My father’s negative feelings toward his cousin shone a new light on her for me

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photo: courtesy of author

My father’s cousin, Hilda, was something.

That’s what people used to say about people: “She really is something!” It was a fill-in-the-blank. As a child, I was never quite sure what exactly “something” meant, but given their tone, guessed there was judgment afoot.

As far as I was concerned

Hilda was exotic. She had Lucille Ball deep red hair, (remember that, on black and white television?), that winged out over her ears, in thick curls, and she wore bright lipstick, and brighter clothing, with flippy skirts, and beaded necklaces. Color, color, color.

She would turn up, maybe twice a year, often with a female friend in…

Middle-age and middle-ground

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photo: Paul Stollery for Unsplash

In 2016, I applied for a position in my writing program, after years of contract work, and the post went to a younger woman, with less experience. That was a wake-up call, and I could feel the shift; I’d entered a new time. A time of pending crone.

I made the decision to relieve myself of the burden of ever applying for an academic position again. My focus moved on to writing and enjoying life.

But in the last while — months now — there is something disturbing at play. I cannot place a finger directly on it, but perhaps…

Let’s resurrect the idea of tithe, and keep art in our lives

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photo: Jazz-to-GoGo playing in Vancouver park, courtesy of Viviane Hotz

This past summer, this was the one way I heard live music: in the park, and on the beach, with a jazz standards group. Bring a blanket and bottle, enjoy the setting sun, the warmth on my back. Listening to tunes that have sustained for decades.

The idea of tithing is even older: take 10% of whatever we earn, and give it to something or someone we believe in. It used to be about the church. But let’s focus on the What you believe in piece. Or What sustains you.

I know I cannot live without music and literature, dance…

When people do not “have” children

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photo: Iraj Beheshti for Unsplash

We applaud celebrities who publicly decide not to have children, and we know the world is over-populated (or at least in light of what some few are willing to share). There are now gatherings of like-minded folks, clubs with names like ‘No Kidding,’ ‘Babes Without Babes,’ ‘Hitched but not Hatched.’ But amidst the names-that-smirk and the too-frequent politicizing (why begs to be asked), there is a quieter reality that’s worth celebrating.

What does happen when people do not have children — people who are not celebrities, and who do not hang out in packs, with spare hours to conceive of…

A Tiny Life Moment of COVID Connecting

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photo: courtesy of author

The Moment

It was another day of online teaching and chilly winter weather. No one in the house except me. Hours ticking by. No good reason to go outside. I’d already done my 15 kilometers on the exercise bike. Everything at home, all so handy now. So many groceries in the house, I wouldn’t have to put my nose out the door for days if I didn’t want to.

But no. I was missing chips — to use up all the hummus in the fridge. Really? I had to push myself out. Make sure I had my mask. …

Laughing throughout! So good. And a good call for single folks to buy their own sweet selves flowers, too! Why should couples have all the spite :)

Options for protagonist POV

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photo: Austin Distel for Unsplash

Choosing the voice for your POV — point of view—character is foundational to how you are going to tell a story.

The options

First Person

This seems so straightforward: the story is told with “I” as the viewpoint character — the character through whom the story is told. The “I” is the narrator.


This type of story can be told with a strong, individual voice. There’s freedom with language, with vernacular, with cadence. You want the language to capture and evoke the character for the reader; Standard English can take a hike.

You can write as this character/person speaks. When you’re writing in third…

In defense of human curiosity

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photo: Francois Verbeeck for Unsplash

“It’s none of your concern,” the voice whispered out to me. I almost didn’t hear it. Maybe I imagined it, occurred to me. And had to look to find the peering and strangely angry eyes of the fellow at the bus stop.

I was only vaguely aware of the rest of him, around his eyes, and a shadowy second figure. I absorbed that this second person must be with him. Though all within seconds, in a jumble of emotions, I wondered why anyone would be with such a seemingly miserable person. …

The story and adventure kicks off!

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photo: Bandcamp screenshot by author

Back in November I posted a piece about doing my part to keep the arts healthy, and I pledged to tithe in 2021. That is, to take one-tenth of my income and put it towards supporting the arts.

COVID has wreaked havoc on performing arts

I do feel as if we writers have gotten away somewhat — though I did lose an entire book contract back in June as a result.

My income is small: I am a half-time contract instructor in an MFA program, so one-tenth works out to about $250. But it’s all relative, right?

My choices around who and what to support are:

No support for platforms that extract too much that should…

Alison Acheson

Alison Acheson’s latest book is a memoir of caregiving, Dance Me to the End: Ten Months and Ten Days With ALS. She teaches writing in an MFA program.

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