Magic 8: “Reply hazy. Try again.”

I’m writing.

At least, I’m trying to write.

I may need a support group to provide me with unconditional positive reinforcement on demand, or some sort of ultimatum or force beyond the feebleness of my own will, but for now, ass in chair, I’m writing.

I wouldn’t say no to an intervention, though. And wine. To help with the motivation.

I booked my editor for my “Naked, at the End of the World” novel way back in March… my reasoning was that if I booked my editor for June, I’d get it the fuck done.

I work best under pressure.

Except this time.

This time, nuthin’.

The date when I was supposed to send my manuscript to her (lovely woman, patient, understanding woman) came and went… last Saturday… and I hid. I was going to email her with a sob story of literary despair, but I decided that I would just pretend it didn’t exist, this interminable novel of epic suckage, and she would forget about me.

It’s not like it’s her livelihood, after all.

Ok, so it is her livelihood, but I thought she’d take the hint when No Words arrived from Libby. I thought she’d sigh with gentle sympathy and chuckle and say: “Oh that Libby. No Words. It’s perfectly OK.”

Instead, she emailed me and asked where my manuscript was.

She reminded me that it was her livelihood, after all.

She suggested that I respond, indicating my intentions.

And I was bereft. My novel sucks. A doodle doo.

Suck-a-doodle-doo, that is.

(Thank God it’s not my livelihood!)

Until… I re-read my wanton manuscript.

And I chuckled a little.

And I thought, “My, my, what good use of the word ‘apocryphal’. Aren’t I clever?”

And I pondered the scene with the peacock feather tattoo, and the scene with the cat, and my painful and gratuitous overuse of the word ‘fuck’.

And I asked the Magic 8 ball if I should carry on…


I bought a Magic 8 ball because the Magic 8 is a pivotal prop in my story, and it seemed ill-fated… irrational, even… to not use its wisdom to guide my Novelacious Novelling…


Jeep, Wonder Weiner, asking the Magic 8 Ball for guidance regarding the squirrels…


Me: “Magic 8 Ball, should I continue with my novel?”

Magic 8: “Cannot predict now.”

*shake, shake*

Me: “Magic 8 Ball, should I keep writing?”

Magic 8: “Reply hazy. Try again.”


*shake, shake, shake*

Me: “Magic 8 Ball, should I finish my novel?”

Magic 8: “My reply is no.”


Then I asked the pompous and oratorically pugnacious Magic 8:

Me:  “Can YOU use the word ‘apocryphal’ in a sentence? Eh? Can ya?”

Magic 8: “Very doubtful.”

And with that,  I won.

Winning this debate with the Magic 8 Ball has provided me with the inner fortitude I need to continue writing.

Take that, Magic 8.


Mic drop.

So, I feel energized. Empowered, even.

I’m writing again… Naked, at the End of the World… novel #4…

And it feels good.


*shakey mcshakerson*

                            Me: “Magic 8, is this novel going to be a success?”

Magic 8: “Better not tell you now.”


Oh. Oh, I see.

Saving the good news for later… that’s how I choose to read it, anyway…

PicMonkey Collage

Wherein I ramble on…

I haven’t blogged for so long, I think I’ve forgotten how!

I’ve been busy doing this…


Mermaid’s Tears

and this…


Mermaid’s Tears, set

which resulted in this…


LITF 2016: Outstanding Visual Production, Adjudication Award for Excellence in Puppet Creation, nomination for Best Director (top 3 of 8) for Mermaid’s Tears.

and you would think that would be good fodder for a blog post, but I’m not quite ready to go there yet. Creating “Mermaid’s Tears” for the Liverpool International Theatre Festival was an epic journey, fraught with drama and emotion. Suffice to say… we done good, you. I may blog about the whole adventure some day, just… not today.

Do you know what happens, though, when a big project ends?

A hole. A vacuum where all the energy and pulse and excitement that existed for the previous project swirls around like lonely sheep looking for a shepherd. Like ants looking for sugar. Like ticks looking for a warm body…

Max has lyme disease.


He’s fine… I think. Medicated, loved, carried outside to pee when all of his wee limbs seized up stiff like little sticks. Treat your dogs, peeps! And don’t toss your children into swamps and meadows. Dangers abound! Jeep seems fine… good thing, no one wants a stiff weiner…

Here is Jeep, with his summer reading pick. An EXCELLENT book, if you’re looking for something wonderful to tide you through to July…


My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologizes, by Fredrick Backman

And the puppies are fine.


And I am looking for new projects.

I have Novel Number Four on the go but it SUCKS ASS. I’m in that sad tween state in the writing process where EVERYTHING SUCKS and everything I write is EMBARRASSINGLY ASS-ININE. I want to finish it, but then I write lines like:

“He wandered through the halls of his mind like a mental patient looking for a bedpan.”

…and I know my writing career is over.

So… today I did this:


Which was fun, and something quick and easy I can do with my Art class. White glue, food color, salt. Easy-peasy. It’s June, and the creative juices are flowing quite slowly in the Art room…


And I started this. A new Marilyn. Actually it started like this:


And then progressed to this:



And now this is standing in my living room:


She’s eventually going to look like this, from “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”:


We’ll see how it goes. Let’s hope it doesn’t suck as bad as my writing.

Oh… and I’m also cooking a coyote carcass. I won’t post any pictures of that, because it kind of looks like I’m cooking a dog, and I fear I won’t be invited to any parties if people think I’m cooking dogs in my backyard. I do have access to enough dogs that one or two gone missing wouldn’t be a big deal… but this is a road kill coyote carcass donated by my friend HM.

Me: HM, I’d love to have some bones for my Art class.

HM: Would a coyote do?


HM: I’ll be on the lookout for one for ya. Find ‘em on the road sometimes.

My Love: Really? Seriously? That’s weird. You’re weird.


My Love: Why can’t you just collect shoes, like a normal girl?

Me: Where’s that big metal pot…

It is NOT weird to be cooking a coyote carcass on a sunny afternoon.

It’s all part of my quest to be The Coolest Art Teacher EVER. Have you ever drawn a coyote skull?

I can’t wait to see the looks of delight on the children’s faces.

Forget food coloring and salt!

We’re drawing road kill!

Is it June yet? Yes?

Just in the nick of time…

PicMonkey Collage

Brie mine

(I haven’t blogged in a while, and I miss it. So here is this… about cheese… just because tonight feels like a cheesy night.)

I have a guilty secret.

It’s something I indulge in quietly, when no one is looking, in the soft glow of muted light and the gentle crackle of waxed cellophane. I hide this passion of mine from my Love. I haven’t told my children. My co-workers would be shocked to know of my habitual indulgence in this sensual delight.

Brie Cheese.

Double cream.

The full wheel, not the fraction. No. Nor the quarter, nor the half, my cheesy friends.

The. Whole. Wheel.

Here is the evolution of my cringe-worthy hidden addiction:

My Love: “Why are we eating mould?”

Me: “WHAT?”

He: “Mould. It tastes like mould. Was this expensive?”

Me: “Noooo… it’s… mould? Seriously? Do you not revel in the delicate smoothness of creamy delight on your palate? Do you not inhale the warm mist of fermented dairy product that makes young girls swoon and swarthy men become tumescent with…”

He: “Mould. It’s gross.”

As a fully liberated, and entirely liberated and like, uber-liberated woman I have no shame in admitting that I like to please my man. With cheese. It’s important, in every relationship, to find the right level of cheese. We agree on cheese and crackers, with homemade moose sausage. We agree on cheese on ratatouille, on lasagna, in scallop potatoes… I feel that we are compatibly, and consummately, and concupiscently cheesy with one another…

Until the Brie.


I have a wheel in the door of the fridge. I eat it raw. I slice off bits when I come home after school. I gnaw on hunks carved in passing in the dull light of the refrigerator door.

I worry my children might visit and eat it without asking. They have been known to eat entire plates of leftovers with their fingers, cold, hovering in the half-open fridge door like coyotes over a frozen carcass…

It’s hidden under the garlic, stuffed behind the tabasco and Worcestershire Sauce (which is pronounced Wuss-teh-shure, in case you were wondering) and it diminishes daily. Secretly.

Hail Mary, Hail Cheddar, Hail Brie with a dash of cranberry and a twist of lemon on a pita crisp warmed ever so slightly under the broiler…

I brush my teeth after, like a closet smoker hiding the tell-tale whiff of a crime committed…

I omit to include the appropriate point value on my Weight Watchers food tracking oppressive page of suffering and self-denial…

I do not tell my Love, when he asks what we should have for supper, that all I need is his furry marvelousness and a hunka-hunka melted Brie…

I wash down the ill-gotten cheesiness with a glass of red wine, desperate to expunge the stain of Brevibacterium linens from my soul…

I do not tell my children to help themselves to the wheel of Brie… “Oh, look,” I say, instead. “Here’s a plate of archaic meatloaf and some green tomato chow from 1995. Mmmmm. Yummy.”

And I live under the burden of guilt borne of my illicit passion.

Do you know what is simply awesome with a hunk of brie?

An apple.

And apples are zero points on the Weight Watchers food tracking oppressive page of suffering and self-denial.

And no one needs to know the truth…

PicMonkey Collage









Mermaid’s Tears: one more week!

Mermaid’s Tears is appropriate for children, but it deals with adult themes. It is a story of loss and hardship, a story of families torn by tragedy and pain. But… it is also a story of redemption and resilience. It is a play that is going to be visually beautiful, with a hint of darkness around the edges.


It’s terrifying!

I mean… the play isn’t terrifying, but the prospect of people actually WATCHING it is! I always have to freak out the week before a show. It’s a thing.

This coming week is going to be intense. The set was moved into the theatre on Thursday, and now the exciting part of painting and dressing and fancifying can start! Fancifying is a fancy word for Building the Illusion!

set1        set2

Building the illusion of water, the illusion of wind and salt air and foggy mornings. The illusion of shadow and light, the illusion of puppets who seem real. Then Cameron Dexter, the magical God of lights and sound and set and all things digital, will twerk and tweak and… no.


No twerking.

Totally different play.

He will make light-y things happen. And music-y things happen. It’ll only take about sixty hours. No biggie.

Rehearsal every night this week. Plenty of nerves and excitement and last-minute adjustments because “Oh my god, my mermaid’s boobs are sagging” and “my head piece is giving me an aneurism” and “where’s the tail? Anyone? Tail, anyone?” But it will be fine… it will allll beeee fiiiine.

Lots of people have been asking if the play is appropriate for children. This is a good question… as adults we immediately associate puppetry with the realm of childhood, of make believe, but that isn’t necessarily so. Anyone who has watched the astounding Anomalisa will understand how powerful puppetry can be to convey mature themes.

Puppets are symbolism, puppets are metaphor.

Puppets are more than Bert and Ernie, although I can still watch old Sesame Street clips with great enjoyment! These days it’s difficult to determine what “appropriate for children” really means when so many mainstream children’s films are rife with sexual innuendo, gender bias and violence. I mean, have you watched the scene in Despicable Me 2 where they tie the lady to the roof of the car? Child appropriate?

That’s a rant for another day.

Mermaid’s Tears is appropriate for children, but it deals with adult themes. It is a story of loss and hardship, a story of families torn by tragedy and pain. But… it is also a story of redemption and resilience. It is a play that is going to be visually beautiful, with a hint of darkness around the edges.

The character of the Horrible Mother is, indeed… horrible! If you are bringing young children, there might be some scary bits. There is no inappropriate language, nudity, or overt violence… no animals or children were harmed in the making of this theatrical performance… but the Horrible Mother does get herself worked up a bit! Actually, we really hope she’s scary… that’s kinda the whole point. So please, bring your children, with the understanding that theatre is good for everyone, even when the performance sometimes touches on the darker side of life.

Mermaid Struggle

Again, we are delighted to share the stage with the Queen’s Community Choir for all three performances. After the Friday and Saturday shows, the audience is invited to stay and have a glass of wine and mingle with the cast and crew to see the puppets up close and ask whatever questions you many have about our process and method. The Sunday afternoon performance is a “pay what you can” show, if you prefer to attend a matinee. We are very much looking forward to your comments, so we can consider our approach to the Liverpool International Theatre Festival in May. What works? What doesn’t? Your perspective is invaluable to us!

I hope to write another update here before we hit the stage, but it depends how crazy the week is! (It is also the first week of a new semester at school, and I have seventy new students to torment.) Thanks to everyone who is liking and sharing our social media promotions, we love your support and interest!

Mermaid’s Tears at the Astor Theatre in Liverpool, NS

Friday, February 5 and Saturday February 6 at 8pm, $17/adult and $10/students(Meet and greet following each performance)

Sunday, February 7 at 2pm for “Pay What You Can” with no ticket reservations. First come, first served.

You can buy tickets here: Astor Theatre

You can purchase online tickets here: Ticketpro

You can find our facebook page here: Mermaid’s Tears on facebook

You can find information about the LITF here: Liverpool International Theatre Festival




Two Weeks!

With two weeks ‘til show time, our hearty and fearless gaggle of thespians are shivering and shaking their way to the Astor.


It’s winter. It’s cold. We’re rehearsing in an echoing vacant warehouse without heat, because theatre is pain! Art is suffering! Beauty hurts! Or something like that. That’s what we tell ourselves when we realize we can’t drink hot coffee and wear a puppet at the same time.

Cameron Dexter has spent untold hours designing our set… with the creative genius of Sue Higgens, Sue Beaumont-Rudderham, Lynn Sponagle and Bruce Harrington… in what we lovingly call The Space (when we aren’t bitterly calling it The Freezer) located above the new Exit Realty office. We have a massive heater that roars like the Volcanic Portal of Doom, but we can only turn it on when we aren’t talking. We have mitten warmers. We wear scarves. We dig deep for theatrical inspiration arising from the chilly fog of our own breath.  (Stay tuned for a post next week about the set and the incredible efforts of Cameron Dexter to create something from nothing… including rocks, sound, heat and music!)


And it’s starting to come together.

After several bumps and grinds, we’ve gotten our mojo back and with two weeks to go we’re starting to feel like we’re making progress. As I mentioned in my last post, grade 12 student Kate Dexter has stepped in as the mermaid puppeteer. That character has undergone a dramatic transformation from being a human player, to a puppet, to a puppet AND a puppet tail operated by Hayley Zwicker. Kate is both buoyant and agile as she braves the waves and ocean currents to deliver her performance.


We welcomed Jennifer MacDonald just last week, who has bravely stepped in to play Morna, the young girl puppet of the story. Jennifer walked in to the Freezer, smiled and said “I have a sore shoulder and I can’t lift my arm, but I’d love to do this thing” and she’s caught onto the nuances of a challenging character like she was born wearing an awkward paper maché puppet!


We also have three high school students who are working the shadow puppets behind the scenes. Grade 11 student Lukas Monte and grade 12 students Olivia Olsen and Hayley Zwicker round out the cast. In the throes of exams and a new semester, these kids show up and smile and shake their heads at these ridiculous adults and their strange hobbies.

And we are lead by our intrepid director, Susan Lane. She is a champion! She arrives from feeding a herd of yogis breakfast at the Inn, plugs in six hours of rehearsal, then back to Lane’s for a wine tasting and a million other chores unique to being an Inn manager. She is never cranky, she is never short with anyone when we forget where we’re supposed to go and what we’re supposed to say, and she ends every rehearsal telling us all how awesome we are, even when we aren’t. She hasn’t staggered once in front of the cast, even in the face of accidents and delays and cast changes and set issues and scheduling problems and how do you make an ocean out of fabric, anyway?


And Jackie Leonard is my hero.

There are always people involved in these theatrical production whom no one sees. Back stage, behind the scenes, waiting in the wings with a clip board and a list of props and a better sense of the entire play that each player who only really focuses on their own particular moment on stage… Jackie sits beside the director, taking notes, making suggestions, reminding everyone what they need to know. She knows EXACTLY when the shadow puppets should begin and EXACTLY when the boat should move and EXACTLY when the music should start… and then we change it EVERY rehearsal and she just giggles and erases her notes and starts all over again. We would be LOST without her steady hand keeping us all on track.

Lynn Sponagle… the Sponze… and Sue Beaumont are the costume QUEENS. Give them fabric. Give them thread. Tell them you need the most ridiculous and bizarre creation, and you need it tomorrow, and it has to have shiny beads on it and … voilá. Done. I am in awe of their creativity and genius and incredibly inappropriate conversations.

Our producer is another unsung hero… Beth Woodford-Collins books the theatre, then we change our minds, she makes the schedule, then we change our minds, she gets the poster organized, then we change our minds… without Beth’s efforts, no one would even KNOW we were farting around with this little play. All the ads you see, all the posters (which are the creative genius of Greg Tutty and the artwork of Marilyn Kellough), all the media coverage are thanks to Beth tirelessly promoting our wee production near and far.

I could go on. It takes so many people to make a show come together.

Here is the complete cast and crew list:


Morna: Jennifer MacDonald

Grandfather: Grant Webber

Esme: Jordyn Duffney

Mermaid: Kate Dexter

Son: Leslie Miller

Mother: Libby Broadbent

Father: Sarah Webber

Puppeteers: Lukas Monte Oliva Olsen Hayley Zwicker


Director: Susan Lane

Technical and Set Design: Cameron Dexter

Producer: Beth Woodford Collins Music: Neil Dobson, Thom Monte

Vocals: Jordyn Duffney, Ashley-Rose Goodwin

Set dressing: Cameron Dexter, Bruce Harrington, Sue Higgins, Lynn Sponagle

Costumes: Sue Beaumont, Lynn Sponagle

Stage management: Jackie Leonard Props: Sue Higgins

Poster: Greg Tutty

Poster Art: Marilyn Kellough

We also are delighted to announce that the Queens County Community Choir, directed by Kim Umphery, will be singing at every performance! How lucky are we? This talented group will be adding music and delight to the show… AND… after the Friday and Saturday performances there will be an opportunity for audience members to meet the cast, see the puppets up close and ask questions of the people involved in bringing our little play to life. The Sunday matinee is a “pay-what-you-can” event, which also includes the choir.

Do you have your tickets yet? Astor Theatre online ticket sales

Are we excited? Yes!

Are we ready? NO!

Are we terrified? Yes!

WILL we be ready… damn straight!

Mermaid’s Tears is back!

We’re back!

After a brief hiatus, our merry troupe of thespians is on track to perform “Mermaid’s Tears” at the Astor Theatre in Liverpool on February 5, 6 and 7th, 2016.


I’m hoping to blog about our progress over the next month, as we approach showtime, so we can share our process with you. Putting on a play is always an adventure… we are all volunteers working around family and jobs and distractions and children and emergencies and colds and weariness and a multitudes of demands… but this play seems to be particularly fraught with challenges because of the nature of the puppets and the set, and the struggle of creating a performance from an original script. Usually, when we do a play, the playwright knew what they were doing when they created the play…

This, is not that.

We’re fixing the bugs as we go. Because Libby don’t know how to write plays!😉

When we postponed our performance in November (read about that here) we knew it would be difficult to maintain our momentum, especially through the Christmas season, and into winter. Schedules change, time constraints appear, real life intrudes. As a result, unfortunately, our lovely mermaid Lily is unable to continue playing with us. As we pondered what to do about the mermaid… she is kinda important to the plot… we decided to re-create her as a puppet. We love Kate Dexter, who has stepped in be a puppeteer for the new mermaid! This was not part of the original plan, and has precipitated a flurry of mache and fabric and scales and fins over the last few weeks. I’m trying to record this process, since I didn’t do much of that in the building of the original puppets and I’ve been asked several times, usually in the grocery store, how these creatures are put together. The amazingly magnificent Lynn Sponagle, (who I affectionately call Sponzie), is building the tail. (I also call her Sponzarella, the Queen of Tail) She is the seamstress, I am the mache-stress, and between the two of us we hope to create something sparkly! (Call Sponzie if you want good tail!)

Here is a time-lapse video of the final maché of the head. I’ll follow up with images of the tail and all the rest over the next few weeks. The music on the video is an original song written for the play by Jessica Jurgenliemk.

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And please have a safe and fabulous New Year!

(BTW, this is my 100th post on this blog! Getting it in just under the wire before 2016!)