Archive for the ‘Creative Influences’ Category

Sorry about the weird spacing of the photos. I can’t quite seem to fix it. 

So what do you do when you’re feeling a little stressed, overwhelmed, unbalanced and generally out of sorts? Well, you plan a spontaneous stateside road trip with your husband and almost-two-year-old, of course! We headed down the I-5 on Saturday morning and then gorgeous Chuckanut Drive in Washington State, and were in Birch Bay in time for breakfast, featuring the slowest. service. ever. And slightly watery eggs benedict served by a wacky waitress. All very entertaining.

We drove over to darling Whidbey Island, the site of many a dad-and-daughter motorcycle trip back when my sisters and I were kids. We stopped off at the Captain Whidbey Inn, and it was just as I remembered it in 1983.

And of course Keaton just wanted to go to the “BEACH!” and play with “WOCKS”!


Which he did, on several occasions, this photo being in Coupeville on Whidbey Island. Why enjoy beautiful food in a lovely little cafe (Knead & Feed) when you know there is a pebbly beach just down the stairs outside?

After a ferry ride back to the mainland, complete with entertaining stencilled cupboards, we went to two small town destinations that many of us know so well from the small screen: North Bend, where Twin Peaks was filmed back in the late 80s/early 90s, and where my husband Joshua also spent four formative years of his childhood life. How about that, eh? If I had known during all those early teenaged years while I obsessively watched Twin Peaks that my future husband was growing up in the very town that it was filmed…

Damn fine coffee.

And humungous portions. My god. This Veggie Mixer kept us going for three whole meals!

Keaton played in the playground of Josh’s old elementary school, North Bend Elementary.

And then Roslyn, home to my favourite TV show of all time, Northern Exposure, which I have mentioned more than a few times on this here blog. Is it possible to be starstruck by a town? Because I was. Seriously, it’s still just like it was in the show. As Josh said, that’s probably written into any possible development plan for the town that it can’t change. But really, check these photos out. Isn’t that Dr. Fleischman’s battered blue truck?

After exploring the town for a while we took Keats to the local playground, and I just keep smiling hugely to myself, thinking, “We’re at the playground. But not just any playground. A playground in Roslyn. Wow.” Yes, I know, ridiculous fan girl.

Then we visited the troll under the bridge in Fremont, Seattle, and had some yummy lunch at the Silence.Heart.Nest Cafe.

After all that excitement, it was time for some kickin’ back with Winnie the Pooh. Mixed into all this was one nice hotel, one sketchy one and one so-so one in North Seattle (yikes!), lots of grease on food action, a failed trip to the zoo, a flat tire, and much noticing of American accents/dialects.

Road trips are AWESOME. And now I am going to eat nothing but steamed vegetables and fish for two weeks. Erp.

P.S. Okay, so I know it’s been forever since my last post. Almost three months, to be somewhat exact. My lack of posts, not unsurprisingly, is directly tied to my three-month-long bout of writer’s block which now, thankfully, seems to have ended. Actually, it was writer’s block, but then I decided to just go with that, and turn it into a brief vacation from writing. But I’m ready to get back at it. Let’s see how it goes.

P.P.S. That was a long P.S.


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So, I’ve been experiencing some writer’s block lately. I have what I feel are some great ideas for three different books I want to write, but I keep getting stuck. Fortunately, there are loads of great writing blogs out there with lots of fabulous and reassuring posts on breaking through blocks – like Laini Taylor’s post today and Libba Bray’s recent post – but I had an idea beyond my usual freewriting-solves-everything trick. I remembered something that I read (I think it was on the wonderful Pipedreaming children’s lit review blog), that if you put all of your favourite things into your book, you can’t really go wrong. Well, I guess you could – I could just turn into an unfocused mishmash of all your beloved influences and things – but I was inspired by the idea to create a list of, well, my favourite things, of course. This isn’t a place for my favourite movies or my favourite bands or my favourite books. It might be aspects of those things, but really, it’s all about the details of life. I guess it’s like my personalized version of that book about 10,000 things that make you happy. But that’s coo.

So here we go:


morning coffee
wacky old ladies
kitchen dance parties
dance parties of any kind, really
deciduous forests
makeovers/before & afters
having a favourite part in a song (as in “Oooh, I love this part! Listen, wait for it..,” like the bass solo in Paul Simon’s ‘You Can Call Me Al’ or Cyndi Lauper’s long note at the end of ‘Money Changes Everything’)
home canned peaches
crackling fires
pomp and circumstance; ritual and ceremony
French braids

antique shops
sci-fi boys
Olympic women’s gymnastics
British things
Twix bars
the English language
Mennonite culture and history
secret hiding places
Strongbow cider
fresh new school supplies
Archie comics
school stories
Dutch light
the landscape of childhood
country drives
lip balm
Converse sneakers
scented felts
furry friends
grand, ramshackle old houses (with tower bedrooms)
farmers markets
dangly earrings

banana splits and pretty much any dessert featuring bananas
laughing uproariously
faeries and magic
antique roses
dinner parties
spunky heroines a la Pippy Longstocking, Harriet the Spy and Jodie Foster in Freaky Friday
used bookstores
sticker books
red velvet stage curtains
the library
ribbed tights
the coffee-and-cookies smell of church basements
putting up photos in your high school locker
national anthems

Before I published this, I left this draft post open on my desktop for a couple of days, just to let all the favourite things come to me. It’s a fun thing to do – I’d recommend it. I also found it to be a reminder, in this crazy, fast-moving world of ours, to enjoy the details of the everyday. Will it help lift my writer’s block? I’ll keep you posted.

And so I just have to ask – what are some of your favourite things?

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Josh and I tried to make this a Flashdance-dancing-on-the-hardwood-studio-dance-floor type of photo. Pretty hardcore, right?

After a too-long break over the summer, I went to Nia class again last Wednesday night, led by my amazing teacher, Jasjit. For those of you that haven’t heard of it, it’s a delightfully New Age-tinged dance class that combines moves from martial arts, modern dance, tai chi, yoga and whatever else they want to throw in there. I absolutely love it. And dang, does it ever do a body good. Even though I was so tired (have been a little sleep-deprived lately, with prepping my lectures after Keaton goes to bed), I was practically crying with joy the entire time that I was dancing away. My legs and other parts of my body have been aching ever since, having stretched and flexed areas that haven’t done anything in months.

Seriously, I am terrible, terrible, terrible about exercising. Have been my entire adult life. I’m not sure exactly what it is – a combination of general laziness, lack of motivation, the fact that I’m almost never in the mood for it, and that “too busy” excuse. In my new life with a baby, exercise is even lower on my priority list. I am so not into stroller fitness classes or anything like that. Yuck. Although I guess pushing a stroller that’s heavily laden down with a 23 lb. baby, two large bottles of wine, a 12-pack of beer and some groceries up Davie Street might count. That’s a regular occurrence around here.

P.S. If you live in Vancouver, you MUST try a Nia class with Jasjit.I’ve been doing Nia for about 6 years now, and it’s changed my life. Check out her website at http://joiworks.wordpress.com/.

P.P.S. I have been so bad about posting lately! Ack! I’ve been writing a lot of blog posts in my head, though – does that count?

P.P.P.S. Just read an absolutely hilarious book called Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern (about a high school girl who befriends a nerdy girl and starts playing D & D – yes!), and I have since fallen in love with her blog, too. Check it out: http://juliehalpern.blogspot.com/.

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Welcome to a new series on – you guessed it – my favourite things. When it comes to things I like, I’m still pretty teenager-ish; I like to rank and list them. I find lists of things quite delicious, actually.

I love movies. When I was a kid I dreamed of being a screenwriter/director – my childhood and teenager diary entries are filled with details of my Oscar acceptance speeches, what I’d wear if I appeared on David Letterman, and fake articles of me being interviewed in Premiere magazine. I’ve since given up the film making dream, but I still love movies.

My Top Ten Favourite Movies*:

1. Annie Hall: From the fashions to the dialogue to the shots of Manhattan to the squirmy, uncomfortable and downright adorable Diane Keaton (why do you think my son’s name is Keaton? Seriously.), this is Woody Allen at his nebbishy, hilarious, bittersweet best. It’s been my favourite movie of all time ever since I was fifteen – in my grade 10 yearbook photo I’m wearing a white shirt, tie and men’s vest, totally a la Mademoiselle Hall (no one got it, though – they thought I looked like a private school girl). I have this poster hanging in my front hallway (copyright 1977 United Artists Corporation, by the way). (Hannah and Her Sisters is a close second for my favourite Woody Allen movie.)

2. Harold & Maude: Another very formative movie for me in my teen years – I think I first saw it when I was 14, and then my beloved and very inspiring English 11 teacher, Ms. Laidlaw, once screened it in class (much to my heart-stopping delight, she also screened Hannah and Her Sisters!). The story of a 20-year-old cutie nerd who likes to pretend to commit suicide (much to the horror of his Grey Gardens-type mother) who falls in love with a wacky 80-year-old lady, Harold & Maude made me want to live in a converted train car, own a Hearse, crash funerals, be wild and carefree, and one day name my daughter Maude. Also, the Cat Stevens soundtrack is totally kickin’.

3. The Graduate: Speaking of soundtracks, does The Graduate not have one of the best soundtracks ever? Maybe it’s just because I’m a massive Simon & Garfunkel fan. Anyway, Dustin Hoffman is brilliant, I wanted all of Mrs. Robinson’s clothes as well as her house and all its interior decor, and the sexual innuendos were both tantalizing and mysterious to my 13-year-old self. Also, I do believe that this movie started my love of hotel bars.

4. When Harry Met Sally: Of all the movies I’ve watched in my life thus far, this is probably the one I’ve seen the most. I’ve seen it probably, oh, hundreds of times. It’s my sick day movie, my Christmas movie, my sisters movie (the three of us have watched it together many a time) and my general comfort movie. I’ll never get sick of it. It’s so quotable, so loveable. Billy Crystal is a genius. It has everything. Also, as  teenager I of course wanted to look and act just like Meg Ryan (partly because she was married to Dennis Quaid, and I had a huge crush on him).

5. The Double Life of Veronique: Could Irene Jacob be any more fabulous? This is another movie I first saw when I was a teenager and fell in love with it (what is wrong with me? see below). I love stories involving doppelgangers. And I really love the cinematography – everything is so yummy and warm and candlelit-looking. There’s this one scene where Veronique comes home and opens a package in her hallway, and the sound of it is so wonderfully crinkly and full of promise – that whole scene gives me that lovely, dreamy soothed feeling, which I also get when I watch someone writing slowly on a chalkboard, or gently rummaging through a box full of pencil crayons (you know that feeling? I’m getting it just describing it!).

6. Big: There’s such an element of enchantment in Big. The idea of a child in the grown-up world, finding credibility and power by being in a man’s body, is so fascinating. Plus, his toy ideas were so cool. What kid didn’t watch that movie and think: hey, they should totally get kids to design toys. That would be awesome!

7. Hannah and Her Sisters: Woody Allen again. (I really am a huge Woody fan.) How much did I want Max von Sydow’s loft apartment, with the wall of books? This movie also started my love of e.e. cummings and my lifelong desire to go to New York City (still haven’t made it there – but one day I shall!).

8. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: I have the authentic 1986 poster in my living room, hanging over the TV. The tag line reads: “Leisure Rules.” That sums it up, I think. Young Ferris may have been a snot, but he sure knew how to have a good time.

9. Moulin Rouge: (Christy enters the modern period – this one was made in 2001!) I’m not usually a fan of big, loud, brassy musicals, but I could watch this all day. Maybe it’s because of Ewan McGregor and the way he smiles so passionately and gleefully when he sings. (Let’s face it, it is because of Ewan McGregor.)

10. Sideways: I loved how episodic this movie was, and also Paul Giamatti’s character Miles’s struggles to be recognized as a writer. And as if the part when “two tonnes of fun”‘s husband runs jigglingly, nakedly out to Miles’s car isn’t one of the funniest scenes in cinematic history. No matter what they say though, I’m a fan of merlot.

* The first five movies in this list have been my top three favourites since I was fourteen or fifteen. Is this a problem, I wonder? Looking at this list, it’s pretty much like I don’t think any good movies have been made since 1990. Either my tastes are solid and unwavering, or maybe I am mentally stuck in my early teens. Maybe the majority of these movies have stuck with me so vividly, so intensely, because I saw them during my most formative and influential years. I was so impressionable then, and now it takes something pretty darned spectacular to become one of my favourites. Hmmm… there must be some sort of developmental psychology theory behind that.

Oh, and there are three further movies that deserve an Honourable Mention as the Goerzen Girls’ (my sisters and I) most oft-quoted movies: Coming to America, Innerspace and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. “Just let your Soul Glow, feel it oh-so-silky smooth, just let it shine through…” “Gee, so tiny” “Bit of a knot there, Russ.” Something about them just stuck in our shared lexicon – we’ve been saying those same quotes for more than 20 years now!

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