Boundbytheword Blog

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Getting a little grey here… August 24, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 1:10 PM
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The wait just about kills you. It doesn’t really matter what you’re waiting for. Unless you’re some kind of robot then waiting = intense anxiety and mental anguish.

“Patience, n. A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue.” ~ Ambrose Bierce


Nine months for a baby seems like nine years when you feel like a ginormous whale that has to pee all the time. Waiting to hear back about that job, those test results, the acceptance letter, the airplane to land, the holiday to begin – all torturous. Waiting for a call from that man you had a date with last Saturday – the one you think might really be the one – that’s a special kind of anguish in terms of waiting. Remembering how that particular wait feels is what keeps me tolerant of any of my marital issues and ensures our marriage counsellor will have me and my hubby as lifetime clients.


And though I’d never claim to be patient, I’d like to think at forty-three years old I would’ve mastered it somewhat. But I haven’t. At least not when it comes to waiting for responses from agents holding onto bits of my novel, Life as a Teenage Mutant. I am getting grey hair waiting. I am literally going bonkers – and I can say literally and mean literally in this case.

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” ~St. Augustine

“All good things come to he who waits” ~ Proverb


Bah.  Patience is over-rated.

“Yes, very impatient. Get out of my way.” ~ George Steinbrenner


Lost your nuts? August 22, 2011

Filed under: What's Up? — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 10:27 AM
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Is it just me up here in the north or did summer slip away from us? What happened? It’s deceivingly bright outside with the sun beaming down on a frigid, windy day. I had to put on long sleeves and pants and even socks this morning. And I had to get up in the night for an extra blanket. What the heck?


I let the sunny season get away from me this year. I’m that squirrel that didn’t gather nuts and now panicked that I frittered away all the warm days. I don’t even have a good excuse. I didn’t spend each day working my fingers to the bone, or whisking my kids around to amazing places. We meandered around and did the odd thing and poof – fall is upon us. Does this mean I sucked at summer fun? What the heck will my kids say in their “what I did this summer” essay?

Dear Teacher,

I did squat this summer. It was boring. The end of it was weird because my mother kept running around talking about being a squirrel and losing her nuts. I think she’s wrong. She’s got nuts to spare.

Signed Ho Hum.


My kids haven’t complained about boredom or doing nothing. They aren’t impressed about doing the odd day trip unless it’s to someplace wow –  like say – Wonderland. Local beach or mini-golf or tennis or the library? Meh. Not so interested. Not a thrill. At least I have the excuse of being old, depressed and tired. What’s up with them? They’re kids for goodness sake – where’s their pep and vigour? Why don’t they hang from the rafters  and chant: “Let’s go out! Let’s have fun!” Kids these days. They don’t even realize they didn’t collect any nuts.


If I get on my knees summer, will you come back?


Does it literally drive you crazy? August 19, 2011

Filed under: What's Up? — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 10:02 AM
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I drove home the other night and listened to a radio talk show (Q) where they discussed the usage of the word “literally”. Or, more specifically, they discussed the misuse of the word. Being a frequent user of this word, I was surprised to find out it irks people to hear the word in a sentence like “When I saw him walk in I was literally frozen to the spot”.


I use the word literally like I use the word totally. I obviously was not frozen like ice, unable to move until I melted like a Popsicle in the sun, rather I was so stunned I felt I couldn’t move. Using the word figuratively or symbolically to exaggerate my point. Effective, no?


But from the sounds of the radio program, I along with others who misuse the word, have been making people crazy with the misuse of the word. Who knew it drove people round the bend? It’s sort of funny really. It literally makes me pee my pants laughing. Oh those crazy linguistic sticklers.


I am a huge fan of Q Radio on CBC, and have massive crush on the host Jian Ghomeshi (who incidentally did not host this particular segment). I literally want to keep him in my pocket and pull him out anytime I want to be entertained. I love him not only because he engages listeners with his wit, intelligence and old school charm, but he features authors as a main staple of his broadcasts along with other controversial topics and colourful guests. How could a writer not love him? If you haven’t listened in yet, you should. You can go online and listen to past shows and catch up by clicking here.



Teach ’em to fight… August 17, 2011

Filed under: What's Up? — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 10:06 AM
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I have three children and each one of them is a rule-follower. They like that sense of control or understanding that comes from knowing what to expect . Even though my youngest is a risk-taker – especially when it comes to physicality, she loves a challenge and pushes the boundaries when it comes to sport – she’s still a rule-follower to the core.  Both girls are far more independent than my son, but that rule-following is worth its weight in gold to a parent who wants to stay sane. And they got that from me.

Before some of my old school chums scoff too loud at that claim, I’m not saying I never broke rules, I’m just saying I knew I was breaking them and it had its purpose. And sometimes I make my own rules too, but primarily and still today – I feel better when I am working within a perimeter of rules. That’s an absolute contrast to my husband, who has always (and sadly still) believes rules are made to be broken. I have to say, I often envy this characteristic of his – especially when it reaps rewards –but I am relieved that none of my kids have that same streak within them. One over-the-top rule breaker in the house is enough to handle.

One of the things about having rule followers for kids though, is that it is your duty as a parent to arm them with allowances to break the rules when necessary.

I remember back when my oldest daughter was around 8 or 9. The whole mess with Paul Bernardo was in the news and as much as I tried to shelter her from horrific news like that, kids were talking in the schoolyard and Heather came home with questions. After discussing some of the rumours and truths with her, I told her the only thing she really needed to take from it was to never, NEVER get in a car with a stranger –male or female. Go somewhere public, go to the police, a neighbour, a friend, or run down the road screaming your head off, but never get in that car. I wanted to give her permission to wing out with a vengeance, toss off her British genes that don’t want to make a scene, and do whatever it took to get away. I wanted her to know it was okay to fight.

“But what if they have a gun and say they’ll kill me?” She asked.

It broke my heart that she had to think about it, it broke my heart to answer. “If he gets you in that car, he will kill you… so fight with all you’ve got.”

Thank heavens she got through childhood without having to follow my instructions, but now my other two children are at the age where they start to do more without you, and want a few feet of independence. It always makes me want to hover. The lesson my eldest learned so many years ago came back into play when my husband came home with an awful story about a woman who went out for a morning jog last weekend. While she was running a man grabbed her and started to drag her towards a van. Long story short, she fought with all she had and got away. The police were called, the information given, and after an extensive search, the attacker was NOT found. She was left with some battle scars and certainly the mental torment, but she did get away before worse could be done.  Needless to say, I can’t imagine she’ll ever sleep well again.

It may seem odd that we would talk about this in family discussion, but my husband has the same fear as I do – that our children will suppress the urge to fight in that kind of situation – and we all know that not going down without a fight is your best chance to survive and get away. So sixteen years later, here I was having the same conversation with my younger kids.

Our message to fight with all you’ve got, to kick, scream, wiggle, claw, scream, punch, bite and look for any moment to get away was not lost on our kids. My son – the realist – sat sombrely, taking it in like we were passing him a time-bomb. He asked no questions, but didn’t take his eyes off us as we told them this woman got away because she fought with all she had, that she quite literally fought for her life. My daughter – always one step ahead of all of us – had a plan.

“I need to take Karate lessons,” she said. “Because I’ve got the strength, but not the moves.”

If someone can break your heart and make you want to burst out laughing at the same time, my daughter would take the cake. Of course we did not laugh – although my son did roll his eyes at me with a smirk on his face.  But my daughter meant it in all seriousness. She also was quite serious in saying she would have no problem “kicking him in the chicken tenders.”

Arming your children for a battle you pray they’ll never have is probably the worst lesson I’ll ever have to teach them. But no one ever said this job would be easy, did they?


“Suck it up, buttercup” advice for writers: August 14, 2011


At the Humber School for Writers Summer Workshop, several agents spoke with the crowd and delivered words of wisdom for finding success in the world of writing. Here’s the inside scoop to what was said (deciphered from my many pages of scribbled notes):

Single most important piece of knowledge for writers:

The only source of income an agent makes is the money they get from your published book. If they take you on as a client and your book doesn’t get accepted by a publisher – and therefore isn’t published – they don’t get paid.

Here’s the skinny – agents normally make 15% of your book sales. If your book goes international, your agent gets 7.5% and the international agent gets 7.5%, Basic math: if your advance is $1000 the agent gets $150 once the publisher takes it on. They make no money before that time for what they invest into a client, or any of the stacks upon stacks of books they have reviewed but rejected from the slush pile. Understand that fact when you send off a query and expect personal attention in a timely manner. Bottom line – agents are swamped.


What agents look for:

  1. Books that will make money.
  2. Writers who understand the publishing business and how it works.


What you need to know:

Publishers succeed when they find a book that readers want; agents succeed when they find a book publishers want. They all look for projects that attract attention of more than one publisher, work that can travel internationally. Publishers are profit minded and conservative when it comes to projects – essentially – will we make money on this book?


Scary fact:

Only 20% of books published in Canada are Canadian. We compete with big name US authors. The internationalization of the books sales has changed the industry in the last 5 years.


Comparing your book to another (in your query) can be dangerous because you may not know how it really did with book sales. Award winning books don’t always bring in sales. Regardless, it’s not at all valuable to compare your book to one that is more than 5 years old.


Getting Ready to Submit to an Agent:

  • Learn as much as you can about publishing.
  • Read Quill and Quire, Publishers Weekly to understand the business.
  • Get news alerts from New York Times on publishing.
  • Look at publisher websites.
  • Working at a bookstore can help you understand how the book gets into the readers hands.
  • Be a good listener. Absorb feedback from an agent (whether it’s a note on your rejection letter, or an agent representing you). Better to hear it from an agent than a publisher and lose your chance with that house.
  • Be open to criticism.
  • Pay attention.
  • Understand how your work fits into the commercial machine. Do your homework!


I’m too cynical to be a romantic… August 2, 2011

I’ve never been a huge romantic.  I’m not one to believe in white knights saving the girl or “one true love”.  I’ve never gushed over flowers or teddy bears, candlelight or chocolate. Okay – who am I kidding – I do get giddy about chocolate, but my feelings of adoration turn towards the candy, not the giver of said candy. Delectables aside, I’m not one who holds out for fairy-tale endings or even fairy-tale moments. I like laughter and kindness, but as for sweet-as-sugar romance – it doesn’t really ring true to me.  It hasn’t helped my viewpoint that I’ve always picked real schmucks in the heart department. (current love is the exception of course). I don’t know whether it is my age (43) or my years of therapy (lots, I’m not giving you a number), but somehow my realism in the love department has turned to cynicism.


I drove into town yesterday with the radio tuned to a song popular enough that I knew most of the words in order to sing along. A song I’ve always loved, but had never really let the words sink in.


“I found a reason for me,

to change who I used to be,

a reason to start over new,

and the reason is you.”


Lovely, right? Not so much if you are in my head. What came to mind after I sang the words was, “Unless you do it for yourself alone – you’re just setting yourself up for disaster.” My heart and head took opposing sides to argue out the intention of the lyrics.


What? The Pollyanna in me protested. He loves her enough to write her a love song, to sing about how she is his everything.


Cynical me though?


Could he guilt her more? She can’t be responsible for his reason to live, his only reason to be a good person. Seriously? If he was really committed to changing, he’d have done it for himself already, instead of weighing it all on her love for him.


The cynic in me always wins out though the Pollyanna tries her best (she would of course, she’s Pollyanna).  I get that this was just some guy who wrote a love song, but it irked me that he’s claims to do all this changing for her. What happens when things don’t work – he’ll just go back to being a jerk? He’ll have her to use as the excuse for being a real prick to the next girl? Nope – this is no love song folks. This is just another shining example of how people don’t want to be accountable for anything.


Now before you boys out there get your knickers in a knot – I fully understand it’s not just males that have this problem. Feel free to inject “she” where the “he'” is throughout the rant and the message is the same.  Plenty of females sing love songs that send the same message:  I’ll change for you, but if things don’t work out then don’t blame me for being a self-serving jerk.


Bleech. I hate “love songs”. Romantic verse can hold a lot of hidden messages. Kind hearts, beware.