Monthly Archives: February 2013

Day Jobs

An artist friend of mine once said, “We’re the only people who have to work to work.” She’s right. Librarians don’t have day jobs. Neither do teachers, fireman, or accountants.

For years I made a living working various contract and part time jobs so that I would still have time to write. I’ve been a cater-waiter, a telemarketer, a box office staffer, a light walker (ask me, it’s cool) a script formatter, a receptionist, a front of house manager and a theatre festival administrator. These jobs afforded me time to write, but not much else. When I couldn’t stretch my dollars anymore I opted for a full time, permanent position at a community centre where I still work today. This Monday to Friday nine to five job allows me time to write as well as the ability to live. Since making a living from my writing may take years (or never happen at all) I’ve been asking myself if there are any advantages to working a day job other than a steady stream of income. I’ve decided there is. A day job can teach me how to deal with unpleasant people and situations so I will know how to deal with them as a professional writer. Here is a list of what many various day jobs have taught me thus far (…or are trying to teach me…)

How to ask for what I want
A lot of us have trouble with this. We think we’re being pushy. If you’re an artist you may think you don’t deserve to get what you want. Not so. Ask nicely, but ask. Present your reasons. Tell the person you’re asking how it benefits them to give you want you want. Even if your request is rejected, hearing no is not nearly as bad as never having asked.

How to be assertive
You don’t want to be aggressive, but you don’t want to be a push-over, either. Staying firm is tough. That’s why you should practise.

How to follow up
As nice as it would be if everyone returned your messages or emails in a timely manner, most people don’t. There is absolutely nothing wrong with following up. Remember, most people did intend to get back to you. Some of them just need reminders which they will usually thank you for.

How to meet deadlines
If you’re not great at time management and have no idea how to create a work back schedule, now is the time to learn. If you don’t need to meet deadlines at work, practise by giving yourself writing deadlines, applying for grants or submitting to short story contests.

How to deal with difficult personalities
Little Miss Defensive. Mr. Passive Aggressive. Little Miss Poor Communicator. And Mr. Unprofessional. (I do have cartoon images in mind in case I want to turn them into children’s books) I still have trouble dealing with these personalities sometimes, but I’ve gotten better. I now know what to expect and how not to get angry.

How to work with volunteers and assistants
Some volunteers and assistants are brilliant!… Others are not. But if they are giving their free time or being paid peanuts, they deserve your respect. Coach the ones that need it, but thank the ones who don’t. Think of how happy you are when someone appreciates you. Return the Karma.

Balancing a day job with your writing is tough. If you’re having one of those days that makes you want to hang up a sign that says, “Gone Writin’”, ask yourself what you can learn from this situation. How can apply it to your writing career? Yes, you should write as much as you can as often as you can. Write, but keep your day job. Keep your day job and learn.

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Dee Tales: Validated

Usually a whimsical story inspired by photographs taken with my i-phone, today’s Dee Tale will be a short scene. Enjoy.

A windowless room. A Man (M) and a Woman (W) sit behind a table covered in folders, papers, and stamps. There is a chair facing them. W has black hair with a blue streak in it and is wearing thick black glasses. Her top, various colours of the rainbow, looks to be handmade. M has a shaved head, a nose ring, a lip ring and a chin ring. He is wearing a short sleeved shirt which shows off his tattoos.

Enter Author (A). She is a regular looking girl by all appearances. She carries a back pack. She sits, facing M and W.

A Hi. I’m here to apply for my I.D

There is no reply.

A My I.D?

Again, no reply. She pulls a piece of paper from her pocket.

A Is this suite 159—

M This is unacceptable.

A What?

M Where are you glasses?

A I don’t wear glasses.

W You need thick rimmed glasses. And your hair!

A What about it?

W It’s your natural colour! Dye it. Purple. Or blue. Do you have tattoos?

A No.

M None?

A No.

M Make her an appointment.

A Wait a minute—

W She’s also quite old.

M Quite old.

W Nothing much we can do about that.

M Are you a recovering alcoholic?

A No.

W Current alcoholic?

A No!

W But you smoke pot, right?

A NO! What is wrong with you people? I’m here to apply for my I.D.

M We cannot approve that.

A What are you talking about?

W You’re not one of us.

A Yes, I am.

M You’re not a writer.

A Yes I am!

M (sinisterly) Prove it.

A meticulously takes everything off of the table and puts in on the floor. She opens her back pack and takes out a rolled cloth. Unrolling it on the table she reveals several medical instruments. She selects a scalpel. She lies on top of the table and makes an incision. M and W stand up and peer into her chest.

M Ohhhh.

W Yes.

M Do you see the—

W And there’s—

M Indeed.

W reaches into A’s chest and pulls out her heart. As she raises it into the air it turns from red to a glowing yellow. Everything else looks dim as the heart pulses with light. W and M look at each other and nod. W replaces A’s heart and sews up her chest using a needle and thread she finds in A’s rolled up tools. M meanwhile starts going through the paperwork on the floor.

A sits up and takes her seat. M starts replacing the paper work, handing sheets to W who stamps them and signs them. W hands a sheet to A.

W 6-8 weeks.


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My Dream Office(s)

A writing life is romanticized. Although writers write when they can, where they can, on whatever they can, those of us who plan on doing this for a living still dream of the perfect place to bring forth our stories. I probably wouldn’t get much work done if I had one of these offices. But a girl can dream…

My Dream Office #1 – The Intellectual

When you open the door to this room, a large mahogany desk is facing you. Even from this distance you can tell it was hand crafted. As you get closer the details reveal themselves in subtle ways. The entire piece looks so heavy you wonder how they got it in the room. There will be no laptop for this desk. Only black typewriters are welcome. There’s a large window behind the desk but the thick curtains are drawn. There is no outside world here.

To the left of the desk is a globe. Its age is revealed as you turn the world to read the countries which no longer exist. Beside the globe an umbrella holder contains rolled maps and wooden canes.

To your right is the fire place complete with area rug and a dark leather wing-back chair.

To your left are the bookcases. Many, many bookcases. The one in the centre has glass doors to protect the more delicate hard covers and paperbacks.

The lighting is low. The room the quiet.

This is my office.

My Dream Office #2 – The Solarium

When you open the door to this room you are bathed in light. You thought you might be too hot, but no, the temperature is perfect. There is much of the outside world here. There’s an outdoor patio swing in the centre of the room. It has a canopy and cushions. There’s a side table for lemonade or hot chocolate depending on the season. There are also notebooks and pens.

This is my office.

My Dream Office #3 – The Hideaway

There’s a rope hanging from the ceiling in the upstairs hallway. When you pull it down, a stair chase reveals itself.

The ceiling is high for an attic. There is a single window to your left. It is too small to let in a proper amount of light. Around the room are boxes stacked neatly. Some are Christmas decorations, others contain old clothes. At the back of the room there’s an ordinary desk and chair. On the desk sits a computer surrounded by sheets of paper and books.

This is my office.

My Dream Office #4 – The Secret Layer

You have to pull on the right book to get the bookcase to open to a secret stair case…

…That’s it. That’s all I know.

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Not My Poem

Although she’s specifying theatre, I think it applies to all the arts. Enjoy.

By Ariane Mnouchkine

Theatre, come to my rescue!
I am asleep. Wake me
I am lost in the dark, guide me, at least towards a candle
I am lazy, shame me
I am tired, raise me up
I am indifferent, beat me up
I am afraid, encourage me
I am ignorant, teach me
I am monstrous, make me human
I am pretentious, make me die of laughter
I am cynical, take me down a peg
I am foolish, transform me
I am wicked, punish me.
I am dominating and cruel, fight against me
I am pedantic, make fun of me
I am vulgar, elevate me
I am mute, untie my tongue
I no longer dream, call me a coward or a fool
I have forgotten, throw Memory in my face
I feel old and stale, make the Child in me leap up
I am heavy, give me Music
I am sad, bring me Joy
I am deaf, make Pain shriek like a storm
I am agitated, let Wisdom rise within me
I am weak, kindle Friendship
I am blind, summon all the Lights
I am dominated by Ugliness, bring in conquering Beauty
I have been recruited by Hatred, unleash all the forces of

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Dee Tales: Ant Farm

12 - Ant Farm

Dee Tales are whimsical stories inspired by photographs taken with my i-phone. A tiny story for you, a wee sense of accomplishment for me. Enjoy.

It was my first week here. I remember because my electricity was out. Since everything was in boxes I couldn’t easily find a flashlight or candles, so I got in my car and drove to my nearest neighbour. He said his name was Hampton and yes, I could borrow a flashlight. He’d even lend me his camping stove, but next time please don’t show up unannounced. On his property was the longest and tallest barn I’d ever seen. I asked what he raised. He didn’t answer.

The next time I saw him he was covering something in the back of his pick-up with a tarp. I was driving past and couldn’t quite make out what it was, but I thought I saw an antennae.

A few weeks later, Hampton rings my doorbell smelling of bourbon. I thought he had come for the camping stove but it turned out he wanted salt. Lots of it. I gave him what I had which wasn’t much. Then, in a whisper, he asked if I had any raid. No, I said. I didn’t believe in chemicals. He wobbled down my porch steps mumbling that maybe the Edwards could help him out. Should you be driving? I ask. But he’s down the driveway before I can protest.

A few days later news cameras capture footage of the ants. Toronto Animal Services hasn’t had much success in capturing them so citizens have started taking things into their own hands. Unfortunately the ant’s gigantic size and thick exoskeletons make them hard to kill. Turns out, they’re also really fast.

I jumped in my car. The barn was still there, empty.

Hampton was gone.

I drive to the Edwards Farm. I get caught before I can get close enough. They are friendly, but stern. I shouldn’t be disturbing their stock.

The barn wasn’t as long and it wasn’t as tall, and like I said, I didn’t get a good look.

But I could have sworn I heard buzzing.

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