National Thrift Store Day: Barbie, expresso machines and swollen eyes

So apparently National Thrift Store day happened like two weeks ago and it didn’t even tell me. What a jerk! Luckily, since I rarely hold grudges (unless shoes are involved) I have decided to do a one month feature on thrift-store-finds in honor of this special day!

Today’s spread is called ‘the Kitchen’. Total price for this look: $38 (and one boy’s left eye).

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As you can see, I was really starting to nail the shoot when my son decided to put mint toothpaste in his eye.

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Luckily, it didn’t leave any permanent damage and he learned a valuable lesson in the process: Barbie ain’t the only bitch that can rock pink and gold.

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The items featured in this look were all purchased at Value Village (Coquitlam location) and include:

  • a pair of gold Artisan Clark clogs, $20
  • a pink Calvin Klein dress, $12
  • a pair of wooden earrings, $3
  • and a turquoise belt, $3 (okay, the belt was actually from the Art Knapp discount bin but that’s basically consignment if you think of all the people that have probably tried it on during its shelf life).

Facing Old Fears to Save Lost Sweaters: Bricolage Hats gets Etsy

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I swore I would never do it again.

But, when my friend cancelled at the last minute a couple weeks ago, old sweaters and my mom were counting on me so I had not choice but to brave the camera after 20 years in retirement.

All the hats posted on Bricolage Hats are made out of old wool sweaters, making them eco-friendly, super snuggly and thanks to her felting-skilz, super gorgeous as well.

Was it weird whipping out my old catalogue poses in front of the car dealership I grew up across from and hoping none of my old high school friends drove by? HECK YEAH.

Was it fun getting to control the lighting and set the shot and for once be the boss instead of the girl standing around like a giant useless bowl of vanilla pudding: HELL YEAH.

And I must have not done a totally bad job because **YAY** we just sold our first hat!!

White Pants: Russian Roulette for mothers

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Original price: $99.00

Paid: $29.99 (after additional at the till discount)

“When does the ship set sail?”

That was the first thing my husband said when I showed him my latest purchase. Then he questioned my sanity for buying clothes that, from the perspective of my five-year old son who can’t even look at blueberry jam without leaving purple stains all over the apartment, will probably look like a giant napkin.

It’s true, when I first saw these on the rack at The Bay today, I shook my head and kept going.

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But on the second go round, I picked them up off the sale rack and was impressed by the high, classic waist, the tuxedo style ribboning, and the billowed bottoms. All of which work to create a pair of bold yet elegant, Kentucky-Derby pants that make me feel like putting on floppy Del Mar hat and shooting back a champagne flute or two. (And as an added bonus, they are from one of my favorite designers: Lord and Taylor).

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Cover pages and other ways to lose friends . . .

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The good news: my first round of cover proofs are in!

The bad news: I am way pickier than I realized.

On of my friends put together these mages for my novel cover earlier this week and while they are totally gorgeous they are totally not what I have been imagining in my head for the last, oh I don’t know, TEN MILLION years I’ve been working on this project.

Of course, I could have asked her to change this and that and integrate this and tweak that and do it now now now because obviously everyone is as excited about this as I am, right!

Wrong.

Everybody didn’t just pour their creative soul into this manuscript. I did. Let’s just say things could have gotten ugly fast and I might have even lost a friend in the process if she wasn’t so unbelievably GRACIOUS and told me she wouldn’t be offended if I didn’t want to continue with the project.

So I have decided to hire someone who specializes in YA novel covers. And I’m excited about that because I’m sure she will be used to author-zillas like me and won’t get annoyed too much by my impossible demands.

And that doesn’t mean I won’t ever ask for help, but next time I do I’m going to remember: just because this project is personal for me, doesn’t mean its personal for everyone else.

Why all writers should be fluent in Dr. Dre

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A radio producer once told me I sound like I have rocks in my mouth when I talk. She was not the first. People have been asking me if I’m from somewhere else all my life. I’m not. That thing they think is some kind of exotic backstory is just a big fat lazy tongue.

Or maybe it’s my lips. Either way, reading my work aloud at workshops or events has not been pretty. Thankfully, I recently discovered a totally free, boot camp for tongues: hip hop.

I performed a rap song about post-secondary education at a local conference a few weeks ago and practicing the lyrics leading up to the event was the hardest workout my mouth has ever had. Sure, I may have made a total idiot of myself on the stage (somehow I remember overalls looking way cuter on me when I was 15) but I definitely think I ground those rocks down to at least pebbles. So next time I read a few pages to my writing group, who knows? They may even be able to understand them.

And it’s always good to have a back up career…

My Self-Publishing Experiment: THE COVER

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First off, let’s be clear: I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING.

However, I spent enough time waiting for boys to call when I was 15 (note to teen self: they never do) to know when it’s time to stop doing the same thing with literary agents. That’s right, I have decided to embark on the opaquely exciting journey of self-publishing and it all officially kicked off yesterday with a photo shoot for my cover pic.

Why a photo shoot you ask? Good question. Lots of people use stock images for their cover page but I am more stubborn than them and I really wanted to make my own. Plus, after all those hours spent in isolation at the computer, I figure why not have a little fun and boss people around for a while? Especially if you can get it all done for the price of bottle of Scotch.

My team included a photographer friend who did it because he’s a nice guy, a friend’s daughter who did it for fun and a make up artist from a local school who did it to build her portfolio. I paid for the make up kit, bus fare and some gifts and that was it. Pretty awesome.

And yet, that wasn’t the best part.

The best part was seeing them all come together and create a piece of my imagination in real life. For the first time in a long time, it made me feel that my story mattered. Thanks team.

So, do you need to shoot original pics? Probably not. Can you do it for almost nothing? Probably yes. And will it be awesome? Oh yeah.

And now, on to the actual design of the cover page now (and by me I mean another amazing volunteer).

Why Blog: self leadership for writers

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Sometimes I wonder why I bother. Most things I do, experience, clean the dishes, revise budgets, edit my manuscript, have a distinct goal in mind. Money. Fitness. Clean counters.

But not for this. I have spent probably hundreds of hours creating posts for my blog with no clear outcome in mind.

Sometimes I think I am crazy for doing so. Or masochistic. Or stupid.

However, turns out I am actually just taking a proactive approach to navigating my career and personal development–or self-leadership.

“Margaret Wheatley, author of Leadership and the New Science, indirectly suggests how we could put self-leadership into practice today. Her advice is to “start something and watch what happens”. The “something” could be as simple as answering an email that, under normal circumstances, you’d delete immediately. (source)”

So yes, I don’t really know where this blog journey will take me—but I am developing skills along the way, creating relationships with new people, and generally seeping myself in all kind of positive career development-ness that will probably, but not certainly take me somewhere in the end.

My secret writing shame…and why I should never wear sandals

"Abandoned sock" by LEOL30. Some Rights Reserved
“Abandoned sock” by LEOL30. Some Rights Reserved

Let me just introduce myself by saying that the piece I am about to read completely sucks. In fact, so do I.

I didn’t exactly put it that way at my writing group yesterday, but as one of my reviewers put it, by opening up my excerpt by confessing that my work is ‘low-brow’ young adult faction, “I threw it away before I even started.”

And it’s not the first time. Despite having told countless people in my life to stop apologizing and ‘put their sorrys in a sock’, as George Costanza once put it (okay technically he said to put them in a sack, but I prefer my version because socks are much more readily available than sacks), because it is generally unnecessary and only serves to undermine them I KEEP DOING IT.

I would like to blame my genre, but that would be unfair and cowardly. The truth is I would apologize no matter what I write because writing makes me feel special and opening myself up to others and to the possibility that one of them might tell me I’m wrong is really really scary. So of course to stop that from happening, I say it first and throw away my work, and myself away before any of it has a chance to shine.

Stupid.

From now on, I am going to follow George’s advice, and keep those damn sorrys in the sock they belong in—no matter how terrified I am.  Who knows, sooner or later I might actually start truly believing I really am as special as I like to think I am.

Mother’s day confession: I only have three stickers on my SUV…and I may be okay with that

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So, when are you going to have the next one?” said my friend Dan yesterday, a half peeled banana in one hand.

I was standing with some friends outside of a school playground—none of us quite yet ready to face the buckles and straps waiting in our cars. Two held jiggling infants in their arms while Dan and his partner were taking turns watching their two boys playing with my four-year old on the swings.

Everyone was complaining about being tired and broke and as the only one of my friends who can actually sleep through the night and has only one daycare bill to cover every month, I suddenly felt like a complete wimp. And so of course I did the only thing a wimp could do: tried to redirect their attention to someone who doesn’t have any kids in the hopes that would make me look better.

It didn’t fool me, either.

The older I get, the more I feel myself being pressed into the two parent, two child family mold. It appears on the back of minivans and SUVs, often accompanied by matching stick dogs and fish. It is in the comments of another parent who joked about a mother overreacting to a gym fall because her child was an ‘only.’ It is in the very word ‘only’.  Only half a family. Only half a mother. And it is the question that haunts me every menstrual cycle when I think this could have been a baby. If I’d wanted one.

The truth is I don’t know if I do. Children take time and so does writing. Especially novels. And just because I want to have space in my life to  do the one thing that I feel most passionate about, that doesn’t make me less of a mother–‘only’ one with some different kinds of babies.

Got feedback? Let me resent you for it

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I am not good at feedback. Whenever someone in my writing group says anything that is the least bit critical about my work  I  hate their guts for about 3 – 30 seconds, depending on how much cheese I have consumed.

Once I actually process said critique, I am always Incredibly Grateful for the insight they have gifted me with however that doesn’t make me any less homicidal the next time someone says ‘that character is flat’ or ‘you need to put a period there.’

I have been posting on this blog for over a year now, and yet not once have I dared experience the pain of feedback during that time. However, I figure if am going to show my mother why blogging matters, I ought to give it a shot. SO HERE GOES.

The following is the current opening paragraph of my YA thriller about three girls who are modeling in Tokyo and soon find themselves competing for something a lot more valuable than the next cover of Vogue: their lives.

Jess set her suitcase on the sidewalk. Several taxis were parked in front of the terminal, bottles of Absolut Vodka, Shiseido eyeliners, and Fuji cameras flashing across their sides. One near the end caught her attention. Unlike the rest of the taxis, the sides of his vehicle were black and plain. The front windshield was darker than the others so that she could barely see the driver—and yet somehow she was certain she could feel him watching her. Despite the warm night air, a chill ran through her. Tokyo was normally a pretty safe city, but lately things hadn’t exactly been normal and she was suddenly glad the agency had insisted on sending Hiro to pick her up. Jess turned away.

If you have any thoughts about this excerpt, I would (somewhat) love to hear them.