Blogging: Or, How I got into This Craziness

I have always been an avid journaller. Since the time I could hold a pen and form words, I kept a journal – well, mostly, but we’ll get to that. I remember in elementary school, grade 2 or 3 having to keep a daily journal and I loved it. Looooooooooved it beyond words. Not just the act of writing, or of recording my day, but the feel of pen to paper, and especially the fresh, new, first page of a blank notebook. It was my childish ecstasy. So much so that in grade 2 – or was it grade 1? – I became a little thief and started stealing blank notebooks out of the supply cupboard at the back of the classroom.

I feel like journalling was a large part of the elementary school curriculum back in the day, now that I think about it. Like they couldn’t figure out how else to get us to write, lol. That certainly wasn’t an issue for me, of course. I wrote like someone might take it away from me. Especially when we started to get into the age of 12-13-14 where things started getting slightly more personal and we started responding to the things that we read and encountered around us. I think our teacher called it a “Response Journal”, and man, I had a lot of things I wanted to respond to!

This particular teacher gave me my first journal. It was really hideous and not me, now that I think of it. Puffy and pink with teddy bears on it. But man, did I love that notebook. I had never even considered the fact that something like that could exist, let alone that anyone would *buy me one*. And that’s really, truly where the journalling thing started for me. I think I still have that notebook somewhere. It’s pretty damn cringe-worthy, as you I’m sure you can imagine. The weird shit that I was obsessed with at the time would have been enough fodder for several psychologists.

It certainly was apparently concerning enough that my mother read this first, fledgeling journal. And even though she’s gone I can hear her voice in my head protesting, but yes, she very much did read it. Years later she would tell me it was because she was “worried” that I’d snap and destroy the school like one of the Columbine killers. Yes, this is what she said to me at the time of that particular tragedy. Thanks ever so, Mom!

Not that her reading the journal totally stopped me. I persisted for a while but in code. I made up an entire alphabet and proceeded to write in only that alphabet. But you can imagine how tiring that got, and for the most part, I stopped journalling altogether, concentrating my teen angst on poetry (Oh, the angsty poetry my friends!). At least until I got to university. Then I filled notebooks upon notebooks upon notebooks with the story of my Coming Out and Falling In Love. Yep. SO MANY NOTEBOOKS.

All that to say, I kept all sorts of journals over the years. And then I found the world of online journaling. First, through the esteemed folks at Diaryland. I opened an account with them in the summer of 2001 (!!) By December 2001 I had started to build some journalling over at Livejournal, where, believe it or not, I have 10 years of writing still. I quit updating LiveJournal in December of 2011, almost 10 years to the day I started.

Over time I’ve also had my own domain names, most of which are thankfully banished to the farther depths of my memory. I think this one is here to stay, though. Do you journal? How so? Tell me about it in the comments and be entered to win a $50 Chapters gift card. Only one more day to go! Winner will be chosen soon!

To Learn

I don’t have a lot of real life skills. No, no, that’s not a cry for pity, or for anyone to comment that I do have skills. I simply mean that most of my skillset is only applicable to my career. There’s only so much one can do with briefing notes and strategic plans, you know? And yes, of course there is writing, something I do consider myself skilled at, but there are other things I want to learn to do.
I want to learn to paint with watercolours. Now, I’ve been working on this for some time, practicing, getting used to the colours and how they look together. So learning this skill is not out of the question. It will just take more time and more practice. What I really need to do is get into the habit of practicing every day, as much as possible. I do love just playing around with paint.

This makes me realize that I also want to learn to paint with acrylics. Acrylics are much less forgiving than watercolours that much I know. I haven’t practiced with acrylics nearly as often as I have with watercolours, that’s for sure. I need to do more of that. Perhaps make it part of my daily art practice.

I also want to learn to sketch. I know, more art stuff. I’m definitely establishing a theme here. What can I say? I’m rediscovering my artsy side. Sketching I’ve done almost none of. I desperately need to practice this particular skill if I’m going to get anywhere with it. I bought myself a set of sketching pencils not too long ago, but I haven’t really used them yet. I should, who knows what the
future brings. There’s not always the time you think there is to get things done.

I would like to learn to sew. At least enough that I can hem my own pants. Apparently, sewing tools for the visually impaired have improved since my grade 8 Home Ec class so there may be hope yet.

I’d like to learn to code. Not so I can do anything with it, just so that I have a better understanding. I used to be able to do HTML, but then CSS came along and everything got too complicated. I even tried downloading a coding game for kids on my iphone. I gave up on it too quickly I think. Maybe I’ll try again sometime soon. I’m sure there’s something on skillshare I can watch more of.

I want to learn photography. I’m decent enough at it for an amateur, and of course, that’s all I ever plan to be, an amateur. But I’d really like to improve my skills so I can take better photos. I have a lot (A LOT) of classes saved on skillshare that should help me really learn the fundamentals. I just have to sit my ass down and take them and then practice.

Apparently, I have to practice a lot of things.

What do you want to learn? Tell me in the comments and qualify to win a $50 Chapters gift card!

Who I Follow on Twitter

So I’ve had a twitter account since…..July 2008 apparently.  Huh. I had no idea I’d been on twitter for nine years. Crazy.  Anyway, in that time I have accumulated quite the list of accounts that I follow. 417, or so my profile says.  Here are some of the ones I’d like to highlight.

 

  • Chuck Wendig: Wendig is the author of several books, and he blogs about writing over at terrible minds. I like his wit and what he has to say both about writing and about the world.
  • Margaret Atwood: because she’s Margaret Atwood.
  • Christopher Jackson: former George Washington in Broadway’s Hamilton, I follow him because I have a giant crush on the man.
  • Women in Canada: Because I am one of them.
  • Bitch Media: Who doesn’t love “a feminist response to pop culture”?
  • 2017Ottawa: Because 2017 is Canada’s 150th birthday and Ottawa is the place to be.
  • Lowertown Ottawa: It’s where I live!
  • National Gallery of Canada: I have a membership to the Gallery and it’s always inspiring to go there.
  • Amanda Jette Knox: An Ottawa local, mom, and trans activist.
  • Barley’s Angels Ottawa: Women in Ottawa who love beer.  I would be one of those
  • Can*Con: A fabulous speculative fiction convention here in town.
  • Ottawa Senators: My favourite hockey team.
  • 49th shelf: Helping you find your next Canadian read.

Who do you follow on twitter? Let me know in the comments!

Review: Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien

So back in October, I was taking a writing course at the University of Ottawa.  As part of that course, we had the opportunity to meet with the university’s writer-in-residence, Madeleine Thien.  If you don’t recognize that name, you clearly don’t pay too close attention to the Canadian fiction scene, because Thien won both the Governor General’s Award and the Giller Prize for her book Do Not Say We Have Nothing. Given the chance to meet her, hear her read and ask her questions, I immediately went to pick up the book (well, but the ebook on my kobo) after class.

It took me until last week to read, which, at 500 pages I give myself a break on.  Do Not Say We Have Nothing (DNSWHN for short) “takes us inside an extended family in China, showing us the lives of two successive generations–those who lived through Mao’s Cultural Revolution in the mid-twentieth century; and the children of the survivors, who became the students protesting in Tiananmen Square in 1989, in one of the most important political moments of the past century” [Goodreads description].

Thien is a breathtaking writer, I will say that first.  Her way with prose is almost poetic, and there are music and poetry as a major theme throughout the book. I will admit that it took me some time to get into the characters that go through the Cultural Revolution portion of the story.  As a reader, it took me around the first 100 pages or so to really start caring about the characters.  This seems to be a common refrain in the reviews I’ve read on Goodreads, so it’s nice to know I’m not alone in that.

But eventually I came to love Ai-ming, Sparrow, Zhuli, Marie, Kai and the others. I read every page eagerly, wanting to know what became of everyone.  Thien masterfully crafts the characters and twines the stories together in such a subtle way that I didn’t even clue in to the identity of Marie’s father until the middle of the book.  That definitely made him more interesting.

This is not always, or even generally, a very happy book.  But it is an amazing feat of storytelling and one that I gave 5 out of 5 stars to, something that I rarely do. Highly recommend it.

February

So today is the first day of February, thankfully the shortest month of the year. For most of my life I’ve hated February. It’s cold, dark, there are no long weekends (I don’t get Family Day off – thanks federal government!), and I just want to hibernate. But recently I’ve started taking my own advice and have really been looking around me at all my awesome city has to offer, and this is what I’m looking forward to in February.

First there is Winterlude. A festival that takes place over three weekends in February, Winterlude is a celebration of – you guessed it! – all things winter. Some of the things I plan on doing there are:

  • Checking out the ice sculptures – these are always gorgeous, and carvers from all over the world come to take part in the competitions.
  • The Winterlude kick-off party in Confederation Park
  • Epic. Arctic. Torngat Mountains – A photo exhibit of the Torngat Mountains
  • Unikkaaqtuarniq: Stories from the North – A series of short films about the Arctic and the Inuit
  • Creative Weekends at city hall
  • Winterlude’s Sub-Zero Concert Series – David Usher

So that’s Winterlude! There’s also FeBREWary, put on by Beau’s Brewery – “A five-week midwinter celebration of all things craft-brewed and tasty features a brand-new Beau’s beer released every week” is totally up my alley. I’ll be trying to get to as many Barley’s Angels events as possible and I will be heading out to the brewery itself on the 18th to do a tour, have some food and drink some beer!

Also beer related is Dominion City’s tap takeover at Local Landsdowne on February 19th.

On the 22nd is Yorkie night at WAG café, and I’m hoping to take Bug so she can socialize with other Yorkies! I am sadly really looking forward to this.

And finally on Sunday the 26th I have my book club, which is always fun and something to look forward to!

What are you doing this month? Comment and let me know and you’ll be entered to win a $50 Chapters gift card!