Writing Inspiration

Happy new year! I took a couple of weeks off over the holidays. I started out the month by accepting Nephele Tempest’s December writing challenge, in which you try to find at least fifteen minutes to write every day. It worked exceedingly well for me the first three weeks of the month, by which point I’d met all my writing goals for December and more, so I didn’t feel at all guilty about taking a much-needed vacation from work of all sorts. Like for all writers I know, time off is never just time off. Everything I encounter in the world has the potential to fill the well, inspire me, prompt story ideas, or make me want to be a better writer. That’s one of the reasons I think it’s important to step out of my own head and see what else...

Happy Holidays

I’m deep into the last-minute preparations – baking, cleaning, wrapping presents – for our family’s Christmas celebrations. But today, I took a couple of hours off to have a hot chocolate with a good friend, and when I got home, a package was waiting for me from another, who lives on the other side of the country from me. Inside? A box of her homemade sponge toffee. It made me teary-eyed when I opened it and saw that she’d taken the time to send a homemade treat from 3500km away. For me, that’s exactly the kind of thing that makes the magic of Christmas. It’s lovely to do nice things for people at any time of year, but there’s something special about a stretch of time in darkest winter when so many people make an...

Reflections on This Week

This is going to be a long post, because it’s been a full week in the news already, and it’s only Thursday, and I’ve got a lot on my mind. This American Thanksgiving, I imagine there are a lot of conversations going on at a lot of family dinners about the decision of the Grand Jury not to indict Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown and the subsequent protests in cities all over North America and the world. I know we’ve been having those conversations at our own dinner table. Whatever your views on this particular case, the fact is that black Americans are statistically far more likely to be killed by police in the USA than white Americans, and that’s a big societal problem that goes far deeper than any one case. (Here’s one look at the numbers,...

Day Job Gratitude

Around this time every year, after a couple of months of having every waking minute – and lots of sleeping ones – taken up with my work for the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, the to-do list associated with this year’s event dwindles to a manageable level, and I lift my head and look at the world outside the SiWC box, breathe a little fresh air, get some good sleep, and feel the niggling, aching need to write gathering in my soul. I’m excited to see what comes. But leaping back in the writing pool after a long hiatus is a little scary. Somehow, even though I’ve been here many times before and it always turns out fine, there’s a tiny bit of fear that I’ve forgotten how to swim. So I thought I’d start here with a nice, easy blog post. Besides, I have a...

Bodies at the Pool

The changing room at my local pool is a busy place. Mums scrub toddlers dry with faded, worn towels, the sort we all hesitate to throw away because they come in so handy for times like these. Little girls stand under forced-air hand dryers mounted high enough on the wall to act as hair dryers, their faces scrunched up against the warm rush of air. They remind me of when I was a kid and would wait my turn to do the same after swimming lessons, reaching up when my turn came to push the big, silver button to start the machine. When it stopped, I’d always wonder if I could get away with pushing it one more time before I relinquished my spot to the next kid in line, my head hot but my hair still wet. Teenagers shower quickly in their suits and disappear into the...

Sunday afternoon Twitter talk

I don’t purport to be an expert on social media. But I do pay attention, and I think I’ve learned a few things along the way, one of the fringe benefits of knowing a lot of very smart people. Today, I received twitter spam from an author I’ve never met or heard of, linking to his short story available on Amazon. Like pretty much every writer I know (every person, for that matter), I hate spam. Nothing is better designed to keep me from buying any product than the uninvited attempts of a stranger to sell it to me. But it’s a lazy, sunny Sunday here, and I’m sitting on my patio drinking tea, and it appeared he was an actual human being, so I decided, knowing it was likely unwise, to reply. I said pretty much what I’ve already...

The Weight of Disorganization

Awhile back, I had great intentions of writing a blog post about the weight of disorganization. The irony of the fact that I still haven’t posted it hasn’t escaped me. It was a day when the accumulation of receipts, notes, meeting agendas, tickets to events, and whatever other random detritus had taken up residence on my desk had me overwhelmed, and my goal was to clear it all off, piece by piece, until I had a clean, clear surface to work with. But first, I decided to take a “before” picture to use in this blog post. And IT BROKE MY PHONE. You may think I’m kidding, but no sooner had it taken the picture than it crashed, first to the standard “oops, I’ve crashed” black screen with the white apple, and then to a...