Tag Archives: Orange

#teamOrange

If you follow my tweets, have me as a friend on Facebook, are part of the super secret society private group for crazy people writers on Facebook, or read this blog, then you are aware that I wrote a short story a while back based on the loss of someone close to me and submitted it for publication in an anthology that was being put together to help out a writer friend. The proceeds of this book are going to “Orange” Karen DeLabar and you can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and the Internets.

This week, on April 11th to be exact, the anthology finally made its first public appearance and the response has been amazing. So many people, and not just friends and family either, have picked up the book – in some cases several copies. Readers Digest’s Most Trustworthy writer, Margaret Atwood, even re-tweeted a link!

It’s hard to put into words what it feels like to be a part of something like this (but that won’t stop me from trying).

The Orange Karen Anthology represents my first publication, and that’s a really big deal. Seeing my name on the back cover of a book is a amazing feeling and one that’s completely surreal. The story I wrote was one that was really close to me (write what you know, right?) and over the last couple weeks I have re-read it numerous times, read some of it out loud for R.B. Woods’ “Word Count” podcast, and shared my story and the link to the book with hundreds of people: friends, family, co-workers, random strangers in the Twitterverse and Facebook, and the lady whose kid takes piano lessons at the same time as my kids’ guitar lessons.

Suffice it to say I’m a little emotional.

One thing I have going for me is I know I’m not alone in what I’m feeling. Many of the other people involved have expressed how overwhelmingly emotional it is to be a part of this. Back in January I posted an open letter to writers. The catalyst for that post was largely due to personal experiences some of my writer friends were having at the time and the key takeaway was that to be a writer one of the things you need is a good support group. Based on what I’ve seen in the past few days it’s clear that the people who put the anthology together, the contributing authors, and Karen herself have one of the most amazing support networks you could ever ask for.

It’s moments like these that convince me that there may be hope for humanity after all.

This is the most round about, disjointed, gushy, thank you post you can imagine, but as I mentioned a minute ago I’m a little emotional, so cut me some slack. Knowing that Ryan’s story is helping Karen have a happier ending to her story is what this is about, and I wanted to let as many people as possible know how much I appreciate it.

I’m reading the anthology in its entirety now and I have to say there are some pretty amazing stories in there (mine is titled “Losing Vern”). If you haven’t picked up a copy already I would highly recommend you do.

~ Andrew

*As a note, if you pick of a paper copy from the link above it results in the best royalty payment (that goes straight to Karen’s medical bills). This is not a hard sell, just an FYI. If you pick up the eBook you still qualify for the group hug from the organizers and contributing authors.

^ If you own a Kobo and need the book for that format please contact me for a solution.

Losing Vern

Birthdays have been tough since 2009 as it seems every one is a reminder of losing Ryan. Truth be told, very few days go by where one of us doesn’t remember him in some way, so it’s not so much the actual day as it is just one more reminder. I take solace in the fact that there were so many wonderful things to remember. 

So, another year passes. Loss helps me keep perspective: as long as I keep having birthdays things can’t be all that bad. As the saying goes – every day on this side of the grass is a good one! Thank you, Ryan, for showing so many of us how to appreciate living, how to love with all our hearts, and how to laugh as often as possible (especially at ourselves).

The Night Was Poorly Lit and Tumultuous

I am what could be classified as a ‘new writer’. Aside from a two page anecdotein the humorous collection “The Darwin Awards III: Survival of the Fittest” I have never been published. I write this blog, of course, but these posts are mostly just random thoughts that eject from my head like the Oort cloud spitting out a comet. Many have come, but only a few have ever been considered wonderful. 
I have a full time job, and a family, and several other interests outside of writing, but for some reason I am drawn to the art of dreaming up a fabulous story in my head, and translating those thoughts into words, and organizing them in such a way that they transport the reader to a world that is not their own.
I had this idea to write a screenplay, so I could see my story come to life, but a friend suggested I write it as a book first. He knows me well, and though I fought the idea for some time I eventually came to the same conclusion. So off I went; to write a book. I wasn’t really concerned that I’ve read exactly zero books on how to write, or that I haven’t studied English, literature, or anything remotely related to writing in almost two decades. I’ve read Lynne Truss’ “Eats, Shoots and Leaves”, insist on a single space after a full stop, and will fight to the death over the Oxford comma. That should be good enough, right?
There are many schools of thought on how to begin writing a book. There are thousands of books/websites/classes/opinionated snobs that will tell you this but in my opinion Kurt Vonnegut sums it up better than anyone else: 

“You cannot edit a blank page.”
So, I’m writing a novel and a trilogy of short stories and both are marching along slowly but surely. Then, I heard about the Orange Karen Anthology. Writing communities are close-knit and when one person in this community suffers they all suffer. They also all rally behind each other providing the support necessary to help people through tough times. When a friend of ours was struck by a terrible illness, and racked up ridiculous medical bills in the process, her community rallied to create an anthology with all proceeds going to help her out with the financial costs that have come with surviving.
In awe of her courage and determination, and proud of the support from her community, I was inspired to submit a story for consideration in the book. Taking a page from Mr. Vonnegut I just wrote it down. It was a story based on real-life events, and it was an emotional one to tell. I had mentioned I was writing it in a Facebook group  and another group member, a friend who wrote alongside me during NaNoWriMo this year, offered her assistance with editing. I happily accepted her offer.
At first she had some reservations. The topic was very close to me and she didn’t know how I would accept her feedback. But, we both plugged through those uncertainties, fears, and doubts and several versions and emotionally gut wrenching re-writes later we had a finished story to be proud of. It was exhausting, and it was completely worth it. 
Jennifer Gracen was my editor and she guided me through this process gently, but with expert precision. I am beginning to think it’s no accident that you can find the word “grace” in her last name and the fact that she is a compassionate mother of two beautiful children served her well on this project. From her initial suggestion to write in the third person (I stared by writing it in first person) to her final “I like how you re-worked this”; every bit of red ink on that manuscript was a learning opportunity and it would have been a tragic waste of time for both of us if I would have considered it anything less.
Jennifer’s job was to tighten my sentence structure, fix my grammar (and my god forsaken tense mix ups), suggest alternate wording, prevent orphaned or complex dialog, and otherwise tease, coax, persuade, charm, lure, sweet-talk, or cajole the right words out of me using whatever methods she felt would work best. Looking back at that first brain dump of words and comparing it with the final version you wouldn’t know that it was written by the same person. 
My editor made me a better writer.
I am beyond thankful for all the effort she put into this and I sincerely hope that I will get to work with her again. My only concern now is that she will read this post and notice that I have ignored a lot of what she just taught me. Don’t worry, Jen, not every comet gets to be wonderful.


It is with all my heart and the utmost compassion that I extend a thank you to my dear wife. The story is more hers than it is mine and she didn’t just let me write it – she gave me the strength to write it and for this I am eternally grateful.

A Day Just Like Any Other? Not Really.

My birthday is almost here again, and while I’m happy to be celebrating another one, for some reason I feel old. I haven’t felt like this since I turned 30, and this one isn’t even another major milestone. On March 13 I’ll be 38 years old, but unlike that guy from the Tragically Hip song, I have in fact kissed a girl. That’s not old by any measure, unless you live in biblical times, or you’re talking to one of my kids, or the babysitter. So what is it? It’s a day just like any other… right?

Well, there is the whole anniversary of Ryan’s death. That was understandably the shittiest birthday in the history of birthdays, and the two that have passed since have been varying degrees of happy and sad. Happy because I have so many wonderful people in my life that wish me well and with whom I genuinely enjoy spending time, and sad because my birthday is now an annual reminder of what’s missing.

The thing is, it would be a rare occurrence if more than two days went by where I wasn’t reminded of him, and what a big void that exists now that he’s gone. That wasn’t a fat joke Ryan, not completely at least. My birthday is a day just like any other… right?

Last week I was cleaning out the file cabinet and I came across our will. We still haven’t changed it. Ryan was to look after the kids should something terrible happen to both my wife and I. That day wasn’t my birthday. What about when I came across my snazzy new orange shoes (orange was Ryan’s favourite colour)? My first thought was that he’d thoroughly approve of the choice, but be surprised if I actually bought them. That day wasn’t my birthday either. None of the other couple hundred days in the year where something like that happens were. So why does this one day have to be different from all the others? It’s a day just like any other… right?

You’d think if anything it would be better, what with all the birthday wishes on Facebook and Twitter, the cards, the phone calls, and the now annual steak dinner out with friends. In that sense it is better. At a minimum I appreciate everything and everyone I have around me more and more every year, but it’s not a “better” day, it’s different, and it’s not just like all the others. It’s one that’s frozen in time and it stands out, not just for me but for the hundreds of people that knew him.

Honestly though, with as many reminders as I get all year, having one that’s not just like any other is fine with me. Ryan wasn’t just like anyone else and our memories of him shouldn’t be like any others either.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSVM7Ho1Je0?hl=en&fs=1]

Bitter Sweet Symphony

Today marks the 37th anniversary of being brought into this world – kicking and screaming – and looking more yellow than some Bananas in Pyjamas due to a solid case of Jaundice. Overall, I’d say that 36 of them have been varying degrees of great, with the one exception being about as bad as it gets and dragging down the average considerably.
Today also marks the 2nd anniversary of the worst day in my short life to this point.  With my 6 year old daughter in the Dominican with my wife, I got a phone call at home expecting it was a birthday wish, but instead was my father-in-law calling to tell me that my wife’s younger brother had passed away. The rest of my day was trying to get in touch with her to deliver the news – a phone call that still rings in my ears almost every waking minute – and find a way to get them back home as quickly as possible.
Last year was not so shit-hot as it re-opened the pretty deep wound from a year before, but it was encouraging as so many people wished me a Happy Birthday which brought to the surface the fact that I am truly fortunate to have so many friends, and to have a big loving family within such a short distance of where I now call home.
So here’s to remembering one of the greatest friends and family members a person could ask for, on a day when I get reminded dozens of times just how lucky I am to have completed another lap around the Sun, even if it is a 939,845,775 kilometre road trip that’s not nearly as fun without him.