Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Word on Wednesday - Friends Doing Good Things

I said I was back and then promptly left again... Well, this time I mean it. I'm back and I've missed everyone!

Today's WORD goes out to some people I know who have recently followed their hearts (or guts, as some would say), with inspiring results.

Million Dollar Hunch and Hope's Last Request

A little while back I wrote about a former student of mine who had taken a risk on a hunch and started on a journey to simply hand people what they needed. His goal was to raise a million dollars and give it all away. He ended up giving all of his own savings away. He also ended up buying a Harley Davidson on his credit card as a dying wish for a girl, who wanted to give the bike to her father before she passed away.

He did and she died a few days later.

A friend of mine, who has been with Jim on his entire journey, documented the story and now it's available on DVD. The sale of the DVD goes towards production costs, as everything was created and funded at their own expense. Jim put almost $20,000 on his credit card to buy the motorcycle for Hope and some donations have come in to pay him back for his good deed.

Check out MILLION DOLLAR HUNCH to see what they've been up to or to buy the DVD.

Who Do You Think You Are?
by Keith Leon

I had the pleasure of helping edit a new book, now available on-line and to be released as a physical book in Spring. It's called Who Do You Think You Are and it includes interviews with successful people who have embraced their "purpose" in life and are living that purpose to the fullest. You can listen to a recorded teleseminar with Keith, and some of the people interviewed for the book, on the above link.

Participants include some of the top "thought leaders" of our time, many names you'll recognize from movies like The Secret or from the work that they do. He divided them into teachers, authors, entertainers, healers, speakers, and entrepreneurs. Included in the book are Jack Canfield, Marcia Martin, Dr. Joe Vitale, Terry Cole Whittaker, Bob Proctor, John F. Demartini, Hale Dwoskin, Rhonda Britten, Curtis Sliwa, and others. There are so many viewpoints, that I guarantee there's something for everyone... some one in that book will speak to you.

He asked them all the same three questions:
Who do you think you are?
What event or series of events led you to this realization?
What advice would you give to others still searching for their purpose in life?

It was really inspiring to help edit the book, because I was so immersed in these people's lives. I realized while I was reading it that they are no different than I am, they simply broke through the barriers (the ones we put in our own way). Reading it was like being bonked on the head with a velvet hammer over and over again. I have to say, it really helped me to take some big steps forward in my life.

Congrats to Keith. I know his book will do well and inspire many people.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Monday Poetry Train (I've lost count of how many)

hello poetry trainers, how I've missed this ritual, this discipline. but I am back and hope you are all well and full poetic cheer.

again, I've used the fabulous friday five word list from poefusion to create tonight's poem.

when I retire

the snow silence will greet my notorious late morning
orchestrated by commuting leaf breath and teapot
gasping minuet-ish piano keys through
fogged window life a background
of mayonnaise and mustard jars
filled with small pebbles collected off
tropical beach waves and saved moat dreams
my art surrendered to an elastic infinity of views

For some reason, I have this notion that I will retire when I hit 45. That sounds pretty good to me.

friday's words were: notorious, piano, mustard, moat, and infinity.

Join the train.

Friday, December 7, 2007

I'm Back! Time to get back into that Weekend Workout

Yes, I'm moved into my new home (not unpacked, mind you, that happens later) and although we did end up moving during a snowstorm with slick streets and sidewalks, I am happy to announce that there were no overnight hospitalizations and only one broken jar (that we know of so far).

And my Internet is up again! It only took 6 days for Telus to get it running properly! Thank you Mr. Telus man for coming to my house and fixing it!

I would also like to extend thank yous to the random friends who appeared out of nowhere to help and to all the coffee shops around town with Internet access... without which I would have been unable to perform the duties of my new job this week.

For this weekend's workout, I wanted to keep it simple. The holidays are approaching and creative time is minimal. I haven't written in over 10 days and it's making me a bit anxious. So, that's the theme of this post:


I always recommend writing every day because it keeps the creative "faucet" from freezing up, it keeps material fresh in your mind, and it's easier to keep a commitment to something you do every day. If you tell yourself you have to write every day, you'll more likely write than if you tell yourself you're going to write 3 days per week. Trust me on this one.

But life happens and sometimes our time gets sucked up by other things (births, deaths, metaphoric and literal). When we decide it's time to get back, it's challenging.

Here are a few things I'm going to do to get myself restarted. You can use them whether you've been away for 24 hours or 24 weeks.

1) Be kind to yourself for the missed time. Guilt is useless. Getting upset with yourself is useless. Just be grateful for the fresh jump back in.

2) Decide what you're going to work on (in my case, my 2nd novel and I'm about 3/4 done) and how much time you're going to work on it. Try for at least 45 minutes, because after being away, you may need extra time to get back into it.

3) Review where you left off. Read the last 10 pages if you need to. DON'T edit what you've written so far (unless you are done with the first draft and ready to edit). You'll get focused on editing and not moving forward.

4) Set your timer for 5-7 minutes. Using the start line: When I left off, my protagonist was...

Write for the full time (by HAND), do not edit, do not cross off, do not stop. Just keep writing and see where it takes you.

5) Set your timer for 7-10 minutes. This time, write spontaneously starting with the line: In the next scene, my protagonist must...

Again, write by hand without stopping.

6) Before you write your scene, try one more spontaneous writing exercise, choosing one of the following for your start lines and writing for 7-10 minutes:

This scene moves the story forward because...
This scene reveals the fact that...
My antagonist appears in this scene to...
My protagonist's / antagonist's goal in this scene is to...
In this scene, the secret is...
The BIG MOMENT in this scene happens when..

7) Read what you have written, circle "hot" words and relevant phrases. Pull stuff you want to use. Then, WRITE YOUR SCENE!

Have a great weekend!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

On Leave for a Few Weeks

I'm moving into my new home a week, so life's a little crazy at the moment. I also won't have Internet for a few days until after I move in, so I'm going dark for a little while.

Catch you when I get back!


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Word on Wednesday - A Real Meme Challenge

I'm amused how the term "meme" has been acquired by the blogging community. I'm not entirely sure how it started to be called a "meme." To bloggers, it seems to mean a questionnaire (or simply a question) passed through the blog-o-sphere in which participants post their answers on their blogs. The questions stay the same, but the answers change, so it's not technically a meme in the traditional sense. Or maybe it is, and it's a metameme...

The traditional meaning of the word is a societal / cultural piece of information that becomes adopted into the mainstream and understood, even if the person was not witness to the origin of the information. I always think of the phrase "Can't we all just get along?" which has been made fun of, but also marked a moment in time in North America where we had to stop and look at the ridiculousness of our behaviour. If you repeat that phrase, most people in North America know what you mean by it, even if they can't remember where it came from.

Other forms memes can take:

("A guy walks into a bar...")
Nursery rhymes ("Jack and Jill went up the hill...")
Children's culture: games, activities and chants typical for different age-groups. I'm amazed that kids in Canada play some of the same hand-chant games I played in Elementary School!

Conspiracy theories
Fashions (tube tops, anyone?)
catch phrases ("Show me the money!")
Group-based biases (racist stereotypes)

Internet slang ("LOL")
Viral marketing ("word of mouth")

The phrase was invented by evolutionary theorist Richard Dawkins in the 1970's.
They're like cultural genes, and they can mutate over time. With memes, some ideas will propagate less successfully and die out, while others survive and spread.

Even this is a watered down version of what a meme means, and if interested, read the fascinating history of the idea on Wikipedia.

The reason I'm saying all this is to introduce you to my little social experiment. I've tried this twice before. I've started a word or phrase with someone and tried to see if we could get others to start using it, too. Once, with one friend, we started using the phrase "curb" as in "stop curbing me" or "you're curbing my cool" or "don't be curbing me, girlfriend." We didn't take it too seriously, so it didn't catch on.

Once, when I was teaching high school, my 9th grade English class invented a word called skooz - it didn't really mean anything, just a silly derogatory remark. "What a skooz!" We used it all the time and it only took a few weeks for the other students at the school to start using it. Their enthusiasm waned and it died out.

So... I've always wanted to try this on the Internet, because things can really get passed along around here. I tried to make up a few words, phrases and define them. What I'd like YOU to do, is to 1) use them in your own blogs and LINK back here. 2) use them when commenting in other people's blogs (without saying what it means, pretend its just something everyone says, like "meme"). and 3) IF YOU SEE someone else using it who did not post it here, let me know!

Everyone game? Okay, here they are:

Blixen - A blog vixen. In the traditional sense of the word vixen, though... not someone who's got a sexual appetite, but someone who is shrewish or malicious. This is a person who puts mean comments on other people's blogs. You could shorten it to Blix if you want, especially for a guy. OR, you could even Blix someone. "Man, she totally blixed me on my post about gay rights."

Salad Blog - I thought of this at dinner. It's a light blog. Not meaty, just a fun, non-serious, kind of blog. Nothing political or charged. "What's her blog about?" "Oh, it's a salad blog, you know, about traveling with her kids."

Rudy - This one is in honour of Christmas. Rudolph lights the way, takes the lead, inspires us. So Rudy, is short for a person who does that. "Rhian's quite a Rudy, she's led people to express themselves poetically.

Game on?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Monday Poetry Train #12

I'm going to kill the proverbial "two birds with one stone" (I hate that saying, I have got to think up something better, like feeding two starving cats with the same fish).

I was tagged by the lovely Michelle Johnson over at Poefusion to list at least 4 things a beginning poet should attend to and four mistakes you think a poet should avoid.

In an added twist and challenge, I will incorporate the five words from her weekly Friday Five list into my answer. This is an advanced poetry move. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. You may pull something, perhaps an adverb.

Attend to:

1 - Writing groups are great. If on-line is your only option, do that. But nothing beats getting together with other writers in person to read - loudly, with pride, as if performing theater - and talk about your work. Have one person host each week who finds a warm-up exercise, which you can then rewrite as your "homework." Share your rewritten poems each week and give constructive feedback (see #3 in the AVOID section).

2 - Read your work out loud. To yourself after you write it, while editing it, and to your writer's group. Hear and feel the rhythms. Even if your poem is not a metered poem, it will still have a rhythm and the rhythm should work. Read other people's poetry out loud.

3 - Also, read books about poetry. In particular, read Jane Hirschfield's wonderful book Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry if for nothing else then the first essay "Poetry and the Mind of Concentration." It's extremely accessible and quite lovely. I promise you she's not overly erudite. One of my other favourite essays on poetry is Frank O'Hara's "Personism." It's quite funny, actually.

4 - Play in ALL the forms. experiment. try writing rituals (like waking up at 3:15 AM every morning for a month to write, right Gwen?). HERE are a few examples of some of my rituals and experiments. Try cutting up other people's poetry (I once made a fabulous Shakespeare - e.e. cummings sonnet). make collages! Fill up a journal page, place a leaf over the words, and trace the leaf. Take everything INSIDE the lines as your poem. experimenting yields the most surprising work. And poetry should surprise both the writer and the reader.

What to AVOID:

1 - It drives me crazy when people write in flowery language, using thees and thous, as if the language of poetry (and language itself!) hasn't changed like every other art form over the years! We don't speak that way, so why would we write that way? Poetry is to connect, you'll distance your audience if you can't communicate with them.

2 - Don't insist on sticking with (predictable) rhyming poetry... there are other forms out there. Rhyming can be fun (hey, I love a good rap or villanelle and I'm a total sucker for a surprise rhymed couplet), but it can be quite limiting. I mean, seriously, try to come up with a good rhyme for malaria while keeping the intent of your poem.

3 - I find it amusing when I get students in my writing workshops who present their work, and then get defensive when I critique it. I start to wonder why they're there - for me to simply pat them on the back and say well done? Shut up and LISTEN in workshop situations. Take it all in, think about it, use what makes sense. Be open to making your poem better! If it's not working for your audience, it's not working for them.

4 - Whatever you do, DO NOT enter the poetry writing contests on (aka the International Library of Poetry, the International Society of Poets and the International Poetry Hall of Fame) - it's a total scam and a shame that they got to that url first. They tell everyone who enters "you're a semi-finalist" and you can buy the anthology with your poem published in it for $59! Then it comes in a 600 page book with 10 poems per page. You do the math. (even Wikipedia lists it as suspect). Do not support them, they have scammed many unsuspecting poets over the years. My incalescent blood boils just thinking about it.

In case you were wondering, Michelle's words were:

The poetry train has left the station...

I TAG the Art predator (because she's a new blogger and hasn't been tagged yet). You now must list at least 4 things a beginning poet should attend to and four mistakes you think a poet should avoid and tag someone else (if you want).

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Weekend Writing Workout #9 - Objects, Images, and Incidents (#4 of 5)

Yes, I am tardy with my Weekend Writing Workout.

I've been involved with FTX West these past few days, which is a growing Film and Television Expo in Vancouver, BC. It's got some really great people leading fabulous workshops at their conference. We (Women in Film) sponsored a pitch session with Laurie Sheer (media maven and all around great lady) this morning. Also teaching this weekend are Guerrilla film-maker Chris Jones from the U.K., Jeff Kitchen, and Blake Snyder (who wrote Save the Cat!, billed as "The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need"). In addition to the conference, there's a huge exhibition over the weekend.

If you ever needed an excuse to come to Vancouver (other than the fabulous city itself), FTX would be it.

In any case... are you ready to ROCK your writing?

Back to my exercises around Objects, Images, and Incidents...

Here's a way to get into that mode of SHOWING instead of TELLING. Of finding the images within your story.

Part One

Pick a story you want to work on (short story, novel, screenplay, it doesn't matter) and for 5-7 minutes, write spontaneously - no stopping, no editing, no crossing out - starting with the line This is a story about...

Write it as a LIST, beginning with that line each time. WRITE OUT the line, do not write " " to repeat the line, as writing the actual words allows you to generate the next thought. This is important. Set a timer and just go.


This is a story about guilt. This is a story about love. This is a story about redemption. This is a story about loss. This is a story about a father losing his child. This is a story about taking responsibility for one's actions. This is a story about a man who needs a friend. This is a story about a man who needs to participate in life again. ETC.

Part Two

Go through your list and find one of the things your story is "about" that really resonates with you. Then, for another 5-7 minutes, list as many IMAGES (from your story) that you associate with that idea. Don't stop to think, don't edit, just write them down. Even if they sound silly, even if they don't make sense to you at the time, write them down.


This is a story about loss
Empty bottles strewn around Winston's house
Boarded up windows
Winston sitting up alone in his bed, middle of the night, awake
Margaret working alone late, at her desk, small lamp on, Janitor knocks on door
Margaret eating in a restaurant by herself, mostly empty, raining outside
Winston's pool, no water, leaves covering the bottom
Winston's ex-student leaving a pizza on the porch

Part Three

Now the really fun part. You get to write a scene! Pick one of the images above, one that inspires you, and use it to generate your scene. Remember to consider all the images in the scene, which is actually an incident. So your image is moving you to create an incident around it.


Margaret stares into Winston's pool. There is no water. The bottom is filled with a season's worth of leaves. A plastic patio chair is half buried beneath them. She surveys the patio. A second patio chair sits overturned in a bush. She approaches the chair and pulls it out of the bush.
"What are you doing!" a voice shouts from the house. Margaret looks up into Winston's unshaven face in the window. He holds it open an inch. His hair is uncombed. "Leave that alone."


Write on and have a great weekend.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Word on Wednesday

I don't actually say much about myself or my work on my own blog, so thought I would indulge. This week's W.O.W. is a little bit of self-promotion.

I was recently interviewed for PIF magazine by Derek Alger. I have to say, Derek was very nice and quite thorough and one of the only interviewers who actually sent material for my approval. We spoke on the phone for an hour and he was very enthusiastic.

PIF bills itself as the longest running on-line literary magazine. They have some great interviews and material posted. I was quite impressed with their site and very honored that they chose to interview me. Please check them out, it's well worth it. Be careful, though, last time I visited I was there for at least an hour reading interviews and some damn good poetry.

* * * * *
Also in the world of Danika... I thought I'd post this for my friends, family, and fans. Sometimes pictures speak a thousand words:

The Accidental Novelist "Before" (4 1/2 years worth of dreadlocks)

The Accidental Novelist "After" ( 15 minutes of Zoe's scissors)

Change is good. And I feel 10 lbs lighter. (anyone need any extra hair?)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Monday Poetry Train #11

Ha! It's 2 minutes to midnight, still technically Monday. Just under the gun. Jumping on the train.

This week's Poetry Train entry was inspired by Poefusion's Friday Five. Michelle lists 5 words each week and our job is to write a poem using those five words. Sound easy? You should see the words she picks each week! She's making us work for it, that's for sure.

Love Us

I have arranged my heart with you
a formation of willows, bending
bedward we are
bedouins lingering in
vagile dreams we require
request, conquest, each
crepuscular creation means
we see each other anew
as plural us, our
nation, kin against
the hierarchy of history
loyal and free
nomadic across the we

words this week: vagile, plural, formation, willow, crepuscular

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Weekend Writing Workout #8 (The Postcard Story)

I'm posting something a little different this week for the Writing Workout. It's a break from the usual in-depth exercises. Everyone I know seems ultra busy right now, so I thought this was appropriate.

I was inspired when I read about a contest sponsored by the Writers' Union of Canada (not to be confused with the Writers Guild of Canada). The contest is called the Postcard Story Contest and it's open to all Canadian citizens and landed immigrants (sorry, Vicki).

The challenge is "to create a dramatic, short, snappy piece in only 250 words. You can use humour, poetry, dialogue…anything goes."

This type of fiction is often called Flash Fiction or Micro Fiction. I'd always admired it, but had never tried it. I've written plenty of poems, some of them narrative, and many short stories. However, I think the shortest story I've ever written was still over 1,000 words. This sounded like a great challenge...

Many of you know I love challenges and often do them in 10 day spurts. Well, this opportunity was no exception. I got two friends together and we decided to write a postcard story every day for 10 days. We're on our last day today.

Here are some different ways to approach your workout:

1) Write a story in 250 words or less. If you have no idea how to begin the story, I've supplied you with several start lines below. You can also just randomly pick a line from a book you're reading. When I was writing my stories I would simply crank out a bunch of first lines until one inspired me and I continued. That's why I have all these leftover first lines.

First Lines:

She packed everything except the salt and pepper shakers.

He was the biggest kid in the class at 310 lbs.

As soon as he had mailed the letter, he regretted having done so.

When he awoke from his dream, he had the answer.

If she was going to leave him, it was now or never.

There was only one person left on her Christmas list.

I buried the dog on Monday.

The zoo was empty.

He walked up to the blackboard.

Example Postcard Story:

Final Chapter

When he awoke from his dream, he had the answer. The final chapter for his book. A way to end it that was not contrived, not maudlin… a way to imply “happily ever after,” but not in fairy-tale manner, in a way anyone could believe might happen. He stumbled out of bed. It was 3:15 am. Where was his laptop… no, forget the laptop, this had to be written in ink, writer’s blood, it had to flow like his dream… his dream… He had been dreaming of Samantha. Of how she had looked at 17 and he was fresh from the Navy. He met her at a cafĂ©. She was a waitress studying art history. He was a writer disguised as a servant of the government. She saw right through him. He left poems on napkins for her. He asked her to marry him by writing the words on her bathroom mirror. She said yes in red lipstick. He stumbled through the hallway, bathed strangely in green light. Without his glasses on, it looked as if he were underwater. The walls breathed like gills. He didn’t remember the house having so many pictures. Ghostly figures in large frames followed him until he reached his office. The door was closed. The doorknob so cold it caught him off guard. Then the smell, subtle, yet unmistakable, the perfume Samantha had worn every day for 50 years. He opened the door and was enveloped in the light.

2) If you are working on a screenplay or novel right now, why not try a series of postcard stories about your characters? You might write a series of five postcard stories about one character, or one each for five different characters.

3) Join the challenge! Write one postcard story a day for 10 days. If you're Canadian, enter the postcard contest for a chance to win $500.

Post the stories on your own blogs and link below.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Word on Wednesday

I've had several folks ask me why the WGA writers are on strike. What it comes down to is the pay structure for multi-platform and new media. There's currently nothing in place to assure writers will be compensated appropriately for this work. Where they could get residuals for shows broadcast on television, this doesn't exist for the internet. Writers have actually written webisodes (which are downloaded by viewers and chock full of advertising revenue) and not been compensated for them. In addition, writers make about .04 on each $20 DVD sale (and we all know DVD's cost about .15 to make so who's keeping all the money?)

Watch the following videos to hear it straight from the streets of Hollywood. We Canadian writers need to pay attention to this as it will affect all of us in the long run. And be sure to visit United Hollywood for daily news and updates.

THE WORD on WEDNESDAY is a weekly column here at the Accidental Novelist about writers and writing.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Monday Poetry Train #10 - Will You Play Along?

Hello Poetry Train Riders!

I thought it would be fun to have a game/contest and hope you hop on and play. (you don't even have to be a regular poetry train rider to play)

I've rearranged 36 words from part of an old poem of mine to make a new poem. There are 6 words in each line and 6 lines in the poem.

YOUR job is to rearrange the words to form a new poem. Each line must have the SAME amout of words in it. So it could have 2 words per line and 18 lines, 3 words in 12 lines, 4 words in 9 lines, etc. You get the point.

Here's the poem I came up with:

landscape is a form of character
reaching into leaves a wasp nest
licked together by an orchestra of
tongues wild and orange sliver for
moon impeccable shadow some kinds of
beauty you just have to trust

Everyone who rearranges the words will be in the contest and I'll pick one winner (along with an anonymous judge and any of you who would like to vote for particular poems). I'll send a little poetry package to the winner.

Take a RIDE on RHIAN'S poetry train

Friday, November 2, 2007

Weekend Writing Workout #7 Objects, Images, and Incidences (Part 3 of 5)

Yup, time for another Weekend Writing Workout. Gotta keep those brain muscles in shape.

This weekend we continue on my object, image, incident exercises. Todays focus: Incidents.

Incidents come in all sizes. I primarily focus on small incidences, not news-shattering items. Every day occurrences that stand out. For instance, today while I was in a waiting room, a young child put a plastic stool up to the counter and stood up on it. One of the legs collapsed and he fell. He cried until his mother picked him up. The other day, I sat down on the bus and picked up the paper sitting in the seat to read it. An old lady behind me, with a thick German accent, said "You don't want to read that, it's for the gays." She raised her eyebrows when I responded "I don't mind" and the man behind her started laughing.

These are small incidences that I tuck away in my mind to use later. Observations on what it is to be human and useful when writing about humans.

But let's begin even SMALLER than that.

Exercise #1

I encourage my writing classes to find the smallest incidences possible in order to find the larger truths within them. So, that's what you're going to do. You'll have to go outside (if possible). It's kind of challenging to do this one inside your own home, but you can try it if you'd like.

Wander around or sit and locate any "small incident." Not between human beings, but between the grass and the trees, the clouds and the sun, the chipmunks, the neighbor's cat, even the blades of grass. Pick something, the smallest "incident" you can and look at it politically.

For instance:
The clouds blocking out the sun.
One cat chasing another through a hole in the fence, guarding its territory.
A leaf falling from a tree and getting caught in the wind.

Using the incident as a start line, simply let it take you away. Start with the incident, describing the participants (in this case leaves and the wind), and then simply let it take you away. Time yourself for 7-10 minutes (may be done in poetry or prose).


The leaf, now dead, now over, tumbles down, turns, flits, too weak to direct itself. Its job description simple, the distance equal to the third act in its performance. Caught off guard in the wind it blows off course, if such a course exists. If such a path could be bought and sold. Now helpless, now bullied, it gives in to the breeze and crashes end over end in the street, passing parked cars and fences, the house being demolished and the house being built. In the direction of the park, now rolling faster... ETC.

Exercise #2

This one is done in a public space (again, if possible), on a bus, in a cafe, in the park. This time, note the people interacting. Note any small incidence that involves power, manipulation, deceit. Something a little "under the surface" would be good, or if an emotion is evoked. Using the same technique as above, write for 7-10 minutes on this small incident.


Sitting side-by-side, two gangly, acne-faced teenagers with long uncombed hair and ratty baseball caps. One says they are looking for Sarah, for Sarah's school. He points to a bus stop and says "that's Sarah's stop." His smaller friend tells him he's retarded. The larger boy says "I was born in 200 log cabins." His smaller friends says "How is that possible, unless you were born in parts and assembled later?" The bigger boy thinks this is funny, he laughs and says "cool." They pick up a drum beat, singing loudly about tattoos and skateboard stores. The Asian Ladies shift their grocery bags and frown. Big boy wants a free skateboard. Wants to skip school and go to the store.... ETC.

Exercise #3 - Putting it all together!

Now, using a character from a story (novel, screenplay, etc) on which you are currently working, pick one (or both!) of the exercises above and put your character inside the "incident." Make her a part of it. You can try it twice with each incident or use them together if you'd like. Write a SCENE, this time, with action and dialogue.


Polly walked through the scattered leaves. The leaves William had raked into great piles the morning before. The wind had taken no time to mock his work. It wouldn't have bothered her if he had gotten angry about the leaves, flying fiercely about the neighborhood. He had simply laughed and shrugged. So typically Bill. She used to like that he took things so lightly, that he could let the days and months and seasons go by... ETC.

You may be surprised by where you go in this scene and may end up using it in your final manuscript.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

(TT Substitute) What Risks Have You Taken Today?

We interrupt the regularly scheduled Thursday Thirteen for this message:

What have you done to push your comfort zone today? How have you stretched yourself? What risks have you taken? What fears have you pushed past?

An ex-student of mine from Vancouver Film School is testing his own faith and trust. It's a long story, but in a nutshell, he decided to spend all his money giving people what they needed. On nothing but a hunch, he went down to an underprivileged neighborhood in Los Angeles and simply started asking people what they needed. He bought clothes and food for one family, a single hot dog for another man. He decided that he was going to raise one million dollars and give it all away in this manner, by cutting through the middle man and simply handing people what they need. He's had a wild journey working on this, and has changed directions several times figuring out what exactly he needs to do with this hunch.

Less than one week ago he found out that a friend of his sister's was dying. She was being kept alive by a dialysis machine and had decided to pull the plug. She didn't want to suffer any longer and her family had given her their blessing. He decided that she should be given a last wish by someone, so he asked her what she wanted.

What she wanted was a motorcycle for her Father. He had taught her to ride and that was their connection. Jim asked around for people to help, but no one stepped forward, so he bought it himself. ON HIS CREDIT CARD. He didn't have the money, but he bought it for her anyway because he felt this was a test of his faith in his idea.

Here's the link if you'd like to watch the story on our local news: View Streaming News
and then click on WEDNESDAY
- the story is 13:25 minutes into the broadcast.

If you'd like to see more of Jim's journey, check out his WEBSITE

I was inspired by Jim to think about what risks I take in life and inspired by this story to think about how I spend my life, which could be cut short at any time. Where are my leaps of faith? When do I stop myself? How do I approach my fears?

Risks come in many different packages, from "risking" telling someone how you feel about them to the risk you take when you send your work to producers and publishers to financially risky things like purchasing a motorcycle on credit in order to do a good deed. But what are we really risking? I think the more important question is what are we risking by NOT doing these things?

To follow our dreams, we need to take risks.

So, today I challenged myself to take at least one risk every day. To do something uncomfortable. Something that also meshes with my goals and dreams. Today's risk was contacting a producer (out of the blue, cold contact) about a writing gig. She may ignore me, she may think I'm silly, she may not like my writing. But by not contacting her, I'm not even giving her the opportunity to accept me, to think I'm amazing, and to love my work.

Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Yay - I'm Excited About This One!

I'll be the first in line!

(click poster for website to see trailer)

(I removed the trailer because there was no way to shut the darn thing off)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Monday Poetry Train #9

I dug this one up from my 2000 files. Another unpublished one, having been dropped from a manuscript because I wasn't completely happy with it.

All these poems have inspired me to write poetry again, so thanks to all the folks on Rhian's Poetry Train for that. I have started a new series and will post some soon. In the meanwhile, an oldie...

formless (pt. 1)

whether time is a reasonable mode of transportation

whether transportation is a reasonable measure of time

I am not the poem

the poem is empty


of form

a hundred clouds move through the sky

like the monkey that escaped from my car

and became lyrics to a song

or was it a rain pellet

I forgot the melody

rather being movement itself

lingering by a vast body of water

there among the exploded nothing

without form I need no temperature

without form I need no tangible sustenance

I can’t even say float

because that would imply scales or wings

it is more an invisible wave

come to pass through the unexpected ear

that moves

from heart to tear

He said the painting made him cry

was it the brushstroke or the color of the

complete image

was the artist manipulating him

to prove a point

or was he himself crying

and wished someone would hear

was it the softness of the female figure

or the expression that triggered

a memory

and remembering

he was crying

exited the room


Friday, October 26, 2007

Weekend Writing Workout #6 - Objects, Images, Incidences (Part 2 of 5)

This is a part 2 of a series of writing exercises around objects, images, and incidents. I constantly use exercises around these three things in my own writing and in my workshops. They make excellent jumping off points.

This weekend, let's focus on IMAGES.

You've probably heard writers and instructors of writing chant SHOW not TELL a hundred-thousand times. One of the ways to do this is to constantly come back to the image. As you're writing, ask yourself, if this were a movie, what would I see on screen?



Here's a nice warm-up exercise if you just want to write, but aren't working on anything in particular.

Take a walk outside for 10-15 minutes. Do not talk with anyone, do not write anything down, simply observe anything and everything as you walk. Make a mental note about what you see. Sometimes I say hello to the images as I notice them. It sounds silly, but it works. Something like: Hello tennis shoe hanging over telephone wire... hello dead crow in the green grass... hello blonde twins boys on the monkey bars... hello ant playing tug-a-war with another ant over a bread crumb... Any image that strikes you, make a mental note.

Then, go inside and LIST as many of the images that you saw. Don't do anything other than list them at this time:

Black tennis shoes hanging on telephone wire
Mutilated dead crow in green grass under tree with spring blossoms
Blonde twin boys in blue jackets swinging towards each other on the monkey bars
Black BBQ in the empty parking lot at the firestation.

Give yourself 5-10 minutes to make this list.

Then, go through and circle the images you really like. When I do this in my workshops, I have other people pick three lines for you. Pick ONE line and use it as a starting off piece for a poem or a piece of prose. Write for 7-10 minutes without stopping. Then go back and edit it.


A black BBQ in the empty parking lot of the Fire Station as if
young men had to interrupt hamburgers on a warm blue day
to attend a meeting
no sense of emergency
lid closed
who would secure a lid if sirens were blaring?
who would take time to bring in the mustard if
flames leapt across homes?
who would bring in the trash, the bag of buns, the relish
who would manage the utensils
if bells were jarring the senses?
no, everything from this picnic walked away
the blue-uniforms still wear their crumbs
there may even be dishes to wash
but for now they digest their bit of summer’s end
and let the BBQ rest
for there is no rain


If you'd like to do some backstory work, pick a character from your current story and think about images that come to her mind when she thinks about her childhood.

We all have images from our childhood that we've attached meaning to. When I think of my childhood, some of the images that come up for me are the huge almond tree in my front yard, my dad's tools in the garage, the 500 National Geographic magazines my parents refused to throw away, and our large square record player that was more a piece of furniture.

Think about your character's past. What images come up for her when she thinks about her childhood? Make a list of at least 10 images, the more, the better.

Once you have your images, select one. Let's say my character thinks about her father's broken watch that sat on the counter for months. Take that image and set your timer for 7-10 minutes. Write about the associations that come with that image. Do not stop or edit your work.

Startline: When my character thinks about ____________, it always reminds her of...


When Polly thinks about her father's broken watch on the counter, it always reminds her of how many broken things she has in her life. Things get broken and don't get put back together. The basement window, the lawn mower, the reclining chair... how many things have to break around her until she breaks? Until she can no longer be put back together...


Using the same idea of image listing, pick a scene from your story that you'd like to work on. Let's say I want to work on the scene where "Mavis confronts Prof. Herbert's wife, Terri."

Take 5-10 minutes and do an image listing exercise around this scene. What do I see in my mind as this takes place? Set your time and do not stop listing images, even if you are unsure of them. You don't have to use them for anything later, and you don't want to miss anything that comes to mind.

(BTW - if you ever need to think about a scene before you start, simply write "The scene I need to write next is when..." and write spontaneously for 5-10 minutes)


Mavis kicks Terri's door
Terri in a grey sweatsuit with paint stains
Mavis in her nurse's uniform
Terri and Mavis drinking wine on the back porch
Terri showing Mavis a photo of her son
The full moon when Mavis steps off the porch

Then, write the scene starting with whichever image you want. It doesn't have to be the first thing that happens in the scene, it just needs to launch you into it. Keep all the other images in mind as you write.


Terri and Mavis sit on the back porch, feet on white stools, a bottle of red wine between them. Mavis has removed her nurse's cap and Terri has a bathrobe on over her sweats.

"He's no demon, you know," says Mavis.

"I know," says Terri, "It's just easier to think of him that way."


Have a great weekend writing and if you'd like to share your exercises on your own blog, put your link below.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #15 - 13 start lines to 13 books

TT logo by Goofy Girl Designs

Opening lines... they're tough to write. They've gotta draw people in, set the tone and the style and perhaps even the theme. I was examining the start lines of a few books and was intrigued by their uniqueness.

Below find the first line or two from 11 novels, one diary, and one short story. If there was a preface, I skipped it and went to the first chapter.

I think you'll have heard of most of the authors (and perhaps many of the books), but it was hard to find well-known books whose first lines didn't give the book completely away. (like this one: "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.")

Do you know what books these are from? I will post in the comment section as people guess them right. Personally, I think the hardest ones will be #11, #9, #7, and #5 - I picked them simply because I liked them, not because I thought anyone would guess them.

ANSWERS will be revealed as they are guessed

The TRUTH revealed by The Accidental Novelist

  1. It was a bright, defrosted, pussy-willow day at the onset of spring, and the newlyweds were driving cross-country in a large roast turkey. - Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins

  2. I can feel the heat closing in, feel them out there making their moves, setting up their devil doll stool pigeons, crooning over my spoon and dropper I throw away at Washington Square Station, vault a turnstile and two flights down the iron stairs, catch an uptown A train... (Naked Lunch guessed by Superfast Reader)

  3. "When your mama was the geek, my dreamlets," Papa would say, "she made the nipping off of noggins such a crystal mystery that the hens themselves yearned toward her, waltzing around her, hypnotized with longing. (Geek Love guessed by Megan)

  4. Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
    (Anna Karenina - guessed by Superfast Reader)

  5. An Octopus? He pulled out his knife and opened his eyes, it was a dream. - Troubled Sleep by Jean-Paul Sartre

  6. Once when I was six years old I saw a magnificent picture in a book, called True Stories from Nature, about the primeval forest. It was a picture of a boa constrictor in the act of swallowing an animal. (The Little Prince guessed by Janet)

  7. There was no hope for him this time: it was his third stroke. (Dubliners by James Joyce - I should have counted this as a short story, too, I suppose)

  8. We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas guessed by Superfast Reader)

  9. The day had gone by just as days go by. I had killed it in accordance with my primitive and retiring way of life. - Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse

  10. Through the small tall bathroom window the December yard is gray and scratchy, the trees calligraphic. - A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

  11. Ten thirty... once again I'm ready too soon. My friend Brague, who helped me when I first began acting in pantomimes, often takes me to task for this in that salty language of his... - The Vagabond by Colette

  12. The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge. ("The Cask of Amontillado" guessed by Susan Helene Gottfried)

  13. In Spring it is the dawn that is most beautiful. As the light creeps over the hills, their outlines are dyed a faint red and wisps or purplish cloud trail over them. (Hint - this is a famous diary, not a novel.) - The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon
Have a great weekend everyone!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Monday Poetry Train #7

How's this for a funny little poem I found in my files.

Concrete Designs on Things Less Tangible

spring cleaning for ghosts of past lovers

my sword of Damocles

we are all fragile vases containing the same big air

the news headline at breakfast:

trade made for player to be named at a later date


Jump on Rhian's Poetry Train Y'all!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Weekend Writing Workout #5 - Objects, Images, Incidences (Part 1 of 5)

Using objects, images, or incidents is a great starting point when you have writer's block, or when simply warming up for your writing day. In this Five Part Series, I will introduce you to some of the exercises I use in my classroom and in my own writing practice.

Let's start with OBJECTS.

There are numerous ways I use objects in my writing. For spontaneity in my writing workshops, I have everyone write random objects on pieces of paper and we draw from them for each exercise. You might try this on your own, just keep a little bag full of pieces of paper, each with a different object listed on it. (umbrella, drum, coffee mug, little red pillow, etc.)

Sometimes, when I'm on my own, I simply look around the room and pick something. It doesn't really matter what the object is, it's simply a launching point to get you writing.

The Precious Object Exercise

1) Decide which character you are going to develop / work on for this exercise.

2) Pick a random object, let's say a drum.

3) Imagine that this object is the MOST precious object in the world to your character.

Set your timer for 5-7 minutes. Using the start line below, write (without stopping, without editing) until your timer goes off:

The most precious object in my character's life is her...

The most precious object in Helen's life is her drum. It was the first thing she bought after her divorce. It's cracked from too many moves and she can't play it anyway. She has terrible rhythm. At the time, when Steve left her, she felt she needed a drum. She took her drum to weekly drum circles for 6 months and the sound of the rest of the drummers drowned out her own rhythm. It was like beating something without hurting anything. She needed that, to beat something, but to not cause harm. She was a Buddhist after all...

(If you have the time, you can go into the MIDDLE of this exercise and pull out a line and write for 5-7 more minutes, using that line as a start line. I think doing this THREE times is best. It gets you quite deep into it all)

4) Decide what scene you are going to write.

5) Decide who will be in this scene with your character. (example: Helen's mother and brother)

6) Write your scene, incorporating your object, and starting with this line:

"What are you doing with that?"


"What are you doing with that?" Helen asked her brother Mark.

"What, this thing?" Mark held up the drum, "As if you ever use it."

Helen marched over to Mark and pulled the drum from his fingers. "That's not the point."

"Helen, it's dusty," coughed her Mother, fanning the air as if the drum dust were cigarette smoke. "Why are you keeping that silly thing. You're a grown woman for God's sake."


write the scene a SECOND time, this time giving the start line to one of the OTHER characters. (in my example, Mark or Helen's Mom would have the start line "What are you doing with that?")

Have a great weekend. Write on!

AND A NEW ITEM! If you choose to do any or all of this exercise, post the results on your blog and leave your link here.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #14 - All About Books and a Meme to Boot

I was tagged for yet another meme, so I've included it in this special ALL ABOUT BOOKS issue of my Thursday Thirteen.

This TT is a bit random, so I'm organizing it into two parts.

I - My "reading challenge" progress (or lack there of)
II - The Book Meme

I. Summer Reading / Book Challenge Report

1) Since July 26 (the EXACT date I wrote up my Reading Challenge List), all of Vancouver's municipal employees have been on strike. Not only has this meant no garbage pick-up, it's meant no librarians. All the libraries have been closed for almost 3 months. And, since Baby and I are on a No New Book Buying promise (due to lack of space and having to move again in the near future), I was hoping to take advantage of the library down the street. Instead, I have had to depend upon book loans from friends and what we currently have in our own library.

So what did I read over the summer?

2) The final Harry Potter. I sped through it as fast as I was able, only staying up past 3 am twice. The conclusion was fairly satisfying (except for that horribly cheesy ending) and I admire how she tied up the loose ends (especially dealing with Snape, which I predicted, although his demise was totally anti-climactic).

Honestly, I was just glad the whole thing was over so that I could move on to something else. I still have the same issues with HP as I always have, and that is he is too passive a hero and I get very tired of how quick to anger he is. I bore of his screaming... There was a ghost character, for instance, that he began to yell at for no good reason. I also think that he has very little character arc. He seems quite immature at times, and not much wiser than he was 6 years before. In addition, I wish someone would bully JK into editing down her text and removing all her superfluous adverbs. (BTW- my friend Tod and I discovered a gaping plot hole, but that didn't really bug me too much for some reason.)

It really is a fun story, such a great world, and it has many other satisfying characters. I absolutely adore Luna Lovegood. The final battle was quite amazing as well. All in all, I understand why people love the books, though there are others I treasure more.

3) The Alchemist, which WAS on my list. This is a fable rather than a novel. It's a quick read and a feel-good story about following your heart. It's packed with little jewels of wisdom such as: When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too. Sayings that might come across as cheesy, but put in the context of the fable, they are sweet. I read it with a highlighter. I like the lessons and the manner in which the story plays out.

4) My fantasy adventure novel involves faeries, so I decided to borrow a friend's daughter's fairy books. The first one I read was for 2nd and 3rd graders. It was one of the Disney Fairy books called Rani in the Mermaid Lagoon. I can't believe this book got 4.5 stars on Amazon, because if I had a daughter, I would not buy this book for her. I found it condescending and shallow, as well as expository when it had the opportunity to use imagery. At one point, Rani goes through this fairly tragic event with a water snake, but then the mermaids do her hair up and paint her nails and make her look pretty again so gee, everything's all right! Yick!

NOTE: on Amazon it lists Rani for ages 9-12. They are on crack. There's no way with the sophistication of our readers these days that this book would titillate a 5th or 6th grader.

5) The second book I picked up was the first "Fairy Realm" book, The Charm Bracelet, but it didn't have any actual fairies in it. According to Amazon, it's for ages 9-12, but the book itself says 7-10. I can buy that. I liked it much better than the Disney book. The characters were far more interesting, that's for sure, but still not as clever as they could have been. It wasn't completely satisfying to me, but I wouldn't have an issue with my daughter reading it because the protagonist is independent minded and proactive. One pet peeve, though... I have this thing about overuse of exclamation points in literature! There were a lot in this book!

6) I next read the 2nd "Fairy Realm" book, The Flower Faeries, and enjoyed it more than the first. Perhaps the writer matured with the story. This one actually had fairies and they were way more fun than the Disney fairies. They were pesky in an amusing way. The story was a bit darker, more dangerous than the first. There was a lovely scene where the protagonist tries on a pair of wings. I think of the three fairy books this one had the strongest imagery.

7) I read The Phantom Tollbooth for the millionth time. I read it out loud to a student of mine on the set of Psych. As with all the kids I share it with, he loved it. The book fell apart halfway through, it's been loved so much.

8) Jeff Kitchen's book Writing a Great Movie. If you only read the part on dilemma you are doing yourself a HUGE favour. This is an excellent tool for screenwriters. I'm now using chapters in my classes at Vancouver Film School.

9) Do books on tape count? Baby and I listened to The Secret books on tape and both liked how it went more in depth than the film and also focused on more than just attracting personal financial abundance, but also larger issues that affect the world.


10) Total Number of Books I own: Sometimes, pictures speak louder than words. This is after getting rid of (sob) over 1/4 of our books when we moved and does not include the 40 books I also counted in our bedroom nor the 12 books in our bathroom (yes, we have a bookshelf in our bathroom).

Pic on left is in our living room
Pic on right is in our office.

11) Last Book Read: I am currently reading Skinny Legs and All (on my book challenge). Robbins had me at the opening sentence (which I will post on the next TT).

12) Last Book Bought: Rules for Renegades by Christine Comaford-Lynch (a self-made millionaire and self-proclaimed "renegade" entrepreneur). Yes, I said I was on a book buying hiatus, but she was having a pre-order special deal which gave loads of bonuses. Of course, due to the Canadian mail system, I have yet to receive the book. I heard Christine speak last spring in L.A. and she is AMAZING.

13) Five Meaningful Books:
I wasn't sure what meaningful meant... to me personally or to the world? Life changing? And meaning changes over time...

I decided to pick five books that impacted me when I was growing up and inspired me to become a writer:

All of the Oz books (because my Dad read them to me and they're fantastic)
Anything by Judy Blume and especially Are You There God It's Me Margaret (There's a new book called Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume which I think it just about right)
Beezus and Ramona (All the Ramona books are wonderful, but I was was especially fond of this one.)
I, Trissy (I read this in 6th grade and for some reason it completely resonated with me. I think it was the honesty and humour. I loved Trissy's very real struggles and the fact that her father got her a typewriter when he divorced her mother)
To Kill a Mockingbird (I cried every time I read it.)

Okay, Vicki? (oh, and i'm reading that harlequin romance you sent, too. my first harlequin romance ever, seriously)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Monday Poetry Train #8

I have a poet friend visiting from out of town, Jen Hofer. She's one of my favourite people and favourite poets. She's one of the original 3:15 poets with me from way back in 1993.

Since she is here, I asked her to participate in this week's poetry train with me. At 2 AM last night, we wrote two exquisite corpses together. Here are the specific rules we made:

1) Each line is 11 words long.
2) The poems are 11 lines long.
3) We each selected a book from my bookshelf and opened them to a random page and selected a random sentence to use as a start line (the freaky thing being that both of us randomly selected sentences with 11 words in them)
4) We left only 3 words showing for the next person, who would then finish the line with 8 words to total 11, fold the paper, and leave 3 words showing on the next line.

Considering it was 2 in the morning, I think we did quite well.

If the above explanation confuses you, just know that in an exquisite corpse, the previous person leaves no or only a few words showing for the next person to write from. It's a fun form, writing blindly like that.


Hermaphroditos was an outdoor type who roamed wild on Mount Ida.
Gods gone wild, gone windy, gone out the window past that
future we saw forests with no names, animals whose fur had
worn in patches or worn down at the elbows, knees, heels
to walk miles as a camel across dream deserts not knowing
how long until we traced and untraced footsteps of another
mammal body, another glance at the working muscles of it and
we can conclude only how utterly inconclusive the night sky is
and the day sings like leopard cubs and falls to its
knees with ironic supplication, mock awe for the real gods or
real awe for fine silver, slipping between the cracks, lost again.


We had a real feeling for the human element in it.
A real feeling like sticking a finger in a socket or
lightning striking twice into tree branches open, fern pattern fronding open
into electric ricochet, a bouquet of light and matter, my fingers
extensions of something we believed could not be extended or could
be extended if the ego attracted peacock attention. When the day
came that we, like the world, undid becoming further unraveled against
this violent and necessary moment, it was as if time had
won and cashed or lost and cashed, spent, trashed, jilted and
jolted into some jungle space, kicking and screaming, colliding with the
natural state of the state, if we can call that natural.

Jump on Rhian's Poetry Train!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #13 - The Truth Revealed

Last week I wrote eight things about myself (to fulfill a meme request) and five things about characters in my stories. I asked people to guess which were me and which were my characters. This week I reveal the answers...

1) I lost the spelling bee in 2nd grade because I couldn't spell the word "kiwi."
This is about me. I was mortified. It was the first round of the 2nd graders. I didn't even know what a "kiwi" was. I had been absent for some reason and had forgotten that the spelling bee started that day. To this day, when people ask me to spell things out loud for them, I freeze up.

2) I raised several thousand dollars for a cancer research center by holding a chocolate festival.
This is about me. It was awesome. Everyone was all dressed up and went from table to table eating chocolate. Yum.

3) I drove across two states to stop my best friend's wedding.

Well, I'm glad no one thought this was about me, although 15 years ago I wanted to drive across two states to stop my best-friend's wedding. Instead, it's part of the plot in my romantic comedy feature screenplay Chickens and Stars.

4) My first real job was shredding paper at a real estate office. My second was at Winchell's donuts.
This is about me. Shredding paper wasn't as dull as it sounds. I did this after hours and read a lot of the material before shredding it. I also vacuumed. After my job at Winchell's, I couldn't eat donuts for months.

5) I accidentally hit a blind woman's dog with my car.
Not me. This is from a short film I wrote. I picked something that sounded unforgivable and tried to make the audience sympathize with the drunk woman driving the car instead of the blind woman whose dog she hit.

6) I have taken formal Buddhist vows of refuge.
This is me. I graduated with my MFA from Naropa University, a private college in Boulder, Colorado founded on Buddhist principles, in 1993. It wasn't until a few years later, when I was having a spiritual crisis, that I took refuge. I even took a Tibetan language class for a while so I could chant the words properly.

7) I lived in Eastern Europe for a year.
Also me. I lived primarily in Prague (although if you call Czech's Eastern European they get a little snippy), traveled to Bosnia, Croatia, and Hungary, then spent a month in Vienna (although they also don't consider themselves Eastern European).

8) I was on top of a mountain in Colorado when a thunderstorm moved in. A man hiking below us was struck by lightning.
Also me. Scary as hell. I could feel the electricity in the air. I was crying and sure we were about to die. The man struck by lightning was picked up by a helicopter. By the time I got to where he had been, they were gone, but I remember blood on the rocks. I have no idea if he survived.

9) I fell and broke my arm while trying to find the Christmas present my husband had hidden from me.
Not me. A character from a short film script called No Peeking. In the script she gets progressively more injured as she seeks out the present.

10) I used to videotape my room at night in case there were ghosts.
Not me, but totally sounds like something I'd do. From another short film script called In Case of Ghosts. This short is being produced some time in the next few months. I'm excited, because it's always been a favourite of mine.

11) I make the best carrot-cake you'll ever taste.
This is me. My husband won't order carrot cake in restaurants because it never measures up. Vicki, if you're ever in town, I'll make you a carrot cake. :-)

12) The lenses in my eyes have been replaced by fake ones, which make me far-sighted.
This is me. I had premature cataracts in my eyes due to long-term prednisone use. I have fake lenses now. I went from being near-sighted to far-sighted overnight. It was a bit of a shocker and for a while I thought my writing life was over. Now I just wear reading glasses.

13) When my forest was hit by a mysterious curse, my little sister and I had to travel to Dead Mountain to find an excommunicated faerie.
Not me. I don't have a sister.

Have a great weekend! Watch out for that Mercury in Retro!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Monday Poetry Train #7

Here's an unpublished one I found in my journal from our honeymoon in Greece. I've always liked it, though have never been quite satisfied with it. Suggestions welcome! Tell me what's working and what's not.

(BTW - if the spacing seems off, it's because I cannot for the life of me figure out how to get the tabs and spaces into blogspot - it always leaves them out! Grrrrrr!)


after too much food and drink
I take a walk in the night
while my husband does dishes
I turn down a dark street not
frightened by the dark street we are in
Platanes, Crete and the most dangerous thing
I can think of
is the uncertain sidewalk

a motorcycle takes the corner - heads
directly intentionally for me
and at the last second veers and speeds away
there isn’t any laughter
I could be less frightened
if there were laughter

back at our hotel prepared
with my motorcycle story
I find my husband on the floor
keep your shoes on he says I dropped a wine bottle
and there are shards in every corner
of the room - this is his fear
right now he is frightened by bits of glass

I keep my shoes on while we prepare for bed
no longer the motorcycle engine in my head
or its light blinding my eyes

when flying in planes with my husband
I figure one of us should not be afraid
as the plane dips I take
his damp hand and smile

I am frightened sometimes by herds of animals
of the way they all move at once
one thought becomes all thought
all thought becomes sudden

I am not frightened by cherry blossoms
although they are just as sudden
and of one mind but I’ve never
had to jump out of their way

and when they drop on stone floors
it is merely fragrant snow

April 5, 2004

Ride Rhian's Poetry Train! Yee-hah!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Weekend Writing Workout #4 - Defining Moments

I give an exercise to my writing classes called "10 Defining Moments of my Life." It is inspired from a short story by Canadian Author Anne Fleming called "The Defining Moments of my Life."

It's a fabulous story first told from the perspective of protagonists' mother before she is born. What her mother fantasizes her daughter's perfect life will be like. It is then told again from the protagonists' perspective. Well, we all know, life is messy and doesn't happen the way we, or our parents, always fantasize it does.

The story is told in list form, each "defining moment" numbered. As the protagonist's life journeys on, the numbers get a little wonky. As does her life.

I've asked elementary school students to write the 10 defining moments of their lives and they come up with great stuff like getting their pet iguana and coming in first place in the school spelling bee.

When I give the exercise to my older students, they usually groan a little and feel slightly uncomfortable. But more than any other exercise I've given, the students tell me later it was their favourite assignment.

You can do this for yourself, as a personal journey. It's a really great exercise. Have you ever thought about the moments that have defined who you are and why you do the things you do?

Today, I'm recommending you write these moments down for any characters you'd like to develop. These defining moments are all backstory, the joyful moments, the painful moments, the wounds that make them who they are in your current story. Some of these things may never even be mentioned in your actual story, but keep them in the back of your mind. It will give this person a life before you met them on the page.

Here's how it works:

1) Make a list of the 10 Defining Moments of your character's life (or yours if you'd like to try this yourself)

2) From each moment, write at least 3 images that go with that moment. I want you to SEE it happening, as if on a movie screen.


Father's suicide: briefcase, crystal bird, open door to balcony
Ran away from home: black limousine, red "otel" sign, stained carpet
Met Gary on-line: library, broken blue umbrella, wet streets

3) Now, for each defining moment, show us what happened. Write a paragraph or two. make sure to SHOW the story, don't explain what happened. Do it in visuals. I try to get my students to think this way, in images, as much as possible. It will make it more "real" in your mind if you can see it. And showing in your writing is always good practice.

You can tell it in 3rd person OR 1st person as the character.

Casey opened her eyes. She was lying on the couch. Her father's black leather briefcase, the one he had taken on his business trip, sat two feet from her face next to the coffee table. The room was cold and quiet. Someone had left the patio door open and the white curtains were blowing in and out like delicate sails. She had goosebumps on her bare arms. She looked down. Her bird, the crystal bird her father had given her, lay broken on the marble floor... (and so on)

Have a great weekend and Happy Thanksgiving to all Canadians out there.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #12 - 8 Truths and 5 Lies

Vicki tagged me with the old "8 things about you" meme. Since I hadn't yet done my Thursday Thirteen, I figured I would merge the two.

So, below, EIGHT of these things are facts about me.
of them are things about characters in my stories.

See if you can guess which are about me, and which are about my characters.

1) I lost the spelling bee in 2nd grade because I couldn't spell the word "kiwi."

2) I raised several thousand dollars for a cancer research center by holding a chocolate festival.

3) I drove across two states to stop my best friend's wedding.

4) My first real job was shredding paper at a real estate office. My second was at Winchell's donuts.

5) I accidentally hit a blind woman's dog with my car.

6) I have taken formal Buddhist vows of refuge.

7) I lived in Eastern Europe for a year.

8) I was on top of a mountain in Colorado when a thunderstorm moved in. A man hiking below us was struck by lightning.

9) I fell and broke my arm while trying to find the Christmas present my husband had hidden from me.

10) I used to videotape my room at night in case there were ghosts.

11) I make the best carrot-cake you'll ever taste.

12) The lenses in my eyes have been replaced by fake ones, which make me far-sighted.

13) When my forest was hit by a mysterious curse, my little sister and I had to travel to Dead Mountain to find an excommunicated faerie. (just seeing if you're paying attention)

That was fun! Sort of like "two truths and a lie" only on a grander scale.

I'm supposed to TAG someone for the meme now... hmmm... well, I'll tag POST MODERN SASS and CAMMIE IN BLOGLAND just because I haven't before, so they are the least likely to kill me for it. CAMMIE and SASS - you are to write in your blog 8 things about yourself. (you don't have to do the lying part, that was my twist on it. Although that was fun.)

Monday, October 1, 2007

Monday Poetry Train #7

I was looking through my old virtual files and found this little poem. I don't remember writing it. I hope I did. It's not my usual style, but I think it was from a time when I was unemployed and discouraged.

I do not know who Sylvia is.


I am responding to your recent posting
for a reader-of-words I have extensive
experience petting grass I am very
fond of sunshine and spent the last
few minutes of my time absorbing
the warmth from my window I get
along well with leaves and pinecones
did I mention my degree in solitude?
during my previous position as a
singer-in-the-shower I was responsible
for prioritizing soap bubbles I would
be happy to solve any riddles or provide
a means of transportation to the center
of anything thank you for your time
and consideration love Sylvia


Join Rhian's Monday Poetry Train

Saturday, September 29, 2007

13 Reasons I Have Been Absent in Blogland

I missed the last 2 Thursday Thirteens. I've barely had time to check my e-mail in the last 2 weeks, let alone post a TT. A few of you sent private e-mails to see if I was okay, that was sweet, thanks! I'm fine, just busy. :-)

1) Baby and I finally took our (mini) summer vacation to the SUNSHINE COAST. This is where we've decided we will live some day soon. We left our computers at home.

2) While on the Sunshine Coast, we took a hike to SKOOKUMCHUK NARROWS. This is NOT a river. The rapids are created simply by the rising and falling of the ocean tide through a narrow area that connects two inlets.

3) I aided in organizing the PLEASE ADJUST YOUR SET Campaign Launch, which took place last Monday night. This is the culmination of a three year study on the status of women in film and television in British Columbia. The results... things haven't changed much in over 20 years. It's the same all over the world. Women are still not significantly represented in "above the line" positions (i.e. those with creative control over content).

4) Women in Film and Television Vancouver hosted our annual opening night party for the 2008 Vancouver International Film Festival, MARTINI MADNESS, this year held at the elegant Macaroni Grill:

5) And speaking of the Vancouver International Film Festival... I went to the opening film ATONEMENT, a British film based on the Ian McEwan novel. Run, do not walk, to see this film if it comes to your town. I'm sure it will have a theatrical release, just don't know how it will do competing with all the Hollywood blockbusters.

6) After the film, I attended VIFF's own opening Gala Event. They had yummy food and a fashion show. As the night progressed, the models wore less and less clothes. At the end, they came out in tops and underwear. I am not exaggerating.

This is me with actor Mackenzie Gray (a wonderful supporter of Women in Film) and production coordinator / fellow Women in Film boardmember Robyn Wiener

7) During this time I was also teaching classes in the writing department of Vancouver Film School. I have a new class this term that I just love. It's a feature film workshop. Basically, we read student's scripts and discuss them. How fun is that?

8) I rode my bike to the doctor. I got a prescription, which I still haven't filled.

9) I attended the Telefilm reception for the Vancouver Film Festival. I started to lose my voice from all the receptions and galas.

10) I've been promoting and working on WIFTV's own film festival, which takes place in March. I'm the festival chair. We're now accepting submissions. Tell all your female film-making friends.

11) I've been working on getting my short film Make up the Dead out of post-production. We're getting there... it should be done by mid-Oct. Yay! That's me in the blue cap looking directorly. Sitting next to me is fabulous DOP Kelly Mason. Let's hear it for camerawomen!

12) Took a shift Friday at the Women in Film booth at VIFF's annual Trade Forum. Unfortunately, I didn't get to attend any of the forum talks! But I did have a good time chatting with participants as they came and went.

13) And, don't laugh... amid ALL of this, Baby and I have been house-hunting. Yes, in our spare time. We even made an offer on a house last week. We didn't get the house and are still hunting... tomorrow, I'm going to buy a bigger gun.

And yes, I still wrote every day, even while on vacation (by hand).

So, what have you been doing to occupy your time? Can you believe how busy our modern day lives are? Do you look at your own schedule and want to pull your hair out?