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On Writing Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Suzanne Craig-Whytock

I don’t normally post anything mid-week but I was interviewed by Paul Brookes about my writing and he did such a lovely job that I was compelled to post it!

The Wombwell Rainbow

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.

The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

Suzanne Craig-Whytock

is a writer from Ontario, Canada. Her first two novels, Smile and The Dome are published by Bookland Press (www.booklandpress.com). Her short fiction has appeared in Slippage Lit and is upcoming in XRAY Literary Magazine. She also writes poetry, and funny/weird things on her website mydangblog (http://educationalmentorship.com).

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write?

I’ve been writing in a variety of genres for as long as I…

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My Week 253: Squirrelling Around And Other Tales

I’m very tired right now. I know I’m very tired, because when I get very tired, I also get very swear-y, mostly at inanimate objects. To whit:

At the computer: “Why are you so f*cking SLOW?! Come on!!”

At the raspberry bushes in the garden: “Do you think I don’t see what you’re trying to do? Touch me again and I will DIG YOU OUT, you nasty piece of sh*t!”

At the driver ahead of me: “It’s a f*cking CORNER! Get around it—are you trying to make a goddamned meal of it?!”

At the movie last night: “Are you seriously trying to tell me that Dumbledore’s mom was some random lady who was LOST AT SEA?! That makes no f*cking sense, J.K. Rowling!”

At my car’s Bluetooth lady: “It’s KEN!! It’s always KEN! When will you f*cking LEARN??!!”

Yet despite my absolute fury at things that can’t talk back, I keep it all to myself when it comes to people. For example, yesterday I passed our dining room and noticed that Ken had draped all the cloth napkins that he had washed over the back of a dining chair literally 6 inches from the drawer WHERE THEY ARE KEPT. Did I yell and swear at him? No. I quietly put them away myself, because it was his birthday. But there is a middle ground, a “no man’s land” if you will, between inanimate objects and actual human people. This territory is known as The Squirrel.

I’ll be honest with you right up front. I don’t like squirrels. And I can already hear you protesting, “Aw, but they’re so cute!” and let me stop you right there. No. They are not “cute”. I have had many encounters with squirrels in my lifetime, and at no point was I distracted from their destructive behaviour, obnoxious attitudes, bizarre habits, or sarcastic temperaments by the thought, “Well, at least they’re cute”. Squirrels are the serial killers of the rodent world, the stuff that nightmares are made of. This actually happened to me when we had a cottage. A squirrel with an incredible sense of entitlement decided that she owned the place and she was super-intimidating. I started calling her “Charles Manson” until Ken pointed out that she had two rows of squirrel boobs, so I changed her name to “Squeaky Fromme”. One day I looked up at the roof, and saw her halfway in and halfway out of a little hole under the eaves, just hanging there staring at me like a furry gargoyle. I started screaming, and she took off. Later, Ken and I were sitting on the porch—I had my back to the driveway. Suddenly, I heard a noise, like a demon muttering, and I turned around—Squeaky was actually sneaking up on me. It turns out that she had taken up residence in our attic, where she had some babies who were also little dicks, running around and chewing on things at all hours of the day and night. We finally live-trapped them all and drove them out to the country. This is not a euphemism—even if I don’t like them, I would never deliberately hurt one.

But now, I’m experiencing déja vu, because the other day Ken called me to the window and said, “Look at that squirrel with a huge chunk of grass in its mouth. It’s climbing up the downspout—what do you think it’s doing?” and my response was “That little m*therf*cker!” because it was BUILDING A NEST under the decking of my balcony. So I went out and yelled “Hey!” and its head popped out, startled.

We stared at each other, and in that moment, we both knew the game was on. I ran upstairs and out onto the balcony, which caused Squirrel-y Dahmer to scramble out and run to the corner of the roofline where he sat, staring at me like I was some bee that he was worried about, which then prompted me to point at him and yell, “I SEE YOU! Don’t think for a minute that I don’t know what the f*ck you’re up to!!” because all I could keep thinking about was him popping up between the decking and biting my toes. After a few days of me randomly going out onto the balcony and stomping around, sending Titus out to intimidate him, and blasting heavy metal music at him, he seems to have run away, never to be seen again.

So, tired, yeah.

Here are some random notes from my phone.

1) Porta-potty relief

No, this is not the happy ending to a constipation story. What happened is this: When we work off-site, we have to have an extra outdoor bathroom trailer because many of our temporary staff are women and as we all know, women go to the bathroom constantly, especially if they don’t think they’ll be able to go to the bathroom for a while, even if they don’t really need to. So the line-up to the women’s bathroom is always extremely long. The problem is that the trailer is never level, but on an angle severe enough that I’m afraid to use it for fear of it toppling over. This wouldn’t pose a problem except that the windows and doors are always on the side that would hit the ground, thereby trapping me inside and causing me to drown in sewage. This is weird, yes? But not so weird that I don’t have a pact with a colleague who feels exactly the same way in which we notify each other when we’re going out there with the promise: “If I’m not back in 5 minutes, check that the porta-potty hasn’t fallen over.” But when we arrived at the site this time, she came to me very excited:

Colleague: The portable toilet trailer is here!
Me: Ergh. How bad is the angle?
Colleague: Pretty bad, but it’s set up perpendicular to the building this time so instead of toppling over, it would just roll down into the parking lot, hitting a bunch of cars!
Me: THAT is excellent news.
Colleague: I KNOW!!

2) I was thinking about the size of Siberia and I got scared.

Personally, I had never even considered the size of Siberia or why that should be frightening but I overheard a guy on the train say this to someone he was talking to on the phone, and it sounded very intriguing. Then later, I heard him say “It’s a monster but it’s in the form of a deer standing perfectly erect” and I didn’t know if he was still talking about Siberia or something else, but the whole conversation made me realize that my porta-potty story was pretty normal.

It’s actually terrifyingly large. Who knew?

3) Meeting Cindy Bankstock

A few weeks ago, some of us from work went to a presentation. We walked in and were met by a woman who introduced herself as Cindy Bankstock (not her real name). I was immediately incensed. Not because of her name, silly—I’m not THAT tired. No, last year, I had applied for a position with another unit, the manager of which was Cindy. I love my job, but this was exactly the same kind of job AND only a 40 minute drive from my house, so it would have been perfect. I had all the qualifications, including having done the same work before, but surprisingly, I didn’t even get an interview. So I emailed Cindy, expressing my thanks for her consideration of my application and my regret at not being interviewed. I wasn’t expecting anything, but she wrote back and offered to give me feedback on my application. I thought it wouldn’t hurt, so I agreed. She sent me an official telephone meeting invite for the next week, but it was on Easter Monday. Still, she had sent the invite so I figured she was happy to do it on our day off. I had family over, but I disappeared upstairs at the designated time and waited for the phone to ring. And waited. And waited, until it was obvious that she wasn’t calling. So I emailed her and said I was sorry we hadn’t been able to speak—perhaps we could reschedule? And I never heard from her again, until I came face to face with her at this presentation. She introduced herself, as I said, and then I introduced MYSELF. I enunciated my name very slowly and clearly, then I stared at her. And like a squirrel, she stared back. Then she ran away, never to be seen again, leaving the rest of her team to do the presentation. And I didn’t even have to stomp around.

My Week 252: Outdoor Living, Jason Says Goodbye

Recently Ken and I had our 29th anniversary, and we decided to buy some outdoor furniture for the porch Ken is putting on the front of the house. It’s almost finished and it looks great, but if we’re going to use it, we need somewhere to sit. And here’s the first thing I discovered—patio furniture is REALLY f*cking expensive. Apparently, they’re all made of some kind of weird resin now that are supposed to last forever and costs a fortune. Well, if I’m not going to be buried with it, I really don’t see the point. The second thing I discovered is that Ken has no sense of humour, because whenever we’re in a store and the salesperson asked if we need help, I say, in an Irish accent, “I’m looking for Paddy. Paddy O’Furniture” and Ken never even cracks a smile. I mean, who WOULDN’T find that funny? The salespeople always laugh VERY heartily as they try to offload their outrageously costly goods onto us. On Saturday afternoon, Ken and I went out to see if there were any sales on:

Ken: I really don’t see the point in spending exuberant amounts of money on porch furniture.
Me: I think you mean ‘exorbitant’.
Ken: Huh?
Me: It’s not ‘exuberant’. That means, like, REALLY happy.
Ken: OK, but if you did decide to spend that much on patio furniture, you’d have to be pretty happy about it.
Me: HERE IS ALL MY MONEY! WHEEE!! Ah, I see what you mean.

We made our way to Lowes, where they were having a terrific sale, and then we met Roger, who sweetened the deal by allowing us a ‘scratch and save’ card even though the furniture we wanted was on clearance. We ended up getting a very good deal, so while it wasn’t exorbitant, it WAS exuberant.

And it seems like everyone is trying to spruce up their property right now, which brings me to the point of this seemingly mundane exploration of a particular Saturday morning in the hell that is a Canadian summer. 32 degrees Celsius, 45 with the humidex as the weather experts like to remind us. (Saturday was also Tristan’s 21st birthday, so we all went out to an outdoor paintball place with the lovely V and her family, which is how you should ALWAYS spend three hours in extremely hot weather. I did not ‘paintball’—I was the official photographer, and I was still on the verge of heatstroke. But Happy Birthday, Tristan—you’re the best son a mother could ask for.)

Anyway, as I’ve been driving around town, I’ve had the chance to notice some of the strange lawn ornaments that people like to decorate their yards with. Personally, I love garden statuary, and we have a few around the property, but it’s a full acre so they’re not overwhelming like some places I’ve seen where there’s a gnome every two feet. Here are a few things that I’ve seen lately though that really generate more questions than answers:

1) The Godfather Flower Bed

Let me make you an offer you can’t refuse.

I mean, what kind of horse farm IS this? Can you imagine the conversation that must have inspired this particular outdoor motif?

Horse Dude: Hey, I was thinking about the best way to advertise our horse farm.
Horse Lady: A statue of a horse?
Horse Dude: No. Just the head. People will know we mean business.
Horse Woman: Eccellente!

2) The Ozzy Osbourne Collection

Is that a bat or a dove?

I saw a woman buying one of these at Home Depot. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t it look like she’s about to bite the head off that bird?! And like she’s already done it a few times already? Put her next to the horse head—she’ll be right at home.

3) The Rainbow Rooster

Cock-a-doodle-doo.

We saw this 6 foot tall fellow outside a house on a back country road. What would possess someone to put the Kellogg’s Corn Flake Rooster on their lawn? I like cereal as much as the next person, but I certainly have no interest in having a giant leprechaun greet our visitors. But if I DID have a giant leprechaun, guess what I would name him? That’s right. Paddy. Paddy O’Furniture. Man, that never gets old.

As I said, Ken and I have several pieces of garden statuary around the property: there’s Harry the Heron, who stands by our back door, a statue of Bottom from A Midsummer Night’s Dream underneath a shaded arbour in the back, and a small black cat, curled up and sleeping, that we put on the bench over Raven’s grave. But I think my favourite piece of garden art is definitely “Dog in a Box”:

 

Jason Says Goodbye

You may remember a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Jason Momoa and how his cardboard likeness had been watching over us at our secret location. But now it seems that maybe Aquaman himself was responsible for all the water mishaps we’d been having  because last Wednesday, the skies opened, and a torrential rain flooded the building. We literally had to evacuate over 800 people because water was shooting up like geysers out of the drains and it was dangerously close to all the electrical stuff. In addition, the parking lot flooded and my car was one aisle over from floating away. We put Jason up on a table out of harm’s way, where he stood watching us enigmatically. Or was it SMUGLY, like a god toying with his creations? At any rate, the next day, my colleague came in, quietly packed Jason into his box and took him home. Personally, I’ll miss his calm presence, but I won’t miss his watery antics.

 

My Week 251: Heimliching Everyone

As I said last week, I’m currently working offsite with several hundred people, which means that we’re required by law to have a medic in the building, Usually, it’s boring AF for the medic, and the days are long, but last Monday, we were all outside enjoying the sun at lunch when we noticed a woman holding her throat. Someone asked, “Are you OK?” but she shook her head and croaked out “Choking!” She seemed like she was in a lot of distress, but before I had the chance to Heimlich her, someone yelled, “Get the medic!” which seemed a much more efficient  (albeit disappointing for me) way to go since I’ve never actually done the Heimlich manoeuvre despite being trained how. And let me tell you–I have never seen another human being move so fast. We ran into the medic room and yelled “Someone is choking outside” and the guy was out of there like The Flash. I could almost hear him thinking, “This is my moment!!”

But the whole situation reminded me of the time I got an opportunity to take a two-day first aid certification course. I’d always wanted to do this, mostly because of my fascination with the Heimlich manoeuvre, and an almost compulsive desire to perform it on someone, or at least perform it CORRECTLY. It was a course set up exclusively for my workplace, so one morning, some of us went to a nearby hotel to learn all about CPR, bandaging wounds, what to do if you’re hit by lightning, and field surgery. I think my expectations were a little high, especially around the surgery part, because we were only being certified as Level C “first aiders” and not actual medical doctors. I DID learn about being hit by lightning. If it happens, you’re probably toast and that was a terrible pun.

The instructor, Dave, was a very interesting and well-experienced former fire captain, who had some amazing stories to tell about traumatic situations and injuries, the vast majority of which seemed to have happened to his own family and friends. And himself most of all. By the second day, we’d heard all about how his wife had been in a car accident and permanently crushed her foot, his daughter had broken her femur, his grandson had almost choked to death on an Arrowroot cookie, his son came close to dying in an avalanche, and he himself had almost bled to death after being sliced open by a broken bottle during yet another car accident. I think my favourite story was how he stabbed a steak knife completely through his palm getting it out of the dishwasher. Dave was serious injury karma, and I was convinced that at least one of our group was NOT going to make it to the weekend. But we did, and here are some of the highlights of the training:

1) On each table, there were several CPR mannequins. They were just heads and torso but their mouths were wide open, and I kept picturing them lined up like some sort of bizarre (and strangely sexual) choir. We decided to name ours “Phil”. Phil was a good sport and let us merrily pound away on his chest, yelling “Come back to us, Phil! You can do it! Phil, you’re alive!! We saved Phil!!”, and high-fiving each other.

Come back to us, Phil!

2) I realized that I had some colleagues with obvious drama backgrounds, as we had to roleplay various incidents in our groups. For our “practice exam”, my group was given the scenario that one of us was lying “supine” on the floor, having slipped and fallen down the stairs, and couldn’t feel her legs. It seemed really straightforward at first, but then the scenario said, “Suddenly she begins to vomit. What do you do?” We were given a chance to practice the scene, then we had to perform it in front of the whole class, which made me super anxious because I’m a terrible actor and get really self-conscious. Things were going quite well—we were doing everything according to the book and had just gotten her into “recovery position” when one of my colleagues got a little carried away by the drama and yelled, “Oh no—she’s stopped breathing!” We all paused and just stared at her, including our hapless victim. I was like, “WTF, JANET?! That’s NOT in our scenario! We just saved her! No more acting!” but Dave was super enthusiastic and said, “Ooh, I love it—keep going!” Personally, I was fine with letting her die and failing the course, but our group was full of over-achievers so she survived.

3) We also had to perform CPR on a baby doll. After being instructed on how to do it, we each had to get up and demonstrate what we’d learned in front of the class. The first few people tried to determine responsiveness by calling “Baby, Baby! Wake up!”, so everyone else, including me, followed suit, until one of our male colleagues got up, frantically ran to the doll, and yelled, “Samantha! Samantha! Wake up! Oh no, my baby girl is unresponsive!”, and everyone after him called the baby something different. I was like “What?! We’re allowed to NAME the baby?! Why didn’t someone tell me?!” because I had the perfect name ready. It’s “Shane”. See? It works for a boy OR a girl. Or a warehouse worker who can blaze for dayz.

Aside from all the thespian-y stuff, I DID learn some pretty cool things, like when people stop breathing, they go very pale, and their nipples lose colour. We watched a video of a man in England being revived with CPR, and Dave pointed out that “the English are a very pasty bunch even when they ARE breathing, so if you’re not sure, check their nipples”. And yes,  I also learned the Heimlich manoeuvre, which came in really handy at dinner a couple of nights later, when Ken started to choke.

Me: Are you OK? Do you need the Heimlich manoeuvre?!
Ken: No—cough—I just swallowed the wrong way.
Me: Stand up! Really, I’ve got this. Prepare to be Heimliched!
Ken: No! I’m fine—do I need to show you my nipples to prove it?
Me: Sigh.

As a side note, let me just say that the night before training started, as I was leaving work, my director said, “Have fun at first aid training,” and I responded with “It’s going to be great—Heimliching EVERYONE by the time it’s over, just wait!” She smiled and said, “All right then.” Yep. Say “Heimliching” out loud. Not the way to impress your boss. What WOULD have impressed her was if I had saved the choking woman, but NO, the medic had to go and do his job. But I don’t know how well-trained he was because he didn’t check her nipples.

My Week 250: WWJD, A Special Day

Yesterday, I was driving to the secret agency’s offsite location in Mississauga. I had just gotten off the highway and turned onto the service road approaching the site when suddenly, some kind of liquid gushed onto my accelerator foot. I was immediately freaked out, as one would be, but because I was driving in traffic, I couldn’t look to see what it was so I had to suffer the terrors of my imagination for at least two minutes, during which it occurred to me that the liquid might be a) the blood of a small rodent who had just died in my dashboard b) the urine of a bat that was living in my dashboard or c) me leaking in some way. When I pulled into the parking lot, I tentatively pulled my foot out and looked at it. Water. There was water on my foot. Where it came from, I had no f*cking clue, but suffice it to say that I was disturbed by this aquatic turn of events. Then I thought “Aquatic? Wait…could it be?!”

Hello again, ladies.

Yes. It could. You might recall that, a few weeks ago, a colleague had a birthday and she—well, all of us were all gifted with a life-size, cardboard Jason Momoa. And guess who had arrived at our secret location yesterday? That’s right—Aquaman himself. I walked into our temporary office and there he was in the corner in his bespoke suit, a lei draped casually around his neck, like a giant cardboard guardian angel sent to watch over us all. And then it all made sense:

1) On Wednesday, the water dispenser ran out of drinking water. Well, Aquaman needs to stay moist. The rest of us mortals will just have to suffer on occasion.

2) On Thursday, we went out for a quick lunch. On the way back, despite the sun and heat, we were caught in a sudden rainshower. I was initially angry, because I don’t dry well, but then I realized that it was just Jason, pouring his love down on us.

3) On Friday morning, there was the water on my foot. Despite my initial shock, I now understand that it was a blessing from Jason, welcoming me back to work in the way that only Aquaman can.

4) On Friday afternoon, the skies opened up and the rain came down like a monsoon. The building we’re in is known for flooding easily, and everyone was panicking, but Jason just smiled his enigmatic smile and the rain eventually stopped. The only damage was to the car of a colleague who had left all his windows down and was now faced with soaked upholstery. Well, Jason tried to warn him.

WWJD? Close the car windows.

And it’s so helpful having him onsite. Yesterday, someone asked me a question:

Colleague: So what should we do?
Me: Hmmm. WWJD?
Colleague: What would Jesus do?
Me: No, Jason. What would Jason do?
Colleague: Ah!

WWJD, my friends.

I’m A Terrible Audience But Ken’s A Good Listener.

It’s true. I’m really terrible at listening to other people’s stories sometimes, because I have random thoughts that get in the way. I have family members who get really frustrated when people (ie: me) interrupt them to ask questions, or clarify a point, and they will sometimes just give up (ie: scream “Oh for God’s sake, never mind!). Luckily, Ken is used to this, and has no storytelling ego. He will just patiently address my thoughts and questions, then get back to his story. For example, in the car the other day:

Ken: …and then we all went to the RARE Slit Barn—
Me: Is that a STRIP CLUB?!
Ken: No, it’s a nature preserve funded by a charity called RARE. A slit barn has vertical slits in it for ventilation—
Me: Ha! It SOUNDS like an exclusive strip club, like “Then we all went to the Rare Slit Barn, had a drink and a lap dance…
Ken: So anyway, they had students there who were training as interpreters—
Me: What, like for sign language? Was everyone hearing impaired? I’d love to learn sign language…
Ken: No, NATURE interpreters. To teach other people about the nature preserve—
Me: That would ALSO be a great name for a strip club: The Nature Preserve…
Ken: It was incredible how professional the students were. Everyone learned a lot.
Me: Slit Barn. That’s awesome.
Ken: Sigh.

But Ken? Unfortunately, he’s a very good listener:

Ken: Hey, Pete just posted a picture of the commemorative stone he bought for the new Lions’ Club Splashpad. It has the name of the pub engraved on it.
Me: Cool. Did we buy a commemorative stone?
Ken: Of course.
Me: Nice. What does ours say?
Ken: ‘Slippery When Wet.’
Me: WHAT?! It does NOT!
Ken: That’s what you said you wanted.
Me: I WAS KIDDING!
Ken: You were? Too late now.

Aquaman would be proud. Happy 29th Anniversary, Ken. I love you.