Blogging, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Kerry's Causes, Memoir and Reflections, Special Occasions, Writing

One Year and Counting: Kind and Generous

Happy Birthday to me and here I am – I made it one year as a blogger.

I didn’t give up, I didn’t give in, and I did not burn out or run out of things to write about. It felt somewhat like a floodgate that was opened, spilling out all the things I’ve ever wanted to write about but didn’t for so long.

I liked the idea of pairing my actual birthday and what would become my blogging anniversary and that is just what I’ve done.

I never could have imagined, when I wrote my

very first post – Bucket List,

that I would have come so much farther than I dared believe I could and that I would have so much to show for it.

I thought a lot about how I wanted to mark this occasion and I decided to take this opportunity to thank all those who have made this, creatively, one of the best years of my life.

🙂

***

CANDACE JOHNSON

One of my biggest supporters, almost from the very beginning, has been Candace at:

Change It Up Editing and Writing Services

She gets the first spot in my list of thank you mentions – well deserved. The tagline from her website reads: “I love words. Especially yours.” This clearly shows her dedication to helping others.

When I was only debating and throwing around the idea of starting a blog in the first place I discovered her

Facebook page.

You can tell, or I soon learned how to, when someone genuinely wants to help you and to give you a moment of their time. I recognized, right away, that she was and is someone who is happy to help whenever, wherever, and however she possibly can.

Not everyone is willing to listen and do what they can, but when I reached out to Candace because I was, with my iPhone and its VoiceOver, unable to click on her Facebook links, she made a point of listening to what my issue was and doing what she could for me.

Ever since then, she has repeatedly put an extra copy of each link in the comments, where my VoiceOver recognizes it and allows me to read all the interesting articles and blog posts she shares on writing and editing.

I have learned so much from her. She granted me an interview, my first on Her Headache, and generously gave me the exposure, allowing me to write a guest post to explain to her readers some of the particular issues with technology that I face.

Since then she has continued to read and share my blog posts whenever she can. I will never forget her kindness and her support, the belief she has shown in my writing ever since.

I guess you could say that the bloggers and writers I have discovered and who have come to mean something to me, showing me kindness and assistance along the way, fall into a handful of different categories.

MAXWELL IVEY JR.

There’s the first blind seller of carnival rides I’ve ever met, who started a website to help advertise his business:

The Midway Marketplace

He is the friendliest person I have ever come across and he has done so much to show me how to open up, online and off.

He has introduced me to places for my blog and my writing to fit in, all while introducing me to other bloggers and writers, always there to answer any blogging or social media questions I might have.

Since I’ve begun talking with him he has started a second site (The Blind Blogger) and published his first ebook (Leading You Out of the Darkness Into the Light), which can be found here:

http://theblindblogger.net/ebooks/leading-you-out-of-the-darkness-into-the-light

STEPHANAE MCCOY

Then there’s the lady who has lost a lot of sight later in life, but who has not let that stop her. Instead, she has come out with this incredible resource for all women who are visually impaired and blind, but who still wish to be fashionable and stylish:

Bold Blind Beauty

Stephanae has again been someone willing to offer me support and an exchange of interviews. She has a site where she discusses things like makeup, shoes, and other accessories all girls like to indulge in from time to time. She includes not only photographs of these items, but the descriptions necessary for all women, even those who can not see, to be able to enjoy the things she recommends.

Sure, I may not wear makeup, but I still love to visit her website and especially I love to read about the interesting women she highlights on her Fierce Friday posts.

😉

She draws me in with the alliteration her blog name possesses.

🙂

I have met some wonderful authors and writers along the way too:

Alana Saltz,

Jordan Rosenfeld,

and writer, activist, and feminist:

Julie Zeilinger, from The FBomb.

The blogosphere is an amazing place; however, I sometimes feel like I stand out or I don’t quite fit into any particular niche. I guess this isn’t the worst thing in the world because I enjoy a number of areas of the blogging world and its many varied subjects.

I am in my early thirties, for those unfamiliar with me and my blog, but I am not a mother.

Parenting blogs are one of the most commonly found on the internet.

I have grown quite comfortable sandwiched between two groups in the blogging universe, all of which I do read for the array of different perspectives offered.

The second group are those twenty-something writers and bloggers, writing about the decade of exploration and self-discovery that the twenties has become. I guess I continue to return to blogs like these because, in some ways, I feel I am living some part of my twenties over again in my thirties, learning and growing and still so easily able to relate to the struggles these ladies are experiencing.

These bloggers include brilliant and insightful young women such as:

Young and Twenty,

Scarlet Wonderland,

Flowers and Wanderlust,

and

Single Strides.

Other blogs I love to follow include a Canadian writer and mother, a French blogger now living in the US, an Australian visually impaired travel blogger, a wizard with words, and a guy who lives with his illness and disability as best he can and who is a tireless activist for others with rare and debilitating conditions:

Carrie the Obscure CanLit Mama,

French writer and life coach Sylviane Nuccio,

Maribel of Touching Landscapes,

Lorraine of Wording Well,

and

Michael at Migraine Discussions.

What have I learned from one year of blogging and what advice would I give to those just starting out, who are where I was one year ago at this time? Hmmm.

I think this post from Scarlet Wonderland says it better than I ever could:

Advice For New Bloggers,

The best and only thing I have learned, think I knew all along, and would advise would be to remain authentic. I only know how to be me and that is all. If I ever did have those moments of watching what another blogger was doing, and the thought to emulate them crossed my mind, I soon realized that I have to stick on my own path and do things my own way.

Thank you to every one of my loyal family who read this blog and any friends and family, those who I know are reading, even if I sometimes don’t realize it.

Also, I want to take this time to thank everyone else. If I forgot you, I apologize. Just know I am grateful for your collective presence here and for each and every time you return to read one of my posts.

Whether it’s 100 or 1000 followers – I’m lucky to have you reading this. I appreciate every comment made, good or bad, because they’ve all taught me some powerful lessons, being able to hear other’s thoughts on what I write helps me to grow my voice.

This blog has sustained me through the hard times of the past year, gotten me through multiple rejections in love and in writing, and captured some new experiences and some lasting memories.

Half-way through this past year I got the crazy notion of starting a second one.

What was I thinking, right?

🙂

Kidding. I may have come a long way since I published my first post here, but I still have a long ways to go when it comes to the blogging side of things.

Now it’s each year of this blog that marks my life, more than New Year’s Eve does for most people.

I have goals I’d like to have reached this time next year.

I have a stubborn streak with the publications I was turned down from this past year. Maybe those serve to make me work even harder or, perhaps they are meant to be lessons, serving to teach me that not everything is meant to be.

I have a few exciting things in the works at this very moment. I hesitate to say anymore than that.

I know, I know – don’t you hate when people do that?

🙂

I will say as much as I believe I can, without jinxing myself completely. Yes, it’s happened before.

I hope to continue to write about new, different, and interesting subjects here and share even more fascinating people with you through the interviews I love so much to do.

Currently, what I can say is that I am in the midst of participating in two things, specifically:

The Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge

and

1000 Voices Speak For Compassion

Both are causes I believe deeply in.

Finally, I couldn’t end this post without thanking the one who first got this blog up and running for me and who encouraged me, helping me get passed the tricky and the technical.

Thanks BSK.

***

Now then…

*Clears throat*
Now that I’ve come full circle.

Love and life are scary sometimes. I am scared a lot of the time frankly, but this blog is one of the greatest rewards for all that fear.

Jennifer from Young and Twenty sums up fear best in this way:

The Power of Being Scared

**I truly believe that where I am right now, at this moment in time, is where I was always supposed to be.**

This line from my very first post (February, 2014) was true then and, hey – it’s just as true today.

What do you know?

🙂

Through all the hard times and the struggles – I still believe it and I can’t tell you how comforting that thought is.

An so – one year and counting and here’s to many more.

Natalie Merchant, Kind and Generous, on YouTube

I want to dedicate this anniversary post and this song to you all.

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Happy Hump Day, Kerry's Causes, Special Occasions

International Day for Persons with Disabilities 2014

MICHIGAN’S FIRST BLIND SUPREME COURT JUSTICE

The United Nations has set aside December 3rd as

International Day of Persons with Disabilities:

“Throughout human history technology has shaped the way people live. Today information and communications technologies in particular have impacted a lot of people’s daily lives. However, not all people have access to technology and the higher standards of living it allows.”

I know I am lucky. I have things some people, in other parts of the world, do not.

I thought I would take this occasion to explain how technology has helped me.

I am writing this blog using the Mac laptop I own. On it I serf the net and write my blog posts.

I use the Mac’s built-in voice software, VoiceOver it is called.

If you have a Mac, go ahead and press Command F5 on it right now and see if you hear anything.

🙂

Technology is continually being developed, with people like me in mind and that is a wonderful thing.

Why did I start off this post with the story about that blind Michigan supreme court justice?

I showed it to a friend the other day, a friend who is successful in his career and intelligent, philosophical, and writes poetry of incredible depth. He also just so happens to be going blind.

We talk about the difficulties he faces as a professional who just wants to do his job, but this doesn’t mean that it isn’t made challenging.

We both agreed that it’s nice to see stories like the one from above, but that it’s a shame we are still at a place of being so amazed, as a society, that someone who just so happens to be blind could make it all the way to becoming a supreme court justice.

Headlines such as the one at the top of this post are eye-catching and awe-inspiring. This is not a bad thing, but it does single us out at the same time, keeping us separate, like we are some strange other species that most people wouldn’t have believed could have done the things men such as this clearly are doing.

The theme this year is

Sustainable Development: The Promise of Technology

“With an estimated one billion people living worldwide living with a disability, and 80% of them living in developing countries, access to technology is key to help realize the full and equal participation of persons with disabilities. Under the theme of “sustainable Development: The promise of technology”, this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities will look at this issue in the context of the post-2015 development agenda.”

The Michigan supreme court justice couldn’t likely have come as far as he has without technology. I know I would be worse off, more isolated, and less informed.

🙂

This doesn’t mean I have to stop longing for a time where a day set aside, once a year for people with disabilities, is not needed, a day when the things most people do aren’t seen as some extra unbelievable feat for others.

A girl can dream.

For now I will simply take some deep breaths and remember that most people have nothing but the best intentions. That days set aside by the UN bring much needed attention to making things better for the future.

I need to remind myself to be patient and that the rest of the world will eventually see it, eventually catch up.

Alexi Murdoch, Breathe, YouTube

What do you say when you read articles such as the one I started this post off with? Is it still amazing to you when you read things like this?

What do you think the significance of International Day of Persons with Disabilities is? do you think it necessary at this point?

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Uncategorized

Post Breakup: How I Survived The First Six Months

“Always remember that when a man goes out of the room, he leaves everything in it behind … when a woman goes out she carries everything that happened in the room along with her.”

Alice Munro, too Much Happiness

Just Breathe: Keep Breathing
Six things I’ve used to help get through.

I gravitate towards song lyrics which expressly tell me to breathe, right there in the song, over and over again. I literally need this reminder, at least once a day. In addition, I have found six more things that have made the months just a little more bearable, six techniques, one for each month I have found myself single once more and just trying to move on. I like symmetry and so here are six things, one for each month so far.

1.
Family and Friends.

Where would I have been in those initial first days, when I was in a fog of denial and disbelief, if I hadn’t had my siblings to rant to.

From my oldest brother’s calm wisdom, to my sister’s been-there advice, to my younger brother’s patience as I railed in anger. A reminder that I was not alone with a single unexpected delivery of flowers from a friend. The comfort from my parents and their unwavering support and love. I would be nowhere without these people. Nowhere!

2.
Music.

There are only so many times a girl can hear John Legend’s hit song All of Me and not want to throw something. This is where these soulful ladies came in.

Of course there’s no shortage of weepy breakup songs out there. I found the ones that spoke to me. How could I ever have gotten through the feelings of anger and loss without such artistes as Ingrid Michaelson, Lily Allen, and

Lana Del Ray’s “Summertime Sadness?.

These women’s strong voices were just what I needed to push through the heartbreak and make sense of the nonsensical.

3.
Animals.

I had a dog already, but my family were surprised, to-say-the-least, when one day out-of-the-blue I announced I was getting a kitten. Was I crazy, they demanded? Did I really want this or was I simply making a rash decision that I would regret later, when I realized all the responsibility?

What they didn’t understand was that I needed something. I needed to feel loved and be able to give love in return. Dobby and Lumos gave me something to get up for in the morning, because I knew someone or something needed me.

4.
Chocolate.

Because…come on!

5.
Writing.

Whether it was my rambling release of anger I directed toward the end of the life I thought I had and toward the one who hurt me or the catharsis of writing just because I love it and it keeps me sane. I was able to filter what I wanted or needed to say in any particular moment, by saving the really harsh stuff for a private journal. This was a friend’s idea, (see Number 1).

Or my blog, where I could express myself in a more constructive and appropriate way. I would have been lost without both. Just hope I never switch the two accidentally.

🙂

6.
Being surrounded by the memories every day.

This last one might sound strange, given all that advice out there to burn absolutely every item of his so you don’t have to look at it and be reminded. Well, that’s a little tough, considering I am living there still, in my house, the house we lived in together.

He packed up all his clothes and computers and left. Wherever he is, he is able to not have to look at the memories all the time, but this is my house and I wake up and go to bed surrounded by the things we did and had and the images are unavoidable. Sure, I could have moved and run from all of it, but that just wasn’t practical.

I did little things to deal with the in-your-face reality of my situation, such as sleeping in another room that wasn’t ours. I still can’t sleep in our bed, but I know (with a little help from a new set of sheets and pillows) that I will reclaim the master bedroom as my own. By staying behind I am forced to confront the past every day and to let it make me strong again.

I reclaim a spot on the couch or a shelf in the bathroom and I take back my power. The ghosts of the relationship linger, sure, but I face them and I grow from that and keep moving forward.

Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten. Eleven. Twelve months and a year.

After six months I am doing my very best, by finding all the things that make life bearable, that make life better.

These last six months have been some of the hardest of my life, but they have also been some of the most character-building.

Who knows what the next six months and beyond will bring, but I hope within that time I will continue, no matter how fast or slow, to heal.

We don’t get to choose how fast we recover from heartbreak and move on with life, but I will continue to focus on myself and on doing what’s right for me.

How long did it take you to get over heartbreak? What are some of the things you used to cope? What music do you listen to when dealing with life’s struggles?

Ingrid Michaelson, Keep Breathing, Youtube

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Book Reviews, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, NANOWRIMO 2014, Poetry, Spotlight Saturday, Writing

Review of One Word at a Time

“A successful writing career will humble you more than almost anything else I can think of.”
– Eric Vance Walton

Welcome to this mid-November edition of Spotlight Saturday.

I have several author pages on my Facebook newsfeed, but one such author stands out as I scroll through.

Eric Vance Walton, Author has written novel “Alarm Clock Dawn” (his debut) and, his newest book, “One Word At a Time: Finding Your Way As An Indie Author” is out now.

Being smack-dab in the midst of November and NaNoWriMo, I thought this would be the perfect time to introduce a practical, how-to guide on how to reach for success as an author in the new, developing, and always changing world of indie publishing.

Author’s Publish Press knows all about that and they have brought, along with Eric, us some useful tips and advice and an insightful step-by-step guide for how to navigate through the world of writing and publishing.

Eric says:

“Writing isn’t just something we do. It’s something we are.”

Truer words have never been spoken and after reading this in the first few pages of the book, I already felt comfortable and able to relate to this writer and his experiences.

He tells his story to help others avoid mistakes he, himself has made. He knows about the struggle to manage the events of everyday life with the need to write.

Here is a frank, honest, and open account of the life of a writer. It is a refreshing look at the possibilities of indie publishing, straight from the mouth of one who has traveled the journey and come out on the other side.

All the years of unfocused writing while living life brought him to the awakening he had on turning forty. Sometimes this is just the sort of push we, as writers need, to take that step and he did..

He has been living the writer’s life and he speaks openly about how he climbed that ladder of success. This is a story of the adventure he embarked on, over the last twenty years and he has the firsthand knowledge any working writer can surely use.

He has written novels, children’s stories, poetry, and freelance articles. Many writers are doing this, getting by, but they lack the awareness and the push forward to truly tell the story they are meant to tell.

Eric has a blueprint that he is very willing to share. that is what this book is all about.

He shares achievable strategies such as developing structured blocks of writing time, the perfect writing nook, how to work through writer’s block by walking the dog and getting fresh air and jus the right amount of physical exercise, and ways to keep both mind and body healthy so that the best writing can be produced without the help of artificial substances such as alcohol, drugs, or caffeine.

He relays the tools he has found to be most useful in producing his best work: adequate amounts of sleep, the right environment for a peaceful night’s rest, and one of his biggest tips being meditation. Exercise and a reviving walk, meditative gardening, yoga or Tai Chi. These things that have worked to relieve stress for him are mere suggestions for any writer looking for ways to bring forth their best work.

He shares his battle to walk that fine line between a day job to bring in a steady paycheque and finding the time to truly devote to the writing life he wanted. It wasn’t all roses all the time and he shares his triumphs as well as his defeats.

He shares how the biggest mistake, to not have a concrete plan and set out goals, will leave you unsatisfied and unable to reach any attainable writing career success or fulfilment.

Sometimes, more often then not, sacrifice is required and compromise is the key. He makes it clear that you must decide what is your end goal and what are you willing to give up to get it, such as satellite television or material items and how to be frugal while walking the fine line of giving up something such as the steady pay from a day job, for the somewhat uncertain life of a full-time writer.

“Clear goals and dicipline,” he says. “Smarts, luck and persistence,” are, according to Eric, what it takes. HE is offering another path to the starving artist path a lot of writers and other creative types often go down. He shares his concrete plan that worked for him, exactly how to save enough money and to give a specific amount of time to get a novel written.

He compares novel writing to military bootcamp and proposes that writing can be a formula, with such tools as NaNoWriMo to help get the words down on paper or on the screen.

He shares tips for bringing in multiple revenue streams while walking the road of being an indie author, how the two big things to consider in this journey are time and money. His tips on making money through blogging and how to build confidence and experience through public speaking are direct and specific, with directions and clear-cut references to Google and other surveys, showing evidence on how to be successful as a writer. Having a budget and being mindful are his best pieces of advice on how not to be that dreaded starving artist.

Marketing and promotion are just as important as the writing. This book speaks on social media, on other authors who have done something right and have made a name for themselves, in this day and age and in the digital world we now live in, how important a blog can be in making a name for yourself in writing.

Motivation is an important topic he speaks about throughout and how the “non-writing” and the fear of never producing anything, by the end of his life, are the best motivators for him and perhaps for you too, to get the writing done now, and not to wait for tomorrow.

Mentioned are important tips on becoming a better writer: polishing, tweaking, and learning. He advices taking classes, reading books, and brushing up on proper grammar rules. It takes time to become a good writer and his years of practice have brought him to this book.

He talks about the fundamentals of fiction: proper story pacing, writing realistic dialogue and proper dialogue tags, and communication and body language. All this and more are the mechanics of writing and are at the heart of it all. With this, he includes actual examples to help anyone who wants to learn to grow as a writer.

Consistency. Continuity. Creativity. Characterization. Clarity.

One of the most important pieces of advice, in my opinion, is the one about not falling for the lure of social media and the urge to publish before giving a piece of writing all the attention and clarification it needs. this is the biggest problem with easy access to technology and the revolution of the indie writing universe.

He provides resources and offers tips on finding the right beta readers and the best editor to fit your needs, for your particular book project.

He quotes and refers to Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King, Maya Angelou, Veronica Roth, John Green, J. K. Rowling and Harry Potter and others when talking of creativity and how to tap into it. He lists reading, going to plays, and listening to music, all things that inspire to surround yourself constantly with creativity from all sides. This includes being around others in the creative fields, for a learning experience from others who have the same sorts of interests.

“Creativity is self-doubt.”

Here Eric quotes Sylvia Plath, and this single, simple line becomes an important topic throughout this book.

Voice, genre, brand. He offers a lot of advice on what is badly needed for creative people who can’t seem to get out what they want to say. This book outlines a strategy for discovering, developing, and growing an author’s brand.

It is easy, for most writers who are naturally loners, to stay hidden, but this last piece of becoming an author is key. Learning how to work with other people is strongly recommended and is the last thing to be discussed in this book.

It was a friend’s question about how his first novel was going that sparked something in Eric, a seriousness toward the task of completion.

He is honest about the reality, the highs as well as the lows, and he is grateful for all who have assisted him in his writing journey.

He provides real-life examples from his own life on what success in writing meant to him as a younger man and how that definition has changed over the years, offering practical advice on setting goals and adjusting expectations.

He is open about the fear and self-doubt that often plague writers. He is genuinely appreciative to his readers. Finding his niche audience, launching and releasing his novel, and receiving reader reviews; he speaks about all the stages of writing his first novel in a relatable way that any fellow writer can see themselves in.

Although he, like most writers, first dreamt of being published by a traditional publishing house, he lays out a writer’s alternate options: self-publishing or through a smaller, independent press.

He explains writing in a clear and concise way, with the help of quotes and websites for more information, he lets the reader know that it isn’t always a smooth road with self-publishing, that a writer must be all things: writer, editor, graphic designer, etc. However, this can only be the case up to a point, and then hiring experts becomes necessary for a more professional looking product. This, however, is becoming, more and more, the way to go if a writer wishes to hold control of their own work.

He is up front about the costs that still go along with indie publishing and the pros and cons of having both hard copies and ebooks created. These pros and cons still do apply to making the decision to go the indie route and then, in future, changing to the traditional route if it suits.

He speaks on technology and how it can be utilized in ways (Facebook/Twitter) that weren’t possible only a few years ago. He knows, realizing his responsibility as a writer, to offer advice to others who are where he has been and who hope to be where he is now.

Balance and gratitude are the two key elements, that stood out to me when reading, for success as an indie author or a traditionally published author. This book is part writer’s memoir and part mechanical writing guide.

I have enjoyed Eric’s Facebook page for a while before reviewing this book. Eric posts poems which are beautiful and moving and he has a lot to say on his many years growing and developing as an indie author himself, what it took him to get to where he is today.

On Saturdays he opens up his author page to others who want to share links to or bits of their writing: Showcase Saturday. He is generous enough to give others a chance to shine.

Find Eric at his website:

https://ericvancewalton.wordpress.com

You can check out his book here,

One Word at a Time: Finding Your Way as an Indie Author, on Amazon.

Or you can follow him on Facebook,

Eric Vance Walton, Author on Facebook.

I promise you won’t regret it.

I was given an early version of this book to review. I am sure there have been final touches and fixes since then and now this book has been released and I recommend it for anyone looking for a guide for writing success, especially in the indie world.

You can be a writer and produce your best work, one word at a time.

“Although writers spend lots of time crafting fictional characters, ironically, the act of writing develops the character of the author more than anything else.”

Thank you, Eric Vance Walton, for that and for this helpful guide on writing.

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History, Kerry's Causes, Memoir and Reflections, Poetry, RIP, Special Occasions

I Will Never Forget Yet I Will Never Understand

Yesterday was Remembrance Day here in Canada, Veteran’s Day, Armistice Day; whatever you call it where you are it is the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month that we stop to remember.

I thought about writing, but as you see, I held off until today. Why did I do this?

Today is the day after and I wanted to speak about my feelings, but couldn’t quite say what I wanted to say on the day when others were both remembering and speaking theirs. I will admit I was afraid of coming off as disrespectful or ungrateful. I did not want to offend. That is not my intention here.

I have written about my interest in the world wars in the past on this blog:

Day in the Museum, Part Three: Keep Calm and Carry On

I often immerse myself in the stories and the details of World War I and World War II specifically. These events in 20th century history have always held my attention and baffled me greatly.

The recent events here in Canada, more specifically in our capital of Ottawa affected us and me, so much so that I can’t speak about Remembrance Day without speaking about the loss we’ve collectively suffered only weeks ago.

First there was the hit-and-run in Quebec, of Officer Patrice Vincent.

Then, only a few days later, on the morning of October 22rd, my phone blew up with news updates on an attack in progress in Canada’s capital city. The news was not good.

There had been a shooting at The National War Memorial, The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, on Parliament Hill.

The country was in a panic and Ottawa, as a city, was in a frenzy. What was going on? Were we under attack?

I began to feel highly panicky and anxious, even though I lived several hours from Ottawa myself.

By the end of the day it had been established that one lone soldier, standing guard and unarmed at the memorial, Nathan Cirillo, had been murdered.

The gunmen then proceeded to force his way into the parliament building and was then confronted with a shoot-out, resulting in his death.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa-shooting-a-look-back-at-how-the-week-unfolded-1.2811614

I was asked the other day by a family member why I hadn’t yet written about these events. He figured, as I use this blog and my writing to express my feelings about the things that happen, that I would surely have had something to say on the subject.

I may be totally ungrateful, unaware of how lucky I am and how much I indeed have. I wish nobody any disrespect.

I have no immediate family member currently involved in combat. I do have family who have loved ones who are. Below is a dedication to one such recently deceased soldier:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QerRytM2CJk

Remembrance Day means something to me.

Each November I would sit, cross-legged on the cold floor of my school gymnasium for the November 11th assembly. I felt the sombre mood as fellow students did readings and played soldiers and their families from the Great War, a title I did not understand as a young child.

How could a war be great?” I would wonder.

I was a very literal child.
🙂
Since I heard my school’s choir singing In Flanders Fields, I was captivated and haunted by the lyrics of this famous battlefield poem. Visiting Flanders is on my WanderList. I want to walk in that hallowed place.

I could not find a version of the song that I refer to here, but I was brought right back to those yearly assemblies yesterday, when watching the ceremonies shown live on television. A school choir, like my own, performed the song and I listened in remembrance.

This is one hundred years since that First World War and seventy-five since the Second. I heard about the poppy display at The Tower of London and would have liked to see it.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2829837/A-poppy-fallen-Thousands-flock-Tower-London-888-245-ceramic-flowers-planted-pay-respects-Britain-s-war-dead.html

I am aware of all that I have. I have heat in the winter, central air to keep me cool in summer, a house, food to eat, two amazing parents and a family to be proud of.

As a blind woman, I couldn’t live in a better part of the world and I know it. Even with all that I struggle with, I am still so damn lucky.

In this day and age, with the internet and twenty-four hour news it isn’t so easy to live in a bubble of denial or shelter from the rest of the world.

Lyrics such as: don’t sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me, till I come marching home … these old-time lyrics from a period long past seem simple and naive to our world today.

This is the world I imagine existed when World War I broke out. It’s an innocent view of war that some young men may have had before going away to fight in 1914 and then they saw things they could never unsee. Nowadays we know better, (we should know better) but the fighting still goes on all over the world, every single day.

I watched all the ceremonies, the salutes, and honouring of those who’ve sacrificed their lives for my freedom.

I feel proud to be Canadian, but I feel uncomfortable when I watch. I can’t quite make any one day or one particular minute of silence all about pride and honour
. I just can’t. Maybe this makes me a bad person somehow, but I feel an anxiety that the world is doomed to make similar mistakes over and over again.

All the propositions to do better and to strive for peace are all well and good, but I can’t turn a blind eye on what I know about the world, not even on Remembrance Day.

The utter senselessness of World War I and the unimaginable cruelty of World War II will always define the first half of last century for me.

I remember all the time. I don’t need a chosen day or time for this. It is almost constantly on my mind, a world without war.

I don’t know what it was like for my father’s father during World War II and I never will. He is gone now and unable to have any imagined adult conversation with his grown granddaughter about this. I feel a huge empty gap in his life that I can only guess at, an entire fifty-seven years before I was born that include things I will hopefully never experience.

He was a teenager, in France with his family, when the war broke out in 1939 and circumstances, totally out of his control, they were thrust upon him. This I can not possibly fathom.

He and his siblings were taken by the Germans and forced to work for them. I believe he was made to dig ditches and other things I know nothing about. I try so hard sometimes to imagine him during the years of the war and what his life was like.

There has been a lot of talk in recent news, due to recent events, and on every Remembrance Day about bravery and sacrifice. I do not challenge this.

Some of these brave people make the choice to serve, to fight, or to stand guard and protect, such as reservist Nathan Cirillo. His child will now grow up without a father and this is supremely unfair. This child and others have no real choice in the matter.

War brings these choices and to others, to children and the innocent, it brings no choice whatsoever. Peace provides us time to reflect.

I do not mention the names of those who have committed the senseless crimes in Quebec and Ottawa. I do not like to glorify such things, but I reflect on the family members of these sick criminals and what they must be dealing with in the aftermath.

I was not in a rush to defend my country from a direct attack by ISIS. I know what is going on with that right now, but am probably naive about so much. However, the need to jump to attention and to go on the defensive like it is common to do is not where my mind goes.

All I do know is something I recently heard:

An eye for an eye and we are all blind.

As someone who was actually born blind, I consider this truth more potent than any I have ever heard.

I did not rush here to pour out my raw and unexamined feelings about Ottawa’s recent attack when it happened. I am blessed to live in a country of relative peace and therefore, I have nothing but time for reflection. I depend on and defend the right and my own right to speak about these things in such a place as this.

I want this blog to be a place where I write, to get out feelings sure, but not as a dumping ground for just anything that comes to my mind. Some of it I try to come at from a place of education and also from a place of emotion.

I prefer to mull things over and to write as a way of making sense of those things, but I believe holding off sometimes can only help make what I say sound as clear and concise as possible.

A rant is, more often then not, better suited for a private journal. For me, my blog is where I examine events and ideas from a mature, insightful point-of-view.

I hope that is what I have done here, the day after the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month.

I will always remember. Yet I am sorry…but I can not ever understand.

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Fiction Friday, NANOWRIMO 2014, National Novel Writing Month, Writing

NANOWRIMO 2014: End Of Week One

November is here again. I can’t believe it.

Last month, every

Frightful Fiction Friday,

was set aside for phobia stories, all Halloween-based because it was October.

Last Saturday was the start of a new month and I couldn’t believe it was time for National Novel Writing Month yet again. It’s amazing how fast a year goes by.

Every Fiction Friday for the month of November I will be posting an update on my progress with writing 50,000 words in the thirty days of November.

Last year I only just found out about this huge initiative at the last moment. I dove right in and managed to reach the goal, by writing a first draft of the novel I had had rolling around in my brain for several years.

The site

http://www.nanowrimo.org

Allows you to make a profile, keep track of your daily word count, and to speak and connect on the forums and through local writing groups.. People come together with a common goal and support one another in meeting the challenge, through American Thanksgiving, work and school, and more and more holiday and family gatherings.

Unfortunately, I found their website, as a visually impaired person, overwhelming and tricky to navigate. this time I got a little farther, but on entering my word count I must have done something wrong. I want to write, but instead I am messing around with numbers.

I would rather go to

https://twitter.com/KKHerheadache

to keep track of my own word count.

As much as I love the idea of writing all month long, I don’t like that attached to the term “word count” there just so happens to be the word “count” because that means numbers and math, two things I hate just as much as I love words.

I HATE MATH!!!

This year, once again, I signed up on the site in the hopes that I would find it easier to work with. No such luck. If I am going to focus on writing thousands and thousands of words in such a short time, I am not about to fiddle around with something that only brings me frustration, when I could be writing.

Also, it is a bit of a drag that there aren’t really any local chapters of writers in my area who are participating. This takes away from some of the community feeling of NaNoWriMo for me, but the isolation still seems to be low enough. I guess it’s all in the mind, but I could write a novel any time. Why do I need a specific month to do it?

On this second year I started off on a great foot, beginning immediately at midnight on November 1st and writing fiercely into the early hours of last Saturday morning. This resulted in several thousands of words from the get-go, but who knows if I will make the goal at the end of the month. I have to be okay with it if I don’t. Who else would I be letting down?

Unfortunately, I did not keep this momentum up every day this past week. Every other day is more like it, and I still haven’t hit 10 ,000 words.

I can offer only this excuse to myself or anyone of you: last year this time I did not have one blog, let alone two. I may be writing more this year than I ever have, but my time is more divided than ever.

Week One: 8731 words

Next week I will talk about what I am writing.

Are you taking part in National Novel Writing Month this year? Have you taken part before and have decided not to be a part of it this year? Is it your first time?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this growing movement.

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Fiction Friday, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights

Nyctophobia

Happy Halloween!

For the final edition of Frightful Fiction Friday I have gathered some excellent inspiration for my final phobia story.

I took part in a

Ghost Tour of Niagara,

last weekend in Niagara On The Lake and if it weren’t for the guide with the candle, well I was pretty much in the dark the entire time anyway. Let’s see what I can dream up.

Check out my previous story,

Acrophobia,

and now…enjoy getting lost in the darkness.

***

5.
Darkness. Nothing tightens our breath or sends chills down our spine like the idea of walking through a dark forest, alone. We know it’s full of trees and timid squirrels, but we know that’s beneath the sunlight. The night tells a different story. The night is dark and quiet, and unknown. We hate when we have to trust that there’s nothing following us and we hate to be lost for we know there are times when the strength of our mind and the strength of our legs simply isn’t enough.

***

This historical ghost walk is going to be a peace of cake, she thinks. After all, she is in a fairly large group of people. What could possibly go wrong?

She wakes suddenly. Something is not quite right. Her head is swimming and she reaches out in the dark that surrounds her and in the blank part of her own mind. She can’t remember what happened, how she ended up here, or indeed where here even is.

It is dark. That is all she knows.

She stands unsteadily and fully takes in her situation. She had been exploring this historic site with a group of other curious people. Where had they gone?

She couldn’t stay here. The tree roots caused her to stumble as she began to grasp the fact that she was totally alone.

The others must have not noticed she was missing or they would have sent someone to find her. Surely those who knew this spot best would have found her, no problem.

As she moved slowly through the ever enveloping darkness she heard noises somewhere out there and shivered. Was this some bad dream she was having in response to her decision to go on that bloody, excuse the term, ghost tour that evening? She probably should have just stayed home. Lesson for next time: trust her instincts.

There was no more group of people surrounding her, allowing her to shake off her nervousness. No longer was there a confident tour guide with a candle to lead the way. The darkness felt heavy and seemed to weigh heavily on her limbs.

She spotted one of the buildings up ahead, a dark shape looming out of the rest of the darkness. She approached it with a mixture of relief and hesitancy. Something told her this building wouldn’t hold the safety and protection she hoped it would. It would be just as dark, or darker inside. Maybe she was better off staying out here.

She reached for the wall and slumped down, her back to it. Any strength she may have had was waning. What if she didn’t make it to morning and the relative certainty of rescue?

No no no. What a silly thought. Someone would be back and they would find her and apologize profusely for losing track of her like this. This definitely was not a part of the tour.

Suddenly a horrible moaning came from somewhere out there. It was a sound unlike anything she had ever heard. It was, undoubtedly, the sound of someone experiencing great suffering.

She had the urge to run to and from it. She wanted to help who ever that was in such agony, but at the same time she could not escape the darkness and wished to run in the opposite direction, even if it brought her into more unknown, pitch blackness. She could not go, and yet she could not move.

A figure came near then, running and dropping something as it passed her. It seemed to take no notice of her, but ran from the direction of the screams.

“Wait!”
The fleeing figure did not stop and appeared not to notice or hear her.
She stood in fear and picked up what the passerby had let fall.

She felt the sticky rag between her fingers, but could not see what this was in all the dark.

All she could do was smell the thick metallic odour and she knew it was the blood of the one letting out those terrible sounds, somewhere out there in the abyss.

The darkness seemed to take over than and the last thing she heard was more screams and moans and the scent of blood on the rag in her hand choked her as she slid down into a darkness so thick she felt like she would be trapped in this black pit for eternity.

***

So there you go and here we are at the end of October and the end of this series.

I don’t know if I frightened you with any of my stories, but I sure frightened myself. I wrote about fears I have had and I want to thank

Young And Twenty,

one more time for providing the blog post and the inspiration these last five Fridays, with her:

5 Fears and What They Say About Us.

Are you afraid of the dark?? I don’t require lights on to get around my house in the middle of the night. You’d think I had no fear of the dark if I had been so used to it, but depending on my circumstances I can be very jumpy.

What are you most afraid of? Do you have a phobia of some kind? How has it affected you?

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Spotlight Saturday, Writing

Spotlight On Saltz

This week’s Spotlight Saturday I am lucky to have on my blog an interview with Writer, of memoirs, and musician Alana Saltz.

You can find her on her website:

AlanaSaltz.com

as we discuss such things as creativity and mental illness, whether it’s worth getting an MFA, and how to handle rejection.

And now I hope you learn as much about writing as I did from Alana.

***

KK: First, where are you located and what is your background with writing?

AS: I’m located in Los Angeles, CA. I’ve had an interest in words since my parents started reading me bedtime stories. I loved trips to the library and bookstore as a child. At my elementary school, there were some opportunities for students to explore creative writing, like our parent-run Paw Print Press. I got to write and illustrate a couple of stories, and then they were produced into little picture books with covers made out of cardboard.

I eventually majored in English as an undergraduate, took lots of writing classes, and was an active participant in my school’s literary magazine and writing workshop. After graduating, I decided to take the next step and pursue my MFA. I’ll be graduating from Antioch University, Los Angeles this December.

KK: What skills do you think are required to be an artist, either to be a writer, musician, or both?

AS: Passion and determination are the biggest ones. I also think it helps a lot to be naturally empathetic and sensitive if you want to create art that resonates with others. You have to be willing to look inside and look at others in a deep, meaningful way to be able to capture the world and reflect it back through words, art, or music.

KK: Do you believe in the connection between artistic talent and mental illness? What do you think that connection is and how does it manifest itself for you?

AS: I don’t really believe there’s a connection between talent and mental illness. If anything, mental illness can make you more internal and sensitive, which might in turn bring new levels of perception and power to your creative work. But you can be a thoughtful, insightful person without any diagnosable mental illnesses. While mental illness has given me something to write about, it hasn’t helped me actually write. It usually prefers to get in the way through discouraged, depressed outlooks and anxious, stressed thoughts that I have to fight in order to get back to work.

KK: Do you think writing talent can be taught or learned or do you think either someone has it or they don’t?

AS: This is an interesting question; I got into a debate with my boyfriend about it just the other day. I think everyone is born with certain inherent strengths and talents. Words and language have always come naturally to me, so I embraced that side of myself, and luckily felt a passion for developing it. I think it’s possible to be good at something you don’t want to do and be bad at something you wish you could do. Writing can certainly be taught, even if a person doesn’t have a natural strength with it. But it sure helps to have that. It’s much less of an uphill battle. 

I also think that empathy and insight play a role here as well. Not everyone is naturally good at looking inside themselves or seeing the world around them with clarity and understanding. You need that to create work that resonates, and I’m not sure that can be taught.

KK: What advice do you have for a writer just starting out?

AS: Every professional writer will give the same advice: Read. Read a lot, and read widely. But everyone who will ultimately make it as a writer doesn’t need that advice because they already do. You have to love reading and stories to become and be a writer. 

Besides reading, I would recommend finding a local writing workshop/critique group, maybe taking some classes, and writing whatever interests you without worrying too much about what it is or where it will ultimately take you.

KK: What does the term memoir mean to you?

AS: Memoir is a work of autobiography that has a theme, focus, or covers a select period of a person’s life. It’s creative nonfiction, meaning that it’s based in fact and experience, but some creative liberties can and will be taken in bringing it to life.

KK: What is the difference between a writer and an author? Do you think the words are interchangeable?

AS: I define “author” as someone who has published a book. A “writer” is someone who writes. I don’t think the words are interchangeable, although an “author” is certainly a “writer.”

KK: What is your writing or creative process? Do you have a routine or do you let the inspiration strike when it will?

AS: A lot of people would probably judge my creative process. There’s a lot of emphasis on the “butt in chair” routine: sit down every day, or a least several days a week, for a specified amount of time or amount of words, and make yourself write. Eventually, something will come out. They say this is how professionals work. It’s not how I work. 

I always have ideas floating around, incubating. I often write down notes and brainstorm. I typically set out to write in the mornings, but not every morning. Sometimes the writing is just thinking or note-taking. If I’m in the middle of a project, I work on that. I’ll go several days, even a week, without writing a word, then spend 10 days straight writing thousands of words a day. I let my interests, project, and ideas guide me. Deadlines will dictate it as well. 

I don’t wait for inspiration, exactly. I have to keep my mind open and searching so I have something to say whenever I do sit down. But I tend to sit down when I feel compelled to, although I do have a nagging sense of obligation that makes me force myself now and then.

KK: What is your experience with writing programs? Do you believe it is important to be trained or can there be other ways of gaining the same wisdom and experience?

AS: I have mixed feelings about writing programs. If you just want to write for fun, take some classes here and there, maybe join a local writing workshop. If you want to teach, get an MFA or PhD. That’s necessary. If you want to write professionally, it depends. Classes and workshops are a must, but I don’t think a degree is necessary. I wanted the option to teach, and I love writing classes and workshops and being part of a community, so that’s why I pursued an MFA.

KK: What do you think is harder to write: fiction or non-fiction/memoir? Why?

AS: For me, it’s probably memoir. In fiction, you have to create a whole world from scratch, but you can dictate and structure what happens in it. In memoir, you already have the materials, the enormous, misshapen pile of clay that is your life and memories. From that, and only that, you must sculpt a beautiful statue. You have to take a million little moments and turn them into a structured, cohesive, engaging narrative that makes sense and will connect with others. And if you don’t have an amazing memory, it’s even harder. I’m glad I kept journals as a teenager, or I’m not sure I could have written mine. But both genres are tough.

KK: How do you handle rejection and what tips can you offer for dealing with it for other writers?

AS: I don’t handle it as well as I’d like, but it depends on the rejection. Individually, they aren’t so bad. One after another can be discouraging and make me question everything. I’m one of those people who can’t not write, no matter how much I get rejected, no matter how low I sink in confidence. It’s part of me. If it’s part of you too, just remember that it takes rejection to get to acceptance, and becoming a successful writer will take time and perseverance. Try not to let it get you too down in the meantime. Editors, agents, and teachers are all subjective in their tastes and feedback. Take their advice seriously, but know each one does not represent the entire world of opinion.

KK: What is your feeling about traditional publishing vs self-publishing? What do you see for the future of both?

AS: This is a tricky question. I’ll start by saying that I’m an advocate of whatever path works for you and your project. I think self/indie-publishing has an interesting and promising future ahead of it. I like the idea of writers taking our work into our own hands, maintaining creative control, and publishing on our own terms. 

That said, traditional publishing still has its place. It’s very hard to get teaching or lecturing positions as a self-published author, if that’s your goal. Publishing houses also have more resources and money for promotion than you’ll most likely have on your own, unless you’ve developed a huge following already. People say publishers make you do all your own promotion, but that isn’t true. From what I can see, you’ll spend way more time promoting as a self-publisher than a traditionally published author. If you self publish, it’s all up to you. No one is helping. And that can be really, really tough.

KK: What do you have planned for the future for your own writing?

AS: Right now, I’m querying a memoir about my struggle to overcome anxiety disorder and depression as a young adult. I also have some essays in the works to submit to blogs and magazines. I’m planning to do NaNoWriMo in November to get a new novel going. I have a couple novel drafts in my virtual drawer that I occasionally look at and revisit. So, I have a lot of different projects in the works. I’m not sure which one will take off first.

***

Thank you Alana, for your candid answers to my questions. I wish you lots of luck with NaNoWriMo next month.

For more on Alana, visit her on:

Facebook,

Twitter,

and on

Instagram.

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Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Kerry's Causes, Memoir Monday

Diagnosis and Treatment

Last week my parents answered a question about what it’s like having loved ones with disabilities in their lives and what that word means to them,

Here.

This week I will rejoin the discussion once more.

***

Q: What have your experiences been with medical treatment and/or therapy been like? Do you have positive, negative, or mixed feelings about your experiences?

A: I was diagnosed months after I was born and my vision remained stable for many years. I had the occasional eye check-up, but really I avoided the need for more treatments until my remaining vision began to suddenly and mysteriously slip away, when I was in the seventh grade.

I then found out, rather quickly and shockingly, what it was like to have lights constantly in my face. I would have been bothered by all the stinging drops and bright lights, if it weren’t for the fact that I was having terrible pain behind my eyes and I knew, even at age twelve, I was lucky to have some of the brightest minds in ophthalmology overseeing my case.

By this point I had wonderfully experienced parents who hadn’t been dragging me all over the place for miracle cures to my blindness. I didn’t see or experience a lot of negligence. I received excellent care.

As for my kidney failure I know how unexpected that all was and yet my parents still felt horribly that they didn’t do something sooner. How could they have known? They were raising their two blind children, but the rest kind of snuck up on us all.

***

It took us probably too long to diagnose your kidney disease because we thought it was because of stress and your blindness. Your previous diagnosis hampered finding your kidney failure.

When you feel something is different or not right, you search for the reason. Sometimes it can be a physical problem that can be fixed and it’s done. Other times you get a diagnosis that will affect you for the rest of your life. A diagnosis can be great relief because it explains all of your symptoms and you can focus on dealing with them and getting on with the rest of your life. Other times it can be overwhelming because it predicts possibly even more and complicated problems down the road.

***

Since I lost all that vision as a teenager I have kept the retinal specialist who treated me then. HE is the best at what he does, but I fear a future of undiagnosed and unpredictable vision loss. Things can only be handled with the right treatments and proper diagnosis up to a point.

***

Before I end today’s post I wanted to include something I found earlier, a post on a blog by another visually impaired blogger. It is a post about the topic of disabilities in the media and I know that is a big part of what Rose has been doing from the very start.

So please check out:

Adventures in Low Vision,

and

The Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge.

for more information and next Monday’s question:

Do you think that it’s more important to emphasize medical treatment, life skills, community integration, or a combination of these things?

I think I’ve kind of messed up the numbering of the Awareness Challenge questions from how Rose has them listed, only because I was doing a few in two parts.

🙂

I will try to get back on track or perhaps the numbering system went out the window long ago.

Such is life.

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