Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Getting Serious About Writing Part 2

My biggest problem with getting any writing done lately is time management. When I began this ridiculous task of writing a memoir (ridiculous because I don't know who would want to read it), I woke up each day excited to get back to it. Now I'm doubting everything from my opening line to the story line. I'm worried about embarrassing family members as well as myself. Doubt and worry has stopped me in my tracks.

One day, I started reading about the craft of writing which lead to reading about the business of writing, the demise of bookstores, using social media to build a platform, building a platform for your TV, and finally, that week's TV schedule. Before I knew it, it was time to make dinner. Every day after that for about a month, I would begin with the best of intentions but would allow myself to get side-tracked by the most mundane things.  Yes- my socks are organized by color, Yes- I know the lyrics to all my favorite theme songs, but No- I haven't written any new chapters. 

I managed to come to my senses and examined the ways I've been spending my day. I've been avoiding working on my memoir because it's too damned hard. That doesn't mean I'm ready to give up, though. While it's true that my story may not be riveting to anyone outside my family, getting it written is important to me. The fact that it's difficult makes me want to finish it even more.

I decided to tackle my daily schedule first- allotting time each and every day for writing, even if all I do is stare at a blank screen. Here are some great tips I got from the National Association of Memoir Writers holiday newsletter:

  • Set a writing schedule. Writing several thousand words a month--or a week!--gets you to the finish line of that first draft.
  • Journal regularly, freewriting memories and scenes that come to mind. This keeps you in the flow.
  • List ten significant moments in your life--and write each one. These turning points help you to focus your memoir. You can't write everything that has happened to you!
  • Think about your themes, the big picture of your story.
  • Write from the body--allow your hand to guide the pen through various writing topics and themes. Sometimes our body allows thoughts and ideas to come through that won't arise in the same way on the computer.
  • Research your story--on Google, looking at photos, talking with family. This feeds your imagination and memory.
  • Read, read, read. Read great fiction, memoir, poetry, and nonfiction. Learn your craft.
  • Commit to a critique group or workshop. Feedback, suggestions, and questions help get your work to the next level.
  • Write with joy, write with passion! Keep writing!

I'll let you know how it goes!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Getting Serious About Writing

I have the opportunity to finally get serious about writing. All of my handy excuses for not writing are suddenly gone. Holy crap- no more excuses!

This is it! Now or never! Someday is now! Hugs not drugs! Wait. What? Oh, yeah, the whole writing thing. That wonderful, exciting, terrifying chance to write my ass off.

I've had short pieces published in the past, but once it became clear to me that I now have the time to work on something more ambitious, I decided to tackle a book. A memoir, to be specific. But how does one do that? And what does one do with a memoir once it's written? (More importantly, why am I suddenly writing like a snooty English nanny?)

In order to answer these questions, plus a few others concerning the theme song for The Big Bang theory, I turned to the Internet. I hooked up with mentors on Twitter & Facebook and have joined a couple of online writer's groups. Now my days are spent reading about writing.


I soon realized it's just another way to avoid the actual work. At some point I've got to look myself in the eye (perhaps while applying Amy Winehouse makeup just for funsies- trust me, procrastination is my thang) and ask how much I really want it. More than that, though. What am I afraid of?

I'm a writer because I'm not a speaker. I'm an entertainer who can't do stand-up or act in front of an audience. I want to share a good story and possibly make people laugh, but good God- I can't do that with live, blinking eyes on me. So...what if I write a great memoir and my publisher wants me to do readings, interviews or lectures? Would he get mad if I wound up in a fetal position under the podium? No, seriously, how bad would that be?

Hmm. Is fear of success just another excuse? Maybe. Probably. C'mon, I'm not that good. I'll be lucky to get an agent let alone a publisher. Writing is hard work. Reading about writing, answering e-mails, watching reruns of The Bachelor- easy. More specifically, avoiding the lonely, difficult task of writing is easy.

I thought it might be good for me to go public with my procrastination. If I take you along on this journey to finally buckle down, I'll be accountable to you to do the work. Coz, ya know, I love you, man. I'd hate to let you down. *sniff*

If you happen to be in my shoes, the first thing I'd like to say is, "Get out of my closet!!" Secondly, I'd like to know what excuses you make to avoid writing. More importantly, WHY?

Saturday, December 3, 2011


Someone told me recently that I never grieved the loss of my Dad, even though he died over eight years ago. I'm not sure what that means. I was there when he died. I cried. I wrote about it. I cried some more. I cried plenty and I miss him everyday. Isn't that grieving? So what if I still sob when his name is mentioned?

The only bits of unfinished business concerning his death that I can think of are the few special moments I had with him that I've never talked about. With anyone. It hurts me to think about them because even though I had a million good moments with him, these three pop up in my mind from time to time and lodge in my throat, making it impossible to speak. So I'll write about them and maybe get the closure this person thinks I need.

During one of Mom and Dad's last visits to our house in Texas, Dad put the newspaper down on the kitchen table where he was reading it and said, "Was I a good father?"

I paused in my kids' school-lunch-making, surprised by the question. "Yes," I replied with a smile. "You were a great father."

"Well, of course you're gonna say that," he grinned.

Folding closed the brown bag lunches, I told him, "No, I mean it."

My boys ran into the room just then, freshly scrubbed, teeth brushed, hair combed, ready for school. My personal and slightly awkward exchange with Dad was over. I wish I could have opened up more. I wish I had hugged him. But I feel OK about it none-the-less. He knew.

Years later, Dad wound up with a staph infection which had attacked his heart. A specialist who dealt with high-risk patients had been scheduled to remove a heart abscess. But then we were told that he wouldn't survive the surgery. I already had plane tickets to go up and be with the family during the risky surgery but now I knew I was going for a funeral.

My sister picked me up at the airport and took me straight to the hospital. Dad was awake, but not all "there." We stayed until the nurses kicked us out. The next day Dad was being transported to a hospice facility.

During the ambulance ride in the morning, they didn't give him any of the drug that made him loopy, so when he was wheeled into the hospice room, his mind was somewhat clear. I just so happened to be the only one in the room at the time. "Hi, Dad!" I called, matter-of-factly, as they pushed his stretcher in. He looked up into my eyes, gave me a big smile and mouthed "hi" through the oxygen mask strapped to his head. I was asked to leave the room while they got him settled. That was the last time I saw him with his eyes open.

Dad's wake was the first and only one I've been to. It's a strange ritual, I think. The body is laid out in the casket while people mill around and socialize. It didn't upset me, I just thought it was odd. Right before it was time to close the lid, my Mom, me and my three sisters approached the casket and stood, looking down at his shell. We said a prayer and finally dropped our arms from around one other and tearfully walked away. I was the last to leave. I wanted one last private moment with him, so I reached down and squeezed his arm. Wood. His arm felt like petrified wood. Dad?

So, there they are: three moments with my Dad that didn't include anyone else but me. Is writing about them the same as talking about them? Probably not- if I spoke the words, someone would have to be in the room to hear them. I would surely burst into tears. Sorry, but I just can't invite that. Instead, I'll cowardly hit "publish" and see if somehow my broken heart will be healed.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Thrill the World

One of the fun things about living downtown is that we get to simply walk over and watch unusual events going on. Saturday night we ate dinner at home and then headed over to the Eau Claire Market to watch "Thrill The World."

From their website:

What is "Thrill The World?"   
It is friends, families and other local residents
who each year join together with thousands of other people around the globe
to  break the World Record for the Largest Simultaneous Dance to Michael Jackson's Thriller!:

At exactly 8:00pm, our time, participants from around the world cued up that great song, "Thriller" and began to dance. 

Here is the Leader of Calgary's Zombies, giving last minute instructions. I wonder what those kids are thinking?
The Zombies wait.

The Zombie watchers wait.
"Places, everybody! 10, 9, 8..."

And they danced...
Zombie style!

Did I ever tell you that the Thriller video gives the creeps? The first time I saw it was at a friend's house and it scared me so much that I RAN home, terrified. I was about 25. What a weirdo.

Anyway, here's a video from Thrill The World, Calgary. Since I can't find a really great one, I'll post one of the shorter ones which also includes a cute cameo by a little boy (I have no idea who he is.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Who Am I, Snow White?

Query: Did the woodland animals ultimately tear Snow White to shreds? Why do I want to know? No reason, just a random, hypothetical question. 

Yesterday, walking home through Prince's Island Park, a black squirrel stopped me and asked  if I had anything for him to eat.

I was so impressed with his use of the English language (almost no hint of a Canadian accent!), that I tore off a corner of bread from the loaf I had just bought and tossed it to him. I continued on my way until I noticed a gray squirrel dancing circles around me.

"What about me, eh?" he asked. Despite the blatant use of Canadian slang, I tossed him a small piece of bread as well.

I turned to resume my walk home when two magpies swooped down and landed next to me. 

"S'up?" one of them said to the other.
"I think we've got a live one." bird #2 replied. "Watch this."

"I'm terribly hungry," he said to me. 

"You think I didn't hear what you just said?" I spat at him. "Forget it! I won't be played." 

What followed was like a scene from "The Birds." Magpies swooped down from every direction. The black and the grey squirrels returned. I looked around for other humans, but saw none. They all stared at me, waiting for my next move. Staring...waiting....

I shrugged and walked home and had a piece of toast.

What? You were expecting maybe a chase scene? Wake up, this is reality.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Canada's Got Talent!

Last night I sat in on a taping of “Canada’s Got Talent" in Calgary. I won 2 tickets from Tim Horton’s and City TV in a contest I found on twitter. Truth be told, I'm not a fan of CGT or its American version, but it sounded like fun to see how a TV show gets made.

My friend and I arrived early and were disappointed to see a long line outside Jubilee Auditorium. The email I received instructed me to pick up my tickets at Will Call, so I approached a security guard to ask where that was. Unfortunately, another man got to him before I did and was apparently asking about tickets as well.

“She’ll have to get on the end of that line,” the guard said to the man, gesturing past me.

“Really? But she’s got that e-mail,” the man said.

Damn, I thought. All those people on line won the contest?

Security Guard Guy pointed at the e-mail in my hands and said, “See, you need to have this logo on the e-mail in order to go right in. Her email doesn't have that, so she needs to get on the line.”

"Oh, wow, that sucks," I said to the guy.

No Logo Guy seemed disappointed but accepted the news and walked away. I was told to go through the theater doors to a table inside for contest winners. We wouldn’t be able to take our seats yet because they were still filming the afternoon’s auditions, but we didn’t have to get on that line, either.

Sweet! My friend and I loitered around by the entrance, feeling pretty darned special.  There was a big trailer parked across from us with “Canada’s Got Talent” splashed across the side. A camera man set up a tripod and aimed his camera at the long line. Several other people walked around with an air of importance, talking into headsets. This was getting exciting.

“Good luck!” someone called to us as he entered the theater.

“Why did he wish us good luck?” my friend asked me.

“I think that was for me,” a voice replied, behind us.

Turning around, we saw a small young woman leaning against the building, smoking a cigarette. She had a number stuck to her shirt.

“Oh! You’re a contestant?” I asked.

“Yeah. I already went on,” she answered. “It was so weird to have Martin Short like…right there!”

I didn’t know Martin Short was one of the judges! I didn’t get to ask her how it went because suddenly there was a small crowd around us and the doors were opening. We were swept into the theater lobby. Occasionally, someone with a number stuck to their shirt walked by. Free coffee was offered from Tim Horton's. I was digging the atmosphere. People seemed happy and excited, ready to get the party started.

Cool stage! Unfortunately, we couldn't sit because our entire section was covered with a heavy black cloth. I gotta say, I wasn't feeling so special anymore. There was much confusion as more people in our section arrived, clogging up the aisles, and various ushers squeezed through, looked at the situation, left and were never seen again. Apparently, the problem was a camera which needed a clear shot of the stage without a bunch of heads in the way.

Finally, one of those important looking dudes with a headset lined us up and marched us through the auditorium, looking for empty seats. "Who are those people?" I heard someone say. Ha! We were contest winners with nowhere to go. Well, two seats here, four seats there, and we were all finally seated. Some in our group got to sit in the front row! Grr!! We wound up in the middle of the middle of the right hand section. My friend convinced me the seats were better than the front row. (She's a good friend!)

Once everyone was settled, we received instruction on how to cheer and boo correctly. "Louder!" "More energy!!" When our “spontaneous” reactions met with the approval of the director (and were recorded to be dubbed in later- spontaneously), we had to practice wild, standing ovations and the possibility of responding to something overwhelmingly cute. "AWWW......"

We were very proud of ourselves as we were the "BEST AUDIENCE EVER!!" Loud applause for us, though not quite a standing ovation moment.  We had been trained well.

The emcee or hostess or whatever was introduced. Dina Pugliese is a co-host of Breakfast TV Toronto. She's adorable. Throughout the evening, I spied her watching every audition from the wings, reacting if she disagreed with the judges and dancing when a particularly good song was played. This was all off-camera. Well, as far as I know.

So let's talk about the judges! Unfortunately, the only one I've heard of is Martin Short. I tried to grab a photo of him coming down the aisle to take his seat, but all I got was this blurry shot of him hugging a kid in front of me.

A quick word about photography. After we practiced our heart-felt reactions, we were told NOT to take any flash photography during the show. The director didn't say we couldn't take ANY photos, but I still took mine on the sly with my phone. I didn't want to be a bad little audience member. The result is some pretty bad, fuzzy shots.

The other two judges are Measha Brueggergosman, an opera star, and Stephan Moccio, an award winning songwriter. They were all very good, doling out their opinions eloquently and with a lot of humor. I won't give away anything that may wind up on the show, but some of the most fun moments happened when the cameras weren't rolling, anyway.

In between acts, the stage would be cleared and cleaned, the director would walk over and speak quietly to the judges and maybe their makeup would be retouched. "I love you, Martin!!" rang out from the audience several times. Martin Short always spun around in his chair to yell back some kind of acknowledgement. "I love you, too, man!"

If the pause between acts was going to be longer than a few seconds, some loud, fun music was piped in. At one point well into the third hour, when everyone was getting a little punchy, the judges suddenly got up and danced to our between-acts-music.

It was all fun and games until the director cut the music and chimed in with his usual, "Big applause! Here we go!" and our next act came out on stage.

And damned if the next act wasn't No Logo Guy! "Hey!" I said to my friend. "I talked to him outside!" I don't want to ruin the surprise but I will say that this guy KILLED! He received a rousing (and sincere) standing ovation. I hope to be seeing more of him.

I've seen snippets of America's Got Talent and my impression is that CGT is a kinder, gentler version.  The buzzers WERE used (Causing many of us to suffer minor cardiac events. Those suckers are LOUD) but all of the contestants got advice on how to make their act better even if they weren't moving on the next round.

There were several surprisingly polished and impressive performances during the night and only a few...well...ODD ones. You'll see it all when it hits our TV screens. ( will if you live in Canada.)

One thing you won't see was the way the crowd cheered every time the floor sweeper came out. Give us a break, we were bored! The show took almost FOUR hours to complete. As soon as a contestant got his "Yay" or "Nay" and left the stage, this guy would come out pushing a big mop that shined up the stage for the next victim. We all cheered for him. After one contestant criticized Judge Stephan's scarf, Floor Sweeper Guy came out pushing the mop wearing a scarf. Wild applause.

Late in the evening when our floor cleaner came out for about the 15th time, Dina Pugliese told us, "I know you've been enjoying him- let's hear it for Dennis!" Dennis paused in mid-swept to wave, but quickly got back to work. Later, as he made his very last pass over the floor and headed for the wings, someone yelled out, "I love you, Dennis!!"

The fat lady sang and that was it. The judges left their seats without fanfare, disappearing through a door by the stage as the audience filed out. Someone grabbed a microphone and thanked us for coming. “Look for this episode to air sometime in March 2012!”

It was late, we were tired, but it had been a very interesting experience. And if you happen to see something overwhelmingly cute and need someone to give the perfect, “Awww,” I’m your girl. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Is That a Scone in Your Pocket or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

It was time to leave Victoria Island, but we still hadn't done one of things everybody said we had to do while there: Afternoon Tea. Though it's traditionally enjoyed at 4:00 in the afternoon, reservations can be made at anytime starting at noon. We decided to make that our lunch before driving to the ferry.

The most popular Afternoon Tea is served at the Empress Hotel. It's number 1 on all the lists in all the land when you do a search of "Things To Do in Victoria, B.C." Go ahead, check. I'll wait.

Well, geez! What took you so long? I have things to do! You could have just taken my word on it you know. Where were we?

Since all the lists also say that the Fish n' Chips at Old Vic are #1 (and it was nothing special), I was leery. I'm also so opposed to going along with the crowd that I often go out of my way to head in the opposite direction. (Only to find out that the crowd was right! hmpf!) So I was ready to take a stand against Victoria's #1 Tea! I'm no sheep! I don't have to do something just because everyone does it! (Also, Greg refused to pay $120 for tiny sandwiches and a cupa tea.)

A friend at church recommended the Tea at Point Ellice House, a historial building. A very nice tour of the house is thrown in with tea. We had a nice time.

We bid adieu (ain't I fancy?) to Victoria, hopped on the ferry and headed east.

Back to boring old Alberta. ;)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Victoria, Part IV

We gave our new digital camera a real workout on our last full day on Vancouver Island. Enjoy the photos!


Here's all you need to know: Fifty-five acres of stuff growing. Go!

A deliberate hole cut in the hedge for a peek at the water:

They even put flowers in the food!

Greg even got into the act with the picture-taking! I'm not sure who took what, to be honest.

We had dinner at a gorgeous B&B recommended by a friend.


More flowers in the food! Must be a Vancouver Island thing. (ha)

The day gave me lots of landscaping ideas to go with the decorating ideas I got from the Parliament Buildings and the castle we toured! Now, how to implement them in our tiny apartment?