Thank you Shane Koyczan

There are days
When you’re still 13
Trying to be invisible
Inside the body of
A 35 year old

It’s not allowed
To still hurt
“Get Over It”
“It Doesn’t Matter”
Clearly you’re a freak

Because you can’t
Move on
There are still those
Voices who say
You are Wrong

What you feel
Is incorrect
Let’s fix you
So you fit
In your assigned space

You are You
Why does no one
Tell you that’s OK
That the god you’re
Supposed to believe in

DOESN’T MAKE MISTAKES

You are here
Like the blinking cursor
You are potential
To receive love
To give love

Maybe in the body
Of a 35 year old
With the wounds of
A child
It’s finally ok to say

FUCK YOU

I am who I am

And maybe I
Will never be loved
By another
But I have earned the right
To love myself

Despite your efforts.

Book Review: The Butterfly’s Daughter by Mary Alice Monroe

The Butterfly’s Daughter was one of the books chosen for my book club reads, which always brings me interesting books I might not have picked up myself. This book revolves around Luz, a young woman who has been raised by her grandmother since her mother’s death when Luz was five. Inspired by her grandmother’s love for the monarch butterfly and her desire to go home, Luz takes a road trip from Milwaukee to Mexico in an effort to fulfill her grandmother’s wishes. Along the way she meets a rather (predictably) motley cast of characters she soon calls friends, each adding something of their own to Luz’ trip. As you can expect, Luz learns a lot about herself and her family along the way.

I enjoyed this book, although I didn’t love it. Luz was a great character. She was well balanced. Loving without being clingy, independent, not always sure of what to do next, longing for family but not so willing to forgive and forget. She was not a stereotype. As the main character of the book, Luz’ was the most well served by the writing. None of the rest of the characters were total stereotypes either, but there were parts that seemed a little typical at the very least.

Only one description of a character made me roll my eyes. The author was describing two sisters who had in the past had a difficult relationship. The one she wanted us to take most note of was beautiful and thin etc. etc. etc. The other was described as having “gained a lot of weight after her divorce and her eyes were now gleaming slits in her face with dust-colored smudges beneath.” This struck me as incredibly amateur. There’s nothing wrong with describing the sisters as one beautiful, one not, but at least try to be subtle about it.

That was Monroe’s biggest fault by far, her lack of subtle writing. For example, an insane amount of use of the butterfly as metaphor. Yes, I know. The book is called the Butterfly’s Daughter, I should expect that. But then there’s the fact that the grandmother raises butterflies, Luz’ mother’s name means butterfly in Spanish, their ancestral home in Mexico is a butterfly sanctuary where they all arrive on the day of the dead, Luz meets a butterfly catcher/tagger/whathaveyou on her trip, her other companion had always planned to go to the sanctuaries with her father….it just got to be a bit much, in my opinion.

To be fair, there were several places in the text where I was rather confident I hads predicted the outcome, only to be proven very wrong at the end of the book. And not only was a wrong, but I got the sense that Monroe had placed those bits and pieces of hints in the text to throw off readers like me; readers who are sometimes too convinced of their own ability to see what’s coming. I give kudos to the author for that.

Finally, I would have really liked to know what happened to a Luz’ travel mates after everything. It’s sad we didn’t learn their fate. But maybe Monroe has a sequel planned. If she does, I’d probably read it.

Where’s Willy Wonka When I Need Him?

So I’ve been thinking a lot about imagination this morning.

I was reading this blog post on the winner’s of Janice Hardy’s weekly contest.  This one just happened to be themed on “Story Ideas”.  And while the winners were randomly chosen, they were terrific, and I found myself wishing I had come up with them.

You see, there’s a problem I have with imagination.  I don’t have any. Yes, I consider myself a writer.  I think I’m good at writing.  What I am not good at is generating ideas.  I don’t even care if they’re original ideas – I just want ideas.  Any ideas.

People make assumptions about writers, thinking that we’re always walking around with a million stories in our head.  I’m sure that’s true for some of you. I desperately wish I could get to that place, but for whatever reason I have some sort of block. It has always been a problem. I have books upon books of writing prompts, story starters, “inspiring exercises” and what not, and while I really should use them more often, I still resent having to.  I want to to come up with ideas on my own.

Alas, I have a hard time.  I’m not sure why, as I was quite imaginitive as a child! Regardless, I’ve decided this needs to be one of my goals – developing my imagination.  While it’s good to have a quantitative goal (1000 words a day towards my novel), a qualitative one is good too.

There are some good thoughts at Mind Hacks, and they’re correct in that I need to ask “Why?” more and stop answering myself with “Because”.  Or maybe what I need to work on more specifically is how to generate ideas, I’m not sure.  There’s an issue there, regardless, so if anyone has any tips, feel free to drop them in the comments!

My Problem With Writing

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about how and when I write.  I’ve already covered the ‘why’ of it all. But the simple fact of the matter is, I haven’t done any writing in the past few days.

So I asked myself why that was, and I came up with a list:

1. I am easily distracted

Any sort of emotionally wretched day, week, month and I’m lost.  I am not one of those put-it-all-in-your-writing types, although I certainly wish I was.  No, if I am having a bad day I sit on the couch or sleep a lot.  That’s about it really.  Everything else, including writing, seems like far too much effort.

2. I am indescribably lazy

I don’t say that to create a false sense of modesty.  I really am simply that lazy.  Imagination takes effort, of which I am loathe to dispense.

3. I wait for inspiration to strike

Waiting for the muse to visit means I never, or rarely, get anything substantial written.  I know approaching writing this way is … irrational, at the very least.  I know it’s wrong.  Everyone agrees on one thing, that writing is a craft, it takes work and it takes practice.  You have to put in the time, even when you don’t feel like it.  Take my friend and fellow writer S.M. Carriere.  I know that she aims to write at least 3000 words a day, and very often succeeds.  I *should* do this, but I don’t.

4. The Internet

See #1 on distraction.  But the internet is its own special hell of distraction.  There is so much to do! And often I can pretend that it’s “networking” or “platform building”  HA!

So what is the solution?  I’m not sure.  I think I need to set myself a daily word goal, at least.  Likely not 3,000 words, because I know myself.  If it’s too hard to achieve I won’t do it.  Maybe 1,500.
I also purchased some software to deal with the internet, specifically Freedom and Anti-Social.  Got them both for $20.  Here’s hoping I actually use them.

Unfortunately the laziness problem is typically only solved (for me) in one way.  External accountability.  I am incredibly bad at holding myself accountable to only myself.

If any of you have a solution or suggestions I am very open to hearing any and all!

Canada Day

As it is Canada Day today, and I sit here in my apartment in Ottawa feverishly avoiding all things outside, I thought a blog post about Canadian Writers would be appropriate.  Which of course leads to the inevitable problem — how do we really know who the Canadian authors are?

There are the ultra-famous of course – the Margarets (Atwood and Lawrence), Leonard Cohen, Farley Mowat, Mordecai Richler, Pierre Berton, Michael Ondaatje.   These are the ‘greats’.  Or so they say.  I’ve read something from every one of these authors.  I’d say most Canadians have, if only because our education system forced them to.  I’ve loathed, and loved, and liked in equal measure (for example, I suggest you spare yourself “Beautiful Losers” by Cohen.  The man is a master of poetry, no doubt.  But whatever drugs he was on when he wrote this novel were clearly the good ones).

There are also the ‘middle-weights’, or so I like to deem them.  While the stranger next to you on the bus may not have heard of them, chances are your book-loving, voracious reader friends have.  Douglas Coupland, Vincent Lam, Terry Fallis, Miriam Toews, Yann Martel, are just a few of those names.

While it’s damned near impossible to even imagine becoming one of the greats, achieving something in that interesting middle area is really not so far out of reach.  Just look at Terry Fallis for example.  His debut novel “The Best Laid Plans”  was originally self-published due to lack of publisher interest.  It went on to win the Stephan Leacock Medal in 2008, got picked up by a traditional publisher, and is now being made into a CBC mini-series.

Success like that is every writer’s dream.  Well, it’s mine at least.

So while this post began as a way to pay tribute to the Great Canadian Writers on this lovely Canada Day, it has also given me hope, and motivation.  I can’t get a CBC mini-series if I don’t write something first!