Tag Archives: writing

O is for Opportunity, Outlines, Opening and Getting Organized

 

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Typewriter Eraser, Scale X  (collaboration with van Bruggen) by Claes Oldenburg (1999)
This is one of my favourite sculptures in Seattle. A huge typewriter eraser, it brings back memories of the bad old days when I had to retype whole pages when faced with more than two mistakes. Those erasers chewed holes in the page if you weren’t careful!

 

OK. Whether or not I get this post done will be in the hands of the blog gods… because, yeah – I’m not as organized as I probably should have been today. Both of my writing groups meet today – one in the afternoon and one in the evening and, of course, I’m scrambling to polish the opening of the assisted dying book to whip it into reasonable shape so I can get some feedback. That’s how it goes, sometimes. Often, if I’m honest. The deadline looms and suddenly I am a writing machine.

Which is not to say I haven’t been working on the book for the last… oh, I don’t know – 18 months or so. I have been steadily busy – reading, researching, making notes – organizing my thoughts, writing outlines, writing sections and then – making more notes, re-organizing everything, adding more stuff, finding better ways to express complicated ideas.

But there’s something about knowing the editor needs the manuscript on her desk on May 1 that sends terror into my heart, lights a fire under my backside, and sends words flying across the keyboard (or, fingers flying across the keyboard and words scrolling across the screen).

 

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Sometimes it’s a real challenge to follow my thoughts as they zig-zag all over the place during the revision process…  

 

It’s coming along. I will get the draft done on time. But wow – this has been a tough project to wrangle into shape. That said, when I had the opportunity to explore a topic as interesting and relevant as this one, there was no way I was going to let it slip away. In that way, I am a ‘yes’ person through and through. I’ve never been one to walk away from a challenge. That’s not to say I’ve always been successful with every project I’ve attempted: failures have taught me as much (more?) than my triumphs. But neither (successes or flops) would have been possible without trying.

 

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Edouard Manet: Young Woman With a Book (1875) It’s sooooo much more fun to relax and read a good book than it is to pull out your hair trying to write one… 

 

And that, my friends, is all I’ve got today. Here’s hoping things will be a bit better balanced tomorrow and I won’t be writing this with one eye on the clock and my heart beating just a bit too fast than is probably good for me.

 

 

H is for Home

 

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This series of travel-themed blog posts would not be complete without the obligatory out-of-the-plane-window shot…

 

I’m a good traveller. It doesn’t take long for me to feel at home wherever I find myself. One of the ways I accomplish this settling in is to unpack a few of my favourite things…

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Oh my but I ate well in Paris! This was breakfast at my Air BNB… fresh fruit, Greek yogurt and some fine dark chocolate. Ooooh la-la… Peeking out to the right is the outline for the book about medically-assisted suicide… top left corner some of the many writing/drawing/colouring instruments I took with me… maps, of course, to orient myself, a notebook and my bullet journal to make sure I stayed on track and didn’t miss out on anything essential during my stay.

I like to unpack my bags, even if I’m only staying for a few days. I never travel without taking work with me – last week I took along a book I’m reviewing for the Ormsby Review and the current work in progress (the book for teenagers about medically assisted dying).  This is one of the great advantages and simultaneous disadvantages of working for myself. Home, wherever that may be, is also my office. There is no escaping. So, while it may sound delightful to be able to go to work in pj’s, the reality is that there is no such thing as leaving anything at the office.

These days, my office fits neatly into a small backpack, so at this very moment I’m taking a break from said dying book and working on this blog entry at the local Starbucks in Canmore.

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That’s me in my plaid shirt. The tangle of wires around my neck are my wireless (I know… that’s a lot of wires for wireless) headphones. I like to listen to music (of my choice) while I’m working. On the walk (or drive) to and from the coffee shop, I like to listen to audio books. I wish I could listen to audio books or podcasts while I write, but it seems the areas of the brain engaged are too similar. Sadly, I don’t hear a word of what I’m listening to… I’ve tried. It would be so cool to be able to read and write at the same time!

At home, as in my actual more or less regular place of residence, something that makes the place feel homey is having pictures up on the wall. I’ve got these photos up on a shelf in my office (Dani had them made for my 50th birthday) and here and there in the condo

 

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Family photos… time travel, of a kind. Dani printed a series of photos of me in each decade of my life and displayed them at my surprise birthday party. She also arranged to have people from my past show up for the event. It was quite the celebration, I must say… and one I am transported back to each time I look up from my desk and see the row of photos. 

 

I also have various of Dad’s paintings up on the walls (most are reproductions… sadly, I can’t afford the real thing!). I’m particularly fond of this one – a print of a painting Dad did of me riding one of my horses on a rare snowy day near Victoria.

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Dad is the same way, actually. When he travels he also takes a bit of home (and his studio) with him.

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In Spain last fall when we walked a section of the Camino de Santiago with Dani
he drew and painted most days, setting up in a corner of the hostel common room or pulling out his sketch pad at restaurants and bars we stopped at along the way.

 

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My home office doesn’t look so different to my home away from home office… 

 

Home is where your work is? Maybe that’s how it’s going to be more and more often as we move into the world of Digital Nomads who choose to live and work wherever the wind blows them…

And, just because today is H day, here’s a link to a short animated video about the search for happiness… From one of my favourite websites, Short of the Week…

 

 

 

 

Theme Reveal: Transitions, Travel and Transformation

This will be my fourth year attempting to blog every day for the month of April as part of the AtoZ Blogging Challenge (details here, if you want to learn more about how the challenge works and who else is participating). Each year I’ve bogged down somewhere in the Q, R, S, T region of the alphabet. I could consider these past efforts to be abject failures (I mean, the rest of the alphabet is just as worthy of posts, no?). But I’m a glass half full kinda gal, so I’m choosing to look at the 50+ posts I have managed to write as part of this annual challenge to be posts that I wouldn’t have written otherwise.

This year I’m keeping my theme pretty general because, hey, there’s lots going on and I can’t quite predict which of several potentially interesting developments will become the major focus for the month ahead. I know some people pre-write a bunch of posts and then release them over the course of the month. Other people come up with a list and then write and post as the days come and go. I’m going to try and write pretty much every day and tie the topic of the post to something that’s reasonably current.

 

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Frog legs in the Latin Quarter… a lot of work (I had no idea how many little bones there are in each leg…) for very little return. And, yes, sort of tastes like chicken. 

 

Given that I’m heading for Paris on Monday, at least some posts will fit neatly into the travel category. Transitions and transformation are related, but subtly different but will allow me to write about works in progress (there are several at the moment), progress on the job search, what’s going on with my efforts to become more involved with theatre, TV, and film, setting (and reaching?) climbing goals, and maybe even a bit about my ongoing quest to be healthier (so I can live longer and have half a hope of getting a few more of the outstanding items on my To-Do list done). Art, photography, friendships, family, yoga, and a change of seasons will all likely get some love during April.

 

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Working on my crow pose… a contender for C-Crow, B-Balance, Y-Yoga, F-Frustration

 

There won’t be a list in advance – this will be a seat-of-my-pants month, but as always, it will be fun to take (and share) snapshots of what’s going on. Equally fun (and inspiring and stimulating and intriguing) will be reading what other participants will be sharing.

This year, each day I’ll also post a link to another participant who has caught my eye. Today’s pick: The More Than Words blog – theme this year TRAVEL.

Climb aboard and enjoy the ride!

Curious about topics from previous years? Here are a few links to posts from the past.

From the Climbing Year:

M is for Munter, Mountains and More…

F is for Fancy Footwork, Flights, and Fortitude…

From the Writing Year:

Ordinary Day at the Office

From the AtoZ Farming Year (when I actually made it to the letter Z)

Catching Some Z’s

From the Farming Year (a slightly different 30-Day challenge back when I had my farm)

The Pros and Cons of Farm Life

Sex With Strangers (the play by Laura Eason)

 

Scripts

At the moment I’m flipping back and forth between working on the Camino manuscript and learning my lines… OMG, there are a lot of lines! And, OMG, the Camino book is turning out to be a long one!

In a most unexpected plot twist, I seem to have been cast as the female lead in Laura Eason’s smart, timely and, yes – sexy play, Sex With Strangers being produced here in Canmore by Theatre Canmore (@theatrecanmore on Instagram). 

I can’t decide which emotion is strongest at the moment – delight, excitement, disbelief, or sheer terror!

Here’s how it all came about… Last week Pine Tree Players (a local theatre group here in Canmore) hosted an acting workshop. It was free, all day long with the amazing Valerie Campbell and included a free lunch! I had been wanting to get back into community theatre so I signed up thinking that would be a good way to ease back into acting (something I’ve always loved) and meet some local people who aren’t necessarily involved in the climbing world.

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Well, one of the other attendees was Maxine Bennett, an actor, director and generally cool person. Maxine, turns out, was in the middle of holding auditions for Sex With Strangers, a show she is directing, and suggested some of us come and try out. So, what the heck, right? I figured I was a bit on the old side for the role but that it would be good for me to go through the audition process. And, given the next set of auditions was on Monday (the workshop on Saturday) I hardly had time to chicken out.

I bought a copy of the play online and LOVED it. It’s a full-length play for two actors – one man, one woman – and the female lead is a deliciously complicated role. And, weirdly enough, Olivia in the play is a writer, struggling with issues all writers deal with at some point. Some of her lines I have actually said in my real life! The play is also about the juggling act we all deal with as we navigate the public demands of the online world and the private demands of what should be private. Though, what is ever truly private these days? Laura Eason does a terrific job of exploring the generation gap that exists between digital natives and those of us who are… not so much.

Of course, given the title, you know this is going to be a bit on the racy side… and, when I googled the sizzle reels from some of the other productions (Sex With Strangers is currently one of the most frequently produced plays in North America) they were, yeah… sizzly. Pretty much every scene in the script ends with something like this, “They kiss passionately. Clothes come off. Sex is imminent.”

Gulp.

I have never played a role where, um… intimacy is so central to the storyline, but it all makes a lot of sense in context (i.e. it’s not gratuitous…) and, of course, there’s always a certain amount of danger involved with intimacy and the vulnerability that goes along with it – particularly when one doesn’t know one’s partner as well as one perhaps should. Which gives rise to some wonderful dark twists and turns as the play goes to places one doesn’t expect in the opening scenes.

It’s been a nail-biter of a week waiting to see who would be cast.

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Max Landi will be playing Ethan in Theatre Canmore’s production of Sex With Strangers

I’m delighted to introduce you to Max Landi, who will play the role of Ethan… I can’t wait to get going with rehearsals and will post some updates here. Right now, though, the full reality of how many lines I have to learn has kicked in! A LOT!! Between the kissing, there are, like, a million lines of dialogue and, you know, I’m not working with a sharp-as-a-tack 20-something brain any more! So, there’s a challenge!

If you are local in the Bow Valley, tickets will go on sale in January, but mark your calendars if you think you might be interested in catching a show. Dates are February 2, 3, 4 in Canmore (at Artsplace) and an additional performance (or two?) in Banff the following weekend. Check the Theatre Canmore website for details or follow Theatre Canmore on Facebook. Hopefully, I won’t get too snowed under here and will remember to update the blog and let you know how things are going…

 

Do You Hygge? (reposted from nikkitate.com)

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Sometimes it feels like everything I do, read, think about is research. Case in point, this kalenderlys, which I found on Flickr (thank you, Sakena Ali!). Dani and I are putting the finishing touches on Christmas: From Solstice to Santa and we are at the stage where we are working with the designer to finalize the last few images. You might think I came across the tradition of the Danish advent candle (each evening in December you burn your kalenderlys until you reach the next of 24 lines inscribed on the side of said candle) by googling something like candles at Christmas or something logical like that. But no, I arrived at the kalenderlys via a dating app for professionals.

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I moved to Alberta not that long ago and don’t know many people in writing and publishing, so I thought I’d give Shapr a try. The app is intended for professionals looking to make business connections and works a lot like Tinder – swipe one way for someone who looks interesting and relevant, the other for those who seem to be selling financial management products. Not to say that I couldn’t benefit from some financial management consulting, but my interests tend to run in other directions.

Anyway, one of the matches that popped up was a blogger called Angela Davis who lives in St. Albert, Alberta. Angela has a blog called Hedonism and Hygge (subtitle: Live with Pleasure). So, most of the words I knew… hedonism… pleasure – yes, fine. But hygge? Before clicking on the link in Angela’s profile I googled hygge (what can I say, hedonism and pleasure could have taken me to a very different kind of website to the delightful one that Angela authors) only to discover a whole, huge world of hygge that I had no idea existed!

Hygge, it turns out, is a Danish thing that can be loosely translated as ‘cosy togetherness’ or ‘taking pleasure in soothing things’ or ‘enjoying the company of friends by candlelight’. There’s a whole hygge movement and a stack of books available from the local library system. I know because I immediately requested several of them.

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No sooner had I opened one published by the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen than I was reading about how Danes use more candles (over six kilos of candle wax per Dane per annum!!!!!) than anyone else in Europe. They also love their kalenderlys’s! (or whatever the correct plural would be in Danish).

Who knew? I love candles, personally, but almost never burn them. The principles of hygge encourage candle-burning, especially during the long wintery nights that lie ahead. It’s probably too late to order my own kalenderlys for this year, but next year… look out! Meanwhile, with any luck, we will be able to add an image to the chapter in the book about light and celebrating Christmas around the world.

What is your favourite tradition to celebrate the days leading up to Christmas?

Portrait of a Pilgrim

The Plan

We are on our way back to North America after having spent about five weeks in Spain, most of that walking the last 120 kilometres or so of the Camino de Santiago. What was the point of all that, you might ask? Why did we feel the need to drag ourselves, and in the end, a wheelchair, across a chunk of northern Spain? It would be great if I could say something glib like, “Because it was there” or “Because we like to go on vacations with a bit of a twist” but it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Santiago de Compostela, Spain

For one thing, we can’t really afford to just jet off and wander around the Spanish countryside for weeks on end. Usually, we either need to find a way to keep working on the road (Internet access makes this possible, though it can also create huge logistical challenges when connectivity is not quite as good as we need it to be). Even better is when we can find a way to tie a project to a travel destination. Sometimes it’s as simple as writing a destination travel article about a place we want to go (or, happen to be going anyway). Sometimes it’s using a destination or activity that takes place in a distant place (climbing, for example) in a book. Taking copious notes, reference photos, or conducting interviews to gather information is a way to write some of the travel costs off as long as the material is used somewhere down the road.

Digital nomad at work in a small cafe in the middle of nowhere.

In the case of this trip along the Camino Frances, though, the intention all along was to write a book about the trip and to find a way to integrate art (Dad’a art in particular). Not only is Dad’s work integrated into the written project, he is also beavering away on a series of works exploring the idea of creating a portrait of a pilgrim to be presented in an exhibition of work.

At the end of a long day of walking, Dad works on a drawing of the Castillo de Pambre

One of the the good things about being a writer or an artist is that all of life becomes a potential source of inspiration. That’s also one of the tough aspects of this type of job. There isn’t really a way to shut life off, close the office door and go home. Everything is raw material and holds the potential of the next great bit of writing or amazing painting. For someone in the arts, each day could be the one where our desire to create something worthwhile is realized. Just the act of living life becomes a pilgrimage of sorts, full of challenges and roadblocks to overcome on the way to coming up with something decent.

When we set off on the road to Santiago we knew we wanted to create something (visual art on Dad’s part, written work from me and Dani), but beyond that we weren’t exactly sure what our story would be. After all, we had plans, but plans never exactly correspond with reality.

The good news is that post trip we have plenty of raw material for a book and Dad is well on his way to creating some very cool pieces unlike anything he has ever done before. The walking together, the conversations in the evenings, the time spent looking at art, watching Dad create art, listening to conversations among other pilgrims, reading about the act of pilgrimage, visiting museums – all that input, that raw material provided a massive amount of information, stimulation, and inspiration. The creative wheels aren’t just turning, they are spinning fast.

We knew that part of the challenge after a trip is coming back and being thrown into real life distractions, so we decided to spend a couple of weeks together after we finished walking to Santiago in order to focus on the project. The process has been as challenging as anything we faced on the journey.

Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

Some of our conversations have been predictable – like comparing notes about various high (and low) points of the trip, but we’ve also talked about mortality, what inspires us, surprises like how much we all liked the Segrada Familia, Gaudi’s ode to nature and God in Barcelona, and what makes a great portrait. We’ve asked ourselves a lot of questions about the nature of pilgrimage and what a real pilgrim looks like. We sought out images of pilgrims in art and now, as we begin to write (and Dad continues to work with pen and ink and wax crayon and tempera paint sticks and watercolours) what is emerging is a story about our pilgrimage, but also a meditation on what it means to be a pilgrim – in words and images.

We collected dozens of pilgrim-related images on our trip… this one from the Pilgrim Museum in Santiago.

Dad is also exploring juxtapositions of self portraits with ancient depictions of pilgrims. He’s playing with stylistic twists and bold colour, taking fresh inspiration from time spent in the presence of Gaudi’s work, Picasso’s ever-evolving approaches to art and portraiture, and the many, many pilgrims we have seen in carvings, sculptures, murals, painted, drawn, and etched into stone.

We have been privy to Dad’s creative process in ways that have never been possible before now – living in close quarters for so long there is no way to avoid seeing how he comes up with ideas, starts sketching, restarts, scribbles, and polishes. At the same time, Dani and I have been clicking away on our keyboards.

The artist goes shopping – finding art supplies was easy in Barcelona.

I’ve been working on recreating our journey, integrating notes about art and history found along the way. I’m also trying to figure out the best way to share the conversations Dad and I have had over the past six weeks or so that we’ve been travelling together. Dani is digging deeper into the many moments that make up a pilgrim’s journey, writing a series of reflections and information essays that take the reader behind the scenes on subjects as varied as bedbugs and courier systems. The more we write and draw and talk and question, the more we discover to explore, describe, question and discuss.

Leaving Sarria…

“Is that where we are going?” Dad asks, pointing up.

“Unfortunately,” I answer.

“Oh my God. I haven’t trained for this.”

At one point we all worried that we wouldn’t have anything to say about our trip, that our three creative wells would simultaneously run dry. In fact, the opposite is happening. We all have found so much to explore I’m thinking our bigger task will not be thinking of what to include but what we will need to eventually trim out.

No fears about not having enough reference material!

Ruts are for Wimps (or, old dogs and new tricks)

Just when I thought I was more or less settling into a pleasant groove (the politically correct term for rut), life sort of took a turn. First, there was the big move from the coast to the mountains followed closely by the unexpected trip to Paris. Then there was the addition of a teenager into the household. Then there was the edict from my doctor to stop baking bread every day and give gluten free a try. A new bicycle (a very fast, very smooth bike…). A new phone (it was great for three days before I lost it overboard while sailing). A new iPad. And, a new backpack. The latter items were procured as I start my serious preparations for the Camino trip later in the fall. Actually, next month. And, if you’ve ever prepared for a big trip you know that can blast you out of even the deepest of ruts. These days, it feels like pretty much everything is up for negotiation, adjustment and change.

Dani, Dad and I are writing a book together about this Camino trip (Dani and I doing the bulk of the writing and Dad providing the artwork) and I have decided to finally ditch the kitchen sink from my must-take packing list. My goal is to take only the bare essentials needed for the walk. Given that I usually travel with laptop, reference books, a couple of notebooks, a small stationery store, camera, phone, go-pro, tripod, external hard drive, digital audio recorder, charging brick, cables to connect all of the above, plus multiples of all clothing options for any possible weather event plus a deck of cards, snacks, water bottle, and several hats and pairs of sunglasses, you can imagine this whole ‘packing light’ thing is quite the challenge. I’m even leaving my favourite pillow behind!

Given that this is a working trip, I do have to take some version of my office along with me. I bought a case with a built in keyboard for my iPad which, though fiddly (the whole setup is half the size of my MacBook), seems to function well. Yesterday, I slipped it into my tiny new pack and jumped on my bike (a great find by Fabio on the local used stuff website) to test out the equipment. Not only was I able to sit on a bench and type my observations and reflections on the spot (something I need to be able to do while we are en route), I even managed to insert an image snapped while sitting on said bench. Wow. Technology. When it works, it’s so COOL!! Then I fired off an email (yes, with an image attached) all while resting on a bench facing the mountains and felt rather proud of myself.

One of the things we want to try to do is send regular updates (Instagram, Medium Series, my Patreon blog, Facebook) while we are out there to try to share some of the experience with folks back home. I guess it’s a sign of my advanced years that I am still marvelling at how it’s possible to conceive of such magical computing and communications power contained in something smaller than a paperback.

I also find myself re-grieving the loss of my precious duffle bag containing all my trip journals and some unprocessed films when I was on my way back home from Greece back in 1981. Foolishly, I had left the bag in the baggage shelf at the back of the train car I was travelling in and some opportunistic moron (nope, forgiveness and acceptance remain elusive on this one) swiped my bag. Sadly for them (and for me) the bag contained only memories – souvenirs, the journals, the lost-forever films.

Options for protecting the data were limited back then. I could have made a parcel and shipped everything home, but packages can get lost and films were not always that robust), never mind the matter of cost for someone travelling on a very skinny budget. Even photocopiers were rare and expensive back in the day, so making a copy to put in another bag (or strap to my body under my clothes) wasn’t all that practical.

This piece of sculpture outside Elevation Place in Canmore is Touchstone by Peter Powning

Yes, I know that it’s entirely possible I could drop my iPad off a bridge (my recent iPhone/sailing disaster was a very good reminder of that) before the day’s images could be launched up into the cloud, but I’d be missing only a day’s worth of stuff and not several months worth of notes, laboriously hand-scrawled in a series of tattered notebooks.

Today’s post (created 100% on the WordPress app on my iPad) is another step in this ultra lite mobile direction. So far, I’m loving this latest aspect of my new normal. What about you? Have you ever had a painful loss of data (analog or digital) while travelling? How portable have you managed to make yourself these days? If you are a digital nomad (or even if you aren’t but your head is overflowing with good ideas), what’s the most valuable piece of advice you can give me before I set off on my next journey?