Friday, May 4, 2012


I Can Make Life was launched a week and a half ago, and in addition to my other current duties - lunch hour co-puddle splasher, pizza maker, hide-and-seek player, and owner of this little project called Sparrow), I've been spending time every day trying to nudge my book "out there". To date:

  • Megan Carlson's giveaway on her blog, Infertile Myrtle, gave the book a great boost. 
  • Having "Fish-Bird-Kite" published at Exhale the day of the book launch definitely helped send traffic to I Can Make Life at (the book is inching up to 500 views to date, and a few sales).
  • De-constructing the book, poem by poem, and publishing on has been a fun experiment, and has also brought people to the book
  • Talking about the book to local independent bookstores has resulted in my favourite local bookstore, Reflections Books, taking my book on consignment. I have sent a review copy to Black Bond Books, as they support local authors, and am in the process of contacting Odin Books and others.
  • Am in the process of connecting with the local public library about acquiring a copy for their collection
  • Next strategy: taking over the world.

This is me and Carole from Reflections Books this morning. What a lovely lady.

I want to talk a bit about Reflections Books, because I have had a soft spot in my heart for this bookstore since it opened its doors in 1988. I was 14 at the time and remember excitedly riding my book there weeks after it opened. I'd already been through a pile of library books on astrology and Edgar Cayce, and kept reading references to someone named Carl Jung (I was always drawn to books about dreams, being an active dreamer with an uncanny history of picking up details from the near and distant future while asleep).

All this to say, Reflections was a haunt of mine for five years, until I moved away from home at 19. I'd often go back and browse when I was in town. One time I remember being drawn to an orange book - it was a book in a series, though I don't remember the title - and realized the cover had the image of my tattoo on the cover. This was strange, as I assumed the stylized Star of David with hearts was just something Leonard Cohen's book designer came up with for Book of Mercy - which was where I swiped it from. My well-used set of tarot cards are from Reflections, as are a couple of crystals I purchased when I was 14 - an amethyst, because it was my favourite colour, and an agate, because I needed its general healing properties (everything from love and good fortune to protection and safety).

Today I met with Carole, whom I recognized from previous visits, and she very kindly allowed me to take some pictures with her, as well as my son, whom my book is so much about. We talked about a local author book signing at some point in the future, and perhaps a review of my book on the Reflections Books website. For now, I am just thrilled that if you walk into Reflections, you will find my book on the shelf with the work of so many great thinkers and writers concerned with wellness and spirituality - just as I am, and have been from a young age.

I left the store with a new set of cards - the Path of the Soul Destiny Cards designed by White Rock fractal artist, Cheryl Lee Harnish. On my recent Bowen Island retreat, my wise friend, Karen Watson, provided readings with another deck by the same artist. The deck is truly beautiful and speaks directly to the heart. As an art lover and someone who gets excited about anything that leads back to inner wisdom and consciousness, I fell in love and am excited to work with them.

As for Noam, he was drawn to a beautiful crystal at Reflections, so I let him take his special rock home. But of course.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I Can Make Life

On Monday, April 23, I Can Make Life was finally launched, after many months and a very long journey!

When I chose April 23 as the launch date, I was thinking about reasonable timelines, and the fact that 23 has always been my favourite number (I'm funny that way). I didn't realize that the date also coincided with National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW); I only realized it when I came across a blog called Infertile Myrtle. The discovery of Ms. Megan Carlson's blog was auspicious for me and my book, as after one quick email, my book was being promoted on her site with a giveaway. Just like that!

On the eve of April 22, Ginger Deverell, the ever-patient, calm, savvy, creative and talented designer worked with me late into the night to make final changes to the acknowledgements. I uploaded the book before leaving her house, and then spent April 23 on a much-deserved retreat to Bowen Island with Ginger - a day to get away, feel calm, aligned, free of responsibility, and open to whatever the day held for us. It was a great day; I felt connected, in tune, and harmonious with everything around me. I am a highly sensitive, open-hearted person, but I haven't felt myself that open, spiritually, in a long time. It felt like everything anyone said was directed straight into my soul. It was moving, beautiful, and positive - in short, it felt like everything in the universe was whispering to me that at this time, I am on the right path.

I hope one part of being on the right path will manifest with the reception of this book. A slow burner, maybe? I don't have specific hopes for it, beyond my hope that it reaches the audience that needs it, one way or another, year after year. I don't have a detailed marketing plan, or the resources of time or money to implement one if I did, but hope that word of mouth will be strong enough to support its journey.

This book was never intended to be a money maker, but I hope it does open some doors as it makes its way through the world. As I wrote in the acknowledgements, my greatest hope is that it provides the women who need it with a sense of peace at the end of the journey I invite the reader to take with me - through the medical appointments, the grave self-doubt, the anger, the intensity of loss, and the deep joy of, at last, a viable pregnancy, and a beautiful, gentle birth.

Of course, only time will tell the path of this book as it wends its way "out there". In the meantime, I am celebrating the fact that one poem from the book, "Fish-Bird-Kite", was selected for publication in the current edition of Exhale online literary magazine (also launched on April 23). As of today, my book has been viewed 180 times at its home on, so people are finding it.

I plan to offer a few more giveaways on websites that are promoting NIAW, and I do actually have one ambitious plan after all: to do the unthinkable by writing a deconstruction of each poem as an article, poem by poem, start to finish - thirty articles in all (the first of these is called Bohemian Waxwings, and here is its deconstruction). I don't think most artists like to deconstruct the work behind a work of art, but I think it will be kind of fun to re-trace my steps and make the process public. I've been known to do crazier things in the realm of self-exposure (mostly soul-baring, nothing too racy. Yet.) It's the kind of thing I would be interested in reading if I liked an artist's work, and I suspect that other people enjoy reading about the process of art-making, too.

With my book's launch after so many years in the making, it is strange and a bit sad to let it go. I always feel that way - a slight let down after all the build up and excitement from the inception of a project to the final stage of its completion. I always feel a little...adrift...waiting for the next cycle of creation to begin. At the moment I'm in a bit of a "survival" state whereby I think of my next writing tasks as something I must do to generate income...but there are many, many more projects on my creative "to do" list.  Some of them are wildly different than I Can Make Life - some of them are intended to be literary, as this book was, but some of them are non-fiction works, and some are just for fun.

The project I feel most compelled to do now that a new creative cycle is on the horizon is one that I must do, but is likely a few months down the road to even begin. It's a tribute to my great Uncle Gabriel (for whom my son is, in part, named). He, too, was a poet - the only other one I know of in my family. Tragically, he died at the age of 23 in 1941 in a military training exercise. He had enrolled in the Royal Canadian Air Force and was killed when his plane went down over Scotland. I obtained his military records a few years ago - roughly 100 pages kept in our national Library & Archives, but freely shared when I asked. I would love to write a series of poems based on the stories my aunts and uncles tell, while also referencing my uncle's handwritten application to the RCAF, his death records, and everything else I can call up to re-create a life. The one poem of his my family has was sent back to Gabriel's mother in Canada after his death, and uncannily described his last flight. I hope my approach to a collection of poems can give my Uncle Gab a new life, in poetry, that he didn't get the chance to write himself.

And now that I think of it, that is one of the reasons I love to write so much.

I can make life.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Quotes from the Past

More than ten years ago a friend sent me an email that said, among other things:

"You then and your whirlwind existence, always doing a balancing act between fame and a life leading to fame. A retreat then, into the fog, until you clear that large brain and discover who you are to yourself more than to everyone else.

What nonsense I write in your praise, when you know every bit as much as myself that you are only absorbing for now until the "Big Bang" as it were - your discovery to the rest, the benefit of the others, the general populace!"

Although the friendship faded, as they sometimes do, I taped this email into my journal and never forgot it. The friend who wrote me this note was a frenzied artist himself, and endeared himself to me with his singleminded focus - as well as his own large brain, which was often spinning many revolutions faster than everyone else's. Years later, I often think of his reference to the "Big Bang" and the power of suggestion.

I always believed in my friend, and secretly believed (hoped) he was right about me and what I knew he was referring to: my writing. For one of his birthdays I wrote him a book we both starred in and after he read it, we had an uncharacteristically serious talk. "It will be a huge waste if you don't do something with your gift, you know."

We talked again a year or so later after I wrote a second book in which he had a starring role. I remember him sitting cross-legged on the floor of my apartment, reading it start to finish, even though he kept saying he had to go. He only stopped, God bless him, to tell me at the very end that my book was great. He couldn't stop reading because it gave him shivers.


Several years ago my friend asked me one day in the university where we worked, "So when are you going to earn what you deserve?" I knew the answer wasn't in the halls of the university, but I didn't know how to answer the question. Would I ever be paid what I deserved? What did I deserve? I still hadn't figured out what I wanted to do (but knew the answer didn't lie in a job title of "Secretary"). The clue didn't seem to be in my inspiration for a book of poems subtly titled, "Death of a Secretary", either...though maybe it was.


This week I met up with a friend I have known since I was eleven. We actually met through his cousin, although the friendship with her didn't stick. My friend and I talked about business and as always I talked at length about my many ideas. Ideas beget new ideas and then my ideas tend to crowd around each other and obscure the way forward...because there are so many possibilities, all of them good! So many paths I could take, even when I finally focus everything down to this: I want to write. I want to write all day long. I want to play with words and edit other people's writing, too. This would make me happy.

After sharing some of my ideas for a time my friend asked, "Have you done enough research yet?" I laughed. "You love research!" I said. And it's true, he does. I should know because I have been editing his well-researched books for six years. "I do, but research is a form of procrastination!" I know, I know. I've always read a lot more about things than made firm decisions and stuck with them.

But that is changing...and today I take the above quotes from the men who spoke them. Take them with me as I make some firm decisions, and move forward.

There is other news in my writing life. Lots of it. But for today, meditation on friendship, support, belief, encouragement, and alignment with who we are and where we are going. Amen.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Seeing the Future

At the end of every year I shuffle my tarot cards and pull one card for each month of the new year. My card for February was Transition; in the Rider-Waite deck, which many refer to as the traditional deck, Transition is the Death card. Not a card to be feared, so much as heeded: transformation is coming. Change is near.

I write this post a mere week into February and everything has changed drastically since my last post. Unforeseen circumstances have resulted in me taking some time off for the next few months. At first this sudden change felt like disaster, but it was a crisis that, once given a little time to settle in, I began to see as an opportunity. I've been looking for ways to change something in my life for months. I've been, in fact, asking for change. Inviting it. I've been telling friends that I felt like 2012 was going to be the "game changer" year. I felt like everything had to change because the way life was proceeding wasn't sustainable. It was way too out of balance. All told, I am welcoming the shift and hope it will make room for more opportunities - the kind I've been trying to call toward me, like little birds, for the past several months.


On Friday I had the pleasure of attending a local Nisga'a New Year celebration at the PNE Agridome. The costumes and performances were beautiful. The dances reminded me of this place I am from, from familiar calls that sounded like the coyotes in the trails behind my home, to the dance of the wind and the rattle-rain sounds. I was touched by the stories of ancestors, which were told as songs and dances were introduced. When I saw my friend, Ellen, sing and dance with her teenage daughter and young son, I had tears in my eyes. I kept thinking about how First Nations culture has historically been stifled, and kept wondering, "Who would want to destroy this?" My deepest inner urge was to let myself be pulled into the rhythm and the song's melodies, and dance. Who wouldn't want to? Who wouldn't feel the power and want to be a part of it? Of course in all cultures it is exactly its most powerful aspects that are most feared and for this reason, stifled. The injustice of this set deeply into my heart (again). And I tried not to feel melancholy, but to enjoy the beauty, the energy, the hope and to make the most of what I could learn from the experience.

I learned that the symbol of the Hobiyee celebration is the crescent moon with a star hanging over it. Hobiyee takes place on the second new moon of a New Year. Each year Venus shines brightly somewhere near the moon, but once every few years, the star sits atop the crescent. Those years are said to be abundant years, and this year is one of them. Yes, I thought, this is the energy of change I have been feeling. In January I felt excited by the prospect of the change each new year can bring. When I talked about this excitement, that I could feel change being near, my friend reminded me that it is the year of the dragon. Yes, of course. But the Hobiyee crescent moon seemed to encapsulate it all for me, the imagery so akin to everything I've been feeling. I was a guest, an outsider, but inside I was dancing, too.


On the eve of February 1st, I had the pleasure of meeting with the multi-talented Ginger Deverell of Red Pear Creative. Ginger is designing the cover of my poetry collection, I Can Make Life, which I hope will be launched early this spring. I have known Ginger for many years, and am so happy to be working together on the final stages of my book. We first met as work colleagues at Simon Fraser University, and later began to socialize together with a set of friends we also knew through SFU. From early days I knew Ginger to be an inspired and talented painter, and a gentle, kind, like-minded person with similar values (not to mention a shared interest in simple, green living). Our two hour meeting was fruitful and inspiring, and I left knowing that many of my hunches about what is ahead for me are to be trusted. That Ginger and her ilk are the kinds of people I'm supposed to be collaborating with, and working with on a regular basis. Now I am Ginger's not-so-secret admirer for having found a way to do what she loves, running her own business and working with her talents (much preferrred to the alternative of languishing in an artifical work environment that would stifle her).

Our meeting was a process of communicating through visual images and prompts to get to the heart of what I wanted the book cover to look like. Ginger had prepared numerous slides for me to look at with her, to get my impressions on everything from colour and hue, to crispness of image, to symbols and imagery we'd previously discussed incorporating into the design. There was even a black and white photo of Agatha Christie at her typewriter that, coincidentally, looked a lot like my mother in profile, but 15 or 20 years older. This unique method of digging up information and communicating in visual terms what the end product might look like was useful and a lot of fun. Now I feel like we have a solid plan to go forward, and I'm confident that the book cover is in the right hands.

Rounding out the week, I also received my ISBN number (which I'd applied for in order to self-publish the book, as well as any other books I'd like to self-publish in future). Once more I am grateful to be Canadian, as this process is free and as simple as filling out an online form. Within a week someone from Library and Archives Canada responds to your request and just like that, you are a self-publisher. After some thought, I decided to name my company Tristan August Press. The name was certainly inspired by Deanna Roy's Casey Shay Press. And if you know me well, you know why those names are important to me.

Now that the book is becoming a reality and the path forward is clear, I'm hoping the book will be available in the early spring. The first incarnation will be a free download on my website, with an eBook available on Amazon, Smashwords and other eBook retailers shortly thereafter. My goal is to raise between $500 and $1000 via by mid-year to finance a small print run. Fall readings, book reviews, interviews and other promotion to follow...

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Hello Again, 2012

For the past several weeks I have been gaining my bearings, trying to get a grip on everything I need to learn and do to influence the trajectory for my writing. I am still finalizing my official list of writing goals for the year. Unlike last year, it has taken some time to figure out my priorities, while being realistic about what is actually possible for someone to do with big dreams, high hopes and the realities of time and financial constraints.

My first priority with regard to my creative writing is to publish my poetry collection, I Can Make Life. I am still in the process of researching how to best pull this off. When I thought of quickly converting it into an e-book on, I realized that I was feeling reluctant to use this, my baby, as the guinea pig for figuring out how e-publishing worked. Then it dawned on me that I already had a really good test subject for learning how to epublish: the blog I wrote in 2006 about our adventures as we stumbled toward parenthood. The blog was about a year in the making (culminating in the birth of our daughter) - and I believe is an interesting read! I'm currently re-working the text to make it more suitable to a book format and hope to have it "out there" in the next month or so.

As for the poetry book itself, I finally decided on a plan today: to make it available as an eBook on my website, on amazon, smashwords, etc., and sell a limited number of print copies. I am looking into fundraising for the print publishing, potentially with, and I am still researching self-publishing companies. I meet with Ginger at the end of the month and once the cover is ready to go, the book will be available in the not so distant future on my website and then the online distributors. While it won't necessarily be a goal to make a profit on the eBooks, I'd like to try to make back the costs on my print run...though I'd also like to have a number of copies available to donate to people in the health professions who can make these copies available to the women that could use them: midwives, counsellors, even local libraries.


Much time these past few weeks have been spent getting a handle on my duties as Food and Health editor for Thrifty and Green. This has been challenging in some respects – there is much to do, and I want to do it all, and be amazing at everything I do, without having to spend time learning! The first two weeks of January I spent some time figuring out how editors work together to create a magazine (for the upcoming February digital edition). Many aspects of it I’d never really thought about before. There were fun parts to the learning process: my kitchen became a test kitchen, for instance. I also became a (dubious specimen of a) food photographer. Popcorn was everywhere (the kids loved it!) I wrote a book review of one of my favourite cookbooks. I busily tracked down potential contributors, quickly formed some new friendships and realized how much I love liaising with other writers, and working as a team to meet a common goal. Those moments when things unexpectedly came together, in part because I was there to help make them happen, were fabulous.


I think overall I've scaled back what I expect I can do in the year ahead. I'm committed to my freelance work, which is taking between 10 and 20 hours a week on top of my 40 hour a week day job. I have creative projects I hoped to launch in the early part of the year that are going to take longer - and that's OK. My biggest wish for 2012, in fact, is for subtle shifts that amount to dramatic changes for me and my family. That all of the pressures don’t disappear, but that some ease off, even just a little. 

I do deeply want to make the books that are waiting to be made, but require more “me” time and attention to do so than I currently have. I want time to promote the ones that are almost there, ready for the world. Most of all, if it is at all possible I want to shift away from my downtown day job, doing much more of the writing and editing work I enjoy and am good at from home. I want to focus on the stuff that makes me feel aligned with purpose, appropriately challenged and at the end of the day, feeling satisfied that I met or exceeded my potential.

Maybe I want a lot. But if you don’t dream, how does anyone find themselves where they want to be? It really all does start in our imaginations.

So hello again, 2012. I hope you are with me on that.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Hello Birdie! I have some tookies for you! And a banana!

The title of this post is a direct quote borrowed from my almost-2 year old son. He shouted it through the sliding door this afternoon upon spotting a bird as we were taking down Christmas window stickers. As my brain grasped what he was saying and feeling, I felt thrilled that he was enjoying the birdlife that hovers around our woodsy yard year round. The fact that he wanted to lure a bird closer to enjoy its company - and thought he could accomplish this with a "tookie" and a banana - was so amazing; his speech so clear, his desire so sweet that I ran to grab my video camera to capture what he'd say next.

Moments before I was thinking of my blog and the year ahead. I always feel excited at the end of a year. It is the feeling of being able to wrap something up with a sense of accomplishment, and then start fresh. I feel the same kind of excitement in September - a sense of wonderful beginnings that has stayed with me even though I haven't begun a new year of school in many years. The idea that you can start again with nothing but possibility before you has always filled me with a sense of hope and adventure; that I have a chance to do it all better this time. And maybe even enjoy it more.

My son's call to the birdie - to lure it close with whatever he can - is exactly what I hope to do in the year ahead. I want to spot the bird, find a way to talk to it and bring it close. To experience the magic of what may be far off or elusive, but maybe, just maybe, can be captured and made mine. And if the thing itself can't be captured -- and I do remember many failed attempts to catch birds with a salt shaker as a child -- I want to at least enjoy calling it close with my willingness to share some of my best stuff in the process. My son has a tookie and a banana. I hope to share what I have, too, with offerings more philosophical, but hopefully just as precious.


My writing year wound down in the same flurry of busy-ness as every other part of my life. I am very pleased that a few pleasant surprises and interesting prospects emerged in the last few weeks of the year to carry me forward into the new year.

I am thrilled to be working with Jessica Oman on some of her writing and editing projects (Jessica has even added me to her "Who We Are" page on her Write Ahead Business Consulting and Writing website). It has been a lot of fun for me to apply my proofreading, editing and copywriting skills to the assignments she's shared with me, and I'm hoping to work a lot more with Jessica in the new year. As a result of the varied projects I've assisted with to date, I realize that this is the type of work I want to be doing every day, in balance with my own writing projects. This type of work is not only fun and rewarding, it can be done anywhere. This is not a revelation so much as a hope that in the coming years I will find my way to work from home full time (my goal is to do this by the time my son is in kindergarten, but hopefully sooner!) So in the new year doing more of this type of work is one of the "birdies" I'll be trying to call close.

Through Jessica, I connected with Chris McGrath and his website and digital magazine, Thrifty and Green. Since my last post, I somehow turned a few contributions into a contracted gig as the new Thrifty and Green Food and Health editor. I'm excited about this denouement, which has me writing and publishing articles on a weekly basis, connecting with cool and interesting people, learning about digital publishing, green issues, the technical aspects of building a profitable website, and as an added bonus, supplementing my income. So far my experience has been rewarding and fun at T&G, and I'm looking forward to getting to know the other editors in the coming months. I never thought I'd actually find work of any sort on a magazine, let alone one as impressive as Thrifty and Green, but accepting this opportunity has been one of those things I just knew I had to do. I believe in saying yes to the unexpected, because you never know where any path can lead. Although I didn't seek out this opportunity, I'm very excited to be involved and to bring what I can to Chris' vision of sharing information, ideas and building community around sustainability, eco-living, and green values.


On the creative writing side of things, last week I learned the outcome of the Mary Ballard poetry competition, and want to congratulate Darlene Franklin Campbell on her winning collection of poems entitled Uncommon Clay. Darlene's submission was chosen as the winning manuscript by poet and contest judge, Jay Parini, who called the three finalists - myself, Darlene and Mary Stone Dockery - "all real poets, deeply gifted". I will take that compliment to heart, and say again how much I enjoyed being a part of this competition. If it hadn't been for the opportunity, I wouldn't have put this book together in four short months. Probably it would have languished in my mind, and maybe not seen the light of day for years, if ever - so I'm very grateful for the motivation to have started and finished it quickly.

While I had been silently cheering for my submission in the hopes it would be chosen, what I felt upon receiving the news was the relief of knowing. Once I knew the outcome, I felt the freedom to move forward with Plan B for the book. Immediately I called my friend, Ginger Deverell of Red Pear Creative, to see if she would be interested in assisting with designing the book cover. My hope is to launch a limited number of print copies and an e-Book sometime in the spring. In the meantime, I will be learning as much as I can about indie publishing and marketing so that I can bring this collection of poems out into the world. I may try to arrange some readings in the spring and summer months - something new and a bit scary, but had I won the poetry competition, my intention was to fly to Austin to read to anyone who was interested. So why not somewhere receptive in my own town?


My other creative projects (and there are a few lined up, at least in my mind...) will benefit from the research I do to turn I Can Make Life into a real book. There is one book I'd like to write in honour of my kids by spring/summer, and another secret project under a pen name that will also hopefully find its way out into the world this year via the indie publishing route. I'm very excited about all of these ideas and plans, and am ready to make a start. Just as soon as I have one more chocolate bell-shaped candy.

Hello 2012, and hello birdies!