Writing

I’ve been working on a set of linked short stories on and off for the last three years and now I’m trying to figure out what to do with them. There are four of them, for a grand total of 10,000 words; it’s hardly a book waiting to be published.

I had to stop looking at these stories for a while but I think I’m ready to get back to them. I read them all from start to finish and I didn’t hate them and I only cringed a few times. A promising new start.

It was time to send them out to my writing group. Have I mentioned I love my writing group? It’s so motivating to have a deadline and people who I know will be nice and kind and hold my hand as I work my way through this process. Sometimes we’re all a bit too nice because it’s easier to nod and smile and say I loved it than to to give something more valuable. It’s also really really hard to come up with honest and constructive criticism, but it’s something I think we’re all getting better at.

One of the most interesting comments that I got back when I shared these stories was to consider changing the order of things. Instead of keeping them as short stories, I could blend them together and turn them into a short novel or novella. I would need to expand and add on a lot, but it might be something I could do. Could I?

Then what?

Publish? Self publish? Let it sit on my computer for eternity?

I’m reading up on self publishing a wee bit, thinking about hiring a professional editor one day, and will keep plugging away with the ongoing support of my writing group.

Happy place

Happy place

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Who doesn’t love a good coincidence?

In early February our family was lucky enough to spend a week in Florida being retiree-wannabees at my Dad’s snowbird home. I was flipping through Facebook while I was there and saw my friend Tash had posted this picture:

tash

Well that looks familiar. This is the pool I was at earlier the same day:

pool

So either they build all the pools and their surrounding buildings the same in Florida gated communities, or we were in the same place. Also? She is a better photographer than I am.

Sure enough, same place. Her parents have a condo in the same community as my Dad, and her aunt lives a few doors down from him. I had even met her aunt a few nights earlier on a girls night out.

Tash and I hadn’t seen each other in a few years, but we were able to catch up in between zumba and yoga one morning. We may have been chastised by the instructor for being too chatty.

Now let’s see if we can meet up in our same hometown sometime before next winter?

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Walk Commute

I’m lucky that I can walk to work. It saves on money of course, plus I get 225 minutes of exercise built into my week without having to lift myself off the couch at the end of the day when all I want to do is watch the Good Wife on Netflix with a glass of wine. My life is one big parteeeeee.

I listen to the radio as I walk, but I’m a daydreamer and often zone out and realize I haven’t heard a word of the story I’ve been listening to.

If I don’t want serious, I listen to music but I only do this on the way home for some reason.

One day I worked on the opening line to a short story in my head while I walked. Opening lines are very important. So this:

Leslie thumbed through the large and colourful book in the bookstore. Practical Guide to Home Landscaping.

Became this:

The yellow rose bush on the bookcover caught Leslie’s eye – Practical Guide to Home Landscaping.

I think it still needs work.

I pass two grocery stores during my walk, and when I don’t have a lunch packed I try to pick up a salad or veggies so that I don’t have to eat cafeteria food. It is the new year after all.

Occasionally I slip on ice.

Some days I run into a neighbour and stop for a chat, though lately it has been much too cold for this. And unless they have their dog with them I don’t recognize them anyway since everyone is all covered with hats and scarves.

I always people watch.

I wonder if I’m losing weight or toning my butt muscles while I walk.

On super cold days sometimes neighbours offer me rides, but I try to only accept when it’s very cold or snowy or rainy or windy out. Or if I’m tired and hungry. It’s a slippery slope.

I try to think up ideas for blog posts. Usually I forget any ideas by the time I get to my destination.

I sometimes even think about work.

I worry about what my hat or precipitation or humidity are doing to my hair.

I see some weird things:

photo

Gazillions of ants

Two dead mice on the sidewalk (no photo – you’re welcome)

photo2

A lit Christmas tree in a construction zone

And a bird dive-bombing my head, though technically I never saw the bird attacker.

I watch for cars at intersections. It would be good if some of you could be a little less rage-y.

On my way home I think about food. The salad or veggies have long disappeared from my belly and it’s time to make dinner without eating all the things as soon as I walk through the door.

The best part is that I have had time to decompress after work and before I get home to start the second half of my day. It’s a hamster wheel, for sure.

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Ten Books

Who doesn’t love a book meme?!

This one was floating around Facebook for a while, and it recently migrated over to the blogosphere where I found it at Bibliomama. What are ten books that have stayed with you? Here are my ten, in no particular order. It was hard enough to narrow down my choices to ten, so my brain would definitely freeze if I had to rank them too. I also had to Google some of the plotlines because I forget everything I read soon after I’ve finished. It makes talking about one of my favourite hobbies awkward at times.

It’s a good thing I embrace the awkward.

Away by Jane Urquhart

This book was a Christmas present from my Mom (hi Mom!) a long time ago and it led to my collecting many many volumes of Canadian writers on my bookshelves. The book takes place in Ireland starting in the 1840s, and then ends in Canada. The author wrote this about how the idea for the book came about:

Midway through a casual conversation in a pub in Ballycastle, while I waited for the ferry that would take me to the mysterious Rathlin Island just offshore, an old man told me that a person could be stolen by “those from the other world,” and that if this were to take place, a seemingly exact replica would be left in the stolen one’s place. Except, he explained, there would be something distant and different about the one left behind, something indefinable, but perceivable nonetheless, and that this person would then be said to be “away.”

This is a magical and poetic book.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

When you don’t know what to read, turn to Twitter. Bel Canto was recommended to me by @janatude and is a fictional account of the Lima Crisis where in 1996 the Japanese embassy was taken over. The book explores the relationships between the hostages and hostage-takers in the house over a few months. This book is simply amazing.

Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada

My favourite of all my book club books, and also based on a true story, it tells the story of Otto and Elise Hampel in Berlin during WWII who wrote anonymous postcards telling people to resist Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. They left these postcards all around for people to find. Small but very dangerous acts of resistance that had big consequences. Everyone I have recommended this book to has loved it. The writing is just so simply elegant.

The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence

The night that we were given this book as assigned reading in grade 11 English class, I stayed up until 3am reading it.  I was finished it before the next English class when we were given class time to read. I was completely shocked – SHOCKED – when my classmates complained about it being boring. I love love love this book and would probably call it my favourite of all time if pressed.

The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields

I could have jointly listed Carol Shields’s other books Larry’s Party and Unless here too. I think what I love most about Carol Shields’s writing is that she turns the lives of ordinary characters into compelling stories that you can’t put down. Definitely one of my favourite authors.

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

I need to read this one again because I have forgotten so much of it. So, from Wikipedia: A Fine Balance is the second novel by Rohinton Mistry. Set in Mumbai between 1975 and 1984 during the turmoil of The Emergency, a period of expanded government power and crackdowns on civil liberties, the book concerns four characters from varied backgrounds…who come together and develop a bond.

The characters and story telling in this book are still with me, even if the plot has faded in my mind.

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

I’ve read this book at least five times in my life, the first time being when I was ten. You read books on different levels at different ages, and so when I first read it, I could only see Anne’s perspective. The unfairness and the annoyances that were her life in hiding. The last time I read it was just a few years ago, and I deeply identified with what must have been the fears of Anne’s parents, about the uncertainties and hopelessness they must have felt and how they had to try to carry on no matter what. 

Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald

 I do seem to read a lot of tales of family tragedy. This one may just be the tragediest of them all.

Room by Emma Donoghue

I can’t possibly describe the plot for this one so from the author’s website (http://emmadonoghue.com/books/novels/room-the-novel.html  )

Room (London: Picador; Toronto: HarperCollins Canada; New York: Little Brown, 2010), my Man-Booker-shortlisted seventh novel, is the story of a five-year-old called Jack, who lives in a single room with his Ma and has never been outside. When he turns five, he starts to ask questions, and his mother reveals to him that there is a world beyond the walls. Told entirely in Jack’s voice, Room is no horror story or tearjerker, but a celebration of resilience and the love between parent and child.

I would have thought writing an entire novel from the point of view of a five-year-old would have been impossible to get right. This book nails it. The filter of innocence is of the horrors of the story is amazing.

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I read this one in the third grade and it was the first book I remember not being able to put down. This would have been the book that flipped the switch to make me a lifelong reader.

This post was hard to write. It’s not easy to explain why you love a book or to describe what it’s about without resorting to blurb speak. I’d love to hear your list of books that stayed with you too.

photo (39)

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It’s still fall

We’re easy to recognize. Our hats are pulled down; our scarves are pulled up. Our eyes are slightly teary and there is frost on our eyelashes, hats, and any hair that’s poking out from under our winter gear.

We’re wearing some sort of snow pant and ridiculously sensible footwear that crunches loudly over the frozen sidewalks.

We recognize one another, and there is usually a knowing look and a smile, but you can only tell there’s a smile from the crinkling around the eyes. Yes, we think we are a little bit better than everyone else.

We are walk commuters in Ottawa.

winter

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Oh, hi

Oh hi, remember me? I used to blog here sometimes.

When I stop doing something for a while, it’s really hard to start again. Running and blogging are both good examples of this. When I haven’t been running, putting on my shoes and heading out the door or onto the treadmill feels like an insurmountable obstacle. When I haven’t blogged for a while, I feel like I have nothing to say anymore.

I don’t run much in the summer. I don’t like running in the heat, but I feel silly running on a treadmill when it’s nice outside, so I just end up not running. It doesn’t make any sense, but that’s what happens. Now that the weather is frosty, sidewalks are icy, and we’ve had about 15 cm of new snow overnight, I feel perfectly justified in heading down to my basement and running indoors. I’m back in the habit again.

I’m thinking of trying something new this year. I like the short hard runs better than the long slow slogs that I’ve had to push myself through when training for the 10K or the half marathon, and so I’m thinking of running the 5K for Ottawa Race Weekend in May, but setting an aggressive time goal to make it that much more fun (ha!).

I usually run to music, but my running playlist is feeling really tired so I could use some new tunes if you have any good ones to recommend. As always, I’ll caution that if you suggest Lady Gaga you haven’t been paying attention around here.

Like running, when I haven’t blogged for a while, it’s really hard to write here again. I’m not sure that I have the words or the energy to keep this blog updated very often anymore, but maybe I can get into this habit again.

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Embarrassed

I was in the drug store recently buying a few things. I asked for help because I couldn’t find my favourite tinted moisturizer. (It had been discontinued – how does that happen??) Anyhow, the sales person helped me pick out something else to try and she was nice and friendly and it was a good shopping experience for someone who hates to shop. She took my sale at the cash in the makeup area, and offered me some free samples of products. I took a few and popped the sachets into my purse, forgetting about them as soon as I was out the door.

A few days later I was buying a coffee in the cafeteria at work. I pulled my wallet out of my purse, and out fell my little forgotten sachets onto the floor in front of me.

drug store 1

Um, these look like something other than packages of face cream.

No, I didn’t stop to take a photo. This was recreated at home. My kids think I’m crazy.

It turns out that it’s really awkward picking up what look like condoms off the floor of your workplace. I did my best to look nonchalant but I’m quite certain I failed spectacularly.

Now of course there is absolutely nothing wrong with carrying condoms around in your purse. Spilling them all over the workplace just isn’t the image I’m going for right now.

drug store 2

See, it really is face cream.

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