Trying to keep my s&*t together

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There is a fine line between hoping for the best and reaching for the stars.  I am perched precariously in the middle of the two, balancing on that fine line.

A blogging friend who I have never met face to face suggested I contact her publisher and I, being the eternal optimist, thought ‘what do I have to lose’?   I sent an email and I was shocked to receive a quick answer.  I have since submitted my first three chapters of my novel and will await her response.  The publisher has been very forthcoming, telling me she is madly preparing two new books for publication so I have a few weeks to wait for her reply.  I may or may not be sh*&&ing my pants.

My first two Beta readers were very encouraging.  Although the first one is related to me, I knew I could count on the second reader to be brutally honest with her feedback. She loved my story, so much so that she didn’t want to put the pages down and was sad when it came to an end.  To say I was elated is a gross understatement.

When you create a story and bleed throughout it from beginning to end, it is more than encouraging that others can find, not only merit in your writing but, a story in which they can truly become engaged.

Here’s hoping the publisher feels the same way.

 

 

 

 

It lies just below the surface

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The pain of losing a parent is overwhelming.  It has been over eleven years since my dad passed and over three years since my mom passed.  Most days, even though I still find myself reaching for the phone to call them, I can manage the loss.  But every so often, there is a glaring reminder to make me deal with that sense of loss all over again.  It may be a completely banal event but the flood of feelings cannot be stopped.

Last night, it was a television commercial for the Heart and Stroke Foundation with Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette.  Joannie lost her mom only 2 days before she competed in the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010 and every time I see the reminder of her story I am reduced to tears.  I know that loss all too well.  I feel the pain her heart feels.  But what I can’t imagine is having to perform at the highest level of competition a mere two days after losing her best friend.

The pain of loss never really goes away.  It lies just below the surface, ready to surprise us at any moment.  It can come back gradually or it can hit us all at once.  Regardless of how it arrives, I am now able to remind myself that the pain is so hard to take because it represents the huge amount of love we had in our family.  It doesn’t stop the tears from flowing, but now I can smile a little through those tears.

 

History really is about his story

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Remembrance Day has always been a day when I truly do honor the men and women who have served, and continue to serve, for our freedom.  Every year, I watch the ceremony in Ottawa and, every year, I am moved to tears watching the emotion on the faces of the people in the crowd.

My latest interview for the library project I am helping with was nothing short of eye-opening and made the emotions I feel on Remembrance Day seem insignificant.  Charlie was born in 1925.   After graduating high school, his career focus was on the Navy.  It wasn’t until he talked with his teacher that he decided to become a soldier in the army.  After going through basic training, being sent for further training in Nova Scotia and finally turning 19, Charlie found himself being sent to Europe in November of 1944.

Now, at the age of 92, he skillfully walked me through his journey from Canada to England and then to Italy.  He joined the 48th Highlanders and they moved on to Pisa, where he remembered the leaning tower.  From there they were transferred to Marseilles and then took a truck to Belgium.  They crossed the Rhine into Germany into an area that had already been cleared and his troop eventually ended up in Apeldoorn, Holland.

By mid-morning on April 17th, 1945, the Highlanders had secured the north-western section, the Hastings were on the grounds of Het Loo Palace and the Royal Canadian Regiment was in the town square. The West Nova Scotia Regiment of the 3rd Brigade took over the south-western perimeter of the town before noon.  Charlie was on the front lines when Holland was liberated.

It was remarkable watching him become so emotional when he told me how his unit was given the news on September 2nd, 1945 that the war was finally over.   It was 72 years later and, if I could describe the look in his eye, he was right back on that street when he first heard the news, standing in his uniform pants and a t-shirt.

History really is about his story and so many other stories.  And next year on Remembrance Day, I will remember Charlie and the countless others who sacrificed their freedom to defend others.

 

May I please go to the bathroom?

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When I was a child, doing dishes was the worst form of torture I could ever imagine.  We didn’t have a dishwasher so dishes were all done by hand and we all took turns washing and drying to make the arduous chore seem more fair.  But it was my least favorite thing to do.  I would have much preferred vacuuming, dusting, cleaning the bathroom, dry-walling, rotating and balancing tires or removing my own spleen….anything but washing those bloody dishes.

I don’t recall if the genius idea came to me in a dream or if I had a sudden flash of brilliance after one particular dinner but, once the meal had been consumed, I asked if I could go to go to the bathroom.  No parent can effectually deny a child the right to heed the call of nature, so off I went.

Once that bathroom door had closed and I had engaged the lock, I became a teenage version of a forensic pathologist.  I carefully opened each cupboard and slowly examined and took stock of its contents.   In essence, I took so much time doing absolutely nothing that by the time I unlocked the door and went back to the kitchen, the dishes were done and nobody had seemed to notice the length of my absence.  The plan was brilliant….until eventually my brother caught on to my shrewd strategy.

After his realization of my great scheme, my trips to the bathroom after dinner were much less regular (pun intended).  The guy that I looked up to, that I thought would battle to the death for me, had thrown me under the bus.  I could only try to tune out the sound of his laughter as he closed the bathroom door before I even got close to that portal of escape that would separate me from the dishes.  Perhaps I should have changed my strategy and just gone to the bathroom right in my chair.  That surely would have resulted in a swift and heady dismissal from the dinner table and a one-way ticket straight to my room!

As fate would have it, I don’t hate doing the dishes anymore.  I learned a very valuable lesson about cleaning as I cook so the pile of dishes at the end of the process is not larger than the house itself.  It is a rare day you will find dirty dishes in a pile in or near my sink but rest assured, they don’t stay there for long.

Feeling elated all over again

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When I explain to people how it feels to write a book, I compare it to being pregnant and birthing a child without the physical pain.  I mean no disrespect to women who have given birth to a tiny human but the process is quite similar.  You spend months caring for and cultivating this remarkable thing you have created and once the process has come to its natural conclusion, you feel elated and you feel a sense of pride you never knew existed.  You spend so much time staring at it and are afraid to let anyone else touch it.  It never leaves your side.

But there comes a time when you have to learn to give up a little bit of the control.  Eventually you know you are going to have to let other people handle your baby and you are a nervous wreck when you finally make the decision to leave them with someone else.  Your gut churns as you wonder how other people are going to react and how they are going to treat your baby.

Until this week my baby had only been left with family. While there is still a sense of apprehension, one assumes that family will not come straight out and tell you that your child is terrible.  They may allude to the fact that there are some problems but any feedback could be slightly sugar-coated to preserve the emotional well-being of the parent.

I knew the day would come when I would have to hand my baby, my book, over to a person outside of my immediate family.  It honestly felt like I was dropping my child off at overnight camp for a week with no way to communicate with them.  I carved a path in my living room carpet as I paced the floor and, as the days went on, I began to get a feeling that I’m sure many parents feel.  If I have done the job I needed to do in the creation of this entity, I should have some faith that I did a good job.

Yesterday morning, I received a validation so positive it made me cry.  Her first two texts read, “Omgggggg, I am so hooked on your friggen book.  It’s like every second wondering if you can take it with you to read one more page.”

(image credit)

Where the flame of my publishing dream was a mere flicker, it is now a roaring fire.  If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to buy some gasoline.

 

You never know where help will come from

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In a random phone conversation at work yesterday, I was talking to a guest who was re-booking her summer vacation.  In the process of that exchange, we began to talk about the book that I have written.  It seemed like just a simple trade of information until she called me back half an hour later and said she had some information about publishers.

When one is a fledgling author, the mere mention of any connection to a publisher is exhilarating.  As I frantically wrote down the information she was giving me, I could feel my heart beating at an accelerated rate.  I was writing with one hand, Googling with the other and trying to retain all of the information from each place.

She had given me the name of a recently published author who lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  Her friend assured her that he was a really nice fellow willing to help out where he could.  With my tenacious Google-searching skills, I had tracked down his email in no time and sent him a query.  Much to my delight, he answered within a few hours.

Although he may not be the direct link I need to have into the publishing world, as a newly published author he could be a wealth of information for me at this stage of my writing career and he seems to be very engaged in helping others that are going through the phases of being a writer that he has already experienced.

I have since sent my first four chapters to the publishing company that previously took a chance on the Winnipeg writer and will wait with crossed fingers to see if I get a response.   If nothing else, I have a published author willing to send me snippets of much-needed advice and that, in itself, is priceless.