Thursday, January 28, 2010

Installment Seven: Saga of the Search for Speedy Internet

To get the full flavour, you gotta go at least skim Introduction, Installment One, Two, Three, Four, Five and Six. Really. Take my word for it.

So I'm making dinner and I'm not holding out much hope that I'll be called back even though Big Communications Corporation (BCC) Phone Guy has promised he would, because I've SO been there, when the phone rings.

It's hubby. I explain disappointment is nothing personal. Tap dance a little. Hang up.

I continue being amateur chef beating up on onions, garlic, red pepper, and sausage. Phone rings again.

It's Phone Guy! He says everything's all set but the only thing is, can Installation Setup Guy come on Friday? That's like in two days. I'm having company then: my sister and niece and nephew whom I haven't seen in awhile. I weigh options.

Too bad, the family will have to deal. (Actually, they'll probably be really happy Installation Setup Guy will be here while they're here if it means they'll never ever have to listen to my carping and whining about being on dialup ever again.)

So I agree to Friday for Installation Setup Guy, profusely thank BCC Phone Guy and hang up. I am happy but not ecstatic. Been too long, come too far. Something or other about counting chickens and hatching eggs.

So Installation Setup Guy Arrival day arrives. He himself arrives. Thoughtfully leaves his boots at the door. I show him computer and nearby phone jack. I leave him to work some magic. I join the family wreaking havoc upstairs when he pops his head in and asks if he can use the phone.

Gulp. Okay. Pass him the cordless.

I hear him talking, fiddling, doing some stuff. He calls me to the computer. Apologizes but says he was having some trouble getting the System Setup to recognize me.

Hah! Why am I not surprised? I say apologetically, "Uh, well, apparently we had to be added manually to The System, or something."

He nods sagely. He goes through the setup screens with me. Says we should be getting faster than what it's currently giving us but that he has to get a switch flicked at another location which he is not authorized to do himself (!?). He shows me lovely white router which he has unwrapped fresh from the box. Explains all about it. Patiently tells me about the filter doohickeys that now have to go on all phones all over the house. Says he has to go hook up Some Other Guy nearby now and leaves me his cell number in case of a problem.


So Installation Setup Guy puts his boots back on and leaves. Family and I play with the internet just a little to prove it works. I am giddy at the speed of things. Here! At Home! But it's the summer and the sun is calling so we leave for awhile. When we come back, the router is not working. No lovely green lights on it anymore. Red ones. Damn!!!

But I resist my urge to freak completely. I phone Installation Setup Guy's cell. He answers: "It's not working anymore, is it?"

"Right," I reply in a voice that I hope doesn't sound as squeaky to him as it does to me.

"No problem," he says. He tells me Big Communications Corporation has to change something at the main "office" box in Smalltown, and the guy who is authorized to do that can't do it until tomorrow. It should be all set by about noon.

Um, tomorrow is Saturday. I am skeptical but keep it to myself. I thank him politely and hang up. Saturday we are out at one of the many festivals this tourist region has to offer. We return home. I glance at lovely white router. It's got green lights on it!!!!!

So we play with the internet. We call up YouTube just because we CAN. We sample snippets of the top 10 iTunes tunes. We search for stuff on Google. We look at satellite images. We LOVE IT!!! I am not so sure what our data plan is, but I am not thinking about that right now. Right now, who cares?!

Then, a day or so later, the up-until-now mythical Return Kit arrives for portable plastic piece o' poo modem. Yay! I send it packing. Hah!

And then--

And then I get another package in the mail. BCC has sent me a lovely new white router in a shrink-wrapped box.


It is identical to lovely white router Installation Setup Guy already installationed. I look at new white router-in-box. I look at lovely white already-working router. I quietly place new white router-in-box on top of computer desk. I have determined my best course of action here: New white router-in-a-box collects dust. It makes a nice paperweight, really.

And there it remains to this day,
because I remain
at long, long, long last
a techno peasant
no longer.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Installment Six: Saga of the Search for Speedy Internet

See Introduction, One, Two, Three, Four and Five first. It makes this all that much better. Honestly!

Where we left off: I've just been told I can't return something I don't have in the first place, meaning that what I do need to return I can't return yet.

A week goes by before I get up the courage to phone Big Communications Corporation (BCC) again. I am not looking forward to explaining that I don’t have a g.d. rural modem, I just want to return this stupid portable plastic piece o' poo modem so I can get my money back. This time I get a guy who puts up with my initial stumbling and awkward attempts to describe the situation succinctly.

“So let me make sure I’ve got this right,” he says. “You had the technician out but he never left you a rural modem?”

“Yes!” I practically holler. Then I explain again about the one I do have.

Hey then says that technically, because I’ve had the portable modem for over 30 days, it usually means I’d have to keep it.

Stunned silence on my part.

Then I manage not to yell: “If you tell me that I have to keep it now, I’m going to have a brain hemorrhage.”

I seriously said that. Me!

"No," he says, "No problem." He can override that apprently.

I say, "So I’m not going to get a call later on saying I can’t have a return kit because you don’t take back rural modems?"

Nope, he says. He’s sending me out the return kit himself.

All right then. I’ll have to just take that as it is then, won't I?

"Is there anything else I can do?" the guy offers.

He’s being so friendly and helpful, I decide to go for it. I try to explain that I am looking for internet services and although BCC says I can have nothing but dialup my neighbours have DSL and when the tech was here he verified that I’m not on a loaded line even though the BCC database says I am and that I’m on the same cable 400whateverpointwhatever as the neighbours that do have DSL and that all that info had gone on to The Powers That Be but that I’d not heard anything since and what do I do now? (Or something to that effect.)

"Well," he says, "Would you like me to check on that for you?"

"Um, okay, yes thanks, that would be great," I manage to squeak out.

So I’m on hold. And on hold. Classical music, natch, but this time the volume has been set to an ear tolerating level. Thank god. Maybe someone else complained.

After a bit he comes back and says he has good news and some okay news. I try not to shout: What??

Fearing the worst, I brace myself for his answer. He says, yes, we can have DSL but we can only have some kinda minimum DSL lite service.

Excuse me? I got stopped processing after the part where he said I COULD have DSL. Did I just hear that right? So I fumble for something to say and manage, “Um, what is that service? Could you describe that for me please?”

He rather apologetically tells me the parameters, that it is only going to be about 1.5 mbps, and all I can think is: “Buddy, I’m workin' with 56k here!!!!!! WHO CARES?!?!”

"Would you like to sign up for that?" he asks.

I waffle for a second. (Remember I can't make snap decisions?) And then I decide to go for it.

So he taps some keys, taps some more, then asks if he can put me on hold again.

Ugh. You're kidding, I think. I'm positive this is not promising, but I say sure.

More classical music. I get a look at the time. Crap! Gotta start dinner. So I trap the cordless phone between my ear and shoulder in some sort of Quasimodo impression and start chopping up stuff for dinner.

The guy comes back on the line and says he's very sorry for the delay and could he keep me on hold for just a little longer. Uh, okay. Damn, why am I starting to think he's going to revoke that offer of highspeed internet lite with some sort of a "Ha ha, just kidding"? I take it out on the onions I'm chopping.

The guy comes back again. He apologizes yet again and says his system isn't allowing him to put in my request and that it will have to be done by some Other Branch of BCC and can he call me back.

Oh yes, you do hear a pin drop.

"Okay," I say meekly. I hang up. Sob. No wait, that was induced by the onions, I swear.

And so I remained
ever and ever still
a techo peasant.

[Go to Installment Seven]

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Installment Five: Saga of the Search for Speedy Internet

Catch up reading Intro, One, Two, Three, and Four first. K?
It makes this all the more painful. Trust me.

So I did my duty. I waited a month.

In fact, it was more than a month. It's now July. At about 6 weeks after my last contact with a real person, a real nice person in the form of Max the Technician Guy, over my eligibility for better-than-dialup internet, I phone the secret number. I get an auto-answering message. So I leave what I hope is a credible and understandable summary of the situation (yeah, I know, how to condense it all in 30 seconds? Not possible...but I tried).

No reply.

So more time goes by. Another week. I call again. Same message on the other end but I only leave my name and phone number.

More time.

I call again and hang up when I get the message. I try the put-in-your-number on the BCC website to see-what-services-you-can-have thing just for the helluvit, and its pronouncement is: Dialup.

Then it hits me that I still have this stupid useless hunk of a plastic piece o' poo modem sitting here. !! Wasn’t I supposed to get a return kit so I could send the thing back?

I call regular main BCC number. I explain that I want to return my portable internet modem, give my particulars, and "No I Am Not Going To Try Anything To Get It To Work Right Now," I say. Because I’ve been there.

Yep. So been there.

Then the guy says: "The System says you have a rural modem." So I explain that no, the technician came out but didn’t find a signal so we never got a rural modem.

Oh, fine, he will send out the kit then. Did I want anything else today?

I choke out the request for dialup. I get connected overseas. I hear that dialup will cost me $26 a month.

WHAT?! I am not amused.

The guys says, “But it’s unlimited.”

So???? It’s dialup. I kinda need to use the phone sometimes! (And on the most heavily used months on my current plan I’ve only gone over ONCE and even then I only paid $17.) I can’t deal with the whole thing so I hang up on the guy. Sorry.

That night there’s a message on my phone from some Christine. She says she sees here that we want to return a rural modem but they don’t do that--you have to take them down yourself and if I have any questions to please call.

I'm Speechless.

At a complete loss for words. I mean, I can hardly speak. In fact, I just can’t deal with it. I do not give her a call.

And so I remained
ever still
a techno peasant.

[Go to Installment Six]

Monday, January 25, 2010

Installment Four: Saga of the Search for Speedy Internet

 If you haven't already, go read Introduction, One, Two, and Three first. Really. It'll make your whole experience reading this so much better. Honest.

So systems at BCC (Big Communications Corporation) went down earlier in the day and my request couldn't be processed. I had to call back later. It's now later...

It's evening. Hubby has the hockey game on and I'm thinking, yawn, might as well make use of the time, so I call BCC. I go through the spiel, which I'm getting mighty damn good at by now, give my identifying info, and the guy asks am I sure I don't want the portable and I try not to yell:

IT WON'T WORK!!! Trust me!!!

So okay then, he explains the rural setup. I say, "Great--sign me up!" He takes my info, and mentions he can hear the hockey game in the background.

I tell him the score.

He says, "Oh, I want Pittsburg to win."

So does my hubby. It's a tie so I offer to keep him updated. He says he has to put me on hold to process my order.

I know the drill. LOUD classical music in one ear. LOUD NHL in the other. I hold my breath thinking that sure, there'll be some other server malfunction or something with all my luck.

Finally he comes back and says it's all set. He's explaining the next steps when whoever Pittsburg is playing scores to win with like 30 seconds left. Hubby curses LOUDLY. I tell the guy on the phone that on the slim chance he didn't catch that swearing in the background, Pittsburg just lost. He's bummed. Finishes the order and says have a nice day. I wish him the same.

 But I get a call the next day for my technician appointment, just like I was promised. Set one up. Okay, all's proceeding well.

Technician arrival day arrives. I get home after dropping kids off at school (daughter 2 had biking in gym class and needed her bike at school). I say good morning to technician guy who pretty much immediately says, "You're not going to like me much."

Crap. Not a good start.

He says he's not finding any signal. No signal at all. Nada. Squat. Zilch.

Hmmm, I think, maybe that would explain why the other damn modem wouldn't work? But I digress.

"So," he says, "have you ever thought about the mobile stick?"

I say I had but have never tried one. He says he has one on the computer in his truck and why don't we fire it up and test out the signal. Right-ee-o then. Let's do it.

So he turns on his machine and waits. And waits. "This isn't a good sign," he says. Some window comes up, he connects to the internet, and we wait. The page is loading...and loading.

Damn, this looks like dialup!

"Unfortunately," he says, "this isn't really worth it for you. It's fairly expensive and you're not getting much improvement. And it probably wouldn't even be as good inside."

I can't argue with that now, can I? Can I just cry instead?

But I'm reluctant to leave it on the total downer that obviously I am only good enough for dialup, or doomed to drop a serious chunk of change on a satellite system. So I ask him why then can the guy up the road have DSL and not me?

He says, "Well, this is hard to explain" but then goes into a really vivid and clear explanation of what a loaded line is and what a loader does so that even a techno pleeb like me gets it.

"But what if I happen to know, or have a pretty good idea, that I'm NOT on a loaded line even though BCC thinks I am?" I ask. I then explain that a couple years ago a dad of a friend of my daughter's checked out my phone and said it was not on a loaded line but that we were listed in the database as being on one. I did call customer service at that time and asked them to send someone out to check that officially, that I'd PAY them for the trip, but of course nothing ever happened. I just had no idea what to do from there.

"Well, let's test that out," he says. And he pulls out a meter and sticks it into my phone junction box and fiddles with it and finally reads the readout. "Humph, you're right," he says. "It's not loaded."

Woohoo! ... Now what?

He's thinking. He literally scratches his head. "This is going to require a lot of jumping through hoops," he says.

Why am I not surprised? But I'll do it! Anything! I practically plead.

He can't install that system, it has to be done by someone else and it all has to be approved and all, he says. He will phone his sales person and see what we come up as on The System. It'll take a few minutes.

So I go inside. Unload the dishwasher. He rings the doorbell.

He's found that we are listed as being on a loaded line on an unknown cable from their sales office. "Are you far from Smalltown?" he asks. "Is it like more than 8 km or anything?"

Uh, no. I am under 3km. Besides, I'm no farther away from it than the dudes up the road who DO have highspeed. All right, so I'm too wimpy to have actually verbalized that last sentence.

He says he'll put a call in to his supervisor about what to do now. He'll be back in a minute.

So I return to my stuff. He comes back. Wow.

What we have to do now is gather all the info, find out what cable I'm on, and if there are any neighbours who have DSL that would help, he tells me. Then that info will have to go "up the food chain," he says, "because they can't just give you DSL because Max says you can have it." He's Max, btw. He says the whole thing could take up to a month and is that okay? It's not going to be overnight.

"Max," I think, "I've been on dialup for 7 YEARS and if this doesn't work out, doing time on dialup is apparently all I've got to look forward to anyway, so SURE!" And actually, I do have my neighbours' with DSL phone numbers because I've looked into that before. I give him a few names plus numbers. He says that's a good start and he'll look into it.

Um, sorry for being skeptical, but I've been left hanging with the "I'll get back to you" line on this issue from all sorts of sources MORE TIMES THAN I CARE TO COUNT! I smile my hopefully most winningest smile and say, "Um, is it possible to get someone's number I could call if I haven't heard anything in a month?"

He thinks and then says okay. He gives me a number. Says please don't pass that on and give them time to look into it.

I swear I will. And I WILL!!! Wild dogs couldn't drag it outta me!!!

So he leaves. I have no better service. But I have Hope!

Then that afternoon I get a phone call. It's Max. He says he's found I'm on cable 400whateverpointwhatever and it is indeed the same one on which my neighbours have DSL.

Did he just say THE SAME ONE on which my NEIGHBOURS HAVE DSL!?!?! Holy! But I get ahold of myself. It means nada, squat, zilch for now.

He says all this information has been passed “up the food chain” and we'll wait to see what happens now.

Oh. My. God.

So I waited.

Would I ever be deemed worthy of attaining the tantalizing and heady online speeds that dangled just out of my reach? What was the judgment from the internet granting powers that be? That's best told in another installment.

And so I remained
ever still
a techno peasant.

[Go to Installment Five]

Friday, January 22, 2010

Installment Three: Saga of the Search for Speedy Internet

Wait! First go read Introduction, and Installments One and Two. Seriously. Do it.

Catch up: I'm trying to return a portable internet modem.

So the next day I call in, and give the whole damned spiel about needing to return my portable piece o' plastic poo otherwise known as a portable internet modem in favour of getting the rural internet setup.

The guy asks me if I tried--
"Yes!!!" I probably cut him off.

But I calmly explain I was told I could get the rural instead so please tell me about that. So he says he has to process my return kit. He gets some info from me, clicks some keys, and says can he put me on hold. I say sure, and am subjected to LOUD classical music.

He comes back and says okay, the return's on its way, now we can order the rural service. So he takes down more information and says can he put me on hold. I am tempted to say no just to see what sort of havoc that would wreak but resist the impulse.

Once again, yes, LOUD classical music assaults my ear. I wait and wait and wait. Then he comes back and says sorry for the wait and he has bad news.

I'm thinking, like what? The internet gods said I wasn't worthy????

He says their orders processing server went down for maintenance and my order wasn't processed, it has nothing to do with me or anything, and can I call back in a couple hours.

Uh, sure.
At least he didn't promise to call *me* back.

So I remained,
a techno peasant

[Go to Installment Four]

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Installment Two: Saga of the Search for Speedy Internet

(Go back and read Introduction and One first. Seriously.)

The saga of my quest for better than dialup continues....and I swear I'm not making any of this up.

Remember how we left off with the gal going to phone me back to see which service I'd like, the portable internet or rural internet? Guess what?

She never called back.

So the next day I called back. Of course it was an entirely new person and I went through the spiel of where I was at, saying I wanted to go with the rural modem. He started to talk me into portable, saying it was better: I could take it wherever I went, and it was faster than rural.

I paraphrase, but essentially express that frankly I could care less about taking it with me, it's here that I need the damned thing to work. And, well, how fast is rural anyway?

He says 2mbps.

I think, "Buddy, that's fast--I'm on DIALUP. Get it?!?!"

But he says to try the modem and he goes away to activate it. LOUD classical music blares into my ear. He comes back and says okay, plug it in now. He's so full of anticipation I can feel it through the phone. "What's it doing now?" he asks.

"The same endless tracking back and forth," I reply.

Then he asks me to plug in my computer. I say, "Well, I already packed all those cords up again but okay, I'll go unfurl everything and plug it into my computer."

Then he says, "What's it doing now?"

The same thing: Endlessly. Tracking. Back and forth.

So he says to try the northwest corner of my house.

"I already did that," I say. "But I'll do it again if it'll make you feel better." Okay, so I didn't actually speak that last sentence. I sure as hell thought it. So there I am trying the same damn rooms in my house again. "Are you supposed to wait while I do this?" I ask.

"Sort of," he says.

So there's no change in the endlessly tracking green lights after two locales. He says to try all the rooms in my house and he'll call back in a bit.

Um, yeah, sure. Whatever. So I hang up politely. I try the other couple rooms again just for the helluvit and to be a good sport and of course there's no difference.

Does he call back?


So I remained,
a techno peasant.

[Go to Installment Three]

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Saga of the Search for Speedy Internet: Installment One

I've already set up the background to my endless quest for better-than-dialup in my introduction to this sorry saga. And note that while I could have gone the satellite route, that was definitely an absolute last and worst case scenario. I was holding out for better.

It all began in mid April 2009. I decided that part of my problem was that I was an Unknown to Big Communications Corporation (BCC) responsible for doling out internet services. I'd been getting my dialup from an independent company and perhaps it was time I showed myself up on BCC's radar. So I decided to do just that. I drove 20 minutes to the BCC store to sign up for their damned dialup.

After waiting for my turn, I explained I wanted to sign up for their dialup service. Guy asks me if I wouldn't rather have something else. I couldn't help thinking, well Duh, but you won't let me. I express my doubts about my eligibility, but he takes my phone number and punches it in and says, "Well, um, yeah, that's right. Dialup."

No, really? Forgive my brain for dripping with sarcasm. Anyway, the guy then tells me they don't do that (sign you up for dialup) anymore at the store. He hands me a business card with a phone number scrawled on the back and says call this number.

So I drive home.

I call. And I get connected overseas. I listen really hard to the spiel about levels of dialup service and pick one. The guy is very nice and trying hard to be helpful. But then the guy asks me don't I want faster service than that?

Hell yeah, but you people keep telling me I can't have anything else!!!

Guy says, "No, you can have [redacted name of portable wireless service that may or may not start with 'W']."

So I ask if he's sure about that. He says, "Well, you get cell service right? You use a cell phone?"

Yes, we do.

He says, "Then sure you can have it, no problem." He goes through the spiel on those service and price levels and I waffle a bit, think, then say well okay then, send it on over. What the crap am I waffling for??? (Did I mention I hate making snap decisions?)

So it arrives. I am too busy to deal with it that day. The next day I pull the big ugly modem out of the box and plug it in according to the directions in the lovely setup booklet. I carefully align the modem with the logo side facing in and the back towards a window.  I plug it in to the electric outlet and I hold my breath and wait. No signal. Endless blinking of the green lights as they track back and forth looking for a signal. Book says to try another room in the house.

So I do.
All of them!!! Except the damn bathrooms.
Nothing. Big plastic piece o' poo!!!

I get on the phone to find out how to return the damn thing and get my 99 bucks back. The lady says she'll look me up to find my closest tower.

I'm like, why? But what the hell, I wait. I wait more. She puts me on hold. Some really LOUD classical music tries to calm me down or something. She comes back and says the tower is towards the northeast corner of my house.

Like I know where that is??!!

Okay, so I figure it out after a moment. I go up and try, with her on the line. I had already tried this room but I'll try the other window, which involves moving furniture to find an electrical outlet. Did I mention hubby is out? Anyway, I plug it in. We wait. I watch the lights track back and forth endlessly once again.

So then she says, "Well, you could try rural internet instead if you want."

HUNH??? Why do I get all these options all of a sudden???

But I ask, "What is that?" Apparently it's a modem they stick on the outside of your house and a cable goes inside to your computer and the technician doesn't leave until it's working or you don't have to pay for it. That's a few more coins a month, of course. Figures. But she says no problem, I can get it, cause I'm 5km from the tower and you have to be within 15km.

So I waffle, I think, and did I mention I hate being pressured for a snap decision--any decision? So I asked her to tell me about the service and she goes away to process something like the credit for my current piece o' poo and I listen to some really LOUD classical music. All of a sudden she comes back and says while she's looking into my account she realizes that my modem won't work because it hasn't been activated, and do I want her to activate it.

Did I mention I hate making decisions under pressure? So I ask her which service is better, rural or the portable thing I have that might yet possibly maybe but no guarantee work if it's activated. She says the rural is better because it's faster. But seems to me I recall choosing the slower of the two portable options I could have chosen and now I'm so damn confused I can't think straight.

Oh, and the girls are now having a fight about the chess game they are attempting to play incorrectly.

And I'm just behaving like an airhead. So she offers to call me tomorrow and see what I want. Thank god.

So I remained a techno peasant.

[Go to Installment Two]

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Search for Speedy Internet Service: A Saga

January's not over yet, so I figure I still have time to squeak in another one of those retrospective type posts, right?

I already mentioned the best thing for me in my professional writing life in 2009. What about the second best thing? That has to be Getting High Speed Internet Service. Yes, complete with capitals and italics. Why was this such a big deal?

Um, imagine trying to blog, set up and maintain a website, work with an editor at a book packager to send and retrieve photo selections, send manuscripts, send and receive documents with tracked changes, and download pdfs for final editing all on DIALUP! And I should mention that all that needs to be done while SHARING a single telephone and internet line with your hubby who also runs a business out of the home. !!!

Okay, so I mostly didn't do all that on dialup. I left the building, so long as I could work around the family schedule, and made use of public libraries and the local coffee house and the rec centre which all offered free WiFi. Thank god for their existence and may they be handsomely patronized and thrive forever and ever amen is all I have to say on that.

The ability to do all I need to do to keep up and keep on from my own home work space has made my life a whole lot easier. I count myself very, very fortunate. But you can be forgiven for wondering why I'm going on and on about this. Couldn't I just sign up for better internet?


I tried for years, like at least 5 of them, to get better than dialup service. The answer was always no, sorry, you're not in an area where we can offer that service.

This didn't make any sense whatsoever to me. I had people who had highspeed internet to the left of me, people who had highspeed internet to the right of me. And yet I, apparently, was not eligible. I was not worthy. But I could not wrap my head around that, especially when there is only one wire that GOES RIGHT BY MY HOUSE?!

Okay, so I have no real leg to stand on when it comes to technological know-how. It just seemed bizarre. Yes, I live in the boonies, but I'm a main road boony resident not a backroad boony resident. And it was the way I was being denied when my neighbours were not that irked me so much.

So I called every 6 months to ask, politely, if I could sign up. I'd get a junkmail flyer proudly announcing some new internet service or package available NOW in my area. I'd call or I'd fill out the form on the internet with my details. I always got the same result: Nope, sorry, enjoy your dialup.

But one day...

Well, this is getting rather long, isn't it? In fact, it's a pretty long story overall. It's a Saga, I'm not kidding. But I promise it's pretty entertaining, especially if you've ever tried to talk to a big Corporate Conglomerate about anything.

I'll start the installments tomorrow.

[Go directly to Installment One]

Friday, January 15, 2010

Stephen Leacock Said it Best

I'm feeling decidedly Lord Ronaldish this week. Who the heck is that? He's this fictional guy:
"Lord Ronald said nothing; he flung himself from the room, flung himself upon his horse and rode madly off in all directions."  (Stephen Leacock, Gertrude the Governess: or, Simple Seventeen)
I'm now a couple weeks into the new year and I'm between work-for-hire writing projects. I should be ecstatic! I should be gleefully ticking things off my colossal to-do list. But instead I'm feeling some sort of confusion at all the seemingly endless possibilities. I feel like I could go riding madly off in a whole bunch of directions, and I don't know which damned direction would be best.

As I was sitting here, trying to figure out what to do next, a vague recollection of that Stephen Leacock quote popped into my head. Wanting to be sure I got it right, I Googled the approximate phrase and Mr Leackock's name, and presto! There was the citation I needed. I found my copy of the book Laugh with Leacock and there it was.

Hmmm, all that was decidedly NOT on my to-do list.

I think after living 2009 under the pressure of almost constant deadlines, this little breather is freaking me out. So where should I start? It's just a little breather, really. It will be coming to an end shortly--

Excuse me while I go fling myself onto my horse and, well, you already know the rest now, don't you?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Keeping up with...Myself

Like most writers, I keep an archive of at least one copy of everything of mine that's been published. So, in a sudden fit of organization the other day, I realized that I've not yet seen the Babybug issue with the reprint of my poetic story "Fall Fun" in it.

I poked around the internet (what did we ever do before it?) and think this is the cover of the issue, October 2009. Lovely cover, lovely magazine.

My own kids loved this magazine as babies/toddlers. For now I will enjoy this virtual edition in hopes I'll get a real copy soon. And yes, that is a friendly hint to the appropriate powers that be. :>

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Big Belated Book Week Thank You

I admit it: I mostly avoided my computer over the holidays. I think I needed the break. Either that or it was just so darned hard to find it on my desk, practically buried with papers and cluttered with miscellaneous office type crap, that really needed to be tidied before anything else happened. So it just didn't happen.

My first post of 2010 will look back on 2009 and give a big belated Thank You for the biggest thing to happen to me in my writing life: You know that has to be the TD Grade One Giveaway. I've been remiss in not doing up a roundup before now.

The whole experience was something not likely to be duplicated for me, ever again. It's hard to put it all into words (and isn't that a bit ironic?). It's not just that my book was given to so many Canadian kids...

It's not just that I got to tour southern Ontario with the book's illustrator, Scot Ritchie...

And it's not just that I got to see my book cover and name in huge type behind the TD bank president's head at a big publishing industry gala with free hors d'oeuvres and cocktails...

But all those things were excellent!

Writers mostly write alone, you know? I'm holed up in my little office (or really my supposed-to-be-a-dining-room writing space) trying to create something that fascinates me while hoping I'm not completely off my rocker and that someone else would also like to read it and in fact actually pay money to do that. Then I found out that the book's been chosen for this program that enabled it to reach EVERY grade one child in Canada. How do you wrap your head around that? The TD and the Canadian Children's Book Centre do an amazing job supporting Canadian book creators and literacy for Canadian kids. Thank you to them!

The schools and libraries Scot and I visited all Book Week were welcoming without exception, and the grade one audiences were always terrific, playing along with our action games and listening to the process of how I wrote the book and how Scot illustrated it.

Some public schools wore uniforms, some did not. Some schools were new and some were old. Some schools were small and some were, well, HUGE. (We went to the largest elementary school in North America and saw all approximately 240 grade one students. Yes, three groups of 80 kids back-to-back!) Quite a few of the schools had done a lot of work talking about the history of transportation and then displayed their work around the school. That was awesome to see!

As an unexpected bonus, we received some lovely hardware,

and some beautiful, er, software...?

Thank you to all who hosted us!

Scot and I got to and around the five cities by train and taxi. Given that the book is about transportation, it was quite appropriate to be using a couple different types of transportation while talking about that topic. I recorded some of the sights seen from the train each night during the tour here on the blog. They're filed under the Book Week 09 label.

Overall the opportunity to connect with all those kids made a big impression on me personally. And I think it was wonderful for those kids to see that an author and an illustrator are just regular people. We don't sit down and write or sketch something perfect the first time around. We work hard at revising our words and our pictures just the way they do when they write and draw.

To see the connections made between the book, the audience, the topic, the Thank you for Book Week, book publishers, book creators, book readers, book supporters, and books everywhere!