Grammar Gremlins


When we name the parts, we take away the mystery and turn writing into a problem that can be solved.

Stephen King


I speak English, but another language embedded itself in my head first. My parents spoke Portuguese back in the days Canadian immigration didn’t mandate language benchmarks or fluency for newcomers. My parents did what others in their group did. They came to Canada, learned enough to understand their jobs and stuck with their tight group. The kids picking up English turned into interpreters on anything from business letters to making appointments. My family went from the schools near Victor Street, programming already in place for the influx of Italian, Portuguese, and Greek to Valley Gardens home of no ESL programming and clueless teachers.

The first 1st-grade teacher proved one of those teachers with no idea what to do with a chubby, brown-eyed girl, with a strange name and a set of parents not fluent in English. Mrs. K did what others did in her situation-recommend retention and let the next teacher deal with me. The story goes even with the retention, any expectations for success proved low for someone with my background. Bouncing from scholastic throughout my life setbacks provided this nice, Catholic girl with a way to give the middle finger without, you know, actually giving a teacher the middle finger.

Although the temptation did rear up from time to time.

I did receive formal grammar training with worksheets and drills. A practice best known as the most annoying things ever. The second 1st-grade teacher struck upon a great idea and said I needed to read more. I noticed the trips to the public library started to go with the formal library visits in school. I read, and then I wrote and read some more. I soaked words and stories. Grammar and writing proved a little tricky. Sometimes readers catch the flaws like an acne breakout.

A little while back, I told the story about my essay used by my professor as an example of something needing improvement. After I had crawled out of the hole of shame, I enlisted the help of a tutor. She read the paper and said, “This could have been an A paper, the grammar just needed some work.” Using my writing and not some abstract grammar sheet, she showed me a few things to watch for in her sensitive matter. The tutor, whose name I, unfortunately, forgot, first demonstrated how creative ideas get buried under verb tenses, comma splices, and sentence fragments. (My top three things to watch for to this day.) Spelling proved another difficulty. I had a vocabulary, the words tripping off my tongue, but spell them prove difficult. As a former teacher of English, people feel great writers have perfect grammar.


Great writers have ideas, fabulous world-building, characters built from the flesh of words, AND THEY HAVE FREAKING EDITORS. They are the fresh pair of eyes looking over pieces, and I luckily developed enough thick skin to know a snarky put down from honest critiques. To this day, even with the thick skin, I feel shame fluttering around like a bird squawking “You’re stupid. You want to be a writer!? What a load of bullshit!” I say a quiet hello and show it the door to the darker recesses of my mind.

Something sad happens if people fixate on sentence structure as a measure of character. People close up, remain silent, with the world losing a newspaper article, a good novel, or a fresh voice. I read those perfect grammatical pieces. The sentences follow the rules, the punctuation was flawless, but they have no soul. They worry about the sentence at the expense of idea it wants to flesh out. A writer’s voice feels flat and stale. In short the story, the writer, nothing shows up. I understand why it happens. I froze for years, too scared to write a word.

Last year I subscribed to Grammarly, a decision pays itself off in remarkable ways. Better than drills and worksheets, it used my writing to show me the right way to put a comma,  snip need needless adjectives. I let the ideas flow, then click the lower, left-hand corner, to correct the punctuation and spelling. It’s not perfect. When I use the word ‘sentence’ in its proper context, it wants me to say ‘judgement’ or ‘penalty’.  I remind myself it’s another tool in my toolbox, and to just write.


Addendum: Yesterday’s Walking Dead Post

Yesterday’s Walking Dead post came from the seat of my pants, especially the prediction I made at around noon yesterday about Enid. First off, kudos to the writers deciding to get the question out of the way with Glenn’s resourcefulness once again saving the say. We also got the guy beloved by viewers, the man never giving up on anyone with attention now paid to Enid.

Olivia, the town quartermaster, can handle supplies, but not a teenage girl. I would like Michonne or Carol to assume guardianship. I would also like Daryl to hone her survival skills. Seriously, the man would be impressed by her knack for just surviving somehow. Perhaps in a small way Enid can heal the broken heart after Beth’s death. Didn’t Glenn say we honour the dead by living?

Next week we watch as all hell breaks lose. Will out intrepid band survive? Who will bite the biscuit? Only Scott Gimple and company know and they ain’t tellin’


Music Monday: One of Us by Joan Osborne

What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make His way home?


How soon things change. Barely three months ago the world saw a little boy in blue shorts and a red shirt, lying face down on a Turkish beach. Now after the Paris bombings it seems everyone wants to shut the door or leave it open a crack to let Syrian Christians in. Much safer goes the thinking, it’s akin the shutting the door, putting a pillow over one’s head while singling ‘la la la they can’t hurt me.’

The amount of bigotry, disguised as safety arguments, left me dumbfounded, and some of it came from people I knew on FaceBook. Good Christian folk forgot the other part of the Nativity story. While we remember the birth of Jesus, we sometimes forget Joseph, much like Abdullah Kurdi, took his wife and son and fled to Egypt. The son of God was a refugee from a leader not thinking twice about slaughtering children to keep his power.

Sound familiar? Please don’t go on with the but-it’s-different arguments. I will reply with the story of an influx of Vietnamese boat people building lives in Winnipeg, or why nobody made the same argument about people from Belfast. The latter may have immigrated, but they wanted nothing more to do with tanks and car bombs. I heard nobody say ‘Let’s not have Irish Catholics come over to North America. The IRA might attempt to blend in and carry out their plots.’

I had this song at the back of my head for a long time. I didn’t know when, or how to use it for Music Monday. I knew it had a Christmas feel to it, but I missed something. I had to remember seeing the picture of Alan Kurdi  for the first time, smiling pictures put next to his final resting place. It’s not a stable in Behlehm, but if we forget the desparation it takes to get on a dingy then forget Christmas.

God is truly dead in our hearts.

Glen Rhee, or The Walking Dead’s Version of The Dead Parrot Sketch

Ever watch Monty Python’s classic dead parrot sketch? Here’s a refresher:

The current debate about whether Glenn Rhee, former pizza delivery guy, husband of Maggie, expectant father, reminds me of this sketch. I pressed the rewind button on the pivotal scene with Nicholas so many times; I can see why Talking Dead host Chris Hardwick likens it to Shrodinger’s Cat. Glenn looks alive and dead, but we will not know until an episode confirms either one. It looks like we may get our answer or not.

I tip my hat the writers. We get a day in the life of the combined Grimes Gang/Alexandria Safe Zone. Once again people splinter into story strands to hopefully knit back together in the midseason finale. Glenn’s story features one strand and remains the thread viewers keep tugging on. The debates online remind me a lot of the dead parrot sketch. He either wiggled out from underneath Nicholas or torn apart joining the list of ex-humans in The Waking Dead universe. Fans either take up John Cleese’s cause, or we happily defend our position like Michael Palin.

Me? Fake Moustaches aside I don’t think Glenn died, and I don’t think he will find his way out of this situation. I believe he will have help, and it will come in the form of Enid. Whatever the result we, as viewers, witnessed some pretty good writing. We claim we want a conclusion, but also complain if that end comes too quickly. We want dramatic tension, but we take the writer’s to task for drawing things out. See the paradox?

Tonight viewers wait with baited breath today will be the day Glenn either died by walker herd or got out. Either way it’s The Walking Dead, a show without survival immunity, even for Daryl Dixon.



Coming Up for Air III: NaNoWriMo Midway Report

How’s NaNoWriMo going? Let me show you:



The Winnipeg zombie idea feels dead, ironically with no hope of resuscitation at this time. I liked the idea and even had my twist.  The germ has one spark of life left-I need to switch the point of view. I tried the third person, but it feels like the character wants to tell her story.  It’s not too late, and one writer amongst my Facebook friends, with two young children, decided to make her goal 25,000 this month. That’s a good idea, I thought.

It’s not creative hiccups hindering my month. Last night I sat at my computer and heard a series of pops directly over my head. It came from my light/fan fixture installed just two years ago. I got up and saw sparks in the gap near the ceiling.Unlike Glenn Rhee on The Walking Dead, this fixture has died.  I called a possible handyman, but if it’s the wiring I will need an electrician. Lovely.

I hate adulting. Want to know my favourite Richard Armitage fantasy? It involves us making out after he fixes something. Romantic, huh? I still have a sliding pantry door in my kitchen needing a new glider installed in its track.  However, I did fix a low flush problem with my toilet thanks to a YouTube video. I had to press the arm of a fill valve, and it now works until I decide to replace the ancient thing.

Adult matters aside, here’s a major victory for me during this month. It doesn’t make me want to write less; it makes me want to write more. I ‘won’ last year, but this year gives me a clean slate for another draft. In fact, I want to NaNo during months not named November. National Novel Writing Month does not end things. It only continues the process.


Music Monday: Prayer of St. Francis by Sarah McLachlan, Featuring Students From The Sarah McLachlan School of Music

Over the weekend, I saw #PrayforParis trending on Twitter, people switching their profiles to the tri-colours of the French flag. I learned about attacks in Bagdad, in Beruit, and now in Kenya. Again calls for more prayer. It seems something happens, and people respond with “I will pray for you.” The phrase, much like smoking, can turn into a hard habit to break.

I do not discount prayer and reflection. We need both, but it’s not enough. I notice people keep going about their day, not questioning why these events happened, beyond good guys/bad guys, and let’s get the latter. As a self-confessed geek, I know life does not resemble the movies. Sometimes the line between good guys and bad guys blur. Kim Davis, for instance, believes she fights the good fight, the hero of her story of upholding Christian values. I met many women like her, people saying they will pray for you, but only if the result comes out in a certain way-namely their way.

Looking back over my faith life, I absorbed some of that thinking. I keep guard to prevent those good intentions turning into another brick on that road to hell. Today’s selection comes from one of my favourite prayers attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. (Although that’s up for debate.) One of the most popular stories, Francis meeting with a sultan in Egypt, has three parts truth, and four parts spin much like a social media feed.  The story goes Francis met with a Sultan and goes off into an attempted conversion story, or to start peace talks.  The story tells me more about the source than the actual story. Me? I like to think Francis took one look at the fifth crusade, thought it did no better than the last four and tried something different.

He tried talking to the other side. Maybe he attempted to understand them, to see less ‘them’ and more human.

The peace prayer turned into two familiar hymns, one I can still hum during this post. I like Sarah McLachlan’s version, and the tune started up as I wondered what song to feature for Music Monday. Throughout the craziness of life I try, and sometimes fail, to keep three things in mind:

Where there is hatred, let me sow love

Where there is injury, pardon

Where there is doubt faith

Coming Up For Air II: Better Late Than Never for A Goal Account

You remember, remember the fifth of November and you’re not even English. However, you forget, forget the goals you have set.  It’s foggy like the weather in Winnipeg right now, but nothing turns too late.

Let’s have a peek:

Continue National Novel Writing prep

What prep? We are off and running with what we have.

Start going to the Y twice a week

*Sigh* I need to stop overthinking and pack my gym bag.

Drink water

Something I have improved on in the past few weeks. The Fitbit app provides space for inputting water, and seeing the amount keeps me drinking my required amount.

Continue Music Mondays for the Blog

A little lag, but still going. I have a list of songs to feature.

Do an editorial calendar two weeks ahead to (again) start small

Give me time. At least I have a few days ahead.

Read more and Netflix less

This area had big improvements. Despite four hundred titles on my list, I clicked off the TV to read a book. I enjoyed my rewatch of Marvel’s Daredevil for its excellent plotting and characters. Besides Charlie Cox fills out the John Romita-inspired costume VERY NICELY. *ahem*

Image: Pinterest and that’s only the front view

November/December Goals

The first weekend in November, I walked into a Home Outfitters to buy some new bed sheets. The doors opened in their Star-Trek manner revealing a font-and-centre display of Christmas lights. I used to work in book retail, and anyone working any retail can tell you it takes some years to undo holiday fatigue.

I decided to combine November and December to build in down time before the hurly-burly of holidays. However, I like writing and notice getting better at it with a little help from Grammarly.

  • If I can’t hit 50,000 for NaNo then at least get within 10,000 words with my project.
  • Begin revision on my last year’s work
  • Write more short stories. Let’s start with two
  • Brainstorm ideas for blog posts for last part of 2015 to 2016
  • Finish strong in my Medical Terminology course
  • Entertain more at home
  • Two more blog posts apart from Music Monday

Coming Up For Air I: Being Okay with the Deficit and Beating Back a Cold

Let me illustrate how I felt on Friday after staying home sick on Thursday:


A sharp uptick in students asking for tissues meant something had gone around. I had a strange taste in my mouth, and I know it meant something had invaded. The troops turned aggressive with my energy zapped, my body temperature elevated, and my bed feeling damp like I had quite a night for someone sleeping alone. I called on Friday and added the following to the voice message, “Swab everything I touched.” The long climb to the end of term has begun. My reserve stores near the empty mark.

I did not doing ANYTHING up until today. I read books to keep my brain occupied, but writing my NaNo project had to wait. My shaky start turned into a deficit. On the other hand, I reminded myself it’s not about the bragging rights. It’s about laying down a discipline, and one to carry on beyond November. On the Distance Ed class, the second Medical Terminology assignment looks 85% completed, with more terms slowly making their way to memory.

The Medical Terminology course leads to my Winnipeg Zombie project for NaNoWriMo. On one hand, I want to write about a woman killing walkers as a way to embracing self-care.  (Sounds loosey-goosey I know.) On the other, who would figure out how to off the things than someone working in a medical setting.  I have a chance to make headway to tomorrow with my Monday off.

Last year, I took a day off around Remembrance Day. It helped me stay on track, and now I hope it will get me on track. Other than lunch with a friend (thank heavens that will remain on), it’s to the library to write.  Sticking around downtown Winnipeg will help me figure out what will go to hell in case of zombie catastrophe.  Will here be a Darryl-like character? Honey, I am from Winnipeg. I grew up with guys like Darryl and *gulp* Shane.

Now to make my home a little less chaotic.

Midweek Geekiness: Alternapeg Book Launch Recap

alternapeg CoverTody I feel tired yet happy. Alternapeg, the second anthology from my writer’s group, Off the Wall, held an intimate gathering to launch the book at McNally Robinson Booksellers. Each of us read snippets from our stories to whet the appetites of readers.

As usual I felt full-on nervous. At least I brought a pen, unlike last time as my usually stocked purse had not one colour. The next time I attend an event for a major author, I will keep in mind under the calm exterior, each person feels like their heart beats from their throat.

The page for the latest release will go up sometime this weekend for those wanting a print copy, or digital. The group will work on another project, but I will take a breather to fine tune my work for a while. I got the best education about pagination, fonts, and what goes into publishing work.

I also have a supportive group of people. In between writing, we talked about our lives, our struggles, with imagination providing a way forward. It’s funny, people believe fantasy provides an escape. I believe fiction helps manage reality. The book will never die as people read to escape yet find something to help them through some part of life.

The launch also proves a beacon for people believing it’s too late to write. Nope, not true. As we get older, we learn to ‘play’ a little more rather than do the opposite. People want express themselves. I hope you enjoy this collection, and we will in turn support those one day needing encouragement.

Q. How Tired Am I?

A. A incomplete draft of a post (accidentally) got published.

Need more coffee.