Ups and downs: A week in the writerly life

Greetings, my writerly peeps!

It’s been a weird and wonderful week for me.

First, I headed down to Mississauga (second of three trips for the day-job this month) on Monday. Since I had full travel days (Monday and Thursday) this week, I was able to travel in a more leisurely fashion.

My mission: to co-facilitate the Business Writing Made Easy course (my seventh time with that particular curriculum) with one of my colleagues.

Monday afternoon was spent preparing the room and testing our technology. There were a few tense moments. There was a TV in the room, and we attempted to hook it up as the monitor for the lap top so we could use it to show the slides for the course. It didn’t work.

So we brought the good old SMART Board into the room, and while not able to achieve full connectivity (some of the cables were missing) we were able to use it as a basic projection screen. Good enough.

My colleague was preparing for her own trainer certification. At this time, our employer’s internal college is getting out of the certification biz, however, and so she had to record a full day’s training, edit it down to four hours, and demonstrate the eighteen trainer competencies.

This would mean that I couldn’t be in the classroom, though, because to have a co-facilitator in the room would have invalidated her certification.

So what would I do? Due to another colleague’s absence, I was able to set up at her workstation, but there wouldn’t be a lot of work I could do.

The day ended, and I had to leave ends a little loose for the time being.

That evening, I tried to connect to the interwebz through my hotel’s wi-fi. It wouldn’t even let me have multiple windows open (that’s how I manage my SoMe). So that meant dependence on my smart(er than me) phone for SoMe for the week and actual productive writing time.

This was a boon in disguise. I quickly accepted it for the gift it was.

That night, I realized that my colleague and I would be co-facilitating Business Writing Made Easy again at the end of this month (my third trip of three) and that she could record her session again there. In the morning, I proposed that I observe her and give her some tips for the end of the month, then jump in on day two.

This was an agreeable plan and so we proceeded.

There was a little panic (actually ongoing) because we were uncertain whether the course at month’s end would be approved.

The video tapes (yes, it was an old camcorder) ran out before half the day’s training was finished. We weren’t sure if my colleague would have enough footage to even make up the four hours she would need to submit.

Regardless, that night we went out to celebrate and enjoyed Korean BBQ, a first for both of us. You cook your own food, right at the table, and it’s a la carte, so you just keep ordering as long as you’re hungry. It was very tasty.

The next day, a snow storm blew in. The course finished well—the grammar module is my favourite—and my colleague had figured out how to transfer her video to digital so she could edit. So she had a possibility of moving forward with her certification video even if it turned out we couldn’t co-facilitate again.

I had a quiet night, writing away, and finished editing my NaNoWriMo novel. I just have to fill the ending out a little more now. We have denoue- but need a little more -ment.

The drive home on Thursday was terrible, largely because of the previous day’s snow storm.

It took me an hour and a half to travel a distance I normally would in about fifteen minutes, even with traffic. Then I got off the highway and travelled a little more indirectly to bypass the closed lane I assumed was the reason we couldn’t travel more than 10 km/h.

Once past that bit, I was fine, but I didn’t get back into Sudbury until about 3:30 pm.

When I got home, I noticed I had received a lovely email from R. Leigh Hennig of Bastion Science Fiction Magazine. They would like one of my stories for an issue later this year. W00t!

I have to back track just a bit. I submitted my story on March 1st. There was originally a deadline of February 28, but when I went to check on the web site, I noticed the date had been removed and that Bastion was now accepting submissions on a rotating basis, with issues filling up fast.

I decided to take the extra day to polish, and I’m glad I did.

When I was in Mississauga the week before last (first trip of three), I received an email that my submission would be brought forward for discussion with the editorial team. I was cautiously optimistic. Hell, I was all alone in my hotel room doing the happy dance.

And yes, I was dancing again on Thursday night, to Phil’s delight, when I received the second email confirming Bastion’s interest.

In fact, while I’m not one to too my own horn (it makes me distinctly uncomfortable), I have to share the following: “After some careful deliberation on this piece with the rest of the staff, we’ve decided that it would be a crime not to publish this.”

Oh. My. God.

Mellie was a wiggle-puppy.

Please donate (find the link on their About page) to support this wonderful new magazine.

 

It was back to work on Friday, and I forgot my phone, which meant no keeping up with email or SoMe or my reading during the day.

Then it was over to my friend Kim’s for home-made chilli and much writerly talk with Kim and a new (to me) friend, Violet. There was wine. I had to drink tea to sober up before the drive home and I ended up getting home after 11 pm when I finally caught up on email and SoMe.

Connecting to like-minded, creative souls is an important part of a writer’s life. It was wonderful, even if I didn’t get to write.

Saturday morning was cranberry bread French toast with Mom, a quick clean up of the house, and then an afternoon of shopping while Nuala went for her spa day (grooming) at Petsmart. After ordering out pizza for supper, I hosted a couple of friends from out of town.

It was another night of great conversation, though accompanied by coffee and oatmeal cookies instead of wine.

Unfortunately, that meant I was unable to meet a writing deadline. I was hoping to submit to the Northwestern Ontario Writers’ Workshop (NOWW) because the judge for the speculative fiction category is none other than Robert J. Sawyer. I would have loved to get something in front of his wise eyes.

I wouldn’t have given up my time with my friends for anything though. So, I’ll have to look for other opportunities.

So it’s been a week of ups and downs, but more ups than downs. It’s been a good week. And now I’m looking forward to a week off so I can recuperate and prepare for my next business trip.

How about you? How has your week played out? Let me know in the comments below.

A life sentence with mortal punctuation: part 5

Last week: A second routine surgery turns complicated and results in my second near-death experience.

The hits don’t stop coming

1987 was a massive year for me, not only because of my appendix problems, but also due to several other events, both related and unrelated to that trauma.

I mentioned some of the related bits last week: the implosion of my first serious relationship, academic struggles, and the revelations of the second surgery.

My first serious relationship yielded to my second in a few short months.  By the time of the second surgery, I was firmly entrenched in coupledom again.  At that point, I really didn’t know how to function socially without a partner.  I was still so awkward on my own, still doubted my own value so much that it seemed the only option.

The man in question was attracted to wounded women.  This is not to disparage him in any way, because he was an excellent person, but I still have trouble seeing my virtues and can’t figure out why else he decided to enter into a relationship with me.  This is just a statement of fact, something he revealed to me later himself.

With regard to my academic difficulties, I missed a lot of school and because I tended to fall asleep toward the end of the day, I was doing poorly even in the courses I was there for.  In an attempt to catch up, I wanted to enrol in a correspondence course in history to offset my poor performance in other classes.  My mom and I met with a counsellor to discuss my options.

I was told, point blank, “You’re not smart enough to complete a correspondence course successfully.”  The counsellor in question was clearly looking at my recent marks, not on the A’s and B’s of previous years’ courses.  When I tried to press the issue, she said that I didn’t have the time and dedication to complete a correspondence course.

“You’re recovering from surgery and still pretty sick.  You’re heading for a second one in a few months.  You have enough to worry about without a correspondence course.”  Essentially, she thought I was too lazy to complete the course.  This was not the case, but I couldn’t convince her otherwise, so I left the session empty-handed.

Other events were converging to form a perfect emotional storm.

English: Tropical Depression One upon being de...

English: Tropical Depression One upon being declared (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the winter, my paternal grandmother had a stroke while driving home from visiting my aunt and uncle down south.  Her car shot through an intersection just after entering Sudbury and ended up on an embankment.  Fortunately, no one else was injured, but the car was totalled.  She was admitted to hospital, but as the days and weeks progressed, she did not wake up.

At first, they thought the stroke had caused more damage than they originally determined.  Further scans revealed that this was not the case.  As time went on and her coma continued, they needed to insert a feeding tube to keep her alive.  She could not continue to survive on intravenous alone.

They couldn’t insert the feeding tube.  Something was in the way.  A quick exploratory revealed that her abdomen was full of cancer.

We couldn’t imagine the kind of pain she must have been in during her long months of silence leading up to the stroke.  My grandmother was an intensely private and fiercely independent woman.

Due to my own health issues, I was not encouraged to visit my grandmother much.  Then, when my state of infection became clear, I was discouraged from seeing her at all.  Finally, I was brought up to say my goodbyes.  Without the intervention of a feeding tube, my grandmother would slowly starve, if the growing cancer didn’t get to her first.

The decision was made to remove all supportive measures and let nature take its course.

Family came up to visit and either stayed or returned for the funeral.  It was about that time that I started to cry for no reason.  I couldn’t cry when it seemed appropriate: when saying my goodbyes and at the funeral, but at odd times, I’d just sob uncontrollably or stare off into nothing.

I had no idea what depression was then and even though my boyfriend tried to tell me, I was closed to the message.

My friendship with Margaret suffered as well.  My first boyfriend was very jealous of my time and rarely let me do anything on my own.  He was everywhere and became sulky when I wanted a “girl’s night” or to do anything with Margaret that didn’t involve him.

My quick turnaround into my second relationship didn’t help matters.  This time I was the needy one and relied on my boyfriend, the picture of the strong, silent archetype, almost exclusively.  Margaret found a relationship of her own to fill the gap.  She needed someone she could rely on too.

Margaret’s mother was getting remarried and would be moving to Mississauga at the beginning of the summer.  Margaret was allowed to stay on with me for the summer, in my grandmother’s house until she joined her mother in Mississauga and I went away to the University of Guelph in the fall.

My parents had settled my grandmother’s estate in the spring and my father had to buy out his brothers of their shares.  My grandmother hadn’t left a proper will and a lawyer was hired to sort through the mess.  They would be moving into my grandmother’s house in September after I relocated to Guelph and renting out their house to pay off the second mortgage they had to take out to make the proper financial arrangements.

My grandmother’s house, though large, only had one bedroom.  My move down south would be a permanent one.  There was no place for me at home anymore.

Throughout this time, I didn’t write, or even think about writing.  There wasn’t any room for it in my life and I was too busy trying to fast-track through highschool and try to maintain some form of a healthy relationship with anyone to spare any time for my creativity.

In a relatively short period of time, I had a serious infection bookended by two surgeries, ended my first major relationship and entered my second, lost my grandmother, my home, and my best friend.  This was the beginning of a situational depression that it would take me years to recognize and sort through.

Next week: Fumbling toward stability.

Hiatus

The last summer I went to the University of Guelph, I got a job videotaping horse shows: an opportunity that presented itself.  I traveled to Ottawa, Edmonton, and Southampton, New York.  In between trips, I edited the videos for sale.  I enjoyed the technical nature of the job.  It was something different from anything I’d done before.

While I was down in New York, my father became ill and went into the hospital.  My mom decided not to tell me until after I returned home.

After what seemed a great start at Guelph, I faltered.  My second serious relationship ended as a result of the third.  I know: it was evil, and I’m sorry for all the pain I caused everyone involved, but it just happened.  Lame excuse, but it’s true.

That was the kind of life I led, or followed, in those days.  I let things happen, or not.  There was no thought that I had a role to play in directing events, making choices.  Evil and pain were my legacy because I did nothing to stop them from happening.  If an opportunity presented itself, I would go with it.  I was a passive observer.  I lived like a victim.  I had to sort things out but I didn’t know where to start.

So I turned my attention back to my crisis-in-waiting.  What did I really want to do and could I afford it?  The specter of the starving artist loomed.  So I got a job at Coles, moved to Toronto, and started working through things.

After a few months, I quit Coles.  You’d have thought I’d really love it there.  I thought that too, but it wasn’t to be.  My parting with Coles resulted from irreconcilable differences bred of personality conflict and my own passivity. No surprise there.

A data-entry job at a food importing company was next and a move from Downsview to High Park.  Another few months went by and I moved to Mississauga.  I got a second, part time job at a veterinary clinic, ended up quitting the data entry job, and worked at the clinic full time.  When I was a kid, one of my aspirations was to be a veterinarian and I was sure that I would one day own a farm.  So the clinic seemed perfect.  It was.  I’ve honestly never felt happier working anywhere else.

I broke up with boyfriend number three, but couldn’t afford to move out.  It was awkward, but I worked evenings and he worked days.  We moved around each other, wounded and wounding.

To stay out of the house as much as I could, I started taking swimming lessons, eventually culminating in becoming a certified lifeguard.  I biked and walked everywhere.  In short, I lost a lot of weight.  I was never healthier.  I took a correspondence course in creative writing, tried to learn French, and signed up for high school science courses that I’d managed to skip at Lockerby.  I got my wisdom teeth removed.  Then I started looking at next steps.

I considered returning to Guelph, going to another university to finish my degree, or doing something completely different and becoming a tradesperson (there was a new incentive grant for women in the trades at the time).

I looked at becoming a veterinary technician (hence the high school science courses).  Ultimately though, I didn’t have the financial resources to stay in Mississauga (or anywhere else) on my own and so moved home to Sudbury and back in with my parents.  Laurentian it was.  English degree it was.  My plans were set by circumstances again, but this time, I had a goal: my intention was to complete my degree and to focus on becoming the best writer I could be.

Of course, as soon as I made that determination, I met the man that would become my husband.  So much for plans 🙂

Lost your way? Stanton Peak, Derbyshire

Lost your way? Stanton Peak, Derbyshire (Photo credit: Thomas Tolkien)

Everyone gets lost on the way.  It’s part of the process.