Monthly Archives: March 2012

5 Tips for Juggling Life Roles

Sometimes I feel like I’m juggling hats. (Or juggling geese, take your pick.) You know the feeling, I’m sure.

There’s the job I do during the day, which involves thinking and typing and doing things with words. I sit in a cubicle, drink at the water cooler, and wear office-appropriate clothing.

There’s the job I do at Turtleduck Press…actually two jobs, if you count being the head editor as separate from being one of the authors in our co-op model. That also requires a small-business hat and a collaborative mindset. (Shameless plug: I’m blogging over there this week about fanfiction, cosplay, and other geeky crafts.)

There’s Being A Writer — which includes social media, critiquing other writers’ work and getting my own work critiqued, reading fiction and non-fiction and blogs to expand my knowledge…oh yeah, and actually writing (and the other parts of the process, like research and planning and editing). And I haven’t even gotten to the part about submitting to slush piles or doing the tech stuff necessary for self-publishing online.

There are a couple of big events that are coming up in my life and require much research and planning (more about those another time).

Plus making sure there’s food in the fridge and clean socks in the drawer, and how long has it been since I vacuumed? And I also need time to veg out and hang with loved ones and move my body and pursue other hobbies and remember that a “me” exists apart from what I’ve already mentioned.

I don’t have kids or pets to take care of (yet!), but I know many of you do.

I can handle wearing two hats in a day. In fact, I don’t know what to do with myself otherwise. It’s when they start to multiply that I run into trouble. One day late last year, I had a hectic day at work, then squeaked in a visit to a house for sale, then spent a couple of hours at my writers’ group. By the time I got home, I didn’t know who I was supposed to be.

Here are some things I do to keep all my hats in the air (wait, this metaphor has seen better days):

  • Make lists. Lots and lots of lists. That way you’re not stressing out trying to keep everything in your head. Shorter is better so you have half a chance of crossing everything off.
  • Use downtime. On my lunch hour, I can usually be found with a netbook or a printout in front of me. Most of my reading happens on the subway.
  • Be imperfect. Sure, I’d like my home to be clean all the time and my stories to be polished within an inch of their lives before I turn them in to my critique group, but it’s never going to happen.
  • Feed your soul. I do yoga to practice being mindful. I knit to create something that’s concrete and doesn’t have all the pressure attached. When I’m being good to myself, I go for walks.
  • Remember to play. I could get more done if I didn’t go dancing every couple of weeks. Sometimes I wish I could train myself not to need vegging-out time. But that stuff’s important too.

I try to remember to do all these things, but it’s hard, and I’m always looking for more ways to get more done, I mean achieve balance. Okay, maybe both. So I’m opening it up to you.

Update: For a good article on “using downtime”, see How to Publish Daily When You Have a 9-5 Job. He’s talking about blogging, but you could use his suggestions for a variety of different hats.

For more on juggling and “being imperfect”, try FlyLady. My favourite tip from her is to set a timer. She says, “You can do anything for 15 minutes.”

What’s your best tip for juggling hats (or geese) without losing your mind?

Book Nostalgia: The Time Quartet by Madeleine L’Engle

Like many of us, I devoured a lot of books when I was young. More than a few of them have become books that I can’t look at with any sort of objectivity now, books whose words are still lodged deep in my brain. A reread might show that they’ve been visited by the Suck Fairy. Yet they might still hold some of the emotional power that grabbed me so strongly back then. This post is the first in a series that looks back at some of my favourites.

First up is Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quartet – A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and Many Waters. (I haven’t read any of her books about the next generation of Murry-O’Keefes, or the fifth book that made the original series into the Time Quintet.) I reread the original four, and was struck by what I remembered and how it shifted.

The first two are Meg’s books, and they’ve become my favourites. Meg, the awkward, bespectacled girl, was someone I identified with very strongly. I was fascinated by the subgenre of science fantasy, in which ~magic, space travel, science, and classical evil are juxtaposed – one reason why I loved Diane Duane‘s Young Wizards series as well. While I generally prefer antagonists with believable, human reasons for doing what they do, the Echthroi are damn creepy, and Meg’s standing up to them in each of these two stories (to save Charles Wallace in both, plus her father in the first and her hated school principal in the second) rings of fairy-tale heroism in the best way.

I’m going to skip to Many Waters, which I remember being confused by, and my recent reread confirms that impression. The pre-Flood world, with its seraphim, nephilim, and miniature mammoths, is a strange place, and what little we see of it doesn’t convey the level of evil I would have expected to make the Flood necessary. There’s also not a lot of plot or character development; Sandy and Dennys spend most of the book waiting around or gardening or worrying about the flood, and they return to their world in much the same state as when they left it. (Tip of the hat to Narnia here, in which the Pevensies spend years as kings and queens and then go back to being children – something that was pretty much left out of the books, much as I love them, but explored very nicely in the recent films.)

A Swiftly Tilting Planet coverA Swiftly Tilting Planet [ASTP] is the one I have the most complicated relationship with. When I first read it, it was hands-down my favourite – time travel, destinies, exotic locales, wordplay with names, and unicorns, oh my! (Lloyd Alexander’s The First Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha tickled my fancy in the same way. It was my favourite of his until the Westmark trilogy took over – I was also a sucker for princesses posing as beggars.) But in my recent reread, I was highly disappointed to find a passive protagonist who’s just along for the ride – which I realize is the point, but it doesn’t make for gripping reading – plus some uncomfortable hints of racism and the “Noble Savage”. The Suck Fairy was at work.

At the same time, ASTP still holds seriously powerful writing. L’Engle’s lyrical prose, in this book particularly but also in the preceding two, made such a huge impression on me as a child that rereading it felt like unearthing hidden corners of my brain. (It’s in there so deeply that I have to assume my own prose has been influenced by it. Or at least I can hope!) Same goes for some of the sequences – the Murrys holding hands and singing “Dona Nobis Pacem” as a desperate prayer for peace, the sections where Charles Wallace is trapped in the brain-damaged Chuck, the gradual redemption of “Beezie”, and of course the wonderful rune. There are some things that the Suck Fairy just can’t touch.


For another take on rereading the Time Quartet and L’Engle’s other books, see The Madeleine L’Engle Reread on


Have you reread any of these books or another childhood favourite as an adult? How did it hold up? If the Suck Fairy visited, which parts did she leave untouched?

Weekly Roundup

book news

The micropress I’m a part of, Turtleduck Press, is gearing up for a new novel release next month. You can get a sneak peak at the main character, Joss, in a free short story called Fanged Bunny Slippers and on the latest blog post by his author, KD Sarge. (Previously in Joss news on this blog: Queen’s Man cover art revealed.)

general geekery and science

Some gorgeous book art (via Jennifer Crusie).

Science! A graphic from the BBC shows just how deep the ocean is and what to expect at each level (also via Crusie, who is a font of cool stuff).

Good article from Nerd Caliber on racism and cosplayers of color.

Linguistic geekery: why African click languages sound so odd to English speakers even though we click too (via Juliette Wade).

inspiring: home edition

Elaine Smothers blogs about beautiful and eco-friendly cob homes.

Goddess Leonie blogs about letting go of the old to make space for the new.

A blog devoted to myth- and fairy tale-inspired homes answers the question: why decorate your home that way? Favourite bit:

And for those of us who have to hide our dreaming souls during the work day, having a place to come to that is all about art and creativity and storytelling and wonder and imagination and myth and fairy tales (I get excited just writing all those words in a row) is essential to our well being.

for writers (and interested third parties)

Writer Unboxed has a great post on social media and the personas we create (by Porter Anderson).

Megan Crewe talks about her long and bumpy journey from her debut novel to her second (published) novel.


That’s all for now. Have a wonderful weekend, and I’ll see you back here on Monday!