Week in Review – 2013/10/07 – 2013/10/20, Pt. 3

THE FORTNIGHT EDITION, PART THREE

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And just like that, we were on our way back to the West Coast.

But not so fast. Toronto, it seemed, wanted to make this trip extra memorable.

I woke up past 3am on the morning of our check-out and departure. Don’t know why. It wasn’t a bad dream or anything–that was yet to come.

I sat up and stretched. For the first time, the TV hadn’t been left on. Per our usual hotel viewing, we’d watch an HGTV marathon. Nothing like seeing Bryan Baeumler or Mike Holmes improving the lives of homeowners to send us peacefully off to SnoozeVille. They’re like our oversized cherubs. Hammers instead of harps. Tool belts instead of wings. Home Improvement lullabies are the best.

Anyhoo, no TV this time around and the remote was waaaaay over on the other bed. I flopped back down and kicked off the covers for the nth time thanks to the A/C and its moodiness. Just as my eyelids began to droop, they curled back in surprise, as did my toes, to the sound of the fire alarm blaring throughout the room.

Awesomesauce.

I got back up, went to check the window and to feel the door. Nada.

The Sisterhood came to and looked far less pleased than I already wasn’t to hear such noise. It was as though someone finally ran over the Road Runner again and again and again.

A man’s voice crackled over the PA system and informed us an alarm had been set off in our building. We kept hearing 3D, but it might have been thirty. Either way, being on the ninth floor already had me grabbing clothes to wear. Might be good to mention it was pouring outside because, really, how else should this story go?

The message ended with the guy telling us to stay in our rooms to await further instructions. I could already hear half a dozen doors on our floor open and shut as the harried and half-asleep dragged their feet towards the fire exit near our room.

Intermittent screechiness with the same droning of non-information resumed. I sighed and went to the bathroom. I figured if I was going to have to stand outside with the hundreds or thousands of other upset hotel guests and staff, it should be on an empty bladder.

And the song played on. For over thirty minutes.

Finally, the voice came back on the PA to inform us that the situation had been resolved, the system reset, and we didn’t have to do anything further.

That’s it. No explanation or “sorry for the inconvenience” of ripping us from slumber. I understand the fire alarms need to wail like banshees to get people up and outta there but, come on. We had more questions than answers. It was like topping off the perfect dessert of a vacation with sawdust and a ball bearing.

Well, on the TV went and at least we had Baeumler and Holmes to cheer us up. It took us another few hours to get ourselves back to sleep and that was only for a power nap because we had to do some last minute errands before checking out of the hotel.

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So as not to repeat the subpar aeronautical experience at the start of our travels, the Sisterhood wisely booked us a couple of upgraded seats. Leg room, free food, and as a bonus, a functioning A/C system onboard the plane. I doubt she had anything to do with it, but she’s been known to work magic here and there.

Aside from some snags towards the end, it was a much anticipated and well-deserved vacation.

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As promised, here are five things you can try (as I did) while on vacation that will help in your writing:

1) SETTING. Take advantage of studying your surroundings. You never know if you need to write about a particular store front. Or you might partake in a local custom or event that you can include in an WIP. When you experience something firsthand you add depth to your writing by using all the senses.

2) PEOPLE WATCH. I know this is an old favorite of writers, but especially when you can hide behind the anonymity of a wandering tourist, you can drink it all in at your leisure. Without them even uttering a sound, I can count off at least a dozen people that I could base entire characters on for my stories. There’s so much diversity out there waiting to be explored.

3) MONKEY SEE, MONKEY DO. And I say this with caution. To borrow another phrase, “When in Rome…” or in this case, Toronto. Yes, I’d been there before. But it was a long time ago. Still, first time or twentieth, you needn’t always act like a tourist. It’s also nice to blend in with the locals. For one, they won’t treat you like a tourist (i.e. lure you into making touristy mistakes and/or impulse purchases). Also, if you’re one with the people, you’ll see them in their natural element which allows you to have all these authentic character studies at your disposal.

4) PHOTOGRAPHS. Or as the Sisterhood says, “Pics or it didn’t happen.” While this might sound counterintuitive after #3, there are so many shutterbugs around these days. You’d hardly come off as conspicuous or paparazzi-like in today’s technologically saturated world. Cameras, tablets, smartphones. The options of recording sound, picture, and motion are bountiful so you don’t have an excuse if you need to capture a moment that speaks to you. Plus, if you really want to, you can be a tourist of your own imagination where anything is an adventure. 🙂

5) SOUNDTRACKS. I love a good soundtrack while I write. I also like using certain tracks to accompany scenes in my writing, much like a movie. I’m an audio/visual storyteller. This process might not work for everyone, but it really gets the juices flowing. For instance, we were on the highway heading towards the city centre. The Sisterhood’s Bestie had music playing in the car. It was perfect. Just as I saw the CN Tower peek out from behind the tree line, the music swelled. It was like the end of a great movie. Camera pans out to show the stretch of road on which the car is traveling, fade to black, roll credits. Anything and everything can inspire you, if you let it.

The most important thing I learned was to open my mind and heart to maximize the experience. I think Lifehack says it best:

The-quieter-you-become-the-more-you-can-hear.

( via lifehack.org )

It’s good to be home, yes. Jet-lagged, exhausted, and emotionally drained–that was just from Les Mis! But also, seeing family and places from days gone by, there are so many stories to be told. I hope everyone gets to have such an intense and wonderful experience such as this on a regular basis. It’s a beautiful way to recharge your creative batteries.

Week in Review – 2013/10/07 – 2013/10/20, Pt. 1

THE FORTNIGHT EDITION, PART ONE

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Yes, you read that correctly.

My usual Week In Review is going to run a little differently this time around. To avoid any eye bleeds, I’ll split up what’s happened in the last two weeks over three instalments.

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Greetings, gentle readers. Long time, no blog post. When I went back east a couple weeks ago, I didn’t realize that the internet would be an issue. I was all set to continue writing and blogging. However, life–and a full-on vacation–happened.

Let me start with many a mea culpa for the unexpected absence. It was just as unexpected for me, too. But as soon as I missed the first blog post and realized that it was out of my control, I let the tension slip away and for the first time since I began blogging and doing all these writing challenges, I truly went off-grid.

You know what?

I liked it.

I’d almost forgotten what it was like to live away from a notebook or computer screen.

It all began with a Red Eye to Toronto on the 10th. More like Dry Eye. All the moisture sucked out of me in a most uncomfortable four hour plane ride. Still, the Sisterhood and I were chuffed to get on our way. We even had an unplanned twinsies moment with coordinated outfits. No probs. They went with our matching grins and giddiness at the prospect of travel.

We left Vancouver before 2300 PST, Thursday in order to maximize our Friday by arriving in Toronto around 0600 EST. I was excited, bordering antsy. I hadn’t been back to that side of our home and native land in eighteen years.

I decided to mull over what I’d write for my FRIDAY FORAGE post, as I’d been excited to use the trip as inspiration. I also realized that I’d want to experience the day before writing the post (to gain said inspiration) but that was not to be. Instead, I was greeted with a crisp autumnal morning befitting Ontario standards.

The day bloomed into a beautiful climate–as though mocking the dreariness I’d left behind in Vancouver–and I spent every waking moment squeeing at how much and how little things had changed in nearly two decades. We had two hours of non-waking moments for a much needed snooze at the Sisterhood’s Bestie’s house (who was also gracious enough to pick us up at the airport).

The graciousness continued with ahMAHzing food at Canoe Restaurant.

The view wasn’t bad either.

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As the sun sank below the horizon, we walked through downtown to get to our next major destination–on DAY ONE, mind you–and the much needed calorie burning trek did little to calm the nerves for what was next to come.

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The Sisterhood and I make it a point to see the play whenever it’s in town or whatever town we might find ourselves in. As a storyteller, I’m always keen to see how this masterpiece is interpreted by the various players. While the set has since changed because of the movie, I’m still in awe of live theatre.

I tread the boards, once upon a time, but not in anything so grandiose. I appreciate the hard work that goes into it. Also, I never leave this play without bawling at least three times. I could say it was the exhaustion of travel, but the performances were surreal and I believe I cried harder that night than at any of the previous performances I’ve seen, and I’ve seen it five times. Fortunately, there were new cast members each time so it’s been a real treat.

Was the Red Eye worth it? Yes. Was it a good idea to take the nap midday? Definitely. Was it super fun times jam packed into a single day? Positutely!

We even had a chance to mingle with the cast after the show. By mingle I mean gush at seeing them come out the stage doors behind the theatre and pose for pics and sign autographs.

To cap off the wonderful day, us siblings partook in late night munchies. Awesome nachos via room service.

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I would be remiss if I didn’t put some update into this post, even if I had to divvy up all the deets of my trip. If you’re still reading, big hugs.

WRITING:

Nothing major in the official new output capacity. But I did plenty of brainstorming and exploratory writing for the upcoming Entangled Smackdown over at SavvyAuthors. I also crafted a plethora of new ideas, character sketches, and interesting scenarios for possible use in upcoming stories, as well. It’s hard not to be inspired with such diverse culture all around. Thanks, Toronto.

Despite the delays in my prep work, I’m pleased to say the forums are working for me again and I can make ample use of the well-timed workshops in the two weeks we have left before the writing challenge begins. I’ll be scrambling to catch up due to my time away from technology, but at least this compressed preparation will get the creative juices flowing.

READING:

Due to the off-grid situation, I had to drop the Coursera class Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World. I didn’t want to leave my classmates hanging while I submitted assignments a week after the deadline. Not cool, even if it is for a non-credit class. I’ve added the class to my watchlist and will take it when it becomes available again.

In the meantime, I have plenty of reading material on my endless TBR list to tide me over.

NETWORKING:

I didn’t get a chance to network much while in Toronto, but I’ve recently discovered just how much the Sisterhood posted me or tagged me in various realms of social media to document our travels. So, I suppose we can say I networked by proxy.

LEARNING:

Would you believe I kept up with Duolingo? In those moments before I drifted off to a deep sleep after a long day out, I became a polyglot. My dreams–if I remembered any of them during the vacay–probably took place at the United Nations.

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So, that’s a glimpse of what’s been up in my world, as of late.

Tune in tomorrow, as I recap more highlights of my romp back east.