One Word 2018

After the success of crowdfunding my cheer-up list last year, I decided that freezing up on my #oneword2018 wasn’t a reason to panic.

It was another opportunity to ask for help.

Here are the responses I received. Can you tell which one I picked?wordcloudoneword

Energy

I spent the first half of 2017 emptying my tank entirely for the people around me, whether they deserved it or not. And then I spent the last portion of the year recovering and annoyed that it was taking so long.

Now in these first few days of 2018, I have my energy back. I am so grateful that it didn’t take that long in the grand scheme of things. The struggle is not over, but I’m hoping I have learned my lesson: not everyone and not every project is worth the effort. I have amazing bounds of energy, but not endless amounts.

My word this year reminds me to treasure my energy. To use it when I have a full tank, monitor when and how much I give out at a time, and step back to refuel when I feel the last dregs beginning to seep away.

For my word of the year 2014, 20152016, and 2017–check out those links!

What’s your One Word 2018?

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Words Consumed in 2017

The summer before I left for graduate school I kept track of everything I read. I’m not sure if I started it because I worked in a library or because I wanted to keep track of plays I read, but it gave me a great record of that time.

In a year where everything else felt out of my control, one way to increase my serenity was in picking the next book I read.

Without further ado, here’s the list:

A Poet of the Invisible World by Michael Golding
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
The Ladies Room by Carolyn Brown
Paper Girls vol. 1 written by Brian K. Vaughn, art by Cliff Chiang (Image Comics)
HellBoy: Seed of Destiny by Mike Mignola (Dark Horse Comics)
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari*
The Nightingale by Hannah Kristin
The Shack by William Young
The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith*
Paper Girls vol. 2 written by Brian K. Vaughn, art by Cliff Chiang (Image Comics)
The Adventuress by Audrey Niffeneger 
Hellboy: Wake of the Vampire by Mike Mignola (Dark Horse Comics)
Step Aside, Pops by Kate Beaton
Fables: The Wolf Among Us vol. 1 by Matthew Sturges and Dave Justus (Vertigo Comics)
Fables: The Wolf Among Us vol. 2 by Matthew Sturges and Dave Justus (Vertigo Comics)
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Possession by A.S. Byatt
If You Feel Too Much (and re-read) by Jamie Tworkowski*
East of West vol. 1
The White Feather Murders by Rachel McMillan
East of West vol. 2
East of West vol. 3
East of West vol. 4
East of West vol. 5
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly*
East of West vol. 6
Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson
The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbowsky
Smile by Raina Telemeiger
44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith
Saga vol. 1 (1-3)
Paper Girls issues 11-15
The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson
Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes*
4000 miles by Amy Herzog
The Nether by Jennifer Haley
Whose Body? By Dorothy Sayer
Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
Fables vol. 1 by Bill Willingham (Vertigo Comics)
The Mill on the Floss play by Helen Edmundson, not the novel
Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky*
‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
The Back of the Turtle by Thomas King
Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
Maddadam by Margaret Atwood
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
Bold titles are my favorites and recommendations
Purple highlights are graphic novels
Italics are re-reads
* is not fiction–I do include plays in fiction though

Drop me a line if you’d like to hear more about any of these titles. And PLEASE add your favorite reads of 2017 in the comments below–I could use some new books for 2018!

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Step 2, #metoo

 

“Me, too.

I didn’t know if I should post this or not. Didn’t want to unless it was true. But then I thought, “If you have to discuss leaving an event and community you love because a male member of that community says that you misunderstood and were being too sensitive, it counts.”

Saying it felt good. Noting it on Facebook and getting those inappropriate behaviors challenged felt so good to me. I got all the little jolts of dopamine we get from people “liking” and sending hearts to my burst of thought.

But quickly I realized that posting was only step one. I had been passive up to this point. Watching the news, listening to stories of assault, harassment, unabashed misogyny and toxic masculinity. Making it public pushed me to do more. Step two: I reached out to a member of that shared community and I told them about what had happened to me.

Part of me felt bad that it took me so many years to get that far. Sure I was vulnerable when it happened. I was still less than a year in Toronto, still in graduate school.

But then a year later, shouldn’t I have spoken up when another woman reported a similar yet worse incident to me? When we both heard each other and thought–“I thought was crazy and taking it out of context, being to sensitive. You mean, if it happened to both of us, it wasn’t my fault–but his?”

Again, I waited. I ache thinking about what I could have avoided by speaking up earlier, and yet after this experience, I realize that I had to gather my strength. It did indeed take that long.

He apologized. That’s important. It doesn’t heal all wounds, his or mine. Or the wounds to other women at all. But it’s a step forward. We had a conversation. One that I thought would be too arbitrated, but was actually moderated well. It surrounded both of us with other voices to reflect and echo, to be neutral when needed, prodded at times, buoyed up with support at others. Most importantly they were there to witness. We were heard where we are, which is most of what needed to happen.

But afterwards, all my strength left me. My body broke down almost immediately and I spent a day in bed, another few days still waiting for my body to sort itself out physically. Today almost a week later I am finally gaining back by normal energy and pep.

It was infuriating. I have been doing all the “right” things to keep myself together–took time to collect my thoughts, reached out to friends for advice and support, went to the gym to get those endorphins going, etc. And yet there I was–terrified of my own body/mind connection and how it was going to betray me next.

My inner dialogue:
Why won’t you take the nutrients I am pumping into you? Why are you shaking? Aching? In pain–I have taken all the pain away, what else do you need to be at peace!!!

I’m proud of what I did, taking these next steps. But no, it did not give me immediate relief. Instead it reminded me that fighting these battles takes so much effort. I was emotionally drained, physically ill from the energy it caused–and that was a best case scenario.

What about the other victims who speak up without a support network like mine? What about the women who aren’t believed? What about the victims whose assaulters retaliate? What about the victims of more than just misunderstanding or verbal harassment?

I don’t know what it’s like to be sexually assaulted or raped. After this, I can begin to fathom the astounding amount of courage it takes for women who have been through such ordeals to face the perpetrators.

We are asked to do all this, and still meet all the other lifetime and career milestones. And look happy all the time on social media. To show up to work on Monday and keep going, not sure how to explain what is really happening on the inside.

It seems like too much, and for moments–maybe even days, weeks, or months–it can be. I don’t write this to demand other women and men stand up and speak out for every #metoo post. I write this to recognize that each step is more than we might see from the outside.

We must take them when we can and acknowledge that this march to make the world a better place is a long one. It is only powerful if we recognize our limits–as individuals and as groups–and work to bridge the gaps until a better system can be constructed.

I am simultaneously happy and miserable. The world seems both brighter and darker as I look at my one tiny drop in the void. I wish it didn’t have to happen to me right now when it felt like the last straw breaking in me. And yet, I have to believe there is a greater reason why I could and did speak up now.

 

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What I Am Creating: Fall 2017

If you had asked me what would be healing after wrapping a two and a half year big project it would NOT be producing not one but two theatre events.

Instead I find myself at the helm of two small productions. Surprisingly, it is healing.

So far.

Nativity Play at Kimbourne Park United Church

All are welcome to attend and participate!
Kimbourne Park United Church at 10:15 am on December 10th
No experience necessary–just come and see what interactive Nativity story we can tell together.

I have wanted to do a play in a church for a long time. And just as I was starting to gather ideas for a proposal, my church invited me to revamp the usual “Paper Bag Pageant.”

After working on professional immersive theatre this summer, it’s a nice change of pace to focus on creating community, participatory theatre for the small congregation at Kimbourne Park.

Though I’m at the helm, I’m finding ways to include everyone in making arts and crafts costumes, recruiting youth group members and Sunday School teachers to give their input. I’ve rediscovered so much wisdom by pulling out the Bible to go over the stories as they were originally written and realized how much I have learned by hearing the Nativity in Texas, Tennessee, Toronto.

Girl with purple hair wearing a donkey headband costume

After coming off a collaboration gone very sour, these cooperative efforts are refreshing my soul and renewing my hope. In a year filled with unexpected changes, the Nativity Play is reminding me that God shows up in unexpected places with salvation that does not look the way I thought it would. Like with a baby boy in a manger.

And three days later, I am producing my company’s Talent Show.

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Come Hear My Transmission Journey, Sunday September 24

Hi interwebs,

Are you one of the bajillion people who has asked, “How did Edinburgh go?” Or one of the many that still don’t understand what Transmission is?

Come hear me speak about it next Sunday September 24th at 10:15 am, 200 Woverleigh Blvd.

Yes, 200 Woverleigh Blvd is a church, Kimbourne Park United Church. Technically my talk is the sermon for next week. How cool is that???

All are welcome. If you don’t normally feel comfortable in a church space, I am inviting you in this week. Let me know and I’ll make sure you have the space to experience as much or as little of the church part as you wish.

We have coffee and what-nots (read: snacks) afterwards and I can also show you the community garden Garden@Kimbourne, which is where I’ve been getting the amazingly cool veggies that went into this monster.

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See you there!

Maggie

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Beyond a Travel Review: Edinburgh

In addition to seeing 25+ shows, 30 scenes from Transmission, plus networking/marketing/last minute revisions for said show, I did manage to do A LOT of sightseeing in Edinburgh.

My solo tourist came out and couldn’t be stopped. Even when my feet hurt at the end of the day or I was tired and hungry, I found a way to go see or experience something else.

But alas, much like when I went to England for my semester abroad, I realized that I will still have to come back to Scotland. There’s so much more to see outside of Edinburgh and even still within that old, literary city.

Here are my highlights:

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Book Lover’s Tour

I was buzzing with excitement and caffeine when I ran out of the hostel for this tour–my first official tourist activity! It lived up to the hype. We walked through Old Town, around Southbridge and the University of Edinburgh mostly, because that’s where a lot of Edinburgh’s literati spent their time. Why? It has been the cheaper area where they could afford to live and work.

I loved seeing where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle went to his medical lectures, the bar where he and Robert Louis Stevenson hung out, the place where RLS met his model for Long John Silver from Treasure Island, and so many more places of interest for these and the two main literary influences from Scotland: Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns.

Our guide also pointed out a few of the notable Harry Potter spots. I went back and found them all on my own, in a spread out, unofficial tour of my own making. I did have coffee at the Elephant Cafe one morning, but hated the over-crowded and tourist-y feel. My brunch at Spoons, the place where Rowling wrote the first few chapters of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, put me much more in tune with my own muse.

One night when I felt lonely, wandering the streets alone while crowds pushed past to find the next Fringe party, I did cheer myself up by finding Rowling’s handprints by City Hall.

Again, I didn’t make it to all the famous spots–like the house where RLS was born, or the Arthur Conan Doyle Society–but it’s worth going back. What other cities have monuments to authors so big and tall as the Sir Walter Scott monument? Not many.

Finally, an unofficial new spot on my writer’s tour was The Brass Monkey. Though it’s a pub, I never had a chance to grab a drink there. I did push through the crowds on my first Saturday there to inquire for a postcard my best friend had left me. The bartenders smiled and retrieved it for me. Letters are still magical.

 

Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle

The first I saw at the beginning of my trip on my own. The second, Stirling Castle, I saw with a crew of my Transmission friends at the end of our Highland tour.

Unlike the castles in Germany, these did not feel like fairy tale castles, but much more like forts where important battles were fought. Even in sacred spaces like the 13th century Margaret’s Chapel, it felt like so much history had been hard won both within and without its walls.

In Edinburgh Castle, I’m glad I fought past the crowds to see the room where Mary Queen of Scots hid to give birth to James VI of Scotland/James I of England. Though I must admit a panel beside the portrait of James I’s wife has me more interested in Anne of Denmark’s life. I did see the crown jewels of Scotland but I skipped the war memorial in favor of more time in the dungeons–less to see, but fascinating imagining the many different types of criminals and “criminals” kept there over the centuries–from the Jacobites through to WWII POWs.

Stirling Castle had even more amazing views of William Wallace’s memorial and more of the Scottish hills. Without Edinburgh surrounding it, I found it easier to imagine what it would have been like centuries before. The re-created rooms were much prettier than Edinburgh Castle, especially with the tapestries and painted ceilings.

Day Trip into the Highlands

Stirling Castle was the end of a day-long trip into the Highlands with Timberbush tours. Our day started with a fantastic story-telling introduction from our bus driver–who said I was a fairy because of my purple hair. We drove out of Edinburgh to tales of William Wallace, Robert the Bruce, and other folklore of ancient Scotland. Our first stop included three Highland cows–the cutest farm animals I think I’ve ever seen.

The best part of the day by far was Loch Lomond. An hour long boat tour across this flat, wide, perfect lake felt like heaven on Earth. Though we did snap many pictures–including silly “Jack I’m flying” style ones–it felt less like a tourist adventure and more like balm for the soul. I can see why the Romans called this loch the prettiest one, the one with the best light. It captured my soul for sure. These pictures don’t do it justice.

On the way back, the bus driver told us all the ways that Braveheart messes up history. Thistles, by the way, are not romantic. They are Scottish because they kept the vikings from invading for many years–believe it or not. They are NOT what you’d give to your favorite lad or lass.

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A Threshold Year, in Review

There’s no one way to categorize or describe my 26th year. Some big things went as planned, others threw me for a complete loop.

Looking back, it went by so fast…

It feels like the culmination of lots of hard work–as a few big projects came to fruition but also, to a close. A beginning and ending at once.

And since it also marked four years since I graduated from Rice and the beginning of my fifth year in Canada, it feels like my “graduation” into the real world. If there ever is such a thing.

  • Traveled to Montreal with my sister at the beginning of the year AND met up with her in her hometown at the end of the year.
  • Survived and thrived through the transition into a full-time sales role
    • Won 6 months straight in an office, instead of cubicle land
    • Made my sales target for the first time, on the first try!
  • Traveled to Edinburgh’s 2017 Festival Fringe for the premiere of Transmission, the culmination of 3 years of labor on my part
  • Saw 25+ shows in addition to Transmission’s 30 separate scenes at said festival

Those were some of the wins. Losses included friends, family, loved ones, plus a sense of belonging in the country of my birth.

It wasn’t a dumpster fire or the best year of my life. It was simply a threshold.

The best part?

I don’t feel like I’m waiting on what happens next. I’m meditating on where I want to be and what I want to make of my future.

 

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Beyond a Theatre Review: 25+ Edinburgh Fringe shows 2017

Technically, the Edinburgh Fringe was my 5th or 6th fringe festival.

My high school boyfriend took me to my first–the 2008 or 2009 FronteraFest in Austin–back before I ever thought about writing for the stage.

I’d never gotten into the Fringe spirit before. In Toronto, I go, I see a few shows, but I always feel out of place. Other friends wait for Fringe like it’s Christmas and I almost dreaded it.

Edinburgh was different.

Maybe it was the “participant” badge around my neck, the flyers for my show Transmission ready to be passed out, or the fact that I’d been waiting for this moment for THREE YEARS, but now I get it.

Listed below, in no particular order, are quick reviews of the 27 shows I saw:

  • Pixel Dust

The description did not appeal to me–one-woman show depicting a teenage girl’s struggles with her identity online–but the fact that it was a FuturePlay show got me in the door. Amazing physical acting coupled with projections that brought out the poetry of the story made this one of my absolute favorite shows of the Fringe.

  • The Poltergeist of Cockburn Lane

Wanted to fall asleep during this show, but couldn’t stop watching the boring train wreck. This light opera had fantastic source material–an actual court case where a ghost’s testimony was called–but failed to capitalize on it. A romance without the romance, it focused more on the scam artist who faked the hauntings by abusing his daughter.

  • Goodbear

Amazing sketch comedy. This was the only comedy show I saw at the Fringe and not my pick. But as all the sketches were located in the fictional Hotel Apre Dieu (After Life), it won me over and had me laughing so hard my cheeks hurt. Super versatile sketch comedy duo introduced us to all the guests and all the rooms in the hotel in just an hour.

  • Wondr

After Pixel Dust, I couldn’t wait to get back into the theater to see the alternating play. Same team, different story–this time about a single mom running the @wondrwomanuk twitter handle. The themes about how we use social to find a voice and intersectionality in feminist representation rang true–but it didn’t knock me off my feet like Pixel Dust. It didn’t have the same polish in execution or story.

  • Future Play VR Studio

Welcome to a dome filled with many new VR experiences, inviting you to explore. My favorites were the VR movie Dear Angelica (animated exploration of grief with Anjelica Huston and Mae Whitman as voices), The Guardian’s First Impressions (re-creating what an infant sees and hears in its first six months), and the audio mixing game Dato DUO. The most important thing I learned? The best VR movies are the ones that realize it’s no longer about creating for one POV–it’s about creating a world to explore.

  • Tom and Bunny Save the World

Zombie musical in a shipping container theater. It delivered on everything it promised to be–lesbians, odd British geographical humor, fake blood, and lots of gravy.

  • Speaking in Tongues: The Lies
  • Speaking in Tongues: The Truth

These two shows are acts 1 and 2 of the same Australian play. I accidentally saw them out of order, but I actually enjoyed it that way. It turned what would have been a linear play into a more abstract exploration of coupling, marriage, and fear. But the best part was the set-up: swivel chairs. The audience sat in the middle and we swiveled around to see the actors. I LOVED watching the other audience members just as much as the play. Maybe more.

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Purple Preparations

I can’t believe it’s almost here.

After almost three years of preparations, I leave for Edinburgh next week for Transmission at the 2017 Festival Fringe.

You’d think with that much advance notice I’d feel totally ready, but I’m not. It’s been a whirlwind few months of final rehearsals, revisions, and notes. Writing has always been and will always be my job, and though I absolutely LOVE it, it definitely feels like one right now.

My life has been leading up to this big production for so long–and now I’m beginning to worry that it won’t live up to the hype.

So I decided to do something CRAZY that would make it more special…

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Yes, that’s right: I dyed my hair purple.

I never thought I’d want to do something so “artsy” and “unconventional” to my own body. I am usually so cautious and careful (though I did ask my boss for permission). The day after my mom asked with trepidation how I felt, if I was already regretting it.

I told her about the nightmare I had had that night: that I had woken up and it was back to brown. She didn’t question it after that.

My parents also asked if people were staring at me oddly or if it was attracting any unwanted attention. Nope. If anything, I’ve had more co-workers stop by my office this week to say that it’s AWESOME than I have winning any sales contest even…

For being such a shy person in my younger years, I relish the double take and the extra stares now. I’ve always been a purple princess. Now I’m confident enough to wear it proud–just like when I decided to move to Canada and be honest about being an artist at my core.

So even if I don’t sleep again until my birthday and Edinburgh and Transmission are nothing like I expect them to be–at least I’ve got purple hair.

 

*And anyways, since when has theatre ever been what I’ve expected it to be? That’s what good theatre is anyways: surprising.

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What does Permanent Residency Mean?

When I wrote my first installment of the Canada vs. USA blog series on Howlround, I was unsure that I’d ever feel permanent in Canada.

Just a few days before the second blog post published, on June 11th:

I became a permanent resident of Canada.

When I got the email confirmation, my co-workers who are born and raised Canadian didn’t understand why I wanted to jump up and down.

My family is excited, but also still asking the question: “So what does being a permanent resident mean?”

Great question. So here’s my answer.

Just the facts:

  • I don’t have to be employed full-time in order to stay in Canada.
  • I don’t have to be employed full-time in order to keep health care.
  • I can apply for city, province, and country-wide grants to fund my professional writing and art projects.
  • I can submit my plays in more contests and festivals in the communities where I live and make my art.
  • I can leave Canada without fearing that I’ll be cut off from my communities and home here forever after.*

But for me, it means so much more.

  • Feeling welcomed and stable in the communities I’ve lived in for the past 3, almost 4 years!
  • The freedom to put down financial roots–approval to build more of the life I’ve already started here
  • Guarantee that I can continue contributing to the Canadian theatre, film, and arts landscape
  • The ability to apply and be considered equally for arts funding and opportunities
  • The freedom to work where I want, because I’m no longer dependent on any one position to define my residency status**

Moving to Canada might not be the most adventurous leap of faith. Yes, they speak English here and it’s just across the border from the country where I was born and spent the first couple decades of my life.

Girl in red shirt wearing Canada sticker on her cheek, holding maple leaf balloon.

But for me, it’s a huge threshold to cross. Most of us cross the threshold into adulthood when we move out of our parent’s houses, go to college, get our first “real world” job. I’ve done all of these things, but this more than anything else is the firebrand of my independence. I didn’t have to move here or struggle through the first few years of grad school and then artistic poverty/expat life.

Moving to Canada is something my past prepared me for, but I did on my own.

I was born in the States, but it does feel like Canada chose me.

And I fought to chose it.

I can’t vote and I am not a citizen yet, but celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary as a permanent resident is enough for me.

*I can’t just up and leave yet. Until I’m a citizen, I have to remain in the country for 2-3 out of the next 5 years to re-qualify for my permanent residency. But that’s a commitment I’m willing to make.

**Before you think this means I’m going to immediately do any of the above, let’s look at how much it took me to get here:

  • Thousands of dollars– and this was without a lawyer
  • English Language test– I studied at Oxford University AND went to graduate school in Canada, but I still had to spend $$$ and an entire Saturday to prove it.
  • FBI fingerprinting– I officially don’t have a record!
  • Full-time job for a year and a half–That’s how I earned the points in order to qualify to apply. My contributions to the community (like mentoring) don’t count.
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