Sunday, February 14, 2010


Oh, Canada.

With two golden opportunities coming up short, is there enough Valentine’s chocolate on the shelves to help us cope?

As the Olympics got underway, I kept my television on for most of Saturday. There is pride with these Olympics on Canadian soil and, although I cannot afford to see any of the events live, I feel a greater connection since I was living in Vancouver when we won the bid and I’m still only a ferry ride away. Still, I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable as I watched the coverage on CTV and Sportsnet. The hunger for gold this time around seems to have cast a shadow over the way the events are reported and the way viewers are being groomed. All of us are supposed to be on a quest for gold. I feel sorry for all Canadian athletes competing before the country gets that golden monkey of its back.

Am I really being too Canadian in thinking that a silver medal is worth celebrating? Should I slap myself for smiling as Canadian mogul competitor and medal contender Kristi Richards flashed a sportsmanlike grin after wiping out during her run and getting up to complete the course as best she could? The new Canadian mentality is supposed to be gold or nothing. Own the podium. Leave the please and thank yous to the beat poet. How dare Charles Hamelin fail to reach the short track final! And how can we embrace Jenn Heil and her “disappointing” silver?

Yes, it’s unfortunate that Canadian athletes have yet to win a gold medal during an Olympics at home. Every host nation wants to sing along to its anthem as the flag is raised during a medal ceremony. (For us, the longing may be heightened since we were stripped of the chance to sing along to Nikki Yanofsky’s version during the Opening Ceremonies. I wonder if shutting us out was a ploy to make us long even more for the podium moment.) But the hunger needn’t make us savages.

My all-time favorite Olympic memory came during the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary when perky Elizabeth Manley won the silver in figure skating and celebrated on the ice donning a cowboy hat as the audience gave her a thunderous ovation. I was living in Dallas at the time and my Canadian pride in sport has never been as great as during that shining silver moment. Would we view it differently today?

Watching Jenn Heil’s mogul run and hearing the crowd cheer created a wonderful Olympic moment. Moments, by nature however, are brief. American Hannah Kearney followed Heil down the course, faster and, yes, better. I’ll admit I briefly hoped for a little judging fudging, but then I came to my senses. Shouldn’t Canada’s longed for home-grown gold be earned outright? I empathized with Jenn Heil after the race as she stood looking stunned at the bottom of the hill while Kearney and ebullient American bronze medalist Shannon Bahrke hugged, hollered and draped American flags around themselves. Get Heil a Canadian flag! Stat! Or at least get her a hug. Initially, I thought the Americans were being obnoxious, but then I checked myself and acknowledged that the two medalists were celebrating as they had every right to. I understand that Heil was disappointed, going in as the favorite, but Kearney skied the run of her life and isn’t that what everyone aspires to during the Olympics?

As an elite athlete, Jenn Heil’s achievements have come in part due to her nature as a fierce competitor. The fact she was determined to win gold is admirable. I can’t fault her for feeling a letdown. What bothered me was CTV’s reaction. The network was more disappointed than the skier. This was supposed to be the Golden Moment, a televised nugget of Canadian history. The interviewer on the hill took on a somber tone while Heil, the shock having sunk in, was poised in thanking her coach/boyfriend and in saying she’d done her best. Subdued anchor Brian Williams took Heil’s perspective that she didn’t lost gold, but in fact won silver as a pep talk for himself.

I do hope the gold comes soon. Then, hockey notwithstanding, Canadians can go back to being the modest folks we are, seeing the glory in silver, bronze and personal bests that nonetheless fail to put our athletes on the podium. A medal haul would be welcome, but let’s remember to be good hosts and enjoy all of the competition.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


There are downsides in being a writer: rejection, isolation, writer’s block, self-doubt, lack of regular pay, a printer that devours ink cartridges. Still, there is so much on the upside that I dream of this becoming my year-round, full-time career. One of the many perks is having a flexible schedule, something that never existed during my years as an educator where bells and timetables ruled.

That flexibility allows me to take in special events when they arise. Today, the Olympic torch came to the Sunshine Coast. How could I not take a break to partake in the festivities?

Before the big event, I relocated my writing venue to the Gibsons Library. I plugged away on my laptop while glimpsing the increasing activity at the park and marina as people of all ages congregated in anticipation of the torch’s arrival. While this was a proudly Canadian event, it seemed to take on an “American Idol” atmosphere. A guy in a moose costume intrigued a standard poodle that kept lunging at the antlered beast. I spotted clowns, one of whom sported a gigantic Nerf camera around his neck. A woman made a dress out of Canada flags. I got to feeling like the silly one, daring to show up in jeans and a plain black jacket.

Everything came together perfectly as the torch made its way through town. It was as quaint and breathtaking a scene as one would find anywhere in Canada. The temperature hit a balmy 10˚C and the sun shone. Boats slumbered in the marina while Keats Island maintained its rustic, forested persona a short water taxi ride away. Beyond it, snow dusted the North Shore Mountains, not enough for the upcoming Olympic events at the Cypress Bowl, but a sight to stop and behold nonetheless.

Indeed, it was a day for stopping and beholding. I got so caught up in the moment that I raced toward home to catch more of the torch relay near the ferry terminal. As a result, I’ll be writing late into the evening, but I am privileged to do so.

Monday, February 1, 2010


My first thought for the title of this entry was “Rejection Sucks”, but then I realized, while true, it’s not a helpful sentiment. My second thought was to not write about today’s letter at all. Throw it in the recycling and move on. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do that.

After reading the letter, I immediately went back to my laptop to continue with my current writing project, but all the energy that had been there had instantly run dry. As a writer, I have to deal with rejection…and I suppose the sooner, the better.

Back in October, I’d put together a grant application package for a juvenile fiction novel idea. It was my first such application and I found the process a tad uncomfortable. First, I had to stop my current projects and complete the requisite forms and outlines for the jury. Creativity had to wait as I focused on meeting all the technical requirements for the grant. More troubling, however, was the feeling that I was essentially begging for money, not much different from a homeless person holding out an upturned baseball cap.

“Spare some change? Feed the writer.”

But, of course, that’s what writers have to do. We’re not well funded professionals like NHL players or plumbers. We take what we can get.

When I found the letter from the British Columbia Arts Council in my mailbox, I didn’t have a good feeling. I tried to pep myself up, recalling the plot ideas I felt would appeal to young readers and the references to the past that would allow timely connections with current society. Still, the envelope was too light—enough for a single-page rejection, rather than a congratulatory letter with forms attached to sign and other sheets providing reminders of deadlines for lucky grant recipients.

It’s amazing how even a form rejection can sting. “I regret to inform you that the jury did not recommend assistance for your project.” Ouch. Of course, they can’t support everyone, but it’s only natural to take the rejection as a clear sign that your writing isn’t good enough. Your writing idea isn’t original or, frankly, it’s boring.

Yikes. Not helpful thinking. And, thus, the title of this blog entry. I must acknowledge that the begging didn’t work. Now it is time to rebound. I could read up on how J.K. Rowling or some other ridiculously successful author received countless rejections, but I really need to get back to my current work. I’ll have to scrimp even more and continue to buy no-name tomato soup, but my dream to succeed as a writer remains. I hope to one day look back and remember my time as a starving writer with the kind of sweetness and nostalgia that comes when one is far removed from harshness that comes in the midst of the struggle.

I should be so lucky.