About Me

My photo
If who we are is what we do, then like most people, I am a mixed bag of personas. Writer, bookworm, friend, are what first come to mind. Equally apt would be potty mouth, dog walker, Guinness drinker, swimmer, storyteller, political animal, baker and proud Canadian. Mostly though, I consider myself simply insanely lucky to have a small posse of near and dear ones who put up with me and my curvy, creative, curly haired, opinionated self. I started this blog several years ago with the idea to challenge myself in a myriad of ways. Years in, despite the sporadic entries, I still like to muse about the absurdity of life, what inspires surprises and angers me, books and other entertainments, my menagerie, my travels and any other notion buzzing round in my head.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Thirteenth Tale

While browsing any bookstore it would be rare for me not to buy something. More usual is the sight of me wandering around, arms laden with books or stopping to sit down and browse through the volumes I have gathered, trying to decide which ones to buy and which ones to leave for another day. I have only one rule. If I have picked up and carried a book around more than twice and left it behind, the next time I pick it up it goes home with me, regardless of what else I have with me. The Thirteenth Tale came to me this way.

What originally grabbed me each time I saw this book was a review on the back cover from an Edmonton journal which said this is “a book for people who both love books and know the importance of stories.” But Diane Setterfield wrote more than just that. She penned an eerie ghost story, a spooky tale about sisters and governesses and old houses, a twisting and mysterious story that keeps you on the edge wondering what will happen next. And she did this remarkably as a first time author. She blew me away.

This is a book I could not stop talking about having read it. I have leant my copy to several friends, all of whom raved about it. It is not the kind of story you can talk very much about without giving anything away. But I can say this, the feeling you are left with having read The Thirteenth Tale is like you have just spent time somewhere on the moors of England, in a dark old Victorian mansion, curled up by a fireplace with a cup of cocoa, while a very old lady told you a wonderfully creepy tale.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


One of the things I set out to do at the beginning of the year was to read more and cut a wider swath through some of the classic books which I missed out on and have been meaning to read for many years. While I am delighted to have found modern gems like Annie Dillard and David Sedaris, the wonderful characters of George Eliot’s Middlemarch have, in one 800 plus paged volume wildly surpassed my expectations for the year.

Dorothea Brookes stands out amongst the many heroines of the books I’ve read over the years as a perfectly complex and endearing character. Middlemarch centers around three main characters: Dorothea Brookes - an idealistic wealthy young woman who marries a boring and elderly scholar for all the wrong reasons, Dr. Tertius Lydgate - a newcomer to Middlemarch with innovative modern ideas about medicine and an earnest desire to do good but who makes an unfortunate marriage which is nearly the ruin of him, and Nicholas Bulstrode a successful landowner and pompously pious town banker with a dark secret.

Virginia Woolf is supposed to have said of Middlemarch that it is one of the few English novels written for grown up people. With love, politics, evil doing and scandal, class struggles, characters whom you root for and those you loathe filling the pages of Middlemarch, I can see her point. As study in character development, George Eliot has given every aspiring writer a master class. More importantly though, for all readers, she has left us with a classic to be treasured.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

I am a woman!

There is a Buddhist notion that says if we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep going. This thought has been buzzing round my head this past week. Perseverance and pacing have been the new mantra I’ve tried to embrace as I’ve been setting about ordering my writing and take stock of the work I’ve done in the past year. I’ve been plagued by the gnawing feeling that I’m not on the right track creatively, that my work is too trite and obvious and this has been splitting my focus.

I’ve commented before that I struggle with procrastination. I tend to work at all things in life through big blitzy spurts of energy, rather than a more steady dogged approach to tasks. This applies to my professional work, my little projects around home, my health regime, my writing and even, to a degree the way I read and clean house and bake and spend time with friends. It’s a feast or famine kind of thing, with little balance. I’m all wrapped up in work or taking solitary non-contact breaks from the world to write. I am staying up late into the wee hours to read a book or series of books for a few days. Each of these blitzes is followed in varying degrees by gaps away from these projects while my energy is focused elsewhere.

While I have taken great pride in the fact that when the pressure is on, I am the girl who can churn it out, I have come to realize that day to day life is not like that. More is achieved with a steadier pace. A little bit each day. A page or a paragraph well written each morning. A pound or two each month and so on. One thing at a time.

My friend Allison gave me a book a few years ago by Annie Dillard called A Writing Life. I return to this much loved and now weathered volume frequently for inspiration and encouragement. Dillard’s mastery alone being enough of a credential that any advice she may have for this would be writer is golden to me.

She says:

"The line of words is a hammer. You hammer against the walls of your house. You tap the walls, lightly, everywhere. After giving many years' attention to these things, you know what to listen for. Some of the walls are bearing walls; they have to stay, or everything will fall down. Other walls can go with impunity; you can hear the difference. Unfortunately, it is often a bearing wall that has to go. It cannot be helped. There is only one solution, which appalls you, but there it is. Knock it out. Duck.

Courage utterly opposes the bold hope that this is such fine stuff that the work needs it, or the world. Courage, exhausted, stands on bare reality: this writing weakens the work. You must demolish the work and start over… You can waste a year worrying about it, or you can get it over now. (Are you a woman, or a mouse?)"

I am a woman, I roar!!

And so I started again. Dillard comments, “why are people reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed?” Inspired by the experiences of love around me, of minor disappointments and reminded recently of the support and encouragement I have for me to write something good and very “me”, I salvaged my outline and with a different perspective, point my story in a new direction. It is a scary thing to work hard at something for a while and realize that you need to dissemble it. But, like a bandaid that needs to be torn off, once gone you forget about it soon enough. It didn't really hurt as much as you thought it would. And the same applies to my story, with new ideas plumping up plot lines like fresh air billowing curtains on a breezy day, I think I am pointed in the right direction, all I have to do is keep going.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


It’s been a hell of a few weeks, both personally and professionally. Getting here to blog, or even to make the time to write more creatively has been quite a challenge. One thought was to comment on how all consuming and busy work has been lately. And this is irksome. Post holiday my attitude had successfully been adjusted with a renewed sense that the important things in life do not include fussing about work. Yet, a month or more after my return, back to my usual pace, I find myself focusing an inordinate amount of attention on my projects and implementations. Sure I’ve carved out a little me time and seen a few friends, but just last week I realized my trip and that relaxed vibe I brought home from Europe had all but fizzled. A more frazzled MB has been popping up from time to time.

I tried, a week or so ago, in a moment of frustration to tap back into some of the laid back, contented, priorities-in-the-right-place feeling I returned home with from Ireland. I recall that lasting less than a day and until yesterday, it seemed as far off as Spain to me. It is curious though how easy it is to shift one’s perspective, when the right chord is struck or something happens to snap your attention round.

Sadly, after a wonderful life and prolonged illness, my uncle and godfather, Bernie passed away a few days ago. He was my Dad’s brother; one of the youngest of his ten siblings. My Uncle Bernie was a good man. He was a kind and gentle man, with a big heart, a strong sense of family, community and giving back… and he is missed.

I know these things are tough. Coming from such a big family, yesterday’s was not the first, nor second, nor even the tenth funeral I’ve experienced. Still it is never easy and as I sat in the pew at church, amongst my family and the large group of friends gathered to pay their respects, I did feel sad. But despite the tears and loss felt by many there, I was moved by the palpable feeling of love in the room. Later at the wake, laughing with my cousins and reminiscing with old friends of the family I hadn’t seen in years, I felt it again. Stronger with each memory shared. Love. And I felt grateful.

The effect of the past few days seems to have shifted my perspective back on track. I realize it is common to take stock and recognize how short life is after losing someone. But why does it take these sorts of events? One thing is for sure, like my Dad gone before him, Bernie had rich and full life. Without question, he worked hard establishing and building up his successful business too. But in the end, it is the laughter, love and joy he shared with those in his life that really sticks out, for these are truly the marks of a life well lived.