Thursday, April 16, 2009

The trip out here, the things I can get used to and the things I can't

So, its been over a month since I updated the blog.
I made the leap, I drove three days through some of the most interesting places I've ever seen; and some of the most boring. (Hello, North Dakota! I can't say I wasn't warned.)
It was exciting! I loved seeing the Mackinac bridge in Michigan. It was heart-stoppingly beautiful. You're driving along through miles and miles of forest-lined highways, passing no one, feeling like you're in the middle of nowhere and may never see civilization again and when you crest the hill suddenly the sky stretches out before you forever. Cloudless blue sky meets frozen lake Michigan. Really frozen. And breath-taking. You drive high over the lake on this beautiful bridge made of blue steel and you feel like you're driving over the top of the world.
After Mackinac I drove to Escanaba where I spent the night. The next day, on my way to the North Dakota boarder, I drove through Wisconsin.
I reached a little iron mining town just in time for lunch. The iron is so present in the land up there that the pavement is red with the dirt washed down off the mines from the rain. The highways are red too. The mixture they use in the pavement must have a lot of that iron in it.
The town had some really nice people and a very nice little restaurant that served the best grilled cheese sandwich I have ever had.
Wisconsin specializes in dairy products. If there was ever a place to try the grilled cheese, this was it. The sandwich was served on homemade 12 grain dark bread that was lightly toasted. There was four kinds of cheese in it (that's a lot of cheese) and then there was fresh shredded Parmesan melted on top. It was served with hand cut fries and a kosher dill pickle. It was perfect.
I had just passed through a new time zone, so I was an hour ahead of where I thought I'd be. I had an uneventful drive through the rest of Wisconsin. I reached Minnesota by mid-afternoon.
Apparently, at the end of March, in Minnesota the weather is very unpredictable. Maybe I should have known that. I am, after all, from Ontario.
I was driving alone on a nice and sunny afternoon, the roads were dry, everything was great, and then, well then it began to snow. Big, fluffy, white, slippery flakes. Huge! There was nothing, it was great, you could see forever and then... BAM!! White-out conditions. In the space of just a few minutes. I was sure the weather was this bad for miles. I couldn't see anything! So I tried to pull over. If I had just kept going, slowly, I'm sure I would have been fine. But when I tried to pull over I began to slide. The little green car was packed with stuff and weighted down at the back. This means that when I began to slide, my end didn't want to stop. I spun and spun and spun. 450 degrees in total. (That's a full turn, plus a quarter more, for those who, like me, needed to use a calculator.) I must say, I did not handle it like a pro.
I've found over the last few months of driving and owning my own car, in these situations I have been really good. I am clam and organized and rational. Brakes go on the truck while driving it? I'm clam. In a ditch in outside of Fergus? Not a problem! Skid - (didn't even go off the road!) - on a highway in Minnesota in a blinding freak snow storm? I lose it.
I sat there on the side of the road, sideways, for about 10 minutes, crying. I cancelled my hotel reservation, (if it was snowing this bad everywhere I wasn't going to drive across the state,) and I finally got it together. As I drove toward the next town to find a motel, slowly, the snow changed to rain.
The next town was 20 minutes away. When I got there it was pouring. I went into a gas station, still visibly shaken, and asked about motels. There was only one in town and I didn't like the look of it. Also, I figured because of the snow it may book up fast. I mentioned something about the snow to the young gas station attendant and he said "It didn't snow here."
Now, I've seen it rain in Waterloo and be dry as a bone in Kitchener, so I am not a stranger to freak weather, but this was blinding, driving snow!
I called dad for moral support and then decided to make the 40 minute journey to the next city. It had a better selection of food and motels. I figured it would take me almost an extra day to make up the time, but still, it was getting late and I really should stop.
When I reached the next town it was dry. Hadn't rained, hadn't snowed, nothing. So, I kept going. I figured, I'd come this far, I could make it a little further. I would stop and the next town.
And so went my thinking for three hours. Just to the next town. Just a little further.
I've discovered that when you are driving west, the days are longer. The sun moves from east to west and takes forever to set when you are driving towards it. It's an odd phenomenon, when you look into your review mirror you can see the darkness stretch out behind you, but it looks like the middle of the afternoon in front of you. It seems as though you are eternally caught in this weird timeless pace. Stuck between day and night. It's peaceful and nice. So, I drove. And when it finally did get dark? I was in North Dakota. I was happy.
Day three was boring. I woke up and it was foggy. It stayed foggy the whole way to Saskatchewan. And it was the flattest most indescribable place I have ever been, even now, and I live in Saskatchewan. [Thanks Doug for the joke ;)] I stopped at the mall for lunch and managed to get some new clothes at Target and J.C. Penny. (I couldn't help it, I swear! lol.)
I made it to Sask. by dinner. It was still foggy and raining, but I was so glad to be home! If the ground hadn't been covered in dirt I would have bent down and kissed it. I stopped at the first Tim Horton's I saw. God, that first sip of coffee was like nirvana. You don't know how much you love Timmy's until it's gone.
So I drove. And drove and drove. And finally, around 8:30 at night, I made it to Swift Current. It was dark (finally) and I got lost.
I've been doing this a lot, this getting lost in Swift Current thing. It has a lot of one way streets and as much as everyone says it's laid out really well, in a grid pattern, it feels funny to me. I'm still all disoriented and turned around.
Heather, Beth's roommate, was kind enough to come and get me from the parking lot I finally stopped in after getting amazingly frustrated.
And that was my adventure getting here! Nearly a month ago. I miss home. I miss the little things. Like watching movies with dad or hanging out in Janeen's car talking about nothing and drinking a lot of coffee. I miss Starbucks and being able to spend hours in Chapters because it is just that big and there are just that many books. (There's only a small Coles here.) I miss the parking. You think we have parking issues in Ontario? There are no parking lots downtown here. I have to park - parallel park at that! - on a one-way street. And I've gotten 3 tickets in the past week. This is not unusual for people here. I am used to parking lots. They don't seem to exist here. Where there is a lot it's really tiny. Yet, somehow it doesn't feel like there less cars around. Oh, well. I guess that's the kind of thing you get used to. Drinking watered down lattes and learning how to parallel park better. Getting unlost. Learning to time manage better so I can update my blog more often ;)
What I can't get used to is being so far away from the people I love. I hope I never get used to that.
Stay tuned! There's more to tell you!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Three newspapers; one reporter

Well, news travels fast and as previously mentioned I am moving to a town called Swift Current in Saskatchewan. I will be a full-time reporter there, but I will be working for, and thus published in, three different newspapers.
With the economy as it is, each under-staffed paper could not afford to hire it's own reporter, but by combining their resources they were able to afford me. (I guess I don't come cheap! lol.) So I will be a full-time reporter/ photographer all over southwestern Saskatchewan.
Below are the links to the papers I will be published in. There is an extra link to the Prairie Post, which has a cool on-line paper feature. You can view and read the paper in the exact same format it was printed in. I heart this feature.

The Prairie Post:

The Prairie Post online paper feature **NOTE: I am published in the Prairie Post EAST**

Maple Creek News-Times:

The Shaunavon Standard:

I didn't need a block heater before now and other things I'm going to miss about Ontario

Today I'm a little sad. It is minus 27 degrees in Swift Current; minus 35 with the wind chill. (1 degree in KW; no wind chill.) Yesterday I went to CAA and got maps and travel insurance. Today my car came back from the shop in 'ready to go' condition - (albeit without a block heater; I have to get one put in next fall.) It's sinking in; I'm really leaving.
I got an email from Aunt Cathy with her and Uncle Andrew's love and support (Thanks guys!) but it reminded me that I will be missing Andrea's shower and possibly her wedding. My friends are buying concert tickets. They are going to see the Hip and No Doubt. Tom Cochrane & Red Rider are touring this summer. None of them are coming to Saskatchewan. I'm going to miss summer concert season at the centre of the universe - the greater Toronto area, for the uninitiated. I look forward to summer concert season the way small children anticipate Christmas.
Last week I was told that the first Pizza Pizza west of Ontario is opening up in Swift Current. They just got their first Shopper's Drug Mart. Their malls close at 6pm every night except Friday. Their libraries are not open every day of the week.
In comparison, I am coming from a place where you can get just about everything at just about anytime. In Ontario we are a place to live and a place to grow, oh Ontari-ari-ario, but we are also an over-crowded place to rush around like the world is on fire. We want it all, right now and we want you to get it for us.
So if I get out of a mall containing every store imaginable at 9pm, I can still party until 3am. Then I can get pizza and visit an all night Shopper's. Sleep? Who needs sleep? We have 24 hour arcades and bowling and movies until 3am. And coffee. Boy do we love our lattes out here! The closest Starbucks to me is 1 hour and 45 mins away out there. There are only 15 in the whole province. 15! In Toronto, there are four Starbucks and two Second Cups at the Eaton's Centre alone. Regina - a two and a half hour drive from me - has the province's only two Second Cups. (There are more than 50 Second Cups and 322 Starbucks in the land of plenty, aka Ontario, in case you were wondering.)
I'm leaving my home and my family for someplace completely foreign. Yes, it's the same country, but in this sense, it may as well be Mars. It's cold, it's flat, it doesn't have lattes and I need special equipment installed in my shuttle to live there. And that's just for starters!
I was told to expect some culture shock. I don't think I really understood what that meant. Maybe I still don't. I guess I've been spoiled, but I'm sure going to miss this place. *sighs*

Friday, March 6, 2009

The travels of a little green car - Part one

Hello all!
As many of you know, I have a new job out west. I will be starting as a reporter/ photographer at the Prairie Post, Shaunavon Standard and Maple Creek News-Times on March 23rd. I leave my home, sweet home, in Ontari-ari-ario on March 19th, heading west.
In preparation for the trip I have been overhauling my car. A little green 1996, Toyota Camry that I bought back in November. It has a 2.2L, 4cyl. engine. When I got it, it had just over 310,000 km on it. Now it has just over 314,600 km on it. And it's costing me a small fortune.
It needed a rear-left tie-rod (there was a hole in it and my wheels could have fallen off), a tire rotation and alignment, a new timing belt, all new oil seals (I'm leaking gigantic puddles on the driveway apparently), and now, it would seem I need new front mounts too (whatever those are. I don't speak car.)
When I purchased this car for just over $3K, I was told this was an "awesome deal." Oh yeah, $750 in repairs later, it's been a great deal. *rolls eyes.* Not that I didn't expect at least SOME of this.
And then there's the little problem of the vibration that will never go away because my harmonic stabilizer is broken and cannot ever be fixed properly. So, my car sings to me. Which is why I lovingly named her Harmony.
Harmony and I will be heading west soon, taking pictures of our journey along the way. I will be posting a picture of my car (once I get it washed) and trying to post as many of the pictures as I can of the trip.
I'm excited, but nervous too. If you've ever been west in a car (or at all really) let me know how it went and any advice you may have!
See you soon!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Love as a Foreign Language

On a trip to Guelph yesterday I stopped in at The Dragon - ( - a little comic book store with an amazingly large selection. I especially love going in there for their manga selection, which is much larger than the average local comic shop (LCS). Not only is it larger, but the selection is top-notch, almost all of them having been read by the manager Amy, who really knows her stuff and, as of yet, has not recommended anything that I have disliked.
So, looking for a girly romance, but not looking for something too cheesy, young or stupid, I picked up Love as a Foreign Language #1 (cover seen above) written and drawn by two artists from Toronto, J. Torres and Eric Kim. Both have worked on other successful projects - manga and non-manga - and some have even been nominated or won awards. Kim went to Sheridan for art fundamentals and animation, as well. This interested me because it's always nice to support local - or sort of local, anyway - talent.
Love is the story of Joel, a Canadian teaching ESL (English as a second language) at a private school in Korea. He hates Korea - his apartment, his job, the language, the culture and especially the food - and decides to leave as soon as his contract is up.
Fate is a fickle thing in Joel's life however, and as soon as he decides to leave Korea, he finds out he may have a shot at his 'dream girl'. Hana is a Korean woman Joel has run into on the street a few times. Beautiful and coy, but friendly, he is instantly attracted to her. As Joel is making his decision to leave Korea, Hana is hired onto the staff at the private school where he works. As an administrative assistant, Hana's English isn't required to be as good as those teaching classes; it's passable, but still presents a barrier for her and Joel. Joel must overcome the language, his hatred of the country and other obstacles in order to win Hana's heart.
The first edition in this two-book collection is awesome. It's cute and funny. I can't wait to pick up the second book so I know how the story turns out! I recommend it highly.
My manga collection is rather sparse right now, so I'm looking for recommendations. I know manga has been popular for awhile, but those of you that know me know that occasionally I can be late to the party, as it were.
I'm developing a real appreciation for the manga style. It's simple and uncluttered. The nice simple lines give the suggestion of what's intended instead of actually finishing the object or person. The backgrounds are uncluttered. It's a nice contrast to the detailed drawings in North American style comics. Although, I appreciate both, the manga allows my imagination to fill in what's not there, much like novels do. As well, although some manga comics are done in colour, many are just black and white, which allows my imagination to fill in the colours as I see fit. The brightly coloured scenes of Korean streets were nice to imagine. Because manga comics are printed on cheaper pulp paper and without colour, they are cheaper too. Chapters sells most of theirs at $10-$13 for a good-sized volume - 200 pages or so, where as most glossy-super hero comics sell for $3.99 - $6.95 (or more) for 60 pages. Those 60 pages include ads, manga comics don't have ads, or have very few and they are all at the end of the books, instead of in the middle of the numbered pages of the story.
Chapters and Coles have a great selection of books, although right now the ones in this area seem to be out of J. Torres stuff. I'm hoping to pick up the second volume of Love and his series Sidekicks: The Transfer Student about a high school student who is the daughter of a superhero sidekick. As well, I've finished all of the first mini-series of Spider-Man Loves Mary-Jane, done in manga style, written by Terry Moore and drawn by different manga guest artists (soooo good!!) and am now reading the new mini-series of Spider-Man Loves Mary-Jane (still in single issues, the first in the series was released last week.)
The manga romances are easy to read and uncomplicated. Allowing me to finish one off in about an hour. It's a nice change of pace to the regular comics and books I read and I'm really enjoying them.
Let me know if you have any recommendations for what I should pick up next!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Why Print Isn't Dead (and I why want to be a best-selling author)

Canadian Andrew Davidson isn't a best-selling author, but Random House is betting he will be. The American arm of the large publishing firm recently bought Davidson's new book, The Gargoyle - ( - for $1.25 Million USD. Other publishing houses, including Random House Canada, paid that much again for the international publishing rights. Giving Davidson $2.5 million for the book, before the first copy was ever sold, according to MacLean's magazine.
Davidson, first-time author, one-time journalist, is from Manatobia, although he is now an American resident. According to the MacLean's article, he wrote the book and submitted it as a massive, unedited volume, to one of the most prestigious literary agents in New York City. Instead of the usual rejection letter that most first-time author's get, Davidson's book was so good, even unedited, that he got advice instead on how to fix his manuscript.
After editing his manuscript, the agent worked on selling, and reports say he didn't have to work hard. Random House snapped the book up.
Although I haven't read the book yet, I did pick up a copy yesterday to see what all the fuss is about. (I will post my review when I'm finished.) The cover of the book is like nothing I've ever seen. Although dust jackets have become elaborate works of art in recent years, especially on books that publishing houses wish to catch the reader's eye, and thus their wallet, beyond the dust jacket usually lies a hard cover of plain colour. Modern publishing costs usually have these covers made from light-weight, thin materials, to save money.
Underneath the dust jacket of The Gargoyle, the hard cover is beautiful. Heavy and glossy, the cover has been touched by a professional graphic designer. The art is mostly flames, covering the entire book, with a raised and textured heart in the middle. Around the heart there is a quote from Dante's Inferno. This is a lot of money to spend for something that will not immediately be seen by readers.
The money and time being spent on this book and it's publicity may be one of the biggest literary bets on a first-time author in history. If they win, they will win big. If they lose, it may be Davidson's only book.
In it's first week the book received mediocre reviews, with the lore of the making of the book getting more press than the story itself.
The story is billed as one of redemption. According to the publisher, it's about a horribly disfigured burn victim and the burgeoning romance between him and a "wild-haired schizophrenic" from another hospital ward who insists on taking care of him. The woman claims the man and herself were lovers in other centuries and tries to convince him they are fated to be together.
The story draws on images of heaven and hell, using The Inferno heavily for inspiration. The burn victim goes through figurative hell to get to heaven as the story is told across 700 years and several countries, including mid-evil Germany.
Whether the book becomes well-received or not, Random House's investment in a new author and his first work of fiction is evidence that readers have not given up on print yet. Or at least that publishers hope they haven't. I only hope that publishing companies keep investing in new, raw talent. As a writer, this is good news for me. (Attention Random House Execs: My first book deserves a $1.25 million advance too! Call me!!) But more, as a reader it's excellent news, too. Heaven help me if I ever run out of hard copy books to read. Computer's just aren't the same. Whatever Davidson's vision of hell, no more books is certainly mine.
Stay tuned, my review to come.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Annnnnd... We're back!

Long ago, in a land far, far away a young girl had hopes and dreams of writing in a blog...
Ok, actually it was only about 6 months ago and it was right where I am now. I started this blog last Feb. and then never wrote in it. Out of frusteration for my lack of time, I took it down, always with the intention of putting it back up again... someday *insert far away gaze here*
Now, that I'm done school and I'm getting better at balancing my time, I've found my someday.
So, here again, is my blog.