May 27, 2006

so you want to write a novel...

Margaret Atwood's contribution to the 2005 Canadian edition of The Book of Lists, is titled, Margaret Atwood's 10 Annoying Things to say to Writers, each entry having an a) What to say and a b) What the writer hears.
# 5 Reads: a)"I'm going to write a book too, when I can find the time."
b)What you do is trivial, and can be done by any idiot.

Well, for those of you who think you have a novel lurking around in your brain, here's your chance...and if you're lucky, you might get to do it on TV!

If NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November isn't enough of an incentive/challenge/ball-breaker for you, then you might want to try:
The 3-Day Novel Contest.

It's been around since 1977, born from a group of crazy (if not perhaps a bit drunk)Vancouver scribes.
It is no surprise that an idea as crazy as writing a novel in three days would arise from a province renowned more for its pot grow-ops, land-locked sea serpents and whacked-out politics. But culture building must be done, and so it was...
From its modest beginnings as a barroom challenge, it (the 3-day novel contest) grew to attract the interest and support of neophyte and seasoned writers alike, from Canada, the U.S. and beyond. Now, decades later, it has become a unique contribution to world literary history and a put-your-keyboard-where-your-mouth-is rite of passage for hundreds of writers each year.
- from the 3-day Novel web site.

And this year, there's more, so much more.
how about doing it live on TV? This year, a dozen entrants will be selected to write their novels live at a Chapters-Indigo store in Edmonton. The chosen few will struggle with the rigours of the contest, plus cameras, crowds, questions, therapists, spelling bees, roving poets, and a national audience. Think you can endure it, and still produce a literary masterwork?

Book Television and Indigo are teaming up to host this this new form of literary madness. Those selected for the televised version of the contest will not only be subjected to cameras (and the other horrors listed above - therapists, poets and spellers...oh my!) but they will also be yanked from their stations and thrust into the dreaded "13th Chair" -
...a keyboard linked to screens throughout the store, allowing patrons (and the at-home audience) to see the words the writer is writing at that very moment, and pass judgement on the masterwork in progress. - from, Novel Contest to Air Live on Book TV by James Adams of The Globe and Mail.

Oooooh. Scary.
Try having a roving five-year-old tugging on your arm saying, "ever seen a bear stare?" 45 times in a row.
Oh, he'll bait you with a long pause of blessed silence, and just when you think you've ignored him to the point that's he's bored enough to walk away, you feel him intesify his gaze as he continues to stand there...watching. Finally, in desperation you turn away from the keyboard and say, "what?!" He declares with a frightening sense of calm..."This, is a bear stare." (Note to the roving poets of Book son charges $50 and hour for training in the art of Ti Kwan Leapster.)

Adams also quoted Tate Young, Edmonton producer of Book TV as saying,
"Having a writer tell me to screw off as the clock ticks toward the deadline, well, that could be pretty exciting."

Hey, Mr. Young - come to my house and bug me while I'm writing...I might not tell you to screw off, but I'd certainly send you out to jump on the trampoline for a while. (Don't worry's one of those padded deals with the full net enclosure. Remember, you used to let me play with lawn darts.)

I don't know if I'm amused, annoyed or encouraged by this whole televised 3-day sweatshop premise. Will it bait people into believing that writing a novel is as easy as 1-2-3? Or, will it prove to those who attempt it - that writing a novel is a difficult, crazy, and sometimes blissful journey - one that requires (most of all) the willingness to sit on your bum and WRITE?

Either way, my personal Ti Kwan Leapster trainer (and bear stare-er extraordinare) has a few tips for those who dare to write. He came up with these a few weeks ago when he announced that he wanted to write his "me-mores" (translation: memoirs) - and ordered me to sit with a pen a paper and 'take this down'. Out of the mouths of babes...

J's Rules for Writing

1. Get Comfy - PJ's are a good choice. Fuzzy slippers too if you have them.

2. Quiet - shhhhh. writer at work.

3. The Right Snack - (my mom likes tea, clementines, popcorn and dark chocolate)

4. Good supplies...pens, pencils, crayons, notebooks, and a BIG eraser

5. Start the story. (It sounds easy, but mom says it's not.)

6. Play - (Take a break for playtime. I love Katamari.)

7. Finish the story. (This sounds easy too, but mom says it's the hardest part of all.)

Boldly go, people.
Boldly go.

May 22, 2006

Quote of the Day!!!!

"We are committed to offering all women the choice of how and where they give birth."
- Department of Health in the UK


From a BBC News article dated May 15, 2006 ...

Women will be given every encouragement to give birth at home if that is their preferred option.

The Department of Health says it wants to end assumptions that a hospital is always the best place to have a baby.

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt has commissioned work into how to make home births more available.

The National Childbirth Trust welcomed the move, saying currently women were often discouraged by doctors from considering a home birth.

Expectant women will now be given more choice about giving birth either in hospital, at a birthing centre or at home.

And from Brenda Phipps, chief executive of the National Child Trust...
"It has taken 30 years for the government to realise that the policy of pushing every woman giving birth into hospital was misguided. It would be lovely to see it reversed,"

Amen, sister.

CLick here to read the entire article:
Government to Promote Home Births

May 21, 2006

the best things in life are...

Or so went the 1927 tune from the DeSylva, Brown and Henderson musical, Good News.

I can remember being a kid and watching my brother fill out over 100 index cards for a "chance to win"...something (I can't even remember what the big prize was) in a contest sponsored by Coke. As a five-year-old, witnessing his dedication and hopefulness was exciting, and a bit confusing. It's an innocent thrill to root for the little guy to win, to wish that he'd tap into something bigger than what he had before. There's no doubt that the wide-eyed girl in me still lives large in my heart. (I am a writer, after all.)

A few years ago, Terry "Tuffy" Ryan penned "The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How my Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less", a memior about Terry's mom, Evelyn.
An enterprising woman who kept poverty at bay with wit, poetry, and perfect prose during the "contest era" of the 1950s and 1960s. Evelyn's winning ways defied the church, her alcoholic husband, and antiquated views of housewives. To her, flouting convention was a small price to pay when it came to raising her six sons and four daughters.

They even made a movie inspired by the book starring Juliane Moore. Collecting box tops and writing poetry on the back of grocery reciepts can pay off!

Recently, my DH (and ever-faithful techno-roadie) found a few online contests you all might be interested in...and they're free. I'll be rooting for ya!

Yummy Mummy is giving away 5 copies of The Birth House (and helping the Sick Kids Foundation too :-)
In honour of being the most recommended book of Between the Covers, five lucky and literate yummy mummies will win copies of Ami Mckay's wonderful bestselling novel The Birth House.

To enter, go to the Yummy Mummy contest page and submit "a yummy secret or tip you've picked up along your rollercoaster ride through mummy-dom." Or simply share your favourite book choice. Yummy Mummy Contest Page

Experience Toronto's Spring "Best of Fiction" Prize Package
The Prize package includes all of the following books: How Happy To Be by Katrina Onstad, Fabrizio’s Return by Mark Frutkin, Before the Frost by Henning Mankell, The Rebels of Ireland by Edward Rutherford and The Birth House. (5 Runners-up will win copies of Saturday by Ian McEwan.) Deadline for entries is June 19, 2006.
Spring Fiction Prize Package

Want Ian Brown to Join Your Book Club for a Day?

Thanks to Words At Large - CBC Radio's nifty new web site devoted to all things wordy, I discovered this contest from Talking Books.
To enter, all you have to do is choose a book and tell us why your book club should discuss it on our show.

The person--or club--who makes the best case wins. The prize: Ian Brown will travel to whereever you are in Canada to record an episode of Talking Books with your group.
The deadline for entering the contest is May 29. The winning book club will be notified by June 2.

Talking Books Book Club Contest

Coming Soon...
For those of you in the UK and the US, watch this space for details on how to win an advanced reader copy of The Birth House!

May 06, 2006

Fine Print Interview Today!

My interview with Carolyn Weaver of Fine Print airs today on Book Television.
11:30 a.m. & 6:30 p.m EST.

I had such a great time chatting with Carolyn. She truly cares about Can-Lit and her passion for literature shows in her work. We taped the interview at her home in Toronto, the atmosphere was cozy and relaxed. I felt like I was sitting, having a talk with one of my friends!

(The interveiw first ran on Rogers cable stations a couple of weeks ago and will appear in re-runs on Book Television, CLT, and Rogers TV.) For more information about Carolyn and Fine Print, visit her web site: Fine Print Online

May 05, 2006

Happy International Day of the Midwife!

Introducing the UK cover of The Birth House!
(To be published August 7, 2006...but available for preorder now from Blackwell's and Amazon UK, or your local UK bookseller!)

Today is the International Day of the Midwife

So, I thought I'd post a few links and thoughts in celebration and support of midwifery.

Did you know that recently they celebrated Home Birth Week in Wales?
What a cool thing to happen!
The All Wales Home Birth Group spokesperson for this event, Lorna Tinsley, National Officer for the RCM, said "We are delighted to present the minister with a thank you card for his support for this initiative which enables women to choose a home birth. Women have asked for this choice, the Heads of Midwifery in Wales have supported this choice, and we are on our way to reaching the target of 10% home births by 2007"

Thoughts on the community of birth, birthing choices, and the public perception of birth.

Since the February release of The Birth House in Canada, I've had the opportunity to travel across the country, giving readings and interviews, signing books, and connecting with readers. One topic that has come up time and time again is what I have come to call the community of birth - a gathering of family, friends, neighbours, and compassionate, skilled birthing assistants (midwives, doulas, ob/gyns, labour nurses, etc.) around every mother during pregnancy, labour, birthing, and post-partum care. I can't help but feel that the world might be a different place if every child's birth was given the attention, time, consideration, compassion and yes, the sense of personal ritual, it deserves and requires.

The other night I gave a reading at a local art gallery and afterwards opened the floor for questions and conversation. Within the crowd of about 40 people was a practicing osteopath, a midwife who is finishing up her osteopathic studies, an OB/GYN who recently had her first child, and three female GP's. A question came from the back of the room..."You cover many different birthing expereinces in The Birth House, why didn't you include the emergency c-section?"

For a moment I felt a little dumb struck by the question. I not only wanted to answer the question in an honest, intelligent manner, but I wanted to be able to answer in a way that might allow all of the female health practitioners in the room to feel validated and acknowledged. I went for the historical route, citing that c-sections were rarely if ever performed at that time. I looked at the osteopath, the midwife and the OB/GYN. The OB agreed. But then there was the sticky end note of wondering..."Did more mothers simply die in childbirth because c-sections weren't practiced?" We didn't go into it, and part of me wishes we'd had time to do just that.

The truth is, during the WWI era, c-sections had a very high maternal mortality rate.
Caesarean section has a long history. But because of its high maternal mortality rate in the early years, it remained a rarity, even at the turn of the century. -from Giving Birth in Canada by Wendy Mitchinson

As the years went by and obstetrical surgery was standardized, the ease of the c-section became touted as a sure bet...obstetrical sugeons cited that,
"childbirth was considered a branch of surgery" and that "it (the c-section) was an operation just like any other and could be 'lightly' selected; there was even a sense that a physician would prefer it, since the operator did not have to wait 'unduly' for nature to take its course. - Mitchinson

What of Midwives, C-sections and Britney Spears?

And the fall out continues today...
Are we too quick to cut in today's society? I think so. Are women fairly consulted (and informed) when it comes to making birthing decisions? Not nearly as often as they should be. I know I felt lost, scared and out of the loop when my first child was born. This happened for many reasons (the portrayal of birth as a danger-laden event in the media, my personal fear of the unknown, the expectations brought to me by doctors during my pregnancy.) And I'm far from alone. Dr. Christiane Northrup's May newsletter contains an amazing birth story by Shawn Spry.
Shawn Spry’s story illustrates the amazing wisdom that is available to us as women—through our connection with our birth wisdom. Birth is the physical metaphor for how all of creation comes into physical form. And that is one of the reasons why birth always feels like such a miracle. Regardless of how you were born, this birth wisdom lives in you and is available to help you live your life more fully. It is imprinted in our bodies—because they were formed within our mothers.

Shawn beautifully tackles the notion of the 'emergency' c-section and what it meant to her to be able to have a VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section).
I was made to feel guilty and selfish for caring about how my baby was born. But as the rest of the story will tell, one non-profit consumer advocacy group and two children later, I can say with all confidence: It is not selfish to care how women and babies are treated during pregnancy and birth! Shawn Spry

Read Shawn's entire essay: The Miracle of Bella

Home Birth Makes the Hit Parade

I know I've gone on at length in this post, but I'd be remiss if I didn't share one last letter with you. This came to me in my email this week. A marvelous essay about home birth, birthing choices, and Britney Spears. ;-)

The Thinking Mother’s Answer to Britney Spears’ Cesarean:
Home Birth Makes the Hit Parade

While Britney chooses major abdominal surgery to have her baby and a sculptor creates what should have been – Britney on all fours letting the baby come out naturally on a bearskin rug -- there are women who prefer more scientific advice on the best way to have a baby.

Home birth has become the second most popular subject for readers of the British Medical Journal (BMJ), second only to articles on how to treat heart disease. The BMJ recently released its 2005 annual top 10 list of articles receiving the most attention on the web in the first week after publication. "Outcomes of planned home births with certified professional midwives: large prospective study in North America," was the third most popular article among several hundred published in the BMJ in the year 2005. It was also the third "most sent to friends." Over 40,000 web users have sought the article since publication. BMJ Article

The research was done by a Canadian research team and many of those downloading the article are Canadian women. Given that only a minority of women in developed countries choose home births, how is it that such an unlikely topic should hold such a prominent position in one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world? The study is, in fact, timely. The Canadian Institute for Health Information has just put out a report demonstrating increased risk of cesareans and other interventions in Canada.

Home birthers are statistically among the more educated in developed countries and this study -- the largest prospective home birth study ever published – provides the academic precision to critically juxtapose home and hospital environments and their affect on normal birth.

Hot on the tail of renewed interest in natural birth, studies are presently being formulated to test instead, outcomes when young pop stars and their followers, regardless of risk, ask for cesarean section. Popular promotion of this form of childbirth capitalizes on women’s fear by offering them "a way to get out of birth."

The only systematic attempt to know what mothers think in North America was done in the U.S. -- the Listening to Mothers survey found that not even 1 per cent of mothers who had a first cesarean had requested it. Therefore, while there may be an attempt to render vaginal birth an "extreme sport," normal birth is still preferred by most women in order to have more control and the satisfaction of engaging in a normal biological function that women have performed for centuries. The outcomes in the BMJ home birth article suggest that women are more likely to achieve this safely if they plan their birth at home.

The BMJ editors one paragraph summary succinctly describes the research:

"Giving birth: home can be better than hospital."
For women with low risk pregnancies in North America, giving birth at home bears similar risks of intrapartum and neonatal mortality as giving birth in hospital, but planned home births are associated with lower rates of medical interventions. In a prospective cohort study, Johnson and Daviss (p 1416) evaluated the safety of home births involving certified midwives in 5418 women who intended to give birth at home when labour began. The study participants experienced substantially lower rates of epidurals, episiotomies, forceps deliveries, vacuum extractions, and caesarean sections than women with low risk pregnancies who gave birth in hospital."

Following the lead of Britney and the Spice Girls` infamous "too posh to push" headlines, the National Institutes of Health hosted a conference called, "Cesarean Delivery on Maternal Request" in Washington, D.C. in March. Researchers who attended spoke up widely against such a title, pointing out it was irresponsible and attempting to create a myth. While there is evidence that demonstrates that cesareans and other interventions are on the rise, there is none indicating this trend is being driven by the women themselves. Physicians lack of continuous care, the resulting decreased investment in individual women`s needs, and fear of liability are being offered as more substantial reasons.

With such unsubstantiated claims being made about women wanting cesareans, and the overwhelming response to the home birth article in the BMJ article on how to decrease rather than increase intervention, it appears time to offer "Home Delivery on Maternal Request" instead of cesarean section.

Truth be told, Britney could only give birth on a bearskin rug in front of the fire in a setting outside of hospital.

And if the animal skin seems farfetched, in fact, in the not too distance past, Inuit women in Northern Canada reported reticence in going to the nursing station to deliver because the environment was too foreign -- why disturb the nurse’s sterile white sheets when caribou skins are more comfortable and welcoming?
Betty-Anne Daviss, RM MA

Logo courtesy of The Royal College of Midwives