Tag Archives: work in progress

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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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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