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Offside by a Mile – The 7-7-7 Challenge

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777I was tagged by Lesley Donaldson in the 7-7-7 Challenge in which writers are invited to share seven lines from the seventh page of their work in progress, starting from the seventh line. Lesley’s urban fiction book “The Queen’s Viper” is due out in the spring of 2015 and her non-fiction book, “Growing A Rainbow: The Premature Journey of a Two Pound Hero” will be on sale imminently.

The seventh page of my manuscript happens to be a blank page (chapter separator) so already this challenge did not bode well for my marketing.  So I cheated a little. The number “7” is a lucky number, after all, right? Well, not for me as this story unfolds …

Below are seven lines from the eighth page of my manuscript “Offside by a Mile – Confessions of a Hockey Mom”.

My husband, Peter, turned from packing balaclavas, thermo ski mitts, and HotShots hand warmers into the ski bag and said, “He’s going to find out, you know.”

“Find out what?” I asked innocently, though I knew only too well what he was referring to.

“Right . . . ,” he answered, rolling his eyes heavenward.

“Well, I’m not taking full blame for this one, buddy!” I snapped back as he continued shoving ski helmets into the bag. “I learned to ski for you! Our kids learned to ski for us! We’re a skiing family, and that’s final!” I bellowed, and hammered my fist onto the kitchen counter.

I knew he was right, though. Connor was going to find out sooner or later that we’d lied, that first-year hockey starts at age four, and that even though this had been a mutual decision between my husband and me, odds were good Connor was going to blame me. That’s motherhood for you.

These lines set the stage for a fourteen-year odyssey which continues to this day: my après-ski life as a hockey mom. I am hopeful that my book, Offside by a Mile – Confessions of a Hockey Mom” will soon be published. Stay tuned!

I am supposed to now play  this forward to a few authors that I know. These incredibly talented women are very busy, so I am putting NO pressure on them to participate but I know they have a few great projects in their quills and inkwells!

Amy Sherman, Barbara Cooley, Sharon Enck,Brenda MoguezBonnie Jean Feldkamp and Kimberly Dalferes? Whatcha workin’ on?

The dustbunny way …

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Last week, I was invited to participate in a “Blog Hop” where people share three bloggers they love and then those bloggers do the same.  I was “tagged” by the spirited and hysterically funny Amy Sherman, whose laughter is as infectious as her writing is witfaced. She and the others I’ve met through various writing circles, are an inspiration to me. In this blog hop, I am asked to share my writing process. Since my blog is called The Dustbunny Chronicles, naturally I have nicknamed my writing process is The Dustbunny Way.

  1.  Why do I write what I do?I write mostly out of a sense of obligation. I have a failing memory and am trying to capture the snippets of glory my generally mundane life. Kinda like Luminosity for the Soul. I write to remember. I write so I don’t forget. I write … wait. What was the question?
  2. How does my writing differ from others in its genre?I write mostly humour through occasionally I veer off-genre. I write primarily in English, as do many in my genre but I am also fluent in Sarcastic and Cynicism. Also I tend to mock myself in my writing mostly because I have so much material but I occasional move on to mocking others (particularly my husband and my teenagers – and other people though very rarely (like the high school principal in my most recent post).
  3. How does my writing process work?My writing process begins when I have a brilliant, totally captivating and hilarious idea for a writing piece, which I then promptly forget. That’s about it. Honestly though, I work full time as a Human Resource professional and am mother of three teenagers so my writing tends to get done on a very haphazard and occasional basis, limited to evenings and weekends and when I can’t sleep.
  4. What am I working on/writing?I recently finished writing my humour memoir, Offside by a Mile – Confessions of a Hockey Mom. Someone should commission a scientific research study on the effects of Zamboni fumes on one’s memory (that’s not what the book is about but certainly how it starts!).  My book has been professionally edited but I have recently sent it to three Beta readers for a little more dicing and slicing. I’ve begun dangling query letters in front of agents but so far I am scoreless. This memoir has been a true labour of love, so one way or another it will be published, of that I am certain. I also maintain this blog as best I can to hone my writing skills for project #2 which is about …  hmmm …. (see answer to question number 3).

Now for paying it forward:  There are so many amazing humour writers out there whose work makes me and the rest of the world laugh and smile. I have a very hard time picking out three. I never miss a post by Amy and she linked up to two of my favourites as well with Sarah Hunt and Michelle Lamarca.

You will enjoy these funny women – but also maybe take a look and laugh at these three:

Cece Harbor, is the Knowledge Maven. She provides just the right amount of inspiration and motivation just when I need it!

Terri Spilman is The Laughing Mom  whom I had occasion to meet at the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop. She understands the power of humour (all mothers should!)!

Blunt Moms is a website for women and for moms and for those that are both! As their byline suggests, the writing (from a series of contributors) is honest, direct and surprisingly hilarious. Sometimes I cringe; sometimes I laugh out loud. That’s what being blunt is all about!





“Anything to declare?”

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ErmaThat’s what he asked me.

“Anything to declare?” asked the Canada customs official.

Such a loaded question! They should really consider rephrasing that standard question asked by border services agents of all international travelers. You’re asking a woman if she has anything to declare?!

Oh, do I ever!  Let’s have a cup of coffee and talk about it! Indeed, I have something to declare!

I’ve taken a few days to reflect upon my experience and learning at a humour writers’ conference I recently attended. I now declare that I was deluged with new inspiration while at the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop held bi-annually at the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio. By the way, you may not know this but the word deluge is a French term for being word-swarmed. But you know, there are advantages to being deluged, or word-swarmed – in addition to all the mind-blowing quotes I garnered from the speakers, I was able to pick up a few gems from the attendees too. For example:

Boom Boom Boys:
File this under “It’s Not What You Think …”. Please just know that I will be petitioning Drum Corps International to reschedule their 2016 competition not to coincide with the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop.

Beta reader:
This is not the video player predecessor to VHS, but instead an indispensable trusted confidant who will read your work and provide you with much needed feedback before publishing (but not a professional editor, qually indispensable).

The FuckItBucket:*
I-am-so-done-tormenting-myself-over– useless -crap…

The Dayton Dribbler :
Not to be confused with the University of Dayton basketball team’s March Madness success, but rather the highly over-rated Marriott shower pressure.

The Quiet Zone :
Can we not all just agree that sleep is for sissies, retirees, and that man in 14C on UA4461? Also, is probably not the best gathering place for the Boom Boom Boys.

Ermatologist, Bombeckian, Bombie, Ermite, Bombette :
One of a massive throng of several hundred women (and eighteen men) ravishingly beautiful, startling witty and extraordinarily talented writers.


“Ma’am, anything to declare?” the customs official repeated.

I have words to declare, sir. Enough words to sustain me through many writing projects. 

And with that, my passport is stamped – a most noteworthy and emphatic endorsement of my efforts –  and I am on my way.

This post was brought to you by a deluge of words and inspired by an amazing coffee cup.


* Okay, look. I know I don’t usually swear on my blog, and actually rarely swear at all, but when I heard this phrase, I fell in love with it and can’t seem to stop thinking about it. And since I am now over the age of fifty, I can put ‘restraint’ in my FuckItBucket.

Bring it (getting ready to be Bombecked)!

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Very soon, I’ll be boarding a plane for the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop in Dayton Ohio.  My first experience with this workshop (and any writers workshop, really) was two years ago.  I would guess that eighty percent of the 350 attendees were woman like me, of a certain age like me.  Throw in a few punchlines and a little wine and you have a fermenting cocktail (which I will affectionately refer to as the Dayton Dazzler)! While in the company of so much comedic virtuosos (both the faculty and the attendees), not to mention the neighbouring drum corps competition, I was able to come away profoundly inspired but also a little intimated (and moderately deaf). I wrote about this anxiety in a post-workshop post about The Burdon of Bombeck (as in, “Hi my name is Astra and it’s been sixteen days since I last wrote something funny”).

There have been so many questions posted on the attendees’ Facebook site by newbies!  I feel I’d be doing my part as a veteran Ermatolgist (as coined by the ever wit-faced Amy Sherman) to address them so the freshman Ermatologists have as much fun as us upperclassmen!

Do people have wine in their hotel room?

You don’t get out much do you? People have wine in the hallways, in the bathrooms and occasionally even in the bar. Bring it.

Do I really need to bring business cards?

You must have some other mechanism by which to make yourself truly unforgettable.  Bring it on.

Is it okay to wear bathrobes and fuzzy slippers to the sessions?

Not many people can rock that look but if you can … I say bring it!.

Carry-on or checking a suitcase?

You can’t take liquids in a carry-on (unless three ounces is what you call a drink, in which case we likely won’t meet this weekend), so I say bring it (the suitcase that is)!

Will there be t-shirts?

There will be t-shirts, glowsticks and glow necklaces, Hang Ten foam fingers, sun-visors, ball caps, slotted sunglasses, and over-sized multi-coloured beach balls.

I’m actually not 100% sure about any of that but it will be an event worthy of such rockin’ stuff!

Do people change for dinner?

Absolutely; I’m a totally different person at dinner. Who isn’t?

What goes on Saturday night?

What happens in Dayton, stays in Dayton (that’s all I’m gonna say)!

What a difference two years makes!

Can’t wait to be Dayton Dazzled and Bombecked!


Blogging makes a difference to me – The Three R’s of Blogging

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In honour of Mother’s Day, the online magazine is featuring mom bloggers in its Turn the Page column. “Our magazine appears to a wide variety of book lovers – readers, creators, and book industry folks,” says senior writer Meagan Frank. “Moms have a big voice in today’s book conversation. Some bloggers are busy writing the stories of their families while others blog about why they choose and read the books they do.  This is our way of celebrating the difference moms are making.”  In the May issue of Books Make A Difference magazine, mom bloggers will have a thing or two to say about how blogs and books have made a difference in their lives.

The following is my post supporting mom bloggers…


Blogging makes a difference to me – The Three R’s of Blogging

On the downside, blogging has prevented me from having the relationship with Don Draper that I believe the Universe intended for me. The upshot, however, is that blogging has also saved me from wasted nights with Toddlers in Tiaras. In other words, blogging keeps me from watching too much TV, and so anchors me to the important Three R’s of blogging: Reading, Riting and Remembering (maybe not the editing so much).

I discovered the blogosphere in 2009; a full 10 years after weblogs were first launched on the internet. It’s hard to believe that blogs and blogging have only been around for 14 years, considering their widespread appeal and popularity today. I became quickly addicted to my first “R”, Reading, and was absorbing more news, recipes, music, book recommendations, fashion sense, fitness tips, sports, you name it, via blogs rather than magazines or newspapers. More than anything, though, I read blogs about parenting.  The brutal honesty with which some mothers wrote about motherhood made me feel less isolated and more – well – normal about the ups and downs of parenting.  I was still, however, a mere lurker on the blogosphere.

Soon thereafter, I reconnected with a first cousin who, while exactly my age, had taken a different path high school.  Following a series of tragedies that befell her family, our paths converged again. Her daughter and my daughter also connected for the first time, and being both the same age and both hockey players, a new sisterhood was forged. My lurking evolved into contributing, as my cousin and I co-authored our first blog that was reminiscent of our old pen pal exchange of the ’70’s and 80’s. We blogged about the wins and woes of our hockey momhoods as a way to stay connected. Then friends and family became our part of readership. As the hockey lives of our youngsters took over, sadly our postings languished, but not our rekindled sisterhoods.

I was now hooked on blogging, leading to the second “R”, Riting. I created my own blog to chronicle a 40 day long project to which I was subjecting my family during Lent. This series of posts lead to my first published work and gave rise to a new love of the written word.  I may have struggled a little to find my writing voice but seem to have settled into self-deprecating humour style of writing, with the late but ever-inspiring Erma Bombeck as my muse. That’s the wonderful thing about blogging – you can experiment with your craft, your style and your genre. My family should be grateful I haven’t changed my hair colour as often as I’ve changed the focus of my writing! My blog continues to be a narrative of my journey through motherhood, books, and of course, my favourite spectator sport – minor hockey (aka, my life with stinky laundry).

Finally, blogging has made a difference to me in the final “R”, Remembering. I started using my blog a platform by which to desperately capture and preserve memories of motherhood, as those fleeting everyday moments otherwise seem to be dissolving.  Blogging has been a far better medium for me than a diary or journal which I tend to neglect and dust off only every few weeks or months. Having had three children in 4 years, the early years had sadly become but a blur. Had I caught on to blogging earlier perhaps I could now recall and retain more of those exciting and often exasperating moments of their growing up. Something that blogging has since allowed me to do.

Certainly books have made a difference in my life for their ever-presence has ensured that I maintain a relationship with the outside world, or different worlds.  Blogging on the other hand, will ensure a lasting relationship with myself, and my inner world.

Yes, blogging has made a difference to me!

Is there a name for the phobia of not being funny? The Burden of Bombeck…

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Forgive me Father, it’s been 16 days since my last funny blog post.

You cannot imagine the pressure I’ve been under lately.  Mind-boggling.  When a little unexpected cash came my way recently – legally I might add – I was thinking about what I should do with it.  I could have and should have put it towards some pretty stimulating expenses like the credit card, fixing the dishwasher and getting the carpets steam cleaned, but I really wanted to spend it on myself.  So I took a leap of faith and registered for the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop in Dayton, Ohio.  I had been thinking of taking my writing to the next level by attending a writer’s workshop.  I realize that taking my writing to the next level might actually mean taking my writing to the recycle bin, but that’s ok.

So, now it’s been two weeks since I returned from the workshop and I haven’t written anything funny.  It’s causing me a great deal of stress and chardonnaiety.  The bar on Funny has been ratcheted up a few notches and I suddenly have Amuse-Anxiety.  Surely there is a support group for that?

Hi my name is Astra.  It’s been 16 days since I wrote something funny.

What if I post something and it’s not funny?  What if I get no cackles and snortles and get only a couple of ahems and smirks?  That’s simply not good enough for me anymore.  I’ve been Erma-lightened.  I’m good with Snarky but I need a little Side-Splitting Slapstick.

As I write this, I’m imagining the University of  Dayton scouring the blogs and books of us attendees to see if we actually learned anything.  I imagine they are slowly weeding out humour imposters in a devious plot to create a purer breed of humourist for the 2014 conference.  If  I don’t be Funny, they may stumble upon this one and I’ll be revealed.  I’ll be on the Not Funny list.  I don’t want to be on the Not Funny list.  No one who’s attended the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop wants to be on the Not Funny list.  It’s enough to make me turn a whiter shade of pinot grigio.

“So?  So? How was it?!” several friends and family members have asked me since my return.

Oh, God! Again, with the pressure?!

I’ve spent considerable amount of time these last two weeks reading all these outrageously funny blog posts of other conference attendees (now we’re talking not just the Funny list, but the Funny A-List) that had me peeing my pants … all over again.  I’m am writing every day, just like a good girl, though I’ve started at least a half dozen blog posts that have piddled out (smirk) before I find the proper finishing punch line.

And there’s Erma…

I’ve got this image of her over my desk for inspiration and yet when I look at it, all I imagine her saying is, “You really are at your wit’s end, aren’t you?”

I’m overwhelmed (you’ve probably realized that already – and the fact that I have an over-active imagination!), but I realize now that attending this conference was just part of setting my stage and I think it’s ok to have stage fright while doing that, right?  Who am I writing for anyway?  As Nancy Berk said, “Being in a room with 350 accomplished or aspiring humor writers can panic even the most confident.  Is there room for me?  The answer is – ‘Yes’ – if you use what you learn.”  I’m trying not to second guess myself too much when I recall Anna Lefler telling me to “…hone my craft, become a better writer and avoid premature e-publication.”  But most of all I am starting with Kyran Pittman‘s profoundly simple statement that I will take to heart:  “Real writers … write”.   So, I am gathering all their advice in the first of many steps in kick-starting my writing goals….

Just do it …

Of course the greatest of inspiration comes from Erma herself, “It is probably true that every person has a book in him fighting to get out.  What is crucial is that if something is going to happen, the wannabe writer has to commit by putting all those hopes and dreams on the line.  It’s time to stop talking about clever titles and get the book written.”

Thank you, Erma

and all those from whom I learned and by whom I was inspired at EBWW 2012

And now let’s move on to clever book titles…

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