Monthly Archives: June 2014


Hopped up on blog hops (plus squirrels)

Last week the amazing Danika Dinsmore invited me to participate in a “blog hop.” After much consideration (.00257 seconds), I said, “Abso*****lutely! What’s a blog hop?”

A blog hop, it turns out, is a themed pass-it-along blog post. The theme for this one is Writing Process and, specifically, these three questions:

  1. What am I working on?
  2. Why do I write what I do?
  3. How does my writing process work?

Well, gird your loins folks because here are my fascinating and informative answers.

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Long Beach, 1932

On a stormy afternoon in December 1932, a ship leaves the port of Long Beach, California and disappears into a curtain of rain and fog. The boat, a ramshackle 100 foot yacht, veers and pitches over rough seas while a small group of people gather on her port side. They hold tight to railings and listen while a man shouts through the squalls, delivering a eulogy for the dead man at their feet.

At the centre of the little group is a tall, blonde woman dressed in a military style uniform. Behind her black veil she wears an expression that is hard to read: part grief, part anger, part defiance. A few hundred yards away, men aboard another ship watch through binoculars, supposedly monitoring activities, but in fact looking at the statuesque blond whose name and face are on the front page of newspapers around the world. Despite her fame, however, no one knows much about her. How old she is, where she comes from, her relationship to the dead man. Some say she’s driven around the world and has discovered tribes in the Amazon. Others claim she’s a communist revolutionary, or a Hollywood insider, or that she crossed Africa, scaled mountains, survived jail and kidnapping, escaped civil wars and works as a spy. In fact, she is more than all of this. Her name is Aloha Wanderwell. She is one of the greatest explorers of her age.

During her twenty-odd years Aloha has tackled more change and faced more peril than all of Hollywood’s swashbucklers combined. Adventure has been her way of life, her driving passion. Even now, in the cold wet grey, she understands that a larger world is out there: Brazil’s buzzing jungles, India’s colour-sick streets, the sultry cabarets of Paris, the wild dances of African tribes, the cathedral forests of Vancouver Island. These are real places and they live inside her like friends.

Captain Farris’s voice is booming. He reads a passage from Joseph Conrad and then a bugle rings out the taps. Someone is sobbing. The flag is lifted and the sea grass coffin slides down the plank and into the dark waters. There’s a splash, a wash of bubbles, and then nothing. Just a heavy sea and a life vanished. Aloha chokes down her emotions and wonders about what’s next. She could quit, could just go home – except that she has no home. For the last decade at least, home has been the open road, the idea of what might be just over the horizon. Home as a fixed place has not existed for a very long time, perhaps not since her childhood, 1,100 miles north on Vancouver Island. It was eighteen years earlier, before she’d circled the world. Before she’d become famous. Before the US Government started tracking her. Those carefree days before another man’s death had changed her life forever…


[For more information on this story, please  Contact me.]

Poets Reading

Poetry: Alive and well and fun as hell.

A few weeks back I took a train to Seattle for the Cascadia Poetry Festival, a four day smorgasbord of readings, speakers, and expert panels.

Now, for those of you who think attending a poetry festival would be about as exciting as filing a callus, restrain your clicking impulse for a second. Poetry is the dope bomb shiznit. Seriously. And the Cascadia Poetry Festival was three days of creative hedonism that included parties, a beer slam (with free beer!), and a living room reading series. Yes, there were some serious readings and discussions of pedagogy, but they were offset with poems that eulogized the end of smoking culture and readers who began with the invocation,

“Oh Lord, if I have but one life to live… I hope this ain’t it.”        -George Bowering

There were poems that glorified bumper stickers, oral sex, bar fights, and roadside fruit stands.

It was, in other words, not boring.

Over the course of the weekend I read a few times and had some very flattering feedback from people I respect, which is always nice. But, for me, the very best part of attending a festival of poetry was simply hanging out with people who get high on creativity. We’re all human. We all live within the contours of one small life, but sharing our perceptions of that experience is liberating because it opens up new landscapes and new possibilities. When we see through other people’s eyes, our own vision is enhanced.

Hobnobbing with creatives is inspiring too. In a hallway of the Spring Street Centre I overheard someone use the phrase “situational rhyming.” …Ok, so I’m still not sure what that might mean, but it feels loaded with possibility. Some phrases seems to catch fire in my brain, burning the way a pine branch does – with sizzling smoke and sparks, too wild to control. One speaker talked about an “activism of the ethical imagination” and I was off again… remembering that there’s a point to all these sentences we write. Art, and poetry in particular, can be used to unpack important issues – poverty, climate change, sustainability, social justice. The pen really is mightier than the sword. Writers can change the world – and, bloody hell, the world needs some changing.

The next Cascadia Poetry Festival happens in Nanaimo, BC April 30-May3, 2015