Tag: Nanowrimo

Learning when to quit

I am tired. VERY tired. Life is, as usual, hectic and only going to get busier! So much so that I haven’t posted on here for ages. Since the last post, I totally failed to get a promotion that I had high hopes for at work, we saw Rocky Horror (fantastic!) Halloween happened which was great (I was the Starbucks Siren, the most evil creature in the universe. At work. Wearing a cardboard corset. All day.), I started writing a Zombie novel for Nanowrimo, the Farmers’ Market moved to its indoor winter location, I went to the CBC Tweetup, met the host of the Morning Edition, Shelia Coles properly and won a CBC coffee mug, I got a new ferret tattoo, Amy, Jen and I had a wee bit too much to drink in the new pub and sang murdered a few songs at Karaoke, and I helped paint Miri’s daycare green and orange. Also, I found out the Irish Poutine is a Thing. AND, we’ve booked our flights back to the UK for Christmas! So, life has been generally good.

However, I am finding that I have to slow things down a bit to fit the important things in (and I don’t like it one little bit). Something BIG this way comes, which will remain cryptic for now, but this Happening is taking up virtually all my spare time and energy – and it needs to. Recently, I resigned from the exec of the beer club, and from the CVAF (arts festival) planning committee – fortunately both groups were very understanding and very excited for me! I haven’t gone to Word Up Wednesday for months (the poetry slam) and I haven’t even written anything for it either. I was swearing and stressing about my Nanowrimo novel until both Carl and my parents gently reminded me that I was supposed to be doing it for FUN, so I gave up on it – and I really found that difficult. Nanowrimo is my THING. I love it, and I really wanted to develop my plot this year. I got to 15,000 words and actually feel guilty about it.

With the advent of Winter – by which I mean about 20cm of snow and minus-ridiculous temperatures already – we decided to gracefully retire Wheelie Good Coffee from the Farmers’ Market until the Spring. We did manage a few weeks in the new indoor location, but we were still having to pedal the cart across town, and that made the cart grumble (and us too, to be honest). Snow and extreme cold take their toll on rubber and we had two blown tyres in 3 weeks, then as the first snow fell, the pipes in the cart frozen absolutely solid, and we had to take a fan heater to it to defrost it. No serious damage was done fortunately, but we didn’t want to risk anything irreparable happening. Plus, we both really enjoyed having the whole weekend off work. It’s been ages since we could do that.

Unfortunately, all this means I am seriously beginning to resent my day job. The people there are still awesome and nothing specific has got worse, I just don’t like it taking up all my time when I have other, far more exciting and fun things to be getting on with. I cherish my independence, and as such, I think I’d feel the same about any job right now: in simple terms, I just don’t want to work for other people. Ever. I spend more time with work colleagues than I do with my husband and daughter. I drag myself out of bed for it at some ungodly hour and walk to work in -28 celcius while it is still dark, and leave just as it is getting dark again. It brings in enough for us to be financially quite comfortable, but what’s the point of having money if you have no time to spend it?

The BIG, cryptic Happening on the horizon may dash any hopes of financial security for quite some time. But it will be sooooo worth it, and I am madly excited!!

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InCoWriMo

At the very end of January, I (attempted to) resubmit my PhD thesis to Sheffield uni, having attacked all the revisions. This was an extremely complicated process, as it relied on file-sharing with a friend still at the Uni the other side of the Atlantic, persuading her, out of the kindness of her heart, to print 650 pages of the thing and get it bound for me, and meanwhile here in Canada, I had to print off a few important documents, sign declarations, then physically post my signature to England, along with a digital copy of the thesis on CD, then my poor supervisor has to collate the whole thing, sign his part of the forms, then distribute three copies to two examiners and the graduate research office, all without anyone involved actually being able to talk to each other!

So, as far as I was concerned, that was the last major hurdle. I feel like there is nothing more I can do to the bloody thing now. It is done with! And so, coincidentally, is Project B, but more on that in a sec.

This has of course left me a Gaping Hole in my evenings. I don’t actually like not having any projects or deadlines looming!

So it was by happy coincidence that I came across InCoWriMo! A total stranger’s post on Google+ led me to the page of International Correspondence Writing Month. The same principle as National Novel Writing Month – as in, inflicting a deadline and a structure to motivate you into writing something. In this case, it is writing 28 letters, one for every day in February. The emphasis is on handwriting though, and trying revive the dying art of writing real letters and sending them by snail mail.

Sadly, I only found out about this on 7th Feb so I had a week’s worth of letters to catch up on already, but I am making progress and I am now only two letters behind. The main difference between handwriting letters and sending them abroad, and emailing people or commenting on their status updates, is that digital/virtual correspondence is Free. Even if I only send these prepaid postcards to friends in the UK, twenty-eight of them are going to cost me in excess of $60. So, I am aiming to write 28 letters, but some of them may not be international, and some of them may be hand delivered….

Here’s some of the ones already sent!

Yes it’s from Someecards, and it was to Rachel Chapman Millinery, but I printed it out, handwrote on the back, and posted it in a real envelope!

One goes off to DarloBikeGirl in... erm, Darlo, the other is headed towards Nicaragua. First time I've written anything in Spanish for ages!
One goes off to DarloBikeGirl in… erm, Darlo, the other is headed towards Nicaragua. First time I’ve written anything in Spanish for ages!
Ok, so maaaaaaaaybe, just maybe, I might have given in to the tackiness of Valentine's Day
Ok, so maaaaaaaaybe, just maybe, I might have given in to the tackiness of Valentine’s Day
Flag going to an American living in England. The postcard says it depicts "Canada's natural beauty" - implying the flag is the best bit?!
Flag going to an American living in England. The postcard says it depicts “Canada’s natural beauty” – implying the flag is the best bit?!
I wrote a very tongue-in-cheek love letter entirely because there is a chance of me winning stationery - guess who it's to?
I wrote a very tongue-in-cheek love letter entirely because there is a chance of me winning stationery – guess who it’s to?
2013-02-12 19.31.05
My last blog post featured Alanis Morrisette. It’s not fair to deny her the cross-eyed bear!
Much like Nanowrimo, there is nothing to say the correspondence has to be a good read. Sorry for my inane waffling, Mark
Much like Nanowrimo, there is nothing to say the correspondence has to be a good read. Sorry for my inane waffling, Mark
Recounting recent highs and lows for Caz..
Recounting recent highs and lows for Caz..

This final one was not sent by me directly, but it is written typed by me, and it is from me. This is the aforementioned Project B: my new book. And some lovely, lovely friends have already bought it off Amazon! Mark tweeted this picture of it arriving in the post. Isn’t it SHINY?? 😀

Available here: http://amzn.com/1481049313

Novelling across the pond.

(Borrowing Carl’s computer today – mine is being employed to show Octonauts for a sleepy Miranda. Carl’s laptop is “lefthanded” in the sense that the scroll bar is on the left hand side. It is highly irritating!)

I was in Regina this time last year. This is pure craziness. This time last year we were camped in the Turgeon youth hostel, microwaving oatmeal, drinking unmentionable coffee out of the vending machine, bathing Miri in the sink and watching endless hours of The Food Network on the ancient TV there. It was cold and I learned the hard way what a joke of a business Kave Haz was, I wrote this blog, went on CBC radio, and I wandered round and round Regina on the hunt for another coffee job. I also tried to involve myself in the local Nanowrimo ([inter]National Novel Writing Month) effort, and although I spectacularly failed to make it to any of the write-ins last year, I did write my 50,000 word novel inside 30 days. 14 of those days I was in Regina, 16 in Darlington. (well actually, at least one day was spent on the plane, and a lot of writing can get done on a 15 hr flight when the in-flight movie is Twilight!!)

This year I am failing quite badly, currently 6000 words behind target and seeing no practical way of catching up any time soon. Nanowrimo is the kind of annual event that is somehow bittersweet now.  It marks the passing of another year and I can’t help reflecting on all that has happened since the last Nanowrimo. I hear all the adventures of my novelling friends back home – they are all putting me to shame with their word counts any way, but I really miss them all with their daftness: plot bunnies, Chelle the Unstoppable Literary Cyborg, novelling hats, motivational coffees, the efforts to stop Chris writing about zombies, and N’Oscars planning. This year, they all did an epic sponsored 24 hour  non-stop write-in raising money for the Blood Bikes service (still taking donations, HERE). I am so proud of them all for such a mammoth, mad effort and I am sorry that I couldn’t join in. Insane as the event sounds, I would have loved to have attempted it with that crew to egg me on. But at the same time, it was all held in my old cafe, and what happened with that place still hurts and upsets me a great deal.

So,  this year I am determined to keep up with my novel from here in Regina. I even got in the Metro paper about it, unwittingly! The first write-in I attended was in the midst of the worst hangover I’ve ever had in this country; we had a belated Halloween party involving costumes and play dates for Miri and manymanymany bottles of home brewed beer and kicking out the last guest at 4.45am. Hooray for Coffee!

Tamara and I at Halloween. Tam is also novelling!

The Regina nano-ers are numerous but very much centred around the university, so I have been attending the downtown and weekend write ins, but I have yet to summon the energy to find a bus in the snow to the university on Wednesday evenings. Nevertheless, I have met some fantastic people through it already and I’m looking forward to what is promising to be a suitably silly Thank God It’s Over party. Someone is knitting us prizes, apparently.

A few of the Regina Nanowrimo crew, all studiously avoiding the camera.

There are also several others hand writing their novels. I am hand writing again, because a notebook can be secreted into my bag so I can write in obscure moments wherever I am, which is not something you can do with a laptop. The downsides are, it’s slower and counting your words is an arse. I take an average of 200 words a page, given the size of my writing!

My novel. And yes, that is a coffee stain on it.

Winter has set in now, there is considerably more snow now than this time last year. According to the radio, today is was -12C but “feels like -23C” because of the wind chill. I know it will get a great deal colder than this yet, and we should start measuring snow in feet not inches, – yes, everybody warns us – but I feel we are adapting well so far. We’ve invested in Proper Snow Boots and a shovel, and are enjoying it all! This much snow is still exciting for us winter-starved British. Miranda loves stomping in snow, but at the moment it comes up to her chest! We could lose her in the drifts in the back garden quite easily….

Playing in the snow.

However, the cold is only an excuse to wear even more silly Novelling Hats, and as long as I can still trudge to Atlantis coffee shop for the write-ins, I can sit and write in the warm drinking a huge amount of hot coffee, and delay coming back home in the cold by another 500 words or so….

Homeward Bound… temporarily!

Long post alert! It’s been a while. Today I am also thankful for my ability to touch type: the laptop is perched on my knee in the car as Carl drives us back to Darlington, but it is five o’clock and completely dark, so I can;t actually see the keyboard at all. I think I am doing remarkably well, considering. Miranda is wailing miserably in the back. She slept for just under an hour of the journey, scoffed two chocolate bars and a bottle of milk and is now plain bored and frustrated at being strapped in for four hours. Methinks she is going to have to get used to this pretty quickly. Canadians do not think of “four hours” as a long distance at all…. (erm, not that an hour is a measure of distance really… you know what I mean!)

Anyway, I had quite a good flight back. I eventually changed the date because of all the strikes and industrial action at home, supposedly on the day I was due to arrive into London Heathrow. The idea of no staff at Heathrow, no underground running in London, and no trains running anywhere, all the schools closing because of no teachers… etc, was a bit inconvenient, but then, that was the whole point. This is what happens if you piss off a very large proportion of the working population, Mr Cameron! Those that can, leave. Those stuck here will and should cause you as much disruption, inconvenience and embarrassment as they possibly can. As my friend put it, “If people are willing to sacrifice a day’s pay now to attempt to stop them losing far more than that in the future, then good luck to them!” – well actually, he put it far less politely than that, but I appreciate the sentiment. Anyhoo, Air Canada graciously allowed you to change your flight free of charge if you were flying into London on 30th, so I changed it so I flew out the next day. This took me one hour and thirty seven minutes on hold to the airline, fortunately on a toll free number, because it seems everyone else had the same idea.  Consequently it turned out that Heathrow experienced virtually no delays whatsoever, with people reporting it was actually quieter and quicker than normal. DOH!!

The new flight involved flying via Toronto rather than Calgary, and seemed quicker and easier all round – possibly as a result of not having Miri and the pushchair with me. I bought yet another “Regina” pen at the souvenir shop in Regina airport having used up the last one in my Nanowrimo effort, and then waited for the flight to Toronto. During the wait and listening to all the other flight calls, I learned that you can fly direct from Regina to Cancun, Mexico!! FANTASTIC!! This means whenever I get the urge to bugger off to Latin America again (which happens on a two-yearly basis at least, and is actually a medical necessity, if recognised only by me), I DON’T HAVE TO GO VIA THE STATES!!!! This is fabulous news. My experiences with Air Canada only highlight again the ridiculousness of attempting to fly through the USA: neither in Regina nor Toronto did I have to remove my shoes to go through security checks, they didn’t treat you like dirt anywhere in fact they were all very polite and helpful. No one raised an eyebrow at anything in my hand luggage, not even the unmarked foil packet containing white powder, or aromatic sealed bag with “organic produce” in it. (Miri’s formula milk powder and a bag of coffee beans, respectively). They scanned me, but not with the new potentially dangerous scanners, and for once I didn’t set any buzzers off anywhere. I did NOT have to pay $10 for a visa to spend 3 hours in Toronto during my stopover and my bag made its way from one plane to the other without me seeing it, let alone lugging it through immigration and back again like I’ve had to do in Miami so often, for no apparent reason. There was also free wifi throughout the airport. I say again, watch and learn, America!

I got myself some dinner in Toronto, doing the sitting-alone-at-an-airport-bar-whilst-stupidly-tired-and-people-watching thing that is an essential part of any trip. This time I got to overhear the first lot of French Canadian men I’ve come across. They were speaking in French, but the Quebec accent is so, so much easier to understand than French from France. A business trip, I assumed, judging by the suits, the three iphones, 2 blackberries and a posh laptop on the table with them. National stereotypes were abound. One was in a grey polo neck, another had a very metrosexual leather manbag. Another had a silk scarf on indoors. Now assuming my grasp of French isn’t too embarrassingly inept, they were quite obviously talking about women. Monsieur Poloneck said something along the lines of ” Ma femme vit ici et mes vies d’amie ici” or, “my wife lives here” (patting his heart) “and my girlfriend lives in here” and pats his iPhone. Oh my, how awfully French.

Met a girl on the plane who was travelling from some obscure part of Ontario to Bangladesh, only the poor woman couldn’t afford to go the sensible way round the globe over Russia, because the flights were too expensive. Instead, she was going from Toronto to London, to Kuwait City, and finally to Bangladesh, which was over 20 hours in the air and then stopovers as well. She has my deepest sympathies!

After a quick catch up with birthday girl Hils and D, and a snooze, the Parents arrived with Miranda to collect me from London. Miri was so sweet – she missed me and just clung on to me, limpet-like as soon as she saw me!! So I’ve been at the parents’ house for the past few days until Carl appeared to take us all home again. Once I’d got over the initial jetlag, it was wonderful to see Miri and Carl again, we put the Christmas tree up and went to a local Christmas fair and got festive properly – haven’t really had a chance yet. I explained all the 13th Avenue Coffee House news and got all excited! I now officially have a full contract with number of hours and key responsibilities and so on, which is far more confidence boosting. But unfortunately, we went to the Service Canada office on my last day, just to see if I could get my LMO transferred to a new company. Since the point of an LMO is to identify a skills shortage in the area and allow an immigrant to be employed to fill it, I had hoped it would be relatively straight forward. It is essentiually the same job and in the same city, just with more trustworthy employers so the skills shortage it identified is still there. However, Service Canada insist that 13th Ave must complete a brand new LMO anyway. GAH. To be fair, they were sympathetic to my situation, but there wasn;t really much they could do since the LMOs are all dealt with in Vancouver anyway. Most have said that my epic 12 week and 5 day wait was exceptionally long though, and I do think 13th Av have put together a better application anyway, so hopefully it shouldn’t take that long again! They need me to start in January though, so its in their interest to push and push and harrass Service Canada as much as possible.

Anyway, that is the positives – I do feel a lot more comfortable about 13th Av, I think I am really going to enjoy it there and the owners are genuinely lovely. The business has been established for years too, which is reassuring, plus I think I’ll get a lot more freedom to at least put forward my ideas there. However, assuming all goes well with the LMO, the January Start thing is headache inducing and stressful I have no problem with going over in January, but Carl does. He is waiting on a voluntary redundancy scheme at work, which means, if he is accepted for it, they will give him quite a generous pay out. However, it is all on their terms, and the payout won’t happen til September 2012!!!! aaaaargh. We’ve also got to sell the house and sort out everything with that and shipping our stuff and so on. Now, the redundancy money would sort us out properly – pay off our existing debts and overdrafts, and get us the down payment for a new house in Canada. But, at the moment there are no guarantees he’s even going to get it, and he won’t hear til February. If he is accepted, we;ve got the problem of him having to work there until September and what do we do in that nine months?? It would mean me going over alone, Carl working at his job in the UK, and keeping the house (and of course, paying the mortgage, council tax, insurance, everything) on that place, while I paid for a one-bed place in Canada at the same time. And Miranda would either have to be in nursary in Regina (which my salary wouldn’t cover) or at nursary here with Carl, (where we would no doubt have to fight tooth and nail with the benefits office to get any help with the extortionate costs of that) and either way she would be without one parent, and I do not think that is good for anyone. She missed us just in a week! I know I couldn’t cope on my own without Carl AND without her, in a strange town where I barely know anyone. But then, we couldn’t all live off my salary in Canada anyway, The only realistic way we could all go over together is if Carl got a job there too – but then, if he accepted it, we’d have to forgo the redundancy money and be left sending money back to the UK to pay off overdrafts and credit cards and so on. GAH!!!

I decided with all this buzzing round my head,  I just didn;t have the mental energy to rush home to Depressing Darlington yesterday and go to the Nanowrimo N’Oscars party in the evening, partly because Jo held it at my – well, THE cafe, which brings up a whole new emotional bag of worms at the moment. Unfortunately Carl and I started trying to discuss all the above until 2am which eventually turned into snivelling, snotty emotional wreckage with no resolution. I really really want this, but at what cost?