Monthly Archives: October 2015

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

Here’s the thing about writers. They’re not what you think. Sure, some of them own sweaters with suede patched elbows, or sit at antique desks looking off into the distance while chewing pensively on feathered quills. But not usually. Most writers are like the people I meet at conferences.

Vague looking, mostly old, and holding intense conversations about the strangest things. Ask a fellow attendee about their book and the answer may be accompanied by a thoughtful frown or goofy grin. “Well,” they’ll say, drawing the word out so it has four syllables. “Its about a dwarf who wants to be king. But first, he must travel to the extra solar planet, Alpha Centauri, to rescue the gamine maiden XYGMSSTYO, held captive by an alien wizard, the great Wartzshnogger.”

For some reason, three quarters of the people I meet tend to be fantasy writers. (George R. Martin has a lot to answer for.) My overwhelming feeling at these gatherings is one of belonging. Of being home. Sometimes, when I’m waiting in line for a pitch session or an overpriced drink, I long to turn and hug the person behind me. “I know its hard,” I’d say. “But everything will be all right. You’re going to finish your  book and find an agent.” (I actually don’t advise being quite that friendly. When I tried it at a writer’s conference in Calgary, a guy thought I was trying to pick him up.)

When I’m with my fellow writers, I feel encouraged. Supported. And vastly entertained. Because the most interesting conversations are the ones inside our own heads. We may be thinking about plot or character development or chuckling over an inside joke. I tell you this so you’ll recognize our slightly dazed, inward turned expressions. The vacant gaze. The fall down a flight of stairs while puzzling over a new plot device.

November is national novel writing month, or, Nanowrimo. In thirty days, aspiring writers will attempt to put fifty thousand words on paper. There’ll be real sweat involved, plus lots of hand wringing and the occasional crying jag. This world wide movement has almost four hundred thousand participants. Famous writers will send out funny, original pep talks that leave us feeling like we woke up popular in high school, a geek bonus.

 If you have a  bucket list, becoming a novelist would be a well earned addition to it. And an opportunity to be part of something global. In Flin Flon, the Nanos meet weekly in November at the Orange Toad for refreshments, encouragement and a chance to brag about our word count. Please consider this your official invitation. And welcome to the in crowd. 

Fear of Flying

There are moments in life when fear takes you by the throat and squeezes until you can hardly breathe. Like when you’ve settled nicely into the middle seat on a plane, and a couple of six hundred pound men with bad B.O. lumber toward your three person row. That’s a worst case scenario. Or so you might think. Clarence and I choose opposite aisle seats for several reasons.  One, it allows more elbow room. Two, I am the most annoying person to sit beside on the plane. We both know it.

 I can’t sit still. It’s actually painful for me. Picture someone with a combination of ADHD and large muscle Parkinson’s, and you’ll get the picture. I’m a major fidgeter. Constantly digging my purse out from under the seat, looking for chewing gum, checking on my passport, taking off my shoes, putting them back on, getting up and going to the bathroom multiple times. Or, I need hand lotion, a new book, a sweater from the overhead bin. The list is endless.

I feel bad about it, but I can’t stop. There are times I want to stand up (of course) and address the people front, back, and beside me. “I’m sorry for what you’re about to experience,” I’d say. “I simply can’t help it. I have an unusual version of Tourette’s syndrome. Please forgive me.” That might buy me a little time before the dirty looks begin.

I used to be afraid of turbulence. Of falling from the sky and screaming all the way down. Not anymore. Not since my kids grew up. Now I just say my prayers and give myself up to God. I  pray I can get through the flight without being one of those people who are duct taped to their seats, then arrested after an emergency landing.

So. Beware of pleasant looking women with big smiles who invitingly pat the seat next to them. They come with a lot of non regulation sized baggage. Just sit by the big guys. They might take up more room. You may be flattened like a piece of baloney. But at least you’ll arrive with your nerves intact. 

The State of Our Union

In 1978, we had a truly awesome idea. 
“Why don’t we travel across Asia in back of a Bedford army truck with a bunch of strangers and an insane driver?”  Yeah.

Encounter Overland called our three month vacation their most disastrous trip ever. In spite of that, or because of it, we bonded. It might have been a survival mechanism. Or a strong desire to sing with other desperate people. But in the face of hunger, cold, Turkish vodka, flirtatious shepherds, breakdowns (mechanical and mental) stonings (both the pot and rock kind) we raised our voices together. Occasionally shouting each other down, we Wild Rovered, went Blowin in the Wind, and dreamed of a White Christmas. Unfortunately, the snow insisted on covering our tents long before we reached Kathmandu.

If the long and winding road from London to Nepal was neither smooth nor melodic, our reunion this past week made up for it. In the many pieced puzzle that makes up a life, I’d long noticed something missing from mine. After thirty-seven years, in the city of London, the missing piece slid neatly into place when I hugged my fellow intrepids once again. There were only nine of us, plus our distant adventurer, Len, on the phone from Australia. But it was an affair to remember. 

We reinvented laughing. It involved blowing first class Scotch through the nose while being slapped on the back. Having the neighbors plead for the noise to stop. Getting Lynn out of the tub after I thought she’d died in there. It meant a connection that had been formed under the weirdest circumstances, with the most wonderful, annoying, stoic, sucky, terrific people I’ve ever had the privilege of surviving with.

There’s a saying attributed to the Chinese that, if you save someone’s life, you’re responsible for them forever. This is a debt we all owe. Every time another Overlander held your hand, politely looking off into the distance while you crapped your brains out, or stopped you from killing the driver, (I can’t take it anymore! I know. (back pat) I know!) or put up with your egg burps, unwashed body, fits of temper, late arrival, fear, tears and frantic reading of Lucifer’s Hammer so they could use it as toilet paper, well. Its like we all exchanged our souls. It felt that big.

So here’s to you, my fellow survivors. I salute and love you all. In two years, just in time for our next reunion, we’ll track our missing travelers down. I have a few more puzzle pieces left, and I won’t rest easy until everyone is in place. Thanks for the laughs, the hugs, and all the memories. Until we meet again.