The Importance of the Little Things | Prompt

This prompt comes from my writing group:

Pick a flat character and imagine what’s in their dresser. Specifically, the special trinkets or mementos that sit in or on top of their dresser. Is it a ticket stub? A single earring? Make a history of that object and write a scene for its owner where this small thing adds depth to the character.

As usual, write a sentence, a scene, or a story based on this prompt. I cheated (on top of this being late) and have a response to it.

Continue reading

I’m going to be a father…

I wrote an article for one of the non-profits I volunteer at and they posted it this morning! Check it out!

(This counts as Craft Wednesday because I’m too busy to pull together something heartfelt/interesting)

Oh wait it totally counts as a teachable moment. The non-profits I work/volunteer with have both afforded me the opportunity to write articles for them. While some of them have been kind of dry, it’s been a tremendously valuable experience. In my case it’s especially useful since I got a lot of feedback (both positive and negative) about my writing. If you have a chance to volunteer your writing to them, do it!

Keep writing!

(I apologize for the frenetic post I’m just on a writers/caffeine high)

The Longest Few Weeks of My Life

I didn’t hate Fort McMurray when I first saw it. I didn’t have any strong feelings about it one way or the other. If I had, I would’ve fought my exile there a little harder. Instead, I drove my 3/4 ton pickup there armed with only a crude map and the instructions that camp is a little past Fort Mac wholly unprepared for what it would do to me. My boss pitched it to me as though I had a choice, as though he was really interested. I was an obedient co-op student, one of about 15 who’d been hired to work in Edmonton a term or two. Having grown up a gay nerd near Vancouver, I felt that I needed to challenge myself. I wanted to take myself outside of my comfort zone. So when my boss said “How would you feel like going to Fort McMurray for a few weeks?” I really couldn’t say no. Besides, it was only a few weeks.

The drive up was pleasant. I have no qualms with long car rides and the Canadian wilderness is breathtaking even from the road. While I knew vaguely how to get to Fort McMurray, there were a few bumps along the way. Since I wasn’t accustomed to Edmonton’s roads I stretched the 5 hour drive into nearly 6. This became 7 as it turns out that the ‘a little past’ instruction that I had been given meant another hour. I also wasn’t prepared for the distances between towns along the way and drifted into a gas station on fumes and desperation. I pushed onward still wildly unprepared for what lay ahead.

Eventually I made it, Fort McMurray. It didn’t seem so bad. I viewed it with the kind of low-level disdain I held for rural towns outside of my beloved Metro Vancouver. It was like Abbotsford, a blurry little place with a couple of gas stations and a Tim Hortons that I would drive through on the way to somewhere else. I refuelled there having learned my lesson from before, then drove on over a little bridge out of town. Just north of Fort Mac the only indications of the oilsand refineries and heavy industry were evidenced by “Wide Load” emblazoned vehicles hauling heavy machinery or trailers. The trees were cut back from the roads, but not as ravaged as I had imagined. There was a glistening little lake opposite a series of Giant Bison sculptures. It was, and probably is, still quite charming.

Then I drove up, over a small hill and found myself on a industrial moonscape. Saying that it looked as though a bomb had gone off wasn’t doing this landscape justice. It looked like an alternate reality where instead of organic life there were hulking beasts that trudged around a milky toxic lake. In the distance, I could see a maze of pipes like a steampunk dystopia without zeppelins or chivalry. This was Syncrude’s refinery at Mildred Lake and to this day I will never forget it as a harbinger of impending stress. On the right, there was a massive crane whose bucket could accommodate any of the ant-sized trucks that drove by it. In the distance was a sprawling complex of steel pipes and industrial exhaust. I drove around the tailings pond unable to express the scale of human activity which had bleakified the area. I switched into cautious driver mode, cognizant of the heavy machinery nearby which would make short work out of flattening my truck if it came to it. I hunched over the steering wheel and drove on into the buffer forest which occluded the view of the industry once more.

The road signs advertised the various camps or installations off of long side roads. Many had majestic sounding names like Aurora or Firebag and I watched careful not to miss mine. The traffic had grown thick past Mildred and I didn’t see any safe place to turn around. I didn’t have to, I found the small road for the site I would be working on. There was a 10 minute drive on an undulating road over muskeg which I should point out, should never be built or driven upon. Muskeg is highly organic soil that deforms long after most inorganic soil would have stopped. In this case, it happened to compress along one stretch of road causing three, very pronounced bumps which if you weren’t paying attention, would bottom out your vehicle. I persisted and drove onto a bumpy gravel road for a short time until I arrived at camp. Camp was a series of temporary trailers connected together like a possible moon base might be but more remote and covered in dust.

I entered. The accommodations were like a dirty hospital or a less grim prison. The halls had some paintings and plants but these seemed more like placeholders for when the real art would arrive. I knew better than to think that there would be some kind of welcoming committee. The woman at the front desk was contemptuous but helpful. She handed me a form to fill out and lent me her pen with an eye roll. When I asked her to clarify one section on the form she answered with a heavy sigh.

The main hall had branches of accommodation wings sprouting off of them. I was in room J something, but really it was more like closet J something. It was L shaped with a bed stretching the length of it, and a desk taking up the width. A TV was sitting atop a closet where I would hang my wardrobe. A pair of long johns, fire-proof overalls, some flannel and blue jeans plus 2 civilian outfits were my only clothes that I had brought with me.

When I arrived here, I came with only a scant assortment of clothes and belongings because if you remember, I would only be here a few weeks.

Those few weeks turned into 7 months.

This was a cleaned up portion of what I wrote yesterday. I think it will be an ongoing series of reflective creative non-fiction explaining my time in the Oil Sands near Fort McMurray.

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

~Ernest Hemingway

I saw this quote and thought that it was pretty representative of how I was feeling yesterday.

I didn’t post something yesterday for Writing Monday because I wasn’t prepared for what I wrote yesterday. It was supposed to be a brief reflection on strange jobs that I’ve had. It turned into a 4500 word exploration of some really depressing memories. Not memories like, I got passed over for a promotion or I wasted a year at a dead-end job, these were memories of prolonged trauma. I will likely post it at some point, but for the moment I can’t. You should probably count yourself lucky though, it’s so poorly written that it might have been an excerpt from The King In Yellow.

Too Busy To Write? | Prompt

Between work and my side projects I’ve been crazy busy lately. Unfortunately this means I missed out on yesterday’s prompt, which I’m sure was devastating to both of my readers.

So writing prompt:

Write about a time that you were swamped. You are so busy that you haven’t had a chance to write and it’s really starting to get to you. Your writing is beginning to bleed into reality and you have to corral your stories back onto the page…

Give me a sentence, a scene, or a short story based on the prompt. Hope all y’all have a good weekend!

It hurts to hear I know. My poor millennial ego certainly can’t handle being told my status as a magical snowflake is all a lie but there is a silver lining. Since you’re not special, neither are your problems and therefore you can find someone who has been through your particular problem and help you get through it and will offer their advice.

If you’re getting married or raising a child, this advice will be unsolicited and likely unhelpful. If you’re writing a book or trudging through the publishing process on the other hand, it may not be so awful and condescending. So when you’re down, trawl (not troll) your social media feeds for kindred spirits who have amazing blogs, tumblrs, or twitters full of wonderful advice that you can read for a lark. I’ve found that my favourite authors with blogs are good places to start. For instance if I didn’t read Maggie Stiefvater’s blog I would’ve missed out on some great advice about querying. Without Neil Gaiman’s relationship advice column my husband and I would surely have divorced. If I didn’t follow Maureen Johnson’s tumblr and twitter I would’ve missed out on my daily dose of snark and important updates about her dog (who is amahzing).

So you, generic writer, can take solace in the presence of professional authors on social media who will help you through whatever crisis you’re going through. Avoid Stephen King’s Pinterest unless you want to ruin your prom dress.