Sunday, October 25, 2009

A call for writers to participate

Lovely Readers,

If you write, please take a few minutes to fill out my questionnaire available in the post: Why do you write? It's all for the sake of curiosity, which thankfully will not kill me (i.e. I am not a cat).

Many thanks.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Five years ago today

Five years ago today, Andrew and I were married at St. Aloysius Church in Kitchener, Ontario. I don't want to spend much time reminiscing about the wedding, as those of you who were there probably remember, and those who weren't, probably don't much care. I do want to say that we have amazing friends and family. We had a relatively low-budget wedding thanks to the talents of the people we knew. Our families provided the music, friends did the photography and food, and other people surprisingly pitched in (such as ushering) when we didn't expect it.

Now Andrew and I live in Edmonton, far away from many of those people. It makes us sad at times that we get to see the people we care about so infrequently, but we've had great opportunities here that we probably wouldn't have had in Ontario. We've also celebrated every one of our wedding anniversaries here. Last year I recall I was rather frazzled over a school homework question (503) and actually postponed celebrations because I had skating that night. Today Andrew and I are both at our respective offices, but we'll go out for dinner tonight.

I count my blessing that Andrew and I met at FASS in January of 2000. I don't know where I'd be, or what I'd be doing with out him, and I'd rather not find out. He supports me in my writing efforts, and although I'm far too old to ever become a star figure skater he supports me in my endeavours there too. He sings For Good with me whenever I play it on the piano and dances with me at other people's weddings. I would never boast that our relationship is perfect, but it's pretty darn good. I love you, Andrew, and I look forward to spending many more years together.



Monday, October 19, 2009

Melodramatic evening

Friday evening Andrew and I attended a dinner theatre event at Fort Edmonton Park. We decided this would be a part of our wedding anniversary celebrations this year. I can't quite remember how I stumbled upon the advertisement for the show, but I think I was poking around the City of Edmonton Website when I found it.

The show was preceded by a four-course meal (soup, salad, entree and desert). I hadn't been inside the Hotel Selkirk, the 1930s period hotel that runs in the Park, before. We both enjoyed the architecture of the old building, with it's fancy woodwork, antique items on display, and the bar was long and narrow like how you might expect in a old-fashion saloon to be built. We also enjoyed the dinner, starting with parsnip and apple soup--one of the few encounters I've had with parsnip that I actually found pleasing. Everyone at the table agreed the soup was sweet with either a hint of nutmeg or cinnamon. The salad was actually more like an antipasto, with grilled (but cooled) vegetables in a vinaigrette, then dinner was either duck or beef. Andrew and I both like duck, so we were happy to take that option, but a couple of other people pointed out that it might have been nice to have a third option of chicken. Desert was a little tricky. It was a frozen almond mousse, which really was frozen solid. Numerous people sent little bits of desert flying as they tried to dig it out of the dish. The mousse was definitely the least spectacular portion of the meal, but I still liked it well enough to finish it off.

The theatre part of the evening took place in the fire hall located across the road from the hotel. The play was a farcical, "slamming-doors" style production, where the idea was that the 5 actors in the play didn't know the others were staying in the abandoned hotel. Unfortunately, the only other "slamming-doors" style play I've seen is Noises Off, which I absolutely love, and so I felt this one paled in comparison. Also, a couple of lines/ideas were blatantly ripped-off ("I have a thing about violence, it makes my nose bleed. I also have a thing about blood..." (Freddy faints), Noises Off). Regardless of my thoughts about the writing, I thought the actors were quite good, better than the material in my opinion. They were very energetic, and the one actor who became "possessed" by a ghost did an excellent job.

Overall, it was a fun evening and would recommend it to others.



Friday, October 16, 2009

A call for writers to participate

Lovely Readers,

If you write, please take a few minutes to fill out my questionnaire available in the previous post. It's all for the sake of curiosity, which thankfully will not kill me (i.e. I am not a cat).

Many thanks.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Why do you write?

I was skimming a few articles about parents of children with cancer (I know, very uplifting) and one of the articles discussed a writing technique used to help parents cope with their children's illness. The articles were for my health communication course, but as my afternoon progressed, two unrelated (to the course) thoughts came to mind. One, was that it might be interesting to write a story that featured a dying child as the protagonist, and two, why do people write...I mean other than to get published? In the spirit of research and my progression into PhDland I thought I might conduct an informal research project through my blog to investigate why people write.

If you write (I mean as a past time, not for class or work) I would appreciate it if you took a few minutes to answer the questions below. Your responses only need to be a few sentences per question. It doesn't matter whether you write prose or poetry. You can post your responses through the comments section of my blog, through Facebook, or through email: pegraelian(at)gmail(dot)com. I'll use the responses I receive to write a journal-like article discussing any themes I find. Since this isn't an official research study I will just use your real name unless you ask me to do otherwise. Please respond by November 1st.

Questionnaire: Why do you write?
If you do not have time to answer all of my questions, or do not know how to answer a question, please skip it and send me as many responses as you can.

1) When did you start writing as a past time?
2) What kind of stories/poetry do you like to write?
3) What do you like about writing?
4) What makes you "feel" like writing?
5) What kind of emotions do you experience when you write?
6) What is your writing space like?
7) Are there any particular types of characters or themes you like to write about? If so, please describe. If not, why not?
8) Is there anything else you'd like to add?

My Responses

1) I can recall enjoying to write as far back as grade 4. I used to write stories about a group of worms who formed a rock band (not The Arrogant Worms). I also recall writing a Christmas play for the kids at church one year when I was quite young. It was from the point of view of the stable animals.

2) I generally write speculative fiction or "light fantasy" (I don't do magic or creatures). There's usually a romantic aspect--I can't help myself.

3) Writing is my main creative outlet (for some reason I am completely uninterested in creating my own sewing or knitting patterns). I like creating worlds and characters, although often the worlds aren't much different from the current world we live on. I like to tell stories. When I tell stories in real life I try to be as factual as possible, without exaggeration, but when I write that changes. I like to entertain people and if I hear someone laugh at something I wrote I always want to know what triggered their response.

4) Fantasy movies and books often put me in the mood to write, especially if they're similar in someway to the story I'm working on. Music, primarily classical music that's very romantic, with huge swelling passages with heavy strings (think Jupiter from The Planets) often inspires me. I sometimes put on the soundtrack from the first Harry Potter because it helps me think, I too might one day achieve my goal of publication. Sometimes the weather can also do the trick, like a good crisp fall day.

5) I'm usually very excited when I write, especially when I'm working on a part I've got well planned out. I balled once when I wrote short story about a couple who experienced a still birth.

6) I write at home on a desktop at a corner desk, so I face the wall. I'd like to change that so I could look out a window. Music is almost always playing. Sometimes I write by hand in class when the teacher/subject is not very interesting.

7) My main protagonists are always female. I try to make them smart and capable of solving much of the story's problem on their own; however, I don't like invincible characters who can do everything themselves, so a healthy dose of uncertainty usually plagues them as well. I try to make sure my characters are smart (such as Nora, who is deaf, but wants to be a scientist) to promote a good image for potential readers who are likely to be young girls.

8) I do want to publish my manuscripts one day, but that goal is not the driving force behind my writing. If it was, I would probably never write as I have yet to experience success. I feel "down" and incomplete when I don't have time to write as much as I'd like. Writing is an important part of who I am.

Thanks in advance to all of you who take the time to respond!



Thursday, October 8, 2009

Musical mayhem

I wrote a quickie blog entery a few days ago to say I would update my blog "soon". Several days have passed since I made that promise, so I figured I'd better get typing before I found myself a week behind, which could easily slide into two or three or four weeks behind. Then I might lapse into complete neglect of my blog and that would be sad. Not that I think there are many readers of this tiny space on the vast Web of blinking lights and cables, but I actually kind of enjoy saying my little piece once a week and I'd hate to give it up. Unfortunately there isn't much time for writing of any kind these days, but that's a different matter.

The Drowsy Chaparone

I've wanted to see the Drowsy Chaparone since I first heard it discussed a few years ago on the CBC (before the format change). It intrigued me because the show began as a gift at a stag party, then was redeveloped and preformed at the Toronto Fringe Festival where it was picked up by Mirvish Productions and developed into a full-out musical.

What makes the The Drowsy Chaparone different is that it's meta-fiction, narrated by a contemporary "Man in Chair" as he leads the audience through a record recording of the 1920's musical: The Drowsy Chaparone. The forth wall is completely demolished (even though he begins the show by espousing about how much he hates it when shows brake the fourth wall) as Man in Chair gives the audience he opinions about various musical numbers, the actors, general comments on musicals etc. The shtick of the musical being a recording is incorporated effectively into the show, including amusing "re-enactments" of certain scenes as if they were being replayed on the record, and beginning the second half of the show with "the wrong record" on the player.

I thought the Citadel production was well done. The Man in the Chair, was especially good (important since he carries the show) and it was interesting to watch his reactions to the musical, even when he wasn't apart of the main action. The singers all had strong voices, particularly Trix, the Aviatrix (whose part was quite small) and there were a couple of tap-dancing numbers (which I always enjoy). The costumes were very colourful--as would be expected for a musical set in the roaring 1920's. And the small musical ensemble (which was on stage, positioned under a gazebo) were also quite good. As we walked home Andrew and I sung and re-quoted bits of the show. Although I found The Drowsy Chaparone thoroughly entertaining (it's quite funny, too) it's not quite as engaging as some of the other shows I've seen such as Wicked. Both times I've seen Wicked I've walked away with a wispy, longing sort of feeling, but that didn't occur with this show. I would hazard to guess that has to do with the fact that it's more "realistic" and a bit silly, really.

Pro Coro and the Pre-Tenors

On Sunday afternoon my friend Mandy and I attended the Pro Coro concert (she had scored free tickets through her supervisor). This was my first time attending a Pro Coro event and was surprised to find that it's a small ensemble--only 4 singers per part. They're a professional choir, that requires audition every year (even from singers who have been in the choir in previous years) so as you might be able to imagine, they're quite good. Much of what they sang was a cappella. I was particularly interested in the last piece they performed in the first half. It was by Leonard Bernstein titled, The Lark, which is incidental music for a play by the same name about Jeanne d'Arc. It included a solo for countertenor. I've heard this particular countertenor sing before, but it's always a little disconcerting to hear a man sing that high.

The second half of the show was a tribute/spoof of the Three Tenors, by a trio known as the Pre-Tenors. First of all, the singers were excellent--in both their singing and their comedic acting abilities. The pianist came out first and was shortly after joined by "Placido Domingo" and "Jose Carreras." "Luciano Pavarotti" appeared shortly there after (carrying his trademark handkerchief), but paused at the stairs to the stage. After a couple of attempts to mount the stairs on his own, the other tenors came over to help him (one pushing, one pulling) and the show continued. The Pre-Tenors sang many of the operatic pieces for which the Three Tenors are famous for, accentuated with much clowning around. Pavarotti was constantly eating throughout the show. I'm not sure where the first french loaf materialized from, but it was followed by celery, liquorish (which was passed out to the audience), gum and a can of Pringles (also sent to the audience). Poor Carreras (the tenor nobody ever remembers) was often the butt of Pavarotti's jokes, while Domingo was frequently busying himself with combing his hair or flossing.

One of my favourite quotations from the afternoon went something like this: "We're going to sing from the well known American musical written by Andrew Lloyd Weber, Oklahoma." Then the pianist broke into music from West Side Story.

In other news: Skating

I had my first skating lesson of the season (adult ice with Ice Palace F.S.C. only started this week). I got new skates in April with money I received for my birthday. I've been struggling with them all spring and summer, not feeling completely comfortable in them and wondering whether or not the expense was worth it. After watching me do some basic one-foot spins my coach told me that there was definite improvement in my spinning--it made me feel much better about buying the new skates. Also, the plan for the year is to work towards my Junior Bronze Freeskate. The elements are: flip, lutz, axel or wally, loop/loop combination, backspin and flying spin. The big challenges are going to be axel (I have landed some in the past, but a) not since getting back into skating, and b) my technique needs serious work) and my spins. Hopefully starting to work on them now will be enough to get me ready by March. I'll be finishing off my Preliminary Freeskate too, which requires a program. I'm happy to be having lessons again.

Here endth the blog post.



Monday, October 5, 2009

Place holder post

My dear little blog (and my little circle of readers), I have not forgotten you. I have been busy (and sick) and have not had a chance to write about my weekend experiences yet. I will post something soon, although maybe not until tomorrow...I saw The Drowsy Chaparone at the Citadel Theatre on Saturday night and ProCoro Sunday afternoon.

Until I next find the chance to write,