Tag Archives: writing

2016: Ready, set, go!

Late in December, I spent some time thinking about my priorities for 2016 and the areas I wanted to focus on. On a whim (and on sale), I’d bought a couple of notebooks from the National Gallery of Canada and I knew immediately how I’d put them to use.

The first is my organization journal. It’s divided into six sections, one for each of my focus areas: Home Organization and Decor; Writing; Genealogy; Reading; Creativity; and Estate Planning. I roughly divided the book into six sections and am using each section to organize my to-do lists, next steps, notes, etc.

  1. For Home Organization and Decor, I am starting with the 52 Weeks to an Organized Home challenge. It gives me manageable chunks of work to do each day and I’m already seeing excellent improvements (it starts with the kitchen.) It will also include the things we need to do around the house (recovering furniture, any purchases, and maybe a kitchen reno, although I’ll need a whole new notebook if that goes ahead. Get the plan here: Free 2016 Printable Declutter Calendar: 15 Minute Daily Missions

  2. In the Writing section, I’m happy to say that I have started Sarah Selecky’s Story Course to kick-start my writing practice. It’s a series of five detailed lessons on short-story writing, with a lot of exercises, reading, and thinking involved in each one. I am also using her daily writing prompts on days that I don’t work on a lesson. Most daily sessions of writing are 10-20 minutes of “free-writing” and I’m happy to say that I’ve written all thirteen days of the year so far, in the second notebook of my purchase. If you’re interested in something like this, check it out here.

  3. My third focus area is Genealogy. I’ve been working on my family history for years and my online tree is huge. The problem is, I haven’t always been as critical as I could about links that I find and I don’t know how accurate all my data is. At the same time, Ancestry has announced that in the next year or so it will stop supporting its software Family Tree Maker, which is what I’ve been using to keep my info on my computer. It syncs to the Ancestry trees in the cloud, and everything was working fine. I have decided to move to another computer-based genealogy package called Roots Magic.
    So I am taking this confluence of events to follow
    Thomas MacEntee’s Genealogy Do-Over. This (free) program guides you through starting over with your genealogy, putting aside everything you’ve done before (except for source documents), and doing everything properly (especially source citations.) I’ve purchased Roots Magic and MacEntee’s workbook (not required, but useful for me) and am thinking about what practices I want to use going forward, before I enter one single name or date into Roots Magic.
  4. My fourth focus area is Reading. Each year I participate in a number of reading challenges, plus I’m in a book club and a books-on-film series at TIFF, so I need to juggle books to meet deadlines. This section of the journal will help me with that. I’ve printed and pasted a couple of reading challenge diagrams into it already. But I’m also including in this section reading I do for other learning. For example, I’ve started a course on the Microbiome through Coursera, and while most of the work is online, I’m using this area to remind myself of deadlines and rough out assignments. Finally, Goodreads takes care of my reading lists and reviews and stats.
  5. Next we have the Creativity section. This is an area of my life that I enjoy but I have been lax about actually turning out any creative (or not so creative work.) I now have my own studio space that is pretty organized (thanks to uber-organizer Rosalind at Simply Home) but I still have some things from the basement that need to be brought upstairs. I have a pile of mending/alterations that need to be done and some jewellry to be repaired, and then I want to get on to my own creative work.
  6. Last, but not least in my brain (although possibly least in my heart) is Estate Planning. The big “R” word is starting to be heard more around here and so we need to get our financial ducks in order. We have a new investment manager at the firm we’re with and there will be lots of paperwork over the next month or so as we get a plan in place for the last third of our lives. Also taxes. And up-to-date wills. These all have to move to the front-burner this year and I’m the one who has to drive it.

This kind of planning has proven really useful, even halfway into the first month of the year. It helps me to keep on track and always know what I want (or need) to do next in each focus area. I plan to blog separately about some of these endeavours as I make progress on them. Stay tuned.

Nino Ricci’s Open Letter to Globe & Mail

The following is an open letter addressed to The Globe and Mail‘s editor-in-chief, John Stackhouse, and its publisher, Phillip Crawley, regarding the serious financial crisis the newspaper is apparently currently weathering.

22 March 2011

John Stackhouse, Editor-in-Chief
Phillip Crawley, Publisher
The Globe and Mail

Dear Sirs:

I am writing to express my deep concern at the troubling and increasingly inescapable evidences that Canada’s august and historic national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, has fallen on hard times, and, further, to offer my apologies if I myself have been in any way responsible for the newspaper’s present difficulties.

Allow me to explain.

Last September I was commissioned to write a travel article for the special relaunch edition of The Globe and Mail that appeared on newsstands on October 2nd, 2010. (Let me just add as a sidenote: Love the gloss!) To my delight, I was able to negotiate a fee for the article that was well in excess of the frugal freelance rates The Globe is normally obliged to pay in the digital age, and indeed was nearly at the level of the premium rates that used to be in effect when I first started freelancing twenty years ago. At The Globe’s insistence I was also allowed to put all my expenses on my own credit card rather than on The Globe’s, thus accumulating points toward eventual free travel. Since my expenses included international flights, the points I was able to rack up were considerable, enough, say, for round-trip business class travel between Toronto’s island airport—were it not that political considerations make using that facility awkward—and the airport at Buttonville (had it not closed).

I had cause to regret exacting such onerous conditions from your newspaper, however, when, nearly two months after I submitted an invoice, I had yet to receive any payment or reimbursement. Enquiries to The Globe soon made clear where the problem lay: Due to cutbacks, I was told, the accounting office that dealt with payments to freelancers had suffered numerous layoffs, by that point reduced to a single secondary school student logging the community service hours she needed in order to graduate. I became concerned, on learning this, that it had been unduly selfish of me to have negotiated a fee increase or indeed to have insisted on reimbursement of my expenses, given the travel points I had accumulated. This concern grew to alarm when, after four had passed and still no payment was forthcoming, The Globe was unable to provide any new explanation for the delay, which suggested that not only had its accounts office been gutted, but its public relations office as well. Now nearly six months have elapsed and my enquiries have ceased to receive a response of any sort, leading me to fear that despite the hope expressed in The Globe’s October relaunch, of which I was proud to be a part, whole wings of the newspaper’s offices now stand abandoned, victims of the unreasonable demands of greedy freelancers like myself.

My intention in writing to you, then, is not to lament my own fate but to express my fear and regret for yours. As a writer, I am accustomed to living frugally, and have come to believe I am a better person for it. We all know writers who through one fluke or another have come into sums of money approximating a living wage only to descend at once into profligacy, indulging in Mexican all-inclusives or brand-name clothing or, worse, allowing a distasteful optimism and joy of life to creep into their work. I have no desire to be among that class. Nor, indeed, is the carrying of debt of any great concern to me, since for the past number of years I and my wife, also a writer, have lived almost exclusively on the line of credit afforded to us by the unreasonable rise in real estate values in our city over the past decade. Unlike our unhappy neighbours to the south, whose economy was laid low by credit line excesses, we Canadians seem to have managed to limit our use of credit to the sort of bridge financing that recessions or the non-payment of fees sometimes make necessary. For writers, the arrangement is especially propitious, and indeed may represent the solution to every problem of arts funding that has ever plagued this country. Here is how it works: Every month my wife and I borrow as much money as we need to maintain the lifestyle we have grown accustomed to, our only obligation being that we make a monthly interest payment that can itself, wonder of wonders, be borrowed from our credit line. The added bonus is that should we ever reach our credit limit—which at current rates is not likely to happen before the fall, or even later, should we decide to suspend the university educations of our two eldest children—we need only turn over our home to our bank, and our entire debt is expunged.

So my concern here, as I say, is not for myself, but for your venerable newspaper, and, more particularly, for your own situations, given that people on fixed incomes like yourselves often have much less leeway in organizing their finances than those of us who are self-employed. Should it be then, that my unreasonable demands for payment have in any way compromised your newspaper’s finances or interfered with the speedy processing of your own paycheques, please let me know and I will at once cease and desist in those demands.

Yours sincerely,

Nino Ricci


Writing every day.


Visit NaBloPoMo

I’m doing NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) again, and will try for monthly.  It’s a movement to encourage bloggers to post every day for a month, to make it part of a routine.  This encouragement takes the form of various blogrolls for members to visit and encourage, daily writing prompts, various groups to join, etc. 

Writing daily is important to me, although it tends to go by the wayside when things get busy.  I keep a couple of journals as well as this blog, and NaBloPoMo is just one more way to keep me focussed on this practice.  I did a lot of writing in my salary-days:  research reports, regulatory writing, white papers, marketing briefs, and innumerable presentation decks (although I’d argue that those don’t really count, if anyone’s counting.)  But writing from my head, generating my own ideas, organizing them coherently and making an argument or taking a position of my own (and not on behalf of a business unit or corporation) is a whole new ballgame.

I am interested in the writing process.  My personal blogging seems like the poor cousin in a way as I rarely edit beyond punctuation and spelling. And maybe a bit of paragraph reorganization.  But I’d like to work more on this, planning my posts in advance and spending more time crafting them coherently.  It’ll come with time and practice, I’m sure.


I write like….

I write like
Dan Brown

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

This little quiz has been circulating for a while….it analyzes word choice and writing style.

Brown’s certainly engaging and I’ve enjoyed his novels immensely.  (And yes, my fellow Catholics, I KNOW it’s fiction.  Lay off.)  Now if I can just turn some writing into big bucks like Brown, I’d be a happy camper!

Oh, and Margaret Atwood did the quiz and tweeted that she writes like Stephen King!

Becoming a better writer, or maybe just get more out of life. Musings from a literary agent.

Followed a tweet to this wonderful list from a literary agent Rachelle Gardner titled “How to become a better writer:  11 non-writing related ideas“.  I love this list, not only because I enjoy writing and would like to incorporate more of it into everyday life as well as my genealogical work, but also because it’s good advice for life.

She begins:

1. Be creative any way you can. Cook new recipes. Paint a picture. Design a garden. Compose a song. Build something with Legos. Organize the garage.

2. Pay attention. Observe the mannerisms of people around you. Listen to how they speak. Marvel at the way they’re dressed. Notice their shoes and their posture and the look in their eye….

Go to her post to read the entire list.  It’s food for thought.