Thursday, April 15, 2010


Just like that, things went from bad to worst.

I’d accomplished very little writing by midday. With my house for sale and a showing scheduled for early afternoon, I spent the morning mopping, scrubbing and fending off dust bunnies. Those pesky things multiply like…well, you know.

I stopped in town to buy some flowers for inside displays and new plants for window boxes. With my house sitting stagnant on the market for several months, I needed to pull out all the stops (and dandelions).

Cleaning is not one of my innate talents. By the time I finished, I was frazzled and frustrated. Who knows what snappy writing nuggets were sucked up with the whir of the vacuum. I loaded the dogs and my backpack in the car and headed to a café in town to finally turn on my laptop and begin writing.

I took one of my characters and plunked her in the midst of a bad karma day. Too much had been going right for her lately. Not a good thing in a fictional world.

When I returned home, I decided to keep the writing momentum going. I pulled my laptop out of my backpack and dropped it. The laptop, not the backpack. Understated thought of the day: That can’t be good. It was a short distance from hand to carpet, but the impact caused my computer to grow wings. The DVD component opened on one side and a heretofore unknown appendage kicked out on the other side.

I’ve shortened the life of many gadgets due to being a klutz. Two cell phones, a hedge trimmer, a record player, VCR and an alarm clock come immediately to mind. I’m told southpaws are clumsy. If you ask me, products should go through a series of Crash Test Lefty trials before going on the market. There’d be a lot less junk in the landfill. But, of course, no one asked me.

I stayed calm. I pushed the parts back in, plugged in the laptop, powered it up and a bunch of gibberish appeared on screen along with the message: Operating system not found. With equal parts denial and optimism, I shut down and started up again. Operating system not found. Operating system not found. After the fifth try, I grabbed the phone book. Computer Repair.

Time was of the essence. I’d booked a couple of days at a hotel in Washington State beginning tomorrow as a research expedition for a new screenplay. All my background work and the first act of the script were on the computer. Had I backed up my work? Of course not. Bought one of those memory stick thingies a year ago, but never figured out what to do with it. Plenty more than a single writing project stored exclusively on my prehistoric laptop.

After several phone calls—numbers no longer in service, a guy who couldn’t possibly look at my computer today—I finally talked to a fellow who matter-of-factly told me my hard drive was likely busted beyond hope. Bottom line: all was lost. Bad karma in real life definitely not a good thing. Was this The Revenge of the Dust Bunnies?

I struggled to remain an optimist. I begged him to take a look. He agreed and told me to meet him at the liquor store in town. (That should have been a red flag, but I was desperate.) Maybe it was a fitting place. People buy booze in times of celebration and in times of woe. Not sure what the occasion would be for me, but I needed something to wash down my chewed up fingernails.

After handing off the laptop and not bothering to ask for so much as a business card, I hit the gym to do something constructive with my nervous energy as I awaited his call. Forty-five minutes later, my cell rang.

“You should buy a lottery ticket,” he said. Did he mean I was lucky or was he saying any future fortune depended on Quick Picks rather than my big writing break? Turns out the bunnies came up short. All was restored.

Whew. Breathe. That bottle of chardonnay is for celebrating after all! And I’d say it’s time for me to finally figure out what to do with the memory stick thingy.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


When I was a child, libraries scared me. Not like monsters or frog costumes with leotards (don’t ask), but it was hard to get that peaceful, easy feeling that older patrons seemed to exude. The stacks of books offered intrigue—what treasures were way up on the top shelf?—but librarians and sour-faced readers presented an ongoing risk of reprimand.

“Shh!” My face flushed red every time. I’d immediately flee the building and bike as fast as I could home. No telling what wrath might follow from a pensive book browser.

Libraries have changed. If you want peace and solitude, you’re better off at a golf course. Or sometimes, it seems, at the Blackfish Pub on a Saturday night, Canuck playoff game in progress.

The librarians have stopped shushing people. It’s been years since I’ve spotted a “QUIET” sign. And the serious, senior bibliophile is now often the most flagrant violator of the Code of Silence.

While writing at a prime window seat at the Gibsons Library yesterday, I got to hear the entire conversation between Gladys and Irene. Irene’s granddaughter had just moved back and was trying to get a teaching job. Isn’t that great?! Marv was suffering a terrible case of shingles. Heavens! And Gladys’ sister had recently snapped the most marvelous photo of a hummingbird in her backyard. No need to view it; the description was vivid. (Embellished, I think. But then, I’m the type who clicks four shots of the headless hummingbird and one extreme close-up of my index finger.)

Today, a woman shared a soup recipe—a hit with hubby last night. No use to me. Beef noodle, and I’m a vegetarian. The person five feet to my right is alone but still causing a ruckus, fighting the three magazines she’s selected, flipping pages with ferocity. Two minutes ago, the woman to my right sprang up, shouted, “When did you get here?!” and ran to hug someone in the book stacks. She’s resumed her seat, but the conversation continues as he searches for a book ten feet away.

I don’t mind the excited outbursts of children in the library. Yesterday, a two-and-a-half-year-old extrovert began her 2038 political campaign, boisterously hollering “HI!” to each person she came across. (I was greeted three times.)

Librarians don’t even bother to talk in hushed tones as they direct a gentleman toward the travel books, all the while staying behind their perch at the front desk. Even the wheels on the reshelving cart squeak loudly. It bothers no one. Well, almost no one.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to return to the days of the dreaded “Shh”. The fact that the library is livelier than a cemetery is a good thing. I would just like to think the exuberant catching-up conversations could be saved for the checkout stand at the grocery store or moved along to the library atrium. Maybe we could find a happy medium noise level somewhere between silent prayer and protest rally at the high school gym.

Just a thought.

Oops. My cell phone is ringing. Lovely jazz instrumental ring tone. I have to get that.

Friday, April 9, 2010


Midway through this year of writing, it dawned on me that, to experience this sabbatical to the fullest, I needed to be more adventurous. And thus began my Writer’s Bucket List.

It’s not terribly exotic. I’d love to fly off to Italy and write under the Tuscan sun, but my lottery numbers have not received the lovin’ they deserve. (India and Indonesia got scratched for the same reason.) Clearly, I won’t be writing that a bestseller knockoff of this or that.

It’s not a particularly long list either. I’ll leave the Top Tens to Letterman. Why should I draft an extensive agenda and end the year with a paltry ten or twenty percent checked off? As a writer, I have enough opportunities to experience failure; no need to add self-inflicted wounds. Why rue the fact I didn’t submit a vegan-meets-cannibal joke to Reader’s Digest or write an entire novel in twenty-four hours (a draft that would only make sense to the reader (including myself) if similarly wired on eighteen triple-shot espressos)?

My list has three items:

1) Attend a writer’s group to hear constructive criticism about a work in progress (my writing, that is, not me the person).

2) Experience a writers’ conference, including the dreaded hallway mingling and the curiously crunchy banana bread.

3) Pitch a manuscript or screenplay to an editor or agent, remembering to wear a white shirt to (somewhat) conceal out of control pit stains.

What am I missing? Keep in mind the lottery glitch. Also, know that poetry is a No-Go Zone for me. Tried haikus that paid homage to the acting career of Jessica Simpson. Sadly, the source material wasn’t the problem.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


I’m getting used to power outages. As soon as the weather forecaster mentioned wind warnings, I set my flashlight on the nightstand and visualized Plan B, C and D for a productive day of writing.

Sure enough, as I was awakened in the middle of the night to the loud snores of my schnauzer, Hoover, I checked the time on the clock radio. The clock was having a timeout. Fade to black.

Come morning, the house felt colder and the grey skies didn’t bring in enough light to make reading or writing practical. The best-lit room in the house was the bathroom with the skylight, but I couldn’t imagine producing anything clever or insightful while sitting on the toilet. Flush.

I packed up my laptop (with the battery that allows a whopping sixty seconds of writing without an electrical outlet) and the dogs and decided to use the power outage as an excuse to change my writing environment. When life gives you lemons…

It was time for a latté and I opted to drive farther than usual, venturing into the eclectic, granola community known as Roberts Creek. The Gumboot is a café that I stumbled upon during my first visit to the Sunshine Coast a decade ago. With some colorful oil paintings of arbutus trees and other West Coast flora and a steady stream of beatnik coffee drinkers creating a unique ambience, I managed to pound out a solid start to the writing day.

Being only a short walk from the beach, I changed my schedule further and took the dogs down to chase sticks and sea gulls as a cool mist picked up where the latté left off in invigorating me. So rarely do I stop and smell the salt air midmorning when I’ve got a full day slated for writing!

Far from setting me back, the seaside stroll left me feeling fresh and helped set up one of my most productive days of writing in recent memory. Of course, two more café stops didn’t hurt.

Power came on some time after 5 p.m. By then, I’d wound down from the writer’s café circuit, but I had enough caffeine in me to continue writing long into the night.

More wind expected tonight. And I’m actually looking forward to it.