Fall Snapshots: Changes

The meteorologist revealed the delightful news yesterday that our October had twenty-two days of rain. Not steady rain, of course, but days that received a measurable amount, along with warmer than average temperatures. Maybe that’s why the usual autumn colour hasn’t materialized around here. Usually by now the garden has shots of scarlet, orange and gold, but this year the changes are more subtle. It would be easy to overlook the beauty.

Fall Travel

(Consider clicking on the photos if you’d like a closer look.)

Fall leaves

My two day NaNoWriMo word total is 2,852… a couple pages short of the desired daily average. Some years I start out gung ho the first few days and rack up great numbers. Not so this year. I’m like the tortoise, slow and plodding. It would be easy to overlook the accomplishment and bemoan those 2,852 words instead of celebrate them.

It’s time to jump up and down, wave my arms and shout, “Yay!!! 2,852 great new words!” Then again, I don’t know how great they are. NaNoWriMo words tend to need a lot of later revision, but at least they’re new words. I’m smiling.

What accomplishment, large or small, makes you smile today?

~  ~  ~


Starting Again


Here we go again! It’s a brand new year and everyone we know seems to be wishing us a Happy New Year and talking about New Year’s Resolutions. How do you feel about them? Personally, I hate them with a passion!

Setting myself up for inevitable failure by promising to adhere to a list of distant goals never seems in my best interest. There’s enough failure in a writer’s world. I don’t need to look for more. A solemn hand-over-the-heart, I-promise-to-do-this resolution feels like a rock around my neck – a very big one – weighing me down. I’m doomed before January 2nd arrives. Far be it from me to dissuade you, of course, if New Year’s Day motivates you.  But I’ll have no solutions to offer if, at the end of January, you’re frustrated by defeat.

I stopped in at K.M. Weiland’s blog recently and found her thinking along the same line:

“How many times have you made a list of resolutions in January,” she says, “only to have misplaced them, forgotten about them, or just plain given up on them before the month was out? This year, instead of making a complete list of writing resolutions for the whole year, try implementing one new resolution every month.”

If you’re determined to have resolutions, that sounds like a fine compromise – a way to be realistic about the desire to have achievable goals and actually reach them. – and she includes a set of twelve writing-related resolutions to help. Do click on over there to read them when you’re done here.

One of the few good things coming out of all the talk about resolutions is the sharing of goals. Once we’ve told someone about ours, there seems to be more of a personal obligation to stick with them. That’s one reason why I don’t usually share mine.

I do have goals, of course, but I’m flexible about them. I intend to do my best to reach them, although it will take more than promises at the beginning of January to get me there.  Recognizing that I’m not in complete control of my destination is important. That’s in God’s hands. Only making a start on the journey is in mine.

I’m not sure why we think a new year is the best time for major re-evaluation and rededication. Any new day works for me. I may change directions or renew my journey often. If I falter today, I’ll start again tomorrow.

So, yes, for now I think I’ll stick to my plan of keeping current goals to myself, but I will share the two verses that I’m adopting for reinforcement as I pursue them:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” [Jeremiah 29:11]

“Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” [Psalm 62:2]

Blessings to all of you as you step into this new year of promise and potential. May it be a year filled with enriching experiences, achievement and rewards.


What does the New Year mean for you?

What’s your approach to making resolutions or setting goals?

~  ~  ~

NOTE: The promised update regarding Jimmy Rankin’s guitar contest has been added to the bottom of the original post, here.

A Unique Form of Memoir


It began with a book received from her son last Christmas… “Blank, recycled paper that is truly beautiful, with a wonderful leather cover and a tie to close it up. I intend to turn it into a treasure, with sketches and words of wisdom.”

Those were the words of my Aunt, recorded on her Nonie Vogue’ Flickr webpage on January 1, 2010, along with a photo of the first page of the book that has become one of three such treasures. Every page is filled with carefully selected quotations, illustrated with her own sketches and watercolours. Once she filled its pages she went in search of a second book. Within two months she had filled it and moved on to a third. From January to October she posted 227 photos from three full books (not just 227 pages, because some photos display two pages at a time). That in itself is a remarkable achievement. These books are indeed treasures.

But she isn’t done yet. Having run short of quotations to showcase, and in between knitting dozens of toques and mittens for the homeless, and tiny baby toques for the hospital’s nursery, she has started a fourth treasure book, this time sharing glimpses of her family history. The unexpected interruption of a three-week hospital stay delayed but hasn’t deterred her progress. She is producing a beautiful and uniquely personal memoir with handwritten anecdotes accompanied by her original art, photographing the pages as she goes, and posting them to share with friends and family on Flickr.


Page about Family Home in Vogler's Cove*

She would probably tell you she isn’t “a real writer”, but memoir is a recognized genre and in my books she is both artist and author. Her determination and commitment to the task set an example for me, and for all writers who all too often procrastinate about recording family information that could be a legacy for future generations.

Oh, and did I mention that she’s well past her 87th birthday? She knows that it’s never too late to start. So what are you waiting for? It can be as detailed as collecting family names, dates and occupations in a notebook, or as simple as recording random memories. Or it could be a beautiful “treasure book”, although I think you’d have to go some to match this one.

Are you interested in genealogy? Have you written a memoir? As my Aunt might say, “If not, why not?”


2008 Birthday Photo*

* All photos “borrowed” from Norma McGuire’s Flickr pages

Achievement means first making a start

This morning I was made aware of how much my attitude limits my achievements. A television interview with athlete and paralympian Rick Hansen left me in awe of the example he sets, not just for the physically handicapped but for everyone. He has already accomplished more in his life than many able-bodied ever will.

While discussing his Man in Motion world tour — when he wheeled himself around the world, 40,000 kilometers through thirty-four countries on four continents — Rick was asked what was the greatest hurdle he encountered. He said it was overcoming inertia and the fear of making a start.

Now, if that doesn’t speak to us at every stage in our writing endeavours, nothing will. Think about

  • stopping to focus and select an idea
  • accepting a schedule or a goal
  • picking a moment to sit down and start writing
  • committing to finishing the manuscript
  • beginning again, whether rewriting or revising
  • searching out appropriate critiquers and/or an editor
  • sending out queries and submissions
  • moving on to new material

What’s your biggest writing hurdle right now? What can (and will) you do to try and overcome it?

What are you going to do while you’re here, with your every breath? — Rick Hansen


Which Award Would You Value Most?

While we will never exceed the United States’ total number of medals, Canada is exulting in its highest-ever number of Olympic gold medals. Gold is the ultimate achievement… or is it?


A special status has been awarded to two Olympic athletes that have been named joint recipients of the Vancouver 2010 Terry Fox Award. Neither of them won gold, but both pushed themselves to excel despite overwhelming circumstances.

Slovenian cross-country skier Petra Majdic and Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette experienced physical and emotional blows immediately before competing. Petra suffered four broken ribs and a punctured lung during her training run but carried on to compete in four races and win a bronze medal. Joannie suffered the sudden loss of her mother and went on to skate for her mother and win a bronze medal.


In the words of Terry Fox’s mother, “This year marks the 30th anniversary of my son’s Marathon of Hope. Watching Petra and Joannie and their determination to carry on and triumph is something Canadians and the world will not forget. They represent the best of us and what we can accomplish ― just like Terry.”


And then there was the Canadian women’s hockey team who won gold and proceeded to blemish the occasion by reveling on the ice with beer, champagne and cigars while still wearing their jerseys and medals and while cameras continued to roll. They played a great hockey game but I think as a Canadian I value what Petra and Joannie did far more.

What do you think?

Just Do It!

As I read various blogs I come across so many comments from people wondering how to do it all – make time in days and nights filled with so much living in order to eek out precious hours for their writing. There are dreams unfulfilled because stories have never made it past the idea stage, or have been started but not finished, or finished but not marketed.


In last Friday’s interview on the NovelJourney blog, author Kristin Bair O’Keeffe was asked what advice she would give aspiring writers.

Her answer:

“The way I look at it, there are two parts to being a writer:

1) the mystery of discovering and writing stories

2) the business of finding homes for and marketing those stories

Keep the two parts separate. Trust the mystery of your story as you’re writing it. Listen to it. Breathe it in. Breathe it out. See it in your dreams. Carry it on your daily walk to the river. Once you’ve finished a story, believe in it. Then do everything you can to find a home for it.”


I like how succinct Kristin’s response is. “Keep the two parts separate.” It doesn’t address the challenges we may face, the doubts or lack of time. It assumes serious writers will overcome these and move on to achieve. It has the ring of Nike’s motto, “Just do it”.  It reminds us that excuses don’t produce books, action does, and the choice to write or not write is ours to make.


No, of course Kristen didn’t actually say any of these things, but that’s what I discovered between the lines. I sensed a no nonsense “just do it” attitude.


Do you think maybe this is the attitude that separates dreamers from achievers?