When 21 Seemed an Impossible Dream -The Cult at Strombo’s – Bonebag

The strangeness that I feel rattles my bones, it rattles my bones ~ The Cult (from Dreamtime 1984)

In 1984 I turned 18. For most of the year, though, I was 17. I struggled. So much stuff swirling about my head at that time. Everything a secret…everything a wound, a laceration. I needed something.

Somewhere inside that year, The Cult released Dreamtime. On that EP was a song that had an extreme impact on me. Vulnerable, whipped, tired, bone-weary and too old to live…I finally found my theme song. There was one catch…I was not yet old enough to claim it as my own. Maybe…just maybe…if I survived a couple more years, I could sing the song and own its lyrics. But the mere imagining that I would live to the ripe old age of 21 was such an impossible concept…I just could not fathom it. Never in a million years would I live to see the day when I could say I was 21 and felt like I was 99. 21 was three or four years in my future. No way I could make it that long. The pain was too explosive.

I’m tired and sagging
Only 21 but feel like 99 sometimes

But I wanted those lyrics to be my reality. I was always looking for something to propel me forward…a future signpost to keep me going in the right direction. A part of me always knew, even amid the chaos, that life was beautiful…that it was worth holding onto.

The song was Bonebag. And its message crippled me to the core, and simultaneously made a fighter out of me. I WAS bonebag. I swear, I wore that song out. When I was down–and I was down a lot back then–the song served to lift me higher. I’d listen to Ian Astbury bemoan the exhaustion of life through those words and it would sooth me, appease something in me not quite reachable by reason.

Just sittin’ here
In my lazy chair
Watching all the young ones

Yep. Too old to live. Not strong enough to stop living. In the slothenly trap of the ennui that surrounds, life goes on.

I’m tired and sagging

The Cult became a favourite rather quickly.

From an overly (overtly) romanticized blog post I wrote after seeing the band in 2013 at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto:

Enter BONEBAG. That song grabbed me by the short ones and refused to let go. But Bonebag was just one of the fantastic songs on the EP. The Cult immediately spoke to me. They were medicine men arriving at the exact moment music was set to make an apocalyptic shift into the great shitter in the sky. Ian Astbury, Billy Duffy and the boys were mercenaries of rock. But not just rock…they were the bridge punk was desperately longing for. POSTPUNKGOTHICROCK. And Ian was some kind of mythical incarnation of the first Rimbaud in a leather jacket. He’s as much a Lizard King as his predecessor, JIM MORRISON. 1984 was a year of revival. Those of us who knew that music was about to die latched on to THE CULT with a quiet desperation and a deep blissful sigh. The Spiritwalker had come…and he gave us the Bad Medicine Waltz we were all waiting for.

 

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The marquee outside the Danforth Music Hall, December 2013

I find it hard to speak of The Cult without going overboard. My passions run deep. There was a time when I latched on to things because I knew they were saving my life. The Cult was one of those things. I’m talking lifesaver in a turbulent storm kind of thing. They gave me a song with a future accuracy I could strive for. I was only 17/18, and I felt like 99 all the time. I wanted to achieve the right to sing the lyrics of Bonebag AS a 21 year-old. I know it sounds stupid…but there it is. Bonebag became my I-think-I-can song.

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Ian Astbury at the Danforth Music Hall – December, 2013

When you’re struggling to go forward, you grasp at all the little straws along the way. You can’t leave today… you’ll miss the next episode of Fame. You can’t leave today… you have tickets to see Alice Cooper in two weeks. You can’t leave today… you need to finish that Mark Twain novel you’re halfway through reading. Always an excuse to stay… always the wisdom to know that it gets better. Unless the wisdom vanished and you fell into another hole. During those times it was just accidental that you would survive.

I had several ports in the storm. The Cult was definitely one of them. Bonebag was one of them.

Thanks to George Stroumboulopoulos for having The Cult visit his place in Toronto last night for a quick 5-song set. And thanks to George for including myself and my daughter on the guest-list for last night’s gig. If someone had told my 17/18 year-old self that I would even live to see 21 and sing those riveting words Only 21 but feel like 99 sometimes I would have called them crazy. Here I am 49…feeling like 21 sometimes. And not only have I seen The Cult twice in stadium shows and once at the more intimate Danforth Music Hall…but I can now say I saw them in a house…in George Strombo’s living room.

Life takes twists and life takes turns. None of them are ever foreseeable. Some are unbelievable. I’ll chalk last night up to the unbelievable and amazing variety of turns. It was an event I won’t soon forget. Standing there, face to face with Ian Astbury as he powered through the 5-song list taped to the floor between us, I seriously gave thanks. Without knowing it, he and his band threw a song out there into the wilderness some 32 years ago…and it helped save a life. It was only my life, but it was still a life. Thanks George…and thanks to The Cult…for last night and for everything.

Sometimes it’s nice to remember where it is that we have come from… and how far we have come from there.

Edited to add the full 5-song set at Strombo’s House…which is now live!

ONTARIO WRITERS CONFERENCE, The Last – Are You Registered?

It’s coming up on the very last ONTARIO WRITERS’ CONFERENCE. Have you registered yet? You won’t want to miss out on this phenomenal GTA area writers’ conference. It’s got everything…amazing speakers, great workshops, food, panels, interviews and discussions. AND…the beautiful Wayson Choy. He has been the honorary patron of the conference since its inception in 2008. Just to be inside his orbit for the day makes it all worthwhile.

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The Incomparable Wayson Choy! The 2014 conference. Having fun with Wayson and selfies. 🙂

Wayson will once again be one of the conference’s speakers. His talks are always inspiring, thoughtful, gracious, and meaningful. I spoke with Wayson a month or so ago and he was really looking forward to attending the conference…as usual.

INSPIRING. EDUCATING. CONNECTING.

THE ONTARIO WRITERS’ CONFERENCE

April 30 – May 1, 2016

Ajax, Ontario

If you’re a GTA area writer, or don’t mind traveling to the GTA area, you should really treat yourself to a day immersed in what it is you love—WORDS. It will re-ignite your writing life and kick-start your creativity into full swing. Just in time for spring!

REGISTRATION DEADLINE IS TOMORROW! March 31, 2016.

Click on this link to go right to the REGISTRATION PAGE.

If you would like to peruse your workshop options, check out this link to the WORKSHOP CLASSES.

If you would like to see a list of speakers, facilitators, agents, mentors, etc, check out this link to the SPEAKERS & FACILITATORS.

For the open to the public portion of the conference, there is the FESTIVAL OF AUTHORS.

The conference takes place at Deer Creek Golf and Banquet Facility in Ajax…just off the 401…and just EAST of Toronto. Click here for directions.

With the amazing workshops, master classes, agent pitches, manuscript mentoring, speakers, etc…I think you will find that there is something for everyone at the Ontario Writers’ Conference. At the end of this year’s conference, we’ll be saying goodbye to this amazing yearly event. Don’t miss out on your last opportunity to be a part of it.

See you there!

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The Train Wreck – A 10-Minute Play

Another year goes by, another 10-minute play is written. I really scraped by this year, I think. I thought I was writing a comedy…but I think I totally missed the mark. When it came time to submit it at the end of my 8 hours, I called it a DRAMEDY.

I had a chance to speak with the actors and the director of the play, and they seemed to genuinely love it. They did a FANTASTIC job in the performance I saw. Flawless. During the Trafalgar 24 evening, they performed the play 6 times…to a rotating audience that amounted to approximately 300 people. There was some laughter, but not exactly what I was going for. It’s a chance you take, when you write comedy. I really did lean on the drama side of dramedy this year. I just hope it was okay. I love the event…and I loved having a play in it…my 7th Trafalgar 24 play! And IN THE CHAPEL! The most beautiful room in the castle.

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Going to the Chapel… Trafalgar Castle Chapel in Whitby, Ontario. This is the scene of my latest play, The Train Wreck…

The prompt given to me prior to writing the play was:

The bride and groom have just left for their honeymoon. The groom was late to arrive at the wedding, and, the groom may or may not have struck the priest during the ceremony.

THE TRAIN WRECK (Originally written for the 2016 Trafalgar 24 Play Creation Festival in Whitby, Ontario)

TITLE: The Train Wreck

GENRE: Dramedy

SYNOPSIS: After a bad wedding experience, Emily and Jarod are ready to avoid them at all costs. Or are they?

CHARACTERS:

EMILY LANCASTER (Mary Krohnert) FORMAL WEAR

JAROD MAXWELL (James Dallas Smith) CASUAL WEAR

DESCRIPTION: Emily and Jarod are Maid of Honour and Best Man at a train-wreck of a wedding. Could this turn them against weddings forever?

SETTING

CHAPEL

 

[EMILY and JAROD walk up the aisle together, exhausted. Defeated.]

EMILY: Thank God that’s over!

JAROD [sits on the stairs at the front of the chapel, head in hands]: Oh my god. That was the biggest disaster I’ve ever seen. How did it crash and burn so quickly? [Looks up at Emily] What even happened? I just don’t get it.

EMILY: You tell me, Jarod. Isn’t the best man supposed to be the one making sure everything runs smoothly? Wasn’t it your responsibility to make sure the groom was in line?

JAROD: I will never get married.

EMILY: You’re preaching to the choir, believe me. I hate weddings. But it was still your responsibility.

JAROD: You have no idea how much I tried. I wanted everything to run smoothly. Honestly, I did. Have you even met Arthur?

EMILY: He just married Rachel. My best friend since we were practically fetuses. Or is that feti? What’s the plural for fetus? We were neighbours before we were born. Anyway, of course I’ve met him.

JAROD [stands up and paces in frustration]: Huh? The point is I had no control over what happened. Arthur was a one man wrecking crew. I just could not save it.

EMILY: Well, look on the bright side. They’re married. It’s over. Besides, I suppose all weddings are gonna have some glitches and bumps along the way. Right? Overall, I think it was rather grand.

JAROD: Glitches and bumps? Grand. Really? Which part of that fiasco on legs did you think was grand, if you don’t mind me asking?

EMILY: I’m not loving the sullen defeatist attitude you’re wearing. They both showed up. They walked down the aisle. They’re married.

JAROD: Rachel is your best friend. Since you were plural fetuses. Don’t you feel bad for her? Before he went insane this morning, Arthur was worried sick about screwing it up. He said she dreamt about her wedding her entire life. He had nightmares for weeks about pulling an Arthur on his wedding day. And if she’s not devastated by how it played out, I’ll eat my inappropriate wedding attire.

EMILY: That was one of the questions I had for you, actually.

JAROD: I know. I saw you ogling us throughout the ceremony. I felt the hostility. I’m sure everyone wondered.

EMILY: And?

JAROD: The tuxedos went over the balcony at the hotel this morning. It was an accident. Don’t ask.

EMILY: Why didn’t you just go downstairs and get them? How difficult would that have been?

JAROD: It would have involved swimming.

EMILY: Really? They fell into the pool?

JAROD: The deep end. I hate weddings.

EMILY: Well, at least you’re wearing pants. Did you see the look on Rachel’s face when Arthur walked in wearing his Bermuda shorts?

JAROD: They were a compromise. It was either Bermuda shorts or actual swim trunks. The loud theme of the Bermuda shorts had to be overlooked. They covered way more leg than the trunks.

EMILY: When you’re getting married and you lose the tuxedo at the eleventh hour, a compromise is dress pants, chinos, slacks. Christ, jeans would have been better. If there’s going to be bare legs at a wedding, they should at least belong to the bride.

JAROD: In his defense, he was packed for Bermuda. It is where they’re going today.

EMILY: I’m sure she’s pleased with him right now. She’s probably killing him in the back of the limo as we speak. I can’t say I’d blame her.

JAROD: Remember that time when you said Arthur and Rachel’s wedding was grand? Why, it seems like it was just five minutes ago.

EMILY: Well, yeah. When you start nitpicking at the flaws and put them under the microscope, I can see where it might be construed as a fiasco. I mean, I’ve been to saner weddings in the past.

JAROD: Saner? [JAROD walks to the podium, clears his throat. Theatrical] Ladies and gentlemen, we are gathered here today to celebrate the holy matrimony of Art and Rachel. [makes the motions of punching himself in the side of the head and flailing from the impact] [mimics Arthur’s deep hostile voice] It’s Arthur, asshole! [returns to his own voice] I rest my case.

EMILY: [trying not to laugh] Well, yeah. But did he really hit Father Frank? I mean, you seem to be over-interpreting that situation.

JAROD: Really, Emily? Am I? How does one over interpret a punch to the side of the head?

EMILY: There’s really no need for embellishments or exaggerations. That was hardly a punch.

JAROD: Why are you sticking up for my best friend and throwing your best friend under the bus?

EMILY: I’m not, really. It’s just, Rachel hides behind a constant resting bitch face. I can’t tell when she’s upset, because she always looks upset. Maybe Bermuda shorts and a sucker-punch aren’t really enough to put a damper on such a huge moment in her life. I mean, has she ever looked happy to you?

JAROD: She’s your friend, not mine. I hardly know her. Something tells me these things would be devastating to any girl who always dreamed of the perfect wedding.

EMILY: Maybe she should be happy with what she got. She could do worse than Art.

JAROD: Careful. Don’t call him Art to his face. You saw what happened to the last guy who did that.

EMILY: Are you even going to tell me why you were so late?

JAROD: We were earlier than we thought we’d be.

EMILY: But you were still over an hour late. Father Frank was ready to call it off. Rachel’s grossly overweight Aunt Helen was in her pew fanning herself, hyperventilating and mumbling, “Land sakes!” over and over again like she was about to meet Jesus.

JAROD: After we decided there’d be no way to dry the tuxes on time, I had a hard time getting Arthur out of the pool.

EMILY: So you did try to rescue the tuxes?

JAROD: Well, it was more like Arthur saw an opportunity to go for a swim. You know, I think he might have been still drunk from last night’s bachelor party.

EMILY: That’s what Rachel kept saying. “What if he’s drunk? What if he’s dead? What if he’s changed his mind?” It was fun to be here with her while you were out there swimming.

JAROD: I told you, I tried. And I was never in the pool. You seem to be waffling. Either the wedding was grand or it wasn’t.

EMILY: I’m just asking the questions I know Rachel would want me to ask.

JAROD: Right. Since you were friends ever since you were feti and stuff.

EMILY: Don’t make fun of me. I don’t have to listen to this. [turns and heads down the aisle] I’m not the one responsible for wrecking Rachel’s wedding. That’s your distinct honor.

JAROD: Wait. No. Don’t go. I’m sorry. I’m just frustrated.

EMILY: [stops and turns back to face JAROD] It was kind of funny when Arthur tripped up the aisle. [walks back toward the front and fakes a trip into one of the pews] I thought his mom was going to have a heart attack over that one.

JAROD: His mom is a heart attack. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I’m surprised she didn’t show up in a grass skirt or a tutu. Your friend doesn’t know what she’s getting herself into. Arthur’s family is messed up.

EMILY: Anna Karenina?

JAROD: Huh? Are we naming Russian Lit novels? I see your Anna and raise you with a War and Peace.

EMILY: No. The line. Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. The thing that’s broken in the Middleton family causes their son to wear Bermuda shorts to his own wedding. Rachel may have shown up in the right outfit, but her family is just as messed up.

JAROD: How so? I mean, Arthur punched a priest today.

EMILY: Last night, Rachel called off the wedding. Just to me, of course, but still. She said she didn’t deserve him. She thought he was marrying beneath himself. The drunk thug swimming in the hotel pool with his tuxedo was too good for her.

JAROD: Ah. I get it. Unhappy families.

EMILY: We all have our crosses to bear. Some of us are so mad at the world that we punch priests for saying our name the wrong way, and some of us just take it all out on ourselves.

JAROD: You’re bringing down the mood, Em. We still have a reception to get through.

EMILY: That’s another thing. Who doesn’t go to their own reception? They’re probably at the airport by now. If she hasn’t killed him and dumped the Bermuda shorted body, that is.

JAROD: Arthur’s dad insisted. That’s how the Middletons have always done it. From the chapel to the plane. La tee da.

EMILY: [looks at JAROD and gets an idea. Smiles] Come here. [they get in line with one another] While I have you here, I just want to try something out. [she walks him up the aisle arm in arm. She begins to hum Here Comes the Bride. He joins in while they stand at the front of the church]

JAROD: Um. Weird. That felt kinda good. It felt right, or something.

EMILY: Yeah. Um. No. Let’s not get carried away. We hate weddings, remember? I just wanted to know what it felt like. You were the closest available arm. That’s all. Don’t read anything into it.

JAROD: Well, yeah. I just mean…yeah. Whatever.

EMILY: When I get married, everything will run smoothly. My wedding will be absolute perfection.

JAROD: Mine too. Like clockwork.

EMILY: You probably should find someone other than Arthur to be your best man.

[they turn to walk back down the aisle to leave the church.]

JAROD: We really should be getting to the reception. With no bride or groom, won’t that make us the guests of honour or something?

EMILY: Hmph. I guess so.

[they start to leave the church, at first separately. They fall in together and lock arms, humming the wedding march again.]

JAROD: I’m surprised by how good this feels.

EMILY: Ack. Weddings are so damn romantic, aren’t they?

[they exit arm in arm at the back of the church]

 

END PLAY

 

As is always the case, feel free to use this or any other 10-minute play posted to this site. My only request is that you email me at kevintcraig @ hotmail.com and ask permission (let me know).

 

 

Goodbye to My Beautiful Camino Friend…

Sometimes people come into your life for such an incredibly short glimpse of time that it’s hard to imagine they could leave a huge lasting impression. And then they do.

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Nick, Danielle, and Connie…taking a break at a stop along the way.

And then, sometimes, you get to walk the journey of the Camino de Santiago…and every path you cross is significant, every person you meet is a brother or a sister. Just like how you are called to The Way, you are called to meet and walk with those you discover along the way.

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Every step of the Camino has beauty to offer. The trick is keeping yourself open to it. It is, at times, a tough journey.

My Camino journey was with a group. Sue Kenney is a friend and Camino guide who takes groups to Spain twice a year to walk a portion of the Camino together. She is a kind heart and an amazing Camino guide. When I went with her group in May, 2014, I had no idea what it would be like.

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A bridge on the way out of Portomarin, Spain.

On day one, our group discovered each other…we made friends with one another. We were filled with anxiety, excitement, jet-lag, hope, longing, fear, curiosity. The electricity was palpable! We were giddy! As we set off on the journey to the church in Santiago, we found our pace and we walked together, and in smaller groups, and alone. It was constantly shifting, changing, evolving. We walked with one another and we walked with strangers from around the world.

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The bridge into Portomarin, Spain…

The person I covered the most miles with, by far, was Connie. At first, perhaps, we walked together because our pace was the closest match. Though, truth be told, Connie actually had a slightly faster pace than me.

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The famous church of Portomarin, Spain. It was moved from the riverside up a hill…one brick at a time. They numbered each brick so that they could re-assemble it at the top in the proper order.

Right from the onset, Connie felt like a good friend from far away. We just hit it off instantly. She was wise and giving. She came into my life at a point where it was very much in flux. She was exactly who I needed to talk to at that time. Her no nonsense approach to life was amazing. She offered life advice, relationship advice, and surprisingly, even advice on how to walk properly.

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Did I mention that beauty could be found at every turn?

Connie was the group photographer. And she took incredible pictures along the way. She joked that the hundreds upon hundreds of pictures that I took were always blurry and out of focus. I joked that I was capturing my shots with an amateur eye and I didn’t have the pressure of taking the perfect shot every time because I wasn’t a professional. She took beautiful shots…breathtaking. I was lucky to find one good one in a hundred. But I was okay with that. Often, I didn’t even stop walking to take a shot.

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Mountains and fields everywhere. It is the most breathtaking journey to Camino de Santiago…

We would lose each other along the way, walk with others in and out of our group, catch up with one another for breaks…it was all utterly organic. No plans beyond WALKING TO CAMINO DE SANTIAGO.

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One of the beautiful signs that others have come before you is the many ribbons you’ll find in the trees. Most with messages of hope and wonder…most in different languages. The world walks the Camino.

Each night the group would meet up and break bread together and sleep together at the same albergue. Other than that, we were wayfarers walking our way across Spain.

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There is a lot of graffiti along the journey to Santiago, Spain. It seems to warn you to LIVE YOUR LIFE NOW.

Connie and I had some extremely deep conversations while we walked. We divulged secrets to one another…shared wisdom, laughs, jokes, tidbits of our lives outside the journey. The connection grew quickly, as it does for all who take this magical journey.

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We discovered the long and winding road of song. It’s in Spain…on the journey to Santiago…

By the time we got to Santiago, I felt such a strong bond with Connie. As a whole, the group definitely bonded. It was filled with wonderful people. But there were also smaller groups within the group. Myself and Connie being one of them. She was fearless, headstrong, a smartass, courageous, funny, serious, irrelevant, relevant. I knew I would love her forever. I hated that she lived so far away from me back home. She was in Mont Tremblant, Quebec. I’m in Toronto.

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You meet SO many people on the journey. This is Connie saying hello to a horse. Its rider was from Germany. We met up with him a few times. He was a wonderful man. We struggled to communicate, because of the language barrier. But we made do. Hugs are universal. So are smiles…

Connie came into my life, and became a huge part of it for just over a week. Such a short amount of time. But such a relevant and profound time it was. It was thoroughly life-changing.

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The man who owned the beautiful horse. He was showing off for me in this shot. A quick gallop as he passed me by. This was our 2nd last meeting. We were able to share a few minutes in a cafe a little later that day…

The journey changed me. Our group changed me. Connie changed me.

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Walking up the hill outside of Portomarin, Spain…where our group had a beautiful picnic at the top of the world. A picnic I will cherish for as long as I shall live! Connie getting JUST THE RIGHT SHOT…while I snapped a hundred random ones on my way up the hill.

It was not long after our return from Spain that Connie contacted me and let me know that she had cancer. She was confident that she was going to kick its ass. And because I had come to know the strength and resilience she carried with her throughout her life, I had no reason to doubt her. No reason whatsoever. She was a warrior. I struggled our entire journey to keep pace with her. She was the first person I ever met who walked faster than I did. There was nothing she couldn’t do.

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A great number of people pick up walking sticks along the way to Camino de Santiago. Some decorate them. Some keep them. But most stack them into a corner outside the office where you receive your Compostela certificate.

I will never forget my Camino journey, nor any of the people I walked with (both inside and outside of the group I began my journey with). I hold the magic of the journey close to my heart.

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CONNIE

I will never forget the RAIN, and how we often forgot it was even falling.

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Catching my shadow on an ancient road…

I won’t forget how grateful we were on those rare moments during our walk when we actually cast shadows and the sun brought us much needed warmth.

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Claudette, Julia, Connie – Three friends walking THE WAY…

I will never forget the snow. And I will never forget seeing Claudette and Julia walking together (shown above)…and often with Connie and I. Julia with her scary blister near the beginning and her impossibly painful knees…and her trucking through come what may. I was on this journey with a group of Goddesses, truly!

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Connie and Sue as we see our first glimpse of the church in Santiago. A beautiful moment captured forever in my heart. The prize at the end of a long journey!

I will never forget our group. Sue, Nick, Danielle, Tanya, Claudette, Julia, and, Connie. Camino peregrinos forever.

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Our last night together in Camino de Santiago, before heading our separate ways back to our lives…changed forever. Myself, Connie, and Marielle (from the Netherlands)…who walked some of the journey with us (the honorary 9th member of our group!).

There are so many people I will remember from my journey. People from all over the world. None were more memorable than Connie. All were amazing!

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Connie, having fun on the Juliet balcony…inside the restaurant of our hotel in Santiago. I did it first. Because I’m silly by nature. It made me feel so great when Connie did it…because she was not silly by nature. It meant more when she did it.

Connie and I both talked of one day going back and walking the entire Camino journey, all the way from France. She saw it as a part of her future. I imagined myself doing the same. But now I know I MUST walk the entire Camino sometime in the future. I wanted to walk it for myself. Now, I want to walk it for Connie.

Connie passed away on the first day of spring. I write this with tears in my eyes and a profound sense of loss.

I will remember you always, Connie. You gave me so much in our one brief week together. You were a beautiful soul and I was blessed to have walked some of your journey with you. I can’t believe you’re gone. It is a profound ache to know that you have left us. I had you for such an incredibly short time…but you have changed me forever. Rest in Peace, my beautiful Camino friend.

Burn Baby Burn Baby Makes the IN THE MARGINS BOOK AWARDS LIST!

I think the absolute most important thing about writing is to have a reason for writing, to have a goal. When it comes to novel writing, my goal from the very beginning has been to put books that may make a difference into the hands of troubled and marginalized teens. I always imagine myself writing the book that would have saved me when I was a teenager. I know that probably sounds naive and whimsical and fanciful, but there you have it. My goal as a novelist. Save people from themselves. Save teens from the dark ugly underbelly of the world. No biggie, right?

When I recently received notification from LIBRARY SERVICES FOR YOUTH IN CUSTODY that my novel BURN BABY BURN BABY had made their 2016 IN THE MARGINS BOOK AWARDS LIST I was beyond elated. It felt like someone was listening to my goal, to my reason for putting words down on paper. The burden I feel to write books that would have been a lifesaver in my own life is, at times, overwhelming. I’m always afraid that I’m not doing a good enough job…that I’m missing the mark on what it is I’m aspiring to do. Just having this book on this list is a game changer for me. It’s the affirmation I needed all along. I’m doing something right.

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Burn Baby Burn Baby – Part of the 2016 IN THE MARGINS BOOK AWARDS LIST

It’s incredibly difficult to write a young adult ISSUE book and stay away from coming off as too preachy and message oriented. There’s a degree of finesse in simply telling a good story when it involves the difficult social issues facing teens today. You don’t want to beat your readers over the head with advice and messages. You just want to entertain them. What this List recognition does for me is that it tells me I might have struck the proper balance. In this book, anyway. I’m extremely grateful to be included in such a remarkable list. That it comes from an organization that works specifically with troubled youth makes it all the more amazing to me. I’m somehow reaching my target audience.

My profound appreciation and gratitude goes out to the entire committee responsible for assembling the 2016 IN THE MARGINS Book Awards List:

The 2016 Committee members are:

  • Sabrina Carnesi, School Librarian, Crittenden Middle School, VA
  • Amy Cheney, District Library Manager, Oakland Unified School District, CA
  • Dale Clark, Teacher-Librarian, Fraser Park Secondary, Burnaby Youth Custody Services, Burnaby, BC, Canada
  • Joe Coyle, Project Coordinator, Mix IT Up!, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL
  • Marvin DeBose Sr., Library Supervisor, Free Library of Philadelphia, PA
  • Lisa Goldstein, Division Manager, Central Youth Wing, Brooklyn Public Library, NY
  • Sian Marshall, Head of Teen Services, Oxford Public Library, Oxford Michigan
  • Maggie Novario, Teen Librarian, Fort Vancouver Regional Library District, WA
  • Kerry Sutherland, Youth Services Librarian, Akron-Summit County Public Library, OH

In the Margins is committed to promoting and highlighting diverse books and voices that have been in the margins. ITM strives to find the best books for teens living in poverty, on the streets, in custody – or a cycle of all three.   

Here’s the synopsis of Burn Baby Burn Baby:

Seventeen-year-old Francis Fripp’s confidence is practically non-existent since his abusive father drenched him in accelerant and threw a match at him eight years ago.

Now badly scarred, Francis relies on his best friend Trig to protect him from the constant bullying doled out at the hands of his nemesis, Brandon Hayley—the unrelenting boy who gave him the dreaded nickname of Burn Baby.

The new girl at school, Rachel Higgins, is the first to see past Francis’s pariah-inducing scars.

If Brandon’s bullying doesn’t destroy him, Francis might experience life as a normal teenager for the first time in his life. He just has to avoid Brandon and convince himself he’s worthy of Rachel’s attentions.

Sounds easy enough, but Francis himself has a hard time seeing past his scars. And Brandon is getting violently frustrated, as his attempts to bully Francis are constantly thwarted.

Francis is in turmoil as he simultaneously rushes toward his first kiss and a possible violent end.

Burn Baby is a book about bullying as much as it’s a book about a teen overcoming a traumatic event in his past and making amends with himself and his identity. It’s about the main character, Francis Fripp, finally seeing value in himself and breaking through to become more than the sum of his trauma and the resulting scars attributed to it.

You can order BURN BABY BURN BABY through any bookstore. You can also purchase it online through the following links:

AMAZON.COM

BARNES AND NOBLE

CHAPTERS INDIGO

BOOK DEPOSITORY

BURN BABY BURN BABY is published by Curiosity Quills Press in the United States.

You can read the full 2016 OFFICIAL IN THE MARGINS BOOK AWARDS LIST HERE.

You can read reviews for Burn Baby at GOODREADS

So Many Things! #MNM2016 #OWC2016

I received an email this past Friday that had me in tears. I know I walked away from the organizing of the Ontario Writers’ Conference, but it was never because I fell out of love with the organization. My life became a hot-mess. And then, as I picked up the pieces, I became more engaged. And then life became too valuable. I just did not have the time I once had to engage in extra-curricular activities. The OWC was our baby. We strove extremely hard to make it better each and every calendar year. Even after I left the committee and Board, I attended…and I served as a Manuscript Mentor. But my involvement ended there. It had to.

The email was to announce that THIS, 2016, would be the last Ontario Writers’ Conference. It is the end of an age. I just thought it would always carry on. It makes me very sad to see it go.

So, this is your last opportunity to take part in this amazing fantastic writing conference. If you are anywhere near the GTA, you should do whatever you can to take in the event.

Some Photos of OWC Past. One Last Year to Make Memories…

The conference takes place April 30-May 1.

INSPIRING. EDUCATING. CONNECTING.

THE ONTARIO WRITERS’ CONFERENCE

April 30 – May 1, 2016

Ajax, Ontario

REGISTRATION PAGE

THIS YEAR’S SCHEDULE

FACILITATORS & SPEAKERS

It really is a fabulous conference. Rumour has it Wayson Choy will be at the conference again this year as the Honourary Patron…a role he has held proudly since the conference’s inception.

Do yourself a favour and register today. We should all indulge our creativity through workshops and conferences. The benefits are numerous. You will not regret it. This last one, I’m sure, will be the best one.

My thanks and gratitude to ALL who ever worked on this conference. You have made magic happen. You have changed writers for the better. You have orchestrated lasting friendships. You left the world a better place…

Long live the legacy of the OWC!

NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT…

I would like to ask you to consider sponsoring my efforts to raise funds for literacy through the Muskoka Novel Marathon. I go up to Huntsville, Ontario, in July for the yearly 72hour novel writing marathon. This will be my 9th marathon! It’s an incredible event for writers…we get to focus on creativity for a whole weekend while a volunteer staff of kitchen angels feed us and provide us with a non-stop supply of coffee. 40 of us take part in the event. As much as it’s a retreat for writing, it is MORE SO a fundraiser event. We raise much needed funds for YMCA Simcoe/Muskoka…for their literacy programs. ALL funds go directly to helping those who find themselves under the repressive cloud of illiteracy. With YOUR help, we could brighten their day. Please consider sponsoring my marathon. Any amount would help. Click on the image/link below to go directly to my donation page:

mnm

 

Panic is Behind Me – It’s Out of My Hands!

There is nothing I can do now. I have performed my duties as Elf Playwright. Whatever will be, will be. Que sera, sera.

traf
Just one of the many rooms in Trafalgar Castle in Whitby, Ontario. Tour the castle while you watch plays take place inside 6 of its many rooms!

Right at this very moment there are 12 actors and 6 directors inside Trafalgar Castle School in Whitby, Ontario. Along with Driftwood Theatre founder and Artistic Director Jeremy Smith. They are reading 6 freshly inked plays. They might be laughing, they might be crying, they might be pulling out their hair, they might be looking for a corner to hide in. I have no concept of what they do for the 8 hours on the day of the Trafalgar 24 event. I write the play and I walk away. It’s their turn in the castle. All I know is that when I go back tonight those 12 actors and 6 directors will have hammered the 6 plays off the page and onto the stage. I still imagine their roles in all of this to be so much more difficult than mine. The real magic happens when the actors take up the words and when the directors take up the action. That’s why it’s so magically incredible to see my own play performed in front of an audience the day after I write it. The actors bring life to the characters and the directors bring life to the characters, the setting, the space. After my very first year at Trafalgar 24, I never again looked at actors and directors the same way. I used to think they had it easy. Now I know they get a rudimentary piece of archaeological hieroglyphs and they see whatever it is they need to see in it and they breathe life into it. They are magicians.

TRAFALGAR 24 TICKETS CAN BE HAD BY CLICKING ON THIS!

Tonight is when the audience converges on the castle. Tonight is when each of the 6 plays is performed 6 times. Tonight is when the wine and cheese and meats and crackers and desserts are spread out before you. Tonight is when the silent auction of awesome things takes place. Tonight is when Driftwood Theatre gets celebrated by the Durham Region arts community. If you live anywhere near Whitby, Ontario…you should click the link above and secure your tickets. Not only do you get your fill of wine and cheese and dessert, but you get to see 6 fresh plays while touring a beautiful 19th century castle. There’s nothing like it anywhere else.

Doors open at 6:30pm and the performances begin at 7:30pm.

FROM THE DRIFTWOOD THEATRE SITE:

Twenty-four artists receive a scant 24-hours to write, rehearse and perform six site-specific plays in Whitby’s beautiful 19th century castle. TRAFALGAR 24 is a theatrical event unlike any other, where the audience is right on top of the action as each of the 10-minute scripts play out around them in locations throughout the castle. At TRAFALGAR 24 audience members play a vital role of their own, helping to select one winning play to receive a commission for further development from Driftwood Theatre.

March 11, 2016 | 6:30pm Silent Auction Starts | 7:30pm Performances Begin | Trafalgar Castle, 401 Reynolds Street, Whitby

NEW for 2016 Trafalgar 24 Royalty VIP Ticket | $100 | Explore TRAFALGAR 24 like never before with a special Trafalgar Royalty VIP ticket. In addition to general admission, your TRAFALGAR 24 experience is enhanced by private pre-show reception with TRAFALGAR 24 playwrights, exclusive Auction Concierge service, and membership to a special VIP audience group guided by a famous Driftwood Theatre artist.

General Admission Ticket | $60

Twitter: #trafalgar24

Hope to see you there!

 

Ideas as Opiates – The Panic Begins! #MNM2016 #Trafalgar24

This is the time of year when my head sort of kinda explodes. In a good(ish) way.

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…” Wait! That’s not what I meant to write. Whenever I start a sentence with ‘Last night…’ I become possessed by Daphne du Maurier in the most peculiar way. I need to complete the sentence that is etched in my memory forever before I can continue on with what I was going to say. How’s that for a digression?!

Last night I went through the harrowing ordeal of registering for the Muskoka Novel Marathon again. It’s a treacherous time…believe me. The marathon takes place once a year (IN JULY) in Huntsville, Ontario. It is a 72hr novel writing marathon. Only 40 writers can attend. There are far more writers interested in attending than there are spaces for them to attend. So you have to be at your keyboard and at the ready come the stroke of 7pm on registration night.

I got in! I secured one of the coveted spots for myself. Then I discovered that all the spots were taken in 3 minutes. THREE MINUTES! That’s when I realized how lucky I was to have mad typing skillz. Gah!

Add to that registration pressure the fact that I will be locked inside a castle in Whitby, Ontario tomorrow, and ‘forced’ to write a 10-minute play overnight, and I’m about ready for cardiac arrest.

BUT. In a good way. I would not be happy if I was not in panic mode during these things. Confidence is the killer of creativity, is it not? Well…maybe not. But it sometimes feels like the anxiety and the fear are the driving force behind the engine that creates. FEAR—I’m getting locked into a castle and I have to write a play in 8 hours. A play that will be produced the following night—performed 6 times in front of a rotating audience of approximately 300 people. No biggie, right? It’s a thing. Confidence would surely threaten the process here, no? I need to go in thinking I can never pull this off…in order to pull it off.

ONE OF MY PAST TRAFALGAR 24 PLAYS

The Trafalgar 24 Play Creation Festival is one thing. I need to go in there blind, without an idea–that’s how the process works. You get a room in the castle, and pictures of your actors. But the timing of the Muskoka Novel Marathon registration is so impeccable. Because today it’s not the play I’ll write tomorrow that I’m most hyperventilating about. Nah…that’s tomorrow’s nightmare. TODAY—I sit here registered and committed to the 72 hour novel writing madness heading my way without the first clue as to what I am going to write. Today is the day I need to begin the idea process that will have me jumping off the cliff into a brave new fictional world come July at the onset of the marathon’s starting bell.

From this point forward, I will be using ideas as opiates. I will smoke them, inhale them, inject them. I will run through a myriad of scenarios, settings, characters, synopses, and genres. I will try to fit puzzle pieces together without seeing the picture. I will reject ideas, rehash ideas, kick ideas to the curb, and embrace them. It will be a constant whirlwind of ideas. Which one will stick? Who knows. Will I pick the right one? Reject the wrong one? Who knows. It really is hit and miss. I have 72 hours to write an entire novel. It is mandatory that I find an idea appropriate enough to see me through those hours. One that doesn’t fizzle after a few hours. One that builds upon itself one idea after another, one sentence after another, one paragraph after another, one chapter after another…until it sees itself through. I need an idea pregnant with possibility.

Sure…I got my coveted spot at the Marathon. But as extremely difficult as it is to secure that spot–as barbarically stressful as it is–it’s nothing compared to the realization that you’ve made it. THAT YOU NEED TO COME UP WITH SOMETHING TO WRITE!!

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Ideas as opiates. When my writing life is so rife with STUFF, I realize how extremely blessed I am to have this passion. I couldn’t sleep Tuesday night…thinking of the prospects of NOT making the registration cut. Because I WANT IT. I want these stressful situations that are do or die and depend on WORDS. Harnessing words is a beautiful thing. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

This is the time of year when my head sort of kinda explodes. In a good(ish) way.