Today in Editing

I’ve been editing the same chapter for hours, and it’s not even a chapter with a lot of changes.

I’m learning to edit I need to Read Extremely Slowly, so that I can see just what I’ve written, and not the scene behind it that I’m writing about.


One recent morning Ripley left me the following note:

I foresaw the futur last night, mom, you need to get new ring earings.

Someone is going to trade a handheld vacume for your earing and you’ll have to let me clean someone else’s home – Insted of going to shcooll!

So. If anyone wants to trade a hand-held vacuum for (a single?) hoop earring and the cleaning attentions of an eight-year-old, it appears we’re ready for you.


As they grow

My kids are upstairs, beating on each other with light-sabres and pausing for  discussion on how a super-hamster might use his brilliant engineering skills to wield such mighty weaponry. I enjoy listening in – more than I enjoy being told of their stories, to tell truth, because the telling can go on for hours, whereas their performances are part of the charm.

Charm is right. This has been a charmed week in parenting:  I have the resources and understanding of problems that come up; the kids are funny and interesting and full of great plans; we’re laughing together a lot.

Kindergarten: O! What brilliant joy! Tate was a social butterfly waiting to be freed from the cocoon. He flaps around the playground visiting every little group, and thinks they’re all the most awesome people ever born. Plus, he has learned such mighty bits of information such as the recipe for drawing an A:  slant slant across, by the way, and there’s an interpretive dance to go with.

Grade 3 seems pretty skookum too. Ripley’s going to be a Teddy Bear in the school Christmas play – he’s got lines to learn and has been practicing his teddy bear walk, ambling like the Michelin man along the sidewalks home and practicing different possible voices.

He’s also been submitted for a “Gadgets and Gizmos” workshop for the spring, which has lead to a few interesting conversations about possible career futures. So far he’s decided on being a marine biologist engineer who plays the Marimba and is a break dancer.

We talked about ways people liked to work; he thought that maybe IT, where you often don’t know what you’ll be doing or what the solve will be, would be too stressful.  So would writing on spec, when you don’t know if anything will sell. Ripley always likes to know the next step – and I think his self-awareness on this will serve him well.

I am overcome with delight that I get to ride my bike and swim and dance in the livingroom. Everyday, exercise. Man, does that ever make a difference to my mental health! The light is fading – although we have had an uncommon amount of sun, it seems – but even though it’s darker I haven’t had my seasonal downturn of mood. Normally, at the end of October, my hope dwindles; I am overtaken by the heaviness of the sky.

This year, I don’t seem to mind. I can ride through the gray and leaves and rain and my own heart pounding lights me up.

Strapping m’ big girl boots on

Oh, where did October go? Thanksgiving and Hallowe’en, Board meetings, Tinfoilman Triathalons, visiting with friends, overtime.

Busy month.

I’ve been working during this month, writing. A confluence of factors came and gently lifted all my “OMG MUST FIND WORK AND JUSTIFY MY EXISTENCE” panic out of my hands, in mid- to late- September. To whit:

  1. A work-from-home contract started many years back was revived for completion.
  2. Tate’s gradual entry was so very gradual that school wasn’t really in place until the first week of October.
  3. John had much overtime.
  4. John’s job covers our financial needs.
  5. Our daycare space was filled by another.
  6. My brother and sister separately told me to chuck my resume and get to work.
  7. My sister gave me three assignments in short order, all of which stretched me different ways.
  8. A writer friend suggested we have weekly writing dates, which are working very well for both of us.

So every day, I’ve been writing. If people ask what I do, I now say “Writer” – because that’s what I do with my days. Perhaps not so oddly, no one demands I produce a CV, or asks how successful I am in order to prove the phrase. It appears I’ve got room to be a wildly unsuccessful writer – people are  impressed that I’ve written a couple of unpublished novels.

Those novels could be written entirely of run on sentences with pauses for orgasm. It doesn’t matter. It seems that if the publishing world is tricky, just-having-done is enough for the dinner party.

A friend pointed out: “Well, it’s not as if you’re claiming to be a surgeon and removing people’s spleens.” Although frankly, would they ask for my CV? Probably not.

A world of opportunity, y’all.

The term has given me sudden lexical authority; I have been asked a few times whether the word someone’s using is what they mean. This is dangerous. Writing is a different skill than speaking. In speaking, I cock it up regularly. I almost always say ‘Tate’ when I mean ‘Ripley’ – and vice versa, which doesn’t make much sense – and am often reduced to pointing and snapping at objects while trying to find their nouns. “You know, the thing on top of the other thing? The hot thing that cooks? Pan! Pan. On Stove.”

So you can’t trust me to have a good synonym for “niblet” on hand. ‘Course, you can’t trust all doctors with spleens, either.

I had two different short stories almost published the past month (in the top wait-list position, oh hurray) and it sounds, from the feedback I’m receiving, that I’m often rising up these days to the top of the pile. So my own slow progress is happening. Learning is happening.

The notes my mom-in-law got me on my novel (I do have the Best of the Mother-in-Laws) were really helpful for my writing overall. They put their finger straight to a weakness I have struggled with, and they gave me a clear, concise direction for the solve.  My writing disassociates from the concrete when either I or my characters become vexed. Interestingly, I didn’t suffer this problem as much in the first novel – but it was less personal, that first novel, than this second one.

Also, I’ve been figuring out the freelancing gig, so have been thinking of *audience* in a new way. Not “market”, which as a focus tangles me up and makes me stumble, but audience – a person or a group of people I’m writing for. I just wrote a piece specifically for my sister to perform, and it was the cold drink on a hot day that I needed to refresh myself – making something useful for people who love it. Yay!

When my days were Up To Chin in Children, the words all got bent by the gravity of that work.  That was my context. It would have been hard to write for my sister, to escape that gravity.


Now I have to start editing the novel. This post is in part marking this second run through, which will be a more serious edit than I’ve undertaken before. It’s also a tinge procrastinatory, because this is a more serious edit than I’ve undertaken before.

Strapping my boots on. Getting to work.




Training tips for the Tinfoil Triathalon

 If you are cycling through a monsoon in cotton clothing, you can save time on the way out of the pool by just putting your clothes back on over your damp bathing suit. Who’s going to know? You’re already soaked through.


Riding home was a blast today. The rain had actually stopped, which was nice, replaced with an intense windy bluster that threw leaves around me. Until I wised up, I got slapped in the face with leaves.

I’ve always loved wind. Like music, it calls an answering emotion in me. 

Wind is great, but ripping into it, teeth bared, on a bicycle hurtling downward for fourteen blocks is excellent.

( I’m exhausted, now.  The wind pulled my breath away.)

Things I didn’t consider at the time

If you strive to make your lawn healthy, and it becomes so, then it requires mowing far more often.

Methuselah Danio

I’ve been grumpy about our neverending tank of fish for some time. It’s been infected and given me pink eye, and although it’s pretty and the fish spunky and swimmy and the epitome of cute fishies, it’s also generally a pain in the tush to take care of. And the fish, they kept on living. We got the tank’s eldest resident, Ms. Methuselah Danio, three and a half years ago, and it wasn’t small fry at the time.

However, two days ago, she took a turn for the worse. Danios often get old and develop swim-bladder/curvy spine problems, and our danio was lying around on the bottom of the tank, and when roused by human presence, only swimming to the right. I hospitalized her and gave her the left over tank antibiotic. But she kept getting worse.  (I decided she was a she a long time ago, thinking she had an egg retention problem, but it turns out danios just get portly.)

Today, (before I left for my Pewter Triathalon, much facilitated by wearing my bathing suit under my bike clothing) I fed bits of pea to the danio. This is supposed to help if they’ve got a constipation issue – I doubted Ms. Methuselah had that particular problem, since she was having trouble getting to food, being unable to direct herself officially. But when I got home she was even worse, if that was even possible. Man, she looked so painfully twisted.

I euthanized her. It was pretty sad, a surprise to me since I’ve been grumping about the caretaking of fishes.

G’nite, Methusela.

Conflict. Charity. Boobs.

I was thinking about charities, recently: what I give to, how I give. I have a friend coping with breast cancer right now, and I was considering how that influences my regard for Breast Cancer, the Charity.

I was never one to buy products marked “donations made to XYZ”, and especially not to breast cancer. Breasts selling things: that’s what it comes down to, doesn’t it? I betcha Freud would have a field day with the construction of breasts, health, and yogurt. I got five bucks says that rectal and colon cancer awareness will never gain popularity with chocolate bar manufacturers, no matter how worthy.

Mmm. Rectal chocolate.

Anyway, one of the things that shocked me was to learn that some of the big corporations might give a fixed amount to the breast cancer society in exchange for using the “brand” of the pink ribbon campaign. Which means the deal is sealed, done, paid for, delivered: your buying product-with-pink means nothing. It’s sales.

But I’m sort of a tightwad when it comes to donate for the cure anyway. I was questioning what the hell my problem is, and realized that my approach to charity pretty much follows those old narrative conflict structures. What were they? Man vs. man, vs. self, vs. nature, vs. machine, vs. society, vs. the supernatural. (Although checking it out online, I appear to have mucked that up, it’s man vs. fate, not supernatural. Which, meh.)

I tend to donate most passionately, of time and money, to man vs. man charities. Social justice, human rights abuse, sexual violence, battery. At the core of me, there is a fundamental horror that as a species we can treat each other with such cruelty:  torture and slavery are a knot in my stomach and a question in my philosophy. Because what has a person become if they feel selling kids into sex slavery is a good idea?  Who is that person? How does that evil begin and how can we end it?

And there’s a positive side. If I’m microloaning through Kiva, or writing for Amnesty International, I’m also filling something in me. The people I most admire are able to stand up and say no, are able to try and make it better, even when faced with situations that I figure I’d break in. These are charities of hope.

Man vs. Nature is probably my runner up category. David Suzuki, WWF, those “buy an acre of rainforest” things.  I am not as horrified -  that we might take out our biosphere is awful, yes, but  it makes me sad, not horrified. We’re  just animal in this respect (whereas in unfeeling cruelty we’re special – we both have empathy and blow past so as to create pain for pain’s sake). From bacteria to humans, it seems like life’s party stops when we drain the keg and the lawn chairs are on fire. Still, it’s a concern and I try to be part of the solution – I donate money sometimes, but more than anything, it’s a consideration I take when making daily choices. I probably live more with environmentalism than with social justice, because it is a conscious effort to pick less packaging, whereas I make very little effort while avoiding human trafficking.

Down to basics, the frills at the first world party aren’t all that important to me. Clean water, clean air, clean food, health care, dental care, shelter, no one killing/raping/maiming/enslaving my loved ones.  I want those things. You can take my saran wrap and my Walmart socks, and it will only be an opportunity to try something new.

Then there’s the rest. Man vs. animal – there are passionate advocates for these charities: the SPCA and PETA have supporters with deep pocketbooks, and I suppose I feel that they’ve got it covered. So I do not tend to donate in this direction.  I do really small things in this category. I buy free range eggs. I try to limit our meat consumption – on a night where meat is part of the meal usually serve the “deck of cards” portion.  I just found a ‘happy meat’ hookup and that’s my first choice when I have the cash. Etc.

Man vs. supernatural – Well, not much, really. I cook with garlic and wear silver?

Man vs. Self. I figure this is, most broadly, health. Mental and physical.

I do donate money to mental and physical health when evil befalls people. But other than an MS Readathon or two, I was thinking that I’ve made zero prevention or research contribution.

Only that’s not quite true. I donate myself. My body. Like blood donation. Or volunteering to studies. I’ve done a lot of studies; vaccines and psych work ups, interviews and blood samples. My kids are part of longitudinal language studies. I’m an organ donor. And I like that. Gift of self, all that jazz.

So, for breast cancer, I’m going to do this.  I’m going to join The Army of Women: they’re looking for a million breast toting lab rats.  So far,there are not that many studies in Canada, but they’re working on finding more.

My general rule: they can take stuff out of me, my carbon and my data, but they can’t put anything in. No drug experiments, no surgery. 

And I’ll invite any of you who don’t mind giving a bit of time, fluids, and data about yourself to join me!

Dear Query Fairy;

Please help me stop editing past the point where my query contains proper grammar. Or at least, help me to see the problem BEFORE I press send.


With haste

Today I did the same bike/swim/bike as last week, only I did it at the end of the day, to scoop the cheap swim. The only problem: it means I’m pushing against school pick-up time.  Next time, I might just pay the extra $2. Ahem.

I took 40 minutes to get there, just in time for the start at 1:30. That was great. Only if I have to be at the kids’ school at 3, to be safe I want to be out of the building by 2:15. Which meant change/swim/change was an event in and of itself; limbs akimbo, flailing into my bathing suit. I imagine I was a bit intimidating: the bright red chunk-style woman trying to shimmy into her bathingsuit, no longer giving a damn about propriety. I would have been scared, if I’d not been me.

As it was, some sort of “screw propriety, my kids are gonna die out there if I don’t get back” took over (adrenaline is very dramatic) and so I hustled myself through the shower and into the pool. Did laps. Heaved myself out of the pool, through the shower, played the “oh my god my locker isn’t going to open!’ game until it finally let go, and threw myself back into clothes.

I was on my bike at exactly 2:15. Yay!

On the way out, something in the locker room smelled like serious B.O., and having just biked pretty hard I wondered if that person was me. (Now, at home with my clothing, I don’t think it was.) 

I didn’t want to be stinky picking the kids up. Due to laundry circumstances, my cycling outfit was, uh, a hodgepodge of those sorts of clothes one saves for painting. Looking vaguely alarming is one thing, but looking AND smelling alarming felt like a larger commitment to crazy parenting than I was willing to make. 

So bike fast to get a change of clothes, padawan. For vanity already sundered in a locker-room shimmy.

Lucky me! Coming home takes me a lot less time than getting there – on the way, it’s uphill for 20 blocks, flat for 15, down for 4. I do get passed by snails, when I’m biking uphill. They couldn’t ticket me for not coming to a complete stop at a sign, because how could they tell?

Down reverses that and is supa-fly.

The homeward time savings meant I could bike home, shower in 5, dress in 5, and then walk to pick up the kids at school.

That makes it a triathlon, yeah? Bike, swim, walk; 11k, 500m, 1k. Yes. I’m going to register it. International Tinfoil Man Competition.


Today I rode my bike to the new swimming pool in Riley Park.  It’s a nice pool! I did some laps but not too many (easing into it, y’see) and then came home again, wondering how I’d gotten SO GOOD at lengths since the summer that it was hardly any work at all getting across the pool. Clue: I was doing 25 m lengths. Kits pool? 137m.

Oh, yeah. That. 

I essentially did laps sufficient to have taken me once across Kits pool and back. Not quite burning up the waterway, there.

I’m going to try to make this some sort of regular practice, only I’ll have to be brave when the rains come. It seemed an expensive practice for just 15 minutes or a half hour worth of swimming, but they’ve got a toonie swim in the afternoons sometimes – so I think I’ll do it just before picking the kids up, rather than first thing in the morning. And as I get faster sur ma bicyclette, I’ll have more time in the pool.

The only problem I’m having is my old exercise asthma. Always have had it, but mild enough that I don’t take medication – as I get warmed up, it usually fades. It just means I really wheeze and huff when I get started.

Which makes for feeling pretty dorky in grade school. Also plus, my skin is so thin that I wonder why I bother pretending to have some: when I am working, I turn BRIGHT RED, but if I’m wheezing, it’s more of a deep burgandy. Oh, such the dork!

However, this return to higher output exercise seems to mean the magical fading asthma isn’t quite as fade-y as when I’m more accustomed. So while I’m sitting and working on my Fortuitious Contract, I’m whistling at myself.