Category Archives: Musings

Messy First Draft

It’s done, that messy first draft of my first full length novel for an adult audience. I’ve lost track of when I began the journey, it was at least 3 years ago, probably more.  Now I’m smoothing the rough edges, massaging it, trying to get a sense of whether it works as a whole and is not just a bunch of disconnected scenes. Does it even reveal the story I set out to tell?

When it’s as polished as I can make it I’ll ask for feedback from my writing critique group. Their responses will likely give me more to think about, probably resulting in additional rewriting. And that’s when the really challenging part begins; finding an agent and/or a publisher. My connections are in the world of children’s literature. This is a whole new arena.

Running just below the surface is that inner battle I constantly face – is this the best use of my time? Of my life? Will this book even see the light of day, and if it does, will reading it engage, entertain and be thought-provoking for its intended audience?

The following  passage from a book titled Birds Art Life by Kyo Maclear expresses this self-doubt perfectly.

“He was, at the very least, familiar with the feeling that making art – funny art, beautiful art, tender art, boring art, fierce art, humble art, lofty art, existential art, “political” art (or, in my case, art about the trials of making art) – was a fairly limited and potentially narcissistic thing to be doing with one’s time on a fucked-up planet.”

Well said Kyo.  But what kind of a world would it be without art? Even humble art.  As writers we have to believe that our stories do make a difference. That we do have something to say that is worth reading.  And with that in mind I’ll go back to cleaning up that messy first draft.

On becoming Mother-of-the-Bride

At any given time we can each describe ourselves with a number of different labels. In my life I was first called daughter, sister and niece. Then I became friend, student, girlfriend, fiancé, teacher, wife, aunt, mother, author. Now I can add one more, at least for a short time: mother-of-the-bride.

Danny and Dani’s engagement photo

Mother-of-the-bride. What is my role in my daughter’s wedding preparations? At one time a wedding was an event where the parents of the bride (and lesser so the groom) threw a party to invite their friends to celebrate in the marriage of their daughter.  Now brides and grooms have taken over the planning and the tendency is to throw themselves a celebration, possibly with some help from the parents. This change probably came about when couples began choosing to live together before marrying – often for years – so the wedding is more of a formality, a chance for the couple to declare their love and intention to remain together, always. They’ve already created a home and life together which is different than it once was. As the mother-of-the-bride I look forward to the parties, the planning, the preparation  (I surprised myself by embracing the wedding dress shopping!) but my role has certainly become more of a background player than it would have been in years gone by.

Although I love celebrating birthdays and book launches for my friends I have never been one to enjoy them for myself. I  feel uncomfortable when the focus is all on me. However, a Unitarian minister I respect once explained why he always celebrated his birthday – and all other occasions – in a big way. As he said, there is so much tragedy and sadness in the world that when there’s an occasion to celebrate, he likes to do so with a splash. It makes good sense.


So I’m looking forward to celebrating Dani and Danny as they make this important commitment to each other and become a new family. It’s  a wonderful reason to dress up, celebrate and dance the night away.

And then, in the morning, I’ll exchange the label mother-of-the-bride to mother-in-law and I’ll wear the label proudly.

Photo credits: Cara Lee Hrdlitschka

 

 

Consistent, Persistent & Insistent

In the research I’ve been doing on trans youth, I’ve discovered that one of the ways professionals recognize a transgender child is if they have been consistent, persistent and (possibly) insistent on their cross-gender identification.

This list of rhyming words came back to me predawn this morning as I lay in bed dealing with my wide-awake cat. (Jim has dubbed her ‘Cat Annoyance’). She has a very sweet nature, is loving and affectionate, but not at appropriate times!

Too early every day she starts to head-butt, purr loudly and clamour all over me.

You slept all day yesterday,” I growl at her. “It’s my turn to sleep now .” I drop her to the floor, but she consistently, persistently and insistently jumps back up and starts the routine again. If I lock her out of my room she cries (yup, you guessed it ) consistently, persistently and insistently at the door.

It’s a good list of words, helpful for gender therapists and trans youth. It’s also very descriptive of my cat.

Has anyone found a solution to  silence an early-waking cat? (And no, please don’t suggest I get up earlier!)

 

Season of Symbols

I posted the following message years ago but I think it bears repeating…
I’ve never been much of a ‘Christmas’ person. There are just too many expectations at this time of year and most of these things I’m not good at. If I had my way, I’d ‘unplug the Christmas machine’ and create simple, family-centered traditions that wouldn’t include shopping malls or racing from one event to another. However, when it comes to Christmas, I don’t have my way.
 But….
A couple of years ago I came across a list of Seasonal Strategies written by Harold Rosen who was then the minister of the North Shore Unitarian Church. With this list, Harold invites us to “look behind the all-too-familiar things, and see the Larger Reality they represent.” I review this list at the start of each Christmas season and I’m now far more successful at keeping my “mental and spiritual health intact.”
I offer Harold’s list here, an early Yuletide gift for anyone who takes the time to read my blog.
May your ramp-up to Christmas be only as frantic as you wish it to be.
Season Of Symbols
Gifts – they are more than stuffed boxes covered with shiny paper and ribbons; they are tangible tokens of all those thoughtful things we wanted to ‘do’ for our loved ones and friends, all year long, but never got around to it.
Cards – the are more than donations to Hallmark and overtime pay for the postal service; they are humble hints of the much we’d like to say if only time, emotional strength and eloquence abounded.
Lights – they are more than electrical fire hazards and jobs for the handy-person in our midst; they conquer the darkness of season and soul with a glimpse of celestial spendour.
Carols – they are more than memory-markers and excuses for extra choir rehearsals; they are auditory proof that heaven is nigh, and that the layers of tradition can heal the layers of our pain.
Angels – they are more than plastic ornaments on trees… they are those whispers we hear just in time, saying “you have what it takes.’ ‘Good deeds can be fun.’ ‘Things pass, but Love abides’ and ‘all will turn out well, despite appearances.’
Happy Holidays!

Tsundoku: The practice of buying more books than you can read

 

Doku: reading

Tsun: to pile up

Tsundoku: the piling up of reading things

I know people who have wardrobes full of beautiful clothes, kitchens stocked with polished cookware, living rooms decked out in elegant, matching furniture and artwork. In their tidy closets they have racks lined with rows of exquisite shoes, just the right ones for every occasion. As much as I might like to have these things, that’s not what’s in my home. Nope. In my home I have bookshelves groaning under stacks of books. More books than I’ll ever get around to reading. Dusty books.  New books. Old books. Children’s books. Novels. Non-fiction. Memoir. Classics. Textbooks.

Many of these books are library books.  They will have to be returned before they’re read even though I renew them as often as I’m allowed. The problem is,  as well as being a master of tsundoku, I’m also a voracious reader of book reviews. I keep a journal of titles that I MUST someday read, so when I see them at  bookstores or at the library I ‘acquire’ them and add them to the stacks.

And I do read – as much as I can. But there is never going to be enough time to read all the books I’ve accumulated.

There are worse things to practice than tsundoku. I could be hoarding  a collection of troll dolls or dead house plants. But I may have found a solution for my unruly collection: the Little Free Library.

Little Free Library.

Slowly I’ve been weeding through the stacks of books that I own and finding ones that I feel I can part with. I keep a bag of them in my car and whenever I pass a Little Free Library I drop a few off. (The hard part is resisting the urge to also bring a few more home.) Maybe someday I’ll  have  tidy, book free coffee and bedside tables  and organized, uncluttered shelves. And nice shoes.

And then again, maybe not.

“Even when reading is impossible, the presence of books acquired produces such an ecstasy that the buying of more books than one can read is nothing less than the soul reaching towards infinity.” A. Edward Newton, author, publisher, and collector of 10,000 books.

Image credit :http://mocomi.com/tsundoku/

Little Free Library

“Take a book, share a book.”

I remember the day I stumbled across this Little Free Library. It was the first one I’d ever seen. It stands in a yard a few neighbourhoods away from my own, but one that I can easily walk to. I thought it was absolutely charming although, perhaps, poorly named. (Aren’t all libraries free?) Anyway, I immediately began ‘taking and sharing’. Often I leave copies of my own titles.

I learned this week that Todd Bol – founder of Little Free Library – has passed away. He started the trend in 2009 with the first Little Free Library in his own front yard. Before his death  last week there were 75,000 Little Free Libraries worldwide. I expect this number is modest as people are creating their own designs, with wonderful results.

Before his death, Bol said, “If I may be so bold, I’m the most successful person I know because I stimulate 54 million books to be read and neighbours to talk to each other. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the very definition of success.”

I absolutely agree!

 

 

A Sunset Industry?

I read 3 opinions this week (re the controvercial oil pipelines in BC) that really spoke to me.

1. “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” (Upton Sinclair)

2. “Buying this pipeline is like buying a horse and buggy company at the advent of the car.” (Andrew Weaver)

3. “Why is our government subsidizing a sunset industry rather than doubling down on cleaner renewables. Renewable energy and clean technology create more jobs per dollar than pipelines.” (David Suzuki Foundation)

I guess it’s easy to see which side of the fence I sit on, though I know the issue is huge and complicated.

 

We Shape The World

We shape the world –
By what we consume.
By what we give.
By the questions we ask.
By what we stand for.
By what we won’t.

We shape the world –
By taking the time to make
Thoughtful decisions.
Supporting artists and makers
Because we want a world
That supports artists and makers.

We shape the world –
By consuming less.
By buying it only if we love it.
And using it for years to come.
By mending it when it’s broken, and
Someday passing it along to become
Someone else’s beloved treasure.

(As seen on a storefront in Deep Cove, BC)

One step forward, two steps back – the fight against single-use plastic

It’s great to see a growing awareness  around single-use plastic and its negative impact on the planet.  Restaurants and coffee shops have stopped automatically putting  plastic straws in drinks. Many shoppers now carry their own reusable shopping bags. These efforts will help reduce the 20 million tons of plastic litter entering the oceans each year.

Unfortunately, just as we’re becoming wise to straws and grocery bags, in large grocery stores it’s now  almost impossible to buy produce (and may other food items, like cookies, or nuts) without the plastic clam shell container. All that plastic that never goes away.  We may throw it in our blue bins, but where does it go from there? Could there possibly be a market for all that plastic? (And do we really need our cucumbers wrapped in plastic?) 

As a consumer I try to limit my purchase of items that are packaged in single-use plastic containers, but it’s a challenge. Farmer’s markets are mostly seasonal, but they’re  a good place to start, as are local produce stores.

Many environmentally responsible restaurants offer take-out food in compostable/paper containers, rather than plastic or styrofoam.  Would these not work for other food items? I understand that they’re not clear, you can’t see what you’re purchasing. But how did we purchase all those food items before the clam shell container? Maybe that’s the ‘two steps back’ that we need to be taking.

 

 

Moving beyond the gender binary

 

Thai washroom sign

I’ve just finished reading an amazing novel by Laurie Frankel, This Is How It Always Is. It’s a wonderful story on many levels but one small detail really fascinated me. Towards the end of the story two of the characters travel to Thailand and discover people called kathoey. This translates to ladyboy (or what Westerners might call transgender). Kathoey are accepted in Thai culture because their Buddhist beliefs acknowledge that there are more than two sexes. As well, the Thai buddhists believe that there’s no escaping the consequences of the soul coming back in different bodies. Everyone has been kathoey in a previous life and will be again.

Reading about the kathoey reminded me of a similar concept in the traditional Native American culture where people who don’t conform  to the  gender they were assigned at birth are called two-spirit. Since two-spirits exhibit both male and female characteristics, they are believed to have the  ability to see the world through both a male and female perspective. They are considered incredibly wise, and, traditionally, may have become spiritual leaders or healers.

This is the same for the mahu in ancient Hawaii. Mahu is the name of a third-gendered person, that is, not male or female but both or neither. Before white explorers and missionaries  brought homophobic views to Hawaii they were considered special and assumed respected and traditional roles within the communities.

Our Western culture’s traditionally rigid gender binary system – which is fixed between two poles, male or female – is shifting as we become better informed and open-minded, but we can still learn a lot from Thai, Ancient Hawaiian and  Native American traditions.