Advent II – Live in Peace

Our world sure is a troubled place! Every newscast I saw today featured shots of hatred in action: fighting, killing and destruction.

Today was the second Sunday in Advent, and we began the worship service at my church by lighting the second candle representing Peace. (The first candle last week was for Hope.)

There are lots of platitudes about peaceful living, but they might not mean much to people who are mired in turmoil and war. “Where is God,” they ask, “when good people are hurting?”

All I can answer is, “He’s right beside them, hurting, too.” This world isn’t what God intended, it’s what we’ve made it. People are quick to take potshots at others with their words, their hands and their weapons, and the innocent get caught in the crossfire. It’s painful and sinful, and oh, how God’s heart must ache!

In this season of “Peace and Goodwill towards all people” we see random acts of kindness and generosity all around — goodness is emerging in small doses, if only for a few weeks. Would that we could start a movement that would promote peace year ’round.

Why couldn’t we?

~

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you,
live at peace with everyone.

[Romans 12:18]

Make every effort to live in peace
with everyone and to be holy;
without holiness no one will see the Lord.

[Hebrews 12:14]

~  ~  ~

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Re-entering the Writer’s World (i.e., Post Conference Determination)

This morning’s first rays of sunlight found a gorgeous place to touch down. The one and only Vine Maple on our acreage is visible from the kitchen windows and provided a wonderful first ‘welcome to Tuesday’ sight.


I didn’t notice the colour yesterday. Monday was a grey morning, plus I have to admit my eyes weren’t fully open until much later in the day. I was in reluctant withdrawal mode, recovering from three-and-a-half days at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference.

It’s my annual insanity — a long weekend where I push my introverted and sometimes claustrophobic self aside and venture into a crowd of more than seven hundred writing delegates, presenters, trade show vendors, conference staff and volunteers. Yes, seven hundred! This year’s attendees came from eight Canadian provinces and territories, twenty American states, and from as far away as Switzerland, Australia, Luxembourg and Dubai. There were fifty-eight best-selling authors and industry professionals who offered more than eighty workshops, keynote speeches and special events. Whew!!!

(A workshop on ‘Diagnosing Story Problems’ with Mary Robinette Kowal. That’s my chair in the back row. It makes for a quick escape when claustrophobia kicks in.)

Yes, it can be overwhelming, but I’ve been attending since 2004 and I know what to expect. I don’t find it intimidating anymore. I end up physically exhausted, but I’m always mentally exhilarated. Professional development is the goal; rejuvenation is a byproduct. All that valuable information topped off by mingling with others who know what it’s like to spend a ridiculous amount of time struggling to maneuver the right word from tip of tongue onto page — it’s a heady feeling!

It’s impossible to convey every fabulous detail and benefit of this unparalleled conference. After 2015’s I didn’t try, but instead did a round-up of my comments from previous years, complete with links back to each of them. I can’t say anything that will reverberate any better than what I’ve said in the past, so I think I’ll simply refer you back to that conglomerate post which you’ll find HERE.

During this year’s closing session, however, I had a bit of a revelation . Every year the walls of the Sheraton Guildford Ballroom are covered with conference banners, as seen here to the left — attractive, colourful, boldly proclaiming the conference name and logo. Last year I noticed they had been replaced with new ones, also attractive, colourful, boldly proclaiming the conference name and logo. But now the banners carry a variety of icons, all representative of a writer’s task.

And suddenly I realized they have a personal message for me! The pencils, pen, and typewriter, the hands on a keyboard, and jumble of alphabet letters…they’re all tools on which I must focus in my journey to create stories if I hope to share them one day with readers. Anything else is superfluous…a distraction from the goal.

All weekend I was surrounded by the subliminal message that the goal of the weekend — the hours learning in workshops, listening to keynote speakers, conversing with other writers, agents, and editors, and sharing ideas — is writing. If I don’t return home and delve into my words with renewed inspiration and the desire to produce better stories, the weekend doesn’t serve its ultimate purpose and I’ll have let down all those whose efforts went into hosting it to help me become a better writer.

It’s a great kick in the pants for me. I write most days, but I haven’t been proactive when it comes to finishing revisions and pursuing publication. I’ve been dawdling on the path. Things are about to change around here!

~

How about you? Do you have achievable goals? Are you working your way towards them? How important are they to you?

~

The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark. [Michelangelo]

I’ve always found that anything worth achieving will always have obstacles in the way and you’ve got to have that drive and determination to overcome those obstacles on route to whatever it is that you want to accomplish. [Chuck Norris]

~ ~ ~

 

Is there too much emphasis on ‘diversity’?

The headline exploded on the page. “Lack of diversity leads to cancellation of Minneapolis writing conference.” What??? I read it again, then quickly scanned the accompanying article. It wasn’t just ‘click bait’; apparently twenty-one of the twenty-two speakers booked to discuss writing for children at the Children’s and Young Adult Literature (CYA) Conference  in Minneapolis were white, so it was cancelled.

The lineup of speakers for the Loft Literary Center’s conference on writing for children and young adults was stellar. William Alexander, winner of a National Book Award. Kelly Barnhill, winner of the Newbery Medal. Phyllis Root, author of more than 40 books for children. And 19 others.

Other than Alexander, who is Cuban-American, every writer who agreed to speak was white. And so, just days after announcing it, the Loft in Minneapolis canceled the Oct. 20-21 conference.

“We have set a goal for ourselves to be inclusive and to work toward equity, and we didn’t think the conference would live up to that mission,” Britt Udesen, executive director of the Loft, said Wednesday. “We made a mistake.”

I’m going to get whacked for my reaction — I just know it — but this is the kind of situation that sets my teeth on edge. Being politically correct just for the sake of being politically correct. Making the colour of people’s skin more important than their qualifications for the job. Am I the only one who thinks this is crazy ridiculous?

It stirs the same reaction I had back in 2015 when Prime Minister Trudeau was being petitioned by a group of eighty prominent women (“former politicians, academics, businesswomen and other professionals”) to fill vacancies in Canada’s Senate, not just with women, but…

“To achieve gender equality as soon as possible, the twenty-two current vacancies should be filled by women from diverse backgrounds, including Indigenous women, women from minority linguistic, racial and ethnic communities, and others, consistent with the Senate’s role in minority representation.”

According to the 2016 census, Canadian women slightly outnumber men — there are one hundred women for every ninety-seven men, “a figure that has held relatively steady over fifteen years, based on data from Statistics Canada.” Women want to be equally represented in more than population statistics. I get that. Women have seen outrageous discrimination in our world and it’s important to address that kind of injustice.

Stats Can also says, “One out of five people in Canada’s population is foreign-born.” *

“Canada is a multicultural society whose ethnocultural make-up has been shaped over time by immigrants and their descendents…By 2031, if current demographic trends continue, 47% of the second generation (the Canadian-born children of immigrants) will belong to a visible minority group, nearly double the proportion of 24% in 2006.”

So yes, that’s something else to be considered, here and elsewhere, as we strive to be an inclusive society. But must we resort to reverse discrimination to achieve it?

When it comes to the CYA Conference, I think there’s more behind the cancellation than the lack of diversity on the panel.  Apparently there had been “dwindling interest in the event, which has been held at least every other year since 2003. Only thirteen people had registered for this year’s conference.” We’re told…

The Loft had invited more than ten writers of color to speak and expected a few “to come through at the last minute, “and then they didn’t,” Udesen said. “It’s MEA [teachers’ conference] weekend, so a lot of local writers were unavailable, or a lot of them had just recently taught with us and they thought it would be repetitive.”

Knowing how far in advance the planning happens for my favourite Canadian writers’ conference (the Surrey International Writers’ Conference), I’d say poor planning might have had as much or maybe even more to do with the cancellation of the CYA Conference than the lack of diversity on its panel. But that does nothing to alleviate my frustration at the reasons given.

When the colour of people’s skin, their racial origins and gender are considered first, before their qualifications for a task, we’ve lost our rationality. We’ve become extremists. IMO that can’t end well.

~

*Immigration and Ethnocultural Diversity in Canada

Fire!!!

Nothing speeds up the heart rate like hearing someone shout, “Fire”! It instantly generates visions of an out-of-control blaze, and right now there are several of them burning in our province.

Forest fires aren’t anything new here. Every summer lightning and human carelessness cause many hectares of land, trees and property to be destroyed. There are currently 167 wildfires burning in British Columbia. Since April 1, 2017, there have been a total of 616 wildfires in the province that have burned a total of 114,929 hectares.* It’s tragic, but it happens. It never seems personal until suddenly it is.

As of this morning, there are 39 evacuation orders and 24 evacuation alerts in place due to wildfires. Approximately 16,250 people are affected by the evacuation orders, the majority of them in BC’s Cariboo and Chilcotin areas. Nine sections of provincial highways are either fully or partially closed.*

Our off-the-beaten-path little Cariboo cabin is on the fringe of an evacuation alert which itself is behind the boundaries of an evacuation order and road closure. There’s no way to get to it now, and there’s nothing we can do to protect it, even if we could. We can only hope the winds won’t drive flames in its direction.

It’s not much of a cabin — more rustic on the inside than its exterior might suggest. It was built by my father and husband from wood cut on the land, slowly finished and furnished by family members over several decades, with used and free materials. It’s not insured because it’s worth nothing, and yet in sentiment and memories it’s worth everything to us.

Adjacent to the cabin and just across the creek is the home my parents built over fifty years ago — the only full time residence on the entire lake. They’ve been gone and their property sold and re-sold multiple times, but our cabin still makes it feel like “our” lake. It’s where we’ve been coming together as generations of a family since I was four years old.

Trees surround both properties, and indeed the whole lake, right down to the water’s edge. If the forest fires reach here, I can’t envision anything stopping them. I can’t envision what this secluded sanctuary would look like. I don’t want to envision it at all.

There are already people who have lost their homes and their livelihood. Several towns were given just ten minutes to evacuate. Businesses had to be abandoned. There are friends in the area whose total homestead and ranch are at risk. Our little cabin is insignificant in the overall picture of this disaster, but still … I can’t help selfishly hoping and praying it won’t be among the casualties.

In the meantime, I wait and write.

~  ~  ~

*Information from BC Wildfire Service

 

Sleepers Begone!

 

Dogs

I bit the bullet today and deleted my Google+ account. It was a sleeper anyway — a place I rarely visited. My blog posts from here were set to automatically show up there as well as on Facebook, but when I chose where to spend my social media time, apart from here, Facebook usually won out, despite some of its features that annoy me.

Every time I checked my Gmail messages I would find some ‘interesting’ yet unknown-to-me man had added me to his Google+ circle. Today it was another military guy supposedly from Iraq. I’m supportive of our military, but don’t appreciate stalkers of any ilk.

Sleeping accounts are risky. Without monitoring, I don’t remember to change passwords, and that’s a security hazard. I don’t see inappropriate comments and spam. It truly is a situation where, excuse the cliche, one shouldn’t ‘let sleeping dogs lie’. Right! So, after considering its lack of usefulness to me, and without a twinge of guilt, I deleted the account.

I spend most of my online time here. Second on the list is Facebook, because that’s where most of my online friends hang out. A distant third is Twitter. I don’t find Twitter conversations particularly satisfying, but I do check my account regularly, albeit not often, because I believe visibility there is a useful tool for writers. But I no longer have to worry about who’s tiptoeing around me on Google+.

No more sleeping dogs! C’mon, guys! On your feet! It’s time for some activity. Let’s go for a walk.

~

Where do you spend the majority of your online time? Do you ‘post and run’, or do you stick around for meaningful conversations? How useful is social media to you?

~  ~  ~

Looking back in history (mine)

HectorB

Hector Borthwick

Across the small lake from our wee cabin in BC’s Cariboo country there is another cabin. That one is made of logs, is still in good shape but now rarely occupied. It’s no longer visible from the water; only a small float at the shoreline marks the path up to it from the lake.

The cabin was built over a two year period between 1935 and 1937 by a tall, lanky bachelor named Hector Borthwick. He built the foundation of rocks and used a saddle-and-notch method to stack the logs. To get the upper logs in place he rolled them up poles leaned against the side of the building. The roofing was fir shakes.

Hector had moved north from the lower mainland in 1933 to join his older brother, George, who was a trapper living on ranch land near ‘our’ lake. In 1935 George decided his children needed better education, and he traded the property with a man from North Vancouver, George Ruddy. The ranch changed hands through the years, and has been owned by the Pogues, Dave Madsen, Roy Wilcox, the Ainsworths, and most recently by Rick and Arlene Booker.

When his brother moved south, Hector took over the trapline and lived with George Ruddy while he built himself a lakeside cabin.

Many years later my parents purchased property on the opposite end of that lake, and somewhere around 1949-1950 Hector helped them build a cabin that for more than a decade we used on summer holidays and annual hunting trips. I remember my mother and I were responsible for stripping the bark off each log before the men levered it into place. At my young age I’m not sure how much help I really was, but I felt important!

IMGP2330

Our original cabin

Hector never married. His only companion for many years was a huge grey cat he called Buster (named after Buster Hamilton, a well known guide in the area). When winter set in Hector would shoot his annual meat supply. He hung the frozen moose or deer carcass in his shed and would saw off slabs for each night’s dinner — a steak for him and an equal-sized steak for Buster. (I did say Buster was huge, didn’t I?)

Hector was a quiet man. He wasn’t overly social, but he became a very good friend to my parents. He often provided a helping hand when they moved permanently to the Cariboo and built a year-round home on the lake. He even allowed himself to be talked into accompanying them on their one and only out-of-the-country vacation — a two week trip to Mexico.

Within the 190 acres of property my parents bought, there was a dilapidated log building that has always been known as Carnegie Hall … its original owner having been a man named Albert Carnegie. It became a convenient storage place for a ragtag collection of discarded items my father could never quite part with because “someday I might need it”. My mother doubted it contained anything of potential value, but it was surprising how often a needed length of rope, a set of chains, or a bit of baling wire was located just when required. Carnegie Hall saved many an hour-long trip out to the closest store. (In those days it was probably more like a two hour trip, each way!)

Carnegie Hall

Carnegie Hall (before it totally collapsed)

I wasn’t around to know either George Ruddy or Albert Carnegie while they lived in the vicinity of our lake, but I  recall stopping with my parents to visit them some years after they had moved away from the isolation and closer to ‘civilization’, although they still lived in a very rustic cabin. My whispered question about why their metal beds had each leg stuck in a coffee tin (or maybe it was a tobacco tin), was shushed until we were on the road again, when it was explained to me that the tins kept mice from climbing the legs onto the beds.

Albert-George

Albert Carnegie and George Ruddy

Hector continued to live at the lake, supplementing his trapping by occasionally going into the community of Forest Grove and helping with haying. That earned him $1.00 a day plus his board. He became a licensed big game guide in 1944, at a time when it paid a whopping $10.00 a day, with horses provided by the Forest Grove Lodge who made the arrangements with clients. In 1951 he also went to work as a faller, which earned him about $1.50 – $1.75 per hour, but after five years he returned to trapping and guiding, until 1963.

That’s when he became concerned about the impact of logging on the environment, and also reached the point where killing animals no longer felt right. His brother returned to retire on the lake and built a cluster of log buildings, but in 1969 Hector left to work for Cariboo Cedar Products in the town of Exeter. The following year he signed over the trapline to George.

Barely a week before he planned to retire from the Exeter sawmill, Hector suffered a devastating accident, losing portions of all his fingers on both hands. By then my parents had built a triplex on another piece of property they owned on the outskirts of 100 Mile House, and during Hector’s recovery he lived in a cabin on the back of that property. However, it was soon evident that he could no longer cope independently, and he moved to southern Vancouver Island to live out his years in comfort with one of George’s married sons.

In 1984 my husband was asked to officiate at his memorial service.

Hector Walter Borthwick
22 February 1915 – 19 October 1984 

~

A lot of history and many memories have been stored up during the years we have been associated with this tiny sanctuary in the central Cariboo. Someone else owns my parents’ property now, but we’ve retained a few acres of our own — a little parcel across the creek where we’ve built our own cabin — and various branches of our family continue to make new memories for future generations to treasure.

Every so often I think about Hector and wonder if my parents would ever have discovered the out-of-the-way little lake if it hadn’t been for him. (Then again, conversations they had with a resident who happened to own a hardware store in 100 Mile House helped to send them in the right direction, so who knows — but that’s a story for a different blog post!)

~  ~  ~

 

Conference Reflections, Past and Present

SiWC15-Ballroom

(Mealtime in the Sheraton Guildford Ballroom)

The Surrey International Writers’ Conference was, as it always is for me, an incredible weekend. So many wonderful people to meet, informative workshops to attend, and inspirational opportunities to absorb. So many books available to buy (I would have liked one of each but settled on four).

Each time I return home and begin reflecting, I say many of the same things here. Perhaps now would be a good time to look back at a few previous years’ blog excerpts…

2008 — Follow the link to see lots of photos and a not-very-poetic list of  Conference afterthoughts, among which you’ll find:

Tired butts
Feverish note taking
Nerve-wracking interviews
Moments of enlightenment
Incredible presenters
Sumptuous food
Purple tights
Exhilaration
Shock Theater script
Daunting dinner table companions
Glimpses of genius
“Glorious Mud”

2010 — “Even if you leave late nights to the partiers, the pace at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference keeps your brain in perpetual motion. Every year I come home emotionally recharged but physically and mentally exhausted. It takes a couple days before my brain kicks into gear again, and I can begin to digest all the nourishment it’s been fed.”

2012 — From morning’s first light to the latest hours of the night, conference coordinator Kathy Chung, her sidekick kc dyer, and their fellow Board and Committee members were everywhere, sometimes white with exhaustion, but still smiling and making sure everyone was having a good conference experience. I don’t know how they did it all, but I know why. Because they believe in the goal that has been the conference mandate for all twenty years: “To inspire, educate and motivate aspiring and experienced writers alike.”

2013 — A reminder from Jim Hines’ keynote speech:
“There are people out there
who need the stories only YOU can write…
Your voice matters.”

2015 — This was my seventh year (I didn’t begin blogging until after the second) and a highlight was discovering DD Shari Green’s short story, SANDBAGGING, won an Honourable Mention in the writing contest, judged by well-known authors Jack Whyte and Diana Gabaldon. (For anyone interested, her story and the other winning stories are available to read here.)

Back in 2010 Shari won top spot in the Writing for YA category of the contest, so this additional award and recognition of her writing ability was very sweet. Of course there was a tiny bit of celebration. Very sedate. Mine was with a decorous glass of Chardonnay; I think Shari’s was a more exotic-sounding Lavender Gimlet!)

Shari-Contest-Award

Now it’s time to harness the renewed enthusiasm and put all the inspiration to work. I have a manuscript I want to read through one last time before sending it out into the world, a critique group to prepare for later this week, and then I’ll start thinking about what I want to work on during November’s upcoming NaNoWriMo writing frenzy.

To use a double negative, there’s never nothing to do when you’re a writer. 🙂

~  ~  ~