Bits and Pieces

Chewing the Fat

When They Were Young




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May 2008


Still stuck with the writing.  Can’t seem to get down to that true place.  Am trying to leave the critic outside the door, but even then, it’s like my fingers are refusing to cooperate.  Wonder if I am burned out?  That maybe it has been so hard for the last few days because this manuscript is not substantial enough to sustain itself. 

Hope tomorrow goes better.

trying to write

Ever since I wrote that I’d had a good writing day, my writing has been like plowing through sludge.  Slow going.  Total resistance.  For the last two days, I haven’t gotten my minimum required pages completed.  As a matter of fact, if you added the last two days work, it would only equal slightly more than the required pages for one.

Not only that, but it looks like today is going to be day number three of the why-am-I-doing-this-and-I’m-a-terrible-untalented-hack litany.


I think after I finish this manuscript I am going to take a long, long break from all things writing.  And yes, I am aware that that sentence doesn’t make strutural or logical sense, but it makes belly-sense, so I am leaving it in.

Okay, well, that’s enough of a “coffee break.”  I’m back to the writing.

a full house

I am sitting on the sofa with my laptop perched on top of a cushion that is resting over my thighs.  I do this, because I don’t like the feel of the electrical rays penetrating my body.  I’m sure they still are, but somehow they don’t feel quite as weird when they are muffled by a pillow.

The reason I am sitting here in the family room blogging, instead of being tucked in my writing room working on my manuscript is that Dave and his friend have come over on their two days off to go mountain biking up at Whistler.  And yesterday they came downstairs (to my shock) at 8:30 am for breakfast.  Usually they are much later risers. 

They woke up early because it is quite a drive to Whistler and they wanted to get a good day of biking in.  Last night they said they were going to go back today, and I figured, it’s just as long a drive today as it was yesterday, so I didn’t want to go into my writing room and start working, because the minute I got my head back into the story, I’d have to come out and cook up their omelets.  I’ve got all the fixings laid out on the counter, from the early pre-take-Will-to-school-crowd’s breakfasts. 

Well, here it is a few minutes to nine, and there is no sign of the boys.  Correction, young men. 

Wait, I just looked up and saw that I had titled this blog, full house.  Our house has been busy.  A family member has been staying with us for the last while.  The other night Will had a friend over.  Then there’s Dave and Derek who come from the Island to see us, but also to careen down mountains at breakneck speeds that I don’t even want to contemplate.  When I heard that my boy liked indulging in a little mountain biking, I pictured peaceful off road riding.  Pedaling serenely, enjoying the flora and fauna.  Nicely built, hard packed dirt paths.  A picnic perhaps.

Well yesterday, I found out that they take a chair lift up the mountain.  Okay, I thought.  A chair lift up to the nice parkland area where they tool around and enjoy the wilderness.  But then at dinner I noticed that Dave had a scrape on his arm.  “What’s that?”  I said.  “How did that happen? Oh no.”

“It’s nothing, Mom,” Dave said.  And I know I shouldn’t have fluttered and fussed, he is a grown man.  I know I shouldn’t have woken up in the middle of the night and spent a good portion of what should have been sleeping time, staring up into the darkness, remembering Derek letting it slip that the kind of mountain biking they did yesterday was the kind where the chair lift takes you up the mountain, SO YOU CAN CAREEN FULL TILT BACK DOWN!  Good God!  I didn’t even know people did that kind of thing.  It’s madness!  It’s crazy!  Who would do something like that?

My son. 

Anyway, he’s a grown man, otherwise, I would throw myself in front of the chair lift, arms outstretched.  I would be like those protesters who chain themselves to trees, but it would be my son I’m trying to save. 

Thank god he’s a careful sort.  Well, that’s what I tell myself.  Don said, last night when I woke him up with my worry, “It’s a guy-thing, Meg.  He’s always loved sports.  Guys do these things.  It’s what we do.  Look at me, I’m always coming home from hockey with scrapes and bruises, I’ve broken things, dislocated my shoulder, almost had my eye gouged out and still I go to hockey.  Why?  Because I like it.  It’s fun!” 

And that’s supposed to make me feel better?


I spent the day writing.

You know, we’ve all heard about the authors who are able to whip out a complete manuscript in three weeks.  What I want to know is, how do they do it?  I mean, forget about writing anything good, or comprehensible, maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.  What I want to know is how do they physically manage to type out all those words in such a short space of time.  I have been at my desk for eight hours, minus a one hour break, and I would consider today, a pretty successful writing day, as far as my writing days go.  It was slow, but I wrote 4 double spaced pages, which is one more than my required daily quota.

An adult fiction manuscript is a minimum of 200 pages.  That is the bare minimum, most are longer.  So, how do they do it?!

Don and I watched a biography of a well-known author and he would lock himself in a hotel room, and in three weeks would emerge with a completed manuscript in hand.  He was a multi New York Times bestseller.  Once he would finish a manuscript that would be it.  He wouldn’t rewrite.  It was done.  Finished. 

How could his fingers type out that many words, let alone, his brain must have been mush.  And his shoulders must have been one huge knot from being hunched over his typewriter pounding out those words.  I don’t even want to contemplate what his butt must have felt like after sitting for so many hours on end? 

I’m not jealous of the books he wrote, because it seemed, watching the documentary, that the pleasure for him was in the spending of the enormous amounts of money he made.  What I am envious of, is, can you imagine if one could write, what needed to come out, but to be able to do it in such an expedient fashion that there was still hours and days and weeks of free wheeling indulgence.  Sleeping in, cooking elaborate meals and eating them.  Long uninterrupted walks where the work wasn’t calling to you. 

You have something you want to explore, you sit down and three weeks later that itch is scratched.  It would be an interesting sensation, that’s for sure.

New Westminster Secondary School

Ilona Beiks, from The Vancouver International Writers Festival’s outreach program contacted me to see if I’d be interested in visiting New Westminster Secondary School to do an authors talk.  Of course, I was delighted to go. 

The school from the outside, doesn’t look too impressive.  Is in desperate need of an update, a paint job.  However, when we walked in one of the first things I noticed were these amazing prom dresses, created out of paper and cardboard and stuff.  Some of them were really truly stunning.  There was a few that I could actually see wearing proudly, not even caring that they were made of something other than fabric.  It was like high fashion.  So creative and full of whimsy.

I was very surprised when Laurie walked up to me.  She is the photographer who took the picture of me that I have at the back of my novel, Porcupine.  I didn’t know she had transfered to that school.

We were a little early so, Sarah, looking very spiffy, took us into the back room in the library and we chatted.  At the very start of my talk, all of a sudden I felt a little nervous, just for a flash.  I wanted so much to connect with these teens, but I wasn’t sure if anyone would be open to what I had to say.  And then I just said to myself, “Do the best you can.  You are here for a reason.”  So, I put it aside and trusted that whatever I chose to read would be the right thing, and who ever needed to hear what I had to say, would. 

Well, it was wonderful.  The teens were great.  I didn’t want it to be over, so it was lucky for them that the bell rang after an hour and 1/4 because honestly, I would have read and talked with them until the cows came home.

I was very moved and honored by some of the conversations I had afterwards.  A couple in particular, I will hold forever in my heart. 

Thank you to the Vancouver International Writers Festival and HSBC for sponsoring this visit.  I am so, so, glad I went.  And to top it all off, I have the lovely bouquet of flowers that Sarah gave me, sitting in a vase full of water on our kitchen table, smiling at me.

Playoff Popcorn

Tonight, according to my husband, is the start of a Stanley Cup Playoff of epic proportions.  “The greatest Stanley Cup playoff of all time!  The Detroit Redwings going head to head with the Pittsburgh Penguins.  What could be better?”

Um…I don’t know.  Lots of things.

Anyway, as my long-time bloggers know, hockey doesn’t ring my bell, but that doesn’t mean I’m not all excited for Don.  I’ve just finished making the Playoff Popcorn and I know most of you already know how to make popcorn, but for those of you that don’t, I will go step-by-step.  It is really very easy.

Playoff Popcorn
Ingredients:  corn oil, un-popped popcorn kernels, butter, Parmesan cheese (I use fresh finely grated as well as Kraft Parmesan in the shaker,) and if you can find it, white truffle olive oil. 

The truffle oil is kind of pricey but you only need a little dab of it to make everything taste great.  I drizzle a little bit of it in my potato leek cream soup and it really gives it that extra something.  You also can use a titch in mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, pasta etc.  So, if you do splurge on it, you won’t regret it. (Unless you hate the taste of truffle oil, and then you’ve just wasted a bunch of money)

Put a large colander with a dinner plate under it to catch butter drippings, or large bowl on the counter by the stove.


-2 tablespoons of corn oil.
-1 cup of popcorn kernels

Into a medium sized pan with a well fitting lid.  Put on stove and turn the heat onto medium-high.  (A little closer to the medium side.)  DO NOT walk away from the kitchen.  Popcorn takes a couple of minutes to start popping, but once it is going, it happens pretty fast.

Don’t forget to wear pot-holders on both hands, unless you have the type of pot where the handles don’t get hot. 

Give the pot a good shake every now and then, to move the kernels around.  Even before the corn starts popping.

Once the popcorn starts popping, hold the lid on tight and give the pot a good shake around every eight seconds or so.  This is too keep the popcorn moving inside so the bottom won’t burn. 

When enough popcorn has popped so that it starts forcing the lid off the pot, pour some of the popped popcorn into the waiting colander or bowl. 

Repeat until all the kernels have popped and you can count to ten without another piece popping.

Remove immediately from heat and turn off the stove.

Now you have popcorn!  (What you do next is totally up to you.  You can melt a little butter in the hot pan you just popped the corn in and pour that on and sprinkle a little salt in it.  You can make some carmel and scatter some pecans in the popcorn and make carameled corn.  OR you can make my playoff popcorn.)

-Melt 1/2 cup of butter in the hot pan.  (You don’t need to turn the stove on.  Just plop the butter in the pan and swirl it around until it is melted.  I don’t do this over heat, because you don’t want the butter to burn.
-Add 1/4 a teaspoon of white truffle olive oil (if you have it.  If you don’t, no worries, it’s tastes good without.)
-Shake some of the Kraft Parmesan into the butter (it’s totally up to you how much you want to do.  I do maybe 7-8 shakes) 
-Pour the butter mix over the popped popcorn. 
-Shake more Kraft Parmesan cheese and sprinkle a handful of grated fresh cheese, and a sprinkling of salt.


-Add more cheese and salt to taste.

Stir again.

And then… DEVOUR!

P.S.  And don’t worry if all you have is the Kraft Parmesan and don’t have access to the fresh stuff.  I just wrote the recipe that way, because when I made this up, that was what I had in the house.  Anyway you make it, it’s going to taste good!

I don’t know how to insert the flicker image.

I’ve just checked and apparently, I’ve posted the Spring Hatching image wrong and it is a line of information instead of a picture.  Oh well.  For those of you who are curious, it is supposed to be a cute chick coming out of an egg.  Sigh.

Spring Hatching

The children’s writers and illustrators group that I belong to (CWILL) is having a Spring Book Hatching.  It is open to the public.  Last year was the first time they did it (I was out of town) but it was a rousing success and over 500 people attended.  It is a great way to spend the afternoon and best of all… IT’S FREE! 

Blackberry Books is one of our sponsors and will be selling books.  So if an author or illustrator that is listed below is a favorite of a child in your life, you could purchase a book and have them personalize it.  To give the book that extra special touch.

So, I’ve attached the information and I hope I’ve successfully attached the colourful image that was designed by one of CWILL’s very talented illustrators.  (I will post the name if someone in the know, emails it to me.) 

Come Celebrate Children’s Literature at the Second Annual com/photos/ cwillbcphotos/ 2494763743/

Just in time for summer reading, the Children’s Writers and Illustrators of BC (CWILL BC) is pleased to announce the second annual Spring Book Hatching, a special event to celebrate the release of the latest books by local authors and artists.

Spring Book Hatching will be held June 14, 2008, from 1-3 pm in the Peter Kaye room and lower level at the Vancouver Public Library. This free event promises to have something for every young reader, with picture books, juvenile fiction, and young adult books all being showcased. The afternoon will feature live presentations, free autographs, displays, door prizes, a book sale and—best of all—the chance for lovers of children’s literature to meet their favourite BC author or illustrator.

“We have some incredible, award-winning authors and illustrators in this province,” says CWILL BC president James McCann. “We’re thrilled to have this opportunity to gather so much of our local talent together in one room. Last year, this event was an incredible success, and we can’t wait to show the public what we’ve all been up to since last year.”

To date, the following authors and illustrators are scheduled to appear at Spring Book Hatching: Caroline Adderson, Sue Ann Alderson, Ann Alma, Dan Bar-el, Lillian Boracks-Nemetz, Julie Burtinshaw, Kristin Butcher, Izabel Bzymek, Norma Charles, kc dyer, Lee Edward Födi, Patricia Godwin, James Heneghan, Shelley Hrdlitschka, Vi Hughes, Melanie Jackson, Katarina Jovanovik, Shar Levine, Tanya Lloyd Kyi, Laura Langston, Meomi, James Mccann, Gina Mcmurchy-Barber, Michelle Mulder, Rachel Dunstan Muller, Maxwell Newhouse, Jacqueline Pearce, Robin Stevenson, Crystal Stranaghan, Joan Betty Stuchner, Nikki Tate, Meg Tilly, Kirsti Anne Wakelin, Irene Watts, John Wilson, Kari-Lynn Winters, and Pam Withers.

CWILL BC is a lively group of published writers and illustrators for children. With close to 150 members across British Columbia, we exchange information about creating literary works for young people, we support one another and we help promote our books. Our volunteer, cooperative organization also communicates with other arts groups, schools and libraries in BC and Canada. Spring Book Hatching is hosted by CWILL BC, Pandora’s Collective, and the Vancouver Public Library.

VM Underground Show

Just did my interview with Vic on VM Underground Show.  It was fun.  What a sweetie Vic is.  Anyway, I’m off to bed.  Sweet dreams everybody.


I’m sleepy and want to go to bed, but I have to do an interview on a radio station in a few minutes.  They want to talk about life and my books and what-not.  Apparently, it’s a heavy metal radio station.  I’m fine with that.  I figure all kinds of people, listen to all kinds of music and maybe they have kids that might like Porcupine.  Besides, they are the ones who tracked down Melissa at my publishing house, so somebody at that station must like my writing. 

I made swordfish tonight on the BBQ.  I’ve never cooked swordfish before.  I made up a marinade to brush the fish with.  I was a little worried, because I just poured some stuff into a cup and chopped and diced a few things and added a splash of this and a dab of that until it tasted like maybe it would be good.  Don watched in horror, because he was the one who splurged on the swordfish and was afraid that I was going to ruin it. 

I was afraid I was going to ruin it too, but that made it even more fun, like I was doing a high-wire act without a harness. 

Well, the swordfish was a huge success.  And the fresh corn and pot of wild rice were tasty as well. 

The only problem was, I was worried that the smell of the fish cooking would bring a big black bear snuffling around.  I brought the dogs out with me and they seemed fine, so that was good.  But around forty-five minutes after dinner, they started going crazy and whining and barking at the door and Don let them out and they went racing down the hill through the woods towards the creek barking their heads off. 

Oops.  I have to go and get ready, set up for the radio show.  A glass of water, etc.  So, I better wrap this up quick.

There may have been a bear lurking and maybe not.  The dogs were acting like there was something out there, but I didn’t see it. 

Will loved the fish and was a little disappointed ( a polite way of saying, grumpy) when I said, “Well, enjoy it, honey, because I have no idea what exactly I put in the marinade, or the portions, so you won’t ever be eating this particular dish ever again.”

My friend Gerry just sent me the following quote

It made me laugh so I thought I’d share it.

Warren Buffett’s economic comment (March 2008):
“You only learn who has been swimming naked when the tide goes out -
and what we are witnessing at some of our financial institutions is an ugly

The below posting is interesting to me, but probably not to most…

On the news it said that the tourism trade here in Canada has reached the low levels last recorded in 1972.  It also said that one in ten jobs in this country are tied to tourism.  Restaurants, shops, bed & breakfasts, hotels, museums, etc.  So, obviously this potentially represents a huge problem for Canadians.  Because if one tenth of all the jobs are shaky, that effects the rest of our industries because if there are huge job losses, people will have to cut back on other spending even more than we already do because of the huge surge in food and gas (which are not included in the core index inflation computations) as well as the rise in all the things that are.

However, what is so surprising to me about this whole thing, is that so many people didn’t see it coming. 

In February 2002, I was concerned about the US dollar and even though everyone said, “you have to keep 1/3 of your portfolio in US companies and/or dollars, I didn’t feel comfortable with that.  I looked at the situation in the States and decided to go against conventional wisdom and went for a mix of Australian, New Zealand, Euro, metals, and Canadian.  At that time you needed to pay $1.59 Canadian for $1 US.  When I bought the Euro (not many, should have taken a bigger position, and got out of it too soon) You could buy one Euro for 83 cents US!

I got very lucky.

But anyway, that is why tourism is grinding to a halt here in this country.  The prices on our menus, on our clothes, on our books, on our hotels, are still the same that they were when the US dollar was worth 50 percent more.  Now the US dollar is worth less than the Canadian dollar and actually, the US dollar has nose dived with regards to almost every currency in the world (minus currencies like Zimbabwe of course.) 

The US, to the rest of the world is a bargain.  Who doesn’t like a bargain?  I read that the fun thing for the ladies-that-lunch to do is to take a charter flights from Europe to New York to shop.  I’ve read about bus-loads of Canadians going across the boarder to the States to load up on inexpensive goods. 

I understand why the policymakers in the US are allowing their dollar to slide.  As Richard Russell says, “INFLATE OR DIE!”  The debt load the States has accumulated since Bush took office is MIND BOGGLING.  And they are having to BORROW money just to pay the interest on the massive debt.  So, of course, there is no choice.  The only way they can manage the debt is to devalue the money so that it is cheaper to pay off.  Not to mention it makes their exports more desirable.  And yes, exports from the US have picked up.

Hmmm…I was going to go on, but I just realized that for most of you, this is probably very boring.  I could go on-and-on-and-on, but I shall do the wise thing and sign off.  I’m supposed to be working on my manuscript anyway. 

Last night’s shing-ding

Karen’s sexy voice turned into a major cold, complete with fever, coughing and what-not.  So, she asked me to step in and take over a speaking engagement that she had committed to.

“Sure,” I said.  “Happy to.”  I figured, it was the usual, introduce myself, do a short reading, and then a rousing Q&A. 

Well, last night turned out to be a little something different, not that that would ever phase me.  Something different is my middle name. 

Karen did mention that they were businessmen.  Hey, only difference between them and me is they have to wear a suit to work and I can work in anything I damn well please. 

She also said there might be an interpreter.  No problem.  I’ve done the whole interpreter thing in my old life as an actress.  Bring it on.

I emailed the guy who was setting the whole thing up on Saturday, asked a few questions, what they expected, what was the format and so on. 

Monday, I hadn’t heard back, so I emailed my friend who was languishing in her bed.  I was thinking perhaps they called the whole thing off when they found out she couldn’t come.  Nope.  Not that she knew of.  She gave me a phone number.  I called and the next thing I knew, I was chatting with a very charming Frenchman named Franck. 

Yes, it was on.  They were delighted I could come.  Yes, I could speak, read, whatever.  It was very informal.  And so on.  It was going to be a group of French bankers, from France, and they like to give them a taste of the life, the place, the people who live here.  So that it is not just doing business and numbers, but it is human, about community.

Very interesting, admirable, this was going to be fun. 

My husband, decided that he didn’t feel like going to play ball hockey after all, but would rather come and keep me company.  Right.  If I was going to speak to a knitting club, I doubt that he would have felt such a violent need to cancel. 

We arrived at the hotel a little bit early.  I brought my little purse with the dangling dancing fowl all around the opening that my sister, Jenny, gave me.  Because she bought it in Paris, and even though it clashed a bit with the dress I wore (that she also gave me) I figured if there were any female French bankers, that would probably put me in good with them.  Like, I might not know what to wear it with, but at least I had the good taste to buy such a cute purse. 

Don and I sat down in some chairs outside of the conference room that I was going to be speaking in.  Someone else was in there now, giving a very professional presentation with a projector and graphs and such. 

I didn’t have any graphs.  I didn’t have any power point presentation.  I didn’t have any stats.  All I had was me, and my sister’s purse with my books tucked inside.  Not to mention, my husband who was hovering in a testosterone induced haze of “mine” emanating from him.  Which is really quite ridiculous.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m glad he’s delusional about how desirable I am.  It’s funny really, but I have to say, how he sees me is totally not based in reality. 

Whatever.  Who am I to pop his little bubble? 

Franck came out into the hall and we talked until it was time for me to go in. 

I wasn’t nervous at all.  Why would I be?  There was no way I could prepare.  Prepare for what?  It wasn’t like a Keynote speaker gig.  I was just supposed to talk about me, my life, my work.  Do a few questions and answers, well one can’t prepare for that either.  Someone asks a question, I open up my mouth and speak.

And I did. 

I didn’t read.  It was clear to me when 3/4 of the room went to get the little earphones to hear the interpreter that a reading would not work at all.  So I talked, and I talked and then I took some questions and then I talked some more.  And beads of sweat were popping out on the poor interpreter’s brow. 

Now when I’ve worked with interpreters before, I would answer a question and then wait for the interpreter to do his thing.  But I was told, to just keep talking and he would keep up. 

Hmm…I think a lot of what I was saying fell through the cracks.  I would answer in the long winded way that I do, and then he would say, a sentence or two. 

I don’t know if it was a disaster or not.  I don’t know how much got through.  I don’t know what exactly I was supposed to do, or if I did it. 

I do know that I had a real good time.  I do know that I couldn’t go to sleep that night.  Turning over the day in my head.  I do know that even though it was a little confusing and even slightly awkward at times, that in between the expected questions, I was asked some very interesting and unusual questions as well.  Ones that really made me think.  Like “Do you believe in God?”  “Are you a political person?”  “What is the differences between dancing, acting and writing and what are the similarities?”  “Forgive me for asking this, but do you find Vancouver, how do I say it?  A little boring?”  “If you were in charge of the world what would you do?  What changes?  What would be a perfect world to you?”  “What is your philosophy of life?”  And so the questions went. 

None of the women at the back of the room asked me any questions.  I was a little disappointed by that.  I usually get on with women.  Maybe they were intimidated by my purse?  HA!

Anyway, it was very interesting.  I can’t believe that they are going to pay me for the experience.  In Euros even.  Whoohoo!

Good Morning

Don is whipping up a storm in the kitchen for breakfast.  It seems to be building to a grand crescendo.  I wonder what it’s going to be?  Smells savory. 

We have a new game going on the kitchen table so Will had the good idea to eat in the dining room.  We’ve never eaten breakfast in the dining room before.  I don’t know why?  It’s pretty in there.

Now Will is setting the table, carrying drinks and silverware and glasses in there.  It will be time to eat soon and then I shall head into my writing room. 

Don just said it’s “Time to eat.”  Bye for now.

Oh my goodness

It is sooo hot.  Yesterday and today, I don’t know what happened, but all of a sudden…POW!  It’s summer.  Add that to my own bodys thermometer going crazy and thinking it was summer even in the dead of winter when there was snow on the ground and it is not a pretty thought, let me tell you. 

Phew!  I’m hot.  I’m dressed in shorts and a tank top and I’m still hot.  Thank God that crazed hairdresser cut off all my hair, because honestly, I don’t think I could take the extra insulation. 

I checked out the weather for the next few days, and I know what I am about to say is sacrilegious and all the rain-drenched Vancouverites are going to hate me, but I was SO happy to see that it was going to start cooling off and raining again next week.  I think I’d better seriously start thinking about moving to Antarctica if these hot flashes don’t start abating. 

By the way, I’m dealing with edit notes on Try And Stop Me, but I’m still stubbornly trying to continue on the new/old manuscript as well, because I don’t want to lose it.  I’m doing double writing duty, so I’ll probably be doing a few less blogs for the next couple of weeks until I finish the Try And Stop Me edits and am just working one project again. 

Thought I better give you the heads up.  I didn’t want people getting worried, or thinking something was wrong.  Everything is great, it’s just a crazy busy time right now.  xo

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