Tag Archives: career

B.C. : the Basics

Last week my publisher, Dundurn, asked me to write up a little something for their blog about life in B.C. I’ve also posted it on my official ‘author blog’ but I suddenly realized it fits even better here:


Perched on a mountain in B.C.

Eight months ago I lived in the west end of Toronto in an old brick house with a yard so small I could cut the grass with scissors. Today I’m in a wood frame cottage surrounded by mossy trees, perched on the side of a mountain on Saltspring Island, B.C.

A bit of a change.

I haven’t been here very long but I’ve noticed a few basic things about British Columbia:

1.     It’s green. Freakishly green.

2.     And damp. If you stand still for too long moss will grow on you.

3.     Ravens’ wings make a loud whooshing sound.

4.     This is the only place where I have ever been asked in casual conversation if I own a chainsaw.

5.     Everyone backs into parking lot spots.

6.     Raccoons in the wild are only half the size of their cheezie-bloated Toronto cousins.

7.     Everyone’s got a bear story.

8.     Santa Claus travels by float plane.

Saltspring Island is a weird, unique little place, but in many ways it lives up to every B.C. cliché. Nobody is on time for anything. Nobody locks their cars, and many actually leave their keys in the ignition. The guy at the next table in the coffee shop could be a millionaire, or he could live in a cave. When you meet someone new here, you have absolutely no idea what outfield world-view they’re about to throw at you.

As for writing in B.C., I now stare out my office window at trees instead of buildings, and my concentration is shattered by ravens flapping around instead of sirens. My brain is still settling into the new rhythm. For a long time I found the energy of the city invigorating. The buzz and hum of people doing things – working, hustling, rushing about, and talking talking talking – carried me along for many years, but lately I realized that the city was just making me resentful, stressed and antsy.

I needed to find a quiet, green, bird-twittery hideaway and this place fits the bill. I don’t know much about the writing community in B.C. yet, though they tell me you can’t throw a rock on this island without hitting a writer. And I haven’t been here long enough to have a full B.C.-inspired novel in my head, but my next book will probably include at least one character covered in moss.

Step 13: A Symbolic Exit from the Fast Lane, Or: Bye bye Herman Miller chair!

farewell, swanky chair!

Oh boy I must have been flush the day I bought this $800 baby! Writing career in full flight, money coming in… I guess I thought it was time to work in style and comfort, and the fact that it was a total status symbol didn’t hurt any either.

These chairs were a common purchase during the dot-com bubble of the 1990s, a way to signify confidence and success to your clients, and when the bubble burst, briefly-used Herman Miller Aeron chairs hit Craigslists all over North America. Well, now my career bubble has burst and it’s time to sell off my chair.

Truth be told, since I gave up my desktop computer to work solely on a laptop, I found that I didn’t actually sit at my desk much – the sofa is much more inviting – so having a ridiculously large and posh desk chair no longer made sense. Besides, I don’t think I ever managed to adjust it correctly. And my daughter couldn’t use it, every time she crawled up into it the chair drifted slowly away from the desk and she couldn’t reach the floor to push herself back.

(I am rather chuffed, since I found a buyer for my Herman Miller – on Craigslist – and got a nice wad of cash for this, perhaps the only true luxury item I own. Owned, I mean.)