Thursday, November 30, 2006

The danger of balloons

My nephew calls him mom (my sister-in-law) the balloon nazi. My son will do the same when he is old enough to know, and I know my friends are aware of "Tina's thing with balloons". I find it difficult not to walk up to children in the street, especially very samll children, and grab their balloons away from them. Birthday and Christmas parties with balloon animals practically cause me anxiety attacks. My sister-in-law and I feel like this because we, unfortunately, know someone who lost her son to a balloon. Yes, that's right. He choked on a piece of balloon and died. That simple childhood toy is more insidious than you can imagine.

Balloons cause more childhood deaths than any other toy. Latex balloons are the number one nonfood choking hazard, yet we hardly hear anything about it. We go to birthday parties full of balloons where children play with them and bounce them around. I've even seen a small child, barely able to walk, with her open mouth on a balloon, effectively trying to bite it while her mother looked at her, unconcerned (I butted in on that one). We cut hot dogs into tiny pieces, cut up grapes, make sure our children don't have toys that have small pieces which can come off and choke them yet most people don't blink an eye to hand a child a balloon.

There are ways around it. If you do use latex balloons, just put them up high, out of reach of children. Mylar balloons are fine so you can put those down low if you feel kids would like to play with them.

I am writing this because most people do not know this. I am writing this because after so many children's events, I come home and rant about it and after a recent one my husband said "put it in your blog". I am writing this because if you read this and tell two people and they tell two people and they tell two people... you know, maybe we can prevent these things from happening.

I know the numbers of deaths are not huge when you look at the statistics, but if you lose a child because of it, that will be the biggest number you have ever known. Even if you look at the recall notices of children's products (I used a link to a US site because the site for Health Canada's recall notices is much harder to navigate), you will, thank God, see that many of them have not caused any injuries or death, it is just the possibility that causes the recall. Yet, children are handed latex balloons all the time. They are given out freely at many events. I'm not telling you what to do. I am just giving you the information and if you think it can't happen to your child, I know someone who can tell you different.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Congratulations to More NL Writers

* Updated with even more recognition for NL writers.

Congratulations to Kathleen Winter, who is the winner of the 2nd Annual Metcalf-Rooke Award . The judges called her "a new and distinctive voice in Canadian writing". As a fan of her column in the Telegram, I really look forward to reading her stories.

Also, congratulations to Kenneth J. Harvey (who I affectionately call Kevin and Russell Wangersky (who I affectionately, and somehow correctly, call Russell--I even manage to get "Wangersky" right--it's "Kenneth" I have problems with), whose books--Inside and The Hour of Bad Decisions respectively, were named in the Globe and Mail's Globe 100 list of the best books of 2006. Also, to Lisa Moore. The book of short stories she edited, The Penguin Book of Contemporary Canadian Women's Short Stories was also in the Globe 100. As well, I read that Inside was on Quill and Quire's list of the top ten books of 2006.

Well done, everyone (and if I have somehow missed some other awards or acknowledgements of NL writers--they are coming fast and furious for them--please let me know).

*Congratulations to those short-listed for the Heritage and History Award (an award presented by the Writers' Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador in partnership with the the Historic Sites Association for a work of fiction, non-fiction, poetry or children's literature that exemplifies excellence in the interpretation of the history and heritage of Newfoundland and Labrador):

Michael Crummey for The Wreckage, Doubleday Canada
Harold Davis for The Starrigans of Little Brook Bottom, Creative Book Publishing
Leo Furey for The Long Run, Key Porter Books
Nellie Strowbridge for Far From Home, Flanker Press

The winner will be announced at WANL's monthly reading in December (and Christmas party) on Monday, December 4 at the LSPU Hall Gallery at 8 p.m. The reading this month will be by Michelle Butler Hallett from her new book The shadow side of grace. All are welcome.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Beating the muse away

I was reading some writing prompts on another website and I realized I've never had to use writing prompts. I wonder if I am odd or if there are more people like me. My problem is too many ideas and too many ongoing projects. I usually jot down an idea if it comes to me and then try to beat it away. It can be hard since it keeps wanting to come back. I think I have said here before that I have creative procrastination and come up with other ideas to avoid writing what I should be writing (or avoid editing, which I am doing now by posting this). My husband is good at knowing this and reminds me. "This is creative procrastination," he says when I start on something new. He calls me out every time.

Still, those ideas, those interesting characters in precarious or sad or funny situations, beckon me. They call out to me while I am making supper and whisper "maybe I could say 'no' to him instead of 'yes', how would that make things interesting?" They give me lines I have to run and write down because I know from experience that if I don't write them down, no matter how certain I am that they will stick in my mind, no matter how many times I repeat them, they will be lost if they are not recorded somewhere other than my scattered brain. And once the line is written down, the writer kicks in, the one that follows one line with another then another, and I know I have to write down a couple of other lines and then some notes on possible things that could happen later on. (Possible because I don't know--I don't outline, could never outline, it would take away all the fun of finding out where the stories go, of the twist I never saw coming that takes me somewhere I hadn't ever thought of.) Soon, this new story seems fresh and new and full of potential. The one I am editing or the one with a couple of hundred pages already written seems stale. I just know that if I could start this one story, I could finish it quickly, do one of those complete novels in ten days where your pen cannot stop writing, I hear about from time to time.

But I know the truth. I know that in a month or ten, another idea will come, promising a perfect and magical story, taunting me with all the possibility the unknown and new can bring. So I beat away the muse then try to gently ask it back to help me with the task at hand. When writers say writing is hard work, I think this is what they mean. It is not getting the ideas. It is wrestling the muse to go where you want it to go while asking it to take you somewhere new within the confines of that story. It is sticking with it and rewriting and seeing it through, no matter how many prospects whisper in your ear.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I just have to jot down an idea for a great story that just popped in my head. Just one line, mind you, then I'll get back to my editing. No, honest, I will.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Moleskinerie mention

Well, you know something has happened when the stats for hits on your blog reach 50 before breakfast, at least for me and my blog. The wonderful Armand at Moleskinerie, mentioned my blog post about my new moleskine on his Moleskinerie. I am getting hits from all over the world. So this is what it is like to have a lot of people read your blog. Welcome.

On a related note, I now have a large plain moleskine on my Christmas list. I think writing is just more enjoyable when you plant words in one of these great notebooks.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Of birthday parties and turtles

My son is barely three and already he has a much better social life than I do. He gets invited to numerous parties and outings, is fairly popular at playgroup and his smile, well, his smile can get him pretty much anything. This means my social life has become greatly tied into his. He is not old enough that I would dream of leaving him at a birthday party by himself (like the parents of the birthday child don't have enough to deal with) and his father tends to leave such things to me, not being a social butterfly himself. Let's face it, there are always a lot more females at any such event and even if there are some dads there, they are usually one half of a couple. You don't see many dads on their own there (but it does happen, I know, don't get pissy with me now if you are some super-dad who makes balloon animals and bakes the cake for the party--just my own observations). So, I wind up at lots of birthday parties and see what the landscape is like. Which places have more bang for their buck and the like.

I say this because, as I told you on Friday, I went to McDonalds for a birthday party this weekend. I also mentioned that I was surprised it was the first one Sam had been invited to. Now, I am not doing an ad for McDonalds or anything and I am not saying any of the other places you can have your kid's birthday party are bad or anything. Each and every one was enjoyable (if my little guy is having fun, I am having fun--repeat ten times a day until you believe it). But McDonalds was a blast. I had fun. Sam had a ball. He got food he loves (don't worry, I ordered the apple slices instead of fries and milk for his beverage), he got to play around in the playroom--climbing and sliding and having a blast. And me? Well, except for the scattered time I had to go in and talk Sam down from a tunnel he was having trouble with or the odd screaming match disagreement he might have with another child in said tunnel, I got to sit down with the other moms (and two dads) and shoot the breeze. I even had a cup of coffee. And drank it! As they say at McD's, I'm loving it.

So, that went well. Then there's Franklin and his Franklin's Family Christmas Show. This is the second event I took Sam to at Mile One Stadium. The other one was a Little Bear performance. (Again, a predominance of estrogen over testosterone at these events too.) He was a bit younger then so I figured the screaming "too loud, too loud" thing might have passed him this time. Nope. But he was right. I wanted to scream "too loud, too loud" and I am still partially deaf from my ear infections and was in a seat fairly far from stage. It actually sometimes hurt my ears and Sam's hands clamped over his seemed to mean the same for him. Plus, it was a Christmas concert and, this still being November, and me still being in denial that Christmas is less than one month away, I still feel a bit like Mr. Grinch around the whole idea. Sam's best friend (and fiancee) Lauren enjoyed it a bit more than he did, although she agreed "too loud, too loud". Maybe Sam is just not the musical theatre type. Now, put monster trucks in the same stadium and he'd probably squeal "yay, it's so loud, it's so loud". Anyway, we'll think about that the next time some such kid's event (or monster truck rally) comes to town. For now, my date with Franklin is over, I didn't stick around for the Downtown Santa Clause Parade, and I am waiting for December 1st, when my heart will grow three sizes.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Uncle Val Recap

At the risk of making Craig too envious, I have to say that Andy Jones is Brilliant. Yes, that is a capital B and yes, I know "brilliant" is bandied about a lot but in this case, it is justified. I mean just the fact that he can do a one-man show that has a first act of 70 minutes, then a 15 minute intermission, then come back for another 30 minute act. Just that alone, is impressive. Add to it how hilarious it all is, yet thought-provoking as well, and you have to be amazed.

I could try to explain it and tell you about it and the great lines and the wonderful use of props, but it just would not do. How do you explain something that includes letters home from a character named Uncle Val ( a 70-odd year old man who moves from rural Newfoundland and Labrador to St. John's to live with his daughter, son-in-law, his grandchildren and two poodles, hating it most of the way), the inner working of Andy Jones' brain, imitations of Joey Smallwood, Jackie Kennedy, John Kennedy, and Marilyn Monroe, reminiscences about the good old days of the arts in the 70's and the Parliament of Cultural Romance, and many other tangents Andy manages to go on while keeping us laughing so hard our jaws hurt (at least mine did)? I could tell you about lines like "Senior crib death" or "the softspot murderer" or stories of suburban wolves but really, you wouldn't get it unless you were there. I could act it out for you and repeat it verbatim but, unless it is Andy Jones doing the talking, it won't be the same. You have to see it yourself and you should and the good news is that the show has been held over. Additional shows are Sunday, Nov 26, December 1- 3rd at 8:00pm and a matinee on December 3 at 1:00 p.m. Seriously, do yourself a favour if you are in town and go see it. And Craig, honestly, the trip from Iqaluit would be worth it. If you can't get here, though, you can buy an audio CD of the Andy Jones' Letters from Uncle Val from Rattling Books. You can listen to the first of the letters online.

All hail Andy Jones!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Uncle Val a Birthday Party and Franklin's Christmas

Ah, the culture I am exposed to. I will start out my weekend with a delicious helping of Andy Jones as Uncle Val. Read more about that at the Telegram or the Scope. I love Andy Jones (well, I don't know him personally--I mean as a performer) and he is one of the funniest people I have ever seen so I try to get to anything he performs. He could just stand there and say nothing, but his expression, the glint in his eyes, the very presence of his humour, could make you laugh. So I will be at "the Hall" tonight with some friends (thanks, K) and am looking forward to it immensely.

Tomorrow is a birthday party at McDonalds and it will be the first one Sam attends. Remember a few years ago, all the parties seemed to be at McDonalds? Well, not anymore. We've attended them at Daycares, Kid's Castle (most of them there), bowling alleys and the NL Railway Museum but McD's has, up until now, been a no show. Anyway, then Sunday it is Franklin's Christmas at Mile One Stadium, possibly followed by the Downtown Santa Claus parade. All this as the second round of antibiotics are starting to work and my hearing is finally coming back. Ironic, no?

It seems clear that memories of Uncle Val will have to sustain me throughout the rest of the weekend if I am to maintain any shred of sanity.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Moleskine Love

If you read here regularly or have perused my web page, you'll know that I am obsessed with like pens and stationary, in particular moleskines. I finally bought one this weekend and dared to open it yesterday. I had touched it many times, in the shrinkwrap, but wanted to get a few things ready before I opened it. The time had to be right, the atmosphere correct, I had to have decided on which pen to use, and had to know which hacks I would use with my moleskine.

Normal people are now thinking I am insane but part of the reason I could take so long considering these things is the huge amount of pages and forums dedicated to these very topics. Just check out the google results for moleskine pens (1,150,000 results) or moleskine hacks (1, 450,000 results) or just moleskine (11,300,000). Read stories about people who boil the paper with different inks on it to see how both the paper and ink stand up or put the paper under strong lights for weeks on end to determine the same. We're an odd bunch if you're not into it.

The little thing was expensive for a notebook, but then again, there are much more expensive ones and I could pay $38 USD for a place to hold my 3x5 index cards (but I like Levenger--it is like pen and paper fantasyland for me). The moleskine was a treat for myself for finally accomplishing something I've been trying to do for a while. Hubby looked at the notepad and said, "I don't get it, what's the big deal?" And I really couldn't explain. It's like explaining to someone who loves maple ice cream, why I cannot stomach the stuff. I just don't like it. Hubby gets excited at Canadian Tire stores and drools over Princess Auto flyers. I don't get that, but I know enough not to ask him to explain it because that's his thing and if you don't get it, you don't get it.

Anyway, after all the research and knowing what I need in a notebook (after a looooottttt of debate, I decided on the pocket plain for my moleskine), I decided on a pen (more about that later); that I would put sticky notes on a few of the back pages so I would have something to write on in case I needed to give a number or address to someone; that I would add a couple of index cards to the little pocket in the back for the same reason; and also include a pocketmod in the back pocket (mine has four weekly diary pages, two sudokos and a yearly calendar). I had a couple of sudokus left over after some failed attempts to make the pocketmod correctly so I stuck them in the back pocket as well. Added a copy of Mike Shea's Writing Tips PDF (folded correctly) and I was set. My moleskine seems to be everything I need right now.

But the pen. Ah, the pen. After reading a lot about which pen to use, especially at, I decided on a Uni-ball Signo 207. Unfortunately, I bought a .7mm tip and I think I should have gotten the .5mm. The line is just too thick for me. It's wonderful (a really great pen) in my normal writing books (regular old 24.1cm x 15.2 cm spiral notebooks) but in the small notebook, with the nice paper, I want a finer line that can't smudge as easily. So, I thought about it and read some more discussions. I considered just going to a ballpoint and using a nice Zebra F-301 I really like, or even a pencil, but decided I really wanted to try the Pilot G-Tec-C4. So, I went out to buy one and while at Staples, I found something else interesting. It was a Zebra F-301 Compact, a F-301 which can be compacted into a very small pen (important when you want to carry your moleskine and pen in a small purse). I bought the Pilot and the Zebra and like them both very much. The G-Tec has a .2mm point, but is still smooth on the page. For now, I think I will try out both of them for a while and also try to get a finer point Signo. (I am just picturing my non-pen-crazy friends reading this and rolling their eyes--if they made it this far.)

As for the moleskine, the paper is beautiful, the cover is great, the elastic band and bookmarks are pluses, the pocket in the back is just what I need and the fit, well, the fit is perfect. My hand was made to hold it. In other words, I love it.

As Mike Shea said, "If I spent the time writing that I do surfing around looking at pens, I'd be Stephen King."

If such things as this interest you, then check out the Holiday Giveaway (and if you win one of the big prizes, remember who sent you there).


Monday, November 20, 2006

Geeky Gifts

I am a geek. I admit it and I am proud of it. I love gadgets and technology but I also love the feel of a fountain pen on nice paper. Hey, I'm a gemini so I can love two diverse things at once. The truth is that a lot of people like these things. Lots of people love pens and PDAs. It's all good. Sometimes, we geeks can be a little hard to shop for since many of the gadgets we like cost loads of moolah. In the spirit of Christmas (although I refuse to acknowledge it myself until at least December 1st--curse you silly people with Christmas lights already lit up at night--ack!), I would like to give you some ideas for Christmas gifts for geeks.

The first is where you can buy a Circuitboard Necklace or a Diskette Notebook (or you could make a diy floppy disk notebook). Another place to find geeky gifts is at where you can get a Circuitboard Business Card Case to put in your Duct Tape Purse or get the wonderfully recursive Button Button.

I think some of these things use recycled products, at least at acorn studios (free shipping in Canada and US for orders over $20). They are cute ideas but I am not sure I will be sporting any geek fashions yet. Even though I am proud to be a nerd, I do believe that if I start walking around with a keyboard ring on my finger, someone really should intervene.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Promotion promotion promotion

First I have to update you on the book signing in Gander. At The Book Worm I signed lots of books and got to meet Brad and Lillian who own the store. They are truly nice people and I enjoyed all the time there, even though I still wasn't feeling 100%. I got to see some people from home and some relatives who came by. My nephew was in Gander on a field trip from school so he and his dad and mom (by brother and sister-in-law) gave me a wonderful surprise by showing up with Tim Hortons coffee for me. I signed their book as my nephew stood next to me and my brother took a picture. My nephew was so excited to be there and even bought me a little ribbon that said Congratulations. It was very special. I also got to meet RJ who dropped by to get his book signed. Is it possible, you may wonder, if he could be even more sweet and kind in person? Yup. He is such a nice guy and very soft spoken, or maybe that was just the ear infections blocking me from hearing him. We had a great chat but on my next pass through Gander I think a coffee and longer chat will be in order.

Now onto upcoming things. There are two things I want to tell you about that are coming up on this Sunday, the 19th. I will be signing copies of this much is true from 12:30 to 2:30 at the Fine Craft and Design Fair being held at the Mile One Convention Centre so if you're there, please drop by and say hi. Lots of people are buying this much is true as Christmas presents for those living here, for those away from home and those leaving home (I've been told by a few people that they have given it as a going away present) so a signed copy would be extra special.

Also on Sunday, there is a free Family Fun Day called Reading for the Creatures. Join Jesperson Publishing and Heavenly Creatures onboard the Nouvelle Orleans riverboat at Pier 7 from 12 noon to 4 p.m. Prizes, children's book readings, face painting and guided tours of the ship! This event will help raise funds for Heavenly Creatures' Guardian Angel Program to help homeless animals. Jesperson Publishing will donate a portion of sales from its newly published book Why Do Dogs Sniff Bottoms. Meet guest characters, local celebrities and some furry friends from Heavenly Creatures! All are welcome to this free public event for a great cause and the event will take place rain or shine.

So there, sounds like Sunday will be a busy and fun day.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Ten Reasons Being Sick Sucks

10. Missing Oliver the Musical which my friend Ann Marie Lane was in, as well as a friend's nephew Ryan McDonald (aka the amazing Ryan).

9. Not fully enjoying a visit out home.

8. Causing my son to miss playgroup.

7. Causing my son to miss a movie with his friends.

6. Not being able to hear at a book signing in a wonderful bookstore in Gander, called The Book Worm so I found it hard to hear others while my own voice was amplified at rock concert level in my head, causing me to either speak too loudly or, more likely, speak too softly.

5. Still not being able to hear much after almost two weeks of flu stuff due to ongoing ear infections.

4. Mucous in all forms. Yuck.

3. Staying awake at night coughing.

2. Not being able to really enjoy my son's third birthday party or the birthday itself.

1. All the work, writing, volunteer stuff, housework, emails, phone calls, friend visits, workouts and the like that I have put off for the past couple of weeks and now have to face as a huge, overwhelming pile.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Lest We Forget

I have a perfectly good excuse for not blogging this week or much last week. Was laid low by a bad flu last week and this week the aftereffects include bronchitis, a sinus infections and two ear infections. Par for the course for me when I get a cold, I am afraid, let alone the kind of bone-chilling flu I got last week. In amongst all that was my son's birthday party on Saturday then the real birthday yesterday. I think he had a good time despite it all and in spite of his own cold. Anyway, I am on antibiotics now and hoping they will work some miracle and make me feel a lot better before my book signing in Gander at the Book Worm tomorrow. I am really looking forward to it. I am not contagious so if you are thinking about dropping by from 2-4, please do. I would love to meet you and talk with you. If you'd like to buy a book or have a copy signed, all the better.

After the signing in Gander, it is off to Aspen Cove and Ladle Cove for the weekend. There, the grandparents can enjoy some Sam time and I get to sleep in. Sounds like a good weekend to me.

Of course, I will be remembering the troops, past and present this weekend as well as it will be Remembrance Day. I usually bring Sam to a War Memorial and drop my poppy off there with a whispered "thank you" to those of us who fought for everything we have, and those who continue to do so today. There is no War Memorial out home so I'm not sure what I will do with my poppy this year. Maybe send it out to sea. I don't know but I know I will be thinking about the men and women who went through unimaginable things for us and those in Afghanistan who are doing the same as I type this. And I will be grateful. I am grateful.

Lest we forget.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Newfoundland Gemini Winners

Taking a mere moment away from my sick bed. I am writing this in a Nyquil haze to say congrats to Mary Walsh and Ed MacDonald who won a Gemini for best writing in a comedy or variety program or series (Hatching, Matching & Dispatching, Episode 5). Now maybe CBC will get it back on the air.

Also congrats to the gang from This Hour Has 22 Minutes who won for best ensemble performance in a comedy program or series.

Back to Nyquil haze.