I am thankful for the struggle of writing that keeps me thinking and learning and growing and moving.
This novel thing is harder than I realized, but I don’t stop. I research and learn so I can keep on writing.
I don’t ever really get writer’s block. There is always so much to discover and share.
I have plans and goals to conquer.
I am thankful for perhaps smaller groups but new people still showing up amongst them.
Our writer’s group lost a few this week because of illness and other things, but I walked in and was unexpectedly met by a new voice. A man from New Zealand came to check out what our little writer’s circle was all about.
It helps. I had someone in the group read something I’ve been working on, out loud to everyone, and I received interesting feedback from them and someone new helps with a fresh perspective.
I hope he returns. All the different life experiences in our group can only be a benefit.
I am thankful that I haven’t given up on the violin and my mastery of it.
The challenge continues, won’t go away because it is something one must keep working on. I won’t master playing such an instrument, not in a year and not in two. I know it feels like a long road, but I am working and developing parts of my brain I didn’t know I had.
Seriously, this lesson I felt energized and wiped out, all at once. I think that’s a sign that I am right where I am supposed to be with it.
I am thankful for two Foundation of the Blind meetings in one week.
I started with the US NFB ((National Federation of the Blind) and those few months of being a part of their organization (VisionAware) has given me some idea of what to expect with this new challenge of the Canadian CFB.
I listened in on the AFB call on Tuesday and the CFB on Thursday.
We had a guest speaker at ours. We are working to get a new national system of sharing books and other reading materials in libraries all across Canada and I was super emotional about it.
I love the library, but I feel like I feel when I am in a bookstore. I am surrounded by the things I love most in the world…and yet, I can’t access most of it like everyone else.
I hope I can be a part of changing that, for myself and many others.
I am thankful for a chance to write about my chronic pain journey.
This is one of those not-a-super-hero movies that people might not know about or care to see, but I think we need more like it.
I am thankful for seeing things (like biographical movies) at the moment I am meant to see them.
I love biography because it tells the story of a person’s life. Every person has a story.
I am trying to write a novel about life for everyday people in Europe and such, during the two world wars that dominated the 20th century. It felt like a strange bookend. I think it helped me put some thoughts together though.
I am thankful for a simple fix for my phone from my handy techy brother.
It suddenly froze up on me and went mostly quiet. I need it to talk to me.
So, instead of feeling stuck and being about to take it to an Apple store, my brother thought of another way to reset a phone. I tried it and it worked.
I am thankful for another newly discovered cover to a song I already know and love.
I’ve shown this photo before, but it really sums up my one true love.
I want to live in a bookstore, in a library, but being surrounded by books also makes me feel partly empty. I can’t read them. I need to scan them electronically or go to EBooks or braille.
I am happy to do this. I have an entire electronic device still full of books someone once found for me. I couldn’t likely get through all of those in one hundred years, but something also stops me from making even a dent.
So much, so many worlds and characters and ideas, so many words to be found.
Nothing can compare to holding a book, even one I can’t see to read, in my hands.
I rub my fingers over the bumps on the pages on my Harry Potter book collection. I could read them over and over. It’s a love that is pure and will never end. One thing I can count on.
I’m not reading a particular book at this moment. I can’t seem to settle on one a lot of the time, even knowing how many there are out there. I often still feel removed from all the books I love, like I can’t just pick them up, read any book I want, at any moment. It’s a painfully wonderful feeling, that I have the power to read and yet I lack the ability to in many cases. It’s one of those bittersweet love affairs.
I can easily see the similarity between the first time experiencing the thrill of new love with someone and the first time to read a book that will become a favourite. There is a rush and a feeling you can never get back, no matter how you will always love or can ever hope to again. It will remain a wistful memory and something that will forever be both sad and nostalgic and that’s just how it is.
and I went on to expressing my feelings, which meant criticizing the authors involved in the writing.
They were only being humorous, provocative; yet, due to the news of a two-year-old girl and her father being murdered in Alberta (which could be the inspiration for a more on time response I could write for this week’s prompt), this heartbroken Canadian wasn’t able to see any humour whatsoever.
It made me think about writing and its possible consequences because I was able to have a productive discussion with these writers, after-the-fact, and I wanted them to know why I may have sounded at all harsh. That is not how I usually am. Just a bad day.
Something seems odd about this day. What could it be?
Oh yeah, I am pulling into my driveway. Yes, me.
For years it was me, in the passenger seat, the passenger. Shotgun was where I was designated to be.
Now I am driving. All those self driving cars in the works, for so long, well they are out and they are becoming the norm. Sure, it could lead to some sort of science fiction nightmare, cars becoming intelligent and driving their riders into trees and over bridges, but I overlook this fear because things are perfect now, right here, as I don’t have to have sight to operate a motor vehicle.
I enter my house and notice a suitcase sitting out, ready for packing to commence. We are soon off on another trip.
We met at TBEX, a travel expo I finally made it to a few years back. It was in Honolulu, my dream spot. I’d always wanted to visit there and this travel writing/blogging conference was the perfect chance. Two birds with one stone as they say.
I didn’t expect to meet him, but, I must admit, I hoped it would happen, sooner or later. I am comfortable with some independent travel now, after a lot of practice, but it’s still nice to have someone there to experience the world with.
He is a photographer and knows about technology and websites.
I may be able to drive a car, but I haven’t wished hard enough for perfect sight, at least I guess not. Huh.
If I had that, I wouldn’t be The Insightful Wanderer, as the whole position of my travel blog would be altered. I am insightful, just as I am, but I will never stop wandering. It does not have to be a bad, lost, aimless way to go through life.
I struggled to learn about my blog and website, for a few years, but am glad I can leave that responsibility to him.
I am still The Insightful Wanderer and Her Headache. I am KerryKay.com too. Bought that domain ages ago, as my writing needed my real name to be known and featured more prominently.
Branding is a strange thing, but I have embraced it and now am known as three brands in one.
I haven’t given up on my writing, memoir and literary mostly, because fiction is a beautiful thing, but not where my natural talents are.
I walk past one of the many bookshelves in my house, and there are some of my books there, a few are fiction. I had modest success with that, beginning with the anthology I was accepted into, my first real big break really.
I have written three books and am currently working on a fourth, two memoir and two fiction: Piece of Cake, Connecting the Dots, Till Death, and Out Beyond the Hedgerows.
The first two are memoirs about my life, struggles, with disability, being a visually impaired woman in a mostly sighted world.
The third is a fictional story about how death and loss affect three different generations of one family.
And the fourth is an historical novel, based on family who lived through World War II.
I did not start to write a string of genre books, ones that get put on Amazon and Smash Words and of which I would have needed to keep on putting out to gain any momentum in the book world. I found my own path to success.
I have books everywhere, which brings me peace and solace when I’ve had a bad day.
It’s so nice to have found a partner who loves travel and we are a team. He takes care of the site and its visual elements, while I write. Writing has its place, but the world is and always will be a visual one.
I think a world of all blind humans is worse than the one where the cars take over, but I can’t say. Science fiction writing is not my area of expertise.
I have checked off many of the items on my bucket list, which brings me great pleasure, but it’s nice to know I will soon have a husband who is committed, not only to me, but to helping me achieve the rest. Life is precious and it goes by like that! We are making the most of every day.
I have broken the record for longest living kidney transplant recipient and the medications have made it possible that this won’t change anytime soon. When I reached my twenty year mark (June 5, 2017) I had a huge party to celebrate and everybody I know came.
In this fantasy, we have not cured cancer yet, but we are actually getting close this time, no fooling.
We’re still trying to decide what kind of a wedding to have and where to have it. Being the travellers we are, a destination wedding is most appealing, but I don’t want to put that pressure on the people I hope will attend.
I want to have it at the hotel in Niagara Falls, the one from my childhood and its precious memories, moving to the closest hotel to the falls for the wedding night. I will finally feel that vibration of the roaring falls through the window of our room.
Maybe we’ll get married on a beach or on top of the CN Tower in Toronto. I loved it up there, the first time I tried it, and a wedding on that ledge sounds strangely perfect to me. After all, isn’t marriage a little like standing on a ledge?
It’s scary but exhilarating. It’s freeing, once you find love and let yourself feel worthy of having and holding onto it.
I can admit, finally after years, that wanting marriage, a wedding, this does not make me weak. I am not some Disney fairy princess, waiting to be rescued. I want a partnership and that commitment is and always has been important to me. I’ve been shown what that can be like, through the examples of my wonderful parents and their parents before them. It’s in my bones, just like writing and travel.
I can make a living from my writing now. I was afraid that was holding me back from finding a guy who could understand, accept me for me, and not let money and pride and the pressures of that get in the way. I am not rich, but I am rich in all that I really will ever need.
I have seen my words in print, in a book, on my shelf and in a bookstore.
I have an advice column which helps people. I can write and offer my advice, which can be a tricky thing to give others, but I know I’ve had more experience with the hard stuff than most. Plus, this side work allows me freedom to travel. I can answer people’s questions from anywhere I might happen to be.
Blog. Writing. Travel writing is my first love because the world is everything. It’s all around us. We are it.
I had to build up my writing portfolio. I had to practice my craft, art as pure as anything.
Now, I can admit that making a reasonable living off of that is no crime. People are paid for all kinds of things, some that might seem less deserving, but that’s how the world works. It’s all about money, for so many, but it doesn’t have to be.
We discuss having children, after we decide on a wedding spot, but the jury is still out on that. I can accept that, even as I know the rules of this writing challenge aren’t at all limiting, because sometimes life means accepting some realities and hard truths.
It’s still open for discussion. Age doesn’t have to matter because I want to freeze this day, in time, so my parents are here and the children currently in my life stay the sweet age they are.
We will deal with the future tomorrow, but let this day and the moment linger.
Anyway, we are off, to make our flight. I will finally get my chance to swim with jellyfish, in their lake home, on the island of Palau in the south pacific.
Why do we feel so guilty, why do I, just for speaking up and admitting what it is we want for ourselves?
Why do I feel so selfish and awful to be so open with the things I dream about having, the life I would ideally wish for myself?
Do you ever feel that way?
If you could have an ideal day in your own life, what might that include?
I know I am worth it, I am worth everything, and I want to say so. I know what some people say, about the universe and just by saying it, you are actually letting into your life the things you believe you deserve. This is what I am doing here, today, because I am tired of holding myself back.
Yes, believe it or not, this blog has been me holding myself back, up until this point.
I have been blogging for a year and a half now and I continue to be myself, to let my self shine through here. That is what is at the essence of Her Headache.
A bookstore actually offered to refund the price of the book, if someone wasn’t happy with its contents.
John Mullan and The Guardian are correct. How many theatres will give me a refund if I don’t like the movie I’ve just seen on their screen? This is a ridiculous thing for a bookstore to do. I don’t care how many complaints they received.
I wanted to start my review off with this story because it illustrated the unique craziness circling around the release of Harper Lee’s first book in over fifty years.
No matter how funny, touching, or smart a book is, there will always be someone who didn’t see those things in its pages.
I saw it all and more.
I am the first to admit I was unnerved and hesitant when I first heard of GSAW’s existence. I worried that this was some greedy scheme and that the aging author might be unaware of its upcoming publication. I thought long and hard about whether or not I could even read it. With so many unanswered questions about the road to this release, I would hate to find out Harper Lee was completely unable to consent to her pre-Mockingbird manuscript being published after so long.
This would be the only reason I might want my money back for this book.
Then I wondered at so many people’s determination to not take part in this phenomenon. They assumed Lee must be incapable of making this decision, of having any competent ability at all. Her stroke, blindness, deafness are all reasons for contemplation and caution, of course; however, I let my curiosity get the better of those doubts. I would shake her hand and tell her how much this book touched me personally, give her the money directly, if I could.
“Prejudice, a dirty word, and faith, a clean one, have something in common: they both begin where reason ends.”
–Dr. Jack Finch
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD
I first discovered to Kill a Mockingbird, as required reading, when I was in high school. I read it again last winter, wanting to see if my feelings might be different after more than fifteen years, and in preparation for the summer release, just in case I decided to join the crowd.
I did not take the book to heart, that first reading, like so many have. For a lot of people, To Kill a Mockingbird is near and dear to their hearts, with the messages it speaks. It is a snapshot of America in the 20th century and before. It was fiction that illustrated what it was like, race in the south.
As a white girl living in Canada, at the turn of this new century, I hadn’t encountered a whole lot of the racial issues so many others had. I could relate on the question of equal rights for all, being born with a visible disability, and so that I knew something about.
Admittedly, I found the book to drag in spots. It felt like short stories woven together. I did enjoy the childhood point of view, main character Scout’s toughness, and father Atticus and his admirable attempt at freeing an innocent black man from the injustice that was so much a part of the south at that time.
Those are the things that stuck with me over the years. It was never at the top of my list of favourite books, but it left its mark. When I heard this was happening, I wanted to reread TKAM so I could make that connection a fresh.
GO SET A WATCHMAN
Note: possible spoilers may be ahead, but I try to avoid this in my reviews, as I don’t want to discourage anyone from reading. However, my ultimate goal is to intrigue the reader, just the right amount, to get you to give the book a chance, to sell it to you on its brilliance and poignancy.
“INTEGRITY, HUMOUR, AND patience were the three words for Atticus Finch.”
Would they still be applicable after finishing Go Set a Watchman?
I, too, was nervous at what version of Mr. Atticus Finch I would find in the pages of this newly unearthed manuscript, but I was highly curious and reading on to find out.
There’s a lot going on when this story begins, with all the news articles, the NAACP, and the white supremacists.
Miss Jean Louise (Scout) Finch must decide “if she can’t beat em or join em” either, when her community is held up, south against her new northern place of residence. Her father has been held to impossible standards, ever since he became her world when she was left without a mother, as a small child. Now she sees her perfect role model as a man, someone with faults and weaknesses, but still with the strong conviction he’s always held.
The climactic scene between Jean Louise and Atticus is powerful and a different sort to what any reader may have been used to from To Kill a Mockingbird. She is no longer a child and Atticus is revealing himself to her, while still desperately pleading for his daughter’s understanding and compassion.
Surprises on reading:
**I was taken aback by its length. When I got to the end I automatically thought, is that all?
I thought that, not in any “thank goodness that’s over” sort of way. It was the complete opposite of that, actually. I wanted the sageness to continue on, a few pages more.
**I was stunned by some invisible club of the sort I’d heard of with readers of Mockingbird. I have felt it about very few books over the years.
Scout is charming and loveable, even though she is now an adult. There’s a glimpse of the strong child she once was, especially with the flashbacks Lee had planted throughout.
“She was a person who, when confronted with an easy way out, always took the hard way.”
She is tough and headstrong, but it’s obvious, adult Jean Louise can still get herself into the craziest predicaments, even when she isn’t trying.
**My main shock comes on hearing about the death of Jem from the same illness which took Atticus’s wife. This, I fully admit, I had not been expecting. I wondered how this might effect my enjoyment of the rest of the book. I wondered why Lee had chosen to kill off one of the Finch children.
Okay, so that counts as a “spoiler”, does it? Oops, but please do read on.
I will try not to do it again. Promise. But you knew that one already, right?
**I was pleasantly surprised by the frequent passages filled with humour and wit. I actually laughed out loud a few times, which I honestly did not do with TKAM, but Jean Louise (whether as a child or an adult) is always saying the shocking thing, improper southern lady behaviour, or she’s standing out and accused of not holding her tongue.
Whether it’s the incident where she gets herself folded up in the train’s wall-mounted bed, only half clothed. Or else, on her return to Alabama and the play fight between Jean Louise and Henry (her suitor) which resulted in the two of them ending up in the river, fully clothed.
“Right now I’d just as soon push you in as look at you.”
Would the town of Maycomb be able to resist the spreading of rumours and passing along of gossip, which entailed them being naked in that river?
In one flashback, there’s the instance where Scout, still struggling with her perceived farewell to being a tomboy and struggling with being a young woman, walked around for days, believing another girl’s story that being French kissed lead to being impregnated. Or one flashback in particular, of a teenage Scout, where her underwear ended up high on a school billboard, with Henry coming to the rescue in a big way.
Other flashbacks, scattered throughout, brought a little piece of Mockingbird to this new tale and make the absence of Jem a little bit easier to swallow.
These flashbacks, such as a pretend revival and a baptism, resulting in Scout ending up in her neighbour’s fish pond and being caught by real life clergymen, make the perfect melding of past and present.
Well loved characters, mentioned only in passing in Watchman, such as Dill Harris bring To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman together rather nicely when flashbacks are included as they are.
It was wonderful to discover Harper Lee’s humorous side, with Jean Louise as the central component, which is a nice alternative to the more serious sociological writing she shares, with Atticus as the moral barometer for so many.
Will Atticus fall from grace? Does Jean Louise find a way to live harmoniously in Maycomb, Alabama?
“I can take anything anybody calls me so long as it’s not true.”
Please feel free to join me there, where more will be introduced in the months to come by myself, Rose, and others.
There’s just a lot going on right now, as spring arrives, and always in the world of blogging.
Q: If you could “cure” the disabilities that affect your life, would you?
Why or why not?
A: Do any of you remember the Barqs Rootbeer commercial with the blind man?
Perhaps not. I searched all over YouTube and found every old Barqs commercial but the one I wanted.
Well, the blind man is offered a Barqs and, upon drinking, he proclaims:
“I can see! I can see!”
With this the other guy says:
“No. But it’s got some bite to it though.”
Funny stuff when I saw it, at the time. I quote it now and again, but it raises some interesting questions.
I like to imagine I were the one taking a drink of pop one day and suddenly I am able to see, just like the commercial promised.
I used to answer the above question from this post with a defiant “NO” because I thought that meant I was accepting and proud of my situation and my life.
Does the fact that I have changed my tune on that mean I haven’t accepted anything after all?
I don’t know. All I know is that if I had the chance, suddenly to see, I would be a fool not to take it.
I am not talking about literally, as science stands now.
All the time I read about some new developments in the world of medicine, allowing the blind to see. I usually don’t jump at the chance because it isn’t as the headlines would make it seem.
Most times it’s speaking about some contraption or device, worn on the head, wired up and with a battery pack. It’s some pair of space-aged glasses that send some sort of signals and produce outlines or shapes, giving the wearer some kind of ability to sense objects in front of them.
This is how I see now. Anything more than that gets more complicated.
There is no pill to take and no surgery in the world can bring back the sight I used to have, let alone the sight I have never had before.
If, in some futuristic or magical moment, true and full vision were possible I would be first in line.
I won’t stand here anymore and say I am happy with my life and don’t need to be fixed or cured. I wouldn’t get in my own way like that.
If I could see things would…well, they would still be complicated as life often is, but they would be easier. It would make things a whole lot easier on myself and on others.
I could see colours again. I could see the expressions on my family’s faces.
I could drive. I could write. I could walk unassisted and unaided.
It would be easier to find employment and the job prospects would grow exponentially.
I am not too proud to say I could use the help.
Wanting that and wanting more for my life than I currently have does not mean I am not happy right now.
Being blind has taught me to appreciate things and to not take life for granted. I might not have that same perspective if it weren’t for blindness, not that I would be a bad person had I never experienced all that.
I am glad I did not have parents who couldn’t accept my disability and who went on a determined search for some magic cure. Some parents did or do just that.
I was taught to work with what I’ve got and to make the best of it. I’ve had a mostly happy life. I am lucky.
IF I could see though, I would. I would take that huge gift, if science or some other entity offered it. I would experience things I have only dreamed of.
I would take it and rush to stand in a bookstore or library, surrounded by my beloved books, of which I could finally pick up and read.
The world would look strange to me and I can’t quite imagine it, as I write this. What kind of world would that be? What would it look like to me?
I recommend a movie now, all about a man’s journey to almost having his sight back.
At First Sight: starring Val Kilmer and Mira Sorvino.
I saw it in the theatre in 1999, it struck a cord, and I have wondered seriously on the question ever since.
It’s about finding love and what two people do to stay together and to make it work.
She wants only the best for him and that, she thinks, includes helping him get his sight back.
Was it his blindness that got in the way of their happiness or the fact that she couldn’t accept him for him?
This is a question, in a way, for another time. It only demonstrates how complex it really is, to suddenly get one’s sight back.
I answer this question with a yes, while others may answer differently, but in the meantime I like commercials that can make a joke out of something so hard to fathom for anyone who has been blind all her life like I have.
Would you choose to get rid of something about yourself, anything, if you had that choice?
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.
years since the start of World War I and with the subsequent World War II and the huge influence and shaping they both had on the 20th century.
When I heard about the World War exhibit upstairs I had to make use of the ticket to see as much as I could.
We took an elevator up a floor and back in time, finding ourselves amongst the history, bravery, and heroism of war.
We stepped out through the elevator door to commemorative service medals, to pictures and names…searching for familiar names, as we have had family around the area and, although it was a long time ago, you never know.
There was a history of the area and a write-up on the creation of The Stratford Perth Regiment, beginning with the settlement of settlers in the area in the 1850s.
stratford brass company.
Felt shoe company.
Manufactured goods and services. A furniture company.
Shells and bullet casings. Buttons from some long gone soldier’s uniform.
An example of the sort of food provided. Biscuits were, I can imagine, cheap and easy to produce, but must not have provided much nutrients to soldiers fighting in the trenches. I guess it was better than starting. I simply can not imagine it.
Again, seeing as we were in a museum, most of these things were untouchable for me, for whatever reason. a drum was one of the few things I could reach out and feel. I could imagine the sound of a drum beat, some chant in war.
A piece of trench art from a shell casing, a cross engraving.
What looked like a bit of rock, removed shrapnel from someone fighting in one of these mostly forgotten battles.
A diary and address book from 1916, France and the battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917 – a bayonet and an oil lamp. Some medical badges.
Above are some of the items from these wars and below are just a few of the stories:
I enlisted because I wanted to travel. I lied about my age.”
an ironic take on the italian campaign, a brutal campaign. It was actually considered to be the cowardly mission in comparison to what was going on in France. They did not receive the same recognition as D-Day soldiers in Normandy did.
A female nurse during World War II:
She enlisted. That was her second attempt. She was told the war would be over by Christmas so they did not need more nurses.
She landed in Sicily with the troops,
at the casualty station.
“We went to see MASH and my aunt was upset by the way the docs and nurses in the OR acted.
My mom explained, you had to do that or you would end up losing it.”
(Daughter speaking on behalf of her mother)
The most interesting part of this whole exhibit to me was the part devoted to the subject of propaganda. Being a fan of words I am amazed at how they can uplift and inspire, both in good ways and bad, how words have the power to sway and to mobilize. During times of war the propaganda machine can be used for good and for evil’s means.
The simplest of slogans can have the greatest effect:
DIG FOR VICTORY
To help with the war effort, Britain and Canada grew 1 million tuns of vegetables.
Dig dig dig,
Your muscles will grow big.
Do not mind the spade…
On display there was an extremely controversial text: Mein Kampf (My Struggle).
Adolf Hitler wrote this manifesto while incarcerated in the 1920s and in it he details his vision and his feelings concerning those he deemed to have caused him and his country the problems they were facing at the time of The Depression, post World War I.
– Ten million copies distributed throughout Germany
– This copy Had been handed out to Hitler’s Youth
– The crooked cross, an omni-present symbol
– a symbol present on everything from flags to match boxes, to inspire pride and loyalty in National Socialism.
It’s funny how I don’t have a clear image in my mind of what one of these looks like. I may have seen it. I seem to remember seeing it as a thick dark outline, in the Tom Cruise film Valkyrie, but as my vision has decreased, over time, I am unfamiliar with such a well-known symbol of cruelty and destruction.
However, symbols could be just as vocal for the other side:
– A hammer smashing the swastika.
– british Canadian propaganda posters in circulation
Give us the tools.
In thirty-nine and after outbreak of war the british designed posters with bold coloured backgrounds, a symbolic crown of King George the sixth.
To add a more modern and a contemporary touch, perhaps hoping to reach younger visitors such as myself, in and amongst the other examples of propaganda and symbolism there was even a movie premier poster from a few years ago. I don’t know which movie in the series it was for, but Rupert Grint was included, in one of the Harry Potter movie promotion posters, wearing a shirt with the infamous wartime slogan: KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON. I suppose he could be playing his role of Ron Weasley. Lord Voldemort was often compared to Adolf Hitler in many ways.
I have heard variations of this slogan myself, but this one in particular must be common enough in Britain still today. I find that slogan, in particular, rather interesting. Words even as simple as those are able to influence morale and mood, even in the toughest of times and those words still “carry on” to apply to any of us today.
This slogan did not have a chance to take off as a slogan for war, remaining on only a few of these posters on the walls of military and recruitment offices. So how did it manage to remain in the peoples’ consciousness for all these years?
Some bookstore owner came across one of these posters mixed in with a dusty old pile of books from an auction.
A true nostalgia item.
One more variation on this slogan was one spoken to warn soldiers against spilling privileged wartime secret information to any beautiful woman they might come across: KEEP MUM, SHE’S NOT SO DUMB!
And those are the words I will leave you with.
I left the museum and was left to ponder the power and potency of words, either written or spoken aloud. I learned a lot over one simple afternoon at a local museum.
Have you ever been to a museum and learned something you hadn’t known before? What effect did it have on you?
I love when a Saturday road trip turns into something even the one who surprised the other with the idea didn’t expect.
All I could do today, when I felt the warmth of the new April sunshine on my cheeks for what felt like the first time in months, was sigh in contentment. It was the perfect day for a drive.
Around here we have cities named after the iconic cities of Europe: London and Paris. I hadn’t remembered ever visiting Paris, but the downtown area was supposed to be a wonderful little spot.
As we drove into the town it was clear that something was going on. Parking spots were hard to come by and the street was full of people, some wearing kilts. We parked a few blocks away and over the bridge, happy to walk the extra little bit. As we stopped, briefly at the railing, I listened to the rushing water of the river below and felt perfect happiness.
It took us a while of walking around the concessions of carnival food and the live entertainment to learn what this event was.
The Lions Club was there putting on a pancake brunch, with local maple syrup. This was The Maple Syrup Festival.
The scent of sausages, hot dogs, and French fries was on the fresh spring air. The noise of the vendors could be too much for me at moments, but the town camaraderie was a lovely thing to behold.
I love small town festivals and seasonal events. Seeing families out for a nice day together and people, neighbours and friends talking and laughing together is lovely to witness.
I’ll admit some of the live entertainment and local talent wasn’t my cup of tea, but to each his own.
Any place with baked goods, cheesecake, a bookstore, and a chocolate and fudge shop is just fine by me.
Maple cupcakes, maple bacon doughnuts, maple everything. The live demonstrations of maple syrup-making showcase what the area has to offer.
The best possible finale was a catchy early season pipe band performance. As the bagpipers played “Scotland the Brave” it made me think of a scene in the third part of the miniseries: “Anne of Green Gables – The Continuing Story”, a particular scene when the soldiers are going off on the ferry to fight in World War I to honour their homeland and Britain. The pressure to be patriotic gives the scene a strong sadness. I never forgot that song. Hearing the bagpipes playing it live and right in front of me made me feel the connection to the Maritimes I still can’t explain.
This was no Paris, France (no city of love, lights, and romance), but it meant just as much to walk hand in hand with my favourite person; it’s all about the one you’re with, not where you find yourself. That right person and the perfect circumstances, that can make the moment. He hadn’t looked up events happening in Paris, but there we were, watching his beloved Celtic performers. It felt like the kind of fate that can be found in Paris, France in a novel; some things are meant to be. This lovely combination of Paris and Scotland was the perfect touch of Europe here at home in Canada.