Tag Archives: canada

Lessons from the Train: writing and life

Four days in Canada wasn’t enough to satisfy my love of mountains, rivers and wide open spaces.  In fact, it was just long enough to whet my appetite for more.  Our trip through the Canadian Rockies was a look, don’t touch kind of experience, as we spent the majority of our time viewing the scenery from the confines of a train car.

I will definitely go back for a more hands on expedition.  In the mean time:

Lessons From The Train

TURN AROUND: As humans, our tendency is to focus on the view right in front of noses.  At times, I would become so enthralled by watching the trees and shrubs eking out a life for themselves on sheer rock faces that I forgot to turn around.  When I did, breathtaking views of  rivers and valleys awaited.  The lesson here is three-fold. 

  1. Literally: The view is always different when we look at it from another angle.  The contour of mountain peaks changes drastically when seen from the front instead of the side.
  2. In Life: Sometimes we need to expand our vision.  We can’t be afraid of seeing the world from someone else’s eyes.  While we don’t always have to agree, we need to realize that every moment and every event looks, feels, tastes and smells different to every single individual person sharing our experiences.   
  3. In Writing: We must never forget that every story can be told from different Points Of View.  By allowing ourselves to consider the story from an alternate character, we can more fully realize the impact of our MC’s actions on a more global level.  This will make for a stronger story.  One filled with nuances that wouldn’t be there if we wrote with tunnel vision.

LET YOUR HAIR DOWN AND KEEP YOUR NOSE CLEAN: Standing on the back of the vestibule created quite the breeze when our train clipped along.  Hair blew, dust whirled and smoke swirled.  At the end of the day, I was a mess, but a happy mess for having watched the scenery pass from outside the train car rather than in it.  I also bonded with unexpected people in a way I never would have if we’d all stayed clean and tidy in our seats.

  1. Literally: Don’t primp.  Some situations in life call for casual and comfortable.  Yet, this doesn’t have to mean dirty.  Q-tips and hair brushes were welcome additions to the trip.
  2. In Life: Go with the flow.  If we worry about dumb things like how we look, we’ll fail to experience how the world looks.  Life is not about us.  It’s about what we do with the life we are given.
  3. In Writing: Often times, characters are luckier than real people.  They get to do and say the things we never allow ourselves the freedom to experience.  They don’t have to worry about the consequences the way we do.  And yet, when we stretch our characters’ comfort zones, we allow for deeper, stronger characters and better opportunities for reader connection.

STOP EVERY NOW AND THEN TO SMELL THE FLOWERS: Cliche, I know, and I bet you already think you know what I’m going to say.  But bear with me.  Our trip was a frenzy of travel.  Airport to train to bus to airport.  My rear end gets wider just thinking about all that seat time.  Yet, every once in a while, we had time to stretch our legs and smell the flowers.


    1. Literally: Sitting forever cramps one’s style–and legs.  Get out, walk around and enjoy the  break in routine.  It keeps the mind fresh and does the body good.
    2. In Life: As a mother of four, my life is a train trip through parenthood.  I get up, get kids up, take care of said kids’ most basic needs, take care of kids’ emotional needs, support kids in their extracurricular needs and go to bed.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  But there are glorious moments–a snuggle on the couch, watching a humming bird flit from one flower to the next, a morning cup of coffee with Dear Hubby–that lend to a sense of well-being.  We need to grab hold of these moments and hold them in our hands like the precious gifts they are. 
    3. In Writing: Pace yourself.  A novel cannot be completed in the first half of the manuscript.  Every scene cannot be a series of high-octane events.  We simply cannot weep through an entire 400 page memoir.  Pace yourself.  Give your characters and your readers a break.  Let them experience ups and downs and little moments of sheer bliss in between. 

    LOOK FOR THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL: I loved watching the tracks stretch out behind the train.  To me, it was almost as cool as watching where the train was going.  In life and in writing, both of these experiences are necessary.  We need to keep our eyes to the future, while being cognizant of just how far we’ve come.  And when we go through periods of anxiety about our journey–physically and metaphorically–it behooves us to remember that there is always light at the end of the tunnel.  Our journeys will always take us someplace new and exciting, as long as we keep our cool through the darkness.

Which of these tips do you already use?  Which ones are easy to forget?  What has been your favorite stage in life and/or writing so far: looking forward, looking back, or enjoying the moment regardless of where you might be?

Curious minds want to know.



Aaaand, I’m off!

Canada, here I come!

I hope you all have a lovely weekend.  I’ll see you back here on Monday.


Short Fiction Sunday- The truth about Lies


I walked up to the woden shack and peered inside the smoked-glass window.  I had a date to meet my writing buddies and loyal followers of my literary journey through the metaphorical woods. 

Okay, not so metaphorical.  I swung my canoe up and out, stopping briefly at the shoulder, then hip.  I propped it against the log building and wiped the sweat from my brow.  The woods were hot, as only a humid summer day can be in the Midwest.  I needed a drink and a break from the swarm of mosquitoes that had followed me along the path.  I was also late for my meeting.

I pushed my way inside and bellied up to the empty bar.   

“Tequila,” I said.  “With a clamato chaser.”

The barkeep eyed me skeptically.  “Odd drink of choice.”

I shrugged.  “I’m a writer.”  As if that would explain everything.  And it did.  In a sense.  Why else would I be portaging the BWCA?  I had something important to reveal and it had to be done in person. 

However, a quick glance around the room showed I was alone in the Cyber Cafe.  Alone with the multitude of stuffed, porcelain and painted calves that decorated the bar. 

“”Three seventy-five.”  The barkeep slammed a glass down in front of me.  Amber liquid sloshed over the rim and dribbled down the etched likeness of a cow. 

It was like a bad omen and I shivered slightly despite the summer heat.  I dug in my backpack for some change.  Organization had never been my strong suit.  Not since my big sister ran over my head with her blue banana seat bike.  I sported tire tracks on my forehead for days after that.  However, in moments like these, I felt my sis might be right that the damage was more than skin deep. 

I sighed and began emptying my bag onto the counter.  The barkeep blew out a sigh to rival my own as he watched the growing mound of junk.  Hair clips, chapstick, Kindle, trophy, kleenex…. 

“What’s this, eh?” 

I peered out from the depths of my backpack.  The barkeep held my blue and silver trophy in his hand.  His eyes gleamed for the first time.  “Oh, that’s nothing.”

“A tro-phy, eh?”  He reverently ran his fingers over the molded calf on top.  “Says ro-de-oh.”

My cheeks grew hot and I tugged at my collar, embarrassed that I felt the need to bring my trophy at all.  Yet I had a nagging suspicion my cyber buddies would have more than a nagging suspicion if I revealed the truth without proof. 

I reached for the trophy and popped it back in my bag.  I fished out my cash and dropped it on the counter, stood and scanned the room for my friends.  Their lateness had passed rude and was dangerously close to impertinent.  “What’s the name of this place?”

The barkeep shot me a look that said he was still unhappy about me pulling the trophy out of his hand.  “The Cyber Cafe.”

I paced.  Jean’s voice had been exactly how I pictured it when she explained the directions to our meeting place.  At the time, she had begged me to divulge my two truths and a lie.  I refused to give in.  Yet now, as I paced the back woods bar, my imagination took hold.  Maybe she was miffed with me for not telling her.  I shook my head.  Surely that wouldn’t be enough for her to misdirect me.

Eventually, the tequila ran right through me and I made my way to the restroom.  After washing my hands, I noted a sign on the door.  Thanks for stopping by the Cyber Calf.

A bad feeling settled over me as I made my way to the counter.  “What’s the name of this place again?”

The barkeep froze, his rag mid dry on the shot glass.  “I’ll tell ya for that neat little trophy you got.” 

I weighed my options.  I could hand over my championship trophy and figure out where the heck my journey had taken me, or I could stubbornly hold onto the only tangible evidence of my first place win (not second) and stay stranded forever. 

After adding to the barkeep’s growing collection of calf paraphenalia, I hoisted my canoe and made double time through the woods.  The trail ended beside a well-kept log cabin.  The Cyber Cafe.

It was with great relief that when I entered this bar, a crowd of familiar faces sat at a table with an open seat.  I dropped my backpack and plopped into the chair. 

“Sorry I’m late.”  I scanned the crew, putting faces to names in real time. 

Jean smiled, raised her margarita and said, “Must’ve made a pit stop at the Cyber Calf, eh?”

Welcome to Canada!