Boundbytheword Blog

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Ah, Spring April 24, 2013

Filed under: What's Up? — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 9:06 AM
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The time of new beginnings. Time for regrowth and renewal, when we clean out closets and rid the clutter in our homes and yards. During that first outdoor assessment after the snow melts, you can expect damage done by Father Winter and plan for an afternoon or weekend of yard cleanup.

When we lived south in the suburbs, this meant a general sweep of the 75’ lot, to pick up wayward sticks and rubbish that may have found its way into the yard. Now that we live down the country lane in Boontown,  it means hours of chainsaw fun to clear fallen trees, then gather, load, stack, or burn the wreckage.

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It didn’t help that we had an ice storm in April that brought down massive branches around the property – we especially love the ones that play chicken with our vehicles.

Though wacky nature makes for a lovely photo or two, the labour it creates is more of an ongoing seasonal activity than a few hours of casual afternoon tidy up.
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For county living folk, spring cleanup also lends to finding all kinds of hidden treasures on your land. Usually the dog is a big help finding all the things you wish you never saw. I’m truly grateful for having a passive dog that lives to please, and who most often stops the minute I give a squeal, shout or scream of horror. My sweet Maalik usually stops short of picking up his finds – which is a relief – because I admit I’m one of those dog owners who gives my pooch the odd face smooch. It’s not like I kiss him square on the lips or anything, but a muzzle nuzzle wouldn’t be happening anytime soon if he had in fact retrieved the foot he excitedly found laid out like a movie prop on our back acreage.
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Yes, some great finds this year besides the poor dismembered beast – including half eaten tomatoes (?!?) and a dead porcupine. On the upside, I guess we won’t have to worry about the porcupine damage to our trees that has been a problem in the past. (see my past post about our pesky porcupine)

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Ah yes, a fresh breath of air and tranquil country living. Spring is all about the new beginnings.

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Dusting off the blogwebs… April 12, 2013

Filed under: What's Up? — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 9:08 AM

It’s been awhile and oh – how I have missed you all!

I know I wetake me backnt MIA. Went into the bloggers black hole and left my readers for a good long while without so much as a “stay tuned” or even a BRB. My bad. I won’t make grand or lame excuses, I’ll just say – honey, I’m home – will you please take me back?

So if you’re still reading, consider us blog buddies once again, and I’ll catch you up on what’s been happening down this snowy country lane the last little while.

2012 was a certain rollercoaster ride of a year for me, but when I start to get bogged down about how pissy the entire thing was, the angel on my shoulder says “Hey now, don’t forget about the good stuff!” And so, I’ll just say, 2012 was full of high highs and low lows. It was a year of wonderful beginnings and sorrowful endings, and a year of change for certain. Let’s just say, I welcomed 2013 with open arms.

On the high side, my mother is cancer free and healthy, my family is happy, and I am getting paid for doing work I love. Yup, 2013 has brought health, happiness and prosperity, so who can complain?

Speaking to my job, I started with Canadian Authors last May and am loving my role as Program Director. Big changes are staring to happen – we have just launched an e-zine (an online magazine); in a few weeks we’ll launch a new website, new logo, and new member newsletter; and in a few short months we’ll be hosting an amazing writers’ conference, our 2013 literary awards, and a bunch of new and exciting programming including Young Authors of Canada for teens! (I wasn’t great at balancing work, family, writing, and blogging – something had to give, dear friends, but again – no excuses for blog abandonment!)

CanadianAuthorCoverYou can check out how darn pretty (and informative) the e-zine turned out by clicking the cover to the right or you can  link to the Canadian Author e-zine here.

I’ll also let you know when the new website is up and running, so we can all ooooooh and ahhhhhh together.

As for writing life, I’m ashamed to say I haven’t penned daily (as every good writer should!) for the last few months. In fact, I just got back on the writing wagon and can’t believe how much I’ve missed the characters in my new book. Interesting how starting back to writing the new novel brought me back to the blog. Every successful writer I’ve ever known has said the trick is writing something every day – it’s a “rule” I’ve heard about for many years. But I think the trick of it is writing something you love, or that you are driven to write every day is the key. Working for a long-standing writers’ organization in an everyday working capacity does keep me writing, but I forgot about the passion part. The creative process is much like a jealous lover – ignored too long, and it will make you beg for mercy or worse yet – leave you.

So I am back at writing my daily doses, and will be sure to send my weekly blog posts to let you know what’s up, and how it’s hangin’.

But the posts won’t be explicitly sexual in nature, no matter how suggestive that last line came out in the end.

Or that one.

Cheers – it’s good to be blogging again!

Noelle

 

Riding a bus on the highway to Hell June 14, 2012

Filed under: What's Up? — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 2:48 PM
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It could have been a glorious morning. Birds chirping, a warm breeze rustling the leaves on this bright, sunny day. It could have been one of those lovely, easy mornings – but we slept late. We just stepped foot onto the porch when we heard the sound of the school bus barreling down our country line. My kids picked up the pace into full run when they didn’t hear her slowing. I hadn’t ventured off the porch – I was still braless in a t-shirt and my husband’s boxers with rat nest hair and unbrushed teeth.  I only had time to hastily pack lunches, and be sure my kids had a flash breakfast of champions consisting of a yogurt drink with a side of peanut butter right off the spoon.

I figured the morning was getting better – my kids would make it – even though the driver whizzed past the driveway, half the bus hollered a late-running-kid alert and she screeched to a stop. The whole bus cheered and I caught a glimpse of my kids running the 30 feet down the road past our place to catch their ride. I was relieved – they made it, and I could expect to spend my day writing without interruption. That’s when I heard her – the driver – screeching voice wafting out the bus windows like a fast-moving river above the trees and across more than the acre of lawn between her and my front porch.

“WHO’S EATING ON THE BUS?!?”

The whoops and hollers of joyful June children greeting my kids’ late arrival simmered down to a dull murmur.

“I MEAN IT! WHO IS EATING?”

The murmur settled into complete silence, short of the rattle of the idling bus. Nobody was giving up anything. These country kids don’t sing like a canary, they stick together like peanut butter on a stainless steel spoon. Just like the one my daughter had run down the driveway carrying as her second helping of breakfast. I could only hope she remembered to pitch the empty (or not) spoon on the pine garbage box at the end of our drive before jumping onto the food Nazi’s bus.

“THERE IS NO EATING ON THE BUS, AND IF I FIND OUT WHO IT WAS, YOU ARE KICKED OFF THE BUS FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR!”

The bus jerked and jolted into drive, and off they went on their merry way to school. I stood there on the porch, dumbfounded, my golden at my feet looking up at me with perked ears and worried eyes. He was not impressed either. And I comforted his concern with the first words that came to mind.

“What a bitch, eh Maalik?” He agreed.

The question I have, is this. Why – oh mighty lord of the bus routes – why would anyone choose to drive a bus full of kids if they don’t have the patience of a Saint, two hearing aids, or a great sense of humour? I’d never be a bus driver – you couldn’t pay me enough. And frankly – they probably aren’t paid enough for the job that they do – but either are teachers or police officers or nursing home workers – but it doesn’t mean just anyone should do those jobs. If you don’t love the job, why the hell would you submit yourself to daily doses of rambunctious kids?  I understand the need to make a buck – I really get it – we all have to eat, even if it’s just spoonfuls of peanut butter. We aren’t all scholars with tenure, our butts eased into a cushy leather chair in our office. But, you can expect loud, bratty kids on a bus (even seated with nothing in their mouths), so if that isn’t your idea of a good gig,  go get a job at Wal-Mart or Tim Horton’s or a recycling centre. Don’t take an “easy” job because you don’t have the time, training, determination or the good fortune of having your first choice career in an air-conditioned office or in a kid-free zone. If you lose your cool easily, or would rather be anywhere than at the wheel of a big yellow hell-mobile, I’d prefer you didn’t take my kids along for one of your road rages.

Needless to say, I’ve already made my voice heard with the bus-powers that be, because she wasn’t the only bitch with a bone to pick on our country line this morning.

 

A little cooperation, please? May 31, 2012

An interesting thing happened this week. My youngest daughter’s teacher called and asked us to attend the monthly assembly at the school because Lainey was getting the “character trait” award. I’ve mentioned this before, I’m sure, but to refresh your memory – in order to teach good values (that kids may not be getting at home) the school board has character trait posters and reminders plastered all over the school to teach kids about integrity, honesty, courage, etc. They then reward a chosen kid or kids from each class that have displayed the current character trait throughout the month. The chosen kid gets a ribbon (the ones you used to get in track and field) and certificate, and get to parade across the stage to accept the honour with a round of applause. I don’t know if it changes a rotten kid into a great one, but my kids have come home each year with a ribbon sooner or later, and they’ve been pretty impressed about it. If for no other reason than they get to walk around all day wearing a ribbon to signify that they are more “Inclusive”, “Empathetic”, “Optimistic” or “Caring” than everybody without the ribbon. Are we teaching kids that they need to be rewarded and applauded for showing normal and socially acceptable behavior, and teaching them to gloat about achieving it? As sad as that sounds, I would say that is what we are doing – keeping that bar low. You aren’t expected to do those things, but if you manage it – you get rewarded! I don’t know if we’re doing them any favours, but since this month it was my kid getting the award – hey, it’s a pretty good system.

Anyway, when my husband and I showed up at the assembly, I couldn’t find my son in the crowd. Turns out, he was also waiting backstage for a ribbon. Well, we plumped our pride and got our camera ready. Two great kids? Wow. Imagine our pride (and frankly, surprise) when both of our kids walked across the stage with ribbons for this month’s character trait: Cooperation.

Huh?

For those of you not familiar with my children, let me clear up the confusion. My kids don’t cooperate. Ever. They fight about who has to go first at music lessons, who last filled the dog’s water bowl, who brushes their teeth first, who is faster, smarter, sweeter, or the family favourite. They battle over whether music should be on or off for the car ride, whose dish was left on the kitchen table, and who got to pick the last movie on family night. At any given time, either one of them will be hollering “UNFAIR” for any number of stupid reasons – that one of them got to pick first, go last, ride in front or have the bigger piece. There is little to no cooperation going on in this house – which is why I had to contain myself from jumping up and yelling “Fixed, fixed!” from the crowd of proud parents.

Those sneaky little jerks. You mean they actually know how to cooperate? Not only do they know how, but they stand apart from the rest of the class and excel with this particular character trait? Unbelievable. Never have I been so perturbed at my kids for coming home with an achievement ribbon. I wanted to ground them both for the rest of the week and confiscate those damn certificates. My husband and I went home wearing the “in yo’ face” and “gotcha, sucka” ribbons, wondering how we managed to do something so right and so wrong at the same time. I guess different rules apply when they’re out of the house.

Cooperation? Well, I’ll pull those ribbons out during the next round of “he’s looking at me/she’s so annoying/he won’t turn that down/she won’t stop bugging me”. At least we looked like stellar parents to the teachers and other adults at the assembly. We smiled, nodded our heads knowingly, and took all the credit we could – isn’t that what being a parent is all about?

 

Ass Whoopin’ Time May 6, 2012

I attended the Ontario Writers’ Conference yesterday and like every year I came away inspired, enlightened, and needing a sedative.

The best thing about going to events like these – where the board member of the organizations put together a first-rate event with exceptional speakers, great food, and opportunities to meet with editors, agents, publishers and other authors – is that you come away feeling like your head is crammed full of gold nuggets. Whether it be the Writers Community of Durham Region, The Humber School for Writers, the Writers’ Community of Simcoe County, or the Canadian Authors Association (click any of them to check out their sites, upcoming events and activities) the organizers have put in hours upon hours (upon hours) to pull together an event that will blow you away. And somehow – it always seems to. Amazing really – since all of the organizations are run by volunteers who are working their butts off (and not working on their own writing all the while!) to make it an exceptional experience for other writers. Amazing.

The downside to these events is I always leave with more to do than when I came. ARGH!

Yesterday, the stellar segment was “Storytelling 360: Storytelling in a Digital Age” presented by Cynthia Good (founder of the Creative Book Publishing Program at Humber) and Mark Lefebvre (director of self-publishing and author relations at Kobo Inc). They educated the crowd as to what writers can embrace in terms of transmedia potential in order to engage with readers. Interactive websites, applications, enhanced  e-books, games, social media platforms that reach a wide audience and connect with people in a new way. So much to do, so little time. Now I’m looking at what activities I can have on a website targeted at young adults (or young at heart adults) to have them spread the word about my Beautiful Mess or Life as a Teenage Mutant (depending on who’s asking). Of course that segued into a perfect spot to insert my shameless self-promotion. Click to the left. 🙂

So in today’s publishing world, writers much reach. R-E-A-C-H! Get to people and places that writers from other generations never had the chance to touch. This digital world we live in is a progressive and scary place – but I’m in it to win it – so forge ahead I must. Needless to say – my to-do list became much bigger. I want to curse Cynthia and Mark, but I have to thank them – what a wealth of information from those two!

The highlight of the day came when my mentor and all-around wonderful person  – Wayson Choy gave the final address. He talked about being an active participant in the writing game – which goes beyond writing a novel, editing and revising the manuscript, plugging at query letters and the agent pitch. It’s a jungle out there – a writer’s road isn’t apparently paved with diamonds and padded with marshmallow filling. Wayson’s words for authors who just can’t seem to get a break? “WAKE UP!” and “What are you going to do about it, how are you going to change it?” Then he proceeded to tell us to get our butts down to the bookstore and get a current copy of Writers Market, and get our stuff out there. To anybody, to everybody – get ourselves an audience in magazines, literary journals, newspapers, anthologies. Rally our own troops. Get it done, and stop whining about it.

Okay – that last part might have been paraphrasing, but I heard it that way because I just spent the 10 minutes before he got up to the podium whining to him about that very thing.  I have always said Wayson has a way of making everyone in the entire room feel like he’s talking to them. It’s his gift actually – the ability to make his 20 minute conference closing an intimate conversation with every individual there. Afterwards, I went and told him so.

“It’s amazing,” I said. “You make me feel like you’re talking right to me every time.”

“I was talking to you,” he said, and lifted the Writers Market (as big as a Toronto phone book) in his right hand. “And if you don’t get it done by the next time I see you, no more hugs. This is what I’m going to beat you with.”

Again… a gift. How does he do it? I actually felt like he might beat me. Oh, how I love me some Wayson.

Today I am inspired, motivated and encouraged to stomp down the writer’s path. Good thing I have sturdy shoes.

Side note – if what I described sounds good and  you’re looking for an upcoming conference to get you going – I’ll be at the Canadian Authors Association national annual conference  – this year being held in scenic Orillia – over the May 17-20th weekend. Click the leaf, check it out and get your writer ass whooped and motivated too!

 

Walked or stalked? February 29, 2012

Filed under: What's Up? — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 10:58 AM
Tags: , , , , , ,

A grown woman peeing her pants in fear is the worst possible way to start the day, so let’s just say it was almost a very bad day. I was steps away from it being the worst day since toddlerhood.

I walked the dog yesterday – it was a mild, gorgeous day and we’d gone the long route. Something caught my eye  – a white-tailed deer perhaps? I’d had five of them cross my path the other night while I drove home and I wondered if this was one of the same.  But it was walking funny – something about it was un-deer like. Then I realised – it in fact was no deer – but a wolf. A massive, scary, stalking wolf.

Let the peeing of pants commence.

He was about 200 metres back from the road – which may take a minute or two to walk on human legs, but I figured it would only take about 24 seconds to a huge wild animal to run it. Especially towards a tasty breakfast of meaty ol’ girl and a side of canine companion.

My first instinct wasn’t fear – it was wonderment and awe. Other than the zoo, I’d never seen one that close. We get put to sleep many nights with the howls of coyote packs, but we don’t’ actually see them much. A few times in the car – which is, incidentally – the only other time I’ve seen a wolf in the wild – while driving in my car. It was just as mesmerizing, but far less scary protected by glass and steel. Once the amazement of seeing this creature so close wore off, I snapped into reality. What the hell would I do if it ran towards us?

We were downwind, which I guess is why he was walking away from us and not paying us any attention. Maalik, on the other hand, was sniffing the air like he was going to go nuts. When he finally spotted the wolf he stopped in his tracks (except his nostrils which now did triple time).

“Bad doggy. That’s a bad doggy out there, he’s bad, stay with mum. ” I used my best “don’t go there” voice and kept my eyes fixed on my dog – willing him to come to me instead of run out to the field to make a new friend. I had nothing to use to protect him or me. It’s bad enough I have all these stupid Easter Crème Egg extra pounds padding my body, now I have to have a big scarred face too? (that was the writer in me, taking things to the extreme which often happens in life and art for me).

Maalik got right in step with me and stayed next to my side. We had no choice but to walk towards home – houses are far apart out here, my neighbour’s house sits on almost 400 acres, so it’s not like I could run up the driveway and be safe faster than the wolf could get to us and tear our heads off. We had to push on past and hope he didn’t notice us.

That’s when he turned and stared us down. That’s also when an incontinence product would have come in very handy. I literally almost peed my pants – and for those of you literary watchdogs out there – I DO mean literally.

He kept his eyes trained on us for several minutes. He stood perfectly still watching us as we passed the house and the barn before turning and heading the other way. Both Maalik and I walked at a steady clip, but kept our heads turned back towards him as well. I was too afraid to look away and apparently, so was my dog. The same can’t be said for the farmer’s cattle – every single one of them had shuffled into the safety of the barn.

I was never so glad to get in from a walk on a beautifully warm winter day. I may never leave the house again. At least not without my Depends.

 

Gimme the white stuff… February 21, 2012

Just when we thought winter was over, the snow came down and created another white wonderland this weekend. Not that I mind. I enjoy the snow much more than the slush, and even though the wet mess that leads winter into spring is inevitable, I wasn’t quite ready for it.

Besides, everything looks far prettier white and billowy. It covers the leaves I didn’t rake in the fall, and the mess of twigs that my husband cut down from the pine tree but didn’t dispose of (great at starting jobs and using machinery, but the clean-up…not so much). Snow makes our place look like a postcard for a charming home sweet home rather than a DIY gone wrong advertisement.

Since we haven’t had the winter one might expect living up north, we haven’t done our share of snow activities either. The kids snowboarding – not once. The family snowmobiling – only William, and it was just around the property to see if the machines still had juice in them. We didn’t try snowshoeing which we’d hoped to do, or attend the winter carnival. We haven’t even had a skate around an outdoor rink or frozen pond. Somehow the winter escaped us and has left us feeling remorseful for not enjoying it more.

More snow also means I have that much longer before bathing suit season rolls around again. Summer – that blasted enemy of my addiction to all things sugar. Everyone, including me,  looks comfy in big bulky sweaters, but I look bulky and do not feel comfy in the itsty-bitsy-teeny-weenie-yellow-polka-dot-bikini department these days. So let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.  At least another month so I can right the wrongs that those damn easter creme eggs have done to my curves. Cadbury has somehow made me look like an easter creme egg. On legs of course.

So I know there are those of you who are calling for spring. I know you won’t be sad to see the last of the snow melt into slush, and that you welcome April showers and May mud. But as I sit here looking out across my front lawn at the newly fallen snow, I’m crossing my fingers for a few more weeks of the white stuff. You may think it’s to squeeze in those few almost-missed opportunities for family fun. You may think it’s to avoid the wet, damp days of the changing seasons. You’d be wrong. It’s just that I have a 3-pack of those damn eggs hidden in the cupboard with my name on it, and I need a bit of time to brave the sunshine and the lack of coverage it brings.

I may have a problem with my creme filled insides. I may need to seek professional help. Until I do though – I’ll just say – yum…gooey creme filling, surrounded in chocolate goodness. Cadbury, how I curse you so.