It’s ironic that I would feel like I’ve kind of ‘made it’ when I received my first hate email a little while back.

My first thought was, “I must have done something right!” And my second thought was, “What if this person is right about me?”

I have seen too many people delude themselves. These are people who construct elaborate narratives about themselves where they’re misunderstood victims instead of the jerks they really are. These people surround themselves with people who prop up this alternative reality and anyone who tries to burst the delusion bubble gets backlisted–but good!

I’ve seen too many otherwise intelligent people do this–to ever feel comfortable that I’m not doing that myself. So my first reaction on getting an insult is to second guess myself and wonder if there’s any truth in it.

Sometimes there is. Whereupon I force myself to swallow some humble pie and make amends.

When there is no truth in the insult then I chalk it up to a problem with the hater that has nothing to do with me.

And the reason why I thought I must be doing something right is that anyone who is making an impact in any way, will attract their share of haters.

There’s a line in L.M. Montgomery’s The Blue Castle, where the heroine Valancy Sterling is taking stock of her 29 years of living thinking what a pathetic creature she was, she didn’t even have one enemy!

It seems to be the nature of artists that they remember the slings and barbs long after they’ve forgotten the praise!

Perhaps it’s because within every artist there is an inner critic and the slings and barbs echo the snarly comments of the critic, so are more easy to hang on to.

But I received a very nice email from a lady I met at the SCBWI conference. She reviewed Big Red Lollipop and wanted to share it with me. You can read what she had to say here:

It’s so nice to read such heart felt comments about the impact your book has had on others!

I got this email at a time when I felt rather low, so it was welcome indeed!

Then yesterday I got ready and went to Ottawa to attend an event that was organized by a booking agency I’m working for up there called MASC.

They called it a ‘retreat’ but it was really just a day of workshops. They looked interesting. The first was about grant application writing and the second was about creating promotional vidoes.

All MASC artists were encouraged to attend. Being from out of town I wasn’t obligated but the topics looked interesting and I thought I might get something out of it.

Also it was neat how MASC had re-hired me kind of. About ten years ago, when I first started storytelling I was on their roster for a couple of years, but somehow they didn’t ask me back. About seven years went by and one of the ladies in charge saw me at an Arts Smarts event, and they decided to invite me back. As an out of towner they’ll try to concentrate all my bookings in a week in April to make it worth my while.

I drove up yesterday and the weather was simply gorgeous!

The sky was that really deep ultramarine blue you really only get in the fall (ultramarine is a colour of Laurentian pencil crayon that is a deep intense blue!). It’s a blue that is completely free of the haze of humidity!

The trees were beginning to turn! The sumacs that lined Highway 7 (transCanada highway) showed brilliant red edges and there was a grove that I passed that I swear were almost purplish in hue!

I’ve never seen purple fall leaves!

And oh the cottonwoods! When the wind blew you could see the bright white of the under leaves!

And the oddest thing was the monarch butterflies that fluttered across the highway.

I noticed them first on the 401 of all places!

Monarch butterflies dodging eighteen-wheel trucks who must be on their yearly migration to Mexico!

After a while I started looking for them and like the inukshuks I counted on the way to Sudbury and Espanola back in March and April, I started counting Monarch butterflies zigzagging from my left to right (I was driving east) heading south for the winter.

I counted a total of twenty Monarch butterflies–including a poor chap that hadn’t dodged artfully and was stuck to the yellow line in the middle of Highway 37 just outside Tweed.

The milkweed they had probably spent the summer feasting on was also turning golden colours at the side of the road, their pods curled back  having burst open.

I can’t really say the scenery was spectacular. I mean I’ve driven across Canada and southern Ontario farmland is nothing compared to the vast beauty out there, and yet the rural charm of tawny autumn colours does my spirit good.

Going to this retreat meant spending my own money on this trip, but hubby encouraged me and now I’m really glad I did.

The grant writing workshop turned out to be too specific towards artists in the city of Ottawa, so I went to the parallel session on social media instead.

I had initially passed on the social media session because I’d already been to sessions on it, but this one was different! Holly Wagg really made social media understandable!

And having seen John Green’s video blog, I found out how I could do that too. It’s actually not that hard (although I’m saying that without having even attempted the learning curve!).

MASC received some funding to make a one minute promotional video for each of their sixty artists so I learned about that as well.

Being in Ottawa, so close to Quebec (it’s on the other side of the Ottawa river), there were a LOT of Francophone artists at the retreat.

I wore my purplish-lavendar coloured shalwar kameez suit. It’s a little darker purple than a Canadian ten dollar bill. It’s a very simple suit that I thought would agree with my colouring. And I picked up a brightly coloured Italian scarf, that had the same purple as well as ultramarine blue and black in it, as a hijab to go with it.  

It was one of the suits I wore in L.A. that I got so complimented on. Today was no different.

While walking into the venue for the workshops, a lady told me how very  nice I looked!

But it was when I got inside that a Francophone lady started speaking in French, gesticulating at my hijab and my suit, smiling and speaking quickly, saying ‘beau’ and ‘belle voile’. I know enough elementary French to realize she was also complimenting me.

Then she went on saying stuff I didn’t understand and eventually explaining in broken English that she was commenting on how nice I looked and wondering why all Muslim women couldn’t dress as attractively. Why would they wear such ugly clothes to cover themselves up? Browns and blacks and things that didn’t match? Why couldn’t they do what I did so they looked nice?

I was still smiling, kind of, but not as widely.

I couldn’t help wondering what she’d think of my daughters who do wear the ‘ugly black’ stuff.

For an instant I thought of trying to explain it to her. That those women, like my daughters, deliberately wore the drab colours because they didn’t want to draw attention to themselves.

They often had the bright colours on underneath, for private eyes. Or maybe they didn’t match up because they were poor and couldn’t afford it.

I wear the clothes I do because I figured, hey, I’m going to stick out anyway, I might as well wear what I like–and I like bright pretty colours. (and I can afford them)

But I knew that it would destroy the moment. She meant her remark in all kindness, and that was how I should accept it, period.

But it was a little sad.

On another note I did meet a Native who is Ottawa’s official town crier!

I didn’t even know the position of town crier still existed!

Apparently they have international conferences and competitions and such.

In his job (that he’d held for thirty years) he’d announced the Queen and the Pope!

His name is Daniel Richer and check out his website!

The organizers called upon his services to get the group of us to stop chatting and start the workshopping.

He had a booming voice that was quite pleasant even in the louder register!

All in all a fascinating day!

Driving back home after the workshops–  I didn’t see one Monarch butterfly! Not even the one stuck to the middle of Hwy 37! And the weather had turned chilly.