Friday, July 29, 2011

Start Spillin’ Some Ink

I sometimes hear writers moan they have nothing to write about. Um, why do they call themselves writers, then? There is always something to write about. There is always something that needs to be said, created, imagined or interpreted.

These days, the word ink has become synonymous with tattoos, ‘Gonna get me some ink, man.’ And like tattoo artists, writers use ink to express themselves, make a statement, and create art. Everyone has something to say, something to express, something to write. Tattoo artists derive their art not only from catalogues of pre-designed tattoos, but they also expand on those creations, combine, or become inspired by those of other artists and create their own. They find meaning and direction through their art.

Getting a tattoo hurts – writing doesn’t have to.

I started this blog just over a year ago. Although I know I am not perfect – the craft of writing is ever-evolving and growing – I strive to entertain, warm the cockles of hearts, and inspire. Around the same time I started this blog, I was writing monthly articles for my writing chapters’ newsletter. I promised myself not to recycle articles/stories between the two – and I didn’t. It was all part of my goal to establish a writing routine to write more, as well as hone my craft.

I won’t lie by saying I never panicked – ‘Oh my god, what the heck am I going to write about? There is NOTHING to write about!!!’ I have a family, a job, laundry and bathrooms to clean, never mind a cat and fish to bother me. So sometimes, in the beginning, came up - blank. Coming up with something new every week is sometimes a challenge - no doubt about it. I have days were I am feeling uninspired. It’s only natural – I am a human-being.

But I gave myself a good shake, smacked myself upside the head, and gently reminded myself I am a writer. There is always, ALWAYS, something to write about. Writers write. That’s it. Plain and simple.

Do you ever hear tattoo artists moaning that they have nothing to create? Do you ever see them pouting outside their tattoo parlours? Do you see them moaning ‘I have nothing to design…’ their tattooed arms hanging limp at their side as they slump in a chair. Sometimes creative folk DO slump into an uncreative dry spell. But it’s up to you get it yourself out of it.

There is always something to write about.

The internet (don’t waste too much time lollygagging around on it!) is full of writing prompts to fuel your imagination and get your creativity going. Books and magazines on writing are over-flowing with ideas - the library is waiting for you.

And the best part – there is a whole world around you. What did you/can you learn from what you see – and not just what you see on the surface? What is beyond what you can see, before you?

You have a life you are living right now. You have imagination – use it. You have the ability to write – use it. You have a pen, paper, or computer – use it. You have thoughts, a voice, opinions, and dreams. Grab a pen and get them down.

Heck, make up a story about the meaning behind the tattoo on the neck of the guy sitting in front of you on the bus.

So quit trying so hard to be the greatest writer in the world. Be yourself – write what YOU want. Relax, let go, and look around for the little things.

Just put your pen to paper and let it fly.

Start spillin` some ink.

Friday, July 22, 2011

How to Wait Like a Writer

Waiting for something doesn’t bother me – most of the time.

I don’t care about line-ups at the grocery store, post office or coffee shop – unless I am REALLY rushed (which is normal), and dying for my coffee (which is normal). However, I do get ‘restless’ when someone in the grocery check-out is complaining/whining/moaning about the lack of pureed, prickly pear, edible cactus.

Oh, for the love of God. Let’s just get ON WITH IT!

So I don’t mind line-ups. I can handle those, no problem.

But I hate waiting for news, good or bad. I hate waiting for mail - but love getting it. And it’s quite obvious that waiting for Santa, the Tooth Fairy, my birthday, and the Easter Bunny when I was a kid quite clearly, and still obviously, drove me out of my mind.

For a writer who is anxious to see their words in print, hoping to entertain, enlighten and inspire the world, waiting for any news from an agent, editor or publisher, positive or negative, can drive him or her (mostly me), off the cliff into a canyon of irrational behaviour – obsession.

Take, for instance, me. I am desperately waiting to hear about some upcoming writing news. I won’t share what it is yet because, given my near-psychotic superstitious nature, I’m afraid if I say anything now, I might jinx it.

So while I am waiting to hear, by email and mail from two different places, I obsess. I am practically catatonic and almost get nothing else done - no writing - as all my thoughts and energies are on one thing - waiting.

I scour the internet, searching for other writers who have posted their experiences with these publications on their blogs or websites. Information on response times, acceptances and rejections - I want to know it all. Time spent obsessing/stalking/surfing is time I should be writing. Yes, research and learning from others is part of the writing biz. But when I am not obsessing/stalking/surfing, I fight the urge to stare at the wall, frozen in anticipation, and inhale antacids.

Then there is the publisher who corresponds only by mail. Now for me, this is a good thing. The classic way of getting news via paper, envelope, and postage will never fail to thrill me. It makes me want to quit my day job and sit by the mailbox all day. But the Canadian Postal strike had me pacing the halls worrying about when it was going to be over. What if the publisher mailed me a contract and it’s sitting somewhere, waiting?

I contacted a fellow writer who knew someone, who knew someone, who knew someone else at the publisher, and relayed my worries. I know it sounds all very egotistical, as if I was counting my chickens before they hatched, but remember that I had to be proactive and think ahead – like a professional. So through the chain of information relayed backwards, my worries were settled. If they want my story, they will find me - no matter what. Kinda like CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service). Cool.

My other writer friend (nameless at her request - for obvious reasons), became a sounding board for my psychotic concerns. She, too, revealed her…behaviour. In waiting for her own writing/publishing news, she gave up weeding her garden. While she watched the dandelions multiply, she directed her focus to the capabilities of her email. Did her email even work? Did she submit her work properly, as requested? Did she send it TO the right email address? Did she send them HER correct email?

She had her husband send her ‘test’ emails to make sure it worked. Um…while she was getting him to test her email, she was likely receiving mine.

So while I was obsessing, and not growing dandelions but grey hair, I was relaying all these ‘antics’ to a non-writing friend who is more supportive than any cross-your-heart-underwire-C-cup.

As I finished my tales of obsession, she looked at me stunned. As I worried she would call the men with straight-jackets for me and my writer friend, she said, “That’s like waiting for a guy to call!”

It’s true! I haven't been on the ‘market’ for a while, but memories of those bygone years still run deep; the waiting, worrying and obsessing. I need to stop waiting for him (or her) to call or write, and get writing.

Someone save me – from myself. And don’t make me wait.

And never put me on hold.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Grandma Knows Stuff

I got a lead on free Slurpees®, and it was from my mother; aka, Grandma.

The Slurpee-run is usually Dad’s job, thereby fostering male-bonding and all that. I’m just not a Slurpee kinda gal. But to shake things up a bit from the usual Monday-to-Friday night grind of dinner, errands, driving kids hither-to, laundry and social graces lectures, I hustled my two young lads out the door after dinner on Monday, July 11, 2011.

It was, after all, summer vacation. And more importantly - the 84th anniversary of the good old stand-by convenience store, 7-Eleven®. Free Slurpees for all!

I kept our destination a mystery, just to build the excitement. I need to keep those yearlings of mine on their toes, you know. But my secretive coyness is better than I thought. The begging and pleading to know where we were going, coupled with their heightened excitement, had me wondering if they thought we were headed to Disneyland. I slouched in the driver’s seat as shame and guilt of my shortcomings as a mother set in. Knowing that all we were doing was getting Slurpees, and no neck-breaking rides or visits with Mickey Mouse were in the near future, I told them.

Not wanting to take all the glory for this wondrous ‘free stuff’ indulgence – for a free Slurpee, no less - the credit went to Grandma for this insider information.

Silence filled the car momentarily; the wheels spun in their pre-teen/teenage heads. Not only did the change in pace from the usual weeknight routine upset their sugar-addicted equilibrium, but the fact that Grandma knew…about FREE Slurpees….before THEY did….????

And how on earth did SHE, of all people, know of something so cool, trendy, and utterly childish? She who admits she has never in her life had a Slurpee?

She is as much as a mystery to them as they are to her. Living three hours apart, separated by water, makes family bonding a challenge. With her growing up in a family of mostly women, and then having three daughters herself, she struggles to understand the world of boys. The boys don’t shop at Holt Renfrew, and she has likely never built a Lego structure in her life.

But for one moment in time, they had a bond.

Not only did she lead them to sugar nirvana, but she found a way to connect with them; if only for a moment, from afar.

The car-ride home was filled with slurping their Slurpees and calling Grandma to thank her for the lead on the free sugar. Exemplary manners are expected by me at all times. Yes, I was driving somewhere to feed them sugar, but the unexpected trip gave us time together away from TV and anything electronic. While they peppered me with questions about 7-Eleven back ‘when I was a kid’ - if I hung out there, were there arcade games – my own continual quest to fit into their male world was satisfied. Yes, Slurpees aren’t only for boys. But in my house, especially given that I am the non-Slurpee-holic, I am the minority.

But much more was gained than a pair of blue tongues. It was a moment - out of the ordinary, the rush and routine - for me, my mom and my boys to connect.

Oh Thank Heaven for 7-Eleven®.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Sweet Anticipation

I was second in line at the opening of the store created in 1910 - but I’m not that old. I had been watching and waiting for the big day, and at a mere 475 steps away from where I work (give or take a few steps to allow for the odd, excited stumble), how could I not be there for opening day. Every day I would pass by, quivering in anticipation for the doors to open.

And yes, I actually DID count the steps.

The English Sweet Shop, 101 years old, is as part of the essence of Victoria, BC as is the Empress Hotel. At 736 Douglas Street, just outside the Victoria Conference Center to which the historical hotel is attached, the sugary store has opened - finally.

I say finally because, as I said before, I was watching and waiting - patiently. But not stalking. Oh no, not stalking.

Wendy Beach, owner, had hoped to open on July 1st, which would have been perfect timing to kick off Canada Day, but a series of technical glitches delayed the opening to July 4th. Fine by me – I can say I was second in line 20 minutes after it opened. How cool is that?

First opened in 1910 on Cormorant Street, the confectioner’s delight then moved to Yates Street in the 30’s, moved a few more times up and down the street, then finally found a long-standing home at 738 Yates where it had been since 1946.

Until now.

Construction in the area of the old site had Wendy making the difficult decision to leave the historic storefront – oh, if those could talk, to be sure. But she has a following of folks who crave sweets and groceries from England-afar; treats they can’t get anywhere else. I know they’ll find her.

‘English’ candy lovers, both in-person and those who order online, likely have a running tab at the dentist, I am sure. With 360 canisters (yes, I counted them) of bulk sweets lining the shelves behind the counter, how could they not?

Bon bons, liquorices, mints and Swiss Petite Fruit – very jelly bean-like – wait to be collected and weighed, while candies twisted in foil sparkle in the new lighting.

Packaged delights from overseas like Cadbury’s Flake and Double Decker bar, not to mention NestlĂ©’s Toffee Crisp bar, line more shelves.

Visitors, ex-pats and new fans of such sacchariferous delectables would agree – they are worth coming downtown for.

An antique postal box greets you at the front door, and a telephone booth converted to a shelving unit holds groceries like jams, jellies, mustards and spreads, and something called….mushroom ketchup. ‘This rich cooking sauce was the secret of success of many Victorian cooks with steak and kidney pies and puddings, roast meats, sauces and soups since the 1800’s.’ So says the Geo Watkins label on the bottle, straight from Aylesford, Kent, England.

And this ‘ketchup’ doesn’t look anything like the typical tomato-based thick ketchup we North Americans drown our French Fries, in.

Huh, go figure - you learn something new every day.

But I’ll just stick to sugar today, thanks.

And of course, these days no ‘English’ store would be complete without Wills and Kate memorabilia. Mugs adorned with their faces sit beside ‘football’ scarves from Manchester United.

The new storefront, combined with the few ‘old world’ antiques and nostalgic sweets and groceries, was in sharp contrast to the modern Smart Car just outside.

As I watched the daily growth of the new store - from the guy applying the decals, to the movers wheeling in carts full of delights waiting for me to sample - I counted down the days, waiting and wondering in sweet anticipation.

And I knew that I, too, better double-check my dental plan. Not just for me, but also my kids for who I bought ‘English’ lollies. We’re gonna need it.

Visit The English Sweet Shop at 736 Douglas Street, Victora, BC Canada

Friday, July 1, 2011


Lucky Little Donkey

How would you like a donkey named after you?

In a corner of a historic park in Victoria, BC, a jenny proudly shows-off her new baby.

What’s a jenny, you ask? Well, a female donkey, of course!

The Beacon Hill Park Petting zoo attracts thousands yearly, and these days are no different. Taffy, the miniature donkey, was all set to give birth in July. But as Mother Nature would have the final say, the baby - or foal - decided to make her way into the world a month and a half early. On May 25, 2011, Jeneece the miniature donkey was born.

The Beacon Hill Petting Zoo staff aptly named the baby after Jeneece Edroff, the 16-year-old dynamo who has raised over a million dollars for the Variety Children’s Charity (, all while keeping up with her studies at Claremont Secondary School. As a three-year-old she was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis – tumour growth on nerve tissues. As a thriving young adult, her medical challenges have spurned her volunteer work, earning her the Order of British Columbia. Find out more about this amazing girl and her work at

Jeneece, the girl, is honoured and thrilled to have this miniature donkey named after her, and I suspect if the donkey knew, she would be just as honoured to be named after such an inspirational kid.

Lucky little donkey.

Typical baby miniature donkeys weigh about 20 – 30 lbs, growing to weigh between 200 – 350 lbs at full ‘miniature’ size. That’s a lot of donkey, even for a ‘mini.’

And poor old mom carried baby around for upwards of 13-14 months before the big day. Ick. And I thought 9 months carrying around my own two little foals was bad enough.

The myth that donkeys are stupid is simply…a myth. They are self-preserving animals who know better than to put themselves in harm’s way. Stubborn, yet always craving attention, these underestimated herders hate being alone. They are happiest - when not getting unlimited attention from their owners, that is - in a pasture guarding sheep, goats, llamas, cats and dogs. Loyal and friendly, miniature donkeys make terrific pets, and given their potential 30-year lifespan, they make perfect lifelong companions.

Just don’t expect one to curl up at the foot of your bed.

Though curious by nature, Jeneece the donkey has remained close by her mother’s side. This particular sunny day when I all but climbed over the fence to cuddle her, she was a month and a day old. My shiny pink camera must have caught her attention, however, as the fuzzy foal inched her way towards me.

Step, step. Stop. Step, step. Stop.

She then gave up and figured she was better off with mom.

I don’t blame her, what with me and my paparazzi tendencies.

As donkey and girl sharing the same name grow in their own little worlds, one thing I knew for sure as I watched the little foal stumble her way back to mom; she was going to grow to be brave and as tireless as her namesake.

The BC Neurofibromatosis Foundation (