Tag Archives: tragedy

Prepared to grieve

williamshakespeare1The tragedy of the Humboldt hockey players bus crash and the loss of all those sweet boys was and is truly horrible. I feel for parents and friends and other teams and everyone involved. Especially the driver that survived…images-26

But while this is happening, and we respond by doing things like putting hockey sticks outside doors, wearing team shirts, etc., I can’t help but think that at this moment, we are all prepped for grief, standing on the edge of weeping, hanging onto the unstated hope that the US government and people will not send the world into war.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like living in this constant state of tension, waiting for that deadly tweet from an insane man who doesn’t think the rest of the government has any role. What will keep he-who-shall-not-be-named from setting up a fake situation with Russia or Korea and sending off those “very smart” bombs he is so proud of? Especially if his stock goes down, or that infamous tape is released?

1bvnzs(Aside: his childish hatred of the Democrats is insane. Who does things like pee on a mattress just because the Obamas slept there? What is in this man’s head?)

As a Canadian, I’m not directly involved in the loss of democracy below the border, but it and the hateful rhetoric that allowed the fascist oligarchs to take over is slipping through the permeable membrane between our countries. H-W-M-N-B-N and the GOP have made it okay to promote racism and stupidity and flash anger over rational thought. That’s tempting for anyone who is frustrated by the status quo. Simple sound bytes and lack of discussion are easier, clearer, than complicated explanations and balanced approaches.vx7jcsh



So everyone I speak to seems to have an undercurrent of tension these days. A little high pitched note under their speech, a slight twitch to their eyes. We joke – but there’s a tone under the humour, like things are changing in ways we don’t like to this may be the last time the winter is like this, the spring comes like this, fall slips in like this.


I imagine it felt like this before WW1. I’m reading Barbara Tuchman’s excellent “The Guns of August” about this lead time and it sounds terribly, awfully familiar. People taking offense at nothing, anger over things that are said, a sense of chaos and loss of control. Evil people consolidating power and denying existing governmental rules, backroom deals and the lust for money.

It almost feels like something must happen to let off the tension.

Let’s hope it’s impeachment and not world destruction.


And meanwhile, we watch in the darkness, sensing the storm coming, unable to stop it. We giggle, nervously, clutch at entertainment and the solace of hygge, wrapping ourselves in wooly cocoons. But when something awful happens, we scream out, prepared as we are to weep.

Practicing. Preparing. For the big one?

Thank heavens for the young, the hopeful and perhaps a wee bit ignorant. Everyone says everyone must study history. True. But we must do so without engendering the cynicism many of us have tangled so close to our chests. Because cynicism crushes hope, and only in hope can we achieve any change.




Missing writing…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve been taking a holiday from writing of late. It all started with my knee surgery and recovery – then my life was so focused on pain management (knee replacements are not for the shy of pain, and two at once made it quite an intensive focus for a time) and then the resultant MS flare-up afterwards that I couldn’t think in a straight line. Everything was pointed toward getting my knees better.

I’ve missed writing. I haven’t been able to do it, and it is like a missing tooth, an empty space that my tongue goes to again and again. But trying to pull words out of my head via my increasingly untrustworthy fingers was impossible.

But I long for it. I went to New York City, feasted my eyes on characters who wanted a story, from the sad Italian guard at St. Patrick’s with the too long pants, to the bejewelled lady on the bus who insisted I “must” go to the Frick, to the surly waiter at McSorley’s who shouted “It’s your lucky day!” Everywhere I went, I spoke to people, driving my travel companion mad, no doubt. But everyone had a story, or conjured up stories in my head. Even the sculptures in the Met spoke to me, told me of the lives of the sculptors or the models, murmured tales of strength and suffering.

All inspiring, but my longing for writing hit me when I got back from my trip and ran flat against tragedy. Horrible, gut-wrenching tragedy of a life gone awry, of people damaged beyond belief through the great evil of one man and the world around them. World damaging disasters that crushed many in their wake hit, too, wars, poverty, despair.

You see, in a story writ by me, I can create the characters. I can make them flawed and I can make them suffer. I can wreak revenge. I can offer hope. For better or worse, my characters often misbehave and I have to adjust the story to fit that bit of personality or experience they kept hidden from me. But overall, if I find the situation unbearable, I can “bearable” it. I can add heroism in tales of darkness. Or I can toss the story in a bin, let it go without a backward glance.

In life, though, we have no control over the narrative. We watch other’s stories, feel their pain, are inadequate to the task of changing anything. We can rewrite our own story, yes, but bits of the past are left sticking out like burrs or sticky left-over pieces of chewed gum  clinging to our hair. We toss our heads in the breeze, feeling our thoughts blow away, only to find our hands are enwebbed in our hair, trapped.

George Grey Barnard Je sens deux hommes en moi

George Grey Barnard
Je sens deux hommes en moi

So when I meet tragedy (and oh golly there’s a lot of it these days), I yearn for the comfort and safety of the page, where I can step safely into a pretend world, either by reading it or writing it. That world can be stopped as easily as closing the computer or shutting the cover of the book. Would that we could stop real tragedies so easily.

Pitching the publishers at Word on the Street

I understand there were books for sale at WOTS Halifax this weekend. Readings by authors. Fun times with little kids and one of my favourite kid’s authors, Sheree Fitch. All sorts of good stuff.

I didn’t see any of that.

I was too busy having nervous apoplexy about my upcoming three minutes on the “Pitch the Publisher” stage. Three publishers, an MC, three minutes and then feedback a la American Idol or Dragon’s Den. Kind of scary. Plus I’d spent the previous few days typing like a hyperactive gerbil to get my “packages” together – a cover letter, a synopsis, an outline, a sample chapter. And, truth be told, I was finishing the novel. I had spent several days gradually losing my mind; my dear Chutney had taken to throwing his play toys for himself; and some poor guy I know only by email and phone heard way too much from me. I even corresponded with a good friend from the past, asking him about things I really shouldn’t have. I needed some background for the novel, which is about identity theft and identity change and involves a violent pedophile and other such charming things. (My friend, incidentally, is not a violent pedophile. Just wanted to clear that up.)

So, bearing this cheerful bundle of strife and suspense, in I trot to the pitching session. Encouragingly, the three publishers all make certain to mention that they “don’t accept ‘genre’ fiction”. There is an audible sneer in their tone. Fair enough. Unfortunately I’m here to pitch genre fiction, as is almost everyone else in the room. Interestingly, there doesn’t seem to be an Atlantic publisher that accepts genre fiction. Sad, that, as genre fiction has been known to sell a few books here and there. Well, not here. According to a reliable source, the top book in the Maritimes is “The great big book of Sudoku”. I weep. But then, maybe people are just looking for a ripping yarn. Like mine. Ha.

A woman next to me is just here to watch. She has a book about a dog – a Nova Scotian dog. She only wants it published in Nova Scotia. She tells me she can’t envision it being published by anyone else. I imagine she is not looking to sell worldwide rights.

I love these writers who have such demands for their work. Heck, I just want to see mine in print, thanks, and preferably sell a few hundred copies. I’m not proud! Take me, I beg, and I’ll change anything you like. I’ll rewrite it from the start, I’ll change all the characters, I’ll even include Jesus if it’ll help (though perhaps not in the particular story I pitched). I’ll make dogs talk and pussycats type. Just love my writing and take me, take me.

I did love the publishers on the panel, though. They listened so politely to our variously good or not so good pitches. They gave excellent, concrete advice, and were supportive and kind in the after melee. The moderator was excellent, too, funny, capable of tying things up nicely, and yet making things interesting all the time. It was, overall, a great experience, though I don’t think I persuaded any of them to love me.

The other thing that I noticed is that there are a lot of women and young kids writing horrific novels of abuse. The mind boggles, yes it does. Do we all have incidents of abuse to purge or something? Or is that just what we are used to reading?

As for me, it was all pretty grim. The only break from the “woman whose parents died horrifically and who is abused by her partner” and the “kid who grows up orphaned and unloved” was a pitch by a graphic novelist that made everyone laugh. It occurred to me that that’s what I want to do. I live for making people laugh.

So goodbye horrible characters (well, almost, I do have a serial murderer I’m writing about at the moment but he’s a sympathetic murderer)(yeah, I know, but wait. You’ll see what I mean). It’s off to ha ha land from here on in. We need some more laughs these days.