Week 3: Write for 5 right now

photo by gayle mavor

photo from Creative Commons CC0-public domain

If it’s Saturday morning, it must be time to Write for 5. Or not! This is Week 3 of doing this and I’ve so enjoyed reading the writing of those writers who have taken the time out of their hectic schedules to sit themselves down and courageously face the blank page and screen.

If you’ve participated before, you know the routine.  If not, here are the guidelines:

·         I post a photo (or two) here at 8am on Saturday morning.

·         You look at the photo(s) above this blog post.

·         You take as much time as you need up to Sunday at 9pm

·         When you’re ready to write, set the timer for five minutes.

·         When you’re done, you post your results in the comments.

·         Do I ever look at what I’ve written and change a few words, and fix it slightly? Of course. I wouldn’t want you to put up what you don’t feel comfortable sharing. But perfection is not the goal. Heck, it’s not even possible. Five minutes. That goes FAST. But that’s the challenge and for me, that’s the fun.

·         Form is open: poetry, CNF, Flash fiction. You decide.

·         After it’s over, on the following Monday, I’ll let you know whose writing touched me in that moment in some way. Usually, it’s in a way that I’m not always able to define as to why. Then, I choose a book for that writer from one of my books and mail it to them. It’s an awesome way to cull my books, and to give someone a nice surprise.

Good luck. Give it a try!

PS: I probably won’t be posting my own response until Sunday morning. No time this Saturday. Very thankful for the scheduling feature in WordPress.

Write for 5 links past to present

gayle mavor photo taken in Thailand, 2013

I recall her from elementary school and my childhood birthday parties. Pin the tail on the donkey. Pennies in the cake. Musical chairs affairs. She has beautiful eyes. Brown sparkly ones. And a bubbly personality.  At our parties, there’d be my twin brother at one end of the table. Me at the other. King and queen. Two cakes. Our mum really did make our birthdays special when we were young.

I have this photo in an album to prove that it happened once as if I’m looking at other people, as if it’s got nothing to do with me. I wonder if other people feel that way when they look at photos of themselves from so many years ago.

I hope she doesn’t freak when she sees this photo. She’s the one in the blue dress. Dark hair. Right-hand side. A silly red birthday hat on her head.

Thanks to Facebook, she’s now words on my computer screen that pop up every day. I guess in a way she’s more in my life now than she was then. Thank you Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs.

I was really pleased that she participated in the first Write for 5 writing exercise where we write to an image for a timed five minutes. You can look at what image she chose, and introduce yourself to Mrs. Handicott in her submission in the comments off that blog post..

From what I’ve gleaned on social media, Jo-Anne is a more devoted coffee lover than most on the West Coast. I’d actually think she might make a pretty good guest on Comedians in Cars getting Coffee. I mean, there are regular people who could be as funny as most comedians off stage based on what I’ve seen on that show.

She’s also an avid reader, of course, and during the day while she dons her grownup attire and works as an HR Advisor for the Alzheimer’s Society of BC, you’ve got to know that when she’s in a meeting and she gets that faraway look in her eyes, it’s because she’s actually plotting her next flash fiction or poem.

Visit her blog, Going for Coffee and introduce yourself, preferably coffee in hand. Thanks so much Jo-Anne for taking part.

Only three more days until Saturday when the next Write for 5 begins at 8:00 am PST. I’m searching for just the right image and tomorrow, here, I’m going to muse about the magic of how it’s even possible to go from image to words on a page and how that spark happens for me. I’d be curious to know how it happens for you. Get mindful and pay attention to that process if you’re curious.

At a book launch yesterday in Vancouver, I ran into a friend and her husband. She was in the only writing group I’ve ever been in back in the mid-1990s. The past as present. It’s all around.

Ron Holcroft’s Walker’s Hook stage

RonHolcroft

Ronald S. Holcroft   

November 15, 1916 – August 4, 2015

When I lived on Salt Spring and in the North End after my third move in same number of years to the property of Marjorie Martin, I lived in the sturdy cottage that her father had built with her grandfather more than 50 years earlier.  Most days I’d take a stroll down what I consider to be one of the most beautiful roads on the island: Walker’s Hook Road.

My walk would extend from Hedger Road from where my little cabin was located, down Walker’s Hook to the Fernwood Road Café.

My jaunt always included a trip down to the end of the Fernwood dock to check for otters, inhale the sea air, see if anyone was crabbing, chat with visitors who I might happen upon (and often did) and look to the south to see if I might spot a ferry crossing in the distance towards Swartz Bay. It often included a meander along the beach to take photos of shells and whatever intrigued me.

It was such a breath of fresh air, literally, given that the road parallels narrow Trincomali Channel that separates Salt Spring from Galiano and named after a great sailing ship, the HCS Trincomali, built, if you can believe it, shortly after the Napoleanic wars, and now a restored ship in Hartlepool England if Wikipedia has it right.

One day as I was walking back, I saw a man coming towards me in the distance, looking as if he’d just stepped off a stage in Stratford, or perhaps to use an even more Canadian example, as if he was one of the characters in Stephen Leacock’s famous town of Mariposa.

He was elderly and he was dapper. He walked slowly but purposefully and his cane tapped the road and steadied him. He had on the kind of ascot cap that my own father used to wear on his daily walks, the kind many males from “the old country” don. He was wearing a tie and jacket. He seemed unusually put together for island life. But what really stood out was his mustache and his eyebrows both adorning his face (and hiding it) by impressive  lengthy wisps of white hair. His blue eyes were watery with age. He was the perfect subject for a watercolour painting. His feet sported black brogues, the kind my own grandfather, who lived to be 99, wore every day of his life.

I said hello, chatted about nothing for a bit, and then before he could get away, so taken by his appearance I was, I asked him if he’d mind if I took his photo. “You have such a great face,” I said. How could he resist?  Our interaction must have been no more than five minutes but he stuck with me as those who seem a bit extraordinary do.

A year later or thereabouts, I moved off Salt Spring. I put his photo in my online portfolio. I didn’t think much of it but I would look at that face from time to time and smile, and remember our short meeting.

A few years ago, his daughter, Anne Weerstra, contacted me for the photo. I forget how she came upon it or why specifically she wanted it. And then on August 4, 2015, I got an e-mail from her again, late that evening.

Hello Gayle,

A while ago I contacted you to ask for a copy of the photo of my father, Ron Holcroft “94 years strong”, and very much appreciated the positive response. I’m sorry to tell you now that my dad died this morning, almost 3 months shy of his 99th birthday. Your photo shows him as so many would remember him. I wondered if you would let us use it in the obituary…

Of course my answer was yes.

I’m looking forward to reading that obituary. I want to know a little more about the long life Ron Holcroft lived.

Putting the Phabulous into Photography in Vancouver

The other night I went to this photography event as part of the Capture Photography Festival. Organized by CAPIC, it was a survey of some photographers working in Vancouver, many of whom had apparently graduated from Langara in the past, and it was really interesting not only to hear their eight minute talks but to see the projects they were focused on. Literally!

David Duchemin

http://davidduchemin.com/

Spoke about recent findings of mirror neurons in the brain and how that means just seeing a photograph, not being there in person, may be enough to enable us to find a “string of empathy” to engage our compassionate hearts and to think about what justice might look like for other people. What might justice look like for all people, especially those we appear to be most unlike on the surface, finding a way to recognize that all humans, at the core of their humanity, are similar.

Angela Fama

http://angelafama.com/

To me this project was the most interesting of the evening. It was a project where she asked people how they were as she photographed them at a car-free event on Commercial Drive.  “No, really, how are you?” Then she captured their expression while she asked them to really think about that question and answer it honestly. And she spoke about building community and a cross country trip she’s about to embark on as part of a wabisabibutterfly.com project.

Vince Hemingson

http://www.hemingsonphotography.com/

In his own words, he didn’t really want to be there that night, which (editorial comment) is a less than ideal way to present oneself at an event.  Regardless, he showed his Nude in the Landscape photographs which he said was focused on form in landscape. I was intrigued by how fluidly he fit them into the landscape and I personally was fascinated by the detail of how he’d position a finger or a toe, slotted into a piece of driftwood in such an exquisite manner. I’m sure others will find these photographs enticing for their own reasons. Not sure why they had to be beautiful women only (as defined by mainstream impossible standards of beauty) if the point truly was just about the forms and shapes but take a look. Read the artist statement.

Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

http://www.alexwaterhousehayward.com/

He had an old camera around his neck and I enjoyed the way he just put up his photos and let them communicate. There seemed to be an inordinate number of people in the audience who had a problem with silence that lasts more than 30 seconds. I don’t get that. Embrace it!

Katie Huisman

http://www.katiehuisman.com/

Interesting personal discussion while dropped into a project to photograph sex trade workers in Uruguay. She realized she was putting a fashion filter (her normal bread and butter photography) on these women in this environment that was foreign to her and it wasn’t until she started to photograph the rooms without the women in them, that she was really able to capture their realities, to find a way to let their experience, stark and human, reveal itself through the empty rooms.

Pooya Nabei

http://www.pooyanabei.com/

A fashion photographer, relatively new to the field, who’s into the night scene and some interesting images that portray the interesting clubbing types he spends his time with.

Ross Den Otter

http://www.nuovofresco.com/home.html

Documenting development signs and how streetscapes have changed and continue to change focused on capturing those places in the city that we take for granted and putting boundaries around the parameters of where he’s choosing to shoot that which is near Main and Hastings.

There was the beginning of a little energized discussion around photographs on the web and stock photography and how it has impacted the industry with the typical dividing line between those who got it, accepted it and have capitalized on the “new reality” and those who are still fighting it.

I really loved experiencing the range of photographs and personalities that were there that night. I was struck by how much these photographers were the image-related version of  The SFU Writer’s Studio, each trying to promote connection as they defined that.

Let new doors open

light

So long ago, I heard the call of the journey. It beckoned to me in a dream. With all the courage I could muster, I answered the call. Now I close the door forever on the past of myself. I walk into the future. Here, new knowing waits for me; new doors open to me.

It seemed like a good thought to greet the new year with. From a wonderful little book written by Joseph Dispenza, The Way of the Traveler. Making every Trip a Journey of Self-Discovery.

I walked by it yesterday in the library. It was not an accident.

May this be our experience in the new year, inside and out, wherever we wander.

Germany: Where Publishing Dreams can come true

This is a tale of publishing success far and beyond what most writers will ever come close to accomplishing, and yet few North Americans know this author’s name.

He was born in Germany, as a child he barely survived WWII. He emigrated to Canada at 10, grew up in Kitimat, went to university, gained an M.A. and became a college instructor in the humanities. He is a husband, father, and educator, who, in the 1980s, traded academia for the creation of a life carved from his own talents as compelling as the stories carved into the iconic poles of the First Nations artists in his adopted home.

ulrichHis name is Ulrich G. Schaffer. He lives in Gibsons, BC, in a house with an unobstructed sightline out into the Strait of Georgia where, perhaps the water helps waves of inspiration wash over him as regularly as the waves that lick the beach.

After initial success in the 1970s, with eight books published by U.S. publisher Harper & Row (Fitzhenry & Whiteside in Canada), he’s continued to write and to try and get the attention of publishers in North America to no avail. He still receives small royalties from these early, previously published works.

When he turned from North America as a place to market his books, and headed to Germany, his birthplace, he found his niche. Ulrich has written over 150 different books, poetry, novels, large format coffee-table photography books, illustrated texts and calendars.

To date, he has sold more than 5 million copies of his books, (yes, 5 million!), published and sold in Europe. They have been translated into 10 languages. His poetry, some traditional, most what he refers to as spiritual texts, is often accompanied by his stunning nature photography, a few of his reflection images here.

Ulrich-Reflections

Ulrich-Reflections2

I think of his story as a tale of what happens when you’re a round peg trying to fit into a square hole and in a time of ever-shrinking traditional book publishing real-estate. But that would diminish his accomplishments.

For me, he offers an inspiring glimpse of what’s possible when you believe in your work, stay true to yourself and your dreams, and find a way to be entrepreneurial; to think differently about what’s possible.

It’s a story about how much a faithful audience matters, how loyal readers can take the soul of your books to their own hearts and remain keen to explore what you have to say, book after book, year after year. Perhaps it’s an extreme example of what happens when you find your audience, no matter where that might be in the world.

“Many people tell me they’ve lived with my books for 30 years. They write to me. They tell me stories about what the book has meant to them. They eagerly await the next one,” he says.

He is a man at the beginning of his eighth decade, married for 50 years to Waltraud Gursche. He’s especially intrigued by the complexities, the mysteries, and the possibilities in the connection between human beings. Fascinated by all types of love -deep, real, complex -not the idealized and bastardized version most of us have been raised on via television romantic comedies.

Ulrich first came to my attention in a conversation with Cathy MacLean, a classmate from SFU’s Writer’s Studio (2012). She met Ulrich when she was a student in one of his humanities classes at Douglas College in New Westminster in the 1970’s. It just so happens, they both now live in Gibsons.

In spite of more than a few anecdotes at frustrated attempts to get any publisher’s attention in Canada, he’s still hopeful he might find one again.

This year marks his 53rd trip to Europe in 33 years. On book tours, he typically visits 25 European cities and sells approximately $2000 worth of books a night. Without coming across as boasting, just matter of fact, he says, per book, he makes five times what he would make from a royalty off a book published by a trade publisher, which is how, in Germany, he’s made most of his income. He’s only switched to self-publishing in the past few years. He is currently working on a book about the relationship between Francis of Assisi and Clare.

I want to know why he even wants to bother with Canadian publishing given his success in Europe? Why does it matter to him? Is he still labouring under the stigma that only a book published by another is more valuable? Not really. After all, he has worked with those publishers in Germany. He says it’s this:  At 71 years of age, he would like to focus solely on what he’s most passionate about: writing and photography, not publishing his own work.

Ulrich Schaffer’s desk

Desk of Ulrich

The view from his deck
Ulrich-Viewfromdeck

***

This is how I decided to write this blog post. One morning I woke up, perused my Twitterfeed, and read a link that detailed the potential that exists for English writers via self-publishing in Germany. I immediately thought about a friend, Cathy MacLean, and Ulrich, a friend of hers that she’d mention in passing. I sent her an e-mail, got his number, and picked up the phone to enter into a delightful conversation. He’s sent me the PDF of a short novel called Izzabelle and Erich that, after his compelling description, I can’t wait to read.

So what do you think? Has your way of thinking about self-publishing changed in the last couple of years? Or are you staying steadfastly committed to the idea that landing a traditional publisher to push your story out into the world is the highest form of success when it comes to writing? If so, why?

Fishing for Steveston’s Abstracts

I was out wandering on a stunning day last week in Steveston which gave me the chance to snap a few pics of my favourite subject: reflections. Like many people, I love what happens to reflections in water.  I think my favourite is this first one. It could look great blown up really big in a bright space on a dark wall.

BridgereflectionsSteveston

 

This was taken looking back at the beautiful walkway that runs along the waterfront from the village to the re-created Japanese Heritage fishing village.

 

 

Stevestonlines

A bunch of Asian fishermen were casting their lines off the dock that this ramp leads down to. I don’t think they caught anything but in the spirit of all those Japanese fishermen who fished out of here, lived here, and worked so hard in the past, it was nice to see the tradition continuing.

 

This gull enjoying the sunshine like the rest of us.

gullinSteveston

 

 

 

 

 

IceinSteveston

This is frozen water. The red comes from the red house on the shore that sits above it. I love the texture of this and the way the light hits it emphasizing the patterns.

 

 

 

 

 

This reflection, underneath, is once again picking up what’s on the shoreline and the condo developments reflecting into the water. I think the colours work really well in this one. Its the inspiration for a new Tartan perhaps, urban style.

StevestonCondos

plantsinSteveston

I like the softness of these plants (wish I knew what they were called) against the backdrop of the blue/sandy-coloured water. netsinStevestonOf course, it’s not a fishing village, no matter how far it has come from those original roots, without some nets.