Monday, October 29, 2007


Act as if it were impossible to fail.
-- Dorothea Brande

A co-worker of mine said recently, "I don't know how you do it all, I can hardly figure out how to be a dad and work full time... but you are a mom, you work full time and you have all these other things going on."

I admit, my plate is a little full. And I do have to stop once and a while and make sure that my full plate does not become too much of a source of pride. Because you know what comes after pride... right?

And I don't really want to drop a full plate.

I think that the reason I take on so much, is that I don't believe I will fail at them. I look at a task and think, "can I do this? do I want to do this?" and if my heart says yes both times, then I take it on.

Periodically, and driven by my own stress level, I reassess and sometimes I scoop a little off that full plate. I did that recently when I stepped down off of a committee that I'd spent two years chairing. It meant a lot to me, but at the same time I recognized that I had to let it go so someone else could do a better job.

Other things came in to fill it's spot... but they were different things, I could do them better or they took less energy or they were a better fit with my family.

I've also started trying to multi-task LESS and I'm finding I get MORE done. It used to be that I tried to juggle everything, including being a mom. But I started to realized that at the end of the day while I was here with my kids, I wasn't here for them. Once I started working full time and my son went back to school, I started seeing them even less. It meant that I wanted the time with them to be about them... not about me on the computer.

So now I spend more time playing, talking and attending. And when they are in bed, I sit down here at the computer and write.

NaNo Here We Come!


Contact: Heather Cook
Calgary Municipal Liaison, NaNoWriMo
76, 219 – 90th Ave SE
Calgary, AB T2J 0A3
(403) 815-7266

50 Calgary Writers Gathering to Kick Off National Novel Writing Month
October 29, 2007 – Calgary, Alberta – A group of brave Calgary writers are gathering at a local Chapters store on November 1, 2007 at 7pm to kick off the National Novel Writing Month. There are some who say writing a novel takes awesome talent, strong language skills, academic training, and years of dedication. Not true. All it really takes is a deadline – a very, very tight deadline – and a whole lot of coffee.
Welcome to National Novel Writing Month: a nonprofit literary crusade that encourages aspiring novelists all over the world to write a 50,000-word novel in a month. At midnight on Nov. 1, more than 100,000 writers from over 70 countries – poised over laptops and pads of paper, fingers itching and minds racing with plots and characters – will begin a furious adventure in fiction. By 11:59 PM on Nov. 30, thousands of them will be novelists.
NaNoWriMo is the largest writing contest in the world. In 2006, over 79,000 people took part in the free challenge. And while the event stresses fun and creative exploration over publication, sixteen NaNoWriMo novelists have had their NaNo-novels published, including Sarah Gruen, author of New York Times #1 Best Seller, Water for Elephants.

"The 50,000-word challenge has a wonderful way of opening up your imagination and unleashing creative potential like nothing else," says NaNoWriMo Director (and eight-time NaNoWriMo winner) Chris Baty. "When you write for quantity instead of quality, you end up getting both. Also, it's a great excuse for not doing any dishes for a month."

For the past eight years, Baty has sent out weekly pep talks to participants in November. This year, he's passing the pep talking torch to established authors, including mystery writer Sue Grafton, master storyteller Tom Robbins, and renowned fantasy writer Neil Gaiman.

Returning for her fourth year as municipal liaison is Heather Cook of Calgary. Proving that if you want to get something done… ask a busy person, Heather works full time and is a freelance writer for several magazines and online sites in North America, she’s writing her second book and she has two children.

The Calgary Kick Off will take place at the Macleod Trail Chapters at Macleod and 94th Ave SE. Start time is 7 pm and a write-off will begin at 8 pm.

For information:
Media Inquires: contact Heather Cook (403) 815-7266 or


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Rowling and Potter and Doris Lessing

I think my favorite thing about being a writer is having an overwhelming desire to know the backstory of the books I read. That's the part that the writer knows in her head, but doesn't necessarily put on the page. A bit might show up here and there, but for the most part it's all the history before page one.

(And we all know not to put any backstory on page one, right?)

Recently J.K. Rowling revealed that the Harry Potter saga was inspired by Christianity. This is no surprise, really, if she'd said different I would have had to call bull pucky. It's the great battle between good and evil, the forces gather on each side, alliances are formed, there are betrayals, innocent ones die.

And then she announced that Dumbledore was gay. And for some great reason, I was not surprised. It fit just fine the way she'd written it in the book. He's an old, single man and the only real infatuation we read about is with a young man from his past. It fit.

Now you're probably wondering why a Christian like myself is so fond of not only a book that some say promotes witchcraft, but also of a gay character.

I have no good answers for you other than a) I don't think it promotes witchcraft and b) if God wanted me to worry so much about homosexuality, I think he might have listed it in the top ten.

But back to Rowling.

I think the reason that I was not surprised by either is because that's the beauty of well crafted backstory. It's there, but you don't see it, it's woven so faintly into the tapestry like a pale blue thread, that you only pick up on it when held up to another blue cloth. Then you see it there and think "oh yes, of course that fits perfectly".

Now, as an aside. I find it very interesting how different sites reported this.

According to Guardian Unlimited:

'My truthful answer to you...I always thought of Dumbledore as gay.'

Which, despite being reported from the exact same event, differs from how the Associated Press reported it:
"Dumbledore is gay," the author responded to gasps and applause.

Now why is that, do you think? I've seen similar "massaging" of quotes before. Most recently with Doris Lessing's Nobel Prize retort. Some quoted her verbatim while others shortened her words up just enough to make her sound really snotty.

Personally, I think she is just a quiet older woman who is used to being lambasted in public for her views and she was surrounded by cameras and microphones while trying to climb out of a car from a shopping trip. We writers are not known for our improv skills, otherwise we'd be speakers, not writers. Even Churchill, one of the most amazing writers and speakers was first a writer. All those witty retorts? Written and memorized.

Now what do you think of Lessing's reaction?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

If you write at work... you're fired

These were the words my boss spoke to me before he hired rehired me this summer. I smirked.

I love NOT writing while I'm at work. I have plenty of things to write about... work-related things. But when I'm at the Regular Job I can be Regular Job Person and I don't have to worry about being Creative Writer Extraordinaire.

Which I'm not.

But doesn't every writer want to be?

So the pressure is off at work. I can be Talks to People Salesperson and What Can I Do For You Today Girl. I can even be Writes A Great Sales Letter Chic.

But at the office I'm not Struggling Writer Who Hates The Blank Page or Person Who Can't Come Up With a Better Word Lady.

I'm just me.

Trust me boss, you have nothing to worry about.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I've been tagged!

My gigglyness (totally a word) at being tagged for a meme can be directly connected to my desire to avoid working on an article that is vexing me tonight. So score one for the readers. Score nada for my writing career.

Thanks Lori. Thanks a LOT. :0)

It's a pretty simple meme... I am to identify five writing strengths.

Clearly avoiding procrastination is not one of them.

1. I can find a theme in almost any situation. I think it's my high 'intuitive' score on my Myers-Briggs test... I see big picture, I see forest. I don't see the individual trees so much.. oh, wait, we're working on my strengths. This means that I am really good at taking a theme, and like a ribbon, weaving in through a story and tying off with a nice bow at the end. And I love finding that ribbon, I love being able to see the bigger picture and presenting it to a reader like a big fancy package.

2. I never miss a deadline. Ok, never is a strong word. I despise missing deadlines with every molecule of my being. I may rub up against a deadline with such urgency that it seriously begins to question my intentions, but I don't often let it slip from my grasp. This is one of the most important ways you can prove to an editor that you are a professional. If you just do this one thing... you'll be ahead of half the writers out there.

3. I do what I say I'm going to do. Related to numero 2, when I have an assignment I do the assignment. I ask my questions up front and I turn in what my editor expects. If there are changes, or if research leads me in a different direction, I keep my editor informed. There are no surprises here.

4. In invest in other writers. How does this make me a better writer? Because by supporting the community at large by teaching and guiding other writers, I learn more about myself as a writer. I've learned about my own procrastination by writing emails to other writers about it. I've learned to query by crafting a query to post to my Writing Mother group. It's sort of a 'know why you believe' theory. As I explain writer to others, my knowledge of it expands.

5. I tell the truth. Well, duh, what the heck does this have to do with being a better writer? I'll tell you. I write with the same dedication to telling the truth whether I'm doing event coverage, explaining a concept, writing about politics or crafting an essay on motherhood. I don't use shock language to make a point or make a story more effective, I trust that the truth and the story are effective when mixed with some elbow grease to take out all the unneccessary parts and to leave all the working parts in tact. I don't spruce up quotes to make a point, I don't insert off color jokes so that someone else might find me funny, I don't take liberties with the stories of others. I'm just the scribe and I'm ultimately telling the story of someone else.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

I'm Thankful For...

  1. My Father, who hears me.
  2. My husband who knows me
  3. My son who shows me how to live
  4. My daughter who teaches me to smile
  5. My parents to whom I owe much
  6. My in-laws who gave me my husband
  7. My ex-in-laws who have left an enduring mark
  8. My ex-husband, who taught me the messy, practical side of forgiveness
  9. My friends who inspire me
  10. My job, it comes with responsibility and teaches me humility
  11. The opportunities I have in life
  12. My childhood, as dysfunctional as all childhoods are
  13. My agent, the quiet little pitbull
  14. My publisher, for continuing to have faith in me
  15. Soldiers
  16. My country (kind of vague... but I'm thankful I was born here)
  17. My writing ability, I'm never going to be done learning how to be better at it
  18. My husband's financial acumen
  19. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
  20. This breath. Right now.

Today's sermon at church was all about being thankful. A thankful heart is the gateway for so many blessings, I hope I can remember to be thankful year round.

It is far too easy to complain about things in life. How easy is it to say "I don't like that, or that, or that..." Instead I choose to be thankful for something every day. No, every hour... every minute.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Chicken Soup for the Working Mom's Soul

I just got my copy of CS for the Working Mom's Soul - my essay appears on page 237. This marks the second time I've been in a Chicken Soup book.

Chicken Soup essays don't pay a huge amount, but they pay enough, in my books. I will often sit down and write some personal essays just for the heck of it. I might turn them in to blog posts or I might hang on to them. Both of my CS essays have come about this way. So when I see a call out, I remember an essay I wrote and I submit it. So far I'm 2 for 2.

I think being a working mom is probably the toughest job in the world. It can be very hard to leave being a mom at home and leave work at work. I'm lucky to have great family support and one wonderful babysitter. Plus, my son is having a much better year at school this year, so I worry far less than I did last year.

But still, there never seems to be enough time in the day to do everything I want to do. Blogging and writing are scheduled in for the 3 pm - to 10 pm time at home. At work I think I'm the most efficient because I have one thing to focus on: my job. Now it seems that when I'm at home, I'm doubly distracted. Supper-homework-diapers-writing-friends-phone calls-after school... it all gets squished in to seven hours in the afternoon evening. Sometimes I feel like I am not doing everything as well as I could.

My daughter is benefitting from more one on one time with her dad. He is with her a lot during the week while I'm at work. He doesn't work at home, which means that he has a lot of time to focus on her. She's thriving! Part of me feels a little guilty, she wasn't as talkative and easy to interact with when I was home because I spent a great deal of time distracting her so I could get some writing done.

That's the gist of my essay in CS for the Working Mom's Soul. How to balance being at home for your kids and being *there* for them too.