tuesday afternoon. Nope, I'm not a slacker, my client always has last minute stuff to add. The weird thing about these writing projects is that I never see the final product. I send the parts that I write and edit to my client by email, more sections are added by the architect, and other folks. The resulting document is sent to a typist who does all the special formatting (yay for that) and then it is copied and distributed to the relevant decision-makers. Sometime in the future, I may learn the result.

I had hoped not to worry about plumbing for quite some time, because I have already made a big money sacrifice to appease the plumbing gods. However my kitchen sink had a go-slow tantrum. An application of Drano and dire threats have forced it to behave but I won't turn my back on it, lest it decide to spit at me.
This was also the week I decided to wash the bathroom walls and ceiling and my arms have not forgiven me yet.

The Tim Horton's outlet, which is less than two blocks from my apartment has signs up that say Cold Stone Creamery Ice Cream. It's not in the store yet. It wasn't there yesterday - they told me it would be in today - and it isn't there. This is unfair. I want the right to go in there and see the ice cream and then not buy any. It would preserve my record for the week. I went to the mall yesterday. I seldom do that but I wanted to find slippers for The Bear, of course I was not successful. People may be getting larger, but it appears footwear isn't. Where are the size 12-13's? Nowhere. About 120 percent of the time, mall stores don't have what I want.

In between these events, and when I'm not dreaming about plumbing taking revenge, my bedtime reading is Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, the historical novel that won the Man Booker prize in 2009. It's a wonderful fat book -with no calories attached.

And, somewhere in the back of my mind, my little Nash Rambler fiction car is very quietly going - Beep beep. Beep beep. Now if real life would kindly stop making a ruckus, and blocking the road..... the Muse might arrive.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

What Would Gigi Do?

Gigi was our family nickname for my mother when my grandsons were younger. It's short for great-grandma. She died when the boys were still quite young, but her influence is still with us.

Sunday is Mothers Day so she is in my thoughts a bit more than usual, but not in an overly sentimental way. She was pragmatic about most things and extremely practical, both by nature and because she had to be.

When I have to make a decision about whether to do the boring practical thing, or the want-to-have-fun thing, her voice pops into my head. Sometimes I wish it wouldn't because her advice is usually - do what you should do, and not what you wish you could do. That's why I have a new heating and air conditioning system and why I won't be visiting Montreal this year. But, that's okay because my apartment will be cool on even the hottest days and the system will pay for itself, over the next umpty-umpteen years.

Thanks for the advice, mom.

I'm buying myself a lottery ticket for Mothers' Day. What are you planning?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hi Ho! Hi Ho! -

It's off to work we go. My pen has been hired again for a quick turn-around assignment and as usual I hope to spend part of my weekend with The Viking, so I'm posting now instead of on Friday. My son-in-law has also been hired. He has a contract position that will require a lot of travel and he leaves for the U.S. today. I'm happy for him. I'm also glad that I have a paying gig. A little extra cash is always good especially when I'll be spending a big chunk from a small pile. (see next para).

I need to finish my assignment early because on Tuesday a new furnace and air conditioning unit will be installed at my place. It's likely I'll have no electricity, which means no heat and no computer access, and no water for most of the day. Then it will definitely be time for the oft-postponed major spring cleaning that will include sorting through my paper piles. A task that will likely take longer than any of the other cleaning chores.

In other news, Peter Milliken, (Speaker of the House of Commons) has ruled that the will of parliament trumps the Prime Minister's desire to prevent documents re the treatment of Afghan detainees from being examined. The Speaker's decision is correct but what action will be taken? I guess we will find out in two weeks, or perhaps sooner if an agreement can be reached. I hae me doots - but should the true spirit of parliamentary cooperation arise, I'll be happily surprised.

I wish you all a productive week.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Eternity Soup

That's the intriguing title of a book by Greg Critser. The full title is Eternity Soup, Inside the Quest to End Aging, published by Harmony Books,New York, 2010. Critser is also the author of Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World and, Generation RX: How Prescription Drugs are Altering American Lives, Minds and Bodies.

First of all, I have to tell you, in case you're not 200 percent sure, that there is no way to escape The End. Everybody dies. It's a natural event. However, there is a huge anti-aging industry, particularly in the U.S., that wants to deny, or at least delay, the inevitable and Critser presents information about the latest theories and treatments.

Because I studied gerontology, because I spent a lot of my career working with seniors, and because my joints refuse to obey me in the morning; I wanted to know if there was anything new and beneficial out there.

Possibly there is, but there are also a lot of weird and not-so-attractive ideas. For example, there's a group called the Caloric Restriction society. They believe in eating as little as possible to sustain life and they talk a lot about beneficial changes to their biochemistry. They also say that the always-hungry feeling goes away after a while and they live longer. I don't know but I tend to agree with the author who says:
"Do you want your extended life to be a life, or not? There had to be a better way than the cold way. The hungry way. The flat-ass, no-sex way."

So, what about hormone supplements like testosterone, estrogen, and even human growth hormones and other types of supplements? The uses of testosterone and estrogen are well known, but human growth hormones? Some research shows that HGH may improve bone and tissue mass and slow some affects of aging, but other research doesn't support it. There is a big new medical supplement industry and American doctors mostly get paid in cash to compound these supplements because they aren't often funded by HMO's. Lots of doctors attend seminars to find out how to jump on this cash cow/er bandwagon.

Did you know there is an American Association of Anti-Aging Medicine? Many of the members are corporations with products to sell of course. Including Earthing Solutions, a company that sells "Barefoot Connections" a device which "helps the earth's electric field transfer easily to the body", and another company that sells colon hydrotherapy stations. Egad! Then there are the doctor purveyors of hormones , lots and lots of hormones.

Can we replace and rejuvenate worn out parts of ourselves? We already can do some things. Maybe someday we can make new kidneys using cells from our own body. That would be tissue engineering. Critser provides a lot of detailed information on what researchers are doing in this area. Stem cells, which can become any kind of tissue are key, because the number of stem cells decreases with age. What if we could age more slowly at the cellular level. Could that extend our healthy time and our life span?

Some scientists note that "when single genes are changed, animals that should be old stay young. In humans, these mutants would be analogous to a ninety-year-old who looks and feels forty-five. On this basis we begin to think of aging as a disease that can be cured, or at least postponed." Aubrey de Grey, a Cambridge cell biologist got a lot of press for his view that aging is a disease that - "kills fucking 1000,000 people world wide and I want to stop it." Frankly, I think that's nonsense.

The book gets technically more and more complicated as it examines engineering approaches to fixing aging and playing with regenerating neural connections and using liquid peptides for repairs.

Perhaps the life-span of people in the most developed and richest countries of the world will increase, but one of the most important issues of aging that is scarcely mentioned in the book, until the end, is loss.

Maybe it's my non-scientific, interest in all the extremely important psycho-social issues that leads me to believe an essential part of what makes us live longer and happier lives has been left out of the book until close to the end. We have a primal need to be connected to other people.

In conclusion, I have no desire to live forever, but if some of my words survive me, I will be content.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Don't Think About Ice Cream

We have had beautiful spring weather here in the Kitchener area. It was so warm that the magnolia trees opened. They are showing off their pink and white blossoms, and blushing like the virginal maids of yore. It was 26 degrees Fahrenheit yesterday afternoon. Male teenagers on skateboards cruised down the main drag and so did old guys in BMW convertibles. Very young women in pedal pushers (oops! cropped pants) and navel-baring tops sauntered along and pretended not to notice their admirers.

I was accosted by an ice cream parlour. Usually, I walk on the other side of the street, but due to road construction I was trapped on the sidewalk in front of the store. The sign winked at me salaciously and I was tempted. I tried to resist, but I my feet had a will of their own. They wanted me to sit down. Did I tell you that the store sells all-natural hand-made ice cream? And, did I tell you that my daughter works for local veterinary firm? What could I do? I had to support the dairy farmers. I ordered a scoop of vanilla ice cream with chocolate chips and cherries in it. I savoured every spoonful and scraped the dish. I would have licked it too, but I was sitting in the front of the store and there were other people around.

Maybe there's a lesson for me. If I do my best not to think about writing, I may end up writing something new.

What's on your - don't think about it - list?

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Face it - How Tolerant Are We?

I'm prompted to ask myself how tolerant I am, how tolerant the average Canadian is , and when and if we should not tolerate differences. Over the last few days I've thought about this a lot. Why? Because the province of Quebec is introducing Bill 94. This legislation will require that people uncover their faces for purposes of "security, communication and identification," when they want to receive government services (schools and universities included). The bill does not mention the niqab or the burka; however, Muslims who wear them are the group who would be affected and, I suppose, anyone wearing a balaclava. From what I have read, there are not a lot of Muslim women in Quebec who would have to adjust to the proposed changes. I don't think the number matters, although it has been argued that since the legislation would impact only a few women, they should be accommodated instead of changing the law.

I understand the reason for wearing a head scarf/hijab and the reason some Orthodox Jewish women wear wigs. And, I can understand being made to wear a head covering when singing in a Catholic church as a sign of respect for another religion (yes, it was a long time ago). But concealing one's face with a niqab is not a religious requirement, nor is wearing a burka.

The burka with an eye screen completely effaces a person and frankly, I find that spooky. I don't know who is in there. And, I don't understand why any woman would voluntarily make such a choice. Modesty is one thing - complete abdication of individuality is another. The nijab is only marginally less self-negating. Also, maybe because I lived in a big city for so long, I am more conscious of security matters. A garment that conceals everything is the perfect place to hide things and, it should be noted, the perfect way to blame Muslims for an attack. I'm sure there are many ways to obtain a burka. Paranoia, too much imagination? - perhaps.

It's interesting that The Canadian Muslim Congress supports the proposed legislation. The Quebec government argues that the law would not contravene the Canadian Charter of Rights, but some lawyers say that it will.

It seems to me that makes sense to know who the government is giving services to and most of us rely on our vision to help us make decisions. Does this mean there are limits to multicultural tolerance? It may. I wonder if David Lepofsky, a well-known lawyer who often comments on rights issues and who happens to be blind, will comment on this issue.

What do you think?

Friday, April 02, 2010

Wondrously Made

This afternoon, The Viking and I went to see Bodies, The Exhibition, which is currently on at The Museum (formerly The Children's Museum) in downtown Kitchener. We were amazed. If the exhibition ever travels to your city, then make sure to see it. I know a reasonable amount about what is inside of us, but when I saw the bodies and parts of bodies, I was almost dumbstruck by their beauty. So many many intricate parts and somehow, when they are all working, we never think about them.

And when things go wrong, as they did for my brother, what we have learned about the body helps us to repair it. The fix can be complicated and isn't always permanent, but there are so many more options now. My brother, who had massive surgery and other fixes applied to him, is fairly stable at the moment and has even gained a bit of weight. Of course his strong will, and his steadfast faith also help him and healing thoughts and prayers from his family and friends play their part too.

We are indeed wondrously made.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

March Magazine Mania

Once in a while, perhaps every four months or so, I have an urge to see what's current on the magazine racks in my local independent bookstore. In March, I bought three magazines. I could have read them in the library, but that would have meant waiting until they weren't in demand. This month I bought the Atlantic Magazine, Harper's Magazine and the New Yorker. I didn't buy a Canadian magazine. Maybe I should get a slap on the wrist or something. I do read Macleans magazine every day (Canadian mag.) in the online version, and used to read The Walrus (pretentious Canadian mag.) when I had a gift subscription. So, why choose those three magazines?

My New Yorker habit, which I had to taper down because it's a weekly magazine, started years ago. A friend who had a subscription used to give me her copies after she read them. I was hooked. I couldn't buy a copy every week, but I did buy one or two every month when I was working full time. The New Yorker has changed over the years, but I still like it - a lot. In the March 1st issue there's an article titled The Deflationist which is about the economist, Paul Krugman. His views on the stock market and the economy are the opposite of boring. In the same issue, there's an article about mountain people who live in isolation only 25 miles from New York city. The magazine also publishes wonderful fiction. And, there are cartoons - there are always cartoons in the New Yorker. Sometimes I don't understand one, but then again, I don't live in New York and I'm not young or hip.

I've been a fan of Harper's since I first browsed through one in a bookstore eons ago. Harper's Index, which appears at the front of every issue always has interesting/startling and sometimes downright weird facts to impart. From this month's issue: "Percentage of American men aged 18 to 29 who believe that standing up during sex is an effective form of contraception , 18. Percentage of U.S. public grade-school teachers who say they buy food for hungry students every month, 63." Also in the March issue, an article on "The Guantanamo 'Suicides'" and Mammon from Heaven, which is about the prosperity gospel in recession. Harper's also features readings - very short things first published in other places. For instance, I, Sexbot, which first appeared on the website of I'm sure you want to know that the robot, which will "deliver the ultimate in robot sex" is called Roxxxy.

The Atlantic Magazine, which is one of the oldest magazines still living, is also a favourite of mine. Where else could you find an article on How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America (yes, it's depressing) along with an article on Management Secrets of the Grateful Dead and some thoughts on preserving old video games for the cultural record.

Do you subscribe to any magazines, and if you do why did you choose them?

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Ride with "Johnny Cash" Leads to Food in Fiction

The weather here has been amazingly good and many more people than usual are out and about. I wonder what some of them do in the winter time and whether their foibles cause problems in close quarters. For example, there was a man on the bus with me today who loves Johnny Cash. I'm rather partial to Cash too. I think his music is three-hundred percent more real than almost any 'country' singer I can think of. Although I must admit, I don't think of country singers very often.

In any event, this Johnny Cash fan had a fixation for Ring of Fire. At first, I thought he was listening to it on an ipod or CD player and didn't realize he was singing along but that wasn't the case . His brain was stuck on four lines of the song and he sang them over and over and over. He wasn't loud and he was almost in tune, but now the song is in my brain. It's a good thing the bus rider wasn't singing "We got married in a fever hotter than a pepper pot." I don't think I could have tolerated many repetitions of that line. It makes me think about food

I started contemplating the sensual value of food in fiction again this week. Why? Because my daughter raved about a book so I found it at the library and have read it. The Food of Love, by A. Capella (Isn't that a lovely name for a writer?) has so many sensual descriptions of Italian food that it's overwhelming in places. It's a comedy of errors novel and while I may not remember it forever, I did enjoy it. Also it made me consider how often I use food as a descriptive vehicle in my work. In one of my stories chocolate played a key role but generally, I don't refer to food that often. Maybe I'll use it more often in the future, or maybe I'm revved up after reading about all the fine food, which often led to other delightfully sensual things.

So, here is this week's question. Does the description of meals, or the preparation of them appear in your fiction with any frequency?

Thursday, March 04, 2010

No Dragon Slayer in the House

The federal government's budget was read to the House of Commons today and will be debated tomorrow, and perhaps on other days during this session of parliament. The enormous, vicious fire-breathing deficit dragon was not attacked with any efficient weapons. Instead, the finance minister waved a white flag at it from a distance and assured us that it would shrink to the size of a grasshopper in three or four or five years, or thereabouts. He believes this will happen because: - the economy will keep on improving (I liken this to a faith in financial miracle healing) and because - there won't be any "new" stimulus spending (so the economy will have a good time stimulating itself when the current stimulus money runs out, I assume) - and - some government salaries will be frozen and no new staff will be added. Also, taxes will not be increased and some will be decreased.

I am in favour of controlling the number of people who work in government and ensuring that tax money is used wisely ( the government should listen to Kevin Page). Bureaucracies have a natural tendency to grow into huge fiefdoms given the slightest opportunity. However, I suspect that the areas most affected will be the ones that mean the least to the supporters of socially regressive Conservative party. I believe funding for the arts will decrease more than funding for other sectors since creative people are considered effete and useless. The contribution the artistic community makes to the economy will be downplayed again. Little money will be given to environmental issues because the Conservatives are sure that only wing-nut lefties care about those things and the government wants to encourage more foreign investment and more free trade. (Free trade is not 'free' but that's a subject for another post.)

Unfortunately, the Goods and Services Tax will not be increased although that would be the fairest way to begin to tackle the dragon. And yes, I think we should increase the GST. Even one percentage point would do more to decrease the deficit than anything else that has been proposed and it wouldn't be all that painful.

The government says we are - open for business. Oh goody! I guess we were closed before due to our propensity to tax corporations at a rate that some people think is unacceptable. I would argue that we can never decrease taxes to the levels that some countries offer because a) we are a huge country, b) we have a small population, and c) we need to fund the programs that make us unique. We cannot do this unless we tax adequately. So what does attract business to Canada? Our health and social support programs are a big draw. Do we really need more huge corporations that make demands on local provincial and federal governments in return for possible future success (think of the auto industry bail outs)? Or, are more small and mid-sized businesses a better bet in the long haul? In spite of the recession, new small businesses start-up every day. I'd rather offer a modicum of support to them than to larger enterprises.

All is not lost though, for we will save 1.8 billion each year by decreasing foreign aid. But hey! - it's only those people, so never mind about them and remember - no visible new taxes. So, get out there and buy something.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Luddites, Unite!

Some say, we must move with the times, but I say, let's do so very slowly and beware of the dominance of machines. I'm a big fan of slowness and my computer obliges me. I've been told it's obsolete although it is only six years old. That makes me wonder if I'm past my 'best-by' date because I'm 66. Just yesterday, my computer's diagnostic program told me that my pc doesn't have enough RAM. Now, I resent that because another part of my computer informed me that 81% of the hard drive is free space. What good is all that space if it isn't useful for RAM? I have no idea. I know that my own random access memory occasionally fails to respond to my commands and has to be prompted, but I don't know how I can acquire more RAM and I don't know how much free space for memories is left in my wee brain. I prefer to assume there is plenty.

Not only does my computer lack enough RAM but also it could not change an MSWord file into a pdf file. I searched for the answer but failed to find it. As it turns out, that's because my 'old' Office 2000 MSWord didn't offer that option. I didn't know what a pdf file was because I operate my computer on a need-to-know basis and before this week I didn't need that information. I believe there are tiny people inside the computer and one shouldn't piss them off by asking for too much. In any event, thanks to The Viking who is not a Luddite, I have a new Microsoft Office program and it converts Word files to pdf files. As of this morning, the little green people have been content to obey my commands. Now, if only I could find all the widgets that change margins and fonts and other things in my new Office program, I'd be content too. I am slowly figuring it out.

Because I'm a Luddite, I prefer to form long-term relationships with my machines and appliances, but they are often fickle and even treacherous at times. My stereo receiver which is about 25 years old (I know, yikes!) will operate the turntable and the CD player that was attached to it a couple of years ago, but it refuses to tune in FM stations anymore. Maybe it was tired of carrying only CBC radio 2. It's very old so it's entitled to be grouchy.

On the other hand, my hot water heater was only about seven years old but it peformed poorly so I sent it out of the game and bought a new one. I didn't want to retire it so early, however; the plumber who replaced it said electric hot water heaters last only about 5 to 7 years (yikes again!). He informed me of that after he gave me the $790 invoice. In this age of sophisticated machines, I wonder why no one can make one that will last as long as my stereo?

My television is only about two years old, but it isn't high-definition so it is old technology and if the local TV station disappears I'll be boob tube-less because I receive the TV signal via my aerial (ancient technology). Yes, I could hook up my computer to our local cable provider but that would be too expensive. I can survive without television as there is seldom much worth watching although I am enjoying some of the Olympics coverage.

I'd prefer not to think about the age of my central air conditioning unit which is located five floors above me, on the roof. Apparently it uses freon, so if it fails to work it can't be repaired. Freon is a banned substance now. I can only hope that fans, which are simple basic machines, will still be available if I need to buy some. Maybe I'll buy black-out blinds, but then again, I'm told the roller thingies wear out in about four years. It's enough to make a Luddite like me sew curtains by hand because I've never had any luck with sewing machines either.

Also, earlier this week our family lost our favourite car. The Crown Victoria which had carried the family to and from many places and events and served well and honourably for many years was totalled. We are all saddened by the loss of the beloved Crown Vic. I'm sure neither of the other cars will last as long or be as comfortable for long trips. They are newer cars, but they just ain't the same.

Luddites like things to stay the same, or at least same-ish and we like things that work well for long periods of time but perhaps we are obsolete too?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Someday, It Will be Spring

According to the calendar the official arrival of spring is a little over a month away. Of course, when the day arrives we could have snow, or ice, or almost any darn thing imaginable in the way of weather. The southern parts of Canada are not immune to the reappearance of winter until perhaps sometime in late May, if then.

I get antsy waiting for spring to get here and want to run off to ... somewhere - to Montreal (winter is an acceptable season if I'm in Montreal) or to Mexico, if Mexico wasn't dangerous, or Costa Rica. Unless something spectacular happens, I'll be staying put. I do enjoy dreaming about travelling though.

If you could go away for one week, where would you go?

Friday, February 05, 2010

Chutzpah - Do You Have It?

My Canadian Oxford Dictionary says chutzpah is a Yiddish word that means 1: shameless audacity; cheek and 2. boldness. I wonder if writers need of it more than other people do. There are so many times when I could benefit from being audacious. Is the work ready to send out? If I have honed it past a fare-thee-well, then likely it is. But, I still hesitate. There are no places to take chutzpah lessons because, while there are assertiveness classes chutzpah is more than being assertive. There's no exact English equivalent for the word but I think chutzpah is more illogical than mere assertiveness. It's being bold in spite of the odds. Consider the number of rock singers with much more urge to flaunt themselves than talent or the men wno run Ponzi schemes.

I've been thinking about this more of late, thanks to a book I picked up: How to Become a Famous Writer before You're Dead (Your words in print and your name in lights) by Ariel Gore. She has more chutzpah than any writer I know, and maybe she has more of it than of good sense. But then, when did good sense ever lead to well, seeing your name in lights - or even in a respected literary journal. Gore has a lot of fun and presents a lot of off-the-wall ideas.

In any event, among her many suggestions for becoming a brazen self-promoter, there is one I'm considering. Start a zine she says. Now, I don't know how to do that, and I'm not very web savvy and there are likely many good reasons why I shouldn't even think about it. On the other hand - I know some writers, I know how to edit and I know it could be an adventure.

Do you have chutzpah?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Seven Things You Didn't Know About Me

Fellow writer and blogger, Angela Addams (The Temptress, Cobblestone Press, 2009) nominated me to write on this topic.

I had to think a while since I don't want to reveal anything that would lead you to believe I'm extremely weird. I will admit that I'm odd, but most likely you are too.

The list:

1) I attended a one-room red insul-brick school for my first two years of' 'edumacation' and even when I sat in the front row, I couldn't see a darn thing. In spite of that, I learned to read and kept on reading - see point 2

2) My childhood bedroom was in the basement of my grandparents' house. The cement floor was very cold in the winter and very wet when it flooded every spring. I had an antique console radio in my room. It was large and had tubes inside that glowed in the dark. I was seldom allowed to listen to it late at night so a flashlight and a book became my companions. I don't need to use a flashlight anymore, but I still read in bed.

3) I've had very long hair and very short hair (my current style is pixie-like), curly hair and straight hair, but I've never dyed, tinted or streaked my hair. I am not opposed to doing any of those things. Someday, I might colour my hair. In the meantime I enjoy seeing the colours and styles other members of my family choose to adorn their heads.

4) When I lived in Toronto, I rented out the second bedroom in my apartment in order to almost make ends meet. I did this for quite a few years and my roomies came from exotic places like Jamaica, Somalia, Pakistan, Japan, and Hamilton Ontario. I learned a lot about what you need to tell them.. For example, don't poke at the coils inside the freezer compartment of the ancient refrigerator with a knife - the fridge doesn't like that and it will die. Please, oh please, don't mop the hardwood tiles with water. And finally, don't let your boyfriend in if he has a weapon.

5) I have no piercings anywhere on my body. I do have scars - a very long appendix scar since the surgeons were in a great rush to get inside me and a long scar on my knee.

6) I love baby beef liver and hate cooked cauliflower.

7) Most of my furnishings were given to me or inherited. In fact, if I kept only what I've purchased with my own money I'd have: a piano, a very old stereo, three sets of book shelves and a kitchen table and chairs. Thank goodness I frittered away my fortune in other ways.

Deep dark secret disclosures: I like hearing bad puns, eating real ice cream, rereading Little Women, and watching Johnny Depp in any movie, (even the Pirate movies).

Saturday, January 23, 2010

In This World

In this world, a reality starlet had ten well-tended plastic surgeries.

In this world, Haitian children's limbs were cut off with no anesthesia.

In this world, Survivors thrived as a 'reality' television show.

In this world, how many Haitians died no one can know.

Are we one world, as so many now attest?

When the music stops and the stars move on to other causes, other shows

The lost and broken ones move off the screen but they exist

In this world.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Couple of Books I Recommend

First, a thank-you to the people who responded to my previous post about editors. I'm only annoyed and disappointed when an editor says something vague like - it's not our style. And yes, I do get over my anger. I'm a Cancer sign so that takes time because Cancer people are stubborn, though I prefer to think of us as tenacious.

I hope my brother is tenacious too, he is back in the hospital and we don't know much yet. Writing is hard to do when one's fingers are permanently crossed. Therefore, I decided to mention a couple of books I recommend.

Delivery by Betty Jane Hegerat (Oolichan Books 2009) is an absorbing and sometimes heart-wrenching novel about a young woman who has to decide whether to give away her baby. The baby's grandmother gets involved and then ... no, I can't reveal what happens. Read it. It's excellent.

During my volunteer shelf-reading stint at the library on Wednesday, I discovered Outwitting Writer's Block and Other Problems of the Pen by Jenna Glatzer. It has already given me quite a few laughs and given my current frame of mind, that's no easy task. The book is light-hearted - a rare thing since it's about a serious, or semi-serious subject. It won't ever be classed as "literature", but it's fun to read. Here's a sample quote:

"You decide Real Writers would never stare at a blank page for three days. .... You are defective ....Don't think I'm going to correct you. ...If I weren't so defective in the first place I'd probably never be a writer ... But the world needs us weirdos. If we didn't write about the glorious lives of bag ladies, mountain climbers, misfits, barflies, and homecoming queens, who would? So, go right ahead and be defective and write anyway."

I haven't finished the book yet, but I found more to giggle about this morning, and more motivation too.


Monday, January 04, 2010

The Editor as Black Hat and Sometimes, White Hat.

In very old western movies, the bad guys were easy to identify and were known as black hats. Sometimes, editors must be bad guys. I wore my black hat on Boxing Day weekend when I took on the role of gunslinger/editor and shot down long confusing sentences. They were not my sentences but it was not an easy task. I feared I would be ambushed by the obscure jargon which lurked amidst the already complex language thickets of a long report. I was also afraid that my client wouldn't accept all of the many changes I had made. Fortunately she accepted almost all of them and I became the good guy, white hat, this time.

It is far easier to edit other people's writing, especially non-fiction writing than it is to edit my own fiction. Some of the fiction rejections I received recently have offered comments. My first reaction to any negative comment received in a rejection letter is always anger. Yes, I know, that's not the way to respond. I'm working on it, and I'll continue to work on my stories too.

It's a new year and there is hope.