The more things change, the more they stay the same.
On my last blog, I explained that I was going back to Scotland to celebrate turning 60 because I did the trip to mark my 50th birthday.
For months I’ve also been remembering what and who I was when I turned 40. Funny how big birthdays can get you reminiscing about the past. In 1998 I was just retired from my full time job at the ad agency and making my way with a new career. I was dealing with people and my surroundings in a different way. I was evolving into an adult.
Part of the shift was becoming a personal trainer that would opt to shave her head to support a client going through chemo. Why not? It was only hair and a perfect way to make a mark about how I wanted to support my clients and how I wanted to live my life.
Years later I wrote a story about the experience.
Today I am a forty year old bald woman.
Yesterday I had long black hair down to my shoulders.
Today I notice my ears are too big for my face.
Yesterday I looked like everyone else.
Today the wind on my bare scalp chills me to the bone.
Yesterday I still had all my hair to hide behind.
Today people stare at me.
Yesterday I walked into my hairdressers and had my head shaved.
The first step was to cut the bulk of my long hair with scissors. I was spellbound sitting there watching my reflection as my cherished locks fell away. The next step came as he used the electric razor for a close crop. You could now see the shape of my head. Thank God I had no strange lumps and bumps. That would have been too much! Then finally the razor blade to finish the job. There were no tears, just the reflection of a forty year old bald woman looking back at me.
Today I visited my bald client with breast cancer. She is bald from the chemo and was excited about my gesture to shave my own head to support her journey. Today she quietly tells me she can’t stand to look at me because it reminds her how sick she is. She doesn’t want to look at the face of another bald woman. I am banished. She tells me to leave and not come back.
Yesterday I was a person embarking on a symbolic gift for a friend.
Today I am a forty year old bald woman.
This piece not only told the story, but helped me find a way to share my life and experiences.
I became a writer. I found my voice.
If I wanted to say something, I would tell you a little tale.
So there was no better way to explain to you the reason why I look like this today.
It really shouldn’t come as a big surprise to the people that know me best.
And face it, there’s something cathartic to reflect about what it means to turn 60. What I’ve learned, what I care about, and what doesn’t matter at all.
Doing this while being blonde just makes me laugh.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Why is change so difficult? Even if it’s something we want it can throw your life into chaos. If it’s something we don’t want, well then there’s a mountain of negative frenzy to plow through.
I don’t like change. Negative or positive. But I also know that deciding not to change may be the worst decision to make. In a way, change is easier when it’s forced on you. Deciding to leap is tough.
With all these ideas floating around my head, I resigned my position as Fundraising Coordinator at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference.
Yes, shocking news if you recently read my last blog about SiWC. (read it here)
I’m well known for telling people that it’s all about intent. If you ever have a question about what to do, just remember your original intent and the answer will be clear.
My intent all along has been to get a book written and published. It’s that intent that led me to my first Surrey Writers’ Conference. It’s been a long journey and I feel that time is running out. I need to get this done.
Heading into 2018 was my kick in the butt.
And let’s face it; I’m not the fundraising sort of person. The position was a great way to procrastinate and not write my book.
So I stepped aside.
As much as I hate change it can make me nostalgic. It made me remember all the people I’ve met at SiWC… some of the highest points were not the most public moments.
-That first year, a writer named Ace Baker gave me the courage to sit down with Jack Whyte so he could critique my stories.
-Chats with Anne Perry are always a lesson in living well and getting on with the work.
-Paula, Joe, Helga, Karalee and Silk…. 5 writers on the same journey. We always talk about it in the bar.
-Terry Fallis gave me more inspiration than I thought was possible and it still resonates today.
-One year, Maryam Tajilrou, one of the staff at The Sheraton Guildford, saved my whole conference by stepping up with an act of kindness.
-Sean Cranbury and Jane Porter and DinoPorn
-Thanks to kc dyer for pointing out that I’m a personal trainer and that’s where my story lives.
-Regan Ross showed me what real courage is.
-Jasper Fforde is a very kind man and gave me faith in my words.
-Tyner Gillies has your back during any emergency.
-And most important of all…being friends with Jen Browne is a blessing and privilege.
Yes, there have been lots of other moments… the joy of being around SiWC and attending the conference is that it could change your life.
It changed mine.
Sometimes change is good.
It’s all about the people you’ll meet. That’s the power of the Surrey International Writers’ Conference.
I’ve been attending the event since 2011 and this still holds true.
Yes, in the end it will all be on my shoulders. As much as I don’t like this fact, it’s the truth. If I don’t write the book and put it out into the world then nothing will happen.
All the wishing and hoping and yes, even praying, are for naught unless you step up.
You must write it. You must finish it. You must pitch it to get a book published.
SiWC gives you that chance and can make the journey much easier… or at least make it feel possible.
I’ve learned more about my craft and even more about myself at the conference. I’ve begun to appreciate what I know and what I still need to learn. The process can feel relentless.
The weekend can feel magical.
Again this year, I got to have dinner with Anne Perry. We both tend to arrive at the hotel at the same time and sharing a meal and a good chat is a great way to start the weekend. I cherish her words and perspective.
The reason I had a new book to pitch this year is because I volunteered as the conference’s Sponsorship Coordinator. During one of my meetings with SiWC Board Member, kc dyer, she suggested I write something from a fitness professional perspective. That conversation led to an idea that has morphed into a book.
The next step was talking to Donald Maass. Only at a place like SiWC would you have the chance to pitch to someone of his caliber. (Or in my case, the opportunity to request an impromptu meeting.) His encouragement has given me the motivation to keep moving forward with this book. Priceless.
There were so many other moments that cemented my love of SiWC.
One fact still remains the same and the reason I will always return to Surrey each and every year.
Some people I’ve met there have become the best of friends.
And that is almost better than writing a bestseller.
On April 10, 2013 I wrote my first blog. It was all about Intent. I blabbed on about what the word meant to me and the people around me.
I also proclaimed it was my intent to write a blog every Wednesday.
One hundred and eighty-three blogs later I can safely say I did what I set out to do. I made sure at least once a week I wrote something for the public. Some weeks it was easy… some weeks the ideas wouldn’t come and I scrambled late into Wednesday evening trying to put some words together.
I’ve talked about everything!
And you’ve listened.
That alone is the reason I write. You will never know how grateful I am to you and the time you’ve invested here.
Now it is my intent to revise my book (again). On Monday, The Long Game got an insightful review from one of my favourite people at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference. The only way forward will be to invest my writing time into the revision.
And since it is my intention to get published I must move in that direction.
Or I could quit. (Which is still an option, but not this week.)
So my new intent will be to post a blog every second Wednesday.
I’m sure that the Wednesdays when I don’t post I’ll be in a corner wondering what to do with the ideas in my head.
This might seem like a holiday to my faithful beta readers that have been with me from the beginning. Gerry and Debbie have been amazing and their critique and cheers have humbled me. And Jim… well he found my grammar errors and would send a polite email to point out the mistake. He was always right.
It’s a hard decision to give this up. And before you say, “Hey, you’re still going to be blogging!” Yes, I know, but this weekly endeavour has kept me sane through some of my toughest days.
I’m not good with change.
So let’s start again.
It’s my intent to write a blog every second Wednesday.
Asking for help is tough. I feel like I’ve spent the entire summer doing just that. It’s been humbling, demoralizing and filled with some valuable lessons learned.
One task I’ve had over the last few months was to garner some sponsors for the Surrey International Writers’ Conference. Once we won the matching grant from artsVest I thought the job would be easy. SiWC is a hugely successful and world renowned conference with so many sponsorship possibilities. I only needed to tell people about them and the money would follow.
No, I was wrong. Money didn’t just fall into our laps.
Luckily the artsVest grant included workshops on how to get sponsors.
One lesson came across loud and clear. Your best chance to raise funds for your organization was to mine all your “warm contacts.” Though it sounds simple I found this to be a tough one. In a nut shell, you have to ask all your friends for help. And if that doesn’t pan out, you have to ask all your friends to ask all their friends for help.
The workshop leader framed this in a much more positive and a not at all needy way, but it’s still asking people to help.
This is tough for me.
But, when you are competing with other arts groups, festivals, and conferences, asking for dollars can come down to who you know.
Isn’t that an all too familiar life lesson?
Last week I attended another artsVest workshop where we discussed a trend that seems to dominate our sponsorship quests.
We each had the chance to share our latest victory. For the majority this was not a group actually getting money, but it was a prospect returning a phone call or replying to an email.
Booking an actual meeting to discuss a sponsorship was considered a hallelujah moment!
The harsh reality of how tough it is to secure dollars was the common theme.
I got to share a couple of my best “warm contact” moments so far.
My financial advisor works at a huge company that only sponsors one major on-going event. When he received my email asking for help he and his colleague both made personal donations to SiWC. No, not a sponsorship per se, but it gave me hope. People were willing to step up.
I also happen to know one of the most connected people in the advertising world. I bit the bullet and wrote him an email, told him all about the conference and asked if he know anyone that might be interested. He was on a holiday in Europe but within 5 hours got back to me. He said he would put on his thinking cap. Again, no sponsorship dollars but I was heartened that he even replied. It gave me hope and reminded me what a great man he is.
This has become the norm. When you are accustomed to silence any type of reply becomes a victory.
As cancer kicked my butt I let many things slide. Post-surgery I pulled myself together to submit an application to a great potential sponsor and discovered I had missed their deadline for submissions. My heart broke. This company seemed like one of our best chances and I screwed up. I swear I sat staring at their website for an hour wondering how I could have been so stupid. Then I opted to fill out the application, go through the process, knock even though the door was closed. I also sent them an email explaining that my lapse was the reason SiWC had missed the deadline. The blame was mine alone. The submission was made because I felt an obligation to at least go through the process. I fell on the cancer sword. I apologized.
The next day they sent me an email to say they would accept our submission. They also wished me the best with my health issues and recovery.
In those few words that huge company became a warm contact.
And all it took was for me to ask for help and a bit of forgiveness.
Now who’s next on my list?
If you believe that getting your book published means a road to fame and stardom then stop reading this blog right now.
If you believe you can get published and compete with the likes of Tragically Hip, well you are insane.
I believe I’m the only Canadian that doesn’t enjoy the Hip. This simple fact means most people think I’m crazy and just plain wrong.
I also believe that Gord Downie loves writers so I guess we aren’t completely at odds.
I noticed all of this on a road trip with my writer friends this past weekend. Linda L Richards, Sam Wiebe, Dietrich Kalteis and Owen Laukkanen were scheduled to do an author event at the Kamloops Public Library. I went along for the ride. And why not? They are extremely entertaining people to hang out with.
(And yes, when you are still bandaged up you get to ride shotgun!)
To live in Vancouver and be surrounded by so many talented writers is a blessing. I love listening to them talk about their craft. It’s a skill I want to master so the opportunity is priceless. Luckily the writers I know are willing to lend advice and cheer on every effort.
Maybe the good people of Kamloops just weren’t aware of the opportunity.
Or maybe the chance to say goodbye to Gord ranked higher on their bucket list.
You see the timing of the two events didn’t actually overlap but the prep time to lug your cooler and folding chair to the Kamloops outdoor screening venue for that last concert didn’t allow for a visit to the library. People set their priorities.
For the small handful of folks that opted for the library and the chance to listen and chat with these writers… well they were treated to powerful stories and insight. They heard ideas about the creative process.
The joys, the rewards, the time, the dedication.
Linda, Sam, Dietrich and Owen spoke about being successful authors.
Not one of them mentioned the reality of driving four hours to speak to a few writing fans just to turn around and make the long trek home.
I believe Mr. Downie would have been very impressed.
I know I was.
“Soon I’ll be 60 years old …”
That’s a line in the song I’ve been listening to lately.
I started this blog three years ago and commented on the merits and drawbacks of turning 55. Nothing could foretell I would be here again, on my birthday, writing another week’s blog.
And before you jump in with comments about me not looking my age, let’s just agree that this is what a 58 year old looks like.
I can prove it with my driver’s license (which if you saw it makes me look like a 68 year old convict.)
I believe people can’t guess my age because of my immature actions and style.
But I digress.
Or maybe not.
Back to the song.
It’s Lukas Graham’s 7 YEARS (you can watch it here)
My favourite line is, “I made a man so happy when I wrote a letter once.”
I don’t know who Lukas was thinking about but I love the way he throws the line in and then moves on.
Have you ever done this, written a letter just to make someone happy? And the trick is; the letter doesn’t have to be to that person. It could be written on their behalf. It could right a wrong. It could change a mind. Or maybe make up a mind.
Here’s an idea… if you want to do something for me to celebrate my birthday, write a letter to make someone happy. I don’t mean write a letter to me, though that would be nice. Write one to make someone else happy.
It’s simple to do. I am confident you will do it well.
All this talk has made me think about my most popular blogs. They are always the ones that tell someone else’s story.
Sometimes the story will make you cry.
I hope most of them make someone happy.
In the end that’s all that matters because…
“Soon I’ll be 60 years old.”
It’s all so personal. What we like, what we hate.
I love reading crime fiction.
I love short sentences.
I love reading about places I love.
I love when a few words say everything.
Last week I read a book with some of the best sentences I’ve ever read. Last week I read INVISIBLE DEAD by Sam Wiebe.
Sam has become one of my favourite writers. His first book, LAST OF THE INDEPENDANTS, made me an instant fan. He sets his stories in Vancouver. His characters feel real. I can see them walking these streets. Sam covers local issues. He makes them huge but intimate. I want to know his characters. I want to drink with them, hang out with them. I mean the good guys, not the killers.
I’ll read both books again. Even if just to enjoy those sentences.
Sam is our Ian Rankin. Ian introduced the world to the real Edinburgh. Sam will do the same for Vancouver. Drayton and Wakeland are our Rebus.
It may take a few books. But I’m counting on Sam to do it.
Oddly enough, Sam is also a big Rankin fan.
So here’s the rub.
Sam might be moving away. This doesn’t work into my grand scheme. Sam needs to be here and writing about my home.
He knows I’m not happy. But he doesn’t know he should just give up now.
Sam says he can write about Vancouver from Montreal.
I have a few months to petition Sam to stay.
My default position is to cover my ears and say “I can’t hear you la la la” when Sam mentions his future. So far this hasn’t made a dent in his plans.
Plan B is to start a hashtag campaign.
I ran the wording past Owen Laukkanen. He knows Sam. Owen also writes crime fiction. He agreed with my choice for the tag but I think he was only humouring me.
This isn’t just about me and my wants. Once you read one of Sam’s books you will be on board. Trust me. You will want Sam to stay. You will beg Sam to write about Vancouver again.
You will want to wear one of the pins.
Now if only I can get Ian Rankin to jump on the bandwagon.
Could you help us out @Beathhigh?
When you receive a rejection letter from an agent you’ve set your heart and hope on, it helps if you’ve been to the Surrey International Writers’ Conference. Not because they taught you all the ins and outs of getting published. Not because they’ve given you the tools to pitch again. Not because they showed you how to write a better book.
It’s because they understand what it is to be a writer and they have your back.
Yes, they have your back.
It was at a conference lunch three years ago when I bared my soul about a rejection I’d received that morning. The rallying embrace was enough to help me carry on. It made me carry on.
I still feel that embrace today.
I’ve met people at SiWC that have become my greatest friends.
During those days I’ve cried and laughed and been scared shitless.
I’ve also been inspired.
So now it’s time to give back.
Once you arrive at the conference you’re given a brochure. It’s a map to everything that will happen. A guide to help you through the overwhelming maze of overwhelming moments.
My first year I don’t think I put it down once. It was my safety net and helped me decide what I should do next. I love looking back at the notes in the margins and stars beside the must attend workshops!
This year I’ve been asked to assist in getting people to advertise in the 2016 brochure. OK, not the type of job I usually do, but when you think about it, I’m a person who knows how precious the pages are. And as I said, it’s a way for me to thank the SiWC Board for all the brochures that have shepherded me through the conference.
Let’s be honest… I love to talk about things I love.
You can ignore my musings on penguins and Dairy Queen Blizzards… but if you’re a writer or want to be around writers you shouldn’t ignore my chatter about the Surrey Writers’ conference.
In fact, I bet you’ll be like so many others and thank me.
Just imagine you’re sitting across the table from Diana Gabaldon or Anne Perry or Jack Whyte. They’re about to read something you’ve written….
If you’re not brave enough for that, they always have time for a quiet little chat.
Everyone at SiWC is there to help you be a better writer.
And you will be.
Now I just wish they’d given a course in how to sell advertising in conference brochures?