Tuesday, November 30, 2010

No buskers, no hot dog man at the station

During the 2010 Olympics in February, BC Transit started requiring buskers to apply for licences to perform their music in the train stations. I blogged at the time that I thought that was a crazy idea. If the musicians believe in their music enough to be out in all seasons playing, let them play.

As a regular transit user, I used to enjoy hearing music as I descended the escalator into the Commercial-Broadway Station concourse. What I miss most is the sound of the Andean winds; that haunting music used to float up the escalator to greet me as I floated down.

Another thing I miss at the new version of what used to be called simply Broadway Station before it tied into the other line is the hot dog cart. For years and years the same vendor plied his trade just at the bottom of the escalator on the southwest side of the entrance.

I don't much care for hot dogs, but I always enjoyed the aromas of grilling wieners and frying onions from the car. I only bought a hot dog from the cart once. But the man never seemed to lack for customers. Now he's been gone -- for awhile. What's happened to him?

The station concourse is large and spacious, but there are no longer benches on the south end of the platform at Broadway either. Things go along the same for a long time; then when they change we become aware of small losses that our senses miss.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Brown brogues, black suit, red tie and stories

Image from cbc

After years of reading, listening to and laughing at his wonderful stories, on Sunday afternoon we saw Stuart McLean live for the first time.

He gave his Christmas concert at the Centre for the Arts on Homer Street. Between McLean's stories we heard wonderful singing by Jackie Richardson, along with guitar and voice by Matt Andersen. Also between stories, Vinyl Cafe regulars Dennis and John played double bass and piano respectively.

Watching Stuart McLean perform live was fascinating. Long, lanky and slightly bow-legged, he proved to be a very physical storyteller. He kicked coltishly with his feet and waved his hands to punctuate the actions in his tales.

Picking audience favourites from a hat, he told 7 much-loved favourites, including "Dave Cooks the Turkey," in fifteen minutes, as well as delivering full versions of two brand-new ones.

McLean had giveaways -- books and cds -- to appreciate the concertgoers, and he needed help to distribute them. Enter Hanna, a twelve-year-old girl volunteer. In her fancy dress, pearls and bright blue crocs, Hanna was a charming hostess who engaged gamely with Stuart's repartee.

The stories are funny and the characters, like our family members, friends and neighbours, are easy to identify with. It's easy to see why McLean is Canada's best-loved story teller.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Comfort Food Weather


Photo: crepes with warmed summer fruit from the freezer, by Yasemin

This is the season for comfort food. Soups are on the menu, especially hearty ones. Last week at our house it was Scotch broth, and this week lentil soup cooked Afghani style. Warming meals like chicken cacciatore and curried lamb provide excellent winter fare.

Salads are chunkier now, with red cabbage, cauliflower, cooked beets and carrots taking over from summery salad vegetables like lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes. Cheese or stuffed olives can be added.

Cooked summer fruit from the freezer served with warming crepes, pictured above, evoke August fragrances, as well as satisfying the palate, the tummy and that old sweet tooth.

The peaches in the photo are cooked with a bit of lemon juice, sugar and tapioca to make a chunky warm jam for the crepes, and the frozen blueberries are heated in the microwave.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Year of blogging dangerously

It's been a great blogging year. Don't know exactly when to date the anniversary, but this seems as good a time as any. My first posts last November were essays I'd written but never published; hence the name of this blog. When my adult daughter complimented an early impromptu post, I knew I was on the right track.

As my process evolved, I started to take note of how the words looked on the page and learned the art of visual editing. On screen, I discovered, paragraphs needed to be short; lots of "white" space was good for onscreen reading.

Over the next few months, I gradually discovered that I was breaking many rules about blogging. I didn't care. I was having so much fun and learning so much that doing it "right" didn't matter.

I learned to edit, edit, edit. Pare the message down until it doesn't go past "the wrinkle," though sometimes I still do, like now. Link to related material, including You Tube videos. Illustrate with my own pictures, or other pix for which I can obtain permission.

The greatest joy has been to write about absolutely anything I want. Whenever something interesting comes into my head, I use it. It only takes a few words to post these little ideas.

I've been using HiStats since January. I've notice that many of my readers hail from cities where I've never been, or know nobody. Friends may say they'll check out my blog, but for the most part, they don't. Yet I've had visitors from 23 countries now, and 120 cities.

Occasionally people respond, as a busker did from New York. She heartily agreed with my sentiment, posted before the 2010 Olympics, that buskers should not be required to apply for licences to play music in transit stations. From her link, I heard performance in the subway.

On the whole, it's been a great blogging year. Next year, I look forward to becoming even more proficient at this new-found art form.

Geranium, like the Mary Ellen Carter, rises again

The sun has come out and the snow that was with us for a couple of days is melting rapidly. Though geraniums are not winter hardy in our region, on the back deck, my potted one has not given up yet.

Just yesterday it was covered by at least ten centimetres of snow; today the leaves, still green, stand bravely supporting the pink buds of hope. As soon as the weather improves, the plant seems to be saying, we will overcome this temporary setback and carry on.

As the British know well, Carry on! is a great motto. Today I must carry on with my promise to myself to finish my Nanowrimo novel. The time for procrastination is over. Only yesterday I passed the halfway mark, but my fellow scribblers keep telling me in email pep talks not to give up. Around the halfway point, they say, the process gets really interesting.

And it does. Because of what I am learning, I will carry on to the end. Even if I do fail to beat this looming deadline of November 30 at midnight, I'll rise again, like the Mary Ellen Carter.

In a ballad by the late great Canadian folksinger Stan Rogers, that sunken ship is raised from the bottom by sailors and floats once more at the dock. (You can listen to this remarkable song here.)

The rousing chorus is filled with encouragement for people everywhere who have lost something of great importance:

"No matter what you've lost, be it a home, a love, a friend
Like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again."

Friday, November 26, 2010

Seeing what's always there


A snowfall clothes the familiar world in a calm and equal white. Fresh snow colours the light of the world clean.

In snow, we perceive things with a new awareness. The fresh snap of cold on the cheeks and the snow-altered scents of air and plants evoke remembered winter childhoods. We feel reborn. Snow muffles feet and the sounds of cars, slows life to a pleasant walking pace.

In the special alertness brought on by the presence of snow, things normally overlooked are freshly apprehended as the world slows down.

Though I look daily at the maples outside my office window, especially when their leaves turn to beautiful autumn colours, it was only in yesterday's snow that I noticed the birds in these same trees. Two tiny chickadees were flitting between branches, shaking the snow playfully from their wings.

Snow also reveals animal tracks. When the back porch and garden are covered in uniform white, the tracks of wild creatures become visible. The raccoons who inhabit the adjoining woodland now reveal their habitual paths, and if coyotes cross the garden, we know it.

A neighbourhood cat leaves telltale tracks as well as tufts of orange fur on the front doormat, revealing where he sat borrowing warmth from the house. Our own kitty leaps and plays in the white stuff, and his paw prints make plain the paths of his habitual patrols.

This is the great virtue of snow: it make us to slow down and notice what is always there but rarely seen.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thank you, dear Lemony Snicket

Dear Lemony Snicket,

Your message came today and saved me. I laughed out loud reading it and once again I told myself "What the hell? Who cares if it's not perfect?" I will finish it.

I only have a few more days, but that's okay. No matter how much procrastination it takes, no matter how much caffeine and comfort food. No matter how many preliminary games of computer solitaire. No matter how many more crosswords I have to finish, just so I can get back to the novel.

In my inbox is another message from a Nanowrimo participant, but I refuse to read it yet. I have seen the acronym TGIO, and I don't want to know...

The writer's life is funny, but I'm glad I'm getting my feet wet. I am utterly determined to finish my stupendously lame novel, which I am having fun writing, even though I have to practically torture myself to start. Even though right now I am only halfway through.

And now that I have put it out here, what a fool I will look, what a sham I will be, if I wimp out. Ergo, I have no choice. I must complete the 50,000 words by midnight on November 30.

What am I waiting for?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dance Marathons

During my first year at UBC, I lived in Totem Park residence. After growing up in a small northern town, I was eager to get an inside view of some of the more exotic aspects of campus life.

Among the activities I enjoyed most were the dance marathons. These were were held at SUB, the then-new Student Union Building. Dancing to live bands went on all night. For those who needed to sit down for awhile, horror movies were shown simultaneously in the theatre downstairs.

For the intrepid dancers who lasted the whole night, there was a pancake breakfast. The pancakes and coffee provided a pleasant fuel for the short morning walk back to the dorms and my bed.

At the time, I had no idea about the checkered history dance marathons. Even when the movie came out, I didn't watch They Shoot Horses, Don't They. The title put me off; I loved horses.

Then a couple of years ago, a friend and I were driving through the valley and she started telling me about the dance marathons that happened during the dirty thirties, and about the idea she had for a story about those poor people who danced till they dropped, hoping for a little cash. It would be a kids' book, she said. The title she had planned was Elsie and the Silver Rain.

Silver Rain, by Lois Peterson, was published this year. I attended the October launch, which was held at Arthur Murray Dance Studio in White Rock, to hear Lois read and to watch some dancers perform the samba and the tango, dances popular at the time of the marathons.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A passing parade of technologies II


When I began to teach downtown in the early eighties, I joined the NFB film library. My friend and I used to walk over to Georgia Street to browse for films our students would like. The films consisted of reels stored in cans. Some films were on one reel and some on two. I carried my selections back to work at the YMCA in my satchel.

Teachers had to learn the complex set of steps involved in threading film onto the projector, as well as how to troubleshoot when things went awry. After the showing, we had to reverse the reels and fast forward the films back onto their original reels before returning them.

NFB films were highly respected; one I remember showing was Dr. Helen Caldicott’s documentary film If you Love this Planet, a sobering caution against the use of nuclear devices. That film generated a lot of conversation. One student who had served in his nation's army said he'd been trained to use field nuclear weapons.

I had been taping people so they could hear their English speech and I could comment on how to improve oral grammar and pronunciation. This man stayed after class and asked me to give him the cassette tape to destroy. "I revealed something I shouldn't have," he said, "and I want to feel easy in my mind that nobody can find out."

Last week I heard another news story about Dr. Helen Caldicott, who was in Canada talking about nuclear issues in Port Hope, Ontario. She recommended moving the entire town because of radioactive contamination, a legacy of nuclear industry in the area.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Statistics can lie, but they can also tell the truth

It's easy to "lie" with statistics. But numbers can also tell the truth. A few days ago, driving in to Vancouver, I took a rest from listening to the lurid plight of Ian MacEwan's singularly unappealing protagonist, Michael Beard, (Solar, 2010) to listen to CBC.

It was International Toilet Day. Clara Greed, a professor of Inclusive Urban Planning in Bristol, who has just received the OBE for her work for potty parity for women in Britain, was interviewed first. Due to a dearth of facilities, UK Women, especially elderly ones, said Greed, must carefully plan their journeys to ensure access to toilets.

In the US, John Banzhaf, a professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University, is working for porcelain parity for women by working to change laws and building codes. Mary Clancy, a former Canadian parliamentarian, reported that she had to lobby for female facilities in the House of Commons during her early tenure there.

There was a mildly comic aspect to these stories, and I laughed as I listened. Then the topic turned to the third world's devastating lack of access to basic sanitation. Hearing about the shortage of toilets for schoolchildren in Kenya changed the mood completely.

Lizette Burgers, UNICEF's chief of water and sanitation spoke from from her office in Bangalore, reporting that though the Indian government of has recently increased the budget for new toilets tenfold, the shortage of facilities remains a severe social and health problem, especially for women and girls. The final statistic was the shocker. No fewer than six hundred million people in India live without toilets. Check the story if you find that unbelievable, as I did.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A passing parade of technologies I

When I was a child, our house was heated by two stoves that burned wood. In winter, the cook stove in the kitchen burned steadily. After some rather messy modifications done by Dad, it functioned as a hot water heater too. The water circulated through a hot water jacket in the firebox and was piped to a large tank with a temperature gauge.

Dad kept an eagle eye on that gauge. When it crept too high, he would ask, "Who wants a nice hot bath?" We all understood this was not a question. I volunteered often, and learned to love the heat of the water in the drafty cold of the winter bathroom.

Both the kitchen stove and the small Quebec heater in the living room threw a lot of cosy heat, provided you didn't move too far from them. My mother cooked in the wood stove till long after I left home, when she finally got an electric range.

On the farm, Mom had used sad irons. These were heated on the stove and held with a special holder. The cast iron held heat well, but a second one stayed on the stove for when the first cooled down. When we moved to town, Mom got a dry electric iron, used. The first steam iron was a big deal.

The pop-up toaster was also a great innovation. Previous to that, we used to toast bread in a wire cage on top of the stove. When we did the same later at Guide Camp, my girls said we were like pioneers.

Upon arrived in Terrace, we got a telephone. The very last word in communications technology, it was fastened to the wall and designed so you could dial any number without having to ask the operator to connect you. And a private line meant no one could listen in.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Snow Light

(Photo: Snow in the back garden)

The first snow of winter fell on Surrey last night and I woke to the beauty of snow light.

The time has arrived for knitting and sitting by the fire. Also, the time for cooking hearty winter soups and doing occasional bits of a certain kinds of baking -- gingerbread dogs and other winter and Christmas delights.

And of course, the time for donning toques and gloves and winter boots and going outside to walk around in the snow. It's also a perfect day to visit Christmas at Hycroft, and that's where we plan to be before long, providing the roads are passable.

Encouraging Prisoners to Communicate

The SIWC, the Surrey International Writers' Conference, is one of the best in the world. Rising from humble beginnings at a local high school, it now packs the Sheraton Guildford, Surrey's largest hotel.

It was writer Ed Griffin, a former Catholic priest, who established this conference. He also started the Surrey Creative Writing Diploma Program. A priest of writing rather than the church, Ed loves encouraging other writers. He still teaches writing classes, and continues as the valued founding member of the Rainwriters.

Ed also goes regularly to Matsqui Institution to encourage prisoners to communicate their stories through the written word. Before that, he worked with prisoner writers in Wisconsin. His dedication has made a positive difference for many incarcerated men.

Ed gets a lot of satisfaction from empowering writers to record their stories. Men in jail who rise to his challenge and learn to write inspire him too: after Ed's prison visits, he recently told an interviewer for Spotlight on the Arts, he goes home and "writes up a storm."

Several local writers have joined Ed on his prison teaching visits to Matsqui. World-renowned novelist Diana Gabaldon, a regular at the SIWC, now accompanies Ed on a prison visit each October while she is in town for the conference.

Ed has just completed yet another writer-friendly initiative. He's established an education bursary for prisoners through the John Howard Society. Education, he says, is a proven way out of crime. This bursary fund is still accepting donations. For more information about The Ed Griffin Educational Bursary, check this link.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Remembering Dad's New Technologies

Photo, left: Kerosene lantern (commons.wikimedia.org)


I was in my late thirties when I sat beside my dying father. As he lay in his hospital bed, he looked back and thought about things he remembered. Listening to him reminisce about the changes he'd seen in his long life was something I found familiar and comforting.

"As a child," he told me, "I walked barefoot behind the plough and oxen. "Now," (there was awe in his voice though the news was more than twenty years old at the time), "we've put men on the moon."An immigrant farmer from Sweden, my grandfather was a technology enthusiast who kept his radio tuned to CBC.

When I was a teen, Dad was the one with the transistor. His tiny radio sat on his bedside table when he lay on his bed, as he often did, reading about the ancients. His radio too was tuned to the CBC; to my annoyance, he never failed to listen to the newscasts.

In 1969, we watched the moonwalk with our neighbours; we had no TV at homw. But we did have electricity and running water. Until I was eight we lived on a prairie farm. Our heat came from wood and coal-burning stoves, and we carried water.

Our light came from a variety of kerosene lamps. Dad came home one day with a noisy sputtering gas lamp; we oohed and aahed when we saw how dim it made the light thrown by our biggest kerosene lamp.

I came home for Christmas one year to find that Dad had acquired new radiant kerosene heater. Taking it into my room at night, I reveled in the heat thrown by the red-hot dome-shaped element. On the down side, when heater kicked in and the element glowed against the silver reflector panels, the room was nearly as bright as day.

Oh, the joy of going to bed without the necessity of pushing my feet down into the icy reaches of the sheets, the luxury of not trying to sleep in the same position so no body part would have to touch bedding that I had not already shivered into warmth.

Best of all, to rise in the morning to a room already warm was extraordinary luxury. Yet, though the climate here is much warmer than there, and though now we use a toasty down-filled duvet in winter, I still sleep best in a cold bedroom.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Double Bluff


Double Bluff Park,
Whidbey Island,
Washington
October 2010



Double Bluff. It's also something you do in a card game. And it's a lovely name for a story.

The day I visited was cold and windy. I spoke to a young surfer in a wetsuit. He smelled like marijuana. I asked him for directions to the Cottages at Hedgebrook, but he was from Tacoma; he didn't know the island very well. He said he had come to meet his friend and surf.

"I brought this bad weather," he said. "I feel guilty. The surfing conditions were perfect till I arrived."

Long thin line of houses along the coast. Tsunami evacuation route signs along the road. Wind and waves. There has to be a story here.

Probably that was what Agatha Christie was thinking when she published The Murder at the Vicarage in 1930.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Aceepted by the Writer's Studio at SFU

It's a thrill and an honour, and I'm really excited. I've been accepted into the Writer's Studio at SFU and I couldn't be more pleased.

On the other hand, I now have to finish my manuscript, and that's scary. What if I can't finish it? What if it's not good enough?

What if I do manage to finish it, and publish it, and then everyone hates it?

In a similar vein, the inner voices chorus away, trying to intimidate me. Well, it won't work. Not this time.

This time I'm fighting back. Quiet, editor! I have to finish a manuscript before it needs to be edited. That's when I'll call on you, and not before.

Quiet, Inner Critic! You can't criticize what hasn't been written yet. That comes later. Lie down, now. Go back to sleep.

"Get over it," says another part. "Writers write and people read what they write. After all, isn't the whole purpose of getting published so that people can read what you write?"

But then, fear isn't a rational thing. Still, it can be faced up to. I intend to conquer it.

Changing the Story

"You should write a mystery," my daughter advised, "you read so many of them." But somehow, I got started on a fantasy. And bogged down.

Then yesterday I got a new lease on story, found myself writing about two real and present characters that came out of the woodwork. I thought they would be peripheral to my story -- spear carriers, so to speak.

But I'm beginning to realize that one of these may, in fact, turn out to be the main protagonist.

Follow the story, follow where it leads. In the end, I may have a mystery and the fantasy part may just get cut.

But that's all okay. The only rule is to finish the 50,000 words in the time allocated, the month of November.

I'm catching up, too. I think I've survived week two. Nearly a quarter of the way through the 50,000 word count, and I have two weeks to go. I'll just have to do the rest in double time.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The real meaning of a plugged nickel

Apparently my idea of a plugged nickel as one with a hole though it (and my brother had the same idea) was wrong.

According the The Phrase Finder, there was a time when people made holes in coins and filled them with cheaper metals.

Sounds like a labour-intensive kind of counterfeiting, especially when it must have been obvious that a coin had been plugged...

Each era brings its own scams, I guess.

Thanks to other Nanowrimists on the path

One of the most liberating things about doing Nanowrimo so far is finding out that other writers -- even published ones -- have the same challenges as I do.

In Victoria, local writers are meeting at The Black Stilt Coffee Lounge to scribble away together. I like that place -- my daughter took me there when she was studying at UVic. Folksingers then, like in the sixties. Now I imagine a bunch of writers hunched over netbooks not notebooks, coffee within easy reach. Times and technologies change, but the writing process -- not so much.

I loved reading about the Folly files of John Green. Knowing about them gives me permission to carry on with the story I'm writing, even knowing already that it's destined for my own Folly file. Even so, I feel chuffed to think that this opus can count as one of those early novels that most writers have written. Early novels in drawers I mean, the ones that never see the light of day. So thanks, John, for your part in liberating my words.

Another writer whose pep talk I really appreciated was Lindsey Grant of Oakland. Now there's a scribbler who sees inside the minds of fellow writers, to where the temptation to quit looms large in Week Two. I definitely had a case of the Week Twos, but just as definitely, I'm going to make it to week three, and then week four and the triumphant end. Thanks, Lindsey!

Through the slogging, blogging about Nanowrimo is another lash to keep me going. If I've promised to finish, I must and will deliver; the eyes of the blog watchers are watching me!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Catching up with Nanowrimo

I got behind, and I have to catch up. Fortunately, I am not alone. Writers, they say, need other writers. In this Nanowrimo venture, the writers who are encouraging me are people I've never heard of and never met. Those emails have been a real help.

We all have the same challenge -- getting the butt into the chair and cranking out the words, in a regular fashion, no matter what. Ruthless was the word Elizabeth George used, and I like that. Your have to write ruthlessly, let nothing get in the way.

That way, the words keep coming, and the scenes keep coming. I am several days' worth of writing behind, but I will catch up. I want to and am determined too. This is an exercise, not a brilliant bestseller. The point is to keep going.

By the end of November, I will be among the success stories. All I have to do is produce 50,000 words. No complaining, no excuses. Without fail, 50,000 words of story, coming up.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A plugged nickel

This morning I woke with an old tune in my head -- a Depression-era ballad my Dad used to sing about a man who tries to pay for a donut with a plugged nickel:

"She looks at the nickel and she looks at me, and she says,
This nickel is no good, can't you see?
There's a hole in the middle and it goes plumb through."
"Well," says I, "there's a hole in the donut too."

A plugged nickel. It's an expression I haven't thought about or heard for a long time, though I heard it many times in my childhood without ever questioning its origins.

"It ain't worth a plugged nickel," Dad would say, and we knew he meant the thing he referred to was something he considered worthless.

Our neighbour Homer used to say it too. Men of that era had their own expressions, now nearly forgotten.

Here is the image I formed in my head when I heard the expression as I sang the song this morning. Out in the backwoods, a man in a mackinaw places a nickel on end on top of a tin can on top of a stump and then gets his rifle and sees if he can shoot a hole in it.

If he's a good shot, the result is a plugged nickel.

Patience and faith

All you have to know is the next step. This advice is everywhere, and though I thought I knew the truth of it, I never applied it specifically and consciously to my own life.

But reading or hearing something is one thing and living it is quite another. You don't know something until you live through it. Doing Nanowrimo, I am discovering how the above maxim works in real life.

It's amazing what happens when I sit down to write my story. I work on one scene, and as I press the keys, the next scene flows into my mind. Then, as I complete that scene, another comes in. When no other scenes come to mind, it is time to rest for the day.

I am learning to my amazement that if I can tune in to what Salman Rushdie called The River of Story, I receive the story I am supposed to tell now in small increments.

The rest, like life itself, requires only patience and faith.

Fall down seven times, get up eight times

Image from wikipedia

Today I have to apply the determination suggested by this proverb. The national novel writing month organization, Nanowrimo, is my learning tool. In six days, I have learned a lot about what blocks my creativity. Besides fear, of course.

I'm doing Nanowrimo for the first time; I committed to the idea without knowing the ropes. I was still on Whidbey Island when I created my account, but I couldn't get into the system. It was Day One; numerous eager participants were logging in.

I started to write. After 500 words, my ideas began to peter out, and I was tempted to get up from the chair, saying to myself that it was time to be on the road home. But I refused to be distracted, and told myself I couldn't go anywhere until I had the day's word count.

The view from the window onto the verandah, with its two rockers facing the sea cliff, gave me an idea. I began an new scene, and finished my daily allocation in about fifteen minutes.

Then I came home and returned to work and normal life. The week went by and I didn't write. Mentally I set aside Friday as a catch-up day. I had no errands and no appointments but I got distracted by other undone tasks, mainly stuff that was piled on my desk.

As I did these things, I recalled some of Ivan Coyote's comments at the SIWC -- "You're your own worst enemy. It's your job to find out what works for you. I can't write in a quiet place and I can't write in a dirty house. It takes me 45 minutes to clean and then I can write."

And I can't write at a disorganized desk, I told myself. That was my justification for clearing it. But when it was clear I still couldn't get started. Even a pep-talk email from a fellow Nanowrimo participant wasn't enough to get me to take the first crucial step and begin.

Early evening found me trying to write on the netbook at the dining room table, but that made no sense. Why use the tiny screen when the big one is only two rooms away?

It was after 9 pm when I finally logged on. I was expecting a phone call for a pick-up from the train station, but determined to write until then. I loaded the 1600 words I'd done originally, read the last few lines to jog my memory about what was going on, cranked out another couple of scenes and pressed submit.

Over 2700 words. Great. But when I went back to continue, I discovered something. Once the words are counted, the file disappears. It was my only copy. Today I face the blank screen again, even more behind. Like T.E. Lawrence, I have to regenerate what was lost and carry on.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Purple shoes and disappointment

I sometimes wonder. Am I the only person with wide feet? There must be more of us, but not many. We're a very small market, so shoe manufacturers don't bother to cater to our needs.

I've been looking for some comfortable new shoes that are not boring, not ugly, not black. Just wide. Very, very wide.

Those of us with wide feet have a special kind of radar: we catch a fleeting glimpse of shoes and think excitedly, Those just might fit! Once in a blue moon, they do.

Today I thought I had lucked out. I was early for the dentist, and when I got off the bus on Broadway, I found myself looking into the display window of a shoe shop. I glanced in and saw a pair of purple suede loafers that looked both handsome and sensibly wide.

The young salesman was indifferent. No, he said, they don't come in wide. He handed over the first box, then crossed the store to simper at his reflection in the mirror. I held my breath and eased my foot in. My size, 8 1/2. The left one was perfect; the right hurt.

I asked for size 9. No nines, the clerk reported, and brought out size 9 1/2. Too loose. Maybe a nine in black? Casually, the young man dashed my hopes. No nines in any colour, he said. No hope of getting more. Their season was over.

The lovely purple, the almost-fit -- it was so very disappointing. The good news is, I've become realistic. I'm no longer tempted by any shoes that feel less than fabulous. I'll have to keep looking.

Monday, November 1, 2010

So long, Teddy; Hello Nanowrimo


Today I say farewell to the charming Teddy Bear that sat on my bed here at the Inn and strike out for home, following the less-travelled route: the winding highway that meanders up the island to the bridge at Deception Pass.

On All Saints' Day I call on the saints of writing and my personal muses to guide my hands as I join in a challenge that is going on all over: National Novel Writing Month.

This will be a seat-of-the-pants effort. All I have now is the original idea, and the determination to control my point of view by beginning the first sentence with the word "the."