Archives for February 2009

The Slippery Slope of Tweeting

images     Tweetaholism… I hear that its a very real affliction.

And it starts off oh so innocently.

First you create a Twitter account and send out a couple of tweets telling no one in particular what you are up to and that life is all fine and dandy. As a newbie to Twitter you might even miss a day or two and not send out any tweets because you simply forget about it. You do wonder how some people become so fabulously followed. I mean, seriously, is it even possible to have 77, 967 people interested it what you say?

Then it starts to happen. You send a reply to someone’s tweet and they actually reply back to you. A real conversation begins. You are so buoyed at the conversation with one person that you actively start to look for a second conversation. And there is a certain reluctance to sign off from the medium in case you miss a follow up comment.

Refusal to do real work in favour of watching the latest tweets come in seems logical rather than ridiculous. You don’t want to miss any of the tweets from your favourite tweeters…. there could be the one gem of an idea in there that you might very well miss out on if you’re not there on your tweetdeck or at the very least on the homepage of your twitter account updating every few minutes.

Suddenly writing anything that goes beyond 140 characters seems like such a lot of unnecessary work. Surely people will understand if you start writing in shorthand…..

#CountDown: 3 hours =>Next Twitter Tips / 2 air 3:30 cst =>1509 watched Tue => Do Join Us==>RT This Pls>.

Makes perfect sense… doesn’t it?

And so ends the journey from a newbie on Twitter to a burgeoning tweetaholic. And it would appear that it’s not much more than a week’s journey for me.

My sincere thanks to Gideon Shalwick and Yaro Starak…. for their educationally sound video teaching me how to become additcted make the most of Twitter.

Does anyone know where to sign up for the twelve step program to kick the habit? Hang on… maybe someone on Twitter will know!

Beep! Beep! To You Too

Ottawa Taxi

I have always had an inner kernel of sassy in me, just waiting to be set free from the confines of societal expectations, but it wasn’t until recently that I really started to allow my sassy to start expressing itself.

Not so with my daughter. My daughter is fabulously sassy already.

Stating the obvious, but here is proof.

Today Matthew took her downtown to get his health care card renewed at City Hall, and as you can imagine on a busy grey work day in Ottawa, people are grouchy, going about their business as if they are the only people on the planet who matter, who have their own agendas and want their own way – NOW.

As Matthew and Bronwen were crossing a street, a taxi driver got sick of waiting for a (4 years old  in 15 days!) child to walk across the street… so he blasted the horn at them to either try and scare Bronwen into walking faster or to make her Daddah pick her up and run the rest of the way.

But my little girl was having none of that! No, no, no.

She swung her head sharply around, gave the taxi driver a withering look that can only be described as saying “How Dare You!”  in the haughtiest aristocratic way and replied… “Beep! Beep! To you too!” and then, without turning back even once, she kept on walking to the beat of her own drum.

I couldn’t stop laughing with delight as Matthew relayed the story to me over the phone. Bronwen  is the living example of Kinda Sassy; she really  is sass on legs!

Was Jane Austen the Original Chick Lit Writer?

Portrait of Jane Austen (1810) - by Cassandra Austen  watercolour and pencil

Portrait of Jane Austen - by Cassandra Austen (1810) watercolour and pencil

I’ve sniggered at the insanity of Becky Bloomwood’s behaviour in Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series. I’ve owned the whole series of “Princess Diaries” by Meg Cabot long before I had a daughter to justify them by saying one day I would share the books with her. I’m a big fan of Jennifer Weiner because she made the heroine in “Good in Bed” a plus size woman who didn’t fall into the predictable line of society’s demands for womanhood. If my bookshelves are anything to judge by, I am, in short, a “chick lit” kind of reader.

But for the longest time I have kept my reading preferences hidden, as if women’s contemporary fiction was my dirty little secret. Why you ask? Well, that genre of writing isn’t considered, shall we say, profound, now is it? Admitting to reading such novels does not make you look at all discerning. Not according to the intelligentsia anyway.

For it seems sometimes to me that for people sitting on discussion panels on book shows (like First Tuesday Book Club ), or people who write reviews over at the New York Times Book section can, intentionally or not, appear somewhat boorish in their need prove their superiority to the average person who reads, shall we say, contemporary women’s literature. Apparently writing doesn’t become good literature until its gut wrenching or emotionally tiring so that, yes, you are in awe of the authors’ ability and skill, but still in the end, feeling oppressed. And the good literature that the intelligentsia laud takes work to digest; it isn’t something that you enjoy for a time and then move on.

But I happen to agree with Jennifer Weiner, who in her own blog said;

(Give us) Contemporary women’s fiction (duh!) reviewed by people who do not think that contemporary women’s fiction and/or contemporary women themselves represent a pox upon the land. Reviews of books people are actually reading, instead of the ones the critics think we should be reading.
– Tuesday Feb 3rd 2009

Now don’t get me wrong. I spent a whole day in the bathtub one summer long ago, reading “Fall on Your Knees” by Ann-Marie Mac Donald with baited breath. I knew what was coming in the deepest part of my heart… I just didn’t want to see it confirmed in black type on the page. I’ve been whisked away to a time long ago and felt the softness of the silk kimonos against my skin in Japan with “Memoirs of a Geisha” by Arthur Golden. The gritty desperation and sadness in the story of “Angela’s Ashes” by Frank McCourt made me think of my own mother’s life. And I’m confident enough in my opinion of good and bad to say that I really wasn’t impressed with Wally Lambs’ “She’s Come Undone”. I think it was a success primarily because of the hype he gained from being chosen for Oprah’s Book Club.

So why is it that I’ve felt the need to hide my enjoyment of pure literacy ‘girliness’? And why have I felt the need to deny that if I were to ever write the stories that I know are floating around in my head, they would more than likely end up being considered contemporary women’s literature? I dream of writing neither the great Australian novel, nor Canadian for that matter. I do think it would be an amazing gift to write something that would change the world forever, but in all seriousness I do not dream that my writing skills will one day earn me a Pulitzer Prize. A Nobel laureate I am not! What I do dream, is of going into a book store and seeing books, printed and bound, with my name on the spine. Of being able to in some way support my family financially using the talents God has placed in me.

I decided, on a whim the other day to pick up a ‘classic’ in the form of Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility.” I had been putting it off reading it for the longest time because I assumed it would be hard work, a piece of literature I would have to really work at to enjoy. How wrong I was; it was pure reading pleasure. I confess that I had Emma Thompson’s screen adaption and the latest BBC version by Andrew Davies playing in my minds eye as I read the story, but that only added to the pleasure. The gloriousness of the vocabulary, the extensive speeches, and the very richness of words that Austen used struck me strongly. Such a book, if it written today, would, I doubt, ever be published. Or if it were accepted by a publishing house, an editor would probably rip it to shreds in the name of readability; condensing it into a concise book with 10,000 words less to its girth, slap a pink cover on the front and apologise for its existence by placing it in the contemporary women’s literature category.

But a few days after finishing the book I had a thought strike me so strongly that I have been able to think of little else whenever I think on the subject of books. Jane Austen was the writing heroine of her age. She wrote novels that had the whole of society talking, despite her stories placing women as central characters and the heroines in an age where they counted for very little in a culture ruled by men. Austen wrote domestic fiction, putting the dynamics of human relationships into a sharp and often critical focus.

True. She didn’t sit down and plan on writing novels that would be lauded decades into the future. She wrote the story that played itself out in her mind over the course of several years and when it was published, hoped that people would read and enjoy it. She hoped that people who read Sense and Sensibility would come to love Elinor and Marianne as much as she herself must have loved them as she wrote their stories. And in the end, she herself would admit that she wrote stories to make money. And here it is, two hundred years later; Jane Austen’s books are still being published, still be discovered by new eyes and still delighting afresh.

So now I’m thinking that its high time I got over my fear of the title contemporary women’s writer and just started writing, in honour of Jane Austen. And by the by, indulge my current craze and tell me, which is your favourite Jane Austen novel?

Small Tasks, Serenedipity and Mermaids


Are you anything like me? You look at a small task and think…

 “Ooh, I reckon* could knock that off in fifteen minutes. Yeah…  I’ve got plenty of time before I have to start…. insert any urgent, time sensitive task that must be done – like , say, cooking dinner —-> HERE.”

Except that the small task you thought you could ‘knock off’ was not so innocently small. Nohoho… it was bigger than you imagined. It was even bigger than you thought you couldn’t imagine it to be. It was actually a Big Job disguised as a small task that was always going to balloon out to take up two and a half hours of your time and still leave little pieces of undoneness hanging out everywhere to annoy you.

Like cleaning up a small section of book shelf.

Alright … keep the sniggering to yourself please. I know, since when was cleaning a book shelf ever a small task? But I thought, in all honesty, that it was going to be a small task. Simply clean out the folders I had there, sort the items (keep or toss), wipe down the shelf, and bobs your uncle, fresh, workable space for my growing assortment of current paper work.

Except that cleaning out the standing files meant I had to move some books (I want, no, I need my synonym book and my dictionary within easy reach!) from one shelf to another… which meant that those other books had to be moved …. and that meant moving the sewing machine …. and wouldn’t Bronwen’s books be better on that shelf rather than the shelf right behind me?….  and maybe I should move my fashion books up to this shelf instead of down on the bottom shelf especially if I want to think seriously about starting a fashion blog ….  and ooooh, look at this coffee table book on Cartier jewellery…..

You get the idea. 

And it’s not often that when you undertake such a large amount of work are you tangibly rewarded for your effort.  Just a few weeks ago I finished “The Secret Life of Bees” and enjoyed it so much that I felt the urge to go to the book store, plonk some cash down and buy the next book by Sue Monk Kid, “The Mermaid Chair”. Except that with the bus strike that held Ottawa captive for seven weeks, I have been put on temporary hold of sorts on my little job and have no money coming in, which meant that fulfilling the urge to buy a new book could not be satisfied.

And here is where the serendipity part of the title falls in place. Wouldn’t you know it? As I cleaned out the shelf on the music book case (called because it has the music system on it and not because we are musically gifted) to put Bronwen’s books there I came across a copy of “The Mermaid Chair” that I had obviously bought before I went back home to Australia all those years ago; I had totally forgotten about it.  But here it sits, shiny and new, just waiting for me to read it (when I find the time to make a pile of peanut butter sandwiches for Bronwen to eat and organise a few bottles of water), and all because I decided to do one small task before I cooked dinner one night.

So here is a new challenge for this blog. Not that this is the only style of challenges will be in the future, (I’m not quite ready to reveal that side of things yet,) but I did want to create a fun challenge!  Tell me, what small task have you been putting off because you have a gut feeling it might turn into a Big Job? Can you to do it in the next two weeks?  Are you ready to accept the challenge and then come back and tell me about your serendipitous findings?

*Australian slang term meaning You bet! Absolutely!