Had a 40th birthday party at my place last Saturday. No, it wasn’t mine, but thank you for thinking it was. My friend Kim’s longtime buddy Mike was the birthday boy. And the theme – wait for it – was bacon.

A bacon-inspired soiree is new to me, however, if you Google bacon parties, there are many who have already hoisted a piece of fried fatty meat in place of a glass of champagne. Granted, bacon decorations are slim out there (you can purchase a lovely bacon pennant -sturdy and reusable, in case you were wondering), but there are numerous bacon-inspired presents including soap, air fresheners, dental floss, bandages, and wallets, all either smelling, tasting or looking like bacon. Are you religious? No worries, you can start you day off praying to the Patron Saint of Bacon in lieu of a high cholesterol breakfast.

Needs help

To bulk up the decorations, my roommate Kim worked hard into the night designing, drawing, and cutting red construction paper in the shape of bacon and gluing white strips on the front to hang around the living and dining room. In addition, she printed pictures with various bacon-inspired slogans – a flag with the caption God Bless Bacon, a little boy eating a piece of bacon, and a particularly creepy little girl ogling her plate of bacon.

All 30 of the people invited attended and Mike at least appeared to be having a great time socializing, opening his presents and answering the door to greet all his guests while in a tall felt hat with faux candles shooting out the top. I did suggest that we invite a Bacon brother, but for some reason, no one was interested.

The music, organized by another friend, was circa 1972 with tunes such as April Wine, The Stones, The Supremes, Frank Zappa, CCR, and Chuck Berry’s  hit My Ding-a-Ling. “I bet you and I are the only ones who remember this music.” The DJ said to me. I pointed out that while I was only around eight years old at the time, I definitely remembered the 70’s as I was not old enough for this period to fly by in a drug-infested blur.

It's my party and I'll wave if I want to

The big deal of the evening were the two cakes that yet another friend provided. A savory one made of layers of meat loaf, cream cheese, and bacon with a mashed potato frosting and pieces of bacon on top as well as a vanilla cake with caramelized bacon on the sides held up by a to-die-for creamy frosting made with mascarpone. I know of no other person who could have pulled this off but Bebbie the magnificent (who also swooped in and got the last minute party details completed).

Camille taking a quick break from her people

As usual, there’s always a belle of the ball, and at this party it was Camille, my 20 year old cat. She casually sauntered through the living room winding her way around people’s feet, making sure to say hello to all. At one point she was passed around the kitchen, comfortable leaning into everyone who held her and kneading the air with her paws. Phoebe, my other cat had a less engaging evening, deciding to spend half the night in a cupboard under the bar in the basement and the other half under my bed, that is, once I carried her (legs flailing) up to my room. Mind you when morning came, Phoebe was bright eyed and bushy tailed while Camille lost a whole day sleeping do to her excessive partying.

In the end, I realized hosting a party without having to be the primary hostess is far more fun than being concerned with every detail, whether or not my guests are having a good time, and wondering how long people will stay. In fact, when I had had enough, I went to bed.










When I heard that the Book Warehouse was closing its doors, it hit me that as a reader and a writer (the latter of which I am calling myself freely now) I will have to take a close look at the way I utilize books, the Internet, and publishing.

I don’t have a Kindle or a Kobo. I am a compulsive book buyer and have spent countless lunch hours at the West Broadway branch walking down each aisle, soothed by the rows of big, small, colourful, thick and thin paperbacks and hardbacks with their spines not yet cracked, neatly tucked into shelves for me to pluck out when I see something interesting. Like candy with no calories. As I listen to the classical music floating throughout the store, I breathe in and then out, knowing that the world is okay especially when I have a new book to read. This is likely why I receive over $100 in Book Warehouse gift certificates for Christmas each year.

I already spend most of my time reading from computer screens, whether at work as a computer trainer or at home writing my own stories and I read CBC online every morning, so I have already made the transition in some ways. But the thought of lying in bed with a small screen in front of me doesn’t sound the same as holding my new book opening its cover for the first time, carefully reading the publishing information at the front, the dedication on it’s own page, any quotes the author has chosen, and later flipping back to scenes that I want to read again.

In the corner of my bedroom stands a wooden bookshelf bought over 40 years ago, its back facing the wall, hiding “deliver to Dr. and Mrs. Irvine” written on the back in black felt pen along with my family’s address. This is the shelf that contains all the books I have not yet read. Sitting on the corner of my chaise lounge I lean over deciding what to read from my own bookstore, finding the right one for that moment.

Once I’ve read the book, I take out a small notebook that I keep in the cupboard of my bedside table and write down the name, publisher, date of publication, month and year read, and a short review. Satisfied, I walk the book downstairs and place it on the bookshelf that covers one wall, floor to ceiling, in the basement.

It doesn’t take me long to find a several books that I take to the cashier to check out how much I’ve spent.

“I have three gift certificates and no idea how much is on each.” I tell the woman behind the counter as I place my stack of five books – Tea Obreht, Elizabeth George, Virginia Woolfe, Steve Martin, and John Updike along with three birthday cards – in front of her.

“I may have money over to buy a few more.” I smile. For a moment this is really fun, a splurge that I didn’t expect.

“Let’s check and see then.” She says as she scans the plastic cards. I watch another store clerk milling around behind her that I spoke to the last time I had a gift certificate.

“I’m so sorry. I come here all the time. I work at City Hall so it’s easy to pop in.” I say. “I love it here. I don’t know what I’ll do without you.” I don’t know what else to say as I know they are losing their job.

She smiles. “It’s nice to have a local bookstore to browse through at lunch time.”

“You picked a good day to come.” The other store clerk tells me. “Yesterday it was packed in here. I thought we were going to sell out in one day. Even now.” I turn around as he motions to the people behind me filling the aisles, all with books in their arms on a usually quiet Friday morning.

I turn back to the cashier. “You have $53 left.” She tells me.

“Okay, I’ll be back shortly.” I grab my bag and dive into the store again, this time finding books by William Gibson, The Lonely Planet Southern Africa, quotes from Steve Jobs, and two birthday cards. At one point, I put my bag, books, and my umbrella on a wooden chair that always sits by the mystery section. I take a picture with my iphone, the irony not wasted on me. I’ve cried in here at times when the world out there was too much and I needed a safe place for just a few minutes. The final book I pull from the shelf? Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter by Carmen Aguirre.

“All the best.” I say as I take my two bags and walk out for the last time. I think again to the bedroom bookshelf. It’s overflowing and I’ve already resorted to tucking books horizontally on top of other books. Perhaps I’ll place the new ones on the floor and in my bedside table, although there’s a stack in there too as well as a pile by my bed (I see this as the magazine/sale rack/sporadically read area).

I haven’t decided if we book people need a revolution of our own or if we need to succumb and read from a stale gray screen.





March 11, 2011

Historic Joy Kogawa House

Last Thursday, I went to Room Magazine’s 35th Anniversary party at Joy Kogawa House. I knew nothing of the house that is located in Marpole, even though I’ve driven down West 64th avenue numerous times throughout my life. It was the house that the writer, for which it is named, lived in until she was six years old, at which time her and her family were forced to leave to live in a Japanese Internment Camp. Her family were never able to reclaim their home as it was sold by the Canadian Government without their permission. After changing hands numerous times, it was bought by someone who was going to demolish it. However, after public pressure grew to save the house, time was granted for The Land Conservancy of BC (TLC) and others to raise the money to finally purchase the property in 2006. The house is now a culture space for events, workshops, and a yearly writers-in-residence program.

But as I mentioned, I didn’t know any of that until I showed up for the party. Room magazine is an entertaining, enlightening, and enriching literary magazine run by and written by women. I had already perused the anniversary issue entitled Journey when it arrived at my door a few weeks earlier. What made me truly understand the stories was when I heard four of the writers read their poetry and short stories. There is something for me about listening to writers read their work. I feel rejuvenated, excited, and inspired whether it is to write myself or to think yet again about how much can be experienced in our world.

Each told their story in very different ways. Katherine Poyner-Del Vento’s three poems (that had been published in the Sister edition) about different types of weddings, gave one account about playing dress up with her own sister, vying to put on their Mum’s wedding dress that had once been put away for safe keeping. I, too, have one of these in my own closet and am not quite sure what to do with it. Barbara Parker’s told a story about her father’s descent into Parkinson’s disease interlaced with dementia who was fast losing his words. What was so ingenious about this narrative was that she paralleled it with an account about an Anthropologist and his journey to study the language of the Penan people who live in the rain forest in Malaysia. Carol Shillibeer read her lyric prose about swimming in a river with a dock, its rope keeping people safe if only they would hold onto it. Lastly, a fiction story from Taryn Thomson about 12 year old girls getting the wrong kind of attention from boys when they can’t stay away from playing a game where they allow these boys to catch and hit them.

What I enjoyed most though was the brief question and answer period after each reading. It was informal and comfortable listening to the small audience ask these authors to reveal their incites, feelings, and motivation into why they came to write what they did. While we sat on folding chairs in the tiny living room with an overflow of people standing in the hallways, I felt internally warm (well, it was warm in the room too) and happily amongst one of many.

I will leave you with these very small tidbits from a great collection of stories you may want to read yourself.

What a wonderful way to celebrate International Women’s Day.



March 4, 2012

My Body Double (amazing likeness)

“I’m not bringing my car, so I can’t bring my magical tickle trunk this time.” I hear the sigh in Alanna’s voice. “Guess I can only bring one bag this trip.” My best friend of 34 years tells me as she gets ready to visit from Vancouver Island.

Alanna is known for her extensive collection of clothes and stunning shoes. I felt a tad deflated as one of my favourite things to do is walk around in her 6 inch leather Prada sling backs, multi-patterned Lamb pumps or Chinese laundry wedge sandals. It was much easier to parade through my one bed room carpeted apartment instead of my family home where I live now, with the hard wood floor and stairs. Still, I grab onto the railing dressed in my bathrobe and march down to the living room as if I just woke up from a coma and am learning to walk again. Alanna tells me she is willing her entire shoe collection to me when she dies. I have a vision of myself at 86 years old insisting on wearing a pair thigh high black leather boots to dinner in the assisted living residence where I live.

This visit though, I only find a pair of Guess jeans of her’s to try on. And they fit perfectly. So perfect that I instantly wanted my own pair.

“Do you mind if I get them in a different colour?” I ask.

“Of course. Make sure to get them a little tight though. They stretch out a lot.”

Searching the internet, I told her I’d try to get them in distressed black. I’m okay if my jeans are upset, just as long as I’m not.

I have been battling with my peri menopause paunch for a year now. None of my jeans or pants fit as they use to. I haven’t gone up a size, which would have been easier as all I would need to do is buy larger pants. Instead, everything fits except the snug waistband around my developing muffin top. Whatever the reason for this body change, it’s an even better way to justify my incessant quest for the perfect jean.

So, when I happened to find myself in Pacific Centre mall at lunch this week (amazing since I don’t work downtown), I decided there was no harm in at least taking a gander in the Guess store. At first I thought I’d just look around and then leave when none of the salespeople helped me, but a gorgeous young woman, with her own perfect pair of guess jeans in yellow, came right up and found four pairs of the same jeans in slightly different washes. Without my reading glasses, I could only get a blurred vision of the price of each. I decided I’d take a closer look if I found something.

I tried on the black pair first and walked out of the change room.

“Oh, those look great on you.” Another sales person tells me.

“Yeah, but their a little tight around the waist.”

“Oh, they’ll stretch, so it’s good to get them a little tight.”

I try on another pair, this time in a washed out denim. Nice, but I want something a littler dressier.

Finally, I grab the deep blue pair. As I try to focus in on the tag attached to the waistband, I notice the word Swarovski. Doing them up, I realize that the button has a Swarovski crystal in the middle of it to match the trademark Guess triangle on the back pocket. A little blingy for me, but I’ll try them on – just for fun.

I walk out to view my whole self in front of the 3 way mirror. Looks good. I bend my knees and then rise. Still looks good. I slip an index finger around the waist. Good fit.

I get my glasses out to take in the cold stark reality of the price tag. Oh shit. More than I would have ever spent on a pair of jeans to date. I sigh and wonder when the bar started getting higher and higher on what I would pay for jeans.

I walk around again. Then try on a less expensive pair. Finally try the same pair on again.

My sales person comes back. “These fit a lot better, and of course, their the most expensive.” I say to her.

She smiles. “Yes, well, they both look good on you.”

“Yeah, but these are way more comfortable.” I wait for my justification to be reinforced. Surprisingly, she lets me stew about it myself, offering no gentle pushes towards the pricier pair.

I cringe, as I walk out with the pile of jeans.

“Did you find something?” I place the chi-chi-pooh-pooh pair on the counter.

“Yeah, I did.” Whip out my clear VISA card before I change my mind.

For God sake’s I’m pushing 50. Someone sub-in as my Mum and reign in my Swarovski crystal ass in. It still doesn’t stop me from walking out carrying my large bag with the trendy, sexy half-dressed couple advertised on it.

I’ll deal with myself later.

My mother is in the severe stages of Alzheimer’s. This intelligent, educated, practical, news-hound, who I’ve gone to for life’s answers my whole life, is now in a wheel chair, unable to talk except uttering the odd incoherent sentence or jumbled string of words that I can only decipher some of the time during my weekly visits at her care facility.

As many people know, this type of illness lingers on for what seems forever. Friends and family fall away as the years pass, continuing on with their own lives. My partner Mack joins me sometimes when I visit Mum, and once in a while my friend Joyce takes time from her extremely busy schedule to sit with us, remembering only too well what it was like when her own parents suffered from Alzheimer’s and Pick’s disease. Otherwise, no one sees my mother but me.

Except for our hairdresser of 25 years.

Henny has come every couple of months or so to cut Mum’s hair. She accepts no payment for this, telling me that Mum has been her client for so long, it’s just something she’s happy to do. Her grandmother was in a care facility until she died last year, so she knows how people and the routines of daily life we take for granted can slowly slip away.

Mum really needed a haircut. There had been a quarantine in her care facility for five weeks because there was a flu going around. The facility is hyper vigilant in trying to contain any kind of illnesses that can spread. So Mum’s haircut was put off.

The day of Mum’s appointment, I searched through the common areas looking for her. Had to ask one of the staff where she was.

“She’s right there.” A nurse points. I had walked right past my own mother.

I stare at the large, new black wheelchair she sat in. I had never seen it before. Her hands were resting on a black tray attached to the chair. What struck me was that her head was back, touching the cushy headrest behind, and her mouth was wide open as she slept. That and her hair was much longer than it should have been – she would have killed me if she knew how long I had left it.

“Mum’s dying.” Was my first thought.

How could she have deteriorated this much since I saw her last week? Mixed feelings always come up about her death. I know Mum wouldn’t have wanted to live in this condition and I don’t want her to either, however, I still dread the day when she does die.

“Oh my God.” I say.

“Oh, it’s okay. She’s just sleeping.” Another nurse responds to my strong reaction. “She ate a good lunch.”

She walks over to Mum. “Phyllis. Phyllis. Your daughter’s here. You’re going to get your haircut.”

No response. Once I came out of my trance, I went back downstairs to meet Henny, thinking we wouldn’t be able to cut her hair, and felt badly for wasting Henny’s time.

But when we returned Mum was awake and looking around, albeit a little sleepy.

“Hey Mum.” I kneel down beside her and rub her arm. “How are you? You’ve been sleeping. Look who’s here. It’s Henny.She’s going to cut your hair.” Mum rubs her left eye, looking straight ahead with the right.

We wheel her back to her room. As Henny sets up her work area, I get an old broom they keep in the small kitchen area. It’s my job to sweep up Mum’s hair as it is cut to the floor.

Yet another nurse has to help us take the headrest off of the wheel chair so Henny can get in close enough to do her job. But after that Mum seems content to sit with the requisite shiny black hairdresser’s cape over her body, still rubbing her eye that looks a bit red today.

“Mum. Does your eye hurt?” I ask.

No reaction to my question.

I offer Mum a Purdy’s chocolate from a box that I have stowed away in her side table drawer. She can no longer eat using utensils, but can still hold the small milk chocolate with the vanilla cream inside. I wonder when the day will come when she won’t be able to swallow.

“She still has a built in stop button. She’ll only have one, two at the most.” I say to Henny and then look at Mum.

“Hey, Mum, I’d eat the whole box of chocolates, but you never would!” Mum mimics my smile.

When Henny finishes, she bends down to Mum’s eye level and smiles at her while rubbing her arm. “Hey, Phyllis, what do you think. Do you like your hair cut?”

“Thank you.” Mum says as she touches her own hair.

“Did I hear her say thank you?” I ask as I fix up Mum’s bed.

“Yeah, she did.” Henny replies. I look over to see her now watery eyes still looking at Mum.

“You’re a good man.” Mum tells her as she touches Henny’s cheek.

“Well, you’re a good man, too, Phyllis.” Henny smiles and clasps Mum’s hand.

“Wholly crap.” I say. “That’s amazing.”

Henny nods as we watch Mum touch her hair again.

Dad sucked on tic tacs ever since I was a kid. When the orange flavor came along he kept a pack especially for me in his car. He used them to refresh his breath; I used them to shove a handful in my mouth, roll them around for a few seconds and then crunch them all down, that is, if he wasn’t paying attention.

My sister Wendy liked tic tacs, too, but even at four years old she preferred to store her candy away for weeks or even months, untouched. One time our father gave us a pack each. Mine went in a day. Then it was time to take Wendy’s. But my ten year old brain knew that until the seal of her pack was cracked, I couldn’t pilfer anything; it would be too obvious. So, one Saturday afternoon, I prodded Wendy to pull out her pack of tic tacs.

“I just want one.” I say as she runs away from me with the slim clear pack clutched in her little hand. “No.” A sharp retort as she laughs, dizzy with little person power.

I try to grab the back of her cotton shirt but miss. Her red runners grip the floor easier than my leather moccasins. She runs into the bathroom and stands on the fluffy green rug, its rubber backing securely stuck to the linoleum floor. Standing in front of the vanity, she opens the tic tac pack and shakes out a little white mint. She rolls it around between her fingers and turns to face me while she carefully places the tic tac in her right nostril.

“What are you doing?” I shout. “You can’t do that. It’s dangerous!”

She laughs. I can tell she’s mocking me. Then she looks into the mirror, pushes her thick blonde hair out of the way to get a good look at her profile, her big brown eyes fixated on her nose.

Realizing the candy pills are perfect for her little nostril, she shakes out another and shoves that one in with even more confidence. Then, satisfied with its position, she holds one more tic tac in her hand, ready for entry. I look on with astonishment. Noticing I’m still there, she reaches for the door and slams it shut in one swing with more force than a skinny little kid should have. Before I can even think to get the nail scissors from Mum’s bathroom to shove in the door lock to get in, I hear her pull out the drawer. Now the door is blocked and there’s no way I can enter.

This is bad. I have to stop her. I think of all the times I reached the bathroom first as we ran through the house with Wendy close behind me. If I was the one barricaded in that bathroom, she’d stand on the other side and jam the scissors in the lock anyway, slamming the door against the open drawer, just for effect. My brain bulb flickers and I run down the hallway to Mum’s bathroom.

I fling open the only drawer in her vanity and rifle through the various pins, Q-tips, emery boards and lipsticks in several shades of pink. I pick up a plastic container shaped like a long tube and open it up. Oh yeah, it’s to store those white things. What are they called? I can’t remember right now. I can’t think straight. There should be at least one pair in here.

Finally, under a Kleenex pack I find what I’m looking for. Three pairs of nail scissors. I choose the pair with the straightest point.

I rush back and plunge the tiny scissors into the lock while yelling “Get out of there right now! Let me in!” I plaster my face in the two inch gap I have now secured between the door and drawer. Silence on the other side of the door, but I can still feel her presence. I cram my mouth into the door opening, prepared to bellow as loud as I can. “I’m telling, you’re going to be in trouble!” Guilt comes over me, and I now know the inevitable next step has come.

I run downstairs. “Mummy, Wendy shoved tic tacs up her nose and locked herself in the bathroom.” Mum stands in front of the kitchen sink drying a bowl while I continue. “I told her not to do it.”

She looks at me a moment, then shakes her head. Tea towel still in hand, she walks up the stairs with me close behind. “She’s got the drawer out, so I can’t get in.”

When she reaches the bathroom, she does a brisk three-tap knock. “Wendy, open the door. Right now.” I hear the drawer close. The door opens.

Wendy’s face is scrunched up and red. “I can’t get them out” she says in a nasally, panicky voice, one nostril closed tight. What if they don’t come out? We’ll have to call Dad to come help. He’ll bring his doctor’s bag and have to take the tic tacs out with those really long skinny tongs. Or maybe we’ll have to go to the emergency. I’d know what to do if Wendy fell, but I don’t know anything about tic tacs up noses.

Mum puts her arm around her. “Pretend to blow your nose.” Wendy lets out a little snort and one tic tac flies out onto the floor. She touches her nose gently on both sides. “There’s more.” She cries.

“How many more?” Mum asks as she looks over at me, astonished.

“I saw her shove three up there,” I rat.

She sighs. “Well, keep blowing.”
Wendy gives two short snorts and another tic tac sails into the Kleenex that Mum has now taken out of the sleeve of her sweater. Then the third one slips out.

Wendy’s face is still red as she sucks in her lower lip while taking two big gulps of air. She stands there, looking at the Kleenex. Mum takes the tic tac pack and puts them in her pocket.

“I told her that was going to happen.”

“All right. It’s okay now.” Mum says rubbing Wendy’s back as she leads her out of the bathroom. I stand there watching my sister sit on her bed, still looking at the Kleenex in her hand.

“Is she alright?” I ask Mum.

“She’s fine.” Mum says, leaving for the kitchen once more, tea towel at the ready once again. Over she shoulder she says, “why on earth did she do that?”
“I told her it was wrong.”

I know Wendy will never shove a tic tac up her nose again. I also know that I’ll wait until later to get my hands on that little pack, almost full minus three tic tacs, when Mum gives them back. Then I’ll sneak in and take them from her stash.

At least I will eat them.

Except for the porch light shining above, the house is as dark inside as it is outside. An old woman opens the door to a young man and child. The old woman is wearing her night gown, standing in the front hallway, her bare feet on the carpet. Her hair is completely gray and slicked back. The child thinks of herself in her own nightgown and hair slicked back after bath time, but she can tell that the old woman hasn’t had a bath in a while. The child feels as if she is trespassing.
The old woman stands there, but only for a moment. She spoke to the young man on her black rotary dial telephone a short time ago, and asked him to knock on her door. So he does. She didn’t expect the child though, but he asks her if it’s okay and she says yes right away. He’s come and she is so grateful to him. Such a nice young man with a lovely young family.
They follow the old woman into her living room. The child sits on the couch, out of the way and remains quiet. The old woman picks up the book that is resting on the seat of the La-Z-Boy, the foam flattened where she had sat before answering the door. She places the book on the side table that is strewn with newspapers, a pair of reading glasses and a mug of something once hot. The doctor positions himself on the ottoman at the foot of the La-Z-Boy. A floor lamp stands beside the chair, casting only a small shaft of light unnoticeable from the street.
A large plastic mixing bowl sits on the floor. The old woman reaches for the bowl with the man’s help and begins to vomit into it, unable to stop. The child knows what it’s like to throw up, too. No one sees her when she’s sick except once when she threw up on her desk at school, before art class. But that time she didn’t know she was going to, it happened so quickly. She hung her head in shame as her classmates scattered away from her and yelled out “Gross”. After it happened, she sat there at her desk. Then the janitor came in carrying a bucket of sawdust to pour over her vomit. Eventually the teacher led her away to the nurse’s office so they could call her mother to come get her.
The doctor sits up close, unfazed and continues to help the old woman with the bowl, making sure nothing spills out and the child knows she could never do what he’s doing. The doctor’s genuine smile relaxes the old woman as she begins to tell her story.
She no longer notices the child as the doctor examines her. While he feels her neck for swollen glands he asks what her symptoms are and how long she has felt this way. As he looks down her throat with a tongue depressor, the child imagines a Popsicle stick without the Popsicle and knows it makes you feel as if you are choking, even though you’re not. But the old woman doesn’t mind that either.
The bowl full of vomit sits on the floor. The child’s mother would have cleaned that up right away, and the child wonders how long the bowl will sit there and if the old woman has to clean it herself, even when she doesn’t feel well.
The doctor opens his black bag, and unsnaps one of the side pockets. He takes out a vial of clear liquid and a needle. He tears the needle from the paper and plastic wrapping and inserts it into the rubber part of the vial and slowly pulls the syringe, letting the liquid wash in. The child watches as it’s administered in the old woman’s white and saggy behind. The old woman is grateful and tells the doctor so. She says a word to the child, and the child smiles appropriately.
Then the doctor and child get up and the old woman lets them out the front door, shutting herself in the darkness with only that small beam of light to keep her company. The child hopes that the old woman will be okay. Her Dad reassures her that she will be fine.

No sooner did I blog about not being published than I was in fact, published!

I didn’t even noticed the email from Existere Journal of Arts & Literature that was buried in my inbox. It was only when I was on the telephone with a friend of mine that I saw it and with an audience right at the other end of my iphone, I read the whole email to her and screamed out “Oh my God, I’m finally published!”

After that, I called my best friend Alanna to tell her that the first story of mine to be accepted was the one about her and I sucking the juice out of her Mum’s canned fruit when we were teenagers! Image me ever thinking that one day our basement antics would be in print for all to see.

No worries about being Adel Marmalade anymore. Not that I was worried or anything.


After six diplomas over the course of my adult life, I am finally back, yet again, this time to get a degree in Creative Writing. It will literally take until I retire – seven to nine years from now – to finish. I am doing this part time while working full time as a trainer and technical writer (if you want the creativity sucked right out of you, just concentrate on some technical writing), trying to finish my manuscript, submit short stories for publication, be responsible for a mother in a care facility with severe Alzheimer’s, and try to maintain a relationship with my partner Mack. What order in which these starring roles are my in life varies from day to day.

My first class went well. The Prof was easy to understand and had some inventive styles of teaching Philosophy, relating the text to current day examples. I’m the oldest by 25 or 30 years. I could be their grandmother – albeit a hillbilly grandmother as I and my daughter (or daughter-in-law) would have had to be 15 years old when we bore a child.

With this age difference, there are many adult traits I have acquired since being 18 or 19 years old. Namely, I show up on time for class, ready to listen and work. So that’s why I spent several days beforehand studying the readings that were posted online.

Everyone else showed up with an empty binder (I printed out the notes online to read several times). One woman came in, found a seat, and slammed her head down on the desk until the Prof arrived. No one spoke to each other. Three others were late by a half an hour and about eight people didn’t even show up.

In my over-zealousness I ended up buying the wrong text book – due to being old and over-prepared – but it appears that I have until the end of the month to return it.

The Prof – he told us he is old enough to remember all three times the Canucks made it to the Stanley cup, which means he was likely eight years old in 1982 – asked us to introduce ourselves and tell the class what program we’re in, why we chose Philosophy, and one thing about ourselves.

Most kids had no trouble saying that they were in the Criminology program and were taking Philosophy because it was the last course available. But when it came to divulging something about themselves, most sat in silence. Eventually, they eked out an “I swim or “I have an older sister”. One young girl (I do say girl because I think she’s likely menstruating, but I can’t be sure) who was very slim said, “Food. I like food.” I looked around the room smiling, trying to catch someone’s eye and forgot there weren’t any other adults in the classroom.

The Prof, obviously used to young people, replied, “Oh that’s nice, what kind of food do you like?”

The young woman proudly said, “Sushi,” which, of course, is a real stretch here in Vancouver.

I, however, waxed poetic about myself, giving several tidbits such as wanting to take this course because it was as different from my job that I could think of, and that I host a reading series and if anyone wanted to read, feel free to come and see me (no takers so far).

I did chat with a few of them and they’re really, well, young and cute. One woman was brave enough to sit next to me and we have good chats about her other courses, the mid-terms she is preparing for, and that her printer broke and she couldn’t print out our assignment that was due that day. I told her to email me next time and I would print it out for her. Adult’s printers don’t break.

Another young woman, who sits in front of me, is a good conversationalist, and our latest chat was about shoes. I was happy to hear that this is a topic that transcends all ages. The only difference was that she told her mother that they were on sale for $40 instead of $70 (regularly $170), not anticipating the fact that Mum would find out when the VISA bill came. I, however, can spend anything I want and already know what will show up on my own VISA bill.

I have settled in though and last week as I rushed to the cafeteria during break time to be first in line to get my steeped tea from Tim Horton’s, I looked around at the kids shuffling behind me in their Uggs and hoodies, and thought to myself, “I am Yoda,” to these tikes. That is, if their parents told them about the movie this character is from.

When I was in Langara enrolled in the Media Writing and Communications Program in the late 1990’s, I created a fictitious newsletter called Body Bag; a collection of interviews and events for mystery writers. The feature story was about a 96 year old writer named Adele Marmalade who had been trying to get herself published for 81 years.

“Publishers don’t like me” she said. “They think my writing is too grotesque. But I will not sacrifice my creativity and sell out!”

She began writing mystery stories to entertain her 14 younger brothers and sisters while they sat around the fire on her familyís farm in Saskatchewan.

When interviewed, Adele had just finished her latest novel I can See you out there and I’m going to Kill you, a collection of short stories of various stalkers in small Canadian communities, and was waiting to hear back from Shark Cartilage Publications I never did find out what happened after that.

I, too, have never been published.

Now, I know that my writing is not in the grotesque category, so it has to be something else. Is it not polished enough? Interesting enough? Do I need more experience writing? Or perhaps I just haven’t submitted enough? All of the above I suspect, but last December, when I began to feel dejected, I realized I had only ever sent out four stories. This didn’t even warrant a spreadsheet.

So, instead of continuing to mope, I was infused with energy and submitted stories to various literary magazines, both online and print. I took advantage of sites such as A Place for Writers, kept my eye out for the various emails I received about contests and publications looking for stories. I’ve ordered The Canadian Writers’ Contest Calendar (thanks Jan Redford, for including this in your blog tip on the TWS web site!). I reread The Writer’s Studio Guide to Publishing in Literary Magazines and Entering Contests.

Like many writers, I write because I feel the need to. Is this a way of justifying my not being published? Maybe, but I’ll still be writing no matter what happens.

That and I have many more years until I’m in Adele Marmalade’s position.


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