Tag Archives: storytelling

Three stories that might change your life or at least cause you to read through the night

I have just finished reading All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews. In fact, I did so at around 3:34 am, just after my new 3 am waking time, give or take 6 or 7 minutes because apparently something is very important that I need to wake up for at that time. Every night. But nevermind me, let’s focus on the brilliant Miriam. I cried several times reading this novel, not out of sadness as in a linear kind of translation (this happened oh how sad) but rather from Miriam’s ability to tell the truth. The truth of life just exactly as it is in all its absurdity, its terrible exactitude and inestimable love and attachment. The fumbling kind of truth, the kind we never read much about or see in television shows or in news media, the vulnerable truth we don’t show anyone, the hidden layer of our foiled, failed selves—this is what Miriam gently teases out in every scene.

She reveals elemental truths about love, death, family in such a nuanced way that you are in no way convinced it is fiction and yet entirely desperate to stay in her fictional world, if that makes any sense.

I don’t like novels or movies or plays that dress up life, that dramatize it to get a reaction or manipulate an audience with an obvious eye to who is sitting in the front row. The protagonist, in fact all the characters in All My Puny Sorrows, are so genuine that you find yourself often putting down the book and weeping as they remind you of someone you once knew and a scene you had with them in a hallway or in a grocery store lineup or when you last spoke with them before they died and you were meaning to tell them how they’d always been in your heart all along and were sorry it didn’t work out. Death bobs along on a resilient wave of hope that nearly drowns continually through this precious novel but is fished out of swampy humanness by the main character—Yolanda— and her various family members throughout the story so that one is left with a real desire to go and shake one’s child up at 3:34 am and tell them they love them and how special they are and how there’s no one else like them in the universe and how lucky I am that I get to have you as a son.

Speaking of my son, he and I have overly sensitive bullshit meters and can be hard on media we consume. There’s a fair amount of poking holes in storylines at dinnertime. While I likely can’t get him to read All My Puny Sorrows (he’s obsessed with Ghengis Khan at the moment) he did watch Broadchurch which is an English series on NetFlix about the murder of a young boy in a small, tightly-knit rural community. We both agreed it was uncharacteristically like real life and particularly with regards to grief and how grief really behaves and shows up in people when something wretched happens like losing their child or brother. Grief is not an aria sung once with feeling, it winds itself around you and through you like smoke, sometimes thickening so you can’t breathe other times clearing and thin like a vapour gently enveloping you but it is always there. Broadchurch delicately weaves its tale with immense attention to the subtleties of sorrow and human dependence and love. Trigger warning on this one of all kinds including sexual abuse.

And then there’s Eve Ensler. Oh Eve. I said to myself after I finished her harrowing book In the Body of the World, non-fiction will never be the same for me. It likely won’t until she writes another book. Saying Eve is a ‘force’ is like saying the wind sometimes erodes things or the ocean has been known to get angry. In this book she tells the story of getting stage IV cancer and surviving it but it is so much more than that. It tells the stories of women all over the world that she has met through her activism, stories of unspeakable horrors of rape, incest, violence, degradation and emotional bludgeoning masked in marriages or families. She doesn’t lay out suffering like a buffet for the reader, instead she pulls you into her own, private discourse on what it means to question our worth, our physical identity as a woman, to unpack the lies we tell ourselves as women to be accepted, loved and cherished and the cost of those lies in our day-to-day relationships. It makes you wonder who will show up for you if you are ill? It causes you to dig down into your own moral set of rules and chuck out those that don’t serve you anymore, ones that might be leftovers from a family that never really loved you, or a marriage or friendship that subjugated you, squashed your voice, killed your creativity. Eve pulls no punches—she’s on the mountain speaking names, she’s fearless, she’s a warrior, on fire, alive—she is truth. And yet so human and fragile and imperfect, just like life. May she live forever.

These are stories that have changed me. I know something is percolating from all three, something to do with my own truth, my own voice and finding fearlessness to express it. I hope I have nearly enough courage as these creators have.

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Mrs. Everett Goes to Paris

This is the next draft excerpt from the chapter on France from the Mrs. Everett story. To read the full story, keep an eye on the main story page, I should have it done by the weekend! Just too busy with ‘real-life’ these days, sorry for the delay in my Mrs. Everett saga for those of you following along on her travel odyssey.  But you can follow her on Twitter or be her friend on Facebook  between chapters if you want to see what she is up to! She’s at the Hotel Eza right now, absolutely stunning!

Her taxi turned right on Rue de Verneuil and lurched half a block and stopped abruptly. Since her luggage had been lost, she simply paid the driver, and stepped out onto her first Parisian street in over 16 years. An unnatural feeling of joy filled her feet, then her chest and she had the urge to jump or skip or clap, perhaps even all at once. This was her third country since November yet it was Paris that made her feel her liberty as a solo traveler. The last time she’d been here she’d been a wife concerned only with the feelings and happiness of her then husband Edward. Or rather unhappiness as it had been then.

“Bonjour Mademoiselle Everett!” the concierge warmly greeted her, stepping out from behind a petite but elegant desk to attend to her non-existent luggage. She explained that the airlines were going to send her luggage along once it was found but that for now she was just going to bed. His eyebrows shot up in surprise.

“A little wine to take with you?”

“Oh, I think…” She let her voice trail off as she watched him open a small glass cupboard and take out a demure half bottle of white wine. She wanted to say no but then remembered Edward wasn’t upstairs. There was no one to frown dourly at her from across the room.

“Oh, well, perhaps, a wee glass would help after traveling” she cheerily offered him as  she accepted the bottle and started towards the tiny elevator. It seemed everything was made for a small person including the tiny handles but then the hotel was 300 years old. Maybe they weren’t as tall as her back then.

She noticed the man had pressed the button for her and he explained they were renovating but had put her in the top floor with a lovely view.

“Merci!” she called behind her as she slid into the miniature elevator and pulled the door shut. The walls of the elevator had a kind of carpet or upholstery on them and there was barely room to turn around. Edward would hate this place. She already loved it.

It was 4 am Paris time. She opened her fabulously tall window and looked down the street. As far as her eyes could see, Haussmann style roofs, fairytale grays and blues and flourishes of architectural details from an era where a woman like her would have been out on the street and not in a beautiful suite in one of the nicest areas of the Paris.

She kicked off her shoes, shrugged out of her dress and slowly  crawled from the bottom of the bed to the top. She hugged the downy pillow and giggled into it. After a harrowing start to the new year, she was at long last with one of her greatest loves.

*****

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Filed under Fiction, Transmedia

The Next Big Thing

The title of this blog award has big shoes to fill so I’m kind of awed that my friend Tess Wixted nominated me for it. But happy and also grateful to be thought of by her (thank you Tess!).

Here are my responses to the questions that come with accepting this award.

What is the working title of your next book?

Mrs. Everett

  1. Where did the idea come from for the book?

It started percolating when I saw a picture from the 60’s of this chic woman sitting in first class in an old Boeing 747 looking out the window about 3 years ago. It just hit me, the whole storyworld of Mrs. Everett. And I became obsessed with telling her story. The story often wakes me up to be told in the middle of the night. I’ve never had a story so insistent on being expressed. So, mostly I just try to make time to listen to it.

  1. What genre does your book fall under?

It will be a Transmedia experience which means there will be a main ‘spine’ of prose as a stand-alone book with co-existing narratives in various forms including text (as in iPhone text messages), audio (as in a phonographic story), poetry (an entire poetry book written ‘floor by floor’ for every room Mrs. Everett stays in over the course of a year), Twitter (as in, a year of tweets), Facebook, same, and Pinterest with a board for every ‘Escape’ (ie destination) that Mrs. Everett visits. The idea is to make it more and more collaborative with hosts in cities/destinations creating content and adding continually to the breadth and depth of the story. As more people sign up for Postcards from Prue (her letters to her pen pals), I think a better online community can grow around the story. So, please sign up.:)

  1. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Well, since Prue Everett loves Grace Kelly that would be my first choice. My second would be Marion Cotillard. For Mr. Everett I would choose Ewan McGregor without question because I think he can play a complex man very well. For the role of Violet, I would choose Scarlett Johansson. For the driver, Ted, I would choose Willem Dafoe.  For her estranged younger cousin Mary, I would choose Zooey Deschanel. There will be other characters but I can’t talk about them yet without compromising the story.

  1. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

That is a challenging question. Okay here goes:

Mrs. Everett is the story of a woman who escapes the seemingly prison-like confines of her privileged life with her husband and goes on the lam by traveling around the world and in the process of discovering destinations comes to see herself and the world in an entirely radical new way.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

If there were a publisher with the cojones to publish this I’d be pretty impressed but at this point, I’m pretty sure I’ll be putting together an e-book that will include all of the digital media forms in one intensely amazing experience.

  1. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I’m writing it right now and it will be completed December 2013. If I were honest, I could be writing this all day every day but have to try to carve time to pay some bills so I jam it in and around ‘regular’ life. Transmedia is not for the faint of heart, it’s a mind-bending amount of work to run multiple-narratives over time. A regular novel will feel like a cake-walk after this.

  1. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? 

There are none. Which is why I’m writing it. I have been in the Transmedia space for some time and a much of what I was seeing I couldn’t really relate to. I was seeing a lot of cyborgs and aliens and games where people are killed and pirates and mystical places and  space tales and large ‘Hollywood’ style productions with budgets of millions of dollars.  I respect it all, I know how hard they’ve worked on these projects and I feel a part of that tribe but I wanted to find my own voice in Transmedia and create a story that didn’t rely on special effects, a big budget, or non-human species. Also, I love (and work in) tourism and hotels and travel and I wanted to show how destinations could look at Transmedia and see how it might work for them. To me, it’s a no-brainer to use a Transmedia approach to any and all destination development and marketing but I realized I had to do a proper case study to show my clients to win them over. Also, I wanted to explore a single narrative Transmedia story. A more intimate, one-to-one experience versus the typical Transmedia production which shoots for mass consumption as the ultimate benchmark of its success. I want to encourage people to get involved in the story, and change where Mrs.Everett goes and be a part of the narrative with me. I want the readers to be collaborators. I want it to be participatory and immersive. It’s way more fun that way.

  1. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

A few things. That initial picture I talked about earlier and the idea I wanted to tell a different kind of Transmedia story. But if I can be candid, characters appear quite fully-formed for me and Mrs. Everett (Prue) did just that.Magically showed up on my doorstep. I then usually have to fumble around in the fog chasing my characters to where they pull me along to. I try my best to serve the characters and relate their storyworld to those behind me reading. It’s hard, I feel I never provide the true experience of their story but I’m trying, I’m trying! Some of the plot and other characters have been inspired by the relationships and past experiences over the last two years of my life and the travel part is fueled by my many years in the tourism and hospitality industry. I am blessed to have a lot of contacts around the world to help me with the story. Another inspiration was the Orient Express company, who still value old-world traditions and a style of travel long-forgotten by many. I like their idea of a travel world, where the unforgettable experience is the ultimate goal and money is no object. That is how Prue travels. At the beginning.:)

10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Beyond the interesting fact the book is told across multiple platforms and has a living, breathing social media experience, there is the core narrative of a woman who discovers the life that she has been leading for 20 years is an illusion. As she peels back the layers of the illusion, she comes to find the horrors of the reality she has been numb to for decades and in her discovery, she has to face her own demons and her own complicity in it. It is an exploration of the lies we tell in our relationships, the pain we inflict on the ones we love, the often savage degrees we will go to to protect these illusions, and yes, the dirty little secrets of what appears to be a ‘perfect’ marriage. Blackmail, death, wealth, corruption, power, intrigue, luxury travel, glamour, spirituality, awakening, self-love. It will all be in there. I hope you’ll be friends with Prue along the way. She needs your support!

Like Tess Wixted, who nominated me, I want to support just one writer by nominating them. He doesn’t have a website yet (we’re working on it) and I did interview him but we’ve decided to do it over as we didn’t like the results. First time podcasters so we’re going to get that interview up and posted this week so please circle back here to find out about Zero Lee, an extraordinary writer who is working on a book that we will be talking about and sharing some insights on in our chat. He is also my writing partner for a Transmedia play we are working on that will be completed this spring and go into production in Vancouver next fall. Stay tuned for that, it’s going to be killer.

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Filed under Non-fiction, Transmedia

When things go sideways, just go with it

On Friday I had to present to a ballroom full of people in my industry, 109 visitor centres from BC, who were there to hear me talk about destination storytelling. The one thing you never, ever want to hear right before you have to give a presentation is this: “I’m afraid there’s an unknown glitch that I cannot figure out so you’ll have to present without your speaker notes.” After rehearsing for dozens of hours with speaker notes, it was a shock to hear I would now, in front of hundreds of people, have to wing it.

For also an unknown reason, I had gone out the night before and bought printer ink to ensure I had enough to print off the 60 plus slides and put them in my computer bag. Many of the slide notes were too tiny to see but thankfully, I did have something to use while I gave the presentation.

The fact is, my theatre training never fails me. I am ever grateful for my theatre degree and the many years I spent learning the art form and working at many different theatres honing my craft, which allowed me to be able to react and think in a live storytelling situation with grace and calm. Even under the difficult circumstances, I would say that I am still happier in a live setting under pressure than I am any day sitting in a dreaded office chair. I usually hate the preparation for a presentation but having an audience is what theatre practitioners live for and I miss the tension and nerve-shattering pressure of opening night and the backstage panic of lost props, drunk actors, missed cues, and audience revolt.

That is why I’m so happy to be working on my first Transmedia play with my writing partner. We’re going to launch it in 2013 and it’s going to be epic. It’s going to break ground in an unrealized art form that will combine digital experience and live theatre. Because I miss the theatre. As in every day. And I think media is becoming more and more peformatory and I’ll be exploring how to bring this into my consulting with clients as well. I think there’s so much yet to be developed with regards to destination marketing using Transmedia. So, it’s lifted my mood just to think that I can get back to what I love best this year.

Today though, I’m taking my first complete day off since the beginning of March. I’m going to putz around as my mom used to say, catch up on some chores, and then go and escape into a dark movie theatre to see Argo. I love my work, but it’s nice to have my life back again for a little while. I hope those of you reading this also get to putz around this weekend and just be in your life. Sometimes simple living is where the inspiration is right?

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Filed under Non-fiction, Transmedia

I’ll just let Freddie tell you

I’m too busy unpacking and wondering where in hell everything is to get much blogging done this week, but BOY OH BOY I’m going to have some great stories soon because, oh right, my life has completely changed overnight! And it feels light as a summer feather (I combined summer breeze and light as a feather there, clever eh?).

Actually, I’ll just let Freddie tell you exactly how I’m feeling about my move to Vancouver ’cause nobody could do it better. (Before you watch, turn it up, way up, c’mon, you can do it, now get up and dance!)

 


 

 

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Walk the Plank

This is an excerpt from the fiction novel I am writing. You can find other excerpts under my category of ‘fiction’ to get a through-line of the story about Sam. This scene is after she has found out her boyfriend has done something, well quite shocking and terrible. To find out what that is you’ll have to read the book when it’s done.:) 

She has returned to her life but she is in a different place. It’s as though someone had done renovations while she was away and hadn’t told her. That window shouldn’t be there should it? She leaves her suitcase on a kitchen chair, unopened.

She looks around her apartment and feels ill at ease. She wishes in this moment that she owned a pet who would look at her lovingly and connect her back to how it was before with a plaintive meow.  But she knows the self she left with is no longer within her and was in fact obliterated in one moment by her boyfriend. This is what an atomic bomb of the heart feels like. Flashbacks speed through her mind like thousands of YouTube videos of her life played at warp speed: She hears snippets of his voice, tastes their last dinner together, the ting of a coat hanger as it hits the back of his closet, the flight home, of which she can remember nothing except the white glow of rupture. Her throat tries to swallow. She notices a change in light from far away. How long had she been standing in her hallway with her coat on?

Just go to bed for Pete’s sake!  It’s her father’s pragmatic, slightly irritated voice that snaps her out of her reverie. She also hears her cousin’s voice, who is studying to be a doctor, and possibly the smartest person alive,  say in a cheerful, but calm manner:

“Likely you are just in shock. Drink a glass of water and try to get some sleep for now.” 

Had she lost her mind?

She takes her cousin’s imaginary advice and crawls into bed and pulls the pillow against her chest to dull what feels like leeches bleeding her out from the inside, draining her, waiting for her to slip away entirely, until she is pale, and translucent with only white platelets left  struggling to fight the shattered debris of her emotions.

It’s okay honey. 

Her mother’s voice, smoothing her temple, stroking her hair, pulling the comforter over her shoulder. She cries then, silently, with no strain, acquiescing to her grief with no commentary. She is flatlining. She is not home. She may never be.

No Mom, it is not. It is not okay. 

Caught in a kind of purgatory, she knows before her tears will subsist that she will not be the same. Having walked to the end of the plank and had a gun pointed at her by this relationship she will feel a need to find a gun herself.

And she will want to point it at someone.

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Ocean’s 11, the big gamble, and a lightness of being

Today as I walked up the very same hill I’ve been walking up for 4 years as a government employee, there was a beautiful, dusky light, filtered through the trees and spilling over softly onto the road. Everything felt like cotton candy, with no edges, rolling together as easily as waves abundantly tidal and endless.

Because today I was no longer an employee, but an entrepreneur. I’d just finished teaching social media storytelling all day for Continuing Studies at Royal Roads University under my company name, ‘What Is Your Story?’. It has been a long journey, and for some of us born with this gene, liberty and our own path, no matter how difficult looking or risky it may appear to others, is as important as air. Oh, the breath I took today! Deep, from my toes, filling my lungs up, so my cheeks smiled in recognition it had been a long time I’d been holding my tight, struggling breath inside.

It kind of felt like this scene from the Ocean’s 11, you know the one? After all their hard work, they pull it off.

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