Monday, June 25, 2012

Peggy Fletcher-Write Now and Always

I shouldn’t have said that.  Returning to my seat I felt foolish revealing my personal analogy of the afternoon event. 

The occasion was well attended by writers from Sarnia, London, Windsor, and other areas.  We gathered to pay homage to a prolific writer who had played a vital role in the literary scene for close to fifty years−Peggy Fletcher. 

It was a chance to say hello and catch up with friends and acquaintances, and a prime opportunity to meet writers I had heard much about.  Mostly from Peggy.

The Ontario Poetry Society honoured her memory with the launch of a book entitled, She’s All Around You.  Many of the writers read their contribution to the book during the four-hour tribute.

I declined when asked if I would read.  No, I said, I’ll get all blubbery.  Perhaps, I would like to read one of Peggy’s poems, she suggested.  Oh no, I insisted, that would be worse. 

I grieved her passing as if she was family.  In effect, she was.  A member of my writing family.  The matriarch.  I’ve mentioned Peggy in several blogs.  Two which come to mind are The Write Connection in November 2011, and The Write Outlook in January, 2012. 

After the second intermission, the speaker introduced me as the next reader.  Seeing my look of surprise, she hesitated.  Apparently, there had been a mix-up and my name was on the list.  Although I was given the opportunity to decline again, I could not refuse.  Yes, I said, I will read.  I reasoned that it was meant to be.  I would have been disappointed during the drive home had I missed this opportunity to speak about my genuine awe for Peggy Fletcher.

And, so there I was at the front of the room feeling uncharacteristically nervous.  I spouted what had been going through my mind as the readers −some sniffling, all trying hard to keep their emotions in check− shared poetry, anecdotes, and accolades about the person who made a difference in their lives.  Tears stung my eyes when Peggy’s husband, John Drage, and several of her five daughters shared poetry. 

I looked to the audience and began.  When my granddaughters, age two and five, are unhappy about something, I say to them: on the count of three, let’s all cry together.  That usually brings laughter.  At any rate, the tears become smiles.  It seemed to me that we were all trying hard not to cry, but maybe we should have all cried together, and then smiled the rest of the afternoon.  I’m not sure if my words conveyed my feeling.

No, that wasn’t all I shared.  I went on to say that I was reminded of the way I felt at my son’s wedding.  During the reception I realized that others outside of our family loved him, too.  He was not solely ours.  That is how I felt about Peggy.  She did not belong only to WIT.  She was respected, loved, and cherished by so many others.

I then went on to read my contribution from Peggy’s tribute book, an excerpt from my blog post, The Write Mentor (January 16).  Though my voice may have been shaky here and there, I managed to get through it without blubbering. 

Thank you to The Ontario Poetry Society’s founder, Bunny Iskov, president, Debbie Okun Hill, and Sarnia branch manager, Rhonda Melanson, for hosting this memorable and successful event.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Euthanasia - Write or Wrong?

There were several articles/essays concerning euthanasia in the weekend edition of Toronto’s Globe and Mail newspaper. All day my thoughts skittered back and forth. Images niggled and nudged until I decided to discard the post I had prepared for this week’s blog.
Recently, a short story of mine was included in an anthology, Indie Trigger Short Stories, published by Simone Press, UK (available on Amazon).
Rachel Pryor, in her June 4th blog,, said this of my speculative fiction: “The Culling of a Nation is a chilling story about euthanasia for the pursuit of greater economic success.”
I had never considered my story to be about euthanasia. I suppose it is. It is a frightening story for those who are struggling with the health care system. Especially the seniors.
This month, Culling of a Nation, is the feature story in the U.K. online journal, The Sim Review.
It is introduced thus: “Phyllis Humby imagines a future where life is devalued by the pursuit of economic success and greater productivity. Her cold, main character backs this ideology with an enthusiasm that is disturbing.”
“A future where life is devalued...” Yes, in a sense that is an accurate analysis of the story.
My story has nothing to do with dying with dignity...or does it? Is that the ultimate result?
Dying with dignity is what comes to mind when I think of euthanasia. The choice to end our own life. A choice to end our suffering from a terminal condition. A choice to die rather than burden family.
If euthanasia or assisted suicide is legal, is the affected individual the only one who is authorized to apply? Or do the family members have a say? Can family members dispute the application?
Conversely, can the family send a letter to the government saying, Grandma is not contributing here and she has become a burden?
Perhaps they will write, She has lived a good long life and she doesn’t do anything but garden and watch the birds.
Elder abuse is a serious problem. How far will people take this? Will guilt and coercion play a part? I have a problem with where the line is drawn. At what point do we decide that this is the time to ...
Will the life sections in the newspapers that post the births and deaths, also list the departures?
Departure service begins with the divesting and distribution of personal holdings at 7:00 PM followed by a reception with finger foods and beverages. There will be a champagne toast at 9:00 to bid farewell to our loved one and commemorate the final transition. All family and friends are welcome. Good wishes only please.
This is written tongue-in-cheek but I do not intend humour. My heart is pounding from outrageous imaginings. Afterall, this is a matter of life or death.
What we find ridiculous today, becomes reality tomorrow.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Write Time for a Girls' Weekend

Spending time with a friend is just as important to our general health as jogging or working out at a gym.  Yep, that’s what I read.  The best thing a woman can do for her health is nurture her relationships with her girlfriends.
When she answered her phone, I said−road trip?  Her reply?−yes.  Women do not have two-word conversations, but those words shaped our weekend.
The only decision we needed to make was which direction to point the car.  We would stop wherever we wanted; find a room wherever we ended up.  It sounded like fun. 
I insisted on packing a picnic lunch.  I’d had a picnic set for years that had never been used!  This would be the weekend.  When I opened the trunk, my girlfriend commented on my knitting bag.  Old habits die hard.  With our overnight totes, my picnic pack, a small cooler, and a bag of picnic ‘stuff’, we still had plenty of room for shopping bags. 
Naturally, our first stop along the road was Tim Horton’s.  We bubbled over with enthusiasm.  Okay, I was the one bubbling over.  Over coffee, I described the fresh fruit tray that would be perfect for breakfast on the patio.  Oh, s---!  I forgot the fruit.  I was annoyed but would not allow that to spoil my weekend.  I packed our favourite crackers.  I hoped she liked extra old cheese.  Uh, the cheese...Then I remembered. 
Distracted by something, I never finished packing the cooler.  I pictured the little containers I had filled and lined up on the shelf in the refrigerator.  Never mind.  I did pack the sandwiches and salad and my friend brought my favourite goat cheese and veggies.
By lunchtime, we were travelling the back roads enjoying the scenery and scouting out potential picnic areas.  The problem being, there weren’t any.  Hungry to the point of standing at the back of the car and eating from the trunk, I slowed to a stop. 
It looked like the entrance to a conservation area.  I pulled in.  It was a parking area with a little driveway heading off it.  We got out of the car to check it out.  Now close to starving, I led the way to a clearing.
I looked back at my friend and laughed.  We found a picnic table.  There were about thirty gathered in one area.  Feeling uncomfortably like trespassers, we noted the various outbuildings and a house.  There were no signs indicating where we were.
My friend pointed out a young man working in a vegetable garden.  I approached.  He assured us we were welcome to picnic on the grounds.  It was the estate house, he said.  Not asking whose estate, we picked out a lone table in the shade near the water’s edge.  A stone’s throw from the front of the house. 
In no time, we retrieved our picnic essentials from the car.  Still not totally convinced that the homeowners would not appear, we indulged in cold drinks, greek salad, thick sandwiches, veggies, and other goodies.  More food than we needed.  Enough left for another picnic on the way home. 
After a relaxing break, we continued on the scenic route until we reached the southernmost point.  We secured a motel room overlooking the marina.  Dumping our belongings, we scouted out the town in another walking tour.  Shops, restaurants, and relaxing parks.   
We struck paydirt in a local gift shop.  We meandered through several rooms oohing and aahing over the enticing selection.  Loaded down with heavy parcels we abandoned the idea of re-visiting the dress shops on the way back to the motel.  Perhaps that was a good thing.  After a late dinner, we read, watched TV, and, yes, I did some knitting. 
The first half of our girly getaway was relaxing and fun.  Now, we looked forward to the trip home.  Varying our return route, we continued touring the retail areas and local attractions of the towns we passed through. 
My girlfriend is a shopper.  I am not.  That doesn’t stop me from buying each time I am in a store with her.  I came home with an impressive haul.  The buddy system never fails...I don’t know if I should...Of course, you should.  You deserve it.....Well, okay.
There’s something to be said for hanging out with girlfriends.  Lots of talking, laughing, and a healthy dose of retail therapy.  A guaranteed general feeling of well-being.

If you haven’t enjoyed some quality girl time lately, you owe it to yourself. 

Monday, June 04, 2012

A Story-The Write Beginning

"A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end... but not necessarily in that order."

— Jean Luc Godard

Remember the good old days when books were over two inches thick.  They started out with the description of the weather.  A paragraph or two on clouds alone.  Then a few pages on the rolling hills of the countryside and the precise greenish hue of the grassy knolls.  Once we had a clear picture of the setting, the lovely story began.  Hah! 

Today, Margaret Mitchell’s first paragraph would have a starving Scarlett scrounging for carrots in the dirt; her smudged face a combination of desperation and defiance.  The first ten pages would see Rhett Butler delivering his infamous ‘Frankly, my dear’...well, you get the idea.  Gone with the Wind−they don’t write publish them like that anymore.
Hook, schmook!  There’s something to be said for progressively working our way into an epic story.   

Marv is upstairs sleeping.  Lex is lying on the floor behind my chair, snoring softly (occasionally emitting a noxious gas), as I attempt to re-construct my fading early morning dream.

 A few nights ago, my husband and I did something we seldom do anymore; watch television.  We caught a movie.  It started the way of all movies these days.  Right into the middle of the action.  Then, of course, it backtracks to tell how it all began, followed by the end.
The television show, Flashpoint, follows the same format.  The show starts with high drama and then across the screen it reads, ‘three hours earlier’ or whatever.  Then they lead the viewer toward the conflict.  Why?  Do we channel surf within the first five minutes if there is no action?

You see that, I asked my husband.  It’s the same with books.  Now books start in the middle of the story.  Grab the attention of the reader/editor immediately and then backtrack. 
I tend to write my first draft in sequence.  Then the editing begins.  Paragraphs, pages, chapters, and even dialogue are moved, shuffled, and otherwise re-arranged.  It is crucial to get the attention fast and maintain interest even if it means beginning with the end.  That has been playing on my mind lately.  How important is the order of sequence?  Is the reader able to follow the story from start to finish if the start is actually the end and the middle seems to be at the beginning, sort of...?

Sixteen hours earlier.........Sunday morning at six o’clock, I woke from a dream.  I was writing and editing.  It seems now I can do that in my sleep.  I knew immediately that this subject would be my blog for the next day.  I couldn't take the chance of forgetting. 
I rolled off the bed and crept out of the room.  Marv and Lex did not budge.  My granddaughter, who was spending the weekend, was asleep in the room across the hall.  I especially didn’t want to wake her.  Our cat, the noisiest member of the household, was nowhere around. 

Not fully awake, I tottered downstairs to my windowless office filled with...well, the same stuff I told you about in The Write Space (January 9).
Before starting my blog, I checked emails, facebook, blog stats, etc.  Then a little mewing sound alerted me to company.  Sophie slid onto my lap and into a hug.  My day had officially begun.  And with it, all the commitments of the final day of the weekend. 

Good night!