Friday, March 25, 2011

A New Chapter

This past week I returned to my office day job and survived. Somehow my family has also seemed to adjust with me. My fears of not being able to make it to the train on time because of radical measures at home (i.e. civil disobedience protests by my kids) were amped up higher than necessary. We all made it to the train and daycare and work on time. (This still seems a minor miracle to me). Hopefully long term the royal subjects don’t decide to revolt. It is hard to explain what a kitchen or bathroom riot at the hands of small children looks like if you’ve never seen one, and always seems a bad excuse for lateness in the professional world.

The fate of my writing life feels tenuous at the moment. Ideally I will acquire some kind of simple machinery (i.e. a small but functional mini laptop) for the hour I spend on the train every day soon to keep up the momentum. There is so much pleasure and satisfaction in writing for me at this time of life, and I am motivated to keep working against my own tiredness. I already feel my writing life and progress has been sadly delayed by the events of the past few years, and I want to keep moving forward as quickly as I can.

My method for staying on track, which I set up earlier in the year, has been to keep a schedule of submission and contest deadlines for poetry, creative non-fiction and postcard fiction. (I wish I’d done this much earlier, at a less busy stage of life). There are three deadlines coming up before May 1st that I hope to meet. My latest strategy in lieu of my return to work has been to write often, no matter what, and to try to write well without thinking too hard about every word. That is to say, there will be careful editing later, but not so much agonizing. I just don’t have time for it.

I was sick last week (the last of the family to catch the dreaded plague that held everyone back for day upon sad, sick day) and that has already put me behind with a few projects. I am late with an interview I have been trying to set up with the amazing Deanna Roy of Casey Shay Press. Deanna is an accomplished writer and photographer who also happens to have created one of the most useful and complete websites about pregnancy loss out there. My favourite creation of Deanna’s, though, is a beautiful and thoughtfully created memorial book for families who have lost a child. I can’t wait to learn more about her work, her book and her publishing company.

Last week I was able to complete a three part interview with an equally amazing woman, Kristi Sagrillo, who designs memorial jewelry which she sells in her etsy shop. This interview will be published on April 1st, and entered in another contest that begins on that very date on hubpages.

Speaking of contests, the big news since my last post has been my winning the writing contest I was nominated for last week. While my nomination may have been the result of my writing, my win represents the support of many friends who voted for my article Day Trips from Vancouver, Canada every day until the contest closed. Thank you very much to all of you for your support! I have already seen a rise in traffic to my online articles and as a result of the increased traffic have gained some new followers and fan mail as well.

Late Breaking News:
I learned about an hour ago that my submission to the Mostly for Mothers miscarriage anthology was accepted! My piece, entitled For Tristan: A Meditation on Loss, Grief and Healing will be published in their upcoming book entitled The Sound of Silence: Journeys Through Miscarriage. Now there are edits to discuss and approve and a contract to sign. The publisher's plan is to release a print and e-book in the coming year...

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Yesterday I learned that one of my articles written for was nominated to compete against articles by five other writers for a weekly contest. Winners will be determined by vote, and will have their article included in a weekly newsletter with a readership of 60,000. The result would be many more readers seeing the body of work I've created in the last seven weeks. Some avid hub readers might become followers - an automatic audience for articles I've written and have yet to write - and I may see an increase in earning some additional money for my work.

If you'd like to vote (and I hope you will - you can vote once a day!) please click here and scroll down the page until you see the "Travel and Places" category. My article is called "Day Trips from Vancouver, Canada". You will see the article listed by title among the other five nominees. You can vote for the article a little further below. And, if you like, you can do the same each day until the contest closes on Wednesday, March 23.

What is funny about this article being nominated is that it's one of the first ones I've written. I don't think it's the best one I've written - nor is it about a topic I'm the most passionate about or put my heart and soul into writing. When I wrote it, I was trying to get a feel for writing articles; I was doing for myself what I saw other successful writers doing. But as it turns out, this humble little article about the place I'm from may be a gateway piece of writing to (very) modest fame and fortune. Accolades are accolades, and I truly do appreciate the honour.

Another reminder to keep writing, keep writing, keep writing...

PS If you have been following my hubs and would like to sign up at for the love or the money, click here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Compelled and Compressed

Since I last posted an entry here, I have been studiously working on articles for hubpages. While I am a bit behind if I am to meet my goal of 30 hubs in 60 days, I am in that zone of high competition with myself right now; I'm going to try to do it until the clock runs out.

At the same time, I can't ignore that I am about to transition through some big life changes: returning to work, resulting in shorter blocks of family and free time, new chaos with new routines, and a familiar kind of "worklife" exhaustion I've replaced with other forms of exhaustion for the past year. I don't want to slow down, and am hell bent on adjusting quickly. I cannot stand the feeling of being disappointed in myself for not meeting my own goals. At the same time, I am all too aware that I am human (and will forgive myself for slipping - but only if necessary)...

I am very proud of my most recently published articles: a three part interview with the brilliant Devan McGuinness of Unspoken Grief (a website dedicated to offering understanding and support for those experiencing perinatal grief), and an article that I hadn't planned to write, but evolved naturally out of the essay I wrote for Mostly for Mothers as well as the research and writing I've been doing on the subject of pregnancy loss.

My article entitled Miscarriage Art: Self Portraits is not so much an article as it is an artist's statement about a project that wasn't necessarily intended to be made public. Days after I lost my much wanted baby, I was at home recovering physically and emotionally. I decided to record my experience through photographs of my face and body. As I put the photographs in an order that made sense to me several days ago (nearly two years after they were taken), I realized how much I missed using the visual part of my brain that gathers, sorts, organizes and tries to make something visually interesting or meaningful.

While my work on the above mentioned art project is similar to my researching and writing process, I was reminded about how satisfying it is to make visual art in a different way than it is to write. Visual art is more immediate to its audience, and for this reason can be more powerful. On another note, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I could use hubpages to make art out of something I didn't consider "art" beyond an artistic exercise for my own healing process. Publishing the hub also allowed me to see possibilities for reviving other art projects that otherwise lay in stacks in my basement, or hang on my walls unseen by anyone but my family. There are many opportunities for exposure to an unlimited, international audience through hubpages at a much lower cost financially (and time-wise) than finding new locations to hang my art in a gallery...or even to set about creating my own website.


This week I've been thinking about my current tendency to write in a cluster around one subject, and how that can result in oversaturation for those who read this blog, my facebook status updates and twitter feeds. Regardless, I feel compelled to keep writing about pregnancy loss. My goal is to create a presence on the web - to offer some solace, personal understanding and sharing by tackling aspects of the experience from angles or perspectives that are not frequently written about. I hesitate to present myself as any kind of expert, but I am learning as I read, learning as I write, and sharing as I learn. Without a doubt there is an audience for non-medical information about miscarriage (I would have devoured any information on the subject that didn't once more remind me of the all too familiar signs of miscarriage). My search was for information on healing, words and ideas that revealed what I could expect to feel or do to heal emotionally and spiritually.

This need to keep thinking, keep learning and keep writing is a compulsion I've already yielded to. I feel I have to keep going, if only to get to the other side. I think the other side is an unforseeable time when I no longer feel motivated to keep adding content to the information already available on this topic. I don't know when that will be - maybe after my goal of 30 articles is reached, but quite possibly not. Maybe this will prove to be my thing, my contribution, my life's work, or a large part of it. I'm open to whatever path my writing takes, so long as I stay committed to my own passion.

My next project is an interview with another amazing woman - the owner of an etsy store specializing in handmade and customized miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss jewelry. I also have one more interview lined up after this one, with the creator of several excellent websites about pregnancy loss. Most notably, she has created a beautiful memorial book, In the Company of Angels, available through what appears to be her very own publishing company. I am deeply touched by the unique contributions of each of these women I have met through the internet, and am honoured that I can in some small way shine a light on their greatness.

As much of my efforts this past week have been focused on arranging interviews, generating questions and formatting material into publishable articles, I have taken a bit of a break from thinking too hard about what comes next. I return to my office life late next week, and then my next big deadline follows: the Event creative non-fiction contest. Last post I was debating which of three ideas would win the race for the Event submission, and a firm criteria now has made itself known. In order to meet the deadline I have to continue my momentum, to write about what is current in my mind and closest to my heart right now. This essay will not be about international development (even though I am excited to get to Cambodia, particularly as I've received some positive feedback and support for the idea), nor will it be autobiographical, about the zany life of a bisexual mom of two. I will follow my original idea, using the material I drafted but couldn't use when I wrote my piece for Mostly for Mothers. There are elements of that time that take on almost a magical realist quality in some of what I've already written, and I'd like to explore that.

With time constraints, that mildly uncomfortable feeling of compression, I will write where the fire is until, or unless, it burns itself out.

Friday, March 4, 2011


I remain a woman of my word. I have spent all my writing time since submitting my essay last week working on an article entitled Miscarriage Resources on the Web. I was happy to spend every second on it, and am excited to have put it out there. I hoped to produce one or two additional articles, but this one ended up being more time consuming than I expected. I didn't want to simply list a number of links. I wanted to do each website I referred to justice by describing it well; my goal is to drive traffic to the sites other women have worked so hard on as a labour of love. The goal of everyone doing this work is to help other women, and I want to do that as well as I can.

The research I did for this article has given me some ideas for future hubpages. Particularly, there are several women I would love to interview for upcoming articles. After writing this blog, I plan to contact at least three ladies whose stories, work and websites are particularly impressive and inspiring. I believe articles honouring these women will more or less write themselves.

In terms of process, I found this week that my mind turned to future essays that are asking to be written. They started making themselves known as I did boring activities, like wash dishes. While I was originally planning to submit another miscarriage-related essay to the Event creative non-fiction contest, a completely different essay from my days in international development work began to nudge me.

I used to work in an office with the mandate of administering international development projects. I travelled to three Southeast Asian countries for work on one of these projects, funded by the Canadian government, in 2005. The essay that wants to get written the most this week has let me know over a particularly demanding dirty plate that it should take the form of collage-like impressions, through the image of one symbolic body part.

I had been thinking for a long time - for the last several years following my trip to Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos - about a recurring image of the people and places in Cambodia. I even attempted to write a (bad) poem about that image that I haven't yet rescued, years after my return. But now this image is turning around in my mind again with new possibility, asking for a chance to appear in essay form. It is interesting the way the mind works, and leads you, gently and patiently, in different directions when you are an artist in the midst of a gathering period.

Now there are three essays competing for my attention, asking to be submitted to contests: the miscarriage essay, the international development essay and an essay about life on the ground as a bisexual mom of two young kids in a strange Canadian suburb. I'm not sure yet which one will win the race. They all, I hope, will make it to the finish line eventually. Likely, it will come down to pre-writing all three, and seeing which one wants to cross over first. Discovering, through sitting down at the blank page (or screen), which one has the most fire.

Speaking of fire, I received an email from the Burnaby Writer's Society last week with word on their topic for this year's writing contest. Fire is going to be challenging. It has been used so often, I believe all my effort will go to trying to write away from cliché, as much as writing towards something great. I will submit an entry regardless by the deadline of May 31. My options are a short poem, prose poem  or story, with a one page maximum length.

Again, this week, I feel satisfied that my writing life is moving at the swiftest possible pace. Everything, I believe, is leading to something...