Category Archives: Writing


Ever since I decided at age 14 that I wanted to be a writer, I have held an image in my mind’s eye of a cabin in the woods, shut off from the rest of the world where I could work uninterrupted. In my 20s, when I first started camping with my husband and discovered I had a profound love of nature (and an equally profound fear of bears), the image still did not falter. In my 30s, I resigned myself to considering it a retirement perk. Now, in my 40s, I have developed a new outlook that has helped me learn at last that nothing happens in this life unless you make it happen.

My "cabin in the woods" at Ogopogo Resort in Minden, Ontario.

My “cabin in the woods” at Ogopogo Resort in Minden, Ontario.

So, a couple of weeks ago, I packed up my car, kissed my husband and son while they slept, and hit the road at dawn. Music blaring, beer on ice in the trunk, chain smoking all the way (shut up, I’m going to quit), I drove north for three hours. Originally, I was supposed to stay at a trailer in a nature reserve owned by a friend’s mom and step-dad. It only cost $15/night and had everything I was looking for – a roof over my head, solitude, a lake, a fire pit and electricity (for my laptop). I had been planning this trip for five months and the weekend was confirmed.

But, as it turns out, it wasn’t.

Due to family communication issues, her parents had decided to go that weekend after all, and I could just have to find somewhere else to stay. A quick call to the registration office of the nature reserve garnered assurances that they had lots of accommodations available. And they did. What looked like army barracks overlooking the parking lot and heavy machinery, the accommodations were comfortable enough, but there was no fire pit, no lake and absolutely no peace and quite, let alone solitude. All for the low, low price of $70/night.

I admit it: I had a tiny screaming fit in my car out of sheer frustration and deep disappointment.

I considered buying a tent to camp out, then I realized that there would be no electricity and nowhere comfortable to sit so I could write. Plus, I had not packed for camping. I had no camp stove and no rope to hang my food out of the reach of bears. Rather than panicking and falling into despair, I sent a text message to my friend, whose husband got on Google and sent me two phone numbers to try. One of them paid off.

I landed at a lovely little resort on a lovely little lake – way more posh than Plan A – and it was nothing short of wonderful. Yes, it was an unexpected expense, but it wasn’t outrageous and that’s what credit cards are for. And, no, it wasn’t as solitary as originally anticipated. Well, at first it was, then on Friday evening a large family  spanning three (maybe four) generations arrived. There were anywhere between 10 and 15 of them – they never stood still long enough for a proper headcount – and they spread out quickly over the resort grounds, playing baseball, checking out the beach and firing up the grill. But, it was okay. That’s what ear buds are for, and, honestly, they were a pleasure to observe, a huge, happy family laughing and playing and loving each others’ company.

And, there were men to haul wood to the campfire. (Remember that  new outlook I mentioned?)

I got a ton of writing done in beautiful surroundings. The setting was not as isolated or vision-questy as originally planned, but nonetheless, I managed to get lost in a world of my own invention.

In retrospect, I’m not precisely sure what held me back from that dream for close to 30 (?!) years. However, I am sure that I will be doing it again next year. Oh yeah. It’s on.


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Thoughts on A Work in Progress Inspired by True Events in the Author’s Life

I’ve always known that I would write about my experience with full-grown neighbourhood bullies. I just wasn’t sure how best to tell the story, whether as a monologue, a play or a book. I thought it had to be a first-person account, and I struggled to get to a place where I could begin to write about a very painful period in my life. I had many false starts as I tried to go over it all in my head. I considered how to write about people I know, and I worried a lot about leaving out the things I may have forgotten. Names, dates,  newspaper headlines and the necessity of getting it right all hounded me.

Then I remembered that I’m not a journalist.

I’m a novelist: I pull the truth out of everyday details and I weave it into fiction that illuminates some aspect of the human experience. (Or, so I like to think.)

What point would rehashing every little detail and putting it into chronological order serve other than to bring my pain to the world-wide stage of the internet? Really, that shit’s personal and it’s not going to help anyone. And, quite frankly, I don’t want to relive it in TechniColor.

The new work is full-on fiction inspired by what I gained from a bad situation. I’m finished talking about it as a victim and ready to give it some artistic thought. I’ve moved on with my life and have no interest in going backwards, but it’s also important to learn from the past. What did I take away from the experience and how do I turn that into art?

(First step: find a new title.)

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A neighbourhood takes all kinds

She didn’t quite catch all that he said
He spoke quickly and waved his arms
But she had a bad feeling as she did her best
To converse with grace and charm.

The sun came up and she roused her babes
To stroll around the tree
On every branch were smart little homes
All neighbours in the community.

Birds and raccoons and squirrels and bugs
All living side by side
They chatted and played and helped when they could
A neighbourhood takes all kinds.

The raccoon and his brood strutted around
Telling the rest what to do
They used nasty words and tried to start fights
They loved a hullabaloo.

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The New Nest

The mama bird soothed her babes to sleep

With worms and snuggles and hugs

It didn’t take long for the old ‘coon to call

With winks and smirks and shrugs.

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There was a field…

There was a field before the tracks came

Where the mama bird fed her babes.

When the trains rolled in

She moved her nest

To a tree not so far away.

In that tree there lived a coon

Who was

Used to

Having his way.

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On Bullies

Five years ago, a father and son who lived on my quiet, dead-end street launched a campaign against their neighbours: slashed tires, keyed cars, broken windows, sleepless nights. You may have heard about it while it was going on.

I’ve often sat down to write about my surreal experience with these bullies, the neighbourhood, the media, but I always hesitate. It was a very negative time in my life that a large part of me would rather forget.

Recently, however, there has been a perfect storm of misogynistic bullying and its astounding repercussions: 15-year-old Amanda Todd’s tragic story, 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai’s attempted assassination, and the chilling antics and outing of Reddit moderator Violentacrez.

My writer’s block with my own story, I think, stems from being a parent: I don’t have a solution to this epidemic and that bothers me when I look at my 5-year-old son.

I now find myself on a quest to understand bullying from a perspective other than the victim. (I’ve got the victim part down and it’s actually supremely unhelpful.) Bullies superimpose their world view on their targets. Their torment leaves the victim unable to think about anything else, unable to do anything but get through another day, and it skews the victim’s perspective of real-life events, often with unthinkable consequences.

But why do bullies do it? What step got missed in their early childhood development? What part of real life is skewed for them and how did it get that way?

Bullies are everywhere, from kindergarten to the workplace. I wasn’t brutally bullied as a child, though there are a handful of memories that I’m still smarting from. I encountered the worst bullies of my life as an adult.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • Escalating to violence improves nothing about the situation.
  • Self-empowerment and patience are key. (Neither is as easy as a bullet point suggests.)
  • There is no shame in asking for help.

As I work on my book, I hope to blog about my progress and breakthroughs, as well as gather information on bullying to inform my work. My happy ending may or may not arrive by the time I finish the book, and the odds seem stacked against finding any real solutions to the epidemic, but it’s important to have the conversation, whatever the outcome of real-life events.

Because life goes on, and that’s the most beautiful part. Recognize and embrace joy when it presents itself. That is the step to take.

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