It’s All In The Spin

Awhile back, I attended a day-long seminar on Practical Proofreading (Don’t roll your eyes. It was fascinating).

The presenter asked us to introduce ourselves and tell where we worked. Both government and private sectors were represented, and each person was welcomed with murmurs of appreciation and approval. I wear many hats and, as I listened, I wondered which one I should talk about.

“My name is Kathy,” I said when my turn came. “I work for my husband. I translate, crunch numbers, edit communication pieces and help prepare content for articles, workshops and conferences.”

Great answer, I thought. It shows the variety and responsibility of what I do.

I smiled and waited for murmurs of approval. I waited… and waited… and—

Photo by Felicia Buitenwerf on Unsplash

“You work for your… husband?” someone finally said.

I nodded and shrank in my seat wondering if a giant L had suddenly appeared on my forehead. Was that really, truly, the only thing the group would remember?

A few months later, I attended another editing seminar—Substantive Editing—but this time I was ready.

“I work for a psychotherapist,” I said. “I translate, crunch numbers, edit communication pieces, and help prepare content for workshops and conferences.”

“What a fascinating job you have!” someone said. Others seemed to agree.

It’s all in the spin. I fit into a box of life-choices they could understand and welcome.

I’m left with a question, however.

Why did I care so much what they thought of me? I’ll never see them again.

Perhaps I should discuss that with the man I work for, aka my husband, aka my favorite psychotherapist.

The Power of Small Gifts: a tribute

My Uncle Charlie died last week. He was 101, and had lived a long and relatively healthy life. At 100, he beat me fair and square at cribbage. When my brother said, “Wow! You beat her!” he said, “Was there ever any doubt?”

Over his lifetime, Uncle C wore many hats: a school janitor and bus driver… part-time farmer with a few cows… a veteran of WW II… and caregiver to his wife through 40 years of Parkinson’s. People thought this last was incredible. He didn’t. He’d married her for better or for worse, hadn’t he?

I knew all those things about Uncle C , but his impact on me was for something else. When I was 15, our family moved to France and I was catapulted into a culture and a language I didn’t understand. I didn’t belong or know how to make friends.

Uncle C and Aunt L had always sent me birthday cards, but when we moved to the other side of the ocean, they began sending a letter with the card. I suspect Aunt L was behind it, reminding him, but he wrote the letters. For over 25 years Uncle C wrote me one letter a year.

There was never any earth-shattering news in them. My birthday is in March, so every year he said he looked forward to digging in his garden instead of shoveling snow. He mentioned birthday parties, updated me on everyone’s health, and said he had coffee and played cards with his buddies every day at the store (There was only one).

Uncle C’s often made me laugh:

Uncle Charlie 1.jpeg

Get even? Did D have poor taste in restaurants?

Another year, he told me of a new pet:

Uncle Charlie 2









What color was the cat, I wondered. Did it live in the barn? In the house? What happened to the kittens? I was never told.

Then there’s my all-time favorite:

Uncle Charlie 3.jpeg

I loved Uncle C’s letters. My birthdays were never truly over until I received them. They weren’t long – a few lines scratched out on notebook paper – but they made me feel special.

It’s said that we need to give children roots and wings. Uncle C helped give me roots. His letters reminded me that even though I lived far away, I had a family that remembered and loved me. That I belonged.


Quiet Leadership, not just for introverts


I picked up Quiet Leadership because… well, because I’m an introvert and it sounded safe right in my gift set.

In the introduction, Rock, says:

Quiet Leadership is [a]… guide to a new way of having conversations, based on recent discoveries about how the brain works.


Rock continues:

When we are trying to help a colleague think anything through, we make the unconscious assumption that the other person’s brain works the same as ours. So we input their problem into our brain, see the connections our brain would make… and spit out the solution that would work for us.


As though he expected my question, Rock suggests we keep track of how much advice we get and how often that advice is useful. I decided to play along.

Over the following weeks, I received all sorts of advice, some of it contradictory. For instance, I learned that the growths on my skin are not cancerous. “Get them burned off, anyway,” said one friend. “Don’t burn them off,” said another.

Had I asked for advice? Nope.

Was their advice useful? Not really.

I felt good about my keen observations of other people’s failings. Smug even… until I had supper with a friend. She started talking about… well, it doesn’t matter what… and to my horror, I said, “You should—”

Nooooooo! I bit my tongue to shut myself up.

She graciously ignored me and continued her story.

Later that week, my husband started telling me about… well, it doesn’t matter what… but as he spoke, I realized I wasn’t listening. Rock was right, I was inputting his problem into my brain, and seeing the connections my brain would make. I was waiting for a nanosecond break in the conversation so I could jump in and “solve” his problem with what would work for me.


Rock suggests we read Quiet Leadership slowly, one chapter a week, and do the homework assignment at the end of each chapter. It’s taken me four months to get through chapter 1. At that rate, it’ll be years before I finish. I suspect it will be time well spent.

A Nobel Prize in Economics… and Water Coolers



When I was a kid, my father tried to convince me that the study of economics was fascinating. He failed. My brain shut down at the mere mention of “supply and demand.”

He will be proud to learn that, now as an adult, I’ve read a book on economics.

And that I even liked it.

Thinking Fast and Slow was written by Daniel Kahneman, who won a Nobel prize in Economic Sciences for his research. In the book, he says that his goal is to change the conversations we have around the water coolers at work. I’m not sure what this has to do with supply and demand, but maybe that’s because I wasn’t listening when Dad talked about it.

Kahneman spends the first half of the book, explaining that we lie to ourselves and don’t know it. He’s not suggesting that we stand around the water cooler calling each other liars, but that we challenge each other’s thinking. Help each other become aware of how we lie to ourselves.

How do we lie to ourselves?

According to Kahneman, when we’re faced with a hard question, one we don’t have a ready answer for, we often answer a different (easier) question. Then we fool ourselves into thinking we’ve answered the original (harder) question.

As I thought about it, I started noticing that he’s right. Other people definitely do that. I could give example after example.

But I don’t, do I? Of course not. Then again… Hmmm. Maybe I do.

If you read this post from a few weeks ago, you’ll see that I did it there. Or tried to. Luckily my inner voice called me on it.

And I did it again not long ago.

It happened when I learned that an acquaintance had lost her partner. He died suddenly. In the space of a few minutes.

I was sad for her. What a shock it must have been.

What would I do if it had been my own husband, I wondered.

That’s a hard question. A very hard question.

Did I answer it?

Nope, I dodged it. Or tried to.

I looked around our office and thought, “Well, it would make decluttering our office easier. All his books could go.”

Silly answer, I know.

Since then, I’ve had several conversations “around the water cooler” and have found a deeper, more honest answer. One of my sons was especially helpful in talking me down off the ledge.

I highly recommend Thinking Fast and Slow.

I absolutely loved the first half.

Unfortunately, Kahneman lost me in the second half. The part where he talks about… well, economics… supply and demand.

Sorry Dad.





2 freebies… plus a great deal on


Pass the word to anyone who liked Narnia, City of Ember, or Wrinkle in Time… has slashed the price of my book by 40%.  If you are buying through the U.S. site, the book now only costs $9.04. Put one in somebody’s Easter basket along with the chocolate.

Now, for the freebies.

FREEBIE # 1: Click below for a pdf of the first three chapters. Feel free to share it with anyone who might be interested.


FREEBIE # 2: Click below for a coloring page of the book cover. Also as a pdf.  And again, feel free to share.

Coloring page of Caves of Fire



Unexpected Tears In The Metro

After a couple years without one, I’ve just joined a new writing group. At the end of our first meeting, two of us chatted about our backgrounds as we headed toward the metro station.

Among other things, I told her I’d been born in a village of a couple hundred people… Had been plunged into a new culture and language as a teenager… That my parents had run a non-profit supply organization in Africa.

“How have all those things influenced your writing?” my new friend asked.

“My… My writing?”

She nodded.

“Umm…” I hesitated, scrambling for an answer. I’ve been writing for a while. You’d think I’d have given that question some thought.

Apparently not. Wow.

I mumbled something inadequate and we parted ways. But as I threaded my way through the crowd toward my train, her question stuck with me.

“How have life-events influenced your writing? How have life-events influenced your writing? How have—”

I stopped.

Tears were rolling down my cheeks.

What?! Why? Continue reading “Unexpected Tears In The Metro”

Why’s She Wearing Those Crappy Shoes? (AKA: Creativity Exericse # 19)

I’m in the waiting room of the Hockey Quebec office. There’s no one behind the reception desk, so I sit down and pull out my book. With any luck, I’ll have the next hour to myself.

My luck runs out quickly.

“Have you been helped?” asks a man.

“Yes,” I say with a bright smile. “Thank you.”

He smiles, too, and walks away.

I return to my book—and read a whole page before I’m interrupted again.

“May I help you?” It’s a woman this time.

“Oh no,” I say, shaking my head. “I’m good.”

She smiles and leaves.

Two more people come by. Same question. Same smile.

As fascinating as it is,1 I obviously won’t be able to read my book. What else could I do?

Then I remember. I have homework. My creativity assignment2 this week is to observe an event and then imagine as many possible explanations for it as I can. I look around for inspiration… then notice my shoes. I grab my notebook and begin scribbling:

Why is this woman wearing such crappy shoes?

  1. She has no others. Her feet have inexplicable grown from eating a magic bean. Or maybe it’s a curse of some sort.
  2. Someone stole all her shoes… and replaced them with these.
  3. The airline lost her suitcase. She was wearing slippers on the plane. In desperation, she dug these out of the trash can.
  4. It’s therapy. She’s addicted to fashion and her therapist gave her homework: to wear something old. Her stomach is twisted in knots. What will people think of her?
  5. She’s sick of winter. Sick of wearing boots. But there are still piles of snow and slush everywhere, so she wears her oldest shoes.
  6. She’s actually a bazillionaire, but doesn’t want people to know it, so she dresses down. Way down.
  7. She’s homeless and has no other shoes. She has snuck in to stay warm.
  8. She’s R.E.D. (Retired and Extremely Dangerous) and in hiding. In this get-up, no one will ever recognize her.

I continue on until I have a dozen possibilities, then I close my notebook. That was fun. And unlike other events I could have chosen, I know the real reason the woman is wearing those crappy shoes. Number 5 is the truth. I keep those shoes for this time of year. It’s officially spring, but there’s still snow and slush and ice where I live. I’m sick of winter. Sick of winter boots. I refuse to wear them. So I keep this pair of tennis shoes for this time of year. I don’t care (much) what people will think.

Things could be worse. Last weekend, we visited Quebec City and drove in front of the house we lived in for 20 years… This is the usual amount of snow left this time of year. Neighbors used to chop up the snowbanks with chain saws to help them melt faster.

  1. The Formula: The Universal Laws of Success by Albert-Lászió Barabási in case you’re interested.
  2. Hat Tip to The Creativity Book by Eric Maisel for this creativity assignment.


Could we have a sleepover at the library?

I love books. Libraries and bookstores make me want to veer off course and settle in. Forget camping out in the woods. I would happily roll out my sleeping bag and spend a few days indoors checking out book titles.

I didn’t always have that option, though (Not that I do now. No one’s ever invited me to a sleep over in a library or bookstore.) What I mean is that libraries and bookstores have not always been options. As a kid, I lived in a small town of a couple hundred people. It had one-room school, a church, a community center, and a general store that was also the post office and the gas station. Have you heard the joke about a town so small that someone drove through it, then stopped on the other side to ask where it was? It happened to friends of ours. True story.

Community Center in my home town

Because there weren’t many kids my age, books became my friends. One day, I got my hands on a small black book with fine print. I climbed up a tree on my uncle’s farm and began to read… and couldn’t stop. I was mesmerized. What was the book? Greek mythology. And as an adult, I’ve enjoyed the Percy Jackson series. Not the same but loads of fun.

I saw The Wizard of Oz on TV when I was six or seven and hid behind a chair because the flying monkeys freaked me out. But later on, I loved the books. Yes books, plural. Did you know there are sixteen sequels? I read them all. Four times. I know because by this time we’d moved to a bigger town. One with a library. I’d go twice a week and come home with four or five books. Checking out books meant writing your library card number on a paper stuck in a pocket at the back of the book. My favorites had my number several times in a row: 4222 (Why do I still remember that?). In any case, I was flabbergasted that no one else wanted to read them.

When I got a little older, I decided I really should read the “classics.” Not knowing what the classics were, I wandered around the library and came across Dracula, Frankenstein, andDr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Classics of a sort, and I loved them all… although I confess the first half of Dracula was a slog. I liked the second half so much, though, that I went on a streak of reading vampire stories. And yes, as an adult, I read Twilight. But only the first one.

All that to say that I love books. The best stories make me laugh and cry both. They make me think and might even scare me a little. I’m always on the lookout for more. Especially great books for young teens. If you have any to suggest, I’d love to hear.

A few of my friends–new, old and ancient

Book signing in Ottawa March 2–and a surprise

I’ll be at the Inspirational Value Centre on Saturday from 11:30-3. And (Shhhh! don’t tell anyone… No, of course not, TELL EVERYONE!!) I’m offering a special one-day sale price. $10 (taxes included)

Inspirational Value Centre
1558 Merivale Rd, Nepean, ON K2G 3J9


Twitter – didn’t want to, but guess I will…

Yes, old dogs can learn new tricks. Or try to. My son is teaching me to tweet…