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, thanks to Jim C. Hines.) I sincerely hope the heightened awareness of the problems that has come out of this leads to positive change. I’ve been feeling for the parents particularly this week. As a parent myself, my biggest worry is keeping my child safe. I’ve been thinking a lot about the parents of teens and young adults of colour in the States, whose base level of fear for their kids has to be so much higher than mine is. I don’t have to raise my child to understand that she might be seen as a threat because of her colour or that the default position of the world around her is to see her as a risk and that that puts her at risk. Parenting is difficult enough without that extra worry, and I wish no one had to suffer it. If you’re struggling to understand what it is to live with that heightened sense of danger, and you have any knowledge at all of Star Trek, Mary Robinette Kowal offers a useful analogy on her blog. *** In other news, former CBC host Jian Ghomeshi has been arrested and charged with sexual assault and is out on bail, ordered to live with his mother. The women who came forward to tell their stories about Jian deserve our thanks. Without their voices, this would not have happened, and Jian could still be working at the CBC, a public figure with access to young women anytime he wanted. It’s extraordinarily brave to speak up about a crime for which our society seems unable to avoid blaming the victim, and I’m proud of all women who voluntarily put themselves on trial on the public stage by doing so. *** Finally, I was very saddened this week by the death of Pat Quinn, former player, coach, president, and GM of the Vancouver Canucks. I’ve often thought that one of the reasons so many people are drawn to their local sports teams, apart from the sport itself, is because of the sense of community they provide. The teams are like our local gladiators, someone to root for, for a community to get behind, when our modern world provides so little opportunity for that kind of large-scale connection with our neighbours. Pat Quinn pretty much single-handedly brought that back to Vancouver in the late eighties and early nineties, an era when hockey was as close to dead as it ever has been in this city, and the echoes of his influence are still heard in the city today. My thoughts are with his family, friends, colleagues, and all the people whose lives he touched through hockey and otherwise. Share...

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 giant well of gratitude I need to share. Coordinating SiWC is an amazing privilege. I have made life-long friends doing it, and every October, I get to visit with some of them, meet new ones, and watch all the work I’ve put in for the whole year culminate in four days of learning and connections, camaraderie and inspiration. I love it. It’s exhausting and exhilarating, and I am so very lucky to have it in my life. I’m also uniquely fortunate to be in a position where I get a great deal of feedback about what kind of a job I’m doing. I’ve spent the last few days reading every single one of the evaluation forms turned in by attendees and presenters at this year’s conference, as well as all the emails and blog posts and tweets people have sent or posted. Literally hundreds of people took the time to tell us how the conference was for them, what they loved, which sessions and blue pencils got their wheels turning, what moved them and inspired them, what they’d love to see in future, and more. What an incredible gift that is when you’re trying to do a good job. This year in particular, a huge number of people stopped me while they were still at the conference to say thank you for all the hard work. Isn’t that something? Most of us work alone most of the time. Even if we work in offices or among other people, how often does anyone stop to say, “Thank you. You’re doing a great job”? it’s not something that’s happened to me very often in other jobs I’ve worked, that’s for sure. It’s not that people don’t notice, but it’s not often part of our work culture to express it frequently or even, in some jobs, at all. But the amazing people of SiWC do. They make the effort to say it when they think it. And if they have suggestions for making something better, they tell me that, too. What a gift that is. So to all of you who took the time to say thank you, to share your thoughts, to spread the word about the conference, I say thank you. You make all the hard work worthwhile. In fact, you make me want to work even harder to make SiWC even better for you every year. Sometimes the thank yous I get make me teary-eyed because they’re so touching. That happened more than a couple of times reading the evaluation forms. Some of those comments weren’t meant for public consumption, so I can’t share them here, but two things that made my cry were posted publicly, and I hope you won’t mind me indulging myself by sharing them here. The first was a tweet, posted after the conference by Michele Fogal, who was an awesome volunteer for us this year: The second was this wonderful blog post, written by attendee Amanda Hagarty, whose experience at SiWC was exactly what I hope for when we set to work planning for the year. You can read it here: http://www.amandajunehagarty.com/2014/10/siwc-quite-possibly-best-writers.html Pretty wonderful stuff, at least for me. Thank you again, everyone who attended, volunteered for, talked about, presented at, or was otherwise part of the SiWC community this year. I appreciate you. Share...


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