Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Belly Dance

Well, after my week-long challenge to myself (7 posts in 7 days), I thought I'd write more in the blog.  But, surprise, surprise (or maybe no surprise at all?) it just tapered off again.  My mind's been on other things, like house cleaning, cloth diapers, and due dates.

Photo Credit: Candace O'Brien

So, I decided, why not write about those things instead?  Pregnancy has been completely dominating my mind, so it should be easy to get an entry or two out of it. :)  And here we go.  Where to start.  

Today Baby has just hit her 41 week gestation mark!!  So, according to the early scan I had, I have been pregnant 41 weeks to the day.  And so far, it has been fantastic!  

Being pregnant is much different than I had expected.  I expected it to be difficult, that I'd miss my non-pregnant self and way of life.  But now, my biggest worry is that I'll miss being pregnant after baby comes!! :)  So, without further ado, I present to you what Pregnancy means to me.

Being pregnant is:

  • Feeling energized and motivated more than ever before!
  • But also taking that 2:00 pm nap without any remorse. :)
  • Being continually astounded by my own body's capabilities
  • Feeling a connection to all women throughout time everywhere.  Feeling more female than I ever had before, but also much, much stronger
  • For once, having a body that really wants to exercise and a mind and palate that really want to eat healthy
  • Knowing that I'm changing permanently, but trusting that it's all for the better.
  • Really allowing and trusting the people around me to support me 
  • Talking to strangers on the street about babies and birth and everything cute and wonderful in the world
  • Being surprisingly open to it when said strangers want to rub hands all over my belly while we talk!
  • Giggling (instead of being grossed out) when my little one pokes a foot out to one side of my belly
Of course, not all of being pregnant is sunshine and roses.  Granted, the second and third trimesters were definitely more comfortable than the first, so I've probably forgotten some of the less fun parts of it, but here are some other things it means to be pregnant.
  • Gagging mid-sentence for no apparent reason (or, more usually, because we were driving past a fast food restaurant and the odor of days-old oil)  This was more of a first-trimester worry
  • Sore boobs! - another first trimester worry
  • Having swollen, numb, sausage fingers (I wish that were my excuse for writing so little, but the swelling only started recently!)
  • Having to pee every 5 minutes.  The bladder has no concept of how difficult it is to find a bathroom in some areas of town! least one that doesn't make me want to douse myself in purel afterwards.
  • Obsessing, and I mean OBSESSING over cloth diapers.  And wanting to buy like 20 of every kind!  Though, I attribute this to the fact that I haven't been able to buy much clothing for baby because my best friend (who just had twins!) has given me ALL of her baby clothes.  So I have to go crazy over something cute and snuggly, right???
  • Pseudo-insomnia, as I call it.  Waking up at 3 am to pee and feeling wide, wide awake.  (this is when I do most of my online cloth diaper obsessing, of course.  I'm worse than Gollum and his ring.  I go to and scroll through the sale section, changing "my preciousssssss!"  I'm sure it'll end soon, right? :)
But all in all, I have loved every minute of it.  Stay tuned for more pregnancy and birth related posts -- I have a lot to say about it!  I forgot to add that to the list: Being pregnant also means learning more than you ever thought you would about pregnancy and childbirth.  So, in the comments, let me know if there's any aspects of it you'd like me to tackle first.

Thanks for reading, even though this is a vast diversion from the usual topics of the blog!


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Reconciling Saying No to NaNoWriMo

So, as you all know, we're almost a week into National Novel Writing Month.  Congrats to you if you've joined!  I've always wanted to participate, and I thought this would be my year, but now I sit her eyeing all of the NaNoWriMo twitter posts with envy.

YES!  I want to do a 30 minute sprint!  YES!  I want to compare wordcounts.  YES!  I want to eat half a bag of jelly beans and wash it down with Mountain Dew.  Ew, actually, not that last one.

But, the point is, I can't NaNo this year.  I thought this would be my year, with maternity leave starting and my work winding down.  But, unfortunately, even though work is winding down, I'm not officially done until Nov 30 (the LAST day of NaNo, of course.)  Who planned this!?  Oh, right, me.  And, not only that, but "work winding down," does not equal "free time," as I thought it would.  Instead of NaNo, I'm doing NaGSDMo, aka: National Get Shit Done Month.  The formula is as follows:

Less Work = Training replacement + setting up meetings for my clients to meet my replacement + readying nursery + prenatal visits, which just seem to keep increasing in frequency like nobody's business + prenatal preparation + prenatal fitness + wading through the 3-million different kinds of carseats to choose one + finding SOME time to relax before baby comes!

So, no NaNo this year.  But, there are still great things that can come out of this month, writing-wise.  I get so wrapped up in the NaNo hype, forgetting that many great novels AREN'T written in a month.  And, if they are, it's not necessarily November.  I mean, there are definitely others who can't participate in NaNo because of other life duties, like all those dudes growing huge moustaches!  I mean, it must be the same; I'm growing a baby, they're growing a moustache.

Without further ado, I'd like to share my list of NaNoNoWriMo activities.  Just writing, no pressure to finish a novel.  Consider it like auditing a course; you learn the material but don't have to take the test.  A lot of these may sound to some of you like sound practice for All The Time, and they are!  But I haven't been very good at keeping up my practice.  So, if you're like me, you can take these to heart this month.

  • Write every day.  It doesn't matter how much.  As long as you've put a line in, or even moved things around or jotted a quick note to yourself about how to change a scene, it counts.
  • You can "sprint" too.  Even though you aren't doing NaNo, and thus may not have arranged your life to accommodate 50 thirty-minute sprints every day, you can still sprint a few times.  Maybe just three times a week.  Maybe 2 times a day you can fit in.  But, the point is, take some of that shared NaNo energy and put it into your own writing. 
  • Team up with buddies.  You can team up with your NaNo buddies to do some sprints and word-wars, or you can just team up with another NaNo dropout like yourself.  Perhaps one of your crit partners wants to get online and race with you, or a friend in a writing group.  You don't have to be excluded just because you aren't in it for the marathon.
  • Arrange your writing area as though you WERE doing NaNo.  Keep snacks handy, have your computer and notes already set up at all times.  That way, when you do get those 2 or 3 or 35 minutes to get some words down, you're already halfway there.  (or, at least 10% of the way)
  • Set your own goal and share it.  You might not get 50,000 words by the end of Nov, but maybe you want to have at least 20,000.  Or even 10,000!  Or maybe your goal is to finish edits on a current project, or to outline and prep a new project.  Whatever it is, share your goals with a few writing buddies and you can keep each other accountable.  (And, maybe compete if it's motivating for you. ;) )
  • And, finally, take advantage of the fact that you AREN'T participating.  This means you can edit whenever you want, without the pressure of time and wordcounts weighing in on you.  You can leisurely read through your pages to make sure you're still going in the right direction.  You have the luxury of time, so take it!
So, are any of you guys foregoing NaNo this month too?  If so, why?  And, even though you aren't participating, what are your writing goals?  Let's check back at the end of November and see how our National Non-novel Writing Month went!

Get writing!

ps - anyone want to race? ;)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

One Paragraph Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns

I think I used to do this segment about once a month back when I was blogging more regularly, but now I think I'll switch to just doing it whenever I read a book I really, really enjoy.

And, boy did I ever enjoy this book!!

I hadn't heard of Rae Carson before last week, when a (very generous and possibly delusional) friend of mine compared my writing to hers.  It was a flattering comment, but after reading (edit: devouring) The Girl of Fire and Thorns, I have to decline the comparison.  Carson's writing is genius.  It's not just her beautiful and effortless prose; her plotting is absolutely fantastic.  She manages to weave together several complete stories, allowing them to mingle and braid in such a way that draws the reader in until you can't get out again.  In addition to that, her character arcs are incredibly well-constructed (though not overly obvious).  Elisa, the main character, grows and changes in ways that both make sense but also surprise the reader.  The flow is very natural and not forced at all.  I've read so many books where the character arc is forced, as though the author thought to themselves, "Well, I want her to get from here to there by the end of the book, so we'll just make that happen."  In the Girl of Fire and Thorns, every single thing that Elisa goes through contributes to her transition across the novel in subtle ways.  These subtle changes add up to create on kick-ass arc.  And, while we're on the subject of characters, I'd like to add that the relationships between the characters were also surprisingly different from the typical YA cliches.  First off, I want to both congratulate and yell at Carson for not being afraid to "kill her darlings."  There were definitely some kleenex box moments.  And, while there is something of a love triangle (or, V maybe?), it isn't the run-of-the-mill "she likes him and he likes her but she also likes him and he also likes her; which one will she choose?"  The relationships in this book were more realistic, and along with the characters, the relationships had their own arcs, which I appreciated.  For characters you'll love, a plot that will draw you in, and writing that is exquisite, I'd totally recommend this book.  Sorry, I'm gushing. :)  Let's move onto the nitty gritty.

Front to back time: 3 days

Favourite character: I found Humberto to be the most likeable character.  However, as far as complexity and intrigue, I was very interested in watching Cosme and Alejandro's characters unfold.

Musical Accompaniment: Did a lot of reading in coffee shops, so whatever they had on. :)

Overall Rating: 8.5/10

Have any of you read this?  Any thoughts?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Change - Fear it, embrace it, or wait it out?

There is a lot of movement with publishing giants this week.  It's kind of like the earthquake on the west coast and the hurricane on the east combined forces to rattle the very foundations of the industry.  The seismic activity over here dropped Canadian publisher D&M so low they had to file for bankruptcy, while Sandy blew and blew and blew Penguin and Random House down...or, at least, into each other.  (Now to be called Penguin Random House -- for a company that ships creativity, that has to be the least creative name I've ever heard.)

Meanwhile, more and more people seem to be entering the authorly scene, competing for fewer and fewer published spots.  For this reason (as well as, I'm sure, many others), vast numbers of writers are skipping the middle man (well, middlemen) of traditional publishing and plunging into the bookselling waters solo.  With the ever increasing popularity of the e-reader, publishing your book yourself, in electronic form, is easier than ever.  Then, if things really get moving, there is always a possibility to expand into print.

For a long time, this was a little-talked-about issue.  Whispered in corner chat rooms and wholly separate from the "real" publishing talk on Twitter.  Those people, who obviously couldn't make it in the traditional scene weren't real authors and weren't to be taken seriously.

But that is changing.  Perhaps it's because of the scary-looking shifts in traditional publishing, but perhaps they just needed time to get accustomed to it, people are openly discussing self-publishing values.  There are even breakout workshops at major conferences all about how, when, and why to self publish.

And, people are learning a few things about it:

  1. It's not easy.  While being traditionally pubbed doesn't mean you get to sit on your laurels while a whole team does your marketing for you, when you publish yourself, you are seriously On Your Own.  You do everything, from the editing to the publicity and marketing to the artwork to the formatting.  It's a full-time job.  Oh, yeah, and you still have to write the book.
  2. Not everyone who self-pubs is a horrid author.  Some really great success stories are coming out of the self-publishing world!
  3. Not everyone who publishes traditionally is an excellent author. (ahem, 50 Shades of Gray?)
A great and honest blog post about self-pubbing, written by someone who has worked in almost all areas of the industry can be found here.  Find out why, even after working for an agent and operating her own editing company for years, she decided to self-publish rather than wading into the rapids of traditional publishing.

I'm still not sure what my plan is.  I've sent out a trickle of queries (when I say trickle, I really mean it: 5 over 3 years) but have not wholly discounted the whole self-pubbing route.  

Where do you guys weigh in on the issue?  Does it make sense to embrace the change and jump into self pubbing head first?  Or does it make more sense to stick with the traditional publishing, ignoring (or maybe fearing?) the changes.  Or, is it better to wait out the storm and see where things lie the next ever many years in the future that will be?  Let me know your thoughts.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Make it Messy

Okay, so the 7th day in my 7 day challenge to myself, and I have made it!  Perhaps I'll keep going whenever the whim strikes and, who knows, maybe my 7 day challenge will turn into 10, 20, and 30 day challenges.

...but, then again, maybe not. :)

So, since I'm a writer, I figured at least ONE of my posts should be about writing.  I have a lot to blog about on that topic, since I've recently gone to the Surrey International Writers' Conference and got my brain filled with a whole lot of strawberry flavoured inspiration.  Okay, well, at least it was filled with inspiration.  Not sure about the strawberry flavour. :)  The SIWC is an annual conference held about 20 miles from my house...and somehow I'd never heard of it until this past year, when a friend of mine in the Netherlands, of all places, asked me, "Have you ever gone to this?"

No.  I had never even heard of it.  But now I have.  And now I know, it's an amazing conference!  Smaller, but just as fantastic as the SCBWI ones I went to in Western Washington and even NYC.  I will certainly be making return appearances.  (or, as Soames Forsyth in the Forsyth Saga says, "I shall recur.")

One of the talks I went to was called "Complex Conflicts," by Sam Sykes.  I had never heard of Sam Sykes before, and yes, I do feel a bit funny writing about his fantabulous advice when I haven't even read his books yet.  But, let me tell you, after the awesomely quirky/funny/amazing and inspirational talk he gave, his books are totally on my list!  ...right after I finish "Happiest Baby on the Block" and "Childbirth Without Fear."  (My bookshelf looks very strange now that I'm sharing reading time with pregnancy brain!)

What did he say?  I'll try and distill it into a few concise bullet points.  Unfortunately I can't give the same kind of hilarious spin he did on everything he said, but I hope it's still interesting enough for you to keep reading. :)

1: Messy Conflicts are good!!!

Try to put your protagonist in a situation where there is no obvious solution to the conflict...or where no matter what the protagonist does, someone will be left unhappy.  Happy endings are for sissies.  Are you a sissy!?  I didn't think so.

This recommendation made me think of Clockwork Prince, by Cassandra Clare...which is still totally ripping my heart into pea-sized shreds even months after I finished it.  (Spoiler alert!)  At the end of the book, Will finds out the curse he thought he had -- that anyone who falls in love with him will die -- was a lie.  He runs off to tell Tessa the good news (mainly that he doesn't have to be a douche to her anymore to keep her from loving him), just as Tessa becomes engaged to Jem, Will's "blood-brother." Will would never hurt his blood brother like that, so now he can never have Tessa.  He missed his chance.  And, she missed hers.  Because, we all know she'll never love Jem the way she does Will. AH GUT WRENCHING HEART STOMPING CONFLICT OF A LOVE TRIANGLE!  *ahem* Allow me to compose myself before proceeding.....   Okay.  So, see how Tessa has no one way out of this situation?  No matter what she does, there will be a huge cloud of unhappiness hanging over.  And, we will all preorder Book 3 and await it with bated breath. :)

An example Sam gave was, in sum, "Yes we took down the horrible dictator [resolved conflict], but now the whole region is destabilized and falling into civil war."

My fail-safe check for this: Once you have a conflict in your story, ask yourself, as the writer, do you know exactly how the protagonist will resolve it?  If your answer is yes, then your conflict is too easy.  Make things harder for your MC.  Make sure their lives are a living hell. :)  Try to use the phrase, "We succeeded BUT..."  There has to be that "but" clause for it to be complex.

2: Keep your villains complex (this will help with point #1)

If you villain is just plain evil, there isn't much conflicting emotions if the protag just frags the asshole, right?  However, if your villain has some likeable pieces, or some reason for being so villainous, it can add another layer to the conflict.  Don't be afraid to give the villain her own story, or to allow readers to even identify with the villain.

Two ways to do this:  You can make the villain "relatable" which means you can understand the villain on an emotional level.  You feel for them.  You know the protagonist has to win, but even when he does, it's a bit agonizing to see the villain's defeat.

Or, maybe your villain isn't that great of a person.  Your reader isn't going to go all sappy and feel bad that he's lost.  But you can still at least make the villain "understandable," which means you might not identify on an emotional level, but you can still logically see their point.  You can see what he's trying to prove.  The example Sam gave of this was the Joker in the second new Batman movie.  He wanted to prove that he could easily pull down everything Batman had created in Gotham; he wanted to show the Batman/Gotham empire as being weak.  While we might be like, "wow you're a douche bag," we could at least see his point.

In either case, the reader needs to be able to see things from the villain's side too.

My little check (loosely pilfered from some stuff of Donald Maas's: Ask yourself, "What do I like about this villain?"  Or maybe try "What does this villain tell her psychologist?" :)

And a couple smaller points:

  • Try to limit the coincidences that get the MC out of trouble.  If a coincidence gets her into trouble, excellent.  But she has to figure her own way out.
  • Betrayal sits very strongly with readers.  It stings worse than direct conflict because it's multi-sided.  Everyone who betrays someone has to arrive at it by a touch choice.
  • Make your conflicts on a small scale.  No one cares if the armies of good and evil are clashing, but we'll all stop to watch that one soldier on the front lines who is fighting to stay alive to return to his love...or who is fighting against his own brother...or who is a pacifist but was forced there by his father...etc.  People identify with small conflicts.  We're riveted at someone sitting on a bench next to their crush, agonizing over whether to hold her hand.  We're mildly interested in that same somebody deciding to save the world.
  • Things that interest the character interest the reader.  We care about world-building and other details because they matter to the character.  (on a related note, things that interest the writer are good for the plot.  Parts that you find difficult to write will probably be difficult to read.)
So, I hope that gave everyone some food for thought!  And I hope Sam Sykes doesn't mind that I've shared some of his points with my...oh, 4 readers. :)  Now, all 4 of you, go out and buy his books!  I know I will.  (erm, author crush. hehe)

Stay tuned for more of everything you've seen this past week!  And, tell your friends!  I can ... 75% promise you won't be disappointed if you keep reading my blog.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

One Paragraph Review of Throne of Glass

I picked up this book after a recommendation from my crit partner, Laura.   I have to admit, I was a bit hesitant at first, partially because I'm not a big fan of the cover.  (Yes, I do judge books by their covers.)  I was also a little weirded out by how much the protagonist on the cover resembles the author's photo in the back jacket.  But, alas, those are not reasons to skip a book!  Throne of Glass, a tale of a young, female assassin, Celaena, who is taken out of the death camp/prison in order to compete to become the King's Champion -- his weapon, basically.  While living in the castle, Celaena uncovers secrets -- political and otherwise -- that go beyond her own torturous past.  But, those secrets and her past may be more intertwined than she thinks.  I have to say, I really loved this book!  Celaena's character is beautifully constructed.  While she possesses abilities most don't, she still manages to remain painfully human in parts.  There were even times (Not sure if this was intentional on Maas's part) when I kind of didn't like her.  She can be a little shallow, a little superficial.  But, rather than that creating a bad taste in my mouth, it seemed to make her more of a well-rounded character.  The other thing I adored was the way Maas wove in a subtle love triangle.  Rather than writing page after page of Celaena trying to decide between the two hot guys in her life who worship her,  Maas created organic relationships between her main character and the two "love interests," if I can even call them that.  They had major roles outside of the realm of the love triangle, so they became more than just "insert male character here for romantic subplot."  They became real people, with their own lives that weren't all-consumed with Celaena.  I liked that!  And, rather than decreasing the romance factor, it really made their relationships stand out as being special.  In sum, this was a really entertaining novel, and the 4 prequel novellas were equally as riveting!  Maas has created a story with a strong foundation, authentic characters, and *real* romance.

Now for the stats:
Front to back time: 1 week, but it could have gone much quicker if I hadn't also been doing my day job and baby-prep stuff. :)  Very fast read if you have the time!

Favourite character: Chaol, the captain of the guard.  He seems to always remain true to himself through the story, and his character arc is very well done, in my opinion.

Musical Accompaniment: Mostly Band of Skulls' latest album.

Overall Rating: 7/10

Have you guys read this?  Let me know what you think!  Now I get to wait a whole year until book 2 comes out! 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Say "no" to Sexy Nurses

Shorter blog post today, as I've got a lot on my plate!  As Halloween approaches, I just wanted to share a public service announcement with the girls out there.  Check it out:

Alright, I'll admit it, I'm no stranger to the over-sexed Halloween costume.  In college, my best costume was probably Bettie Paige.  But, it's remarkable, really.  You can sexify anything.  In high school, I went as a "sexy fly" one year, then there's always the ubiquitous sexy vampire or sexy zombie.  In grade 8, I worked tirelessly for months sewing a gorgeous dress for my Aphrodite costume.  On the actual day, though, I decided it didn't show enough skin and just put on some revealing outfit and painted my face "dead."  Instant costume, right?

But, now I'm going to be a mom (of a girl!).  And maybe that's why I like this video.  Or, maybe it's just a bleeping hilarious video!  So, whether you're planning to wear this:

or this:        enjoy the video!!

And tell me, what are you going to be this Halloween?


Grover Costume Credit:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Naked Chicks and Producer Pricks

Photo Credit: Franky Panky

Hooray!  A bonus post for today!  I just couldn't resist posting when I read this story.  It touched on so many things I'm passionate about (burlesque, body image, sexism, bullying...) that I couldn't wait a day to put this out there.

In case you aren't in the link-clicking mood, I'll summarize for you:

Burlesque performer in a show is pulled aside after rehearsal one day and told "Lose weight or you're out.  There are new restrictions being put in place in my company now."  When she says she is uncomfortable with this request, he replies:

" are fighting me about this because a.) your feelings are hurt by my honesty about a situation that we both know to be true, and b.) it dredges up all sorts of hurtful self image issues that you are applying to yourself. If you were to step back and look at the situation rationally,  you would agree that this isn’t the body image that you want to represent yourself with or that you want to put onstage. You want to be healtier, more attractive, stronger, faster, leaner. You want the same things that I want for you. You just don’t like hearing it from me. "
...along with some other nasty things, but there isn't room to paste all of it.

I found the burlesque community just over 2 years ago, and I was so impressed with the openness and utter fun that they embraced!  Burlesque dancers are gorgeous, unique, totally fun, and often quite hilarious.  (seriously, if you've never been to a burlyQ show before, I strongly recommend it!  (If you're in Vancouver, check out Screaming Chicken for some great Revues...There's one this Friday, in fact!)

So, to read this article and see that bullying has even spread to this amazing community was just a shock.  Well, I suppose it wasn't nearly as much of a shock as it should have been.  We deal with body image restraints and issues all the time.  It's just a matter of course for women and, if you happen to spend your time exposing a lot of your body in front of a lot of people, of course someone will bring up your body size/shape.

But it shouldn't be that way.  One of the greatest burlesque performers I've ever seen (and my former teacher!) does not have the typical "ideal body" we're all forced to shove down our throats.  She's curvy.  She's beautiful.  She also won 1st place in her category (humour) down at the Burlesque Hall of Fame in Vegas this year.

It doesn't take a stick skinny person to be amazing and gorgeous.  But it takes nothing more than one prickish producer who thinks he knows what his performers want to make his performers feel like dirt on the bottom of a shoe.  Kudos to the lady who experienced this and was strong enough to say "No," and walk away from his bullshit.  She is a true role model.


What's "Retarded?"

While I make a point not to write too much about political stuff, sometimes I see something that touches me so much I just can't not put it out there.  And, when I see someone standing up for what they believe in, and standing up for themselves or someone less fortunate, those moments touch me.  It doesn't happen enough in the political world, these days.

As some of you may have seen, Ann Coulter tweeted this remark during a recent presidential debate.

"I highly approve of Romney's decision to be kind and gentle to the retard."
I didn't see it, as I don't follow Coulter on twitter...or anywhere for that matter.  I wouldn't even follow her into a Ben and Jerry's if they were giving away free ice cream (and let me tell you, these days I am ALL about the B&J ice cream).

It was brought to my attention, however, after John Franklin Stephens wrote an open letter in response. Who is John Franklin Stephens?  I didn't know either until this whole story blew up.  He is a concerned citizen, a Special Olympian, and he has Down Syndrome.  Rather than being snarky, as so many of us on both sides of the political spectrum are apt to do, he takes the time to respond to Coulter's tweet and eloquently remind us all who "retards" are.

"...someone who was bullied as a child by people like you, but rose above it to find a way to succeed in life as many of my fellow Special Olympians have."
"...someone who has to struggle to be thoughtful about everything he says, as everyone else races from one snarkey sound bite to the next." 
"...someone who is likely to receive bad health care, live in low grade housing with very little income and still manages to see life as a wonderful gift." 

As someone who works with children with special needs, this is what I wish for all of my little guys: to be able to look at their lives and draw positivity out of it anywhere.  (Hell, that's what I wish for anyone, special needs or not.)  And, as I watch my client-kids grow up and learn, this is what I see.  They don't write insulting and bitter tweets and comments about people they barely know.  They draw beauty from what's around them and exude more kindness to others than I see in most adults I interact with.  This is something to strive for.

To reference my previous post on bullying, let's look at the political commentators, pundits, newscasters, and even the politicians themselves and ask "How many of these people are actually bullies?"  What if Ann Coulter's tweet wasn't from an adult political commentator...what if she had been a 15 year old high school girl tweeting about a classmate?

She would be in trouble (I hope!).  So, why do we let the adults and -- though I hate to use this term on the same page as Coulter's name -- role models behave this way?

There's my two cents.  Feel free to weigh in.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bullying Is Not Cool

There has been a lot of talk in the media here (and I'm sure everywhere) about bullying.  There are numerous campaigns, like Pink Shirt Day here in Canada or I Choose, that have programs to help kids get help, as well as to provide education for schools on how to better deal with the problem.

But the problem somehow seems to keep increasing.  And now there are more avenues than ever for bullies to hit their target.  It's no longer confined to schoolyards, cafeterias or buses.  It's on facebook, in email, on twitter, youtube, tumblr, everywhere.  It almost seems impossible to keep up with.  And maybe that's why we don't seem to be able to.  Bullying, now more than ever I think, leads to some really tragic ends.

Where I live, the bullying issue has been receiving extra airtime recently due to a tragic incident a few weeks ago.  A 15 year old girl committed suicide after being continually bullied.  FIFTEEN.  I'm terrible at math, but by my calculations, this means that less than 1/5 of her life had been led by that point.  She was still a child.  Children should never feel this hopeless.  This just should not happen.  I'll say that again.  

This should not happen.

When I was 15, things were bad.  I was sad.  I, too, was bullied quite a bit (an incident where some guy held out a dog biscuit to me and said "here doggy doggy" comes to mind), but never did I feel that there was no way out for me except to just end everything.  How can another human make someone feel so hopeless?  And without realizing what they've done?  Or, even worse, do they realize?  Do people think it makes them cool to put others down and make them miserable?  Based on my personal experience being bullied, and even bullying (see below), I think bullies' motives vary.  Maybe some of them are really sadistic.  Maybe some of them are too afraid not to bully.  Maybe some get caught up int he crowd.  Some might just want to be cool.

I was trying to think of a neat and catchy title for this post, but nothing really said what I wanted like the title I chose.  The simple truth about bullying is that it is just not cool.

Since I'm about to bring a child into this world myself, I've been thinking back on my experiences with bullying when I was younger...and what helped me get through it.  Also, what did the opposite.  I'd like to share one of my stories below.  Admittedly, it's my least...flattering, but I think it brings up some really interesting points on the subject.  Often people aren't just a bully or just a victim.  And, it's a little to easy for a bullying victim to not notice when they end up on the other side.

I'd like you all to do the same in the comments below: write down any of your own bullying experiences, whatever side of the issue you were on.  Or share some things that helped you or you think would help the ever-more worrying situation in our schools.

I don't have any answers for how to fix this problem, beyond saying that we just can't stand for it.  If you see bullying, don't just watch.  And, for the love of god, don't join in!  Stop it.  Help someone in need.

And if you are bullying, take a step back and remind yourself that it's not okay.  Sometimes it takes getting called out by the victim, or other students, or your own parents to realize how far you crossed the line.  Don't waste that opportunity.  Make yourself a better person and stop bullying.

Bullying story: Wrong Choices

As I said above, I was bullied for quite a bit of my middle school years (and high school, but at this point in my life I hadn't yet made it to high school).  In grade 7 and 8, I had a 1.5 hour bus-ride to school (I was the second stop).  To me, the bus was one of the most terrifying zones of all school-related places.  It was a moving vehicle with only one adult on it, and his job was to drive the bus safely, not to monitor the 40+ kids and pre-teens all raging behind him.  I'd spent many a busride trying to ignore older kids when they called me "spider" for my unshaven legs or "Elvis" because of my thicker-than-normal sideburns.  (My family's Italian)  I kept my eyes on my feet when I had to move seats because some large upper-classman told me "You in my spot, bitch." I was no stranger to the terror of the schoolbus.

But it was around grade 7/8 when I actually had some friends on the bus with me.  I was suddenly one of the older kids on the bus.  Many of my old bullies had either dropped out or graduated up to high school.  The newbies who came on board now had the shy faces and hesitant gaze that I remembered in myself.  Others didn't take long to take advantage and dig their claws into the fresh meat.

And, one day, I did too.  There was one girl -- I don't even remember her name, a fact that increases my feelings of guilt -- who I latched onto like a shark.  She was cute, but chubby, with short red hair and freckles.  For a few days she asked to sit next to me and I let her, chatting nicely in between gazing out the window.  But, then the other sharks on the bus noticed her -- and me -- and the taunting began.  A little voice inside my head must have asked, "Are you chum or are you shark?"  Obviously I know different now, but at the time I felt I had 2 choices: I could be lumped in with this girl, who was quickly descending to a bottom rung on the food chain, or I could assert my distance from her -- and my same-ness to everyone else -- by joining in on the bullying.

I had spent too long being chum.

So, one day I poked a finger in her back and announced, "Hey orca, are you even wearing a bra?  I'm just trying to be nice; just saying, if you aren't wearing one, you should."  Her face flushed as red as blood, but it only pushed me on further, like it would any hungry predator.  "While you're at it, buy one for your back boobs too."

She endured it.  As you must, if you know.  I never saw her cry, just stare blankly ahead, dying a little every bus ride.

Every time I did this, I felt a kind of cold sickness inside me, but it was like I couldn't stop.  While each time I felt myself rotting from the inside out, it also did a strange thing; I felt powerful.  Sick, but powerful.

It didn't go on long, maybe a few weeks.  Until I was called to the principal's office one day.  I had never been called to the principal's office like this before.  If I got called in, it was to receive some kind of award or to meet someone.  I was an A student.  Honor roll, teacher's pet, absolute nerd.

Walking into his office, I knew exactly what I was there for.  I waited on the bench outside, ignoring the secretary's disappointed head-shaking, until the door swung open and one of my "partner's in crime" walked out.  I tried to meet her eye, to see if she'd possibly lied for me, see what I should say.  She didn't look my way at all.  At that point, I still thought maybe I could get out of getting in trouble.  I promised whatever silent spirits I believed in at the time that I would never bully again if I could just get out of this without a punishment.  I wiped my sweaty hands on my jeans and walked into the office.

Mr. Apple was his name.  He nailed me with a piercing stare as soon as I shut the door behind me.  I have no idea what happened in the conversation there, but I do remember leaving in tears.  And I was banned from the bus for the week.  That in itself wasn't really so bad.  Looking back, it's kind of a lame punishment for how I made that girl feel.

What I really dreaded, though, was going home later that day to face my mum.  My mum who had been with me through all my tear-filled talks of myself being bullied.  She reacted just as I'd expected, eyes cast down, not even wanting to look at me.  "How could you do that to that little girl," I remember her saying.  And, immediately I felt everything that girl must have felt.  I was more ashamed than I had ever, ever been up to that point.

My mum always had a mantra when I was in trouble -- "The punishment should fit the crime."  I wouldn't be grounded, for example, for bullying a girl on the bus.  The penance I had to serve for this sin?  I had to write a letter to the girl, apologizing for what I had done.  Not to bad sounding, right?  Wrong.  It was agonizing.  I also had to write a letter to the girl's Dad, apologizing to him too.  My mum, eyes filled with tears, explained that one: "You know how I used to feel when you came home crying from school, saying no one liked you and telling me about the horrible things people said to you?  Devastated.  No parent wants their child to be in pain like that.  When child is in pain, parent is in pain.  So you need to write to this girl's Dad and tell him if there is ever anything he or his daughter needs, they can call on you."

All of this finished, I tried to kind of befriend the girl.  It wasn't a nice gesture -- it was a way to assuage the guilt I felt.  She turned away all of my pleasantries, opting not to sit with me or share my snacks.  When I complained to my mum about it, she gave me a face (you know, that parental "Are you an idiot!?" face and said, "What did you expect??")  I knew immediately what she meant.  Why on earth would the girl I treated like dirt want to be my friend suddenly just because I'd written her a letter.

It was quite the lesson.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Seven Day Challenge

On your mark.

Get Set.


In an effort to resurrect my blog from the Archives of Blogs that Once Were, I've decided to write a post a day for the next 7 days.  At the same time, I've like to invite my other blogging buddies (you are out there somewhere, right? :) ) to do the same!  It's not so hard, probably easier than the 30 Day Bikram Challenge.  This you can do in a non-smelly room with no one yelling at you.  AND it's only 7 days!  How can you go wrong?  Admittedly, I've got a heard start from my post yesterday, but it's okay if we're a bit staggered.  It's not a race, after all.

Here's what you gotta do each day:

  • Write a blog post of your own (can be on ANY topic!  How easy is that!?) 
  • Post in my comments that you're participating (and provide a link to your post, if you want to)
  • If you're feeling friendly, visit the posts of any other participating bloggers.  We can all make new friends this way!
At the very end of it, I'll post a list of all the bloggers who completed the challenge.  Yay!  And, depending on how many of you I get, I'm offering either a query or first chapter critique to anyone who does all 7 days!!  Free crits, hooray!

Now, get posting!


Monday, October 22, 2012

The Cat Came Back


If there are any die-hard, faithful Drive readers who have stuck with me over my incredibly long hiatus, thank you!  If not, I hope I get some of you back soon.  I have gained new inspiration and have made new resolutions recently.  So, my plan is that I will write for you all at least once a week.  Posts will focus on a variety of topics, not just what/how I'm writing, but also information I've learned from and about the industry, segments about what I'm reading (oh yes, the return of the one para book review!), and things about general life.  A lot has happened over the past year and a half for me to talk about!

First off, as some of you old readers know, I got married last August (2011) to the absolute love of my life.  The wedding went off with...only the usual stress.  :)  But we had an absolute blast, boogying it up to my stepdad's band in my parents' back yard.  Best way to do a wedding!  (Well, I can say that now, after all the stress of planning!)

After that, we went to Fiji for our honeymoon, which was absolutely amazing.  We stayed on 2 different islands in the Yasawa chain.  Both without roads or vehicles (other than boats).  Each island had just a handful of villages on it, and the money we spent staying at the "resorts" (which weren't the fancy things you normally think of when you hear that word) went back to the schools and other services for the people who lived in the villages.  I would go back in a heartbeat...

...EXCEPT that I can't go back for awhile because, speaking of heartbeats, there's a little extra one beating away in my abdomen right now.  In about two months, her little heart will be beating out of my abdomen and we'll get to see her beautiful (okay, smushed, pink, slimy) face for the first time.  So, I will probably be talking a bit about that in upcoming blog posts, since thoughts about birth and mummy-hood take up 99% of my brainspace these days.  Hormones are powerful, I swear.

So, that's what I have been doing!  Busily creating a family, travelling, and working on my career (unfortunately for my writing, the day-job career as a Speech Pathologist).

But someone commented on my last post, a million years ago, and asked me to write about aliens.  I'm going to side-step that request (but file it away for later!) and instead show you someone else who is AMAZING at writing about aliens...aliens in love, actually. :)

Melissa West's book Gravity is released from Entangled Publishing TOMORROW, people, so go out and buy it.  I've already preordered mine from Chapters, so I know I'll get it pronto.  The book has an amazing cover:

And here is the amazing story to go with:

Seventeen-year-old Ari Alexander just broke that rule and saw the last person she expected hovering above her bed—arrogant Jackson Locke, the most popular boy in her school. She expects instant execution or some kind of freak alien punishment, but instead, Jackson issues a challenge: help him, or everyone on Earth will die.

Ari knows she should report him, but everything about Jackson makes her question what she’s been taught about his kind. And against her instincts, she’s falling for him. But Ari isn’t just any girl, and Jackson wants more than her attention. She’s a military legacy who’s been trained by her father and exposed to war strategies and societal information no one can know—especially an alien spy, like Jackson. Giving Jackson the information he needs will betray her father and her country, but keeping silent will start a war.

If you want to see examples of brilliant plotting and superbly tight language, check this out.

And, with that, first blog post in over a year is complete!  Stay tuned for more, hopefully in less than a few months.