Why is everyone scrambling to get their hands on the fall issue of Readers Digest’s Our Canada magazine?

our canada_cover copy…Because a story I wrote is featured in the October/November 2015 issue!

The magazine—produced by the esteemed Reader’s Digest—captures the true essence of Canadian life through its compilation of interesting stories and beautiful photos contributed by Canadians from coast to coast.

You’ll find Our Canada magazine at most magazine newsstands, as well as at community libraries.

My story, Thanks for the Memories, is featured on page 59 of the October/November issue. For those of you outside of Canada, I’ve reprinted the story below.our canada_story copy

Thanks for the Memories

Today is the day I say farewell to an old girl who has been a part of my life for a long time. She has always been dependable, ready and willing to go anywhere, anytime. She expects nothing more from me than the sustenance she needs to keep her alive—the oil that keeps her old parts moving and the fuel that stokes her get-up-and-go.

Although she’s not much to look at, my old car has been a faithful companion for many years. A tug of war pulls at my heart, although I know the time to part with her has arrived. Indeed, the decision has been a long time coming. Still, my hand hovers over the phone. It feels too easy. A quick call and she’ll be gone. The lump in my throat swells as I think of the crushing end that awaits her.

So many journeys we’ve taken together. Sunday drives north of the city, cruising along ribbons of winding dirt roads, oldies playing loudly enough to make me dance in my seat. No air conditioning—instead, her windows rolled all the way down to allow the warm country air to flow in: farmland, freshly mowed grass, garden blooms and road dust—smells of summer.

She also delivered me safely through the most vicious of winter storms. Her wipers slicing through sheets of rain and sleet and snow; her heater warming away the chill as I inched along past bus stops crowded with commuters huddled and bent against nature’s wrath.

She was a companion on countless shopping trips, her trunk packed with Christmas parcels and bags, birthday surprises, wedding and shower gifts. A symbol of my freedom, taking me wherever and whenever I wanted to go.

The old girl embraced us with her seatbelts during milestone outings with my daughter, Jennifer…to purchase her first pair of school shoes; get her first haircut; enjoy her first baseball game; take part in her first dance recital; and attend her graduation ceremony. Enabling pivotal conversations to evolve thanks to the intimacy of her interior, she was a place where my daughter could crack open her aloof, adolescent shell to spill confidences normally kept secret.

My husband, Paul, and I sharing heartfelt conversations during our Sunday afternoon drives—lazy, rambling chats all too rare in our busy lives.

The makeshift refuge she offered for brief escapes…so many workday lunch hours spent curled up on her back seat with a good book, a cup of coffee and a fluffy pillow kept tucked away in her trunk. She served as a hideout, a familiar sanctuary, perfect for stealing away to be alone with my thoughts. She was a safe haven locking out the world, where I could rest my head against her steering wheel to have a good cry.

Really, she is so much more than just an old car.

It’s late afternoon when the tow-truck driver arrives. He hands me a sheaf of paperwork. I chew my bottom lip against the threat of tears, and sign. He looks tired and bored as he hooks her onto a heavy-duty chain and cranks up her front end. To him, this is just another job to complete before his workday ends. Gently, I touch her corroding paint. I turn away briefly as the driver barks a hurried goodbye and disappears into the cab of his truck.

As she fades away in the distance, I thank her for the memories—and then I move on.

A salute to writers of the past, present and future

writers1Let us imagine for a moment that we live in a world where writers do not exist. We express our thoughts verbally or by gesticulating, but no words are recorded for posterity.

There are storytellers who entertain us with impromptu tales. Mimes are the new Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Daily local news is dispatched by word of mouth but becomes diluted and distorted, as usually happens when the masses pass information verbally. And telephone companies are rolling in more dough than ever!

booksBut there are no writers. Imagine that.

There would be no books. No Lewis Carroll, Hans Christian Andersen, Beatrix Potter, or C.S. Lewis to fuel our imaginations. No word pictures from the past painted by Emily Dickinson or Walt Whitman or Tennyson or Wordsworth. No Edgar Allen Poe or Bram Stoker or Mary Shelley to chill our spines. No Tolkien, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jules Verne or Mark Twain to sweep us away on amazing adventures. No Louisa May Alcott, Harper Lee or E.B. White to bring us to tears and laughter. No runaway romances, funny anecdotes, or science fiction to entertain us. I wouldn’t have enough space to list all the authors from yesteryear and present day whose thoughts and ideas would never have connected with ours.

No biographies or memoirs to give us a glimpse into the fascinating lives others have led. No history books to take us on great journeys back in time. No geography books to transport us to places we’ll never be able to see on our own. No science books to expose us to worlds we can’t even begin to imagine. No special-interest books to inspire us to learn new activities.

magazinesNo magazines with articles that entertain and teach us. No Good Housekeeping or Reader’s Digest or Popular Mechanics or Psychology Today. No National Geographic or Sports Illustrated or Prevention. No People Magazine or Fortune. No newspapers to keep us informed about the world around us. No comic books filled with scenarios featuring larger-than-life heroes.

No greeting cards or letters. No advertising to help us make choices.

No song lyrics on record. No theatre, television or movie scripts.dictionary comic card

No manuals to instruct us. No dictionaries or encyclopedias or famous quotations.

Consider the impact that writers throughout the ages have had on our lives. Writers make work of seeking out and compiling information about the things that we wonder about but don’t have the time or resources to seek out on our own. Writers use their skills to transform rough ideas into vivid pictures that will teach, entertain and inspire. Writers keep the era that they live in alive in the minds of future generations.writers2

Writers live with constant rejection—it’s the nature of the work. But today, I’d like to take a moment to praise and raise a toast to writers everywhere—those from the beginning of time, those today, and those of the future.

Bottoms up!

When the baby bird spreads her wings for college

My girl has long finished her stints at both university and college, and has worked as an advertising copywriter at an agency for several years now. But I will never forget that turning point in our lives—her transition from my high school baby girl to my college big girl.

Just like that, I was no longer required to meet with her teachers, attend functions at her school, be on top of the day-to-day minutiae of her life. All of it came to an abrupt standstill on the late August afternoon that we dropped her and all her worldly possessions off at the two-hours-away campus dorm where she would live for the next few years.

I was still waving goodbye through the back window of the car as she dwindled to nothing more than a wide grin in the distance. I’d been anticipating my first taste of that glorious newfound freedom that’s part and parcel with being an empty nester, so it came as a huge surprise to find myself bursting into tears the moment my girl was completely out of sight. Mind you, my grief didn’t last long, but I know now that those tears were my final acknowledgement of our rite of passage from roots to wings.

With that said, here’s a glimpse of the college experience through a mom’s eyes.

college_courtesy of gratisography.comMy College Girl

Two years have passed quicker than a sigh since my baby girl left home to embrace campus life. The fact that she found it so effortless to sever what was left of the umbilical cord between us speaks volumes about my child-rearing skills. As they say, “It’s your job to give them roots and wings.” I know I’ve accomplished that task. The real hardship has been with growing wings of my own.

girl_courtesy of images.unsplash.com:by Julia CaesarShe doesn’t call as often as I’d like her to, caught up as she is in her exciting whirlwind of a life, so when the phone rings and I hear her voice chirping from the answering machine, I toss aside my newspaper, leap from my wing chair and scramble to reach the phone before she hangs up.

I greet her with laughter in my voice. It always happens like this: a cascade of questions flood my mind, surging dangerously like a tsunami toward my lips. I struggle to keep the dam barricaded. If I slip and my questions break free, I know she will fly quickly above the tide and recede with it back to her perch on the other side of the ocean that separates us.

Instead, I try my best to spin interesting stories about an uninteresting week. I hope this will be enough to keep her on my side of the ocean for now. In return, she spins stories of her own, feeding me safe snippets of a life that, I have no doubt, is far more exciting than I’d ever care to know.

We laugh together as she relates a lecture hall incident. Since I’ve been a pretty cool cat so far—no gifts of unsolicited advice to ruffle any feathers—the olive branch she extends is my reward. She tells me about a boy. A boy with soft, brown eyes and a talent for clever banter. He makes her laugh.1280px-Pāhoehoe_lava_meets_Pacific

Oh my. How the dam ruptures!

I need to know: his name…first and last…the color of his hair…his career aspirations…his family pedigree. Soft, brown eyes and a great sense of humor is simply not enough to keep the tsunami in check.

I can almost hear the squeak of her eyes as they roll in their sockets. I’ve blown it. There is nothing more to tell. He’s just a boy.

courtesy of Andrew SchmidtThe wave crashes onward. What about your test? Essay grades? You missed a class? Why? Walking alone at night? Are you mad? You spent how much this week? You’re not coming home till when?

She stops my barrage with a sudden urgency to prepare for her next class. Her tone is abrupt and final. The swell settles immediately into a drip, drip, drip of dismal regrets.bridge_courtesy of images.unsplash.com:by Modestas Urbonas

The phone lines bulge and ripple with hurried exchanges of I Miss You. I Love You.

We disconnect and fly back to our separate shorelines.

Pterodroma_cervicalis_-_SE_TasmaniaBaby bird has mastered the art of flight, but Mama bird still has a lot to learn.

 

 

 

Photo acknowledgements:
1. Courtesy of http://www.gratisography.com
2. Water baby, courtesy of http://www.morguefile.com
3. Courtesy of images.unsplash.com/by Julia Caesar
4. Pāhoehoe lava meets Pacific, courtesty of https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Featured_pictures/Natural_phenomena
5. Wave, courtesy of Andrew Schmidt
6. Bridge, courtesy of images.unsplash.com/by Modestas Urbonas
7. “Pterodroma cervicalis, SE Tasmania” by JJ Harrison (jjharrison89@facebook.com) – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons-https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pterodroma_cervicalis_-_SE_Tasmania.jpg#/media/File:Pterodroma_cervicalis_-_SE_Tasmania.jpg
8. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Featured_pictures/Natural_phenomena Pāhoehoe_lava_meets_Pacific

There’s nothing like a good power outage to bring the old times back

twin-electric-power-linesIt was the summer of 2003, hotter than ten hells, and daily life in the GTA was whirring along in its usual frenzied state. It was midday, midweek when air conditioning overload caused a massive power outage unlike anything experienced in recent history.

Despite the lack of electricity, the air crackled with the panic of millions who no longer knew what to do with themselves in the event that life as we know it grinds to a halt and sends us spiraling backward to the golden days.

Of course, I just had to write about it.

Power Lost, Humanity Found:
The Blackout Of 2003

three-candle-flames-1431851138OtnThe entire city panicked
When the power petered out,
Everyone, that is, but I,
For I hadn’t any doubt

That this massive power mishap
Would be sure to pave the way
For my boss to shut the office down
Much earlier today.

No working traffic lights!
Drivers in despair!
Gridlock to the nth degree,
Brains impotent with fear.

traffic jamIt took two extra hours
To meander my way home
As I passed distracted drivers
Wailing into their cell phones.

Still—‘twas a lovely afternoon
And my joy was here to stay,
Since no power meant no need to cook
Or wash a load this day!

With sandwiches for dinner
And some still-cold pints of beer,
I joined my spouse and kids outside
On my reclining chair.

remoteThe luscious scent of grilling meat
Spiced the outdoor air,
Neighbors chatted over fences,
Bursts of laughter here and there.

No power meant no computers,
Radios, movies or TV,
Bewildered kids awakened
From their hazy techno sleep.

For the first time in a long time
All ages played outdoors,
Touch football, tag, hide and seek,
Just like the days of yore.

Armed with flashlights in the streetskids-playing-47
As darkness inked the skies,
The children laughed and whirled about
Like happy fireflies.

And once indoors, the blackness ebbed
To amber candlelight,
Board games were played by lantern till
‘twas time to say goodnight.

I realized as I went to bed
How tension-free I was,
My mind at peace, my eyes at rest
So blatantly because

our gangFor a day, we’d traveled back in time
To a simple life so rare,
And survived without the crutches
We’d been leaning on for years.

At first “all power lost” had
Simply meant a work vacation.
But as the lazy hours passed,
Behold! A revelation:

Our collective fixed reliance
On technology as a nation,
Has made us captive lambs
In our humbled desperation.

Progression or regression?
We’ve surrendered to the machine
And forsaken the joys of simple life,
The way things used to be.

We can never go back, too late for that,
But perhaps again someday,
We can blow the power lines again—
Return to yesterday.
courtesy of Joshua Earle of unsplash.com

Every life has a story. What’s yours?

An acquaintance of mine recently lost her mother. Her father had passed away ten years before. None of her parents’ friends were still living, nor were any elder relatives on either side of the family. When she lost her mother, she also lost her last chance to document the stories from her family’s past that hadn’t yet been told. She used to feel that she had all the time in the world. Now she regrets that she didn’t make more of an effort to interview her parents and relatives so she could have her parents’ memories on record for future generations to enjoy.

journal writingTake a look at today’s hottest-selling books and you’ll realize that a large number of them are memoirs. No wonder—we human beings are fascinated with lives lived by other human beings. We’ve become a reality-obsessed society with an insatiable appetite for connection through learning about the tribulations and triumphs of others: sad times, happy times, crazy times. We are particularly intrigued if we can relate any of it to our own personal life experiences.

We each live a life as unique as our fingerprints. You may believe that you’ve led a relatively uneventful life but if you take a look back at the many things you’ve experienced, it’s a sure bet that a certain percentage of the population would find some if it interesting and perhaps even meaningful. You have acres of memories warehoused inside your brain that your children—and their children—would someday enjoy reading about.

We all have stories. It’s time to tell yours.

Think about all the years that have passed since the day you were born. A lot has happened since you entered this world. Your years are a kaleidoscope of experiences, more than you are even capable of remembering. Think about all the people you’ve known, the places you’ve been, the lessons you’ve learned, the times you’ve laughed or cried or been scared, the hopes and the dreams you’ve had, the goals you’ve achieved. Your life is made up of all this and so much more; the life you’ve lived so far deserves a page of its own in your family’s history.

You don’t have to be a professional writer to create a journal of your life. If you can type at a keyboard or write longhand on paper, you are capable of documenting short stories about your life that you can eventually share with your loved ones, or simply document them for your own personal enjoyment.

You are unique; there is not another person on earth quite like you. No other human being shares the same story as yours. Even identical twins don’t share identical stories. Memories fade and that’s why it’s so important to preserve your life stories for generations to follow.

How do I begin?

My own preference is to keep a journal because writing in longhand gives me a feeling of going back in time, when we wrote our school assignments in blue-lined notebooks. Pick up an inexpensive hardcover journal at any discount store (hardcover, because it feels more like a real book) and tuck it away in a handy place. Choose the same time every week—or every day if time allows—to devote your attention to recording memories from your past. You can set a specific length of time that you’ll write, or you can simply write until you feel like stopping. Whether you write a couple of sentences, a paragraph, or several pages, turning it into a habit is key.

If you’re more comfortable writing at a keyboard, set up a journal file on your computer and add to it regularly. Again, training yourself to write on a regular basis is essential to turning it into routine behaviour.

Where do I begin?

There are several ways to kick-start the process.

There is no rule that says you have to write in any particular order. You can start with your earliest memories, or you can start writing about something that happened yesterday. As you get into the groove of journaling regularly, you’ll find that new memories will pop into your mind without much prompting.

If you need a push, try flipping through old photo albums. Think back about the events that took place in your life when specific pictures were taken. What emotions were you feeling at that time? Let your memories guide your story.

Think about a particular year and try to remember events that took place during that year. Or think back about single important world events and where you were at that time in your life. Ask just about anybody what they were doing when 9/11 happened and they’ll remember right away.

While you write, try to use descriptive words that will help the reader visualize the scene you’re describing. For example, you’re writing about a family picnic at the beach. Along with the events that took place, are there certain smells that you remember? Sounds? Emotions? A bit of dialogue will also add interest to your story. Did your dad say something funny that day? Did your mom issue one of her famous “warnings” to one of your siblings?

And don’t waste time worrying about your spelling and grammar skills; you can go back and fix up the mechanics of your story once you’ve got it all down. Aim to write in the same voice that you would use if you were talking to an old friend.

Ready to start writing your memoir?

Here are some prompts to get you started.

  1. When and where were you born?
  2. Why did your parents choose your name?
  3. Have your parents told you any stories about yourself as a child?
  4. What is your favourite family recipe?
  5. Did you have a childhood pet? If so, what was it and what did you call it?
  6. What was your favourite childhood toy? Why?
  7. Did you have a childhood hero?
  8. What school subject did you dislike? Like?
  9. Did/does your family have any special traditions?
  10. Is there a lesson that stands out most clearly when you reflect on a particular incident from your childhood?
  11. Is there a world event that had an impact on you while you were growing up?
  12. What fads do you remember from your youth?
  13. What did you want to be when you grew up?
  14. What was your very first job? How much were you paid?
  15. When did you realize that you were a grown up?
  16. You most memorable vacation?
  17. This song immediately takes you back in time…
  18. Talk about your hobby.
  19. How is the world different today from how you saw it as a child?
  20. Of all the lessons you learned from your parents, which was the most valuable?
  21. If you could do one thing differently in your life, what would it be?
  22. What are you most grateful for?
  23. What is your greatest accomplishment so far?
  24. What would you like to be remembered for?
  25. Have you wished for something that came true?

Happy journaling!

I’ve whipped up a little time waster for lady travellers…It’s called fifty shades of greyport

Need a little something to stifle the boredom of sitting around at the airport while you wait and wait and wait to board your flight?

You’re welcome. 🙂

oiW6wsCA Brief Encounter

The airport. I sit hunched on a stiff plastic bench, chin on fist, wedged between strangers, listening for the boarding announcement.

Swinging one crossed leg, I peer at the sea of faces. All shapes, all sizes. Some snoring, some animated, some as bored as I. Ready to rise and stretch my limbs when…

Whoa, Nellie! Jackpot bells a-clanging! Lights a-flashing!
The faces and bodies around me dissolve faster than watercolours on a freshly painted canvas caught in the rain.

All but one.

He lounges against a vacant ticket counter, one thumb hooked through a belt loop on his well-worn blue jeans, the subtle outline of taut thigh muscles apparent beneath. Other thumb hooked at the collar of a battered brown leather aviator jacket slung loosely over one broad shoulder.

His glance catches mine and he holds my gaze as he pushes languidly away from the ticket booth. He ambles toward me like a cat stalking its prey.

I try to swallow, to breathe. The earth squeaks to a stop in mid spin as he halts before me. His stance is insolent and like steel drawn to magnet, I rise slowly until we are eye to eye.

I feel his warm breath on my cheek. No words are exchanged as he lifts a fingertip to trace the barest path along my jaw and over my lips, then brushes gently at a stray curl of hair fallen over one of my eyes. I am disappearing, disappearing into dark-fringed indigo depths.

He cups my face in his large, smooth hands and draws my lips ever so slowly toward his.

My eyelids are heavy, drowsy, and my breath is shallow as he draws me closer, closer still…until…

“Honey! C’mon! They’ve called our seat numbers!”

Poof. Adonis is gone. In his place stands my husband, squinting at me over a mound of golf clubs and carry-on luggage.

“Daydreaming again, huh? What’s that mind of yours spinning now?”

“That’s my secret.” I grin and wink at the lady beside me but she doesn’t notice.

She is lost in a daydream of her own.
woman2

Another year, another promise to self

It’s 2015. Already.

It seems like only yesterday, humankind scurried to prepare for the ominous approach of December 31, 1999…panic loomed as computers worldwide were expected to self-destruct at the stroke of midnight—the launch of a new millennium—sending civilization spiraling backward to such cobwebbed practices as having to write longhand with a pen (which sure beats having to chisel out your novel in stone like our poor cave-bro writing kin had to).

Well, whaddayaknow? 2000 came. And then it went. Our beloved computers had the last laugh as we wiped the sweat from our brows. Now here we are 15 years later, still happily tapping away at our keyboards and storing our stuff on TB instead of GB. (MB? What’s that?)

Where has the time gone? And what have I accomplished? Um…

Rather than sitting here, beating myself over the head because I’ve allowed another decade-and-a-half to slip by without launching my New York Times best-selling series of novels, I’ll do something a little more constructive. I’m not going to yada yada yada about New Year’s resolutions either. We all know by now exactly what we have to do to achieve our goals.

Instead, I’d like to take this moment to agitate the creative fire that boils deep down inside the right portion of our brains like molten lava, just waiting for permission to explode from our minds and onto a publisher’s desk.

Your imagination is the lava—“what if?” is the earthquake. Just think about an everyday event in your life and shake it up with a “what if?”

…It’s the week before Christmas. Your decorations are up, your shopping is done, and you’ve just settled down on the couch with a carton of eggnog and the TV remote all to yourself for the first time in ages. Spouse is away on business; kids are at the mall (it took a whole fifty bucks to get rid of them)…(what if?)…a huge puff of soot suddenly belches from your fireplace and a big old fat man in red velour tights kerplunks onto your clean hardwood floor?

…Your cat climbs onto your lap and as you stroke its fur and chit chat to it in your high-pitched “cat-talk” voice, he turns his head and…(what if?)…he stares you in the eye and replies in the Queen’s English?

…You’re parking your car. You’ve never been that great at backing into a space. Maybe that’s why you’ve just heard a scary crunching noise. Uh oh. A cute little foreign sports car is now affixed to your back bumper. You stumble out of your car and the other driver’s door swings open at the same time…(what if?)…OMG! It’s Ryan Gosling!

Get my drift? Good. Now get writing! (Or get doing whatever your “someday I’m going to” might be.)

Do kids build snowmen (or shall we say snowpersons) anymore?

Where have all the kids gone? It’s been eons since I’ve seen a snowman on a front lawn.

snowman_finishing_touchWhen I was a kid, there was an entire clan of snowmen in my front yard from November until April. (Yes we had lonnnggg winters. That’s life when you live in Sudbury. When we stood at our living room window, we couldn’t see anything but snow banks. It was almost summer vacation before the rest of the street materialized once again.)

I recently took a drive through my neighborhood the day after a big honkin’ snowstorm and I did not see one snowman. I didn’t even see any kids. Now I know that scientists claim we’re in the midst of a whole whack of mass extinctions, but I’m pretty sure that kids aren’t one of the species on the list (though snowmen seem to be).

The modern decline in snowmen really concerns me and after that drive through the neighborhood, I was moved to write a short story on the subject.

If you have nothing better to do with your time right now, you can read it below.

 

EXTINCT

It is blessedly quiet in the car.

After spending the morning chiseling her three children away from their new 110-inch flat-screen TV, Jane has treated them to an afternoon at the Razor’s Edge Electronic Indoor Play Park. Now Jane’s head feels like it is being split in two by a lumberjack. The pinging, the zinging, the sirens, the shrieking. The place makes a casino sound like a yoga studio.

Not to mention the cost. She could have bought all the latest video games for them with the amount she’d spent on admission for four. Jane’s head spasms again at the thought. I suppose that’s the price of fun these days, she says aloud to herself, glancing in the rearview mirror at the three towheads bowed over their softly clicking PlayStations.

The windshield wipers swish away the thick flakes falling gently as Jane slowly guides the car through snow-blanketed streets. As they round a corner, she gasps at the sudden sight that meets her eyes in the front yard of one of the houses ahead. The car fishtails then rights itself as she pulls to a stop alongside the curb.

The clicking continues from the back seat as the car idles. “Well, will you look at that,” Jane says with a giddy chuckle. “I haven’t seen one of those since I was a kid.”

She wipes away the condensation left by her breath against the glass. “Boys! Take a look at that. It’s a real snowman!”

“You want me to bring up a snowman on my gamer, mom?” the middle boy asks.

“No!” Jane says, frowning. “Look out the window! Someone actually built a snowman on their lawn! Right there! See?”

The oldest boy scratches his head. “How’d they do that?”

“We used to build them when we were kids.” Jane smiles at the memory. “The first snowfall, we’d be SO excited. We could barely wait to get outside and build a snowman, or a fort, or have a snowball fight…”

“But wasn’t it too cold to go out back then?” the youngest asked.

Jane turns her head to look at them in disbelief. “Grandma bundled us up in snowsuits and sent us out right after breakfast. We were warm as ovens. We didn’t go back inside again till lunch.”

The oldest boy snorts. “Sounds like abuse to me. Being abandoned out in the freezing cold and all.”

“Look, mom,” yells the middle boy, shoving his handheld over the front seat. “I built a snowman too! I used white pixels!”

Jane groans, slumps in her seat, and regards the towering Frosty outside. It has a carrot nose, pebble eyes, and tree-branch hands. Exactly like the ones she used to build. She smiles. The memories warm her heart. She is about to turn around and tell the boys about the time she and her sister dressed their snowman up in grandpa’s expensive hat and scarf when she hears a fresh round of clicking resume in the back seat. All three heads are bowed once again.

Jane narrows her eyes, puts the car in drive and makes a U-turn.
“There’s been a change in plans, boys! We’re going to the mall right this minute to buy snowsuits. And then we are going to bring snowmen out of extinction.”

donna on snowman

 

That’s me—many many moons ago—sitting on what appears to be the carcass of a snowman.

Hell is a writer with nothing to say

Ever have one of those days when the blank page in front of you takes on the form of an evil sneer that mocks you because of all the barren thought bubbles drifting aimlessly above your head? Every writer knows exactly what I’m talking about. Many of them are nodding their empty heads right now.

We writers want to write with the same intensity that you want to eat that big mother of a chocolate fudge sundae with whipped cream, peanuts, and a cherry on top. But sometimes our brains refuse to cooperate with our fingers, which hover and twitch above the keyboard like a row of benched kids with ADD. Those ten fingers ache to dance across those keys the minute the brain releases anything remotely intelligent. But every so often the well up there is drier than the Atacama Desert.

It hurts. It makes us grind our teeth and sometimes even bang our heads against walls. Is it any wonder that most writers are just a little bit (or maybe a lot) borderline insane?

The topic reminds me of a poem I wrote during a time when the Atacama Desert was having some rainfall:

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF THIS WRITER

I slouch before my PC screen.
New Word doc there. 
So bare. So clean.

I itch to write a simple line,
But not a thought will come to mind.

I usually have too much to say.
Damn brain. It’s shooting blanks today.

My need to write’s a gnawing ache.
Grey matter, please! 
It’s time to wake.

O woe is me! I think I’ll try
To spark things with a nip of rye.

Alas! She’s back—O heav’nly brain!
Back in the saddle, I am again.

Thoughts aflame. Hair’s on fire.
I’m higher than a frequent flyer.

Of this writing life, I’ll never tire.

On that note, I would like to end this post by stating that the day I get tired of the writing life is the day that hell will freeze over!

Wait a minute…it did freeze over last winter in most of Ontario didn’t it? Remember what it looked like outside at this time last year? So pretty on branches. Not so pretty on power lines.

Here are some visual reminders.

ice on chive bloom

ice on leaves

split trees

icy tree iced branches

 

What’s all that in a writer’s head?

If you were to slice off the top of a writer’s head (and I really hope you wouldn’t) to peer inside, you might see a bustling galaxy; no stars or planets—instead, a whirling mass of words and phrases and story ideas.

Is it any wonder most writers are considered to be on the cusp of insanity?

We writers share a common bond that separates us from the rest of the world: We are madly in love with words. We love to hear them and see them and say them. We love to discover brand new ones and when we do, we roll them around and around on our tongues like a fine piece of chocolate. Most of all, we love to express them on paper or screen

I know I don’t just speak for myself when I say that a day does not pass that I don’t have a story concept brewing in my mind. It’s in my DNA, like eye colour or blood type.

So if that’s the case, why aren’t Indigo’s shelves collapsing from the weight of my thousands of best-selling novels?

Well, it’s like this…Time is my enemy (excuse!). There is never enough of it (excuse!). Not only does my job suck the bulk of it dry (excuse!), my family and other responsibilities suck up the rest (excuse!). When I retire, I’ll have lots more of it, so that’s when I plan to knuckle down (excuse!).

The fact is this: there will never be enough time. That’s just the way life is.

But I do want to write. I yearn to write. The words in my galaxy are always pounding away at the hatch in their struggle to escape. After all, I find plenty of time to read the work of other writers. I find time to pursue my other creative endeavors. I find time to watch House Hunters International, for Pete’s sake. But do I write every day? Not really. Could fear be at the root of my excuses? Fear of failing at the one thing that truly defines me? Maybe that’s it. (Excuse!)

One of the first rules all writers learn is that we have to force ourselves to sit down and write every single day; better yet, at the same time every day. It doesn’t matter if in that moment we have nothing worth writing about. All that matters is that we make the effort to sit in front of a blank page with a pen or keyboard at our fingers. Discipline = habit. Get in the daily habit of opening that hatch and releasing those pent-up words and they’ll eventually fall into place. They may even form a constellation that marks the beginning of a brilliant novel or short story or poem or article.

There is only one way to fail and that is to do nothing.

No more excuses.

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