Tag Archives: Canadian Authors Association

Beating the Odds

I swear I didn’t plan this.

Sometimes when words won’t flow, I use a writing prompt. One of those prompts involves finding a certain page, in a certain book, on a certain shelf.

“Top shelf, third book from the right, page 56.”

I went to my office and looked at the top shelf. Among other books were some that contain short stories of mine. “Huh, what are the odds that the third book to the right is one of those?” I asked myself.

I counted and the Blood Is Thicker anthology, which contains one of my short stories, was third from the right. “That’s pretty amazing,” I thought, “but what are the odds that my story is on page 56?”

I opened the book and flipped to the right page. Yep. My story was there.

The line that stood out: “NOTE TO SELF: Those are pretty good odds.”

The title of my story?

Beating the Odds

I guess I’m supposed to write that even if something seems unlikely, if you set yourself in motion, you might beat the oddsand have a laugh while you’re at it.

Title page of the short story "Beating the Odds"

Reasons to write and live

At a gathering of the local branch of the Canadian Authors Association, the writers in the room wrote down words to describe the writing experience.

Out of that we created a Writing Word Cloud.


Words for writing and life

Terror, right above Bliss. 

Mystical right in the middle of everything.

Fun not far away.

Elusive in there more than once.

Tranquility and Solace.

Hard work, Glass Wall, Escape.

Mindblowing, Universal, Wonder. 

Words to describe the writing experience, certainly, and life in general.

The shortcut to happiness: volunteering

National Volunteer Week: April 21-27, 2013

I value volunteering so much, I made it part of my personal “slogan”: Laughing thinker, miner of inspirational insights, storyteller, and community volunteer.

Why? Because selfless giving slingshots a person smack dab into the centre of happiness. Go directly to happiness. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

Paradoxically, I give selflessly for selfish reasons. I want to be happy, therefore I give.

Not everyone gets the connection. Last year I chatted to an acquaintance about my work as treasurer of the Canadian Authors Association in the National Capital Region. “You volunteer?” she said, as though I had coughed up a lung and handed it to the organization.

“Yes,” I said, perplexed by her vehement reaction. “That’s only one thing I do. I volunteer a lot of my time. It’s very satisfying.”

At that moment, another friend passed by. She turned and said to him, “Did you know that Arlene volunteers.” There went my other lung.

He reacted like I thought he should: confused about why she should be so surprised. “O-o-o-k-a-a-y. That’s . . . good.”

I walked away shaking my head.

She doesn’t know what she’s missing. (And she’s often grumpy, I might add. Selfless giving would do her some good.)

In our household, over the years, we have volunteered at: play groups, day care centres, Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, hockey leagues, Little League baseball, the tennis club, community resource centres, L’Arche, SchoolBOX, Habitat for Humanity, the Jerry Lewis telethon, schools (elementary, middle and high), church, the Canadian Authors Association, Ski Patrol, World Vision . . . oh, I know I’m missing some. Last fall, my husband received the Queen’s Jubilee Medal in recognition of his career achievements and his commitment to amateur sport. Our household would fit into the category of what the Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating (CSGVP) calls “über volunteers”.

We are a very happy household.

My friend volunteers for the Canadian Red Cross. He helped out after Hurricane Katrina. He went to Haiti for a month after the earthquake. He spent several weeks on the Jersey shore after last year’s hurricane. His mantra: “I get back so much more than I give.”

Amen to that.


Punctuating our remarks: to semi-colon, or not to semi-colon

Are you a stickler for grammar and punctuation? Do semi-colons make you smile, or scowl? How about exclamation points? Too many of them make me crazy!!!

On Tuesday night, our Canadian Authors Association group talked about critiquing. A few weeks before the meeting, the moderator of the group gave two of us a story to read, so we could prepare a constructive critique presentation for the meeting.

The author of the piece used semi-colons to structure parts of the story; some paragraphs consisted of several sentences (“independent clauses” snooty writers would call them) joined by semi-colons.

I like semi-colons; they solve many punctuation dilemmas beautifully. In this case I thought full-stop sentences would serve the story better. My opinion was not unanimous; some people love their semi-colons.

Our discussion on Tuesday brought to mind the post by Tom Gething, “Interview with a Semi-Colon”.

Punctuation marks elicit surprisingly strong reactions from people.

As with most things, I fall somewhere in the middle. One of my Facebook friends posts with no punctuation (and often no capitals) at all. Many times, it has taken me several tries to figure out what he’s talking about. We really do need punctuation to communicate clearly. But overall, I don’t stress about punctuation. Let a writer be a little creative, if that’s what feels right for him or her.

Well, okay, except for all those exclamation points. Please, people, if you must use one (and you’d be surprised at how often you don’t need to), just one will do.

Maybe you can play with the new Interrobang. That should keep you busy for a while.


Photo from Wikipedia

What is your true purpose?

Have you really led the full life as an example that you would want others to lead?

Has your love, support and friendship made a difference to others?

Are you good with how you will be remembered?

According to Paul Copcutt, those are the questions we should really be asking ourselves.

A few years ago I attended a workshop on “Personal Branding” at a Canadian Authors Association conference. I was so engaged by the insights and the authenticity of the workshop leader, Paul Copcutt, that I signed up for his e-newsletter. I have received useful advice from him over the years about networking, branding and achieving goals. A little over a year ago, I became one of the people who shared distantly in the story of his cancer journey.

Last week, he published an article entitled “Why cancer is an integral part of my personal brand.”

He found that when lives take an unexpected sharp turn as a result of cancer, people ask themselves the three questions above. When people asking those questions don’t like the answers they come up with, they know they have to make some changes.

Might be not a bad idea to ask those questions now instead of later, right?

As Paul says, if you are feeling unfulfilled, unsure, underappreciated, undervalued, even underwater, it might be a good idea to give your life a sharp turn that you direct for yourself.