On the Cusp of Conference Time!

You might have noticed (or maybe not … it doesn’t matter) that references to writing in this space have been getting rather sporadic. I have to admit my enthusiasm has been, too. Oh, I’ve been writing, but it’s routine, uninspired stuff, interspersed with editing.


I think that’s why I’m so excited about the upcoming Surrey Conference. It’s not a giddy kind of excitement this time, but more of a desperation type — the feeling I’d probably get if I were hanging by fingernails to the edge of a cliff and discovered someone above me holding out a rescuing hand. An oh-thank-goodness feeling.

I love this conference and I’m counting on it for an infusion of inspiration. Every one I’ve attended (and this will be my seventh) has never failed to send me away rejuvenated, ready to dive back into my writing project du jour.

Advance registration closes soon — next Friday, the 16th — unless they sell out before then, which is a good possibility. This is a very popular conference, which is why my daughter, Shari and I always register on the very first day. There’s that, and also the opportunity to get first dibs on appointments with the agents, editors and/or authors of our choice.

So, it’s coming, and I know my enthusiasm is going to be building as the days pass and the best conference weekend ever finally arrives.

Is there a conference in your future? What are your go-to resources when you need to revitalize your writing?

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Talking About Aging

This is the fourth year in a row that my friend Diana Trautwein has taken up October’s 31 Day Writing Challenge. She says, “First was 31 Days in Which I Am Being Saved by Beauty (2012), then there were 31 Days of Giving Permission (2013), and last year, it was 31 Days of Looking for the Little.


This year the theme is 31 Days of Aging Gracefully. I haven’t joined her in the writing, but I delight in reading her words. Diana is a gracious lady, full of wisdom and deep faith. She is also a gifted communicator.

Signature-Headshot-Left-2225x270If you read the Bio on her blog, you’ll discover that for over twenty years she was a stay-at-home mom, then owned a small floral business for seven years. In mid-life she went to seminary, answered a call to pastoral ministry, and finally retired at the end of 2010 after seventeen years in two churches. At present she is a certified spiritual director and writer.

She says she’s trying to be a better writer, “to tell the stories God has written in [her] life.” I don’t know how much better she can get. She already writes with honesty and a clarity that sometimes leaves me breathless. For anyone facing or contemplating increasing age (and isn’t that all of us?), I highly recommend bookmarking Diana’s blog, Just Wondering, and following her October daily entries as she shares her very personal reflections on this sensitive topic.


Diana says, “This is a year of facing into reality for me. I turned 70 in January, I landed in the hospital in February and again, at the end of April. I traveled to Kauai in July with our entire clan to celebrate FIFTY years of marriage, and in August, my husband and I moved, downsizing after 18 years in a much-loved larger home with a huge yard. Yeah, it was time. It IS time.” [To continue reading, please click the October 1st link:

October 1 — The 31-day Write
October 2 — Living In Gratitude
October 3 — Slowing Down

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Evening Reflection

The evening slips silently into nightfall. Away from the brash city lights, we are cloaked in total darkness until the moon peeks over the hill and scatters ripples of light across the water.

Our summer sanctuary, this — a place of solitude, a place for reflection.




The sun leaves auburn shadows 
There’s purple clouds in sight 
The evening fades down the skyline 
We lose the golden light. 

Purple paints down the horizon
The sun, not putting up a fight
The evening’s gone and this day is done
And now it’s time for night.

[Daniel Thorne]


“The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
where morning dawns, where evening fades,
you call forth songs of joy.”

[Psalm 65:8, NIV]

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Weeds and plants in writing



This shot of wild yarrow, taken from the same location as the rainbow in my previous post, captured just one little patch of several around our cabin. Given how many patches there were, I’m surprised none made it into the bouquet of wildflowers picked for me by my granddaughters on my birthday. But you can see there was no lack of other flowers for them to choose from.

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It always amazes me that there are so many different kinds, surviving in some of the harshest locations. Just a couple days ago, my hubby commented that despite it being late September, during his daily walk he counted six different varieties growing in the ditches and gravel shoulders of the road.

I love wildflowers! They’re essentially weeds, but what’s not to love about them? They’re hardy, colourful and prolific.

A few years ago I bought two perennial Yarrow plants from our local nursery. I was sure they would do well in our country-style garden, but I was wrong. They petered out after one season, and I was so disappointed.

During the garden bed rejuvenation project at my daughter’s home earlier this month, one of the few plants doing well was a pink Yarrow, and I assumed she wanted it rescued and transplanted.  Not so. She said it wasn’t a thing of beauty — she considered it to be no better than a weed, flowering sporadically and flopping out over the pathway.


I would happily have salvaged it to bring home to my own garden, but we decided that once it was dug out, it wouldn’t likely stay alive for two more weeks in the summer heat and survive being transported in the back of our truck for 800+ kilometres. ::sigh:: So it ended up on the compost heap. It might have been a case of one person’s trash being another person’s treasure, but it didn’t work out.

Not only is there truth in that proverb, it’s also applicable to our writing. What one person deems a well written story may well be rejected by another. Differing opinions don’t change its quality, but might well determine its destination. When faced by endless roadblocks, sometimes it’s worth considering if it might be time to change direction.

Have you ever taken a new direction with your writing? How did it work out? 

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This beautiful rainbow became visible from the cabin one day this past August. It’s only the second one we’ve seen there in the many decades since we began going.

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Rainbows always used to make me think of God’s promise — the one to Noah and his family in Genesis:

“Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth.  I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” *

In more recent years rainbows have become a symbol of the Gay Pride movement. I was curious as to why, so did a bit of research.

According to an article in the Washington Post, “Gilbert Baker, an artist and drag queen, first created the Rainbow Flag in 1978…. Baker’s rainbow flag actually originally had eight colors — hot pink, red, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, indigo/blue and violet — but it gradually lost its stripes until it became the six-color version most commonly used today. Each of the colors has its own significance, he says: hot pink for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, turquoise for art, indigo for harmony and violet for spirit.”

Earlier the movement had been represented by a pink triangle, but Baker says he saw a flag “as a more powerful symbol than a seal or a sign, since it is flown to represent a nation, people or country. ‘We are a people, a tribe if you will. And flags are about proclaiming power, so it’s very appropriate’.”

So, now I know the reason for its choice. But these days when I see a rainbow, I think first of Gay Pride, and a tiny part of me feels like somehow God’s rainbow has been hijacked for a purpose other than he intended. I suppose it’s irrational, but that makes me a little sad.


* Genesis 9:8-13, NIV

The not-so-Common Loon

At one time it would prickle the back of my neck — an eerie wail from out of the dark somewhere on the lake. Now it’s the first thing I listen for each time we arrive. The call of our Loons.


Our rustic little cabin is situated on a very small unpopulated lake in BC’s Cariboo country. Loons are territorial, and in the sixty-plus years of my summer and autumn visits, only once have I seen more than the one pair on the lake. That was decades ago, and I wondered at the time if the other pair were adults or juveniles, but they were never close enough for a photo, even with my zoom lens. Every year since then there have been just these two, piercing the lake’s solitude with their haunting calls.

Until this summer. One evening early in August I heard the familiar wails and warbles … a clamouring of assorted calls coming from the creek mouth just below our cabin. Thinking there might be a chance of some closer photos, I crept down the path to the shore just in time to see a whole group of loons moving out onto the lake — six of them!

I apologize for the shaky video, but I was shaking myself!

One seemed to be a slightly different colour, but the rest were alike, and I wondered once again if some were juveniles. Once away from the creek mouth, they drifted, circled and flapped, their various tremolo and yodelling sounds suggesting concern over an intruder. Then they slowly paired off and dispersed. I didn’t see them together again.


There’s a mystique associated with loons. They are often featured in First Nations myths and art, and associated with legends of the North. I have a modest collection of them in assorted forms that range from a switch plate cover to candle holders, paintings, and sculptures, including a wood carving. They intrigue me!

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I’ve learned a number of facts about them:

  • they are larger and longer-bodied than a Mallard Duck, but smaller and shorter-necked than a Canada Goose;
  • unlike most avians, they have solid bones rather than hollow ones, which assist them in diving and staying as deep as sixty metres underwater for several minutes;
  • because of the placement of their legs far back on their bodies, they are clumsy on land but efficient in water and air;
  • they require a relatively long distance to gain momentum when taking off, and when landing will skim the surface on their bellies to slow down;
  • during migration they may fly for hundreds of kilometres at up to 120 kilometres per hour;
  • they produce a variety of vocalizations, but there are four main types of calls: the tremolo, the yodel, the wail, and the hoot. Each one communicates a distinct message.

I could get carried away with Loon trivia, but I’d better not. If you’d like to know more, Living Bird Magazine has a good article on loons reprinted on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website: Spirit of the North, the Common Loon. The Cornell site also has additional information.

What does this have to do with my writing? Not much, except perhaps to point out that when doing research for a story, I need to put boundaries on the time I spend doing it! Interesting tidbits can lead to more and more online exploration, until I’ve spent too many hours and collected far more information than I need.

How about you? Are you a disciplined researcher, or do you sometimes get lost in the collection of data, too?


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(Judging by the grey bill, a juvenile Common Loon … I think!)

I have miles to go…


(Consider clicking on photos for a larger view.)

In round numbers, we drove about 500 miles on a weekend in mid-July, then 600 more on a round trip to our Cariboo cabin in early August, and another 1000 to the Kootenays and back in the past couple weeks. I am always awestruck by the seemingly endless miles of wilderness in our province, and how long it takes to get anywhere.


Although he was speaking of a winter landscape, Robert Frost said it well:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep, 
And miles to go before I sleep.
It takes time and effort to travel any major distance, whether it’s a journey by car or by pen. Wherever we’re going, we must stay the course or we’ll never reach our destination.
A novel of 90,000 words may take one writer only a few weeks, and another, several years. The speed doesn’t matter as much as the consistency of effort. (There’s a lesson for all of us in the story of the tortoise and the hare.)
As mentioned in my previous post, I abandoned the journey on a short story this month, not so much because I wasn’t enjoying the writing, but more because the effort lacked purpose. Not to say I won’t ever finish the story. One day I might, but I’ll need a better reason than to meet the deadline for a contest of dubious value to me.
I want to feel passion for a story — a yearning to record and share its characters and their message. I want to immerse myself in the creation of words that will transport me into and through their world. A novel-in-progress is beckoning me to put aside less challenging distractions and get back to work.
A journey awaits.
I’m curious. What motivates you to write?
~  ~  ~