Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Summer of Firsts: The 200 km ride

As always I am long winded. I had my camera on this ride. I don't know why I didn't take any pictures. I guess because it is hard to take pictures while riding........

I’m still smiling. It’s been a summer of firsts: first big group ride; first foray into mountain biking; first 100 miler; first Olympic Tri; and yesterday the first 200 km. Today I am flying high. I almost didn’t go on this ride but the fact that I was so indecisive about it probably was to my benefit in the end. It meant I didn’t think about it too much, unlike the Muddy Waters ride where I signed up and thought about nothing else in a state of anxiety and panic from that moment on.

I rode my bike from my house to the meeting point for 7 a.m. I thought I was only a couple of km away but it turned out to be 3.4 km. Oh well. I would figure out at 196.6 km if that would be something I would regret. I wanted to ride gutsy this time, so the heart rate monitor stayed home. The heart rate monitor makes me judge my performance by numbers and I didn’t need that. Just the way so much medical monitoring equipment can create so much unnecessary hyper analysis of one’s health.

We got our ride cards and signed the waver form and paid our $10 (yes, that is not a typo) and were off by 0700. This Randonneurs club that organized the ride (Brian and Sue Leier, are the primary organizers and are the parents of Olympic swimmer Riannon Leier) set it up similar to how they organize similar events in France. You ride from town to town and get your card signed to prove you went through the town and then you carry on. I rode out with Andrea, south down Pembina Hwy, behind a lead group of 4 guys. There were probably about 17 riders total on this ride and I had no idea what the pace would be. If it was going to crank up to 38 or 40+ early on before I was fully warmed up, the way Muddy Waters did, I would be cooked. But when we caught up to the lead group of 4 riders they were doing about 30. When we turned onto Turnbull Drive, the pace stayed at 30, and once we got onto 200 it didn’t go much above 32-33. Perfect. With all this draft, this pace would be a piece of cake.

Once we turned off Hwy 200 onto 210 the roads got wet and muddy. We all got mud splattered, it had rained really hard early in the morning and chunks of mud off farm trucks littered the highways. There was the lovely aroma of pig farm too. I did my turn pulling the group and then dropped back and noticed that not everyone was with us. There were only about 12 riders in our group. Chantal wasn’t with us. I figured she could have hung with us at this pace and I’m not sure how she didn’t end up in our group. She and I did this pace at Muddy Waters for the short time the Provincial team guy pulled us along. Somewhere amongst the mud and pot holes on whatever provincial trunk hwy we happened to be on at the time, Michael hit one of the large water-filled pot holes and both his water bottles came flying out of their cages. Being right behind him, I had to dodge, the pothole, then bottle number one and then bottle number two. Michael stopped, Derek slowed up a bit to wait, and the rest of us carried on a little slower. It was Michael. He wasn’t going to have any trouble catching up. I think someone actually said that out loud.

There was a “secret control” I think around Beaumont around Hwy 310. This was at about 54 km in. Sue was sitting there at her little orange car with snacks and ready to stamp our cards. I guess this is part of the game. These are unannounced stops, I guess as proof that you didn’t short-cut the route. I ate a banana and some potato chips. I wanted to be sure I ate something every time we stopped. Derek and Jason turned around at this point as neither one of them could spend the whole day riding. As we left this control stop the second group of riders pulled in.

We rode from there to Richer, another 40 km approximately, which would bring us to 94 km. There were a couple of hills and people were starting to fatigue. We lost two riders at different points and then stopped for Breakfast at one of the truck stops in Richer at Hwy #1, arriving just before 1030. Cheap Breakfast and good coffee and working toilets (no bushes). We were there for about 45 minutes.

Unexplained Fatigue (and NO it can’t be because I’ve already ridden 100km+)

I was still feeling great at this point. Brian had left us before Breakfast to go to meet Sue at the next check point where they would trade off and she would ride. Brian rode the first 100km approximately and Sue rode the second half. We left Richer at just after 1100 and tore back down the highway. A lot of it was downhill. There was a slight incline all the way to Richer, so it really seemed like the pace picked up. We had places while heading west where we were doing 36 or 37 km/hr with a bit of wind behind us. It was not a solid East wind, it was somewhat North East. In this stretch I was finding any side wind really difficult and a bit of side wind combined with a higher pace felt deadly. I just kept focusing on the wheel in front of me and I did better the further back in the pack I was. I didn’t really understand why, suddenly, I was finding this ride such hard work. I hadn’t really found any of it hard work up to this point. I was thankful when just before LaBroquerie, Andrea announced she had to go to the bathroom and the group pulled over at the shell station at the corner of Hwys 302 and 52.

I was standing at Sue and Brian’s car and decided to pull out a gel. I know I had just eaten breakfast but I didn’t want to make any stops without taking in calories. I was burning many calories today. We were all chatting and waiting for those who went to the bathroom when Ben looked down and said, “You’ve got a flat.” YIKES, so I did. Good timing. So he and Chris helped me change my tire. I was struggling with my hands. My right hand was really swollen from gripping my handle bars and not keeping the circulation going well enough and I couldn’t get the tire popped out of the rim (not to mention the 10 pairs of eyes on me). But it explained my sudden onset of fatigue on the road. The tire wasn’t completely flat. There was a pinhole puncture in it. It had likely been getting flatter the whole previous 10km. But if one is going to get a flat, best it happens when you are already stopped... and that tire was the only tire casualty of the day in my group of riders.

And then it picks up

Sue was fresh and started to ride with us at this point. She led us out of LaBroquerie and held us at a pace of 35km/per/hour... she was incredible. I did my share of pulling here and there. I think the longest I lasted was about 5km and I didn’t avoid my turn at the front, even if I only lasted a minute or two. I never lasted as long as some of the guys but Sue must have pulled us along, with a bit of tail wind, for about 20km at that pace. I never could have done that, not even at the beginning of the ride. We had been in a double pace line up to this point but the rural highways were getting busier so we switched to a single pace line and in many ways I liked this better. Only one wheel in front of me to focus on. Like geese on a flight path.

From LaBroquerie we went through Steinback and onto Kleefield which is where the next control stop was. We started to lose people at LaBroquerie. Sue was pulling again and I was right on her wheel and at some point I looked back and there was a smaller group behind me and the next rider was about 10 yards off. I looked back again a few minutes later and they were all about 300m off. Andrea had dropped off first and Michael had stayed back with her and then the other guys fell off too. We were almost at the stop so we carried on regardless. We thought something had happened. Someone else got a flat maybe. (Sue doubted that she had dropped anyone)... but Ben and Chris who were not far behind didn’t know what was going on. We were about 144km into the ride at this point. People were just fatiguing. Andrea’s legs were sore. We all needed a rest. There was a lot of complaining going on about various body parts at this rest stop. I was good though. Nothing hurt abnormally or excessively. I ate a whole protein bar. Andrea contemplated taking Advil but opted not to in the event it upset her stomach. She sat on the ground and stretched. John was afraid to sit in case he never got back up again. He had dropped off before Andrea. I thought John’s problem was just not following close enough to get the full draft. John and I had rode together for about half of Muddy Waters and he wasn’t very experienced at group riding. (I said to him I was certain he had to have had a faster bike time than me in Clear Lake at the Riding Mountain Tri but he couldn’t remember his bike time. I’ve since checked..... he didn’t).

And we carried on down the Hwy. We lost John early. We started off in a double pace line and then ended up in a single again. I had tried to pull but we were going North at this point and the wind was kicking my ass and I wasn’t keeping the pace, not to mention we were a little jumbled at this point. Some were riding side by side and some were riding in singles. So I dropped back also to get some semblance of order. I ended up at the back behind Michael and Andrea. Not long after Andrea waved me past and dropped off. That was it for her legs. Michael slowed up to stay with her and I powered past to the rest of the group.

We carried on as 6 at that point: Me, Sue, Chris, Ben, Ken and Pete... Pete rode a recumbent bike. There was another guy Kevin who fell off too who also rode a recumbent. The recumbants were cool but not very helpful to the group in a pace line. They couldn’t pull because they didn’t sit high enough for anyone to draft off of. Pete had been the guy who had drawn up the route so there were times when he went ahead and pulled right before a turn to be sure we went the right way.

Sharing our Ass-ets

Being down to 6 was harder (5 upright bikes, one recumbent). I think Chris and Ben did a lot of work through this section. So did Sue. I always seemed to be at the back. I was still feeling pretty good, but I just found every time I went to pull that I couldn’t really keep the pace. We were fighting some wind along with our fatigue. Sue pulled us most of the way from Niverville to Hwy 200, then it was Chris again but he was tired and we headed into the wind at only 26 km per hour. I thought, “If Chris can pull at 26 so can I.” We were all tired, I was going to take my turn. So when Chris dropped off I plopped down on my aerobars and brought us up to 28 or 29 into the wind. I took us about 3 kms. I had hoped to take us as far as St. Adolfe but I didn’t quite make it that far before losing the pace. Ken was behind me and he lasted a bit at my pace and then he was down to 24 and then he was pulling off and then he was off the back. We lost Ken there.

Ben was next and he found some superpowers because there we were going 33-35 again. When he finally dropped off, I said, Holy Ben, where’d you pull that out of your ass? At which point, he proceeded to show me his ass. Twice – because I missed it the first time. And having a good laugh like that was good for bringing our exhausted bodies and spirits back to life. We stopped in St. Adolfe at the Esso. I ate my sport beans. Ken went on by without stopping. We talked about waiting for Andrea and Michael but we were there for over 5 minutes and there was no sign of them off in the distance. We had 17 km to go and were anxious to get them done. We passed Ken about 3 or 4 km in. Ben led us out. When I saw the floodway bridge I was excited because it meant we were really close. Sue pulled again for a while and I stayed on her back tire and, reminiscent of coming into Kleefield, we lost all the guys again. “See,” I said to Sue, “It was you! You did drop everyone.” Pete caught up and Sue, Pete and I rode it in to the end. Ben and Chris were not far behind. I found Brian snoozing on the grass beside the car back at the Shell.

Earning a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T

At the end there were hugs and handshakes all around. We got home at 3:15 about. We left at 7 a.m. so we were on the road for 8 hours and 15 minutes. Ride time was about 6:40. My total distance on my computer reads 206km but my computer conked out for a bit on Highway 311 and I don’t know how far I rode before I noticed. I had calculated that I should have done 210 (this includes my ride to and from home). Average speed: 31+km/hr. We hung around, drank chocolate milk and talked war stories. Ken was about 10 minutes back. Andrea, Michael and John were about 20 minutes behind. We never did see the second group come back as we all left for home.

There is nothing that pleases me more than when I choose to do crazy pursuits like this and I surprise myself and go far beyond what I thought I was capable of. There have only been two times that this has happened this year (the FOG ride in May and yesterday on this 200km). I didn’t think I had it in me to come off that ride as strong as I did. I felt worse going slower at that Muddy Waters 100 miles but given all the negative talk going on in my head before that ride it is proof of how negative self talk has a huge influence on performance. This ride is going to make the MS bike tour (which is 70km per day for 2 days) in two weeks feel like a piece of cake. I wonder if I will be able to stay with those fast guys this year through all those hills? (i.e. Michael, Stig, Jim). I am certainly going to give it a shot.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A spo(R)ting life retrospective: A reflection on writing SO, SAVE ME

Periodically I will do this here in ths blog. I have pages and pages of stuff I wrote about various things dating back to the time I started writing my first novel. Some of them are fit for print and some of them are not. The majority of the original document I am about to reproduced was written in December 2005 which means that most of it was written prior to me entering into my the mentorship program at the Writer's Guild which means I used it in a way to work out what I was going to do in my 4th draft. It is 22 pages long, double spaced, so you can guess that the title of my first entry is entirly ironic. I know nothing about brevity. So what I re-copy here, I will edit. I, in particular am going to take out everything that discusses the plot. (That's me, by the way, above, doing my reading at the Mentorship wind up in June 2006.)

I like the rawness of this old document and the obvious emotion and excitement I was feeling while I wrote SO, SAVE ME. It is excitment I have only been able to reproduce recently when I do things like ride my bike 100 miles or chase 5 men down the highway on my bike at over 40 km per hour (with a bit of a tail wind) and actually stay on their back wheels for a couple km's..... It's like nerdy teenage giddiness. It was like seeing a band of your teenage idol's live for the first time and screaming your face off. It is an adrenaline rush you can never reproduce again doing the same thing. You always have to up the anti.

SO, SAVE ME is my first novel. It by far was and still is the best thing I have ever written in fiction. When people ask what it is about, I sometimes say it is about a girl who is trying to get laid without losing her sense of self. It is hard to summerize in one sentence. It is about a lot of things. It is about grief. It is about drinking too much. It is about figuring out what a good relationship is.

I can't take care of the day-to-day stuff but I fantasize about the big rescue. Like one day I will be some guy's saviour and maybe he will save me at the same time.

I wrote that sentence without really knowing what I was saying at the time. There were lots of sentences like that. Now I call them subliminal messages because I can now open up So, Save Me and see, not a young adult novel, but one big commentary about the state of my marriage........

A Reflection on Writing SO, SAVE ME (December 2005)
I’m not sure at what point it was that I knew I was going to sit down and write this. Sometime in the spring I was in McNally looking through the bargain book shelves and I came across the novel How to Deal, I can’t think who the author is at the moment but it was made into a movie with Mandy Moore, and I picked it up and thought, I should buy it and learn from it – but the part of me that has been repressing the need to write for way too many years won out and I didn’t spend the five bucks or so that it would have cost me to buy that book.

Around the same time I was browsing through the Children’s Hospital book sale shelves and I migrated to the young adult section as somehow I always manage to do because I am always looking for books that made me feel good after I read them, and I found an old book that I probably read for the first time when I was about 13. It was Francine Pascal’s My First Love and Other Disasters and I bought it for $0.30. And I think it started there. It started with me reading this very old book and thinking I am capable of doing this.
And then life went on. And I went to work and I did my thing and I revised that monstrously bland research study that was under review at Heart and Lung perfecting my ability to strip every sentence of any personality and interest and I came home and I did scrapbooking and played with the kids and cooked supper and quietly wondered if I could write an entire novel during my summer vacation. And then it was summer and I was thinking about what I would have to give up to write. I would have to give up scrapbooking for one. I would have to give up sleep for another. I would have to give up TV as a third and I would not be able to do my Ph.D. and I figured it was all worth it.

But instead of writing I read. I picked up books at Costco. I picked up The Year of Secret Assignments and the cover blurb said something about really great kissing and I thought, yep, that’s the book for me. And I read it over a couple of days and it was really clever (not much kissing though) and I noticed something about young adult books that wasn’t around when I was a young adult reading these books and that is that they were a lot more risqué than they were in the 1980’s. I believe the catch word of the day is edgy. They are much edgier now. And edgy is what I needed. I started writing what has now become So, Save Me when I was around 18 or 19 and while I was writing it back then in 1989-90 I kept thinking no one is going to want to publish this or at least not with all the swear words and the obvious sexuality and innuendo. You can do all that now – the sexuality and the innuendo. There is still a bit of cap on the foul language – it appears the F word is out – but I did see the word shit in Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants and 12 year olds read that book. I did also see the F word in Catcher in the Rye – so who knows – I am thinking 15+ here.

So my summer went by and I hadn’t started writing and I went back to work and I was doing the final edits on that damn research article prior to publication and I just felt depressed because none of this was what I actually wanted to be doing. I manipulated my way into getting a lap top and I had been thinking all summer about what I wanted to write about. I wanted to write about how relationships were not like they are on TV and how they are scary and you are rarely confident and because you aren’t confident you sometimes do things that are humiliating and insecure. And I had a whole opening scene where my lead character, a high school girl, was walking home with a guy and it is a guy she doesn’t know well and he is really friendly but she knows the only reason that he is walking home with her is because he is interested in her best friend and she knows that the only reason she is walking home with him is because she is interested in his best friend and it goes from there.

That is not the story I ended up writing about and I never used that scene – that one is in the archives for another novel. What I did instead was re-read all the stuff I had written when I was a teen. I read that start of a novel I wrote when I was 14, the one that has no plot and no ending and is just a bunch of things that happen. Then I read the handwritten pages that I wrote when I was 18 or 19 and they were extremely difficult to read because they were so honest and too reflective of something that actually happened to me at that age and I know I was writing them at that time as a way to relive every moment I spent with the particular guy that they are about (therapy as I say), and I also know that I quit writing them because I didn’t know how it all ended. I didn’t know at that time that I would get over him and I would turn out OK.

And it is those handwritten pages that really got me and they got the story idea flowing because I could take some of the incidents that happened in those pages and I could turn them upside down on their head and create a new story and the new story would be about a relationship-phobic girl who meets a messed up guy who is still grieving the loss of his mother, he has a binge drinking problem, and he drinks and drives and it just so happens that our make-out queen relationship-phobic girl has had a rather embarrassing fling with a very good friend of the messed up guy and as soon as she gets together with messed up guy the other guy pops back into her life.

I didn’t want the story to have a gimmick. There are too many teen novels out there that the driving force behind them is a gimmick which I define as some clever fantasy thing that happens that would probably never happen in real life to a real teen (like a pen pal handwritten letter exchange between two schools or a pair of pants that fit four girls of different shapes and sizes and they mail them around the world for a week at a time for one summer). But I did have to have these characters do something all together as a group on a regular basis. It couldn’t all be about house parties and going to the bar – even if that is what 18 and 19 year olds in university actually do (and I will admit that a good chunk of this book does take place at house parties and bars but alcohol is a big theme here so it was unavoidable). So they play baseball. I think at 18 if I had played softball that I would have played like Janey (I am but a shadow of the player she is as I describe her). But I knew I could do softball. I could talk nuances of softball and not look like I was pulling facts off a website.

The other thing that I knew that I was going to have to deal with was the whole French-English thing. I have known for a long time that I wanted to write a story about the French English relations in this city and how they play out socially, and the French underworld, so to speak, that the English people never even notice and I make a few comments about those issues in various places throughout the book. I didn’t want to make that the driving force behind the book but I knew it had to be an issue as well as the Catholic and religion issue and everything I say about those two issues are things that happened to me and are how I felt being in similar situations. And obviously the story’s perspective is the Anglophone perspective because I am Anglophone and I can’t do the other side. I am not sure I resolve those issues, and considering how the story ends I am not sure that it matters if they are resolved. I am also not sure that they are resolvable issues in this story or in real life either – they just are as they are.

And so I wrote. Getting started was the hardest thing. I was deathly afraid that I wouldn’t be able to do fiction anymore when I started this. And when I sat down and wrote for the first time all I could do was 2 pages and it was really slow but that didn’t concern me because I know from 20 years of writing that usually if writing comes too easy that it is probably bad writing. But never once, while I wrote the first draft, did I think I was doing bad writing. In fact I was quite frequently stunning myself.
I found the writing process all consuming. It was the only thing I could think about and I frequently found myself not being able to concentrate and I would start getting the shakes around 4pm because I couldn’t wait to start writing (it might have had a little something to do with too much coffee too – lack of sleep has been my middle name the last few months). Sometimes I would write when I wasn’t supposed to be writing, like at work, or when I was supposed to be cooking supper and I couldn’t resist because it was like a drug and I felt like I was addicted.

I also had this overwhelming sense that it was a do it now or never do it situation. I had looked into doing my PhD and I knew that if I started writing that I would not be able to do my PhD too because the PhD would kill all ability to write. I really had this constant sense that the time and situation had aligned themselves (like the planets) and that this was what I was meant to be doing right now and if I didn’t do it now the time would pass and it may never align itself like that again.

I plunged myself into a couple rather serious cases of the blues during the writing process. The first came when I made the very bad decision sometime just before or just after starting the first chapter, to go and re-read my journal from the period of my life that I was writing about – the summer of 1989 the summer after graduating high school before starting university. I was looking for catch phrases and slang from the time period but what happened instead is that I reminded myself of exactly what happened between myself and the guy I was with that summer and I felt absolutely horrified and for a brief period of time I put myself back emotionally to a time and place where I was in that relationship again and I read about how I reacted to that situation when I was 18 and I felt horrible for that person that I was, that sad, insecure girl who had so very little self esteem.

The second time was after I finished the first draft. I took about 4 days off before I wrote the last section. I really felt that I was going to go back into my manuscript and I was going to have to do no more than a good polish and I would have a solid manuscript. That was what I was used to with my writing – in my academic writing – I had gotten to a place where I could write a clean first draft and it didn’t require a whole lot of content revision or editing. I could write it well the first time. So after I read Stephen King’s book (On Writing) and I thought my writing was fabulous and I could let other people read it and they would think I was brilliant and the best undiscovered talent in young adult fiction to come around in a generation and all other kinds of delusions of grandeur.

Then I broke King’s number one rule. He said to let the manuscript sit for six weeks and not look at it – gain some perspective and distance – and as I read this in his book I was nodding to myself and thinking: of course, I do this all the time with my other writing – I always let it sit, I always give it distance. But it kept calling to me and I printed it out one day at work and then I started reading passages at random and it was horrible. It was awful. It was dreadful. It was worse than bad. It was embarrassing. Things that I thought were cool while I was writing them I thought were stupid and corny and they made me role my eyes and ooooh I can't stand books that make me role my eyes. My own book was making me role my eyes every five pages it felt like. I was afraid it was unfixable.

Obviously I got through that stage. I did a few of the things that I have been doing to get my inspiration back (music and TV shows did that, for one) and I did start revising and I convinced myself it was fixable and it turns out that it was. That was a bad one though. I almost quit during that one.

The third bout of the blues came sometime in the middle of revisions. I kept going back to the beginning because they kept calling to me from my subconscious. So I sat down at work one day when I should have been thinking about Epidemiology or something equally dry and I started reading. I haven’t ever actually read the whole manuscript cover to cover yet. I just keep looking at it in compartmentalized sections but that day I sat down and I read through the first 9 chapters without interruption and I started off excited because it was working and it was fabulous and I wasn’t hating it. Then I got into chapter 5 and I found myself drifting off and it suddenly occurred to me that the reason why I was drifting off was because I was bored and then it was like, Oh God, I am boring myself, what will my reader think? And I was at it again. I was in the just give it up and go to do your PhD mode, you’re a hack, you suck, you’ll never be a writer. GIVE IT UP.

But I figured out how to fix that too. I have always been a little worried that my academic background was going to be a detriment to writing fiction but I have learnt one important lesson in academic writing and that is that if something isn’t working then cut it. Just cut it out don’t try to fix it and that turned out to be the solution in part 4 too. I ended up cutting about 3 pages and that did it. I needed to get Janey back with Marc sooner than it was happening and there was a bunch of stuff in 4 that was not really necessary to the plot but all that stuff was preventing me from getting back to Marc and re-introducing Colin. Cutting fixed the drag.

But by time I started revising I started thinking about how what this story was really about was a girl of contradictions and about being in the wrong relationship and not recognizing it and the reason why she is in the wrong relationship is because she is hoping to save Marc in some way, to rescue him, to fix him and the fact that he needs to be fixed emotionally is what attracts her to him in the first place and then somewhere around revising part 8 I was listening a lot to Forty Foot Echo, two songs in particular, Save Me and Brand New Day, and both songs are about basically the same thing to some extent, about trying to hold on to who you are as a person while at the same time having regret and needing to pick up the pieces and carry on and recognize the need to change and evolve from your mistakes, and the chorus in Save Me actually starts off “So save me” and I thought if you think of that line with a little bit of attitude like you are giving someone a dare – So, save me – I dare you to try, that it would be a better fit for this story because Janey starts off trying to save and she ends up being saved in a way by both guys.

So then that begs the question that all writers get asked about their writing at some point and that is how much of me is in this story. How much of it is real life? It would be fair to say I have been through every single emotional circumstance that happens in this book. I have felt jealous of my friends, I have felt like I didn’t belong with my friends, I have felt that my friends didn’t get who I was, I have felt irritated by them, I have felt like my feelings were being discredited by someone I was in a relationship with, I have felt like the way a guy was behaving towards me stifled my personality and made me feel like I didn’t know how to act, I have said mean things about another person not intending to be overheard but I was overheard and I had to face the consequences and apologize afterward, I have felt like I was freaking out over sex, I have been in sexual situations where I did things and went to a certain “base”, so to speak, and didn’t really want to go as far as I let myself go. I am the only non Catholic amongst a group of very Catholic friends and I pretty much feel no affinity to religion. All my friends growing up worked at Canadian Tire (two different ones though) and I worked at Safeway. My friend’s Dad was the manager of a Canadian Tire. I hung out in a French Canadian bar for a short time that was above Le Rendezvous called Canot which is basically exactly like I describe it. All that is semi-autobiographical.

I worry about being too crude in places because my sense of humour can be crude and sometimes I don’t recognize when I am being crude and I, to this day, say things out loud that shock people and I don’t want the humour to be toilet humour but it is quite possible in places that it is toilet humour or borders on toilet humour (e.g. the big guns not being her breasts; the part about Marc being the same guy who’s had his hands in her shorts almost every night this week). But I did kind of always want to write the kind of novel that was honest and real and really reflected what my life was like with my friends and how we really talked to each other and how sometimes you make bad choices and not every teen has the goody-two shoes response to morally wrong situations and you kiss people for the wrong reasons and how you size up every guy you meet by his sex appeal and you do sexual and intimate things with people when you don’t really want to, and there is always the guy that every word that comes out of his mouth is a sexual advance and so on. I wanted to write a book that the kids whispered about in the halls – “Pssst you gotta read this book. Your parents will hate it” – like Catcher in the Rye was or Are You There God It’s Me Margaret? Or Forever.

It’s a long process, this writing thing, and I am learning something every day and it’s not finished yet, but I needed to get these reflections on paper so that I can look back and see how far I have come when it is finally finished. It’s time to let this thing sit for a while, catch up on preparations for term 2, and get some sleep. It’s time to let some people read it. That is the hardest thing for me, to let other people read it, in particular my husband who makes fun of my obsession with teen culture. But I will never know where there are truly gaps until I start farming it out and piloting it to readers. That and if I don’t stop picking at it now while I am the only one that has seen it then I will end up polishing the life out of it. At least as time goes by less and less things about it wake me up in the middle of the night screaming at me to change them and fix them.

It just feels so personal. I feel very fragile. I feel like my whole self esteem is wrapped up in this project. But on good days – like today – I feel excited. I feel like I could go somewhere with this and you can’t be a published author by sitting around and thinking about writing.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


I’ve been putting this off. Like all things that have the potential to get out of control, I’ve procrastinated to the point of inaction. When one starts a blog one should make the first entry about, “who am I?” and what do I plan to write about and why the hell should anyone care? I hate writing these things because there is always a huge story and far more details within every nuance that makes up who you are. But I will give brevity a one-time shot:

I’m just a thirtysomething* mother of two – closer to 40 than 30. I was married and now I am not and this has not been a bad thing. I’ve been through all the phases of Eat, Pray, Love without having to take a year off and travel to Italy, India, and Indonesia. I can do Italy, India and Indonesia inside my imagination. You’re bound to hear a lot about my marriage indirectly. What you will not ever hear is me bitch about my ex. He’s a fine man and a good father. He just wasn’t for me and it took all the strength I had to walk away and live my life.

In no particular order I also adore the following things... I mention these only because you are bound to hear about them a lot.
My bike:
Or shall I say bikes. I started cycling just over a year ago and it very quickly became a part of my identity. I started because a friend at work was into it and I loved how he talked about how he felt on his bike. I wanted to know what that felt like. I bought one bike as a birthday present to myself in April 08 and by August 08 I was craving (and gave into purchasing) a more expensive upgrade. It turns out that, for a nearly 40 year old chick who’s only been cycling for just over a year, I’m not half bad. OK, I am better than not half bad.... but I can be better yet.

Road cycling addiction led to an experiment in mountain biking. I thought I was kamikaze enough to hit those trails and be just as talented as I am on the road. Not so, buttercup. In fact, I quite suck at sharp turns and roots. But I am learning and every time I go out I get better.
And if I could, I would go out right now and buy one of those single speed commuter bikes... but alas it is not in the cards for now.
I write:
My life started onto the path I am presently taking when I started writing my first novel about 4 years ago in September. Writing taught me how to get by on 4 hours sleep, how to be addicted to words, and how to drink lots of coffee (something I never did my whole life until I started to write). I can’t explain what writing did for me at that time. It sustained me. It brought me back to life. My first novel got me into a mentorship and it got me a high level Provincial writing grant. It was viewed by 3 agents in full, by two in part, and by two publishers, all of which ultimately turned it down.** It is a tough world out there. I’ve since written a second novel which still needs a lot of work. I need to write more and I have ideas burning in me all the time. Hence the blog.
Other miscellaneous athletics, none of which I like nearly as much as cycling:
I started as a runner. I can be moderately fast but cycling has killed a lot of my speed (big muscular thighs are hard to drag across pavement). Running and cycling got me into triathlon and I joined a Triathlon club last fall. In triathlon, I am kick-ass at the cycling part and am decidedly mediocre at the other two sports. As for swimming, I am a good swimmer; I am just not very fast. Otherwise, I will try pretty much anything. Next on the list: a 200 km bike ride this weekend, a 6 hour adventure race, and a full marathon. The list of goals never ends.

My children:
At the time of this writing my children are Emma (age 8) and Nolan (age 5.5). While I am not a mother who lives vicariously through and derives her entire identity from the activities and goings-on of my children, they are the centre of my world. I'm good at motherly things like teaching them stuff and encouraging independance. I am not very good at standing around the kitchen and making them food at their beck and call. They will become who they are destined to become. They will not try to turn them into mini versions me. Believe me, one of me is more than enough in this world.

My friends:
I have lots of them and I know more people that I ever thought. Facebook taught me this. I used to think I knew no one and had few friends. Some of my friends have amazing stories to tell in their own right. I have learnt in the last few years that opening up a little of yourself goes a long way to bringing you closer to others.
I write for me. I talk about what is on my mind at the moment and if it happens to agree with what is on your mind then you are guaranteed to like. If not, then skip, and maybe you’ll like the next one. Sometimes I’ll complain, sometimes I’ll be excited, sometimes I’ll be sarcastic, and sometimes I’ll be sad. I write from a really deep place and I’m bound to be overly emotional and too revealing. I’m far too honest for my own good and my life has been more than a little dramatic in recent years (some of that you may hear about but most of it you will not). I can’t tell you where I’m going to start or where I am going to end up. But come along and I’ll show you where I am at.***

*running the word together and the italics is not a typo. I watched that TV show religiously when I was in my teens and early twenties (which probably suggests that I have always been an older soul than my chronological age) but it seem few people really remember it. I’ve tried to write things in other domains where I’ve used that phrase with the word run together and I always get edited out. I guess it no longer counts as pop culture.
**technically, the second publisher hasn’t turned down the novel. I’ve just never heard from them. They requested it three years ago approximately, told me it was on a “shortlist” and every time I checked back they said it still hadn’t been read by their editorial board. The last email I sent checking in never received a reply. I’ve gotten tired of waiting and I’ve stopped checking in. But this is how publishers work. You are at the beck and call of their whims and whatever they think they can sell. I really should check in again, though.
***I'm still figuring the technical details of blogging out. I don't know how to place pictures in the right spot or how create clever headings or backgrounds. I'll get there. Be patient with me.