“Planned UnParenthood” – A Revisit & Revision

book Cover

It was only a few weeks ago where I swore that I would never read this book again. This was born out of a fear of finding too many things that might need to be changed. Revising is one of my favourite things about work. I long viewed Planned UnParenthood as being finished completely. It has been nearly three years after the first publication, why would  change it? The content is still relevant today and will remain relevant years from now.

So, the other night I sat down and read it straight through. With the script open on my screen I made a small number of changes. I cleared up some of the wording, found one typo that was missed in the final edit and added a new afterword to reflect my reasons for releasing a new edition.

Last August, I had the privilege of winning International Childfree Man of The Year 2014. Part of my reason for winning the honour was because of this book. It remains to my knowledge the first book written about not having children from a male perspective. For this year’s award I will be part of the judging panel along with International Childfree Woman of The Year 2014 Magenta Baribeau, and others. I do want to emphasize that it is equally important to promote matters for people who cannot have children by choice. In my book I mention those who are considered “childless”, adoption as a positive option while touching lightly on the still delicate (to many) pro-choice topic.

Incidentally, the nomination process for International Childfree Woman and Man of the year will open on June 15, 2015. If you know of anyone who should be nominated, head over to the International Childfree Day Website for information on the nomination process and to read about the rest of the panel.

To those of you who own copies of my book. The content overall has not changed the direction of the book.  As I explain in the new Afterword, it really was about seeing my own growth as a more experienced writer.  Revising this book was about making the final product a better read. I was really happy with the first one and am extra happy with the new version. It is a reminder to me as a writer that even a few small revisions can make something great even better.     

For more information, I highly recommend Nina Steele’s http://www.nonparents.com where I have contributed some content. The site highly encourages readers to submit stories and engage in discussion.

If you or someone you know speaks french, please check out Catherine-Emmanuelle Delisle’s Femmes Sans Enfant at http://femmesansenfant.com  You can have google translate the page into English for you and you can get some great reading even from the translation.

Planned UnParenthood is available through Amazon and other online book retailers worldwide.

Thank you all for your continued support!

@WriterDann

Picking Up The Pieces

Power of Words

That moment where you realize you may not have worked in a few days. Or is it weeks…

Months?

It can happen. You might feel a sense of craft ignorance. Do you feel as a writer like you have been ignoring writing? Not necessarily. I have written much on these pages about how even thinking about work can be considered working.

http://dannalexander.com/2015/03/02/thinkwork/

For example. This is my first post on these pages in a few weeks. By no means does it mean I have not been busy. Ignoring writing just does not happen for me anymore. I need to always be working. I have also been on a bit of a break to refocus on health and live a little bit again. I spent a few days in one of my favourite places in the world. That being good old Las Vegas. You have to take breaks. You have to have your health. I’ve often said and written that continuing to write is very vital to my health. For as long as I can remember, working the words has been part of my active and healthy lifestyle. If I stop writing it can and has affected my overall well-being. So I try to never stop. I try to think of ideas while on those breaks. Even a few minutes of silence can inspire hours and pages of writing. My books are proof of this.

Remembering to live can be difficult in any business. Many in the business like me have day jobs and it is a balancing act. I’ve said multiple times that I live in order to write. Well, it seems more and more that I write in order to live. We write as part of living. Sure it would be nice to make a full-time living at it one day and that will happen for many of us. During difficult times it is important to keep going forward. Use your self-identity as a writer as a coping mechanism to pick up the pieces and get back at it.

@WriterDann

Waterfront Wanderings and Irresponsible Pet Parents

halifax in front of Saltys

Tuesday was one of those days worthy of a long walk along the Halifax waterfront. I know I needed it. It is around the time of the year where it starts to get busier. Cruise Ships start coming in. I again resist the urge to show up at Pier 21 with a sign that says “Welcome to Port Hawkesbury” just to see if I can fool anyone. (Hey I am tired, my sense of humour is probably off a bit)

The springtime runners are all out in full force determined to see how much sweat they can generate in the sunshine. The patios are lined with freshly poured beer and plates lined with mostly fabulous fare for diners of all tastes.

While not blazingly hot, it was warm enough that for a dog walking along the surfaces it was a bit too hot. I walked past one large dog then a small dog, both were lifting their legs in a silent but visible protest of the heat on their paws. Their owners just continued to rush them along not seeming to care. I was out of shouting range at this point and on reflection I should have went after them.

A few further steps ahead, a lady had picked up her little dog and was carrying her along. The right call indeed.

As the warmer weather has finally returned, it is that time to remind all pet-parents not to be irresponsible careless idiots. Dogs cannot be left in vehicles. If the road surface is too hot for walking, don’t walk them. This is so simple yet many pet-parents still cannot get this through their heads. This is animal cruelty.

I want to openly thank all of the Halifax business owners downtown and everywhere who are leaving constantly fresh supplies of waters for the dogs that walk by. That is common sense compassion for our pet friends.

No matter where you are. Please be mindful of any animals left in hot cars. Call the authorities and do what you can to save an innocent life.

Do not ignore distress.

Losing and Finding Yourself in Work

May 2015 office

This is the main shelf in my home office as of today. Hard to believe it is actually cleaned up slightly. It has a ways to go yet before I am completely happy with it. There are lots of collectibles, pics and other things wedged in among the tapes and notebooks.

It is easy to lose myself in here for hours on end. It is easy to lose myself in whatever I might be working on. Whether it is something on the computer screen or trying to decipher my occasionally questionable handwriting in order to figure out an old idea. It is way too easy and a ton of fun to get lost.

I often need to remind myself to be disciplined in what I do. If I keep pushing through and keep writing, then the possibility of Writer’s Block remains non-existent. At some point in the last few years, I decided to just keep at it.

To keep working. To keep writing. As one keeps working, one keeps generating. You may be sitting at the screen or starting at the page and wanting to work but nothing is there. No inspiration. No spark. I get that. I understand. It can be difficult. Those moments of frustration are exercises in sanity maintenance. It took years of disciplined practice for me to decide to keep going. In a short span of seconds I can now easily have something written. Even the stuff that might not make sense right away, could make sense down the road.

I have found writing to be more than something related to creating and preserving an identity. It has become a great release. It has become a form of very intensive therapy. My therapy sessions are mostly spent in this home office. I prefer the solitude of this space. Occasionally, there are instances where I will spend a few minutes somewhere like a quiet cafe (hard to find) with a notebook and pen. If for some reason I am missing the notebook and pen, then consider your smart phone.  If you are a writer with an Iphone, consider enabling the dictation function and speak your thought out onto a note. Fix it up and edit it later. This eliminates any excuse for forgetting to have something to write with. I think I still prefer having something written out though.

Another way I have managed to lose myself lately is on this novel script that I keep working away at. It was an older idea that was shelved then came back to life magnificently. It has been easy to add a few hundred words every few days to this. I have been absolutely lost in the conversations and conflicts between characters. Crafting the words and making everything sound good if I were to read it out loud. Losing myself in the scenery has been equally therapeutic. The story is set between two small towns in Atlantic Canada that I know very well. So part of the exercise in writing this has been to combine the backgrounds of both towns and make them stand out on their own.

No matter what you are working on, if you get lost in transposing your thoughts to written word, you can actually find yourself. You can feel more free. A bit better about who you are. A bit better about knowing that the work is worth it. If you are staring at an empty page, look around. Find something close by and write about it. See where it goes.

Lose yourself, then find yourself.

@WriterDann

Perusing Poetic Verses

poets

My first publishing credits were as a poet, where I appeared in three anthologies over the course of the same number of years with the Calgary Stroll of Poets. It was a nice trip down memory lane to pull these off the shelf and review the work that they published. They were interesting pieces of poetry. One was about a trip to Moscow that never happened. Another, a reflective poem about what some of my old nightly prayer lists looked like when meditating. The third poem published was inspired after a Jazz Album by Bassist Steve Swallow and Vibraphonist Gary Burton.  “Hotel Hello”. I turned it into some story about pulling into a dive motel and staying the night.

Poetry was my first realization that I could write. My old notebooks from my teen days offer great reflection into things I was thinking and going through during those days. My memory is good enough that I can usually recall what and who the subjects of my words were. In a few instances I actually would write down who the piece was meant for or what location it was meant to be about.

Leonard Cohen’s marvelous body of poetic work was encouraging. They all stand as reminders to writers that you should write what you want and to be comfortable with your own identity within your writing.

Another book that inspired my work on more free-form styles of verse was The Tragically Hip Frontman Gord Downie’s, “Coke Machine Glow”. Gord’s book offers some great insight into the poetic mind of a singer making some notes while on the road and living life. He punches several pieces with great use of words in an improvisational yet conversational tone that even new fans of poetry could appreciate. I highly recommend this great collection of poems.

These are the moments where I will open the first few books I ever wrote in and reflect fondly on my early forays into the business and craft of writing words. It is always a trip and a half. Seeing names of people and places, and guessing the time it has been since those pages were last looked at is something incredible. My progress with writing has always been positive in nature. So it is refreshing to see how far I have come. Everyone should always take a few minutes to reflect and review on older pieces of paper. Not just for the purpose of seeing if there are any old ideas that can be refreshed as updated ones. Just to look at the words. Look at how you wrote them out. Think about how they sound when you read them out. What kind of emotions do they provoke in you? What kind of emotions they could provoke in others if they read them and learned they were the subject of those words?

I’ve received comments from a few friends and colleagues over the years who ask me why I stopped writing poetry or why I stopped being a poet. After reflecting on it some more, I’ve concluded that I don’t think I ever did stop. Because I never stop being a writer. At least once a year I still gather some submissions to send to literary publications in the hopes of adding another credit to my resume. Most times they are older pieces of poetry and prose that are given some new life.

Much of the notebooks and loose pages where ideas are kept could easily be turned into poetic verse. I’ve come to the realization that maybe my ideas all start out as poetry before transitioning into something else. If I wanted to, I could generate collections for the rest of my career based on just what I have around me and never need new ideas.

Thankfully, new ideas never stop. So my abilities to write create poetic verse never stopped either.  

@WriterDann

The Last Conversation

Black-Rotary-Phone

It was usually happening on Sundays. The phone would ring, I would see the number and prepare to settle in for a slightly long conversation. It would be only slightly long if for some reason I might feel it was going on too long.

“Hello! How are You?”

Over the last few months of his life, our conversations were mostly great. Actually they were really great. Truth is, the man and I never saw eye to eye on many things over his life. We disagreed politically and personally on many things. Those disagreements were always better reserved for round table discussions at my Grandfather’s place. Literally, it was a round table where we would all banter to our heart’s content.

Or discontent depending on who you might have agreed with.

Those last conversations on the phone were wide-ranging indeed. Dad was never missing a beat to ensure he covered all possible topics. Family, work, writing, sports. Anything he could think of where I might have a word or two in return offering. Political discussions were becoming few and far between. My interests in partisan politics was nearing the end. So if any of those discussions were happening I could easily make the case for how our country would be better served by consensus government.

Religion had long become a more difficult subject to approach with Dad. He was a Christian who was heavily involved in the Anglican Church. I had long left religion. The topic was becoming more uncomfortable to me. I think he felt a great sense of disappointment in my walking away from religion. All I was looking for was acceptance and understanding. A religious-themed Christmas card that he gave me in 2012 was a slight bit hurtful. He wrote several things in it that made me feel really rough about myself. I remember leaving his place in tears that day. As I said, all I wanted was acceptance and respect for my personal choice. My Dad was an Atheist who converted to Christianity in his early twenties so I was hoping for more understanding.

Incidentally, I have no desire to be part of any debates on religion or politics any more. Over the last few months I have begun to feel that if you are not hurting anyone in expressing or having whatever beliefs you have and if you are a good person, your religious and political ideologies would not change my opinion of you. When and if any more writing from me on those subjects is published, it would be for the purpose of telling a story and not to fulfill the need to engage in debate. 

Fast-forward to early December 2013. This time it was me picking up the phone to call Dad. It was mid-week and not a Sunday. It was an exceptionally good conversation. Maybe one of the best we ever had. We covered all the topics as per usual but with more of a positive flair. A night or two before, I had accidentally struck a coyote on the highway and it crushed me. I did not sleep for days after that. We spoke about it at length. He seemed to understand that despite all the negative words that coyotes get, it was about listening to how I felt about it. This was an animal that might have been out to hunt for itself. Maybe it had pups to feed. Who knows. Animals deserve respect, especially in the wild. The funniest part of the conversation was his critique of my second book, Throwing Dice. He told me that he “did not get it”. As much as we both loved good comedy, my style of writing for that book was not appealing to his sense of humour. It was a fair critique and I was good with it.

I managed later to steer that conversation in the direction of the religious Christmas card. I explained politely that my hope this year would be that he might consider how I felt about religion and that if he were to buy a card it would not be religious in theme. I explained that to me that I would always say “Merry Christmas”. I would also say “Happy Holidays” or anything else I felt like saying to reflect the time of year. What I wanted was not to be preached to or made to feel guilty about my personal choice to leave religion.

He was excellent in his response. He spoke without missing a beat on how he knew that he could easily find a “more appropriate” (his words) card with no religious verse on it. I felt that he was finally accepting the choice.

The end of the call was like how most of our calls would end. We would usually say a few words and phrases that would make the goodbye last up to a minute. Sometimes it was funny. Most times it was serious. During this call as our phrases trailed off to the hangup, I heard him say,

“I’m proud of you”

I remember hanging up just after that. Feeling a greater sense of optimism on where things were going with our conversations. I remember feeling that it was one of the best talks we may ever had.

On the evening of December 9, Dad passed away suddenly.  He had been in the hospital for two days. We were only contacted early that morning to be told he was even there. We all had hoped that somehow he would pull through and be on the road to recovery. His passing was a serious shock to the system. Over a year later there are days over the last year that I found myself in disbelief that he is gone.

The late great movie critic Roger Ebert once spoke about how writing was a release for him on an interview for Book Television. There is not a person in this craft and business who would disagree. This particular story is one I have wanted to release for quite some time. There is not a day that goes by where I am thankful for that last conversation. This is my way of letting more of the grief go. To embrace acceptance of the here and now, and to move forward.

So remember who your real family is. Remember your friends are also your family. Call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. Have a real conversation. Debate if you must. Argue if it is necessary. Don’t feel like picking up the phone but want to reach out? Send an email. People’s mailboxes are full of mostly spam these days so a personal message would probably be a welcome for somebody in your life. You never know when you will be having that last conversation. Or when they will be having it with you.

@WriterDann   

Night Reading & Write Reading

content pool

Reviewing just a fraction of the content pool, existing on paper in my home office, 4:30 a.m. on a Monday morning.

Last night while trying to rest, I started to leaf through a small notebook full of work. Some of these pages contain a single word, while others like the ones you can see openly, are a half or full notebook page long. I’ve concluded that this may be the last thing I should be doing while winding down. Ended up dozing in and out most of the night. Well, there was a decent stretch sometime after midnight where I think I slept three hours straight. The work of words can be very all-consuming at the best and worst possible times. Trying to sleep before facing the weekday morning, probably a time better spent on rest. I’ve concluded that reading a ton of writing content ideas before sleeping just cannot work. Mind you, I can, have and will continue to wake up in the middle of the night with a concept and have to write it down so it’s captured. In those instances I can easily just go right back to rest.

Interestingly, on the evenings where I want to read one of the many books I have on the go I can do this before turning in and usually it helps. Rarely have I ever been kept awake after reading a book at night. Night reading, and reading in general has always been something I enjoyed. It is even more of an escape now especially when a book is very good. A book that can keep my interest is one where I will spend little to no time analyzing how it is written. Instead, it is just about enjoying the content. If I am reading at night, usually I queue up a classical music station on satellite radio for accompaniment. The chance for distraction is still there, minimally.

The intensity and drive to create can feel overpowering at times. Even thinking about content is a form of writing. Just happens to be a mental exercise. You have to know when it is time to slow down and rest for a while. It would have been better for me to leave that note book  as it was. A decorative collection of paper sitting beside the bed. Come morning, it would be something I could pick up and add to the pile you see in the picture.

@WriterDann