Keeping Score: 29 July 2022

Yesterday was my first time fiction writing since I got sick.

That’s three weeks of not making any progress. Of not being able to make progress, because even once the fever and the chills and the wracking cough subsided, I couldn’t focus long enough to read a story, let alone create a new one.

I confess I worried I might not be able to, even now. I’ve heard so much about a lingering “brain fog” after getting Covid to make me anxious that I would try to write again and fail, that I wouldn’t be able to pick up the stories I’d been working on, or find myself writing only in clich├ęs and bad dialog.

Well. I won’t speak to the quality of the draft I worked on yesterday, but I did work on it, and I did make progress. In fact, the rest of the story is coalescing in my head now, and I can see the path to finishing it.

This draft, anyway. There’ll be edits to do afterward, of course.

But at least I know I can keep working. I still get fatigued more easily than I used to; back-to-back meetings at work leave me not just mentally but physically drained now. And when I tried walking last weekend, I made it just a few kilometers out before turning back for home, where I promptly fell into a nap.

And yet. My brain keeps on ticking, and I can work around the fatigue till it passes. So that’s one worry resolved, for now, at least.

Hope you’re able to write through your own worries, and find ways to make progress no matter what stands in your way.

Canadian Covid

Haven’t posted in the last two weeks, because I finally caught Covid-19 (or it finally caught up with me).

Went to a small D&D session on the 10th. There were just five of us, and we’d all been triple vaccinated (one person had already gotten their second booster, in fact), and we all were homebodies who masked up in public.

And yet we all got sick.

I seem to have gotten hit the earliest and the hardest, which is good because two of the other folks have other medical issues that would make anything more than a mild case potentially life-threatening. We all seem to be pulling through, however, which is about as good as we could hope for.

I learned a few more things about living in Canada, along the way, that I’d like to share:

No Testing

Trying to be a good citizen, I went to the BC CDC site to see about getting an official test. I know that case counts are inaccurate because not as many folks are getting tested in a way that’s reported back to the government, so I wanted to have my infection, at least (if it was Covid), count.

Unfortunately, the official advice for someone like me — triple vaccinated, relatively mild symptoms — is not to get tested.

I didn’t have any home tests, either, so a friend volunteered to look around at local pharmacies and see if any of them would deliver to me. The answer was a resounding: Nope.

So, technically, I don’t know for certain that I had Covid-19. Everyone at the gathering that tested (using a home rapid test) did come back positive, which is fairly compelling. But I wasn’t able to get tested.

No Contact

The BC CDC does recommend self-isolating, even if you don’t get tested. They say five days is all you need, but I’ve also heard ten days, so I decided to wait two weeks, to be safe. That meant not leaving the apartment to check my mail, etc (which meant I had a package stolen from the mailroom downstairs, but that’s a different story). And it meant I needed to find another way to get groceries.

Not just groceries. I was totally unprepared for being sick, it turned out. I didn’t have any Nyquil, no Advil or Tylenol, no cough drops, no extra tissues, nothing. I had some soup, but not nearly enough for two weeks. So I needed food and sick supplies.

Thankfully, there’s a couple of Save On Foods near me, and their delivery program is simply fantastic. Everything I worried about turned out to be easy. I picked out my groceries, set a delivery time, left instructions for the callbox, and that was it. No texting me in the middle of me trying to get some sleep to ask if a substitution was okay (they had me indicate in advance if subs were okay or not, and I said “no” to most of them). No multiple notices about shopping starting, stopping, checking out, etc. Just an emailed final receipt and a single phone call to let me know they were ten minutes out.

My one big worry, though, was the callbox. I’ve had many a Skip delivery go awry because they can’t figure out how to use the callbox so I can buzz them in. If the grocery delivery had the same issue, I wasn’t sure what I’d do. Even if I could physically make it downstairs, how many people would I infect along the way?

Turns out I needn’t have worried. The delivery driver — who I gather works directly for Save-On — had no problem using the callbox, and brought everything up to the apartment door using a little delivery cart. No contact, no issues, just the food and medical supplies I needed.

No Doctors

I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll say it again, because it was the scariest part of being sick: What if I needed to see a doctor? How would I get in to a clinic in time to be of use? If I had to call 911, would anyone answer? Would there be anywhere in the hospital for me to go?

Thankfully it didn’t come to that. Though I monitored by Blood Oxygen levels using my Apple Watch (for however accurate it is), it never fell below 90%, so despite being miserable for most of a week and a lingering cough, I’ve been ok.

Going Forward

So one of the first things I did this weekend — my first time outside the apartment since the 10th — is go pick up a home testing kit.

I was already masking up indoors, which I’m going to continue doing. And I’m going to start testing on a regular basis, before doing things like meeting friends for dinner or getting a haircut (for which I’m also masked).

I know I was lucky enough to get a mild case, but having Covid was miserable. I don’t want to catch it again. I don’t want to give it to anyone else. And I hope wherever you are, that you’re staying as safe as possible.

Keeping Score: 8 July 2022

This week I’ve mostly been focused on typing up the mix of notes, scenes, and outline from my notebook for the now expanded, gender-flipped, sidekick-to-protagonist science fiction story (whew!).

I’m having to do a bit of expansion and interweaving as I go. I didn’t write the scenes in order, to begin with, and then I’ve also been blending it with what I wrote in the second (typed straight to laptop) draft, so that hopefully the whole thing is coherent.

I’m nearing the ending, which I haven’t written yet, but I’ve got such a strong image for that I think I can just type it out when I get there. Also I’ve got to lay the path for it, so to speak, by weaving in elements in these earlier scenes so the final one feels like a proper payoff, rather than an abrupt turn (though there is a turn, I just don’t want it to jolt a reader out of the story).

One thing I want to pay particular attention to, and change if I can’t get it right, is the (now) main character’s ethnicity. In my mental storyboards, she’s a second-generation Asian-American, and that’s how I’ve presented her in terms of name, etc. But in reading books like Craft in the Real World and The Girl at the Baggage Claim, and novels like Earthlings and The Woman in the Purple Skirt, I’m starting to doubt whether I can properly portray such a character. I’ve been thinking I can use my experience as an internal (and now international) immigrant as a bridge to their worldview, but I think now that that’s not enough. There’s the pervasive racism experienced by minorities in the States, and on top of that the misogyny that uniquely harms Asian-American women (I say harms, not harmed, because it keeps happening: witness the one character in “The Boys” who is introduced as completely feral and whose voice is silenced is the one Asian woman in the cast). And that’s before we get into differing family relationships, unique cultural touchstones, etc.

So I’m not sure if I should change the POV character’s ethnicity or not. I think that during these handwritten drafts I’ve found an approach that can be both representative and respectful. And I don’t want to be the kind of white writer that only writes white people (any more than I want to be the kind of male writer that only writes men). The world is diverse, and I want to represent that in my fiction. But I want to do it well, which means more than just changing a character’s name or skin color.

We’ll see how the draft comes out. And what my sensitivity readers say when they review it.

Three Things I Loved About My First Canada Day

As someone who grew up in the States, I’m used to celebrating July 4th, but I’m not used to really enjoying it. The fireworks are often cool, but the sheer volume of jingoism and military parades rub me the wrong way. They always made me feel out of place, like anything less than my-country-or-else patriotism wasn’t welcome. Not to mention the holiday itself is set on the absolute wrong day; the Declaration of Independence has absolutely no legal standing, and nothing to do whatsoever with the way the US is governed or the rights of its citizens (bringing this up at the Fourth, of course, is an easy way to get glared at).

So I was unsure what to expect for Canada Day. I’m also by myself, so no family or friends to go hang with. Thankfully, the City of Victoria threw a celebration downtown, right on the harbor, which turned out to be just about perfect.

Here’s three things I liked about this year’s celebration:

The Community

The first thing was having a community celebration at all. San Diego’s a city three times the size of Victoria, but if you look for their events for the Fourth, they’ve got the fireworks show at night, and a pub crawl, and…that’s it. No concerts, no closing off streets and setting up street vendors, nothing. The Fourth is meant to be celebrated at home, with family, and that’s it.

Which is fine if you’ve got a large family, or network of friends, but for a new immigrant like me, I was incredibly grateful to have the city’s Canada Day celebration to go to. It was completely free, with a central concert stage, bleachers on the hill facing, flanked by an open-air market and a bevy of food trucks. Oh, and a bouncy-castle style playground for the kids. And yes, there were flags, and people were wearing maple leaf shirts (and umbrella hats), but it was all low-key. No military fly-overs, just folks from all over the city out having a good time. I fit right in, and that felt great.

The Inclusivity

Speaking of fitting in, one of the reasons I wanted to go down to the celebration on Friday was to see all the shows they had lined up. They had Native dancers as part of the opening ceremonies, and Ukrainian dancers, and Chinese lion dancers, and…Just a whole host of people and communities that I’d never seen perform before.

In fact, it struck me that I’d never seen Native performers before, in person. Not in forty-three years of living in the United States. There’s never been a Fourth celebration that I’ve heard of or attended where Native Americans participated; they’ve probably never even been asked.

Now I know Canada’s record here is very far from blameless. The residential schools, the Oka Crisis, the conflicts over land and self-government that continue to this day. But one of the things Thomas King remarked on in his The Inconvenient Indian is how often colonial governments want to make native peoples invisible, to make exploiting them all the easier. And in this case, at least, the Lekwungen Traditional Dancers were making themselves more visible, right there on stage.

I confess it moved me, and as I watched them dance, followed by the Ukrainian dancers, the listened to the Ukrainian choir, then watched Chinese lion dancers jump and gambol in front of the stage, I realized they’d turned Canada Day into a celebration of diversity, instead of a suppression of it.

The Scope

That inclusivity was a reflection of another thing I noticed and liked: the breadth of the celebration.

Again, unlike the US, this wasn’t a primarily military holiday. No call-and-response about army figures who “died for our freedom.” Not that the military was absent, mind you — they had a booth in the market where they were recruiting, excuse me, “hiring” (as they put it) — just that they weren’t the focus.

So there was plenty of room for a Ukrainian choir, talking up the deep connections between Ukraine (many Ukrainians settled the Canadian plains) and Canada. And room for a local white blues musician. And for a Guinean-led band. And for a Vancouver-based electronic group. And for every announcement to be interpreted live in ASL by a woman standing prominently on the stage.

And for me.

Keeping Score: 1 July 2022

I think my writing brain is telling me to move on from the short stories.

I’ve kept up with the notebook writing this week, jotting down scenes and brainstorming directions for the plots of both short stories (the shorter mystery and the longer sci-fi one). But on Monday my fingers refused to write anything for either story, instead choosing to talk about the summer weather (which became my last blog post). And yesterday, when I reached for my notebook, I had a spark of an idea that turned into a plot for an entire rom-com novel.

It’s like my subconscious is telling me it’s bored of drafting the short stories, and wants to move on, to something different. Before I can do that, though, I need to actually type up what I’ve written freehand, and try to edit it into a coherent piece.

So that’s what I’ll be working on this weekend and next week. Typing, editing, and revising both stories, till the ideas in my notebook have been fitted into place. Hopefully that’ll be enough to keep my writing brain engaged and happy; it’s different work, after all, from drafting, and uses different muscles.

And then…maybe I’ll give this rom-com a shot? Or maybe it’s a thriller. It really depends on the ending, you see, and…

Well. We’ll see.