Someone Like You

He was pissed. He said he wasn’t, but I knew better. When he was pissed he got all quiet and sometimes had to “take a break.” I asked him again, and again he insisted he wasn’t mad, but he did think he’d go downstairs for a bit, you know, to take a break.

When he returned an hour, a whole hour later, I was doing the dishes. He hugged me from behind. I reached up and touched his face with a soapy hand. He kissed my neck, and I started to cry. Then he apologized. Like he needed to apologize when I’d been the one to spend a big chunk of our small savings to pay for a trip he’d never said he wanted to take. I told Mom she’d bought the Adele concert tickets for our Christmas presents, so at least he didn’t have to worry about the price of admission, just all the other stuff.

I’ve waited thirty-seven years to go back, I reminded him.

I know.

And you’ve waited a lifetime to visit the motherland.

This is my motherland.

But England’s your mother’s motherland. So, it’s really your motherland.

It’s not.

You should see where she came from. There’s no telling how much time we have left on this earth.

I’d practiced this argument a hundred times, so it rolled off my tongue cool and easy, like I hadn’t practiced it at all, like it was coming straight from my heart. And it was. With all my heart I wanted to see Adele. Someone who only sort of wanted to see her wouldn’t have dragged their ass out of bed at 4:30 in the morning to be one of twenty-nine million Twitter followers vying for tickets, or been willing to risk their peaceful home life.

We’ll make it a musical tour, I said, coming at him from the we-share-a-love-of-great-music angle. We’ll see Adele, and then we’ll visit every Beatles and Elton John landmark along the way. He loved The Beatles and Elton John.

I don’t get this obsession, he said, as he left the kitchen, presumably for another break.

I didn’t totally understand it either. Sure, Adele’s voice travelled through me, and her lyrics reached into my chest and beat me up and being at the last show of her world tour would be a great I-was-there moment. But while wrapping the homemade card with pictures of us and an airplane and Tower Bridge and Adele and a 48pt Calibri font caption that screamed Merry Christmas Baby on it, I started to wonder what it was really all about. Maybe it was about getting back to London to see if I could find the piece of nineteen-year-old me that I’d left there. If I managed to find that missing piece, I could finally give my husband someone he’d never fully met.

We got through Christmas and everyone telling us we were crazy to travel almost 6,000 kilometres just to see a woman—the same age as our youngest kid—sing pop songs that had nothing to do with baby boomers. I argued love songs and asshole ex-boyfriends were non-generational.

He stayed quiet, quiet with me that is. I heard rumblings he wasn’t so quiet with other people. He really didn’t want to go. Passive aggression. Maybe on some level he did get it. Maybe he just didn’t want to believe Adele’s devastated ballads and fuck-you anthems had anything to do with me.

Our departure date arrived. We checked our bags and were waiting to go through customs when I looked at my phone.

What’s wrong? he asked.

I couldn’t say it out loud. I stared at Adele’s heartfelt and heartbroken social media post. She had to cancel her last two shows, our show, because her voice wouldn’t open up. Doctors said she’d damaged her vocal chords. What did that even mean? Surgery? It had happened before. Worst possible timing they’d said back then. No, this was the worse possible timing.


I thought maybe I had vocal chord damage myself because my lips were moving, but nothing came out. I waved my hand between us and drew in a deep breath.

You’re going to kill me.


Two more full breaths, and my voice opened up.

He reached across and took my hand. You okay?

He wasn’t going to kill me. He was being sweet. Way worse, dude.

I shook my head no, then pressed on a tight smile. I wanted Adele to be okay, but I also wanted to pitch a fit right there in the airport. I didn’t want to be mad, but shit Adele, 6000 kilometers and everyone thinking I’d lost my mind. And I didn’t want to be sad in London—not again.

We arrived at Heathrow, and after a rapid transit ride, rolled our luggage through Paddington Station.

You happy to be back?

I stared at him. Do my feet look like they’re on the ground? I wanted to ask, but my throat had closed up again. Even if I had been able to speak, I wasn’t ready to tell him I’d lived two blocks from this very station, that a guy died in a fire there a month before I moved in, that my room smelled like fresh paint for months, or that many nights I’d laid drunk on the living room floor and let one sad song after another reach into my chest and beat me up. I would tell him, just not yet.

Absolutely, I lied.

We had a few hours to kill before check-in time at our Airbnb. We left the underground, and he suggested we walk. He walked, but I hovered above us. What would a shrink call it? A dissociative state. I needed to get a grip, just that I didn’t know how.

Then we came upon a block-long memorial of flowers and notes and teddy bears.

Oh God, that’s the apartment building that burned two weeks ago, I said. Grenfell Tower.

The road barrier couldn’t hold back the stench of toxic chemicals or palpable grief. People died metres away from where we stood. A perfectly preventable tragedy. Terror weary London jumped in to help the newly homeless. Adele brought donuts to the firefighters and asked everyone at her two not-cancelled concerts to donate £5.

I felt like a voyeur.

Let’s get out of here, I whispered.

Ten minutes later, I spotted a pub. Not a hard thing to do in England, but I thought I recognized this particular pub. I was pretty sure Adele had done an interview there years earlier.

Let’s have a drink, I suggested.

Maybe she’d be there in a hidden corner, sipping cider to fix her damaged throat. Shit, I really needed to stop thinking about Adele. 

He raised an eyebrow. He was the one who usually suggested a drink, but it was hot, and I was thirsty, and the hovering thing was getting old. 

You okay? he asked when we each had a glass of lager.

Too soon.

You don’t want to talk about it?

I’d thought “too soon” implied as much. Images of families trapped inside a burning building had now glommed onto my already discombobulated brain.


He swallowed his drink in two steady swigs, then motioned to a passing server.

Can I get another beer?

I’ll have another as well, I said, matching his dying-of-thirst gulp with my own. Might as well get shitfaced. I wasn’t going to see Adele in London. She’d probably left town.

Three beers later and well on my way to my shitfaced goal, it was still too soon, but that stranglehold on my throat hadn’t eased. I excused myself, and following the Toilet signs, stumbled into a stall.

Easy listening music wafted from overhead speakers. Non-descript, white noise stuff until that descript voice took over. Someone like you.

Too soon, Adele. Way too soon.

On day three, after having visited several tourist spots, he asked if he could see where I’d lived. I’d slept and eaten and felt marginally braver, so we went back to Paddington. Praed Street was crowded, taxis and buses, backpackers and residents churning as one. We travelled two blocks east.

Six weeks before I’d come to Britain on a work exchange program, I’d fallen in love with a beautiful man—my first love. He cried when we said goodbye. Alone in my London flat, I screamed his name into my pillow. I couldn’t have known those would be the best dark days. When I returned home it was to that first love, only he’d stopped being beautiful. Determined to reassemble me into someone he might like better, he set about dismantling everything about me. With perfect aim, his wrecking ball hit its mark.

Here, I said and pointed across the street.

Afternoon light bounced off a swaying sign. Orange planters, overflowing with petunias and peonies, flanked the doorway. The once grey and dull short-term rental flat where I’d disappeared, was now a super-budget hotel with pretty flowers out front. The letterbox I’d prayed to was covered over, and the corner shop—supplier of the paper and envelopes and stamps used to deliver my angst across the ocean—was a Halal restaurant.

Blood rushed from my limbs; my hands tingled like I’d just woken up from a nightmare. Was this what PTSD felt like? My palm landed against the exploding pain in my chest. What kind of crazy did you have to be to believe the world would freezeframe long enough for you to return to the scene of the crime? This kind of crazy, I decided. I grabbed hold of a bus stop pole.

At first it was slivers, sharp and dangerous like shattered glass, then big chunks like melting icebergs. I felt them break away, but he saw them.

With the strength of a superhero and the gentleness of a first-time father, my husband pressed his hand against the small of my back.

I got you.

While pleading for the courage to move away from my first love, I’d also begged for a better someone and here he stood, just as he always had, not passive, not aggressive, but the flesh and blood manifestation on the other side. My someone. 

It had never been about Adele, not really. Her cancelled concert had been the universe’s trick to draw me back to London. Gotcha. This trip had only ever been about a lovesick kid who’d lived two blocks from Paddington Station.

Thirty-seven years, I sighed.

Yup, thirty-seven years, he said, his eyes locked on me.

I hadn’t left anything behind in a foreign land, but rather had let myself stay stuck in a past that never had a future. I’d taken a thirty-seven year long break.

You okay?

I think I’m going to be.


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A Village

Every once in awhile, I think I should, must, no other option available, quit writing. It isn’t that I don’t want to write, it’s that I think I can’t write well enough, basically that I suck. On my really dark days, I worry I’m like one of those contestants on a reality talent show who thinks they’re the next Adele only to be told they’re delusional and shouldn’t leave their day job

Recently, I had one of those days after having submitted my latest work-in-progress to my critique group. When word came down—go back, it’s not good enough—no hyperbole, I was DEVASTATED, CRUSHED, a snivelling, whimpering puddle of pathetic doggy dodo.

Never before have I worked so hard to come up with—what I believed I was hearing—such a shitty piece of writing. How could this be? How could I have gotten it so wrong? I’ve quit my day job to give myself the time and space to create literary masterpieces for GD sake.

Then something wonderful happened. My writer friends rallied around me—more than one carrying a sharp stick happily aimed at my ribcage. Some of the very people who were (politely) telling me they weren’t feeling a connection to my characters and didn’t care to turn the page, were the very people who sent me private emails, called me on the phone, offered to look at my re-writes before I re-submitted and took me out for tea. They helped me realize that when I thought I heard, it’ll NEVER be good enough, you loser, what was really being said was, it’s not good enough YET. Who were these wonderful folks? They were my tribe, my peeps. I’d reached out my hand and they’d pulled me away from the cliff. My tribe believed in me. Maybe I didn’t suck

People, all people, need connection in the same way as they need food and water. Connection is a necessity not a luxury. Every one of us, not just writer, but I think especially writers who by the nature of the beast spend a lot of time in their heads, need to know they aren’t alone. This week, I was reminded I’m part of a village.

So, to those of you who are at the early stages of your writing careers, I would suggest you join a writing group and work on building your own tribe. Step away from your computer and introduce yourself to your village. Because if you’re serious about becoming a writer, you’ll absolutely have a dark-night-of-soul somewhere along your journey, and you’re going to need that village. It’s going to take courage and a spirit of adventure, but I promise you will get back tenfold what you give to your tribe and your village.


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Remembering to be Brave








When the universe whispers, it’s always a good idea to listen. For weeks now, a slight whistling sound has passed by my ears.

Maybe because I’m a writer, the universe’s favourite way of getting my attention is to flash words in front of me. Like the time I was desperate to understand my protagonist and while on my daily walk, wondered what kind of music he might listen to. Moments later, I passed a parked car with a license plate that read CCR. Of course, my baby-boomer protagonist would listen to Creedance Clearwater Rival–CCR.

As with the above example, these flashes aren’t always meant to help me sort through monumental personal issues or to solve world problems, but they are signs letting me know whether I’m on the right, or the wrong path. Add my gut to the choir, and I’m usually able to identify which road is which.

So last Friday, when the same word appeared in two random places (top right hand corner of a placemat I’d bought at a second-hand store, and the sticker my granddaughter had placed on her cheek), I took notice.

The word…COURAGEcourage-tatoo.

Ah, the dropped penny. I’ve been thinking a lot about courage and bravery of late. If you read my post from last week, you’ll recall I mentioned my admiration for the courage I’ve seen the musical phenomena ADELE demonstrate throughout her career and to the courage I’ve seen my own daughter muster every day.

Time to figure out how the world was asking me to be brave and what these two young women could teach me about courage?

The how was easy. I knew where I needed to be brave. As a novelist, I live in a world of pretend, but inside that pretend world a lot of real things happen. I write to explain my world, and in order for my readers to believe anything I say, I have to dig deep. I have to be brave enough to pick up a shovel and pitch rocks and dirt over my shoulder.

Each morning, when I arrive at my laptop and open my latest work-in-progress, I do so knowing some real shit’s going to come up. Some days I’m ready for it, other days, not so much. When things became dark for my current protagonist, things became dark for me. I was slipping into that scary place we all fear.

So how can a singer and my daughter teach me to be brave in my writing?

Think I’ve figured that one out as well. Driving to meet my tribe of writers, an impassioned Adele song blasting from my car stereo, I had a sudden realization. I believe everything Adele sings about because she’s bravely willed herself to relive the pain and sadness in order to write authentic songs about pain and sadness. If I’m to be believed and have any hope of moving my readers, I have to do what all great artists do so fearlessly—I have to drop deep into the emotions I’m depicting. I have to feel them. I’m being asked to give a slice of myself in order to produce my art. But here’s the good news. Once I’ve released it, my usual state of sanity (whatever that may look like) will be returned, and I’ll have produced something of value. Bravery is always rewarded. Sure, I knew all that before, but listening to Adele and watching how she’s returned from her sad and dark places, I’m reminded what artistic courage looks like.

And my kid. That’s an easy one. As I watch her make her way, she teaches me that no matter the challenges life throws my way, I can get up. I can get dressed, and I can face the world with dignity. Lucky me. I have a living, breathing example of courage that I can infuse into my characters whenever they are called on to be brave.

Courage isn’t a one shot deal. It has to be revisited regularly. This week, Adele, my kid, a placemat and a sticker have reminded me it’s time for a courage check in.

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Believe it, Feel It, Receive it



Let’s face it, we’ve all heard it—stay positive, keep the faith, things will turn around. Chances are you’ve rolled your eyes at these ‘Little Mary Sunshine’ people and maybe even, while in the throes of not getting what you deeply desired, considered punching them in the throat. Good for you if you didn’t.

I’m pretty sure I was born a glass half-empty kind of person, but over time, and in a desperate effort to stop having a shit life, I began working on becoming one of those other people, you know the happy people.

When I began to learn about the Power of Positive Thinking and the Law of Attraction, about getting real with what I most wanted, and following the simple (I say simple but we all know they only sound simple) principles of Ask, Believe and Receive, a wondrous thing happened—things began to turn around.

Examples—okay I’ve got a few. Once I was able to imagine my life as a full-time writer, it happened. When the time arrived for my husband and me to leave the city and move to the country, in my mind’s eye I saw what we wanted, and viola, the perfect property became available. And when the ache for a better relationship with my only daughter threatened to consume me, things slowly but steadily became easier between us.

Queue the eye roll. Nope. Not going to do it, cause now you’ve got my attention. Maybe this shit works.

Wait. So, let’s give this one more try. After all, there is one thing I really, really want and see no way in hell that it can happen. For the past nine years, I have had a fan crush on a young artist you may have heard of—only ADELE, the most amazing, badass singer on the planet. As anyone following her 25 Tour will tell you, if you didn’t get tickets within the first ten minutes of them going on sale, or you aren’t rich enough to pay the obscene prices scalpers are asking (think 4 figures for floor seats), you ain’t going. Oh, that can’t be right. I’m going. I know it. I feel it.

To put my dream of going to the concert into context, let’s back this truck up a bit. What is my insane devotion to Adele all about?

Billions of fans around the world are in love with Adele, but I’m not a star struck teenager. I’m a middle-aged woman with children the same age as my superstar crush. Why, beyond the fact that Adele can sing her ass off, do I feel so moved by her music and by her personally? Simple. In my humble opinion, Adele is one of the bravest women around today. She’s an inspiration to anyone who has been gifted with an extraordinary talent and possibly felt frightened by that gift. Adele’s fears and self-proclaimed anxieties are well documented, yet she soldiers through to share her heart-wrenching music and her personality and her wit.

And she’s real. Take her for what she is and what she offers, but don’t think for one second that she’ll let you change any part of her that she doesn’t want to change. She’s not having it. How is that even possible in this world of half-naked performers gyrating on stage props and shaking what their mamas gave them to sell their music? How is it that this non-conformist, gimmick-free performer who wears ball gowns and zero cleavage on stage, can have album sales that eclipse anything seen in decades? Because she’s brave enough to say no and strong enough to know who and what she is.

Then there’s the other reason I love Adele. My kid loves Adele.

My thirty-year-old girl is as beautiful as Adele and has talents in equal measure, but she also has a learning disability and a childhood trauma to live with—each have played a part in wearing down her self-esteem and her self-worth. We all know what can happen to a beautiful girl who doesn’t value herself. Life got mean and our relationship was the first casualty. That was then. Now she’s a single mom, raising a seven-year-old daughter. She struggles financially, but has filled her home with love and she’s made valiant efforts toward repairing our mother/daughter bond. I couldn’t be any prouder of her than I imagine Adele’s mother is of her. Hard work and hard conversations over time have aided the healing process. That, and our shared admiration for Adele.

Back to my quest for concert tickets.

With the summer of ’16 drawing to a close, the four dates for Adele’s Toronto concerts were quickly approaching.  What to do? What to do? Right those Power of Positive Thinking and The Law of Attraction things. I got this. I sat down. I closed my eyes and went about trying to make concert tickets appear. Soon afterward—can’t say how long exactly but not more than a few days later—I was driving and heard a TO radio station was giving away tickets. The way had presented itself. Flipping between fits of glee and fits of crying, I spent the remainder of that day phoning into the station. Honestly, do you know anyone who has successfully won tickets from a radio station? Despite the chronic busy signal sounding in my ear, I refused to believe I would not get through. I believed.

For a day and a half, I waited for the predetermined Adele song to play and feverishly dialled and redialed in hopes of being the 25th caller. Not for one minute did I doubt this was the action required to make my desire come to be. I saw it. I felt it.

And here, my good friends, is the rub.

You can ask and you can even believe, but if you aren’t able to feel what it would be like to have your desire met, you are far, far less likely to achieve your dream.

Between phone calls, I let my imagination run wild. I felt what it would be like to pick up my daughter (who else would I bring?) and for us to drive into the city. What it would feel like to sit in our seats and wait for the concert to begin, to see the lights dim and to hear the music begin, to join the audience in cheering and then to see Adele rise up from the stage floor and belt out her monster hit, Hello. I felt it—the joy, the excitement, the wonder, and my kid beside me.

Guess all that feeling and believing combined with a day of rollercoaster emotions were all in preparation for hearing a ringtone. I was caller 25. My kid and I were going to see Adele!!!!

What had I just done? I asked. I believed. I felt. I received. The universe had realigned itself to fulfill a strong desire. I had done that. If I could make that happen, what else could I make happen? ANYTHING.

The concert is in one week. We have tickets for the second show. Woo-hoo. I’m so excited knowing I’ll be in the same room as someone who is doing what they were meant to do and to be there with my amazing, wonderful, beautiful, brave girl. Thanks universe!!!!



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Dream to Goal to Strategy to Success

The first question everyone asks each New Year is—did you make a resolution?  For many years my answer was always the same—no. Which I’m pretty sure is exactly why I haven’t achieved my dream as quickly as I probably could have.

Back when I was a kid, I told everyone one day I would write (and have published) a book. Well, here I am several decades later still not having finished my book. The problem as I see it is that although I always knew I wanted to write a book, I never really set it as a goal until fairly recently. Once I finally did decide to get serious and map out how I was going to write said book, things did start to fall into place and I felt myself inching closer to making my dream a reality.

  • I worked hard at learning my craft.
  • I surrounded myself with like-minded people and people who had actually written and published a book.
  • I set a writing schedule for myself.


And yet, I still haven’t finished my damn book.

Today I sit here knowing that goal setting and strategy planning are all well and good, but when life tries to derail your perfectly laid plans, you have to revisit, adjust and recommit to your strategies. Sitting back and resting on your laurels isn’t an option—ever.

And you have to get specific.

So, to answer your question—yes I did make a resolution for 2013. (I know you’ll keep me honest and hold me to my word.)

I, Sharon M. Overend, resolve to finish my book within the next six months. (For those of you who are mathematically challenged, that means by June.)



I hear you rolling your eyes.

Ah, but I have a plan.

My strategy is to polish 10,000 words per month. I currently have 33,000 words in what I would call good shape. By July 1st, I intend to start querying agents and/or publishers.

I have no idea whether I will achieve this lofty goal, but I know that not having a plan will mean another year without my backside in a nice chair and my fingers curled around the expensive pen I promised myself I would buy the day I finished my book, whilst an eager group of fans wait in line for me to sign their copy of my soon-to-be bestselling novel.

That’s the plan.

What is your goal for 2013 and how do you plan on reaching it?

In case you need motivation to get busy writing out your goals and strategies for 2013, I’ve included a You Tube video (sorry it looks a bit dated) from Jack Canfield (yeah the Chicken Soup books guy) to kick-start you.


Filed under Writer's blog, Writer's journey, Writing, writing,

The Next Big Thing

Thanks, Heather O’Connor ( for thinking of me and my blog and including us in the game of blog tag.  As part of blog tag, author’s are asked to answer ten questions about their work-in-progress. Very timely, indeed, since I have made it my New Year’s resolution to finish my novel and begin sending it out before year’s end. I particularly enjoyed imagining who would play my characters if/when it is ever made into a movie.

What is your working title of your book?     LOOK OVER YOUR SHOULDER

A mock-up of my novel that I have placed in front of my desk to remind me what I'm there to do.

A mock-up of my novel that I have placed in front of my desk to remind me what I’m there to do.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Look Over Your Shoulder is a story about forgiveness and redemption.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

In 2004 my dear friend, Heidi Stanzel McIssac, was told she needed a bone marrow transplant to beat leukemia that she had battled most of her adult life. Being an only child with her father from Germany and her mother from South Africa, finding a suitable donor was not going to be easy. When a donor was not found within Heidi’s extended family, the search broadened to include media campaigns overseas. Eventually, a donor was located and Heidi received her transplant only to have her body rejected the donor marrow. Heidi passed away on September 16, 2004, leaving behind a thirteen year old daughter and parents who, most likely, will never recovered from their lose.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Heidi’s attempts to educate people about bone marrow transplants and her death made me take a look at my own family. I come from a large, Roman Catholic family. I have three siblings and ten first cousins. My ancestry is a Celtic cocktail of English, Irish and Scottish with a dash of French to add some heat to the mix. I suspect if I were to ever need a transplant, one would be easy enough to find. This got me thinking. What if someone from a large, dysfunctional family required a transplant and the only match available came from the least reliable person in the clan.

What genre does your book fall under? Literary Fiction

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? My hope is to find an agent.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? I was able to finish the first draft of my novel in a year.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Although the stories are different, I would like to think the style I have written Look Over Your Shoulder will remind readers of Jane Hamilton’s – A Map of the World, or Gail Anderson-Dargatz’s – Turtle Valley.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Since no one ever sees the same situation the same way, I thought it would fun to write this story from the point of view of three players—Anne, Burt and Barb.

Everyone looks to Anne, the matriarch, for guidance as they wade through the biggest crisis to ever face their family. Before she can help them, Anne must first confront her feelings of guilt and must make peace with a God she’s convinced has abandoned her.

Burt’s years of self-destructive behaviour have destroyed two marriages, pushed his three sons away and taught his family that he can’t be trusted. He is the last person anyone feels they can count on, and the only match for his sister. Although nervous about the transplant procedure, he comes to see this as an opportunity to redeem himself in the eyes of his family.

Barb, the youngest sibling, seldom thinks of anyone other than herself. When Lizzie’s body begins to reject Burt’s marrow, Barb is faced with the real possibility that she could lose the only person she feels has ever accepted her. Yet, true to form, Barb throws risky distractions between herself and the truth of what life without her closest sister could mean.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Anne – Shirley MacLaine, Burt – Robert Downey Jr, Barb – Julianne Moore.

Thanks again, Heather and tag, you’re it, Kate Arms-Roberts and others who still have to give me permission to use their names.

Kate Arms-Roberts is a Toronto-based writer, though she has hailed from various locations in the U.S. and U.K. before landing in Canada. She blogs at and is currently working on a fantasy novel for teens.


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Looking Back

So here I am almost a year after I wrote my first blog post and I am looking back over 2012.

OMG what a year it has been!

Although I am not able to boast that I have finished my novel, I am proud to say I have ticked off a good number of the goals I set for myself last January. Professionally, I feel in 2012 I stepped ahead several paces. Personally, I will freely admit, it has been a most difficult year.

The first half of 2012, I wrote every day. Some days it was good and more days than not, it wasn’t as good as I would have liked, but I never stopped writing. And I was so very happy. Then as June was finishing off and I was feeling in control of my work and my life—well, as they say—all crap hit the fan and I was asked to once again parent a child. Anyone who has spent time caring for a child will tell you it is the most difficult and most rewarding job you will ever do. I am happy, very, very happy to have had this opportunity, but alas, being a primary caregiver after your own children are grown isn’t the natural order, and consequently, the last six months have been a challenge on several levels.

One of the challenges I faced was in finding both the time and the energy to write. Three months into my new role, life did start to take on a routine and I was able to squeeze an hour of writing here and an hour there, not what I had been managing, but enough to finish off my requirements before receiving a Certificate in Creative Writing from U of T this past November. Unfortunately, my new commitment kept me from my long-standing writing circle and I left the group in October.

It has been a sad year, but it is coming to an end.

Now, as I look ahead to 2013, I am resisting the urge to imagine myself and my novel alone in a rubber dingy, cast out at sea. After all, there is no one pushing me to submit twenty newly edited pages every two weeks. There is no final project requiring me to produce seventy-five polished pages hanging over my head. No agents or publishers are waiting to see my finished manuscript. It is just me, a laptop, and a story that I must tell.

What am I going to do?

I’m going to hug the darling three-year-old I have had the privilege to care for over the past six months. I’m going to take what I can from 2012 and I’m going to make good art.

Then, I’m going to write, damn it.

As always I like to hear your stories. Did you manage to tick off anything on your 2012 TO DO list?

Did you make good art?


Filed under Writer's blog, Writer's journey, writing,

How Did You Know That?

I don’t have an inspirational video or photo to support this post. I looked, but suspect it isn’t something writers are always comfortable talking about. Maybe it’s too weird a concept for even us to fully own¸ but I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that if you’ve been writing long enough it has happened to you.

You’ve written an original scene, maybe even wondered where it came from and then something in your work materializes in your real life. Cue the Twilight Zone soundtrack.

It’s happened to me more than once. Kind of like when you think of someone and then they call you.

People today are more willing to accept that thought is energy and when you are receptive, you are able to pick up that energy. Like you have a butterfly net just as a butterfly is flying past you. So when you think of a specific person it’s entirely probable that is because they are thinking about you.

Okay, I’m buying it so far, but can you explain what is happening when I name a character and soon after meet someone with that name. I’m not talking about your Mikes and Bobs or Sallys and Sues, I mean unusual names, names you don’t hear every day. Do you think I’m picking up the energy of someone’s path about to cross mine? Maybe yes, maybe not. I don’t have the answer.

I had an instructor once who warned her creative writing students to not get freaked out if they wrote something only to have it happen in their life. She suggested by nature writers are observers and people watchers and that often times we observe and pick up things without realizing we are even looking. Recently, a guest speaker at my monthly writers’ breakfast called it her writer’s brain which saw and processed more than her normal brain could ever hope to absorb.

In other words, you may be watching your sister and her husband and not know that you have picked up the subtle signs that he is cheating on her. Soon afterward, your male protagonist has an affair. Then you hear that your brother-in-law is cheating on your sister. The coincidence may weird you out, but in reality your writer’s brain saw the affair and you plopped it down on the page.

To push this point a bit further, I suspect when I am writing and am in the zone that I have slipped into theta brainwaves. (Theta brain waves, measured at 4-7 Hz, are the brain state of REM sleep (dreams), hypnosis, lucid dreaming, and the barely conscious state just before sleeping and just after waking. Theta is the border between the conscious and the subconscious world, and by learning to use a conscious, waking Theta brain wave we can access and influence the powerful subconscious part of ourselves that is normally inaccessible to our waking minds.) It makes sense that when you are in theta that you are able to access the stuff you didn’t know you saw.

So, I still think I might be a bit psychic, but more likely I have a big, fat writer’s brain.

I would love to hear when and where this has happened to you.


Filed under Writer's blog, Writer's journey, Writing

Inserting A New Routine Into An Old Habit

Well, the summer is almost over and as the cooler nights breeze over my sweaty skin (it has been a particularly HOT summer in The Greater Toronto Area), I am feeling hopeful that I may soon return to my beloved writing. After a challenging few months, my life is slowly but surely quieting, or at least approaching what I suspect will be my new normal and I expect to be pumping out regular posts in the near future. In the meantime, I have once again asked my friend, Heidi Croot, to share what she sees as her biggest obstacle in producing the kind of writing she yearns to produce.

Inserting a new routine into an old habit

By: Heidi Croot

As a business writer struggling to find my inner writer’s voice, I seek advice everywhere, from great authors to beginning writers alike. None of them tells me what I want to hear: that one day I will wake, lift my pen, and begin writing—the business mantle miraculously lifted from my shoulders, the creative mantle just as magically applied.

What every one of them does say, dag nab it all, is “write something every day.”

Much as I might wish otherwise, I know that business writing does not count.

Nor does journaling count: not my type of journaling anyway. Like many writers, I keep a journal for whinging and whining about life’s woes, and occasionally celebrating the many blessings in my life. These entries are rough and personal, meant to bleed off the darkness and stay in darkness. They are not meant for honing.

My other journals are even less appropriate: the one I keep to record my exercise workouts, for example. Another to catalogue what I serve guests for dinner, used to inspire future menus and avoid repeating mistakes. Another to corral compelling quotes from books and magazines. Another to capture elusive ideas at night. Another to keep track of conversations with, and activities in aid of, my mother. My copious travel journals. And perhaps the most functional of all, the journal I’ve been opening in Microsoft Office Word every morning for 15 years to record my business activities, and on which I depend to accurately bill my clients each month.

Clearly, I have journals aplenty in my life, just not one that fosters creative writing.

And that’s when it hits me, like a big wet fish across the chops. I have a habit that works. Why not insert a new routine into a decades-old pattern of activities that I’ve proved can meet my needs?

What, I ask myself, if I were to open a second Word file each morning? What if I call it, simply, Creative Writing: September 2012? What if I leave it open on my desktop—obvious, insistent, tantalizing—until I fulfill my promise to “write something every day”? And what if, at the end of each daily offering, I jot ideas to juice the next day, perhaps even craft an opening sentence if I’m feeling creative?

What if I tried that? After all, if it works for my business, why not for me?

Round one is today’s guest entry for my good friend and mentor Sharon and her blog. Tomorrow I begin in earnest.

Heidi Croot is an award-winning business writer who has been connecting the five essential dots of communication for employees, customers and the community for more than 30 years. As principal of Croot Communications, she writes magazine articles, newsletters, brochures, annual reports, speeches, strategic plans, and more.


Filed under Writer's blog, Writer's journey, Writing

Stories In Old Attics

I was the kind of kid who happily sat with my grandmothers (both born in 1913) as they spun  tales of life growing up in Toronto in the twenties, surviving the Great Depression and World War II, becoming newlyweds in the thirties and young mothers in the forties.

With one Irish-Canadian grandmother and one French-Canadian grandmother, I learned my bard skills. I’m so grateful that both women lived into their mid-eighties and by the time they passed, we had clocked hundreds of storytelling hours together. (My first novel, safely stored in the bottom drawer of my desk and sadly not likely to see the light of day, was set in early twentieth century Toronto and loosely based on one grandmother’s life.)

Unfortunately, I know less about my grandfathers and their lives. Although my paternal grandmother was able to tell me where my Canadian born grandfather had lived as a child, his passing at age forty-eight meant I would never hear him tell about servicing in the Canadian Air Force during WWII or anecdotes from his life that only he would know.

My Scottish grandfather was killed in a work-related accident when I was eleven and at the time of his death, he had just begun to see me as a person rather than another noisy kid. One of my last memories of him was of sitting on the front porch and listening as he told me how he left his family’s Highland farm at the age of sixteen in search of a new adventure and of his plans to farm in Saskatchewan, Canada. As luck would have it, his arrival in Saskatchewan coincided with the harsh and unrelenting draught of the Great Depression and his new farmland refused to yield a decent crop. He died before he shared with me why he hadn’t simply packed up and returned to Scotland, but instead found his way back east to Toronto.

After his death, and knowing how we had begun to connect through his stories of the old country, my grandmother took me and my oldest cousin to visit his birthplace; Muir of Ord, Rosshire, Scotland. Every fibre of the romantic storyteller in me tingled the moment I clapped eyes on the centuries old farmhouse where generations of my family had lived, worked and died.

If only those walls could talk!

What foods did my great-grandmothers prepare in their kitchens? How many children were born in the upstairs rooms with the sloped ceilings? What thoughts ran through the men’s minds as they peered out those small windows cut into the roof? What conversations were had around the fireplaces? What good times and what bad times were played out behind the front door? Why had Grandpa left?

This past week, my sister made the pilgrimage to Muir of Ord and shared this picture of the Murchison farmhouse. Tonight, I find myself staring at the photo and am bombarded with the flood of a thousand stories waiting to be told using this farm as my setting.

I’ve asked before, where do you find stories ideas? Lately, I’m finding many of my ideas are coming from settings that pop out at me.

Has a real setting ever offered you a story idea? Do share.


Filed under Writer's blog, Writer's journey, writing,