A Writerly Crisis of Faith

Apathy_Bear_by_MrsGeeI’m writing a new novel. This one is for an adult audience, not my usual genre which is young adult. This is new territory for me. I spent months doing the research, and now I’m well into the story.  I’ll probably spend another year completing it before I’ll shop it around to publishers. If it’s any good and with a little luck it will get published and then I’ll start another one. Such is the life of a novelist.

But there’s always that chance that I won’t find a publisher for this one. It’s an extremely competitive field. I might have missed the boat with the topic which may be passé by the time the story is complete. Am I wasting a couple years of my life working on something that will simply grow mouldy in a file cabinet drawer in my basement? Every day I wonder if my time would be better spent working in a soup kitchen, bringing meals to the elderly, volunteering in a hospital – all things that would help make my community a better place.

This is the dilemma faced by most writers. Hugely successful ones sign contracts before a project is written, but for most of us, writing is an act of faith. We enjoy the process, but we also hope that our words  will  find an audience to entertain, inform, or simply be thought-provoking. But there are days, like this one, when the words aren’t flowing and the passage of time stares me in the face and I wonder … is this the best use of the time?

To Sir, with love

He’s deaf, mostly blind and, (I hate to say it) he smells bad. Goopy-eyed and senile, he often barks incessantly for no apparent reason. He’s developed disgusting habits, like sniffing out cat poop for consumption, and he’s prone to accidents in the house. Tangle-ups with his retractable leash have caused three broken bones (mine, not his.) He’s the kind of aging dog that only those of us who have lived with him for sixteen years could love, but love him we do. This is our treasured Sir Winston.

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Sir Winston

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Thank you, Mom

Library

This week I spent a morning sitting in a comfy lounge chair at my local library. Occasionally I would look up from the book I was reading and watch the steady stream of people going in and out through the front doors. It was a weekday morning, so it was mostly seniors and toddlers with their caregivers. Librarians were helping patrons, and there was a quiet but friendly buzz in the building. I said a quiet ‘thank you’ to my mom who turned me into a library user all those years ago. Is there a better institution in our communities? I don’t think so. All those books, free! Continue reading

A Catch 22 – Selling the rhino horn to save the rhino

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Okay, who doesn’t want a cure for cancer and/or hangovers? I sympathize, but I won’t be looking to the horn of the rhino for relief anytime soon.

As we’ve heard in the news, rhino horns are a coveted commodity in Asia, thought to do everything from curing life-threatening disease to relieving simple ailments. As a result, the animals are being illegally poached and killed for their horns. Their numbers have dwindled alarmingly. The situation is dire.

Enter, stage left: South African, John Hume owns and operates the world’s largest captive breeding operation of rhinos.  He claims that his life ambition is to save the rhinos from extinction. His farm houses 4% of the global population. He, too, saws off the rhinos’ horns, (without killing the animal) in order to make them less attractive to the poachers (who do kill them). The thing is, the horn grows back and can be harvested every 18 months.

The twist: Hume sells the horns to the Asian market, arguing that the profit he makes goes directly back into sustaining his farm that protects the rhino.

Talk about a paradox. Hume is keeping the demand for rhino horns alive, the exact same reason he has to run a rhino refuge in the first place.

If there was scientific evidence showing that yes, indeed, the rhino horn does have medicinal value, this practise of Hume’s may have some merit, but until then… it seems education is still the way to go, the dispelling of incorrect beliefs about the properties of the rhino horn.

(And yes, easy for me to sit here in Canada and condemn a practise happening in South Africa when our own threatened species, the grizzly bear, is still being trophy hunted. Just as horrific, I know, I know.)