A little bit of catching up. Well, a lot.

Well. It’s been about six months since my last blog post. This simply will not do!

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll know that I’ve been alive and up to some mischief!

Some highlights (in chronological order):

  • Revised the 24 Hour Play Writing Challenge as an online event — learned some lessons on what works and what doesn’t. I suspect the success of an event like this is all about the publicity.
  • Directed a student production of a scene from¬†The Taming of the Shrew, gender-bent and set in the Elizabethan Era with inspiration from Marvel’s Avengers. The costumes looked gorgeous, well worth the hours of work and my sore back. We also loved our set, described by one of my colleagues as being lush and opulent. ūüôā I love having a team of adult volunteers who are able to come in and help. ‚̧IMG_1279IMG_1282IMG_1272IMG_1292

     

     

  • I had another table at the Northern Ontario Expo! That was a lot of fun, though I felt like I had a lot to improve. Still, my fans were happy to see me there, and there was a lot of interest in my latest release,¬†Rip Gone Wrong, which was awesome!

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I’ve already booked my table for next year, AND — get this — my American bestie, the fabulous author Tara Fox Hall, is going to be my booth-buddy/neighbour next May! So excited! I have lots of ideas on how to keep making my displays awesome: more swag for purchase and giveaway, an even better prize wheel, and maybe I’ll invest in portable wire shelves or use a room divider behind the table.

  • Ottawa ComicCon Field Trip! Third year in a row. Learned a lot, once again, what to do and what not to do, how to deal with a crisis, how I’ll organize it differently — the kids were already talking about looking forward to the 2018 OCC trip on the bus ride home. That’s something I need to start planning in the next few weeks, actually.

And then . . . with barely a breath after coming back . . .

  • I got into rehearsals again, this time in the part of¬†Grumio in¬†The Taming of the Shrew for Shakespeare in the Park! My hair still hasn’t grown back to the pixie cut, but I’ve gotten rather used to the short-short. Am debating whether to keep it. But the play . . . oh, I adore performing The Bard. It was wonderful fun, and reminded me of my resolution to apply for the York Theatre Program’s Master of Fine Arts program in the fall of 2018. ūüėÄ

There’s definitely a reason my floors are always covered in clutter and debris. It’s project after project (and, admittedly, I like it that way!) . . . including online graduate school!

That’s right!

  • While the play was still running, I started the first two of ten courses for my Master of Education through Queen’s University! The courses were excellent: I took Self-Regulated Learning and Inquiry, and Organizational Learning online from July 4 to August 22. Really enjoyed them, too, and got great marks to boot! Next up, starting September 18, will be Collaborative Inquiry and Organizational Leadership. I’m determined to knock this one out of the park in two years, so it’s done before I am into the MFA of Theatre at York (if I get in) in 2019.

A bit of sad news, amongst the good, though. We said goodbye to our beloved pup Skittles, who really hadn’t been a pup in some time. August 11 was a rough day. She was (we thought) 13 years old.

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Oh, boy, and so many other things have happened . . . I put up my own laundry line, without help. The kids performed in the annual skating show and had a great time with that. We have a new pet corn snake as of last week, a year-old corn snake I have named Mortimer. My sixteen-year-old son is now taller than his father, and in addition to performing in two plays this spring, also joined a public singing group, obtained his Black Belt in karate, refereed soccer three times a week (and often two games each time), and then worked a week at Kentucky Fried Chicken before being offered another job at a pharmacy. My eleven-year-old daughter has gotten accustomed to the glasses we learned she needed this winter, has enjoyed developing her creativity at summer art classes and acting boot camp, spread her wings with friends by running to the local parks and library’s children’s program, and left evidence of her joy all over the house. Little Miss (more and more) Independent!

And next Tuesday I’m hitting 40. I’m looking forward to it. As I’ve said to friends throughout the spring, and just this evening, I’ve felt like 40 for a while now. My approaching birthday always makes me feel somewhat pensive, as I take stock and end up being overly critical of where I am and what I’ve achieved at this point. It’s easier if I can distract myself with things like cosplay and knitting, or as I’ve been doing until about a week ago, taking courses. Unfortunately, this year, we’re not going to make it to FanExpo. Between having our little Suzuki SX4 break its front left control arm in July ($$$) and our dryer giving up the ghost around the same time ($$$), we simply don’t have the funds. We’re all a bit disappointed about that, especially given that there’s an amazing line-up of guests this year, and we all enjoy going. In fact, I’d started recognizing people that I’ve seen not just at FanExpo, but also at Ottawa ComicCon! There are convention¬†REGULARS out there, and it’s wonderful! *sob*

But then again, not going will save us more than the travel costs, tickets, and accommodations. I always end up spending way too much at conventions, in spite of my best intentions. Next time, I need to carry a set amount of cash and no debit or credit card on me. See if that helps.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to. Many times, I’ve composed blog posts in my head but of course, they’re doing nobody any good in there. Remember that year that I blogged every day? That was glorious . . . I might try that again, though not necessarily with long posts (like this one). Maybe I could do pictorials. I did a lot of vlogging for a course project — that might work, too. Something else I need to get back to is working on my creepy dollhouse project. It’s official title is now¬†Of the Empty Wood. And I need to go to the gym at least once a week. I found it difficult to keep that habit going while concentrating on course work, although listening to the readings while exercising was helpful. Remember that goal I’d set myself of being able to do a pull-up or a chin-up by this coming birthday? I’m going to test myself, but I’m not sure that it’s going to happen.

I’m looking differently at the end of this summer, I think. At all of the endings I’ve been noticing. They’re not significant because something wonderful comes to a close — they’re significant, and valuable, and memorable, because they¬†were, and what they lead to isn’t something that’s over but something else that’s just¬†beginning.

 

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Reins or coattails?

The haunted house event is official in its countdown to opening day — volunteers have started receiving their instructions, lists of jobs printed off and the layout finalized. The students are buzzing with excitement and my amazing team of adult supervisors has everything well in hand.

So the question is: am I holding the reins, or doing my best to keep up with everyone else?

Going to be one heck of a ride! I’m reminded of my daughter getting pulled off her feet by our dog on her leash, or of being swept along in the crowd of enthusiastic fans, amazed and slightly stunned at the phenomenon. And I’m full of anticipation for this year, because with the addition of more people to help, we have so many new ideas to try and resources on which to rely. Donations of costuming and fabric and set pieces have started coming in, thanks to our team, and our advertising is going to be on point (again, thanks to the team). So it feels, too, that last year was really about establishing the footing for the event and now, it really gets to shine.

The purposes of the whole endeavour are to raise funds to help fix up the old theatre, as well as put monies in the Drama Club bank account for future productions and trips, but it’s also about involving young people in local theatre, contributing to community togetherness, and providing entertainment for our citizens.

One thing is for certain: I don’t think the event would be at this stage if it were me trying to pull it together alone, like last year. I’m extremely grateful to my friends. And crazy as it sounds, I’ve started to experience that odd phenomena that happens to theatre folk — thinking ahead to the next project, even before this one is finished. I do that with the writing, too. Have to rein myself in and remember to get the one underway completely before my attention moves on!

I put together a trailer to whet our appetites, using pictures from last year’s event, and I’ll do another as soon as our opening night is complete and I have shots of our fresh displays and jump scares. Hoping to do another walk-through, as well.

Send us your positive thoughts! And if you happen to be in my neck of the Canadian woods later this October, stop by the theatre for a refreshing fright . . .

Survival Tactics for the Final Weeks

The last day of classes has come and gone, and exams begin tomorrow. 

I should be feeling some relief but my job is far from over, and the pressure continues . . . 

In previous years, I’ve spent the last two weeks swamped in marking. I’m still swamped, but I’ve chosen to participate in this play, to unwind a little in Shakespeare, although it’s not really unwinding in a sense — I’ve only put more on myself by doing this. And it’s not like it’s helping me a whole lot at work; I ended up having a crying fit this morning in the CYW’s office after a run-in with a disrespectful student, and I’ve got a persistent tightness in my upper left shoulder and the left side of my neck that I’m fairly certain is stress. Maybe some strain, too, from carrying the bags of marking around that I convince myself every night I’m going to get done . . .

But damnit, in spite of the time commitment and the bug bites, I’m having a fantastic experience attending rehearsals and learning my lines, playing a part in a show with awesome people. I’m doing something for me that will be over in two weeks. I think it’s doing something good amongst all the demands. 

Here’s my backstage view — it’s riddled with caterpillars and swarming with blackflies, mosquitoes the size of your thumb, and itty-bitty no-see-imd, some of which were off-put by my liberal application of that Shoo-fly soap from Blackberry Creek (tomorrow I may have to bring it with me, as well as a bottle of water, or a backup bottle of Off Deep-Woods). 

 

See that little path leading up to the rocks? That’s where I get to make my entrance!

  

Pretty much the same shot, but isn’t the lighting nice in this one?

  

I’m hoping that the crew will be able to put a roll of carpet down here, though — I’m a bit worried about tripping.

  

There’s trouble brewing under that hat!

 

Just some photos from my day…

I spent my afternoon in the park at rehearsal (plus ferrying my daughter to a friend’s birthday party and back again). It was lovely, but the fresh air and busy week have worn me out. Enjoy these pics from today, and I’ll see you tomorrow! 

 

part of my process is to write out my lines as prose, so i can find the tone and begin internalizing

  

the spider wasn’t my only visitor — i was landed on my a ladybug and two caterpillars! i think the ladybug pooped on me… they have scratchy feet, too

  

getting to know each other

  

set free to eat mosquitoes! do you think spiders are ever envious of other bugs with wings?

  

(Keep your fingers crossed that today’s good weather continues for the next two weeks!) 

A Gnome Lost and Found

One day in June last year, I went outside and discovered that my garden gnome was missing. I asked around, put a notice up on a community Facebook page, but he’d simply disappeared.

  
I hoped, at the time, that somebody was playing a prank on me and would maybe send me funny notes and pictures of my kidnapped garden ornament. Like this one time, a colleague kidnapped my flying screaming chicken that I occasionally randomly flung across the staff room in her general direction. She sent me ransom notes and eventually returned my chicken, even though it was strung up in a noose over my desk. 

Sadly, no such light-hearted miracle happened with my gnome. I thought he’d fallen victim to hooligans and used for target practice in a local sand pit. Smashed on a road during some hooligans’ drunken carousing. No photos turned up of my gnome’s travels around the world, or in funny poses. 

It’s silly, really, that I was and still am bothered by the taking of my gnome. But he was my garden guard. He occupied a space in my front yard, gave it kitschy character. Plus, who the hell just up and steals a person’s garden ornament? 

I vowed that the next time I got an awesome garden gnome, I would fill it with concrete, or glue it to a concrete post and sink it into the ground. You see, I have great plans for acquiring more garden gnomes — specifically, novelty ones, like the awesome gnome-eating Kaiju on ThinkGeek, or the zombie gnome on the same site. They’ve introduced a line of Star Trek gnomes, too! (Thanks for the heads-up on the Redshirt gnome, Chris!)

  
My wonderful neighbours up the street gave me two new Seven Dwarf-style garden gnomes last week. I haven’t thief-proofed them yet. Still need to pick up the cement stuff. (No idea how to do that, really.)

But looking at my two new gnomes made me wonder what happened to Gerome, my original gnome. 

And then . . . This morning, I had to walk to school because my hubby was out of town with our car. It’s coming close to Spring Clean-up, so lots of people have been putting trash and treasures out on the sidewalk for upcyclers to hunt through before the big dump trucks haul everything away to the landfill. Neighbours around the corner whom I’ve never met personally but have heard doing personal things (AHEM) through their open windows have put out various bits and pieces, including an old filing cabinet. Its drawers were piled next to it. And in one, staring up at the sky, barely catching my eye, was my gnome.

I couldn’t believe it. I stopped and stared, pointed and chortled with happiness. And while my son watched, bemused, I retrieved Gerome from his prison / eventual tomb, and I carried him to school with me. 

 

The return of Gerome! (Yeah, that’s a late May snowfall behind there.)

 
He’s a little worse for wear since he was taken from my yard. His rake was damaged, and his paint chipped. But I told his story to my colleagues and my students, standing him on the window ledge behind my desk for the day (after washing him off) before I could bring him home again. 

Thinking maybe of keeping Gerome in the back yard this time. That, or learning how to fill him with quick-dry, this weekend. 

I’d still like to know what really happened to him. And what would compel someone to take him? Why would they break his rake? Should I have papered the neighbourhood, asking for his return? Why am I making such a big deal out of this? I mean, I can’t simply assume that they neighbours took it — that would be a case of circumstantial evidence. Still . . .

What are your theories? Who took Gerome, and why?

Fandoms and Artists and Writers, oh my!

A couple of shout-outs to some awesome people I’ve recently met through my love for fandoms:

  • A number of weeks ago, I bought earrings from Nerdy But Still Girly,¬†and when my purchases came, I was bowled over¬†by the thoughtfulness of the packaging itself — personalized box, tasty bunny sucker candy, and each set of handmade earrings individually packaged in sweet little bags. I wore the custom-ordered Outlander earrings she made for me on Sunday at ComicCon. Definitely ordering more awesome earrings from her in the future!
  • Montreal Wolverine and his team of X-Men cosplayers were¬†fantastic at Ottawa ComicCon, raising money for Breast Cancer Research (Claws for Bras!). I was so impressed not only by his dedication to the cause and the part he was playing, but also his creativity with improvising tableaux. He’s on Facebook — check him out! (And my face on the bike, ha ha‚Ķ)DSC_0653
  • Victoria Dunne and her crew behind the book¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬†Alice Hearts Welsh Zombies¬†— I got my face zombified on a pin at their booth, bought a signed and personalized copy of the book from them, and got to take home a handmade crocheted 1st Doctor. Plus, we chatted about writing and publishers, and they gave me a great tip on who to approach with my snowmobiling novel for reluctant readers!

And these are just a few of the fantastic people I met. If I get time tomorrow, I’ll post a pic of the lovely¬†steampunk necklace I bought, and information about the artisan, along with highlights from ComicCon. I firmly believe that kindness and generosity and being genuine are essential parts of the successful small business or fundraising enterprise, and these individuals are all excellent examples of how to accomplish those things. When you love your fans and appreciate them — we know it.

365 Days of Blogging: Personal Writing Challenge ACCEPTED

I woke up late on New Year’s Day and thought about this blog and about being a writer and all of the things that that means. I want writing to be a daily habit (it nearly is). Why not challenge myself to write a blog post a day for the next 365 days? Make 2015 my Year of Blogging Dangerously?¬†accepted2

I debated keeping it to myself, but if I post it, maybe that will keep me honest. ūüėÄ

So there you go, Internet. I am unleashing my inner authorly Kraken.

Brace yourselves! IMG_4589 IMG_4766 IMG_4904