Wednesday, December 6, 2017

My favourite love ours.

My little tag line is "Stories Matter" and one of my favourite random quotes is about the very best stories being your own. It has many forms, sometimes throwing in "love story" or whatnot. Great quote. And stories really do matter. So let me tell you one right now.

Once there was this girl. She was a sweet little thing, 20 years old, passionate about overseas missions and she worked hard at her $6/hour job so she could travel. She was dating a douche. Let's call him Douchey McCheapSkate just for fun, shall we?

Several months into what could possibly be called a relationship, the sweet little girl was stood up by Douchey McCheapSkate on the night of her roommate's epic 19th birthday party. Never one to sit at home moping, she of course went stag(ette) because she would never miss said roommate's birthday.

The group at the bar was large and rowdy (in a fun, non drinking kind of way) and danced the night away, celebrating the last of them turning legal age. Some late coming crashers joined the was a handsome, clean shaven guy straight out of the pages of GQ in a leather bomber jacket (hey, it was 1997, ok? That was cool.) and he shook the sweet little girl's hand. It was a good handshake, even though he had no idea that was important to her. He had blue eyes. He was supposed to be at another birthday party across the bar but spent the night dancing with the sweet little girl. They would randomly keep in touch over the next few weeks and go for lunch...only after some baggage was cut loose.

Knowing that the sweet little girl got up at the crack of dawn to go to work and still not caring about anyone but himself, Douchey McCheapSkate insisted he be called at 1am after his evening shift. He says mean things but doesn't actually do the breaking up. Not one to mince words, the sweet little girl says "Let me guess. You are tired of me and want to break up?" He says a few more mean things and she hangs up. Of course, epic roommate is there to dry the three tears shed and says "I know you probably aren't thinking about this at all, but who are you going to take to your formal staff party on Friday?" Oh darn. I forgot about that. I mean, the sweet little girl forgot about that.

Epic roommate offers to clean up her man and take the sweet little girl themselves. The perfect plan! But there were other things brewing. "What was the name of that guy at your birthday party? How can I get his number?" That's right. The sweet little girl did some sleuthing, called him up and invited him herself. He said he had to check his work schedule and would get back to her. In later years it would come out that he actually called a friend to ask if the sweet little girl was crazy or worth dating. 

I wore a red dress. He was a perfect gentleman. My bosses spent the entire night grabbing his rear end on the dance floor. That is what you get when you work at an autobody shop with a crew made up entirely of men. He couldn't have been too offended because he mailed me a thank you card for inviting him to the party (it was really fancy, great meal, free drinks and free cab rides home) and there was a second date soon after that.

Things were made official in the dating department about a month later on New Years Eve. And not quite 5 years after that we tied the knot. There has been a LOT of story between then and now but for that, you'll have to wait for the book.

Do you have a fantastic love story? Write it down. Future generations will want to read it.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

You can't fix a blank page

As the Surrey International Writers Conference approaches with the speed of light, I realize this year I don't have a goal. A plan. I have no agenda.

My first year, I went to learn about my craft to see where I was in my ability. Turned out I was doing pretty great.

The second year I pitched a book and spoke at the UnConference which was an amazing experience as the moderator Sean Cranbury is brilliant. And years I met really talented, wonderful people who I stay in touch with and trade stories and ideas with on a daily basis. It's a perk of the conference, for sure.

This year, though. This year seems different. I am not speaking. I don't feel like I have anything to pitch (although several people tell me different) and I don't really have a set agenda. I am taking my very first Masters Class and will probably drop the first page of my manuscript into the SiWC Idols box but that is about it. (Side note: The Idols session is the best thing I have ever seen but chances of having my page randomly pulled? Slim to none.)

So as I sit here almost literally pulling my hair out, sometimes writing, sometimes not, possibly shedding a few tears over this book and wondering if anyone will ever read it, ever, it dawns on me that every writer goes through this all. the. time. No matter how famous or published or unpublished or middle of the road. Every writer thinks their stuff is shit. Until one just isn't. It might be the second draft or the tenth draft but at some point you love it and/or better yet someone else loves it and publishes it. Fact still remains, at some point in the process you were sitting on your couch, watching the blizzard outside, drinking cold coffee with lonely globs of whipped cream floating in it thinking "Wow. Does this ever suck. And if it wasn't for my husband, I would be living in a box on the street."

So this year, I will not have any sort of agenda for the conference. Perhaps I will run into Michael Slade at the coffee station again, that was fun. Or sit with someone fantastic at lunch like Robert Dugoni. So super interesting. And I am looking forward to finding my "Table 30" friends and fan girling all over Tom because I really did like his book, werewolves and all. He will sign my copy and it will be a highlight of my week.

But how about I just relax on the pressure and see where it goes? Because I can't force this book out of my head, it just doesn't work like that for me. But...because of the Greats like Stephen King, I won't stop. But I think I really am just shovelling shit from a sitting position right now.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Step away from the pickles

I have been overthinking a book I am writing. No, not just mulling it over...not just planning and carefully considering what I am writing...I have been agonizing and overthinking it to the point where I am not writing it at all.

How can you call yourself a writer when you aren't writing at all? Well, I suppose you can't. So I have been a miserable crabby pants, stalking around the house whining and complaining about things not related to writing because I am a miserable crabby pants over my lack of words on the page. Make sense? No. Not at all. It doesn't make a lick of sense and my husband doesn't know what to do with me.

My best author friend in Australia has been putting up with me for a while now, gently prodding me along with little pearls of wisdom. We often talk late at night (my time) because it is nap time for her crew. Last night I told Miriam I was in the fetal position, eating Polish pickles straight out of the jar and realizing I will never finish this book. Maybe I couldn't write books. Maybe I would never finish a single manuscript in my entire career. Whine, whine, whine. Complain, complain, complain.

The absolute worst part of all of this? I am in the perfect environment to write every single day. My boys are both in full time school now, my wonderful husband supports what I do and we have created this fairly quiet small town existence that is the holy trinity of writing. Quiet, financially supported solitude. I can name a dozen people who would give a lot for even an hour of uninterrupted writing time in a single week. I could pull off probably 5 hours every day and here I am whining like my diamond shoes are too tight. Last night, I disgusted even myself. It was bad. So as I am motoring my way through that jar of Polish pickles, Miriam says:

"Mate, you're not going to finish by eating pickles and wondering if you'll ever finish. You will finish by working on your book."

I paused with half a pickle in my mouth and the other half in mid air on the way to my mouth.

She asked me if I had ever heard of Raymond E Fiest's Magician? No, I hadn't. Tell me more. (I put the pickle down.)

Miriam tells it like it is without actually telling me I am being a ridiculous whiner. She really is quite brilliant at it and I should start paying her to drag me up from the wallowing gallows of writer self pity. She told me how famous Ray Fiest was and about his many (many) published works, huge following, etc, etc and how a couple of years ago he re-published his very first novel (released in 1982) in an "author's preferred edition." When she said that, it twigged my memory that Michael Slade also did this with his first novel Headhunter. So what she said next made me sit up and put the pickles away:

"I guess where I am going with this is right now we are nobody and nothings. And we need to make a name for ourselves. But one day if this still bothers you, you can publish a version you like better. In the mean time, just bloody get published eh?"
Um...yeah. (I raised my eyebrows) Right. Absolutely correct. There is nothing that says this is ever the final version of anything but to get it out there  right now, it has to be the version that will be the most interesting to the broadest range of people you can manage for the genre.
Suffice it to say, with that little nugget of truth hanging in the virtual world between us, I put my big girl panties back on, put an immediate halt to the pity party, put the damn pickles away (ok, who am I kidding here, the jar was empty) and went to bed thanking God that I have a friend like Miriam. She doesn't sugar coat it but kindly doesn't tell me outright I am being an ass. When I most certainly am.
The things that are bothering me about this book aren't really things at all. I am warring with the fact that I am a journalist writing a true story...with the fact that I want to be an author of wildly popular books. The two are different. They can certainly be melded together, but the world of fiction based on fact has a broader appeal than an article-type book with no dialogue. So suck it up, buttercup. You know what you have to do. Eating pickles won't finish that book.

Friday, June 17, 2016

SO fun I had to blog it

I have had many, many previous jobs that I have absolutely adored. Were they particularly great jobs? Well, probably not. But I make things what they are and I can honestly say I have loved each and every one of my jobs throughout the years.

Being a writer is amazing but we all know that sometimes the words don't pay the we have to do other things along with the words to make the meeting of the ends a real thing. Let's see...I have done hiring for a meat packing plant complete with tours of the kill floor. Rocked it. I have been a historical interpreter at one of our most beautiful National Historic Sites. Loved it. I have detailed cars and fixed windshields at an auto body shop (and in that job got to drive some insanely nice cars). Nailed it. And...I have also been a school bus driver.

This is a very small sampling of the list...but I have to say that being a bus driver has been one of my most favourite jobs for various reasons. I love kids, I am really good at it, I liked having rock star parking at my kids' school, AND...I had the very best bus driving partner a girl could ever hope for. A very dear friend of mine knew that I was looking for a job I could manage while being an at home mum, so she suggested I join her on the school bus. Jamie had already been driving for a whole school year before I got my license and she coached me through it all. We became a very famous (or perhaps notorious???) team at the school and were so often taking care of each other's business that at our bus office nobody could tell us apart and called us by each other's names almost 100% of the time. Which is extra hilarious because Jamie is short, I am tall, she wears glasses, I don't,  my hair is long and I often wear hats and Jamie never wears hats and has a super cute shoulder length bob cut going on...being mistaken for her is certainly flattering but we would always roll our eyes because we don't look alike. But it only added to the Jamie/Kate team thing and stayed like that for several years until I moved. We just had each other's backs and always put the safety and service of our riders FIRST. Our schools knew that, they appreciated it and we prided ourselves on our reliability.

I feel like I am falling short in describing the camaraderie we share. It's difficult to explain but suffice it to say we took our job seriously, had a lot of fun, pulled off a lot of impossible feats (like two buses driving four runs on a -40 morning making sure all the kids got to school. We just made it happen, baby!) and really solidified a life long friendship in the process.

So fast forward to a typical Thursday afternoon where I was getting ready for a not-so-typical evening. Garth Brooks. Garth. THE Garth. We were getting ready to take our boys to their first ever concert experience and me, the concert collector was finally going to see this icon live. So exciting!!! I get a text from Jamie asking what I was doing that weekend and did I still have my Class 2 license? Well that made me raise an eyebrow, so, chuckling, I called her. Long story short, did I want to come to the city and drive with her for both the Friday and Saturday late shows for the concert? They were running service from all the major malls to the concert. A bus driving adventure with my best bus driving friend? HECK YES. And many, many amazing antics followed. We haven't laughed like that in a while and being that good at something just fuels your blood. Yes, I am tooting our horns. LOUD AND PROUD! We are great bus drivers.


First night I had some unexpected, pressing things to take care of before our 9pm shift so I didn't get a chance to check out the route map but that really shouldn't have been an issue because I wasn't the first bus in the line up and we would just all follow each other nose-to-tail to the concert. No problem. But in my loading process one of the young guys trying to direct people made a small mistake and I had to pause to get people going in the right direction before taking off. When I was ready to go...yes, you guessed it...the buses in front of me were long gone. But no problem, I know the city like the back of my hand, so off we went. I had a really great, very enthusiastic (re: rowdy and talkative) group and handed my route map to the guy behind me while making a turn I would normally take to get to the concert venue. Concert goer reads the map and says I made a wrong turn then read the instructions to me. Well, no problem, I also know that end of the city better than any invented my own route which caused us to be able to jump a huge line of traffic and get them to the venue ahead of the other buses from that particular mall. The bus erupted into a crazy series of cheers. It was just a thing of beauty. But not the ultimate in all driving moves.

Ultimate in all driving moves:

I don't know why, but the following night was just completely wonky. There were WAY more cars trying to get to the venue than the previous, very smooth night. The buses were having quite a bit of trouble in the areas prior to a certain street where the police were actually directing traffic. Up until that street we were on our own and trying our best to communicate on the radio and work together. Which has been my and Jamie's MO from the get go. We work together, always. Other drivers always wondered how we managed to drive so smoothly and I just have to say, when you have someone watching your back who you can completely trust, it makes all the difference in the world.

To make matters worse, there was an accident at an important intersection just before the venue turn which was blocking an overpass and rerouting even more buses onto our street. So we are trying to get through miles of traffic to get through one set of lights but things just aren't moving. There are two lanes of traffic but to actually get through the lights, you must be in the left lane. Sigh. So here we are, sitting ducks in huge 72 passenger buses while cars are weaving in and out and preventing us from going through the light.

But, communication is key and Jamie and I were trying to figure a way out of this. So she comes up on my right and I pause to let her in. My bus (another talkative, rowdy, fun bunch) yells "Don't let her in! NO! We need to make this light!" So I had to explain that this was my best bus driving buddy and if anyone could get us out of this mess, it was her. That explanation was met with cheers, Jamie slipped in front of me and we made the next light. But we still hadn't gotten to the intersection where police would direct us through. We yet had to make another light...turning left, no less. We sat through about 8 light cycles not moving one inch with drivers from other bus, cab and limo companies not doing us any favours (perhaps my bus heckled them a bit) and other drivers from our own company getting a bit frazzled and telling us over the radio that no amount of planning will get us out of this. Well, Jamie and I begged to differ on that point and Jamie pulled out into the right lane to turn right at the light instead of left. It was clear, of course, because everyone was trying to get to the venue. They weren't driving away from it. Another driver calls her out on the radio, basically saying she doesn't know what she is doing and I absolutely could not help myself.

"She is just fine. This is not her first rodeo and she knows what she is doing."

My bus absolutely erupted into raucous cheers and I pulled out into the right lane to follow Jamie. It was utter chaos on my bus. They loved it. In turning right, we were able to find an empty parking lot to turn around in, turn left to get going straight through that light instead of having to turn left through the light to get onto the street where police were directing the buses through. It was smooth sailing from there and we got our people to the venue with much cheering, chanting and singing. When we secured our buses in the holding area, Jamie jumped down with a huge smile and told me when I said that over the radio her entire bus cheered. LOL I told her mine did too. And why not? We weren't going to just sit back and wait in that huge line up when we could think ahead, pull a bit of fancy driving and get things done. It might not sound like much, but when a bus load of people are chanting your name and cheering, it feels pretty good no matter who you are.

I got home between 4am and 5am after doing multiple runs both nights. There are more little stories that perhaps only bus drivers would giggle at but I am already writing a novel here. The short version: I HAD A BLAST. A huge shout out to the best bus driver, most fun coffee date, sweetest mama and most inspirational wife. Jamie, you are the bomb and have influenced me in so many ways. I am a better person for having you in my life. Thanks for the adventures and here's to many more. xo

An old photo but a great one. Denise, Jamie and I in the last year I drove for our school. A miserable, cold day but the only photo I have of us all together in front of Big Yellow. Those were the days!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Winter blues and new shoes

 A fresh brand new year always has me asking myself what my next writing challenge will be. I always have projects on the go...a new year has nothing to do with the amount of words I will write or even want to write...but specific challenges keep the mind sharp and the blood pumping. Keeps the job exciting, new and best of all still teaches you things you didn't know you had to learn.
So 2016 was standing in front of me all bright and promising and I wondered what new thing I needed to learn in the writing world. I ended up choosing column writing. My boss mentioned it to me once last year and I didn't really know where to start so I just left it alone but leaving things alone never taught you anything, right? So 2016 is the year of the column.
What kind of column? How long is a column? What topics would be well received in my readership area? All good questions that required research. Now, 2.5 months into my new endeavour as a columnist I feel like I at least have one foot under me and have been happy with a couple of my submissions and gotten some positive feedback from readers on a few as well.
Not all of my columns will make good blog fare, but here is a taste of last week:
Winter blues and new shoes

As a child I was teased quite a bit for my huge feet. Even today, I am not a small woman standing 5’8” and wearing a size ten shoe. My maternal grandmother always used to tell me I had a “good understanding”, then she would hug me and make me cinnamon toast. Her words have stuck with me even after her passing and perhaps that is why I love new shoes. Of all shapes, colours and styles, I adore them. And my most recent purchase-boots with faux fur trim and bright red laces just make my heart sing. A great pair of new boots will chase the winter blues away faster than you can recite your credit card number. But the way my new boots made me feel got me to thinking about the initial words that made me feel awful about my big feet. Mind you, it wasn’t all meant to be hurtful. “Those are some mighty big feet for such a little girl!” accompanied by a hearty chuckle was a favourite thing for older people to say to me around the age of ten. But I wonder how I would feel about myself today if I didn’t have Gram whispering in my ear that it was a good and special thing to have these feet?  That this is the way God had made me and I was perfect and wonderful? I am the mother of boys but my second favourite job in the whole world is being an Auntie. I have many little girls in my life that I hope and pray every day grow up with strong self-esteem and the belief that they too are wonderful and perfect. In a world full of Photoshop, stick thin models, mostly embellished statuses on Facebook and the unrealistic expectations that bombard our kids every single day to be famous, let’s be that whispered voice that tells them they are wonderful how they are. That every photo does not need airbrushing. That they are smart and beautiful and fun. Let’s keep in mind that our words are powerful things that can’t be taken back after we say them. Instead of commenting on the size of an excited little girl’s shoes, why not compliment her on those red laces? Because I am sure she is pretty proud of them.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A very merry UNconference to YOU!

I attended the Surrey International Writers Conference again this year and had a completely different experience than I did last year. Not better. Certainly not worse. Just different. And mainly I can attribute that to the people I met and the things I did. Last year I surfed the sessions, took a ton of notes and my take away friend was fantasy author Miriam Cumming from Australia. Fabulous, fabulous time and it completely changed my views on my career and how I approached my writing every day.

Fast forward an entire year (almost) to this past summer. I had randomly read on the SiWC blog that they were trying out something new called the "unconference" and that you could submit a proposal to be a speaker. After a few minutes of consideration I thought nope, better not. I was pitching this year and had to focus on one thing at a time. Not my usual million things going at once, fly in with my hair on fire, forget my pants, breaking stuff, always late type of situation. Nope. I was going to be a grown up (what?!) and focus on one important thing at a time.

Did anybody snort when reading that? If you know me at all, you probably snorted. Me? Not speak at something? Impossible. I know. Well, be that as it may, I really did decide to not submit a proposal and the deadline passed by without a second thought. I had a pitch to craft. But as life sometimes goes, things were in the works that I had no control over. Stuff happened. And as events unfolded I found myself sitting late one night reading on the SiWC blog that the deadline had been extended. The events in my own life told me to just submit a damn proposal already. You won't get in, certainly...but if you don't at least send one you will regret it. SO. I quickly pounded out an off the cuff proposal into the body of an email, proofed it once for glaring spelling errors, did no editing whatsoever and hit send before I could stop myself. It got the regret out of my system and I turned my attention to my pile of words that needed to be written.

Fast forward (again) to the next day. I was having lunch at the tea room with my boys and while they were in the bathroom I checked my email. I was a speaker at the unconference and could I fill 15 minutes? Um, I'm sorry...WHAT?! It took a while to believe I was accepted to speak. Mind. BLOWN.

The title of my little 15 minutes was "You ARE a writer" and I ended up presenting to almost 20 people in the Dogwood Room on the Saturday shortly before lunch. With my broadcasting background, I wasn't nervous...maybe the best word would be apprehensive? I wanted to do justice to this awesome thing I got to do. But with a few familiar faces in the crowd and the brilliance of our moderator Sean Cranbury, things went very well and I left on a high of having spoken words that someone may have heard. Not just with their ears, but with their heart.

And because brevity has never been my strong is the speech in its entirety if only for my few friends who have admonished me for not recording myself at the conference so they could hear it. It was an absolute pleasure to present it.

Good afternoon and welcome. I’m Kate Kading and they have named this little part of the unconference “You ARE a writer.” This is not about writing tips. I am not going to lay out for you the roadmap of how to write and why to write and who to show it to. First, before you do any of that, you need to feel confident of one thing and one thing only. That you ARE a writer. I really needed to share my experience with you to let you know that you are already a writer. Right now. This second. No matter what you have otherwise convinced yourself of. You. Are. A. WRITER. But Kate, are you sure? How do you KNOW you are a writer?

 I have discovered that SiWC is all about interaction so let’s get our required audience participation out of the way with a little crowd survey. Show of hands, who has been to more than 5 conferences? Who is back again this year for the second time or more? And the question everyone just loves to answer…who is here for the very first time? Two things for you: First, congratulations on jumping in on your first conference! And second, I am going to reveal to you a secret that NONE of the organizers tell you in advance.

 It is the best kept secret at SiWC and to tell you the absolute truth, if I had known this little gem when I was signing up, I may have thought twice about coming to MY first conference last year. Whoa, wait a minute. Did she just say it’s only her SECOND conference? Yup, in fact she did. So what qualifies me to be standing up here speaking at the unconference? The answer to that goes very nicely with the huge secret I am about to reveal. So here it is: At SiWC… they make you confess. And not in a small way. I am talking confessions of epic proportions that you thought you would take to your grave. Things you would never breathe a word of to anyone. Confessions that embarrass you, make you doubt yourself and confessions that you think will end the weekend for you, right then and there. Confessions that expand your career. Confessions that make you believe you even HAVE a career. Confessions that lift your spirit. Confessions that inspire you for the next 365 days until the next conference.

 So my confession this year is this: My name is Kate Kading and this is only my second time at SiWC. I have no idea why they let me speak. (big breath) Woo! Feels good to get that off my chest! But I’ll tell you, my confession last year almost broke me. I think this is what qualifies me to talk to you about this today. I thought I could hide it pretty well. You see, I didn’t actually go to school to become a writer. I don’t have any amazing letters behind my name. My formal training is in Radio and Television Broadcasting so I always say I paid twelve grand to be this obnoxious. It also gives me some pretty serious skills at hiding my insecurities and short comings and faking whatever skill is needed at the time which led me to believe I would be completely fine last year, hiding this deep dark secret of mine.

I didn’t want anyone to find out that I had come to a writer’s conference but I wasn’t actually a writer.
Never mind that I had written since I was old enough to hold a pencil. Won creative writing awards throughout high school, earned spots in some of the hardest to get into workshops for teens in my province of Saskatchewan. Then went on to write material for websites, promotional stuff for businesses, creating whatever was needed for my volunteer positions, speeches, petitions and anything else that dropped itself into my lap. General consensus was “Get Kate to do it. She talks good.” Hm. Talks good, indeed. But all of this stuff, in my mind, did not qualify me as a writer. When someone asked me what I did for a living, it honestly never occurred to me to say “I’m a writer.” No publishing house had presented me with silk bags full of money. An agent had never produced a feathery quill with a flourish, begging me to sign on the dotted line and really, until that happened- I was obviously not a writer.

And one more thing I didn’t know about SiWC is the insane inclusive spirit of the group which leads every single person here to ask that one question I did NOT want to answer last year. Does anyone know what that question is? Whenever you sit down at a meal with people you don’t know, they ask you your name, maybe where you are from and…that’s right. They ask you “So what do you write?”

 Like what the hell, people! Are you kidding me? I was all prepared to keep this hidden for the whole weekend and I am outed 5 minutes into the conference? Well that is just friggin’ awesome.

I fidgeted. I looked around. I lowered my head, surely convinced that KC Dyer was going to have the conference henchmen escort me out the second the answer escaped my lips. I bungled my way through a bit of a sentence about dabbling in some nonfiction and maybe a children's book or two but quickly rushed on to say that I wasn’t a published author and still had tons of work to do to get there.

I am always the first person to downplay my work. We are our own worst critics, right? And if there is one thing I can’t stand, it’s people who inflate their importance and accomplishments. I never want to be that person. In my head, I was chanting "Please don’t kick me out, please don’t kick me out…" and then the lady I was sitting with said “Honey, do you write for money? What do you get paid for?” Oh, it’s nothing. I just work freelance for a weekly newspaper. It doesn’t pay much but it’s fun. She kind of gave me this look like I was a lunatic and proceeded to tell me…wait for it…that I WAS A WRITER. Um, I’m sorry. What? No, I’m not. I am a fraud pretending to be a writer.

 Still convinced my minutes were numbered and I better soak in all the conference goodness I could before being dragged out the door, I listened to the ladies at my table and I truly wish I knew who they were so I could hug them and thank them for what they did for me that day. It was a pretty uncomfortable 30 minutes of confession for me…but they grilled me on what I did, how I did it and where I was published. I kept saying I wasn’t published. But they pushed on, getting details of what I did every day for money, what I did for fun, what I loved, what I hoped to be someday.

They were ruthless. And pushy. And eye opening. And wonderful. Little did I know that being published every week in a tiny town paper was a thing. Really? So I settled in a bit, thinking that if someone came to kick me out the ladies at my table would at the very least hang on to a leg or something and defend me. And the more I listened to them, what they did for money, what they did for fun and what they hoped to achieve in the future, I discovered that I wasn’t the least experienced person in the room. I wasn’t the most experienced person in the room by any means. But most importantly, I wasn’t a fraud. I deserved to be in that seat. And the biggest, most heart stopping and life changing revelation of that weekend: I AM A WRITER.

After that first lunch it was like floating on a cloud. I think I even spent some time puffing out my chest. I was elated to discover that the career I had secretly wanted my whole life was what I was already doing. Kathy Chung once wrote on the SiWC blog that she didn’t understand conference bashers and I have to agree with her. This really is professional development even if your brain won’t allow you to define it as such.

Because lunching with Diana Gabaldon, sipping fine whiskey while listening to Jack Whyte read his latest book with his Scottish burr and soaking in the valuable, personable and straight forward teachings of Hallie Efron just doesn’t seem like any kind of work at all.

I have heard people say they prefer to read books on writing and I do own several. And that anything you need to know can be found on the internet. Ok, sure. I can google stuff too. All that may be true. But there is value in networking. Does that mean you should corner an agent in the bathroom and tell them all about your latest novel? Um. Probably not. Don’t be that guy. That’s not really what I am talking about.

Your goal of SiWC should be to meet people. LOTS of people. All kinds of people who write all kinds of different things and have all kinds of skill sets, opinions and experiences. Because you never know who is going to say something that strikes you. You never know the connections that can be made that will mould, grow and shape your inner writer. And like me, you never know when someone is going to knock you in the head and tell you that you really are a writer. For real. No fraudulent activity involved. And that working for dimes has actually put you on a valuable career path.

Last year’s conference was the biggest gift I ever gave myself. It was the single most important point of my career as a writer and completely changed my attitude on the definition of writer and what it means to call myself that. I am not even going to qualify that by saying “most important point to date”. No. It was THE single most significant event of my entire career because it made me believe that I even HAD a career.

 My best stories at the time were about farm drones, tractors and crop sciences. Actually, my best stories are still about farm drones, tractors and crop sciences. My critics are the folks on coffee row who cheer me on when they see their grandson or niece in the paper and yell at me in the same breath that I need to be writing about the important things like who owns the new restaurant in town. I am a very big fish in a teeny, tiny little pond. But I am still a writer and writers write many different words at many different times.

So at 10am on a Tuesday at the coffee shop when I am rounding up my second caramel macchiato of the day and discussing my latest feature on the Heritage Harvest Festival with the gentlemen who sit at the table by the window, I am a big fish in my small pond. And if the ONLY thing I ever wrote about was the price of cattle, the rodeo coming to town, the latest town council minutes and the heritage threshing demonstration…guess what? I would still be a writer.

But because of SiWC, I write more than that. And because of SiWC I have this friend from Australia with mad skills who asks me almost every day now “So what did you write today?” and I want to be able to tell her something amazing. So late at night, when the dishes are done, the lunches are made for the next day and the children are dreaming their little boy dreams, I will write. And when I write late at night, into the wee hours of the morning because let’s face it…none of us have proper respect for the next morning when we are in the throes of writing the night before…but when I am writing the stuff that may never make me a single dime, that is when I am a regular fish in a huge ocean of other fish. Can I make it in that ocean? Can I single myself out amongst all the other fish in this vast ocean? Hell yeah, I can. And SiWC helped me realize that. And you need to realize that too. So go write something because you ARE a writer!

So that was my speech and it was really fun presenting it at the unconference. I also pitched that weekend (it went horribly) but turned that around with the help of new friends Char and Katherine (now labelled "take away friends 2015"), met amazing author Leanne Shirtliffe (The Change Your Name Store and Don't Lick The Minivan) who had some brilliant suggestions for polishing a children's story I am working on and just generally rubbed elbows (hello table 30!), gained ideas and perspective and soaked in the incredible goodness that is SiWC. This conference amps you up with enough creative flow for the 365 days until the NEXT conference. And believe me, I will be back. Because my stories matter. And yours do too.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Throwback to Sept 11th, 2001

It is Throwback Thursday. AND Sept 11th. Which of course led me to remember where I was when I saw the planes hit the towers. I had just quit radio and was on a promotions tour across the prairie provinces for Mitchell's Gourmet Foods. I happened to be in Winnipeg that day, visiting with my cousin. My Aunt and Uncle weren't home so I was camped out on the sofa bed in the main living room watching CNN that morning. I clicked it on just in time to see the second plane hit. I'm not sure I moved from that spot all day. The previous summer a college friend and I had decided to take a driving trip from Saskatoon, SK to Charlottesville, VA to visit an Aunt of mine. We had it planned for the fall and when I quit at the station, we solidified our commitment to the trip. But after 9/11? Should we still go? Shortly after, New York City launched an advertising campaign "Come spend your money in NYC!" So we did. Not 2 months after, we hopped into the car and blazed a trail. Stopping wherever we wanted along the way. Inspired by my friend Mellissa, I unearthed the cd this morning. I will let the pictures do the talking. Everyone should take a trip like this. It was the very BEST 2 weeks.

We started out on the east side of Saskatoon. In a Toyota Tercel with about a thousand dollars American between us. At the time the exchange rate was .52. Ouch. But we were off!

We stopped wherever we wanted to. We took pictures of silly things. We found out of the way places we would never forget. The StateLine Casino was not one of those unforgettable places...but the sign was cool.
With not a lot of money, we made sandwiches and put them in our trusty Styrofoam cooler.
Vince bought this. No I did NOT eat it. (Gag) Mine included the salad mix ^^^
We also had to get creative for accommodation. 2 weeks, plus everything we wanted to do and see and only a grand in our pockets...equals Hotel Tercel.
I slept in the front passenger seat in a sleeping bag. It wasn't too bad and it was free. I was 24, what can I say? Personal comfort is less important at that age.

 We took pictures of cool houses...and signs...and anything that struck our fancy.
And sometimes we had NO idea where we were.
But that is what rest stops are for!
And this is what rest stop coffee does to a person:


We got to know the folks in Coolsville, Ohio pretty well. And we never would have stopped if Vince hadn't spilled rest stop coffee all over himself!

 We liked this sign because the lady was so surly. LOL ^^^ Y'all come back now!
 I INSISTED on a detour in Iowa. We were less than 20 miles from the Bridges of Madison County! The guy who ran the gift shop was awesome! Edwin? Erwin? It bugs me that I can't remember! The photos from this trip were easy peasy to find...the journal might be more difficult to track down. We still have boxes packed from the move.

 It was getting dark...but I didn't care. I needed a picture!



 We saw neat stuff and stopped wherever we wanted.



 When we got to New York City we paid big bucks ($120 American) to park our car in this lot for 2 days and 2 nights. They base the location of your parking spot on how many days you are leaving it there. So the Tercel ended up on the top, at the back.
 So we used our feet...and the subway to get everywhere.
 This is me...looking at what is left of the World Trade Center.

We stayed in an actual hotel in NYC...our big splurge. And this was our view:

But no matter. We didn't spend any time there anyway. We missed the ferry out to Ellis Island...but still had some good photo ops.

Funny story...did you know you can't sit on the floor by the elevators at the Empire State Building? Well, you can't. I found that out the hard way when security asked me to leave. When I seemed confused (and maybe a bit scared to tell the truth because I didn't want to lose Vince...this was pre-cell phones.) The guy asked me what was up and why wasn't I at the top? I said I was waiting for my friend. Um...ok...but that didn't answer his question. So I politely told him that it costs a lot of money to go up there and that is my food money. It's a cool building, but I just can't spend my food money to go up there. So he says (in his awesome New York accent) "Are you KIDDING ME?! You came all the way from Canada to spend your money here and support us and you can't go to the top of the Empire State Building? Come with me." So he took me by the hand and took me through all the security check points, up some secret back way, to the top and told me to find my friend and take my time. What a fabulous memory. Thank-you.

And we of course had to find some of New York's finest. They thought our accents were cute. I told them the same. 
 There were photo worthy things all over the place. Like these people pushing a vegetarian lifestyle "Give PEAS a chance!"
 And the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade! See me there? Down there? Waving underneath the 1400 sign. That's me. After the bagel place screwed up my order. But I didn't care. Raisin bagels with plain cream cheese taste just like cheese onion bagels with garlic cream cheese when you are high on life in New York City.

 It was so funny watching some of the people go by...because they had to keep things looking smooth and amazing for the cameras that were just a couple blocks after sometimes they would go blasting by to keep up with the rest of the parade and we wouldn't even know who or what they were.

And other times they would mill around, waiting their turn right in front of us.

 The Sesame Street float was by far one of my favourites!

 After a fabulous 3 days and 2 nights in the Big Apple, it was on to Washington, DC! We wanted to take a tour of the White House so bad, but everything was sealed up tight. A huge fence surrounded the grounds, covered in black plastic. The only thing we could see was the flag on top. Security was extremely high.

And the tours for the monuments had shut down for the season but we wandered and wandered...and wandered. It was really amazing.

The Holocaust Museum was a highlight for me. It was very haunting. I lit a candle for the Auschwitz victims.
 And some places were not open to the public at all anymore.

 After trekking around DC, we went to some mall somewhere because I needed new shoes in the WORST way. Sully high fived me for my sensible choice. And I left the old ones in the nearest trash bin.
 We finally arrived in Charlottesville, VA where my Aunt was living and teaching Montessori.

I adore her and was so happy to see her. My boys call her "Far away Auntie" or "Auntie who lives at the ocean" She has since moved to the west coast and we visited her there, too.
 She took us to the local University grounds which were beautiful.
 Shopping at the square. I wanted to buy a holly wreath that are made by hand from bushes growing in peoples yards, but customs would have never allowed me to take it across the border.
We also toured Monticello which was the home of Thomas Jefferson. It was breathtaking and there were still blossoms all over the place, even that late in the year.

 And home again! Do the math. We went a LOOOONG way!

This was an absolutely EPIC trip. It is very close to my heart and I will remember it always. This is such a small sampling of our photos. Each spot was unique, from the monuments to the street signs and the people we met. I encourage you to do a road trip like this someday. Take your kids. See North America! Stop at cool spots, eat in neat restaurants! Experience!!!
Even though thoughts of 9/11 will always be tragic and sad, I remember that I spent my money there when they needed it. It wasn't much but I feel like I was part of the love and support.
"Even the smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness, is a way to honor those we lost, a way to reclaim that spirit of unity that followed 9/11." --President Barack Obama