2014: So far, so good (for Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop)

Writing Prompt:  Update your readers on your 2014 goals. How are things going? Are you staying on track or facing some challenges?

Normally I don’t set goals for myself for the new year – too many opportunities to not meet them and feel like I’ve failed! – but this year I decided to do it, prompted by another blogger.  I set three goals:  follow my bliss, be grateful for what I have and stop worrying about what I can’t improve, and stop wishing my kids would grow up faster. 

First:  follow my bliss.  I love singing, and did it a lot as a kid and young adult, but haven’t really sung in almost 15 years.  A goal I set was to start singing again and eventually make a CD this year.  It’s for me and for my kids to have something of their mom doing what she loves.  At this point, I’ve only been able to get to one vocal lesson.  In my defense, I have missed two other lessons because of weather.  Living in Midwestern Ontario – also called the “snowbelt” of Ontario – means dealing with a lot of blizzards, whiteouts, and road closures at this time of year.  Today was all of those things, and so it was impossible for me to get to my scheduled lesson.  I will, however, keep trying, and hopefully Mother Nature will ease up on us a bit so that I can get back to my lessons and back on track with preparing to record a CD. 

BUT HERE’S THE EXCITING NEWS, and it fits in with following my bliss:  I just self-published a children’s book!  It’s called The Duck Who Lost Her QuackI have always loved writing, and though I haven’t done it in a long time – life gets busy and hobbies often get pushed aside – I had an urge to write a children’s book.  Again, it was so that I could follow my bliss, and so that I could have something to show my kids.  They love books and reading, and so it would be perfect.  I found an online site that lets people self-publish, and on Tuesday I published my book!  And though these days anyone can self-publish, I really feel like I’ve accomplished something.  And I feel pretty darn blissful about it.

http://www.blurb.ca/b/5111294-the-duck-who-lost-her-quack-gemma-s-journey

My second goal:  be grateful for what I have and let go of what I cannot.  I mentioned writing in a “gratitude journal” like Oprah used to talk about years ago.  Bad news:  No journal has been started.  And I still get upset about things I do not have or with things I want to improve but have no control over.  That said, I do think I’ve taken many opportunities to let my fortunate circumstances sink in, but there’s always room for improvement in this area.

My last goal:  stop wishing my kids would grow up faster.  I think I’ve really been doing well at this one.  I know that life goes by quickly – too fast, really – and it’s important to just be in the moment.  When my seven year old son said, “Ugh, do I have to cuddle with you?” (which I discussed in a previous blog), it made me stop and see that the special moments I have with my kids won’t last forever.  He doesn’t even want to cuddle with his mommy anymore!  Sad.  But part of growing up.  So why would I want to speed that up?  Craziness.  I make sure I take every opportunity I have to cuddle, snuggle, play, and just be with my kids, while they still want me and my hubby to spend time with them!

Two months into the new year I feel as if I’m on track with my goals, and I am determined to stay on track.

I’ve Published a Children’s Book!!

One of my New Year’s Resolutions this year was to follow my bliss. Initially I meant to start singing again, and to eventually record a CD this year, just for me to say I’ve done it (followed my bliss) and for something for my kids to have. I thought it would be fun. I have started taking vocal lessons again, after 15 years, and so I am still going to do it.

However, I have also just done something I’ve wanted to do for a while: I (self) published a book. It’s a children’s book called The Duck Who Lost Her Quack.

Okay, time for a bit of “backstory”…When I was much younger (in elementary school), I wrote a short mystery story (I have no idea where it is now, sadly), and a lot of poems. My friend Keri and I even wrote (and performed!) a rap for our grade 8 graduation. (It played over and over again as the family members of graduates came in the school doors and made their way into the gymnasium.) In high school I wrote for the school newspaper, and my friend Sarah and I wrote a little skit for a Christmas assembly one year as well. I went to school for journalism. I know, you get it! I enjoyed writing! Anyway, it’s been quite some time since I’ve done any writing, and I picked it up again when I started working at a radio station. It started as a job requirement to write blogs, and it turned into something else. At the beginning of the year I started this blog. In addition to this blog, I decided to write a children’s book. Again, it was so that I could follow my bliss, and so that I could have something to show my kids. They love books and reading, and so it would be perfect. Luckily an idea popped into my head immediately, and I wrote it quite quickly. I put a call out on Facebook for an illustrator to work for free (!), and lo and behold a former schoolmate of mine from university answered that call. She recently went to OCAD, and is a talented artist. AND YESTERDAY I PUBLISHED IT! The great thing about technological advancements is that it was relatively easy to publish my own book. I just used a simple program, and now it’s there, for anyone to buy. Here’s the thing: A number of family and friends have purchased a copy, which is unbelievable and fantastic! They’re doing it to support me, and because it’s kind of cool to say you know the author of a book, right?! Anyway, it’s on blurb.ca and blurb.com (you would have to search for Shannon Mercer or The Duck Who Lost Her Quack), and there is absolutely no markup. I am making no money from this. It’s simply for the joy of it. The cost is for Blurb to print the book. I just wanted to tell you about it, because I’m pretty excited!

theducktitle
The Duck Who Lost Her Quack

Interview With Author Katie Thornton-K

A few days ago I had the privilege of interviewing a talented young writer from Midwestern Ontario (for CKNX Radio – AM 920).  Katie Thornton-K (who happens to be a former high school student of mine) has self-published a series of novels called The Bloodline Saga.  The first novel, called Bloodline, is available right now at Amazon (amazon.ca) and at Chapters (chapters.indigo.ca), and the second novel, called Red Dragon, will be available by the end of March.  Thornton-K is currently writing the third novel in the Saga, as well as a novella.

Thornton-K’s novels are must-reads.  Seriously.  I am not usually someone who chooses to read in the fantasy genre, but I am loving these.  (I am in the process of editing the second book for her, and I edited Bloodline, which is why I have access to both of them!)  The main characters are fascinating:  emotionally and physically strong, morally just, and descendants of gods. The storyline involves these heroines discovering who they truly are and what they are truly meant to do for the world.  There is a lot of action, including gladiator battles and fights against demons.  And the attention to detail is superb.  Everything is so vivid.  As a reader, you feel as if you really know Braelyn, Autumn Storm, and Tessa Oak.  You can feel the anticipation and exhilaration each feels during her journey to fulfill her destiny.  You can hear the roar of the crowd in the gladiator ring, see the transformation of some characters into dragons, and smell the stench of the demons.  It’s awesome!

Please take a listen to this portion of the interview, aired today, February 25th, 2014 (on CKNX AM 920). In it, Katie talks about the storyline of The Bloodline Saga novels, as well as her motivation/inspiration for writing, how she is publishing her books, and where (and when) they are available.

Katie’s website: http://www.katiethorntonk.com/

Interview with author Katie Thornton-K

A Long Lost Love…of Hockey

Something happened this week.  Something unexpected.  And something welcomed.  I rediscovered my love for hockey.

As a child, I used to watch hockey on TV with my dad and my brother.  I remember hearing all about the Toronto Maple Leafs, and players like Darryl Sittler and Lanny McDonald.  I cheered them on.  Every Saturday night was “Hockey Night in Canada”, and it was a tradition at our house.  As the years went on, I watched more and more hockey.  One of my cousins was an amazing player, and when he played in the OHL we would go see him play with the London Knights, mostly against the Kitchener Rangers.  It was fun to sit there and cheer him on with other members of my family, making it not only a night out but a family get-together.  And, of course, the action of the game was exhilarating.  When my cousin was drafted into the NHL, the trips to see him play continued, taking us to Toronto (and of course I couldn’t/wouldn’t cheer for the Leafs anymore), Ottawa, and Buffalo.  I loved watching the action and feeling the excitement in the air.  I especially loved seeing my cousin – because I didn’t get to see him much due to his schedule, and because he lived in other parts of the country and in the United States as well – and seeing the other hockey players.  I knew they all had worked their butts off to get where they were and it intrigued me how they could be that good (probably because I am not athletically-inclined, so anyone who is is a mystery to me!).  They were the best of the best.  The talent that these guys had…Wow.

In later years my cousin retired and I married a man who is not a hockey fan, and so watching hockey became a thing of the past for me.  When I had a son I hoped he would want to play the sport, and carry on a tradition in my family, but he had no interest.  He didn’t even have an interest in watching it…until this week.

The Olympics changed that.  They changed him.  And they made me rediscover my love of the sport.  When Zander came home from school on Thursday, thrilled that the Canadian women’s hockey team had won the gold medal, I was surprised.  Pleasantly surprised.  We hadn’t watched a hockey game together…ever.  And we hadn’t been watching any of the Olympic events, including the hockey.  Apparently his entire school had gathered in the gymnasium to watch the game, and the excitement must’ve been catching…because Zander caught it.  And brought it home.  I hadn’t watched the game, despite being home with my other child, my 2 year old girl, and obviously near several TVs.  Years of no longer watching the sport meant I was no longer interested.  But the next day, when the Canadian men’s hockey team was playing the United States in the semi-final, I thought I should record it for Zander, in case they didn’t watch it at school.  I assumed they would though.  They didn’t.  And Zander was not happy.  However, when I told him I recorded the game for him, his mood changed.  We watched it together.  And my mom and dad happened to be here as well, and so we all sat together and watched it.  Sure, we knew the outcome because the game had ended about an hour before, and of course because Canada won EVERYONE was talking about it, but that didn’t matter.  We still sat in front of the TV and watched.  And I was excited.  It was just like old times, but without the stress of worrying if my team would win(!).  And this morning, when the gold medal game between Canada and Sweden started, I couldn’t wait to get to the TV with the kids and start watching.  I felt the excitement in the air.  Canada scored.  Then again.  And a third time.  And then it was over.  The Canadian men’s hockey team had won the gold.  Jubilation.  Jubilation for the win, of course, but also for the opportunity to watch this fantastic sport with my family…finally.

I need to say thank you to the Canadian men’s hockey team, and to the Canadian women’s hockey team, and to the Olympics for giving me back something I had lost along the way:  my love of the sport of hockey.  That is golden to me.

Lights! Camera! Action! (for Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop)

Writing Prompt: Something that made you smile this week.

My seven year old son Zander is an active boy.  He’s not active in the way many of his classmates are, playing hockey several times a week.  He’s got an active imagination.  And his imagination has been working overtime since he recently discovered a series of videos on YouTube that he now loves watching.  They involve Luigi and Mario, the Mario Brothers, and they are created by some kids (or perhaps young”ish” teenagers).  The kids use stuffed toys for the action, and there’s no fancy animation or high tech effects to them.  However, they have millions of hits.  And they entertain my son.

Several days ago Zander decided that he wanted to make a video like the ones he watches of the Mario Brothers.  He asked me to be his cameraperson.  Of course I obliged.  I was actually thrilled that he wanted to make a video. Perhaps I should include, right now, that I went to school (university) for media studies – long ago – and as part of the program I made many videos.  Of course I had professional cameras, editing suites, access to sound effects, video effects, music, and a team of peers to help out.  Our little project at home was quite different.  I “filmed” the scenes on my iPhone, and then “edited” the video together on Windows Movie Maker.  Not quite high tech.  But I have to say, the whole experience was a fun one.  Zander was so excited to do it, and despite not having a script or storyboard (he is only 7 and doesn’t know about this stuff), he did have the shots organized in his head, complete with several different shots from different angles for each.  I thought that was pretty darn advanced, given the fact that he’s never made a movie or talked to anyone about how to do it.  I guess he learned that from watching all those other videos.  And watching.  And watching.

His hope was to get 100 views and some “likes”.  And not wanting him to be disappointed, and being a mommy who would do anything for her kids, I took to my blog, my Facebook account, and my Twitter account, and asked – okay, I begged, to be honest – my followers and friends to please go to my YouTube channel and have a look. (ShanAdamsCKNX is my channel, in case you’d like to check it out. Wink!)  Through the power of social media, and thanks to some really fantastic people, Zander got a wonderful surprise today, when he walked in the door from school.

“Hey, buddy!  Take a look at this.”  I showed him the views of his Luigi movie on my YouTube channel.   There were 301, after less than 24 hours.

His reaction was, “Wha?  Whoa!  Yahoo!”  He was absolutely ecstatic.

How could that not put a smile on a proud mommy’s face?

The video is included here…and it will only take you 42 seconds to watch…pretty please…It’s called “Luigi and the Strange Noise”.  Thanks! 🙂

Zander’s Movie: Luigi and the Strange Noise

My 7 year old son wanted to make a movie with Luigi (of the Mario Brothers), like the ones he’s seen on YouTube. This is his first attempt. I was impressed that he wanted to set up different angles for the shots.  I went to school for Radio and Television Arts, and so I made some movies in my day.  The fact that he wanted to make something made me proud.  I just have to explain to him that he should write a script first, and then he could make a longer, meatier product! 😉  Oh, and we need some better equipment and technology for the movie-making experience:  this was “filmed” on an iPhone and edited on Windows Movie Maker.  Not quite high tech!

The Great Purge (10 Minute Free Write for Ketchup With Us)

We’re doing a purge at our house.  Actually, we’ve been doing it since the summer of 2011, when we started giving away and selling our son’s old clothes.  We had just been blessed with our second child, a little girl, and had decided that we were not having more children.  It was time to start parting with some of the outfits our boy had.  I thought I was okay with it.  I went through bins and bins of old clothes, washing them and putting them in piles according to season and size.  I even arranged for meetings with consignment stores and private buyers for them.  No big deal, I thought.  However, several minutes after loading 3 huge boxes of items into another woman’s SUV, taking substantially less money than I said I would take, and then watching her drive away, I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I had my son with me, and had promised him a treat since he, too, was letting go of part of his past (and we were at Tim Hortons, so it was impossible to pass up a donut and hot chocolate!).  As we sat at a table, and he chattered on about toys he had seen advertised on TV, I couldn’t focus.  All I could think of was losing a part of him.  The outfit he wore in some photos with friends’ kids, and the Robeez shoes he wore on his itty bitty feet before he even started crawling.  Gone.  I tried to shake off the feeling that I had made a huge mistake, and continued on with the day, but later that night I couldn’t sleep.  I wept quietly instead.  The next morning I told my husband how upset I was.  I’m sure he thought I was losing my mind, but he listened and was very understanding.  He then reminded me that they were just clothes – things, items, pieces of material – and not my memories.  That did help, although I ended up emailing the woman and asking – no, begging actually – if she would let me buy back one of the boxes full of clothes.  I know, that sounds crazy.  Maybe it was.  She kindly agreed, but was not impressed.

The purge has gotten easier since then, thank goodness, because we honestly cannot keep everything from the childhood of our little ones.  Most recently we’ve sold our high chair and our change table, which was somewhat difficult for me and the kids.  We’ve also sold our crib, which, quite frankly, would be devastating if I allowed myself to really think about it.  It not only means that we are getting older and are now past the stage (in our minds) of having babies, but that we won’t experience the excitement and joy of another baby (of ours) saying his or her first words, taking his or her first steps, and saying, “I love you” for the very first time.  I just have to remember that we have had those experiences, and though we won’t have them again, we will have other significant experiences with our children as they grow older.  And those things we’ve gotten rid of?  They’re things.  We can never get rid of our memories.