Saturday, September 10, 2011

Random Ramblings(TM). Alternate title: Why it’s so frikkin’ hard for a chatterbox to work at home by herself

I’m a talker. And I think I’m hilarious. I dream up about 50 funny things to say A MINUTE!

OK—maybe not every minute.

But anyway, it’s lonely here in my head. Other parents hate to see me coming when I pick my daughter up from school or skating or wherever because I always wear these big Parent-Catcher Arm ExtensionsTM,and then I corral them into a corner and wrap myself around them and scream funny things in their ears and won’t let them leave for a good hour.

It’s not that I don’t like working from home (who needs a kitchen table for eating anyway?). Self employment is wonderful—what’s not to love about working your ass off all the time and getting paid completely unreliably, if at all? Awesome in a sack, right there.

What concerns me is that I spin this comic gold like Rumpelstiltskin’s gonna steal my kid and there’s no one here to benefit from the hilarity.2 Brilliant bon mots and witty rejoinders—said only in my head or to the cat (who, while lovely and fluffy, has a really poorly developed sense of humour)—just dissolve into the air like this morning’s fog.4 To top it off, my husband is out of town for most of the week, so I don’t even have him to share my funnies at the end of the day.

But really, the jokes don’t last anyway, for a couple of reasons. It’s sort of like when someone interrupts you in the middle of a joke and then you eventually deliver the punchline and it just fizzles into awkward silence.5 That’s sort of what happens when you try to relive the funny thing you thought of at 10 am when you get to the playground at 3 pm.

And then there’s the fact that I’m 41.6 I can’t remember shit anymore. Nothing. I have to take at least seven minutes to recall any fact that is not in my immediate short-term-memory bank. That can be a problem for...

Uh... Where was I going with that? Just hang on a minute, ok?



Uh... Can anyone remember what else you’re supposed to use to signify—oh wait! I’m ready to to hop back on my train of thought!

OK, so if I don’t write something down immediately, it’s gone. Like this morning’s fog.7

So to to address these issues, I am going to start writing Random RamblingsTM here. They won’t be part of a larger post necessarily, just throwing it down here to ensure these droll tidbits don’t disappear into the ether, FOREVER, to the detriment of all humanity.

I will also include non-funny things.8

Random RambleTM #1:

So I had to send a story to my writing group this week. I think I’m ok at writing dialogue, so almost everything I write is dialogue. (Like this blog—it’s just me talking. OK, technically that’s a monologue. Quick—someone say something! ... Thanks! Like I said, dialogue.) I suck at description. Plus I’m lazy. Anyway, I send them the piece with an accompanying note to explain my overall writing suckage (they know about that already though), then I realize9 what it is about my descriptions that doesn’t work. It’s like my characters talk and talk and talk just fine, but then when I try to describe how they look or what they’re doing, all of a sudden they start doing a bad version of the robot. Hot teenager while talking, C3PO whilst being described.10




That ramble is way funnier with my accompanying arm gestures. You'll just have to trust me, OK?

I promise there will be less lead up for the next Random RambleTM. I actually had two for this post, but I seriously cannot remember the other one. Not. Even. Joking.11

                   e ......


1. Patent pending.

2. If a joke crashes to the ground in the forest, does anybody laugh? Well, I KNOW animals find me funny.3 Can’t you tell when they’re laughing? I can. And they laugh at me ALL the time.

3. Except for my own cat.

4. Halifax, baby.

5. Jokus interruptus.

6. If you’ve ever met my daughter you would know that already, because she feels compelled to tell everyone she meets that I’m 41. It’s like she has weird obsession with the number. 41. 41. 41. She keeps saying it over and over and over again. That’s not annoying at ALL. She’s as funny as the damn cat.

7. That sounds familiar. Why does that sound familiar? I can’t remember.

8.  CMA, just in case my jokes don’t fly.

9. Three hours later, natch.

10. For those of you who know my husband, this is not meant to diss him, by the way. C3PO’s great. But he IS a robot.

11. I know, I know—I can hear your thoughts screaming, “Uh, you were joking before?” Listen closely—there are animals in a forest somewhere laughing their asses off.

Monday, August 15, 2011

You're not my target audience!

I belong to a wonderful group of writers1 who meet monthly to give feedback on our fiction writing, with the occasional poem and non-fiction piece thrown in for variety. We’ve been together for years and have become very good friends.

We generally like each others’ writing. Sure, we have plenty of suggestions and ideas for how to improve each piece, and the discussions can get pretty lively with lots of points of view. But, overall, we like each others’ work.

Most of the time.

Sometimes one of us will dislike2 the odd story or chapter. The discussion always starts out slowly, but once we get warmed up, the inhibition goes down and we can be pretty ruthless. It’s all in the interest of constructive criticism, but when you’re on the receiving end of negative commentary, even seemingly benign stuff can feel like an quick jab to the solar plexus.3

To deal with these awkward, organ-crunching instances, we’ve created the “You’re not my target audience” defence mechanism. When you’re on the verge of crying or punching a good friend’s critical lights out, a “You’re not my target audience” through a clenched-teeth smile is our safety tap. Our “Back off, motherfucker, or you’re going to have my hari-kari on your conscience.”

I think it takes incredible balls to send your work out for critique. Even to people you trust and like. Even when you know the critiquers4 have your best interests at heart.

Sending your work out to complete strangers? Now, that’s just nuts.

Several months ago I sent out my sort-of-finished novel to the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia’s Atlantic Writing Competition. The contest is unique in that every entrant receives feedback from the judges, win or lose.5

I was confident sending in my novel. I knew I would never win, but I was happy to finally have something semi-worthwhile to submit. As we came closer to receiving the judges’ comments, however, I got more and more nervous and embarrassed. What was I thinking putting my piece in this competition? The comp skews heavily in favour of literary works, and my piece is about as non-literary as one can get. Despite my terror, I did eventually open the envelope when it arrived.

First judge’s comments:

“I totally enjoyed this story and read it in one day. I love the relationship between the women—reminiscent of Candace Bushnell does the Maritimes. However, lose all the extra e-mails, forwarded jokes, etc. It bogged down a great piece of work. With some work this could be a great take on chick lit. Don’t give up on this one!”

Well, colour me stunned. That was worth the $30 entry fee alone.

Second judge’s comments:

“Fiction is an art form.It transforms and heightens reality to make a particular author’s perceptions and view of life interesting to others.  What you present here seems like a direct copy of text messages between people we don’t know.  In fact, some of the “forwarded messages” I’ve received myself.  If you use a format such as this, it would be advisable to condense and refine it, to avoid the endless repetitions and useless markings and spacing.  Also the profusion of typos and misspellings,7 even though they do appear in many text messages, become quite annoying in a written work.  The Prologue and Epilogue are intended to give this some structure, but the characters are not sufficiently developed or described to give them any individual identity, and unless these people become real to the reader, their lives do not evoke much sympathy or concern.”8


Knowing what an oversensitive stress-bag I am, you must be wondering why this one didn’t elicit the afore-mentioned ritual self-disembowelment.

Well, it’s mostly because I read the other judge’s comments first.9 Not only did the first judge’s comments make me all warm and glowy inside and out, but the juxtaposition with these comments also highlighted in storey-high neon letters that, Judge #2? NOT MY TARGET AUDIENCE.

I mean, it’s like they didn’t even read the same book. And that’s perfectly OK. I know my book won’t appeal to A LOT of people. But those who like it, seem to like it a lot. This poor soul clearly did not get what I was trying to do or say and I feel for him/her—it would be torture to have to trudge through an entire book you hated or didn’t “get.” I know, because that’s how I feel about a lot of literary fiction. Luckily, I am not contractually obligated to finish a book I don’t like. These judges—volunteers who make a huge commitment of time and energy to help aspiring writers like me—have to read whatever they get handed. This judge must have been ready to rip his/her eyeballs out after the first chapter.

Point #1: Not everyone will love everything you do. When you’re feeling battered and bruised by rejection, repeat this saying in your head or aloud (as the situation permits) to your rejector: “I fart in your general direction.”

No, no no. That’s not it.10 Rather, say, “YOU ARE NOT MY TARGET AUDIENCE.” Say it whether you believe it's true or not. Trust me. Just say it. 

Point #2: Congratulations and respect to the winners of the Atlantic Writing Competition.11 But, really, all of the entrants are winners. Not because we all get desperately coveted feedback, but because we had the courage to send our babies out there into the cruel, merciless world of the Judgey MacJudgersons. 

I know I’m proud.14 I hope all of my co-entrants are, too. We did it! Well done! We rock! We write! We rebound!

And the-e-en, we write again...16

1. I call us “The Fictionaries.” Admittedly a little poofty, but, damn, don't I think I’m clever sometimes.

2. Loathe.

3.  Like this. With the bad hair. And the people laughing at you as your writhe on the floor. Yep, making you stronger.

4. Is “critiquer” a word? Critic seems too Roger Ebert-y.

5. It may not sound like much, but in an industry where feedback is practically non-existent (unless your book/story/article is picked up/signed by a journal/publisher/agent), this can be gold.

6. Uh oh. This ain’t gonna be good.

7. The typos and misspellings are on purpose. Seriously.

8. This critique was typed, by the way. And I left in the two spaces the critic used between the sentences. Just sayin’.

9. Props to WFNS for ordering the judges’ comments appropriately. Methinks they’ve talked more than one destroyed writer down from a ledge and thus know what they’re doing!

10. But, after all, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition.

11. I hate you. I fart in your general direction. With a French accent.12

12. Just kidding!13

13. Except about the French accent.

14. And eternally grateful to the judges. ALL of them.15

15. But especially to my Judge #1. XO!

16. Caper inside joke. :-)

Friday, July 29, 2011

The unbearable lateness of being... me

So, tonight I inadvertently cured my daughter of ever wanting to be early again.

You see, I can’t seem to be on time for ANYTHING. I actually once used the wind as an excuse for being a half hour late to pick up my daughter from school.1

On this allegedly blustery day I went for a walk with a friend (good for me) and completely misjudged how long we would be gone (bad, but typical, for me). It normally takes me six minutes to walk from my house to the local Starbucks,2 but it took fifteen minutes to do the reverse that day. Now, according to my mother-in-law, there is an incline on the road to my home.3 Plus this was the end of an hour-long walk and I’m pathetically out of shape. The hurrieder I’d go, the behinder I’d get, so I deduced that the wind must be impeding my progress.

Since I was already fifteen minutes behind schedule, I started to panic. Daughter’s school is at the top of a hill4 that generally boasts some absolute gale-forced gusts,5 but on this particular day (of all days) there was nary a breath of air to be found atop the hill. I arrived at the school to find a beautiful, breezeless sunny day. An observation I, of course, did not make until after I told the other parents I was late because of the wind.

Oh well. I’m sure they’ll be nicer to my kid if they think her mother’s developmentally delayed.

At any rate,6 my point with this idiotic digression is that I tend to be late a lot, seemingly for no good reason. Or rather, whenever I try to explain the reason, I further reinforce my DD designation.

But tonight we were early for soccer. Well, actually, we were late picking up hubby after work which somehow made us a little bit early for the game. We wanted to have plenty of time because daughter and four of her Under-10 teammates had been called up to play for one of the Under-12 teams.

We were the first to arrive for the 7 o’clock game – we were just in time to see another U-12 team from our club get to half time. They spotted my daughter in her striped game shirt and ran over, begging her to play or they’d have to forfeit the game because they didn’t have enough players. Only eight years old but already showing promising signs of the full-fledged guilt of a grown woman, daughter agreed to play even though she was absolutely terrified to play alone with these big girls – some of whom were four years older and about a foot taller than she is.

My point?

Uh.... Who the hell knows by now? Maybe it's that I’m always late because I never shut up?

Oh wait, I remember now. My point is... sorry I’m late with my blog. Again. :)

1. Don’t worry, there are usually other parents around, and she knows to go to the office if the others leave and I’m not there yet. She knows this because, well, I’m late a lot. Or at least I used to be. I did ok this past school year. Most days. Except windy ones.

2. A fact determined once when my in-laws visited us for three weeks.

3. Albeit a slight incline. A really slight one. Like, not visible to the naked eye nor detectable by anyone who walks more than the length of themselves twice a week.

4. A bona fide hill this time, I swear.

5. Lemme esplain how frikkin' windy it is up there. If Chicago showed up and challenged the St. Stephen's hill to an arm-wrestling contest, the home of Oprah would henceforth have to be re-nicknamed the Gentle Tropical Breeze City. 

6. My father’s “time-to-end-this-conversation” catchphrase.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

It's raining again

In constant fear that my internal organs are going to start tumbling out through my jitch, I’ve revived The Kegel Pole-kaTM exercise regime.1 You'll recall this involves a fair bit of walking, so I wisely decided to start yesterday, which happened to be the hottest, sunniest day we’ve seen for what seems like forever.2 I walked pretty far in bad shoes, sweating and turning a bright and melty shade of red that had my satellite-office3 employees diving for the phone to call 911 when I arrived there looking all heart-attacky-ish.

So today I was working at Mount Saint Vincent University. (Note the name.) I didn’t have the car and had printed off a bunch of bus schedules so I could take the bus home. Unfortunately, in my printing frenzy I forgot to bring money or tickets for the bus, so I set out to track down some change. It was after 5 pm, and it’s summer, so the only thing open in the Seton Academic Centre complex was the library.

“Is there a bank machine here or would I have to got up to Rosaria?” I asked the friendly librarian, who must have been bored stiff and miserably lonely because she jumped up and ran towards me as soon as I opened the library door.

“I’m sorry, you’d have to go up to Rosaria.”

Rosaria is behind the library. It takes about three minutes to get there. But it’s up a hill. A steep hill. (This is where you recall the university’s name. The MOUNT.4) And there’re A LOT of crows there that time of day.5

So instead, in my infinite and ever-surprising wisdom, I opted to take the half-hour walk to the grocery store instead. In the rain.6 Actually it was more of a drizzle – one where an umbrella won’t even help7 because the drops don’t fall down, they just sort of hover and slide around through the air, making them impossible to escape. If you’re stunned enough to venture outside. Which I clearly am.8

Do you know what was going through my head as I walked? Yep, you guessed it: the theme music from Sex And The City. It’s not that I think I’m anything like Carrie Bradshaw (I wish), but it sure makes the walk more fun if you strut a little and pretend like you don’t know the bus with your picture on the side is about to come along and splash mucky water all over you and your pink-leotard-and-tutu dress.9

So I’m prancing (yes, prancing) down the Bedford Highway during rush hour, and it’s not the most picturesque sight – the railroad tracks on the left mar the view of Halifax Harbour and giant concrete retaining walls flank me on the right. But then I see this:

Here it is up close:

That’s right. It’s raining rose petals.

Be open to the happy, my friends. It’s out there – rain or shine.

1. I’m also concerned that if I don’t start losing some weight, I’m going to need a new postal code now that Canada Post is back in action.

2. It’s been raining incessantly here for the past few months. We all have Seasonal Affective Disorder and want to kill each other. I’ve even taken to sniping at strangers on other people’s blogs and FaceBook about the stupidest things. I haven’t been this bitchy since I made a girl cry in Grade 10 debating. The topic was “smoking in bingo halls.” I have no idea if our team was pro or con. All that matters is that we won, bitches.

3. Starbucks.

4. Please – no nun sex jokes, k?

5. Like, thousands. No joke.

6. Did I mention that the hot sunny weather was short-lived? Mother Nature has a serious hate-on for us right now. I blame the NDP.

7. Not that I had the fucking foresight to bring an umbrella, of course.

8. By the time I reached Superstore, my hair had frizzed to such a size that I couldn't fit through the door.

9. Sorry – that’s the SAD seeping in.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Please, Sir, may I have a shower?

I had an interesting conversation with a good friend today about how as wives and mothers we feel compelled to ask permission to do – well, anything.

Even in this age of the enlightened husband/father, we still have our unhealthy doses of mother/wife guilt that somehow seep into everything we do.

And we do a lot. A helluva a lot.

There has never been so much pressure on women to do it all and be it all. With a smile. With time to spare. And yet we feel guilty when we have a night meeting. Or when we have a volunteer responsibility (often undertaken for the benefit of our children and their peers). Or when we go to a movie or for supper with a friend. Or when we don’t balance the books. Or when we get a shower.

Wait now – guilt over a shower?

We all need to shower, right? Isn’t the world a better place when you don’t stank up the joint like a rotting cowpatty?

So why do I feel the need to check that it’s “ok” for me to get a shower before I do it? I can’t remember the last time my husband asked me if it was ok for him to get in the shower.

Oh yah – that’s because it’s never frikkin’ happened.

It’s not really asking permission directly, as in “May I get a shower?” It’s more like “I’m going to hop in the shower, ok?” It’s the ok that I tack on the end. It seems like an afterthought but it is, essentially, asking permission.

And that makes me throw up a little on my twin set and poodle skirt.

Now, granted, we put a lot of this pressure on ourselves. Sure our worser halves can be jerks about stuff like this, but I believe that we (ok, I) can be paranoid about reprimands and reproachful glances that sometimes don’t exist. (Sometimes. Not all the time.)

How did we end up with this guilt and need to get sign-off before we do things? What would happen if we did as our husbands do most of the time and just said “I’m doing this right now.” The “Deal with it” would be implied. We deal with it. We may grumble, but that’s what we do. (That’s usually what they do too, but the grumbles are more whiny – at least at my house.)

But seriously – would the world fall apart without female guilt? Would shit just not get done without it?

Ugh – this topic makes me feel dirty. I’m getting a shower.


P.S. RIP Peter Falk... As you wish.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

It's not you, it's me...

Thank you Merit Badger for so beautifully expressing what it means to query.

For you non-writers out there,querying is when you think your novel is finished and you start to fish around asking agents to consider representing you and your little project. The main thrust of the process is the query letter, in which you must convey just how frikkin' awesome your work is, without telling (showing only, of course) and by somehow encapsulating the plot, characters, voice and genre in about 250 words. You research agents and figure out which ones might be interested in your work and try to find some tidbit of information that links you to them3 or to work they've represented and/or admired.5 Then you you do a few (63) test runs to make sure your formatting is going to be ok when you send it, you double, triple and quadruple check your spelling, grammar, sentence structure, contact information (yours and theirs - no Dear John when you are sending to Jill), blind copy yourself so you can prolong the torture after you actually send it by finding typos and /&*20/ weird formatting codes that pop up despite your best efforts and then - press send. Then throw up. You do this individually for your dream list of agents.

And then you wait.

And wait.

And wait.

And hit refresh.

And wait.

And wait.

And repeat this process 68 times per hour until...

The first form rejection.

And then you wait.

And wait.

And wait.

And hit refresh.

And wait.

And wait.

And repeat this process 68 times per hour until...

The second form rejection.

And then you wait.

And... well, you get the picture.

Rejection is an unavoidable part of most writers' lives. The form rejection is where you get to see how nice and creative your dream agent is (and get reminded how much you really, really liked them before they smashed your tender little dreams into a million little rainbow sprinkles, peed on the sprinkles and then flushed them down the nearest toilet), or how they were probably an arsehole and you were lucky to dodge them. (Hey - we have to protect our fragile egos somehow.)

"You're work is interesting, but I'm not the best person to represent it at this time."

"Thank you for your interest, but I'm not looking for this type of work."

"I'm going to have to pass at this time - this is not a reflection of the quality of your work; I'm sure some other agent will love it and make you millions of dollars. I'm just too stunned to appreciate your brilliance and earn you the money you so richly deserve."

"It's not you, it's me."

A response to a query letter can take anywhere from an hour to never (many agents have a "no response means no" practice thanks to the gazillions of queries they now get in this delightfully convenient age of e-mail).  

Occasionally, so I've heard, writers will get a request for a partial (50 or 100 pages) or full (the entire manuscript). A precious few will get offers of representation. I'm at two form rejections now, so I'm just getting started. There will be many, many more rejections before I get a nibble. If I get a nibble. Eventually I will tire of stalking my e-mail and pacing a hole through my living room floor and will get back to what we are all advised to do when querying:

Keep writing.

Actually, that's what we're advised to do all the time. Because writers write. And if you love it, you have to focus on the writing and not on the business side of it or you will surely go mad.7

Just keep writing.

And so, here I am, blogging again after an embarrassingly considerable absence and hopefully giving you a taste of an unpublished writer's life. And perhaps a hint as to why I am so fucking crazy half9 the time.

Wish me luck!

1. The writers, upon seeing the Q word, have long since retreated to a corner and are balled into fetal position, rocking back and forth, humming and sucking their thumbs. Or petting rabbits.2

2. And by that I mean the John-Malkovich-playing-Lennie-in-Of-Mice-and-Men style of rabbit petting.

3. She's a Quidditch Seeker too - match made in publishing heaven!4

4. I'm not really a Seeker. I'd be more of a Beater. But not in a dirty way.

5. She loves Helen Fielding and Ernest Hemmingway - what a coincidence - I write like their long-lost love child!6

6. Not really. But maybe I should...

7. I know, I know, Most writers are a bit loopy to start with.8 But this whole trying-to-get-published stuff is like a hyper-warp beyond your previously slow, measured descent into madness, fo' shizzle.

8. Sort of like city councillors.

9. Jodi. Being generous with the fractions. (Think Rob Schneider making copies again.)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Psst...Call Crimestoppers!

So my daughter’s friend told me yesterday I could play a witch in some production they were concocting.

“Is it because of my ginormous streaks of white hair?” I asked. She nodded.

Yes, indeed, I had a bit of the old Bride o’ Frankenstein action going on thanks to a number of factors: my advanced age, the lack of haircut since before Christmas, the lack of any sort of colour treatment since Jesus wore short pants,1 and my advanced age.

Since it’s tax season and I am therefore one bounced cheque away from debtors’ gaol, I decided to colour my hair myself. 2 My daughter and I had picked out a colour last week—it was sort of reddish brown on the model, but on top of mouse brown hair like mine, it should have turned to a rich brown with a tinge of auburn.

Operative words being “should have.”

You know when someone with dark hair robs a bank and goes on the lam and they dye their hair so NO ONE WILL EVER RECOGNIZE THEM? And they won’t stand out at all now that their hair is a colour that CANNOT BE FOUND IN NATURE? Or in mob movies, where there’s one guywho tries to go all Hollywood and he dyes his hair “blonde”? Or my grandmother, who is Lebanese and (presumably) has black hair and whose main desire in life is apparently to be a blonde so she keeps trying to dye her hair “blonde”?

Aside from if you pour a bottle of peroxide onto your hair à la Ponyboy Curtis, or if you know that Jose guy who does celebrity hair,4 chances are you’re not going to get blonde (or in my case, rich brown with coppery undertones) in any of those cases. No. You are going to get a surreal orangish colour that is just—weird.5

So that’s what colour my hair is right now. At least in the front. I have no idea what it looks like in the back—it could be stripy clown hair back there for all I know.6

Now, as I sit here trying my best to make comic blonde out of my Pesci-head situation, I think to myself, “It’s not as bad as I’m describing it.” So I go have another look.

It is. It is, in fact, THAT bad.

Frigg it. I’m robbing a bank.


1. I don’t really know what that means, but it sounds funny so I say it all the time.

2. Back in the days before self employment/destitution, I would go to a shop to get lovely multi-colour highlights that cost a bloody fortune and took two hours. Time and money. Or, two things I simply can no longer afford to squander.

3. Usually Joe Pesci or that Joey Pants guy.

4. But who apparently doesn’t have access to a mirror to see his own lid.

5. Sorry Grandma.

6. Don’t colour your hair alone. Case in point: “Rinse until the water runs clear.” Uh, you just told me 6 times that if I got this shit in my eyes I AND MY FUTURE OFFSPRING WOULD GO BLIND. How the hell am I supposed to keep my eyes covered/shut tight AND watch the water drain off? Phone a friend, people.7

7. Of course, not only did I NOT phone a friend, I didn’t do the 48-hour allergy test either. That’s the kind of crazy gansta-bitch I am. Word.