What You Do Matters

Canada Day. The beginning of summer.

Canada Day. The beginning of summer.

It’s been a long while since I last posted, and has this summer been filled with many transitions. Each time I thought, “I should blog this change,” something else occurred and I decided it best to wait. Then it was something else, and something else. It got me thinking about the importance of not giving up when things don’t seem to be going the way you planned. Or when Life kicks you so hard, that you give up on it for awhile in order to regain the strength to carry on.

Conan - well into recovery.

Conan – well into recovery.

Nothing so dramatic has happened to me. Unless you consider the beginning of the summer, shortly after my last post, when my dog, Conan, developed digestion issues. For those of you who don’t know, Conan is a 15-year old Shih Tzu that I’ve had since he was six-months old. Last Christmas he developed chronic liver disease, and unfortunately the medication he’s on (best of its kind) is slowing it down but not stopping it. Without going into detail, the issues he was having meant he couldn’t stop himself from making messes – every hour on the hour. Like clockwork. I was informed that I had to consider his quality of life vs. my need for him here.

 

At this same time I was starting a new job at the Richmond Public Library as a student Library Tech. It was a steep learning curve, and without the required sleep (I was up every hour to help my boy) it was even steeper. The first couple weeks into July were rough, and I was worried about being labeled “That guy who yawns all the time.”

With both Conan’s and my quality of life being affected, I had one final option (after much research): to try Conan on canned food that was easier to digest. If that wasn’t going to work, it was time to say goodbye.

Thank the Heavens that it did not come to that. The soft food helped immediately – and also on the advice of my research (notice I don’t say vet) I added a tablespoon of fresh pumpkin. (Which I now freeze in quantities of tablespoons.) His digestion issues disappeared, he started gaining weight again, and his energy returned. That also meant he was sleeping through the night, and so was I.

 

 

Add to this that I also had commitments to a creative writing program at UBC through the Writing Centre, a writing workshop at the Surrey Public Library, and I was one of the mentors at the Vancouver Public Library’s Bookcamp, and this was a very busy summer.

As I wrote, during all this I was beginning a new job at the Richmond Public Library. I must admit that I was nervous at first, because if it turned out I couldn’t do it then it meant my effort at returning to school was a bust. It was not unlike the feelings I get with exercise, or with writing. All these voices pop into my head from those well-meaning adults from my childhood who told me not to try, don’t risk failure, and accept that I’m just not capable of “that.” Following the advice that I give my students – I ignored those voices (what the Artist’s Way calls “The Censor”) and persevered. After all, I have exercised to the point where my body has changed shape and my writing has been published in three novels. Fear does not triumph over me.

 

One of the many programs I ran at RPL this summer.

One of the many programs I ran at RPL this summer.

 

It’s now been eight weeks at this new job and I am unbelievably happy. My coworkers are amazing people, my bosses are wonderful, the patrons who use the library are inspiring. I’m running writing classes for middle grade and teens – offering something to the community that will become a positive influence in children at that age when they need it most. And how does this new job affect the rest of my goals?

It makes me look forward to returning to school in a couple weeks – with the determination that I can succeed. I come home and want to exercise, because I know that (especially being a man) that breaking the stereotype of what a library tech is supposed to be is important. And all of this inspires me to create – and write – in that same way that I get to inspire all these new faces in my life.

What we do matters. What *you* do, matters. From advocating for that animal in your life that has no voice, to the every day act of being the best version of yourself. You don’t know who is listening, who is watching, and who is realizing that if you can do it so can they. You’ve changed lives today – whether you know it or not. And that makes you awesome!

Student created story from the Vancouver Public Library's Bookcamp.

Student created story from the Vancouver Public Library’s Bookcamp.

CWC Summer Camp

Monday to Wednesday I spent with the CWC writer’s camp out in Abbotsford. The scenery was beautiful, with green trees and rolling hills. (Of course, to truly appreciate the serenity of the location I had to ignore the gun shots that went off every 5 minutes – apparently to scare away birds from farmer’s crops…)

Monday we arrived and checked in. My roommate for the 3-day camp was fellow author Lee Edward Fodi. The first thing we did (like all good authors do) was to set up our computers and check for wireless. He had a Mac, and I had my PC. Just like on one of those commercials, he had his up and running on the ‘net in a matter of seconds while I spent a good 10 minutes just trying to get a signal. Grrr!

After check-in we had a sort-of pep rally to get the students and parents in the mood for a great time at camp. Kari Winters, Lori Sherritt and Shelley Macdonald offered their expertise in drama, and myself, Lee Fodi and kc dyer took on the writing portion. Our theme was Circus and Magic!

I had all day Monday free from teaching. I spent the day sitting at a bench under a shady tree (still got burned) and wrote to my heart’s content. It was wonderful! To just sit and listen to the birds sing, the dragonflies buzz around me and overlook the wondrous green valley and feel the words spill from my imagination to the page was heavenly. (Of course, do keep in mind that I was writing the darker side of life filled with night scenes, vampires and werewolves.)

What I discovered from doing this was that inspiration comes not just from telling your students about writing, but from them seeing you act on what you preach. At one point that evening Lee Fodi worked at finishing up a drawing for his next book while I scribbled away my chapters. A young lady named Melanie watched in earnest, and finally said, “Wow. I get to see real authors at work creating books that aren’t published yet.” When I was her age I would have loved to have had that opportunity!

Tuesday I had two 3-hour classes with the grade 6-8’s. Our first class we discussed the book, “Tiger Rising” by Kate Di Camillo. We spoke about the tiger being a metaphor, first for the boy’s caged emotions and also of the girl’s savage anger. I also tied it into circus, and of how many people feel it’s wrong to cage animals for entertainment. We created characters, backgrounds, and even maps where their imaginary worlds might exist.

That evening Shelley MacDonald worked with them to develop skits. I came in during the second half and helped out a little; after all, I do have a short-term theatre background. Wednesday morning the students had a chance to finish any stories they were working on, and also to practice their skits. For during the afternoon, they had a performance for the parents to show what they’d been learning while at the CWC camp.

My favourite parts of the camp were the conversations I got to have with the students between classes. These were enthusiastic kids with big imaginations and it was fantastic being a part of their energy. (And believe me, they had LOTS of energy!)

The best part – from Monday to Friday I get to participate in a similar camp at the Vancouver Public Library. For 5 days I’ll have another opportunity to inspire another set of young writers, and to be inspired by them!