Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz July 27-Aug 2, 2014

Sorry for the late-ish post. Had to go to Yin practice tonight. Yoga was beginning to think I abandoned her 😉

Roz Morris started her Masterclass for The Guardian. This is the first post in her daily reporting on the queries arising from hre students. Catch all of her snapshots. She’s got a clever bunch there.

Part 3 of K.M. Weiland’s negative character arc series: The negative character arc in the third act. Surprise, surprise!

And here’s more Katie, guest-posting on Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi’s Writers Helping Writers. Five important ways to use symbolism in your story is part of Katie’s ongoing blog tour in honour of her new book: Jane Eyre: Writer’s Digest Annotated Classics. It’s the last day to enter her giveaway! Go get ‘em writing tigers 🙂

And . . . Katie’s Wednesday vlogs return with foreshadowing’s number one job in your story. Welcome back, vlogs! We missed you!

Writer Unboxed is experiencing some technical difficulties so The Tyranny of Motive and The Many Dreams of Writing will have to wait until next week.

Shennandoah Diaz writes about three ways to save your backstory from the cutting room floor on the There are No Rules blog at Writer’s Digest.

Laura Drake shares her tale of tragedy and triumph on Writers in the Storm.

Edits, Editors, Editing. Ruth Harris explores the secret weapon of every successful writer on Anne R. Allen’s blog.

Elif Shafak’s TED talk on the politics of story.

Quentin Cooper asks the question, why is science fiction so hard to define, on the BBC’s Future blog.

Crawford Killian looks at three SF&F writers who break the mould in The Tyee.

21 books that changed science fiction and fantasy forever from io9.

Electric Lit shares a lovely list of supernatural collective nouns. Anyone for a fondle of unicorns (I thought that was a blessing)?

CNN Travel features the world’s coolest bookstores. Ok . . . gotta sop up the drool here.

Enjoy the Writerly Goodness, my peeps. See y’all Thursday.


Thoughty Thursday: things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, July 20-26, 2014

I guess this is the week for controversial stuff. PEN Canada, and other charitable organizations who engage in “political” activism are now under investigation by the Canada Revenue Agency.

Here’s a post by Charity Village on the same subject.

The Winnipeg Free Press offers a list of the organizations under investigation.

It’s just disturbing to me that all of these organizations are being audited. It continues the trend of cutbacks, suppression, and outright antagonism toward the sciences, and environmental and arts organizations in this country.

That’s all I’m saying about that.

Carmine Gallo explores the science behind TED’s 18 minute presentation rule. My trainer geek emerged. This is the 90-20-10 rule. People can listen with attention for 90 minutes (think about the timing of your breaks and lunch at work). They can listen and understand for about 20 minutes. The trainer or presenter (in-person) should change things up every 10 minutes. Virtual is a whole different ball game 😉

And speaking of TED, here’s Ze Frank’s very brief, Are You Human?


Frances Caballo offers a concise, yet comprehensive guide to Twitter for writers. The Book Designer.

Elizabeth J. Griffin, MD discloses her struggle with depression and what most people don’t understand.

The relationship between creativity and mental illness, on Brainpickings.

One tree has been grafted to bear 40 different kinds of fruit. IFLS. One of my friends commented: It’s experiments like this that lead to Triffids – LOL!

National Geographic explores what animals do in wildfires.

The 100 best sci-fi movies, as chosen by critics and experts. They’re presented in alphabetical groupings and each delivers their top ten. It’s a fair amount of wading, but there are some interesting choices . . .

Balloon art. Seriously. And I can’t even make a poodle. Maybe a snake 😛

And that be it for the thoughty and fun this week.

I’ll check in again on Saturday 🙂

Thoughty Thursday

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz June 15-21, 2014

There’s a little bit of everything this week. A little craft advice, some blogging tips, love for the word nerds and the book worms, writerly brain science, and a couple of thoughtful pieces about women in fiction and making it in the world of fandom.

Part two of K.M. Weiland’s how to write a flat character arc series.

Later in the week, Cathy Yardley wrote a guest post for Katie: Six tips to outline your novel faster.

Jan O’Hara discusses McKee’s four tips on writing a BIG story on Writer Unboxed.

Anne R. Allen’s blogging essentials for authors.

In related news, Roz Morris answers the question, how much time should an author spend blogging and building websites?

10 words that started out as errors from Grammar Girl, Mignon Fogarty.

Moar wordnerdery from 20 words that used to mean something completely different.

24 quotes that will inspire you to write more from Buzzfeed.

Also from Buzzfeed, 37 books every creative person should read.

Back with, six science fiction and fantasy books for the app generation.

Benedict Cumberbatch reads Kurt Vonnegut’s letter to McCarthy after the burning of (among other books) Slaughterhouse Five.


I just saw Lisa Cron tweet about this NY Times article: This is your brain on writing, by Carl Zimmer.

Tasha Robinson’s post on The Dissolve, We’re losing all our strong female characters to Trinity Syndrome, caused a bit of a furor on the SFCanada listserv, and elsewhere on the interwebz.

Jim C. Hines shares his Continuum guest of honour speech. It’s kick-ass. Then again, Jim’s good at that kind of thing 😉

Enjoy, my writerly peeps.


Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz June 8-14, 2014

Right now, I’m down in Orillia, Ontario, attending CanWrite! 2014. Started the day with a light breakfast and yoga, and I’m going to get Thoughty Thursday out before the sessions start up after lunch. Life is good.

Dame Judy Dench and Daniel Craig explore the question: Are we truly equal? See what you think . . .

What’s new in the war on Alzheimer’s Disease? from the Psychiatric Times.

Why we need creative confidence from

The quest to understand consciousness, a TED talk by Antonio Damasio.

Let these stunning photos of incredible storms inspire you. Also from

More inspirational ideas from i09: 12 futuristic forms of government that could one day rule the world.

All our patent are belong to you (did you catch the pop culture reference?). Tesla Motors makes its patents open source.

The most important sci-fi film never made from the Japan Times. Jodorowsky’s vision of Dune launched the careers of several notables in the field, including Geiger, and influenced moviemaking to the current day. I really want to see this documentary now.

Wired’s absurd creature of the week: the lion’s mane jellyfish. When I visited the Vancouver Aquarium last fall, they were featuring jellyfish. Apparently, they really do like global warming.

This week was pretty thoughty 🙂

Enjoy, my writerly friends, and I hope you garner some inspiration for your writing from this crop of curation.

Thoughty Thursday

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz April 6-12, 2014

Thoughty ThursdayShort weeks are often difficult. You seem to have to do your full week’s work in only four days. Hence the lateness of this post.

The 12 most pervasive lies about creativity.

Sleep your way to success (get your mind out of the gutter).

20 magical tree tunnels.

Northumberland’s cup and ring rock art.

Rachel Sussman on the world’s oldest living things TED talk.

This professor says he’s photographed fairies. Do you believe?

Smart ways to beat social media burnout.

Yes, this is a commercial, but it’s still a good message. Just ignore the last few seconds.

If social networks were the Game of Thrones houses.

A doggy reunion. Just for the feels.

I may have shared this before, but it’s just so cute, I couldn’t resist. Puppy cover of Pharrell’s Happy.

And that’s a wrap, folks.

Have a happy Easter, everyone!

Four things I learned about project management

1. My biggest take-away

Back in February, I spent five days in Toronto, taking Project Management training.  While this was ostensibly for my day-job, my biggest take-away is that anything can be a project: my novel, a poem, a short story, training, training design, home renovation, a conference or vacation, even going out to celebrate a birthday, all of it.  And anything that can be considered a project can be made more successful by solid project management practices.

Our instructor for the week was Paul  S. Adler of Paul S. Adler and Associates, a certified Project Management Professional through the Project Management Institute (PMI).   In a practical demonstration of participant-centered training in action, Mr. Adler guided the class through content-relevant activities, integrated lecture and video segments, and tied the whole together with practical application sessions that culminated in a presentation of our team projects on Friday morning.

2. The PMBOK and the PMBOX

PMBOK stands for the Project Management Body of Knowledge.  The PMBOK Guide is the Bible of project management and is produced by PMI.

One of the mini-projects that the class had to produce was a commercial for a product.  My group chose the PMBOX, containing everything you would need to manage your next project.  While our tagline was “With the PMBOX, your projects will manage themselves,” there is no magic solution to project management.  The toolkit is in the project manager’s head and reference library, and it will take years of practice to implement, understand, and perfect those skills.

3. The Spectre of Groupthink

While I think Mr. Adler’s video library could stand some updating, each was relevant and elucidating.  In a serendipitous bit of media tie-in, Roger Boisjoly, the central figure of the video on “Groupthink” passed away on January 6, 2012.  His passing was publicized on February 8, 2012 in newspapers across the US.  I found the video challenging and the difficulty of Roger’s position tragic.  Moreover, his story following the Challenger disaster he tried to avert was compelling. 

Groupthink is a phenomenon in which coverconfidence, looming deadlines, and pressure to conform can conspire to silence conscientious dissenters.  In Boisjoly’s case, he warned of the potential failure of the O ring that ultimately resulted in the Challenger disaster.

Groupthink in my workplace (not my team specifically – we’re pretty awesome) is a hazard, and extremely difficult to overcome.  I’m now dreading the possibility of having to confront the beast.  Thankfully, I don’t think it’s imminent, and the projects I might work on would not involve life-or-death decision, but still … it’s both haunting, and daunting.

4. Let’s Talk Again

On Wednesday evening, the day after we discussed Groupthink, I watched the CTV broadcast of Michael Landsberg’s interviews with Darryl Strawberry, Stéphane Richer, and Clara Hughes about depression.  It was significant for me in the context of the course, because Mr. Adler had spent some time discussing stress management that day.  As someone prone to depression, I do what I can to combat negative stress every day.  Walking my dog, or walking home from work, making a physical as well as mental “switch” between work and home lives, and seeking the happy are all important parts of my life and my “process.”

Kim Covert, of the Postmedia News service calls depression in the workplace the “trillion dollar elephant in the room.”   It’s an issue that has a huge impact on both our professional and personal lives and people have been silent with respect to depression for too long.

Bottom line: find your bliss; follow your joy; do whatever you can to find the happy in your life.

In the end

There was too much course to cram into a little blog post like this.  We covered at least ten important topics every day.  That’s a lot of learning!  Project Management isn’t something that can be done, or done perfectly, out of the gate.  As Mr. Adler told us, we just need to start with one thing, practice it, and build on that practice gradually.  Also, he encouraged us to use project management at home.

I’d highly recommend the course, or one like it, to everyone.

As Drew Dudley says so succinctly and so beautifully, leadership in everyday life can change the world.

Have you attended a course recently that has had an impact on you?  What was the course?  What was its impact?  Do share!

A born storyteller …

Storyteller is just another name for liar.

In grade one, I think all my classmates (and teachers) thought of me as a silly giggler, a liar, and cat-lady-in-training.

I didn’t even know how to write properly yet, so I exercised my creativity by telling my classmates in “show and tell” about the latest stray cat that I picked up on the way home.  They’d always run away after a few days and so I could show the class a different picture from the cat book I’d checked out of the library and tell them that my latest find looked just like that.

Daydreaming was also a preoccupation.  Because my dad had epilepsy, it was thought that I might too and that my habit of totally “zoning out” was actually petit mal seizures.  Later in life, I was formally tested for epilepsy and there was absolutely no sign of it.  I’d just delve so deeply into my fantasy world that there was nothing could tear me away.

If I was born 20 years later, I’d probably have been diagnosed as ADHD and drugged into submission.  As it was, I was “spoken to” and ignored.  I was deemed enthusiastic but disruptive by different teachers for different reasons.

Can you see the mischievious? Just call me “wee devil” 🙂

Really, I was painfully shy, and the giggling was a way of deflecting uncomfortable situations, which meant pretty much everything.  To this day, I still laugh when I offer a thought or suggestion to my colleagues or manager at work.  If it’s too radical, my suggestion can always be dismissed as a joke, right?

The daydreaming-at-inappropriate-times thing stayed with me until my mid-twenties, and then I started to get clever about it.  I’d restrict my mental ramblings to my “alone time” so no one would be put off by my apparent disinterest in whatever it was they were saying.  Now I cultivate solitariness.  As I writer, I have reason to, but as a creative soul, I simply can’t do without.

As for the telling of stories, I’ve always wondered what might have happened if someone had recognized what it was I was trying to express and encouraged me to turn those imaginary powers to something else.  If I’d started writing my dreams and stories down earlier, where might I be today?

Ultimately what-ifs and might-have-beens are only intellectual exercises.  None of us have do-overs.

A few months ago, one of the writers I consider to be a mentor, Barbara Kyle, presented this TED talk (via Volconvo) to her creative network:

It is 20 minutes well-spent, trust me.  Sir Ken is incredibly funny, but his message is dead serious.  Currently, it is not the business of schools to nurture creativity, but to create useful/functional members of society.  I rather agree with Sir Ken, that only by nurturing the creativity of our children will schools produce truly valuable members of the human community.

I’ve also been disturbed by the resurfacing of the ADHD debate.  Are children being over diagnosed/incorrectly diagnosed?  This debate has been around for decades and it still hasn’t been resolved.

Some food for thought:

Were you a creative child smothered by a school system that didn’t recognize what your “acting out” meant?  How did you come to understand your creativity and who helped you through that sometimes agonized and agonizing process?  Did you ever feel less valued or less intelligent because you were more creative than academic?

Three Blind Mice

When I was a wee thing, my parents enrolled me in ballet classes.  I think it was because I was such a spirited and energetic girl 🙂

All went well until the first recital.  We were performing “Three Blind Mice.”

I kind of looked like this:

Young Ballerinas, Casa de Cultura, Havana

Young Ballerinas, Casa de Cultura, Havana (Photo credit: travfotos)

I tried to find my old photo in the big box of them I have.  I searched Mom’s collection too, but no luck.  It’ll do …

I was so excited I think I went ballistic, though I honestly don’t remember the specifics.  The instructor had to discipline me, and unfortunately had to do so in front of everyone.  I went from whirling like a dervish to hugging my knees in the corner crying in about two seconds flat.

We were about to go on stage and this wouldn’t do.  Her pep talk wasn’t inspiring, but it straightened me out enough to perform.  After the big night, I told my parents that I didn’t want to dance anymore.

I did do a little bit more later on.  One of the local gymnastics clubs was offering after school classes and I did one or two dance classes that way and about four or five gymnastics classes.  I always liked gymnastics better anyway.

The thing was, I learned a couple of negative things from that first creative challenge:

  1. Teachers are the enemy.
  2. Quitting is easy.

Avoidance of conflict and embarrassment crop up quite a bit in my creative life.  Heck though, I was three at the time.  How in the world was I supposed to know how to handle it?

So why court embarrassment again now, all these years later?  Because when you’re creative (and I think everyone is), you’re usually creative in a whole whack of different ways.  This was just the first way that I manifested my creativity.  I also liked to draw, build things, sing, and I was a fantastic pretender …

So a tip for people who might think they’re “blocked” in whatever creative endeavor they’re currently engaged in: exercise your creativity differently for a while.  It doesn’t have to be anything spectacular; singing in the shower will do.  Or maybe you could dance like a maniac when no one’s around, go see a play or a concert, start a journal, if you’ve never tried, check out an open mic night at a local cafe, or karaoke if you dare, buy a sketch pad from your local grocery or pharmacy and get with the cartoons.

You may find that refocusing your creative mind (or your creative body) will make you wonder why you thought you were blocked in the first place.

What alternate modes of creativity do you engage in?  What do you want to try that you’ve never tried before?  Was there a time in your life when you felt shut down?  What lessons did you learn from that and how did that experience shape you?