Saturday, September 29, 2012

Citizen engagement with bark and bite in Gatineau, Quebec: I became a Friend of Boucher Forest September 29, 2012

"Can I give your dog a piece of sausage?", a young boy asked as we walked around the dog park next to Jardin Lavigne Park in Aylmer, Quebec on Saturday, September 29. 

He had already waited in the long line up for some free food.

I think Riley said "Yes!"
The neighborhood event with music, entertainment, and food attracted 500-600 people. It was put on by the Fondation Foret Boucher with support from several sponsors to raise awareness about the need to protect and preserve the Boucher Forest and recruit "new" Friends of the Forest.

After talking to event organizers, who are volunteers of the Fondation Foret Boucher, a charitable organization dedicated to protecting and preserving the 700 acres of Boucher Forest, in the heart of Aylmer, I signed up on the spot. I became a "Friend" of the forest".


Because, only 50 percent of Boucher Forest is safe from what you've seen happening in the City of Gatineau at an alarmingly rapid rate, especially in the last two years. Everything green that can be cut down and built on is being cut down and built on. 

Boucher Forest is the largest urban forest in Quebec

There are lots of trails and seven streams that run through Boucher Forest. I don't want to lose any of it. Do you? My favourite time of year to walk in the forest is winter.
The Aylmer off-leash dog park is surrounded by the Boucher Forest and trails from the park lead into it. This makes the Aylmer dog park one of the most beautiful places to walk your dog.
 As I walked through the extensive trails in Boucher Forest over the last two years, I wondered, "When will they cut this down too? Is there anything we can do about it?"
 It looks like yes.

In 2011, the foundation started "Friends of Boucher Forest" so citizens can join together and give more weight and support to the foundation's mission. Adding my voice, and becoming a "Friend", I suddenly feel less helpless. 

You can find out more about Boucher Forest and become a friend too by visiting their website: Fondation Foret Boucher

Foundation membership is small. Only 100 members. They added 24 more "Friends" at today's event including me. I found the event organizers friendly, dedicated, well-organized, and educated on the forest, ecology, and very good at community engagement. I learned a lot from them today. An event like this is a great way to do it.
While music and entertainment played in the big white tent, free hamburgers and hot dogs, donated by Metro Marche Kelly in Aylmer, were served up by volunteers.
A free BBQ on a beautiful, sunny, fall day and an opportunity to meet important non-profit organizations in our community dedicated to protecting and preserving the things we care about is a big draw in Aylmer.

Also present engaging citizens and providing information:

The Club Canin Aylmer provided free "doggie bags" and dog biscuits and recruited new members. They are a volunteer organization of 204 members after signing up 40 new members during the event. Club Canin Aylmer helps keep the off-leash dog park in Aylmer clean and promotes the interests of dog owners in the City of Gatineau.

Le Club des ornithhologues de l'Outaouais is a non-profit bird watching organization with interests in protecting the natural environment for birds.

L'Association du patrimoine d'Aylmer, is a volunteer citizen group formed in 1974 to promote and preserve the historical character of Aylmer's buildings, old and new.

You can visit the websites of these non-profit organizations to find out more, become a member, or make a donation.

Thanks to these organizations and volunteers for putting on this event and making it easy and fun to get involved in things I care about.

So, where's the bark? 
In the forest on the trees, and in the Aylmer off-leash dog park.

And, where's the bite?
In all those hamburgers and hot dogs!

Enjoy the best of fall!
Peggy Varner, Publisher of WritersBlogque

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Why I like this blog, why I deleted it, and why I brought it back!

This will be a fun post to write. Maybe you've done the same thing. Created a blog, kept it around for a few years, did a lot with it, or didn't do much with it at all. You created more than one blog. Let's say three. But one of your blogs took off and you ran away with it and left the others behind.

Then one day, you decided to delete the blog that you didn't keep up with, didn't get many visitors, followers, or comments. You hit the "Delete this blog" button, and it felt good! It's gone. You don't have to think about it any more or check up on it. And you didn't bother to back up any of your stories or posts. You just let it all go.

Then 30 days later, you come out of your daze and realize that you had some pretty good stuff in there, at least for yourself, and maybe for a few others as well and think, "What have I done?!"

It's too easy to delete a blog on a whim or a period of "writer's mood"
Everyone gets it right? Who am I? Why am I doing this? Where am I going with it? What's the point? It's time to move on and forget about this.

Don't say writer's block

You don't have writer's block. It's just a passing mood or period. Your writer stuff is still in there taking a break, is on vacation, or mending itself.

Luckily for published book authors, you can't unpublish a book. It's solid. A monument of sorts. And there are lots of copies.

Bloggers are published authors too, sometimes self-published authors with itchy fingers.  

Google Blogger understands our whims and builds in a 90-day grace period for you to go back and restore your blog. It works. It's instant. And it feels so good to be given another chance! How many places can you quit your job, then just walk back 30 to 90 days later and start working again? Google Blogger.

How to restore a deleted blog
  • Just go to Google Blogger and log in with your deleted blog's username and password.
  • You'll be back in your Blogger account and you'll see "deleted blogs" 
  • Click on "Undelete this blog"
  • Voila! You're back. You can keep posting or at least print out or back up the content you created.
  • Breathe a sigh of relief.
  • Then, go back and read some of your stuff. If you can say, "Hey, I still like what I wrote", keep going!
  • And say, "THANKS" to Google Blogger. 
How do I know this? Because I did all of the above.

So why do I like this blog and why did I bring it back?

I like the colour purple! This is where the writer lives. And you learn a lot by blogging.
Welcome back!
Peggy Varner
Publisher of WritersBlogque

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Canadian Popper "Jay" dedicates an awesome performance to a student who was killed by a drunk driver two weeks before his graduation

"Jay", a Canadian Popper dedicated this original performance to Anthony McColl (Tony), a student at Heritage College in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada, at the school's awards ceremony in April 2011.

Anthony McColl was tragically killed by a drunk driver only two weeks before his graduation ceremony. The students at Heritage College and the boy's father teamed up to raise $1,700 for MADD (Mother's Against Drunk Drivers). Every day, 4 Canadians are killed and 190 are injured as a result of drunk drivers. You don't have to be drunk to be impaired and cause a fatal accident.

Think about it.

Don't drink and drive.

Because of this sad loss, many students and friends made "I Promise" pledges to promise not to drink and drive or to let friends drink and drive. This may mean sometimes parking the car and calling a taxi, a friend, or a parent to pick you up. It may mean taking away someone's car keys. Remember, the person who is drunk will not be thinking clearly. It is your responsibility to act.

Visit the "Tony McColl Make a Promise" page.

Watch Tony's Promise: R.I.P. Anthony McColl, a tribute to Tony.

You can join Tony's Promise on Facebook at:

Tony’s Promise is a basic agreement that if you join this group, you will never allow a friend to drink and drive again.

Make a Promise is spreading. May 4th is Make a Promise Day. Have you made your promise?

Visit Make a Promise, created by Matthew Cossolotto and see what the Power of Making a Promise can do for you. "May the Fourth be with you."


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Me and my morning buzz - alarm clock wake-up strategies

Do you have a wake up strategy? Should you?

Have you ever taken the time to think about your alarm clock and how you start your day?

Me neither. But today I thought maybe I should.

I only think about my alarm clock when I need it to wake me up when I don't want to.

Your alarm clock may be any number of things, mechanical (cellphone, alarm clock), biological (bodily needs or desires), or environmental annoyances (a real-life rooster, a crow outside your window, a barking dog, or your favourite neighbor redoing his roof at 6:45 a.m.).

My alarm clock is a traditional, effective, and inexpensive $20 piece of plastic.

This is what usually wakes me out of blissful slumber each morning.

I've never thought about making friends with it either. I never will.

It does it's job. It was a gift. It is a simple clock radio alarm model - radio and alarm. No games or gadgets. It has lasted forever and still looks like new.

Every morning when the alarm goes off, I say exactly the same thing out-loud: "I hate you!"

This has been going on for years.

Guess what it's called . . . The Sony DREAM MACHINE!

I've been wondering if I should continue to wake up with something I hate each morning.
Should I make a change? Should I change my wake up strategy?

Most people have a love-hate relationship with their alarm clock. You hate the sound of the alarm. It has to be alarming, or you wouldn't wake up. You need it to keep you on time.

I have a typical wake up strategy

My wake up strategy is to set my alarm clock to go off to radio news thirty minutes before I have to get up. I want to know if there is something interesting or major going on or if I can just hit the "leave me alone for now" snooze button.

The alarm, is set for the deadline - the worst case scenario - the last second I can get out of bed and barely make it to where I've got to be. This gives me the choice to get up before the hateful sound of the alarm or gives me thirty minutes of wake time to think about how comfortable my bed really is and torture myself by wishing I had more time to enjoy it.

Alarm Clock Research

Today I researched alarm clocks on the Web using a number of keywords: alarm clock monsters, and alarm clock hate clubs. Facebook has one! There were over 9,000 fans on the Facebook I hate my Alarm Clock page when I last checked in. Facebook has a page for anything you can think of. Apparently alarm clock hate is a big topic and trying to make waking up happy and fun is a big business!

Alarm Clock Monsters (Waku Free) is an iPhone/iPod app that lets you download your favourite iTunes music or set it to funny sound effects. Cute little monsters will be dancing to your tunes when your alarm goes off. You can customize it to your preferences. It might make you laugh and shake a leg when you get up to shut it off. A good toy if you're an app-a-holic and your cellphone technology is your best friend.

UberReview lists the Top Ten Most Annoying Alarm Clocks. My alarm clock is pretty tame compared to some of these gimmicky and ballistic models. I had no idea!

How about an alarm clock that explodes puzzle pieces. You have to find the pieces and put them back in the machine to get it to shut off. Another model hangs over your head, sounds off and retracts out of your reach. Imagine sleeping with that hanging over your head! This must break some major Feng Shui rules! Or the alarm clock that comes with a flashing strobe and vibrating pad. Can't you just go to Vegas for that kind of stuff? How about the model that you have to shoot with a laser to turn it off. Fun until you misplace the laser remote!

I thought my wake up strategy was probably pretty much the same as most people. But, looking at some of new alarm clock models and apps for cellphones out there, it looks like I need to consider all the options I've got now for waking up.

It can be turned into a game, it can become a challenge of skill, or it can be made more Zen.

I need a new wake up strategy and an alarm clock I don't hate

My new wake up strategy will include:
  • thinking about how I want to wake up
  • changing my perspective about getting up
  • talking to others about their wake up strategies
  • experimenting with different methods of waking up to see what works best for me and whoever hangs out with me (we have to be considerate)
There are many choices when it comes to alarm clocks:
  • Find something Zen
  • Get a gimmicky toy that will test your skills and agility
  • Go for a cellphone app you like
  • Stick with the everyday traditional alarm clock radio you've had for years
  • Get a puppy that needs less sleep than you and likes to lick your face early in the morning
  • Put up with an annoying cat who needs to be fed on schedule!
I'm thinking of starting with Zen. A Zen alarm clock. Something that wakes me up gradually and gently, instead of suddenly.

What's your wake up strategy?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Johanna Skibsrud wins this year's $50,000 Giller Prize

Johanna Skibsrud, from Montreal, was awarded this year's $50,000 Giller Prize on November 9, for her first novel, The Sentimentalists, which she based on some of her father's real-life experiences in the Vietnam War. I remember the Vietnam War. One of my best friends lost her brother in a helicopter crash and she was never the same afterwards.

It's nice to see Johanna win after being referred to as "perhaps the most unlikely winner in Giller Prize history. The novel was originally published in October 2008 — too late to qualify for last year’s prize — but came and went without too much attention; it garnered scant reviews, sold a few hundred copies, and remained relatively unknown until being named to the long list in September."

Here's an interesting writer's dilemma for Johanna Skibsrud now that she's won the Giller Prize. She's with a small five-person publishing house, Gaspereau Press that can't keep up with the demand for her prize winning novel, and is struggling to crank out 1,000 books a week. A happy problem just the same.

And Gaspereau Press didn't lose any time hopping on the bandwagon to promote themselves. They made a short video of themselves feeding the manuscripts of her book into the binding machine. It's just a video of NOISE! As if anyone would be interested in this. I'm wondering how they survive without ear plugs! But it will make you so happy you are at peace with your writer's pen or keyboard and quiet office! And if you've never seen a book binding machine, here it is.

I'm usually more interested in the writer's story than the novels they produce.

J.K. Rowling, the author of the famed Harry Potter books, is one of my all time favourites. Before she published her first book, she struggled to survive as a single parent. It was hard for her to finish her first manuscript, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Or Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone-U.S. title).

J.K. Rowling kept many of her notes in simple shoe boxes. Five publishers rejected her masterpiece. Until, one day, an exec at Scholastic found her first Harry Potter manuscript on top of his to-take-home-and-read pile and couldn't put it down. The rest is history. J.K. Rowling is now famous and rich with a series of Harry Potter books and Hollywood feature films.

Happy reading and writing!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Just for Laughs Comedy Tour 2010

WritersBlogque hit up the Just for Laughs Comedy Tour 2010 in Ottawa. This year's show is one to check out. A great lineup from start to finish.

Don't let their boring promo pic fool you. The pickpocket is a new act, Bob Arno. The tall skinny guy in a red suit. He'll rob you blind while chatting you up. Watch out for him at the airport and at the Just for Laughs Comedy Tour, he'll lift your stuff there too! Ha! He rocked. Something new!

Italian Frank Spadone hosted. He speels out typical girl problems faster than you can absorb. Quit bashing your wife's idiosyncracies and assuming we're all like that! Ha!

Gina Yashere, a black Brit from Nigeria. Figure that out! And a girl comic you'll likely like whether you are a guy or a girl!

Ryan Hamilton (from Idaho) how did that happen? He opened the show and was too good to be a starter. That's what makes a great show. No bombs!

Jeremy Hotz, you gotta love him, especially if you hate IKEA!

I've been going to the Just for Laughs Comedy Tour shows for the last seven years. I like it better than most of the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival shows and galas in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Just for Laughs selects some of the most popular acts from their yearly comedy festivals, then makes them run rampant across a host of Canadian cities.

Never mind where you see the show. The comedians know how to yank your city's chain. Every city has a different quirky personality. (Ottawa - yawn!) I don't mean the comedians. I mean the city and the people who live in it. Hey, wait a minute. I live here too. I'm so glad I don't belong! Ottawa needs the comedy tour. If you can make Ottawa laugh, YOU KICK ASS! They made Ottawa laugh. Ottawa has a pulse? That's news to me!

This year's line up totally rocked. If you get a chance, check them out, if not this year, next.

Comedians are writers and performers. There is no braver writer than a stand up!

Could you do it?

What kind of writer are you? Novelist, blogger, playwrite, stand up comedian, journalist, . . .

Happy finding your writer self.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Today's Quote: Be inspired by greatness, not intimidated by it

Whose quote is this? Well, it's mine unless someone comes along and tells me someone else said it before me.

I bet many have . . . said it before me, and I bet many have . . . been intimidated by greatness, or what you perceive as greatness and how you define success. I know I have and I am still intimidated by greatness. It can scare you, and at the same time make you in awe of it.

See, I still haven't defined greatness. That's a state of mind that is different for everyone. So I can save some words here, you'll make up that definition and what it means to you.

So, what do we do when we are intimidated by greatness? Great writers, great athletes, great musicians, great artists, great anythings?

We think we should just give up and watch, stop trying, or try harder. Does greatness inspire you or intimidate you, or both? What comes first, the chicken or the egg? Does greatness inspire you first, then intimidate you later, or does greatness intimidate you at first, and inspire you afterwards, when you've had time to catch your breath? It's hit me both ways.

Why not just keep going? Yep, that's the path. Just keep on going!

And here are a few tips and comments from Copyblogger on "How to Show up and Write", by Taylor Lindstrom.

Happy reading and writing!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Ottawa International Writer's Festival, October 20-26. Will I discover something there worth finding?

Well, here we go again. Asking that same old question: "What do writers do when they aren't writing?"

Give yourself a new assignment and attend another writer's event. You're a blogger and you are your own boss. Let's try the The Ottawa International Writer's Festival, October 20-26 to see if we can find some more writer inspiration and new perspectives by hanging out with other writers. The ones with stories they've already told. You're still looking for yours.

Kingston WritersFest was a plus for me, and I've still got a list of blog posts to work on from material that I got from this event and two new books to read. I met a few of the authors and bought some of their books. I'd recommend Kingston WritersFest to others. Let's hope they include a topic on blogging at next year's event. And now I'm willing to give up other stuff I like to do to give another writer's event a shot.

Although I wish someone would give The Ottawa International Writer's Festival Web site and promotional materials a leg up! How about some creativity and spark! An image of an old typewriter for your poster!? I like their tag line, "Ideas need words." But I'd say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I think each blog post needs at least one compelling image and a few words. But I'm a Web writer. We are adjective adverse!

This is an Ottawa event. It sounds stuffy already. But I'll give it a try at least once and hope I'm wrong. I'm not fond of sharing links to Web sites I don't like, but I'm making an exception here. Non-profit events need support.

WritersBlogque will go there to check it out and look for something of interest. I love surprises, odd stories, and unexpected perspectives to find me. I'll be exploring the criminal minds angle a bit, but may discover something altogether different.

Kenk, looked like one to explore. The story of Igor Kenk, an ex-cop from Yugoslavia, heads to Canada in 1988, turns bike king thief, and runs a bike repair shop in Toronto, gets busted in 2008 for dealing drugs and stealing over 3,000 bikes, and only gets a few months in jail.

Follow up October 23: I went to the multimedia presentation by the Kenk Team

"Meet the Filmmakers?" Usually, these types of things are presented by people who have actually completed a film. The Kenk Team was only 10 percent along the way with completing the animated film of Kenk, and they do not have much to show you of their work yet, but they will explain to you how much work, research, and the types of effects they are working on for the project. They even admitted, "We don't know if we'll ever finish it. Is the National Film Board here?" I guess they are getting some funding from them.

Great. Why did I pay to come to this presentation on a Saturday night!

I think you are better off to wait until they finish the film, if they ever do. The presentation was not interesting and I don't know why it was included in the Ottawa Writer's Fest programming. There is a book already published. The Kenk Team is working on an avant garde "graphic novel". It was part of the Ottawa Animated Film Festival. Disappointing. I'd rather see completed animated films, with a discussion afterwards from the creators, rather than a presentation of a project that is just getting started. This was probably of more interest to film students.

By the time the four members of the Kenk Team had explained their intimate and detailed involvement with this project, with very few clips to show, and most of which you could already see on their Web site, I was already bored with the story of Igor Kenk. If they ever finish the animated film though, it may be worth checking out. Although, I think they may beat their own story to death if they keep presenting what they're working on before they finish it!

For more information on the Igor Kenk story, some bicycle bloggers seem to follow this odd story with interest.

Find more bits of the Igor Kenk story on BikingToronto, CBC NEWS,, and

What angle do you take to find your next story? How do your stories find and distract you?

Happy reading and writing.