NEW course for writerswebworkshop!

In the month of November, WritersWebWorkshop is offering a new “holiday writing” course. In it, each writer will produce one short story. It can be fictional or memoir; it can be traditional or reveal the raw edges that such times can draw out (!); it can be humorous or romantic, dark or light… 4 weeks, just in time for long evenings.

Jewish Child

letter to Vancouver Sun

I wrote a letter to the Sun in response to an article by Nimmi Takkar, representing Canadian post-secondary┬ástudents, concerned with the usual in September: tuition, and student debt-load. The Sun edited my letter, and what remained was a very brief sessional-gripe…so here it is in entirety:

I am in agreement with Nimmi Takkar in her concern that tuition can be a roadblock for lower-income students.

However, as an ex-sessional faculty member, I feel a need to point to another side, one that students do not often think of–one of which, for the most part, they are unaware.

When I left sessional life two years ago, there was a total of 654 sessional employees in my institution, many teaching full-time, most too busy to do research and activities that might propel them to another job elsewhere. These sessionals make approximately 36,000 per year, and my guess is that most students like to think their annual salary will be a touch more than that post graduation. True, the sessional employee works 8 months of the year (interestingly, the exact same number of weeks that a public school teacher works) but if they are at all conscientious of the demands of their work, their hours extend well past the 30th of April. When these institutions can actually afford to pay for the teachers who are currently teaching, then perhaps we can revisit tuition.

What needs to change and will affect student well-being: cost of living. This is where the real debt comes from. There should be some partnerships in terms of housing and simple grocery shopping. This really needs to be brought to the table. The U-pass, for instance, is brilliant, and I’m pleased to see it extended to other institutions. Can we do more in this direction?

With a global view, Canadian tuition is still some of the lowest in the world, and basic first year research skills should allow anyone to discover that in parts of the world where tuition is low or nonexistent, there is a connection between that and the number of placements in the institutions…which also quite effectively raises roadblocks for those with low-income. You don’t need to think too far to realize that when a young person might have to hold a job to help with familial basics, it affects their GPA…and if there are fewer seats in an institution, the level of acceptable GPA rises, and those who must work suffer–again. Too often, it is the young people who have had to be resourceful who bring the most to their studies in terms of creativity and mental strength. We need to see more of these young people in the classroom, and more support for them…not just those who can learn to re-package teachers’ words and who have parent-resources to spend hours at homework. For some, hours at homework is a luxury.

Bursaries can make a significant difference in such a young person’s life (or older person, returning). Bursaries–not scholarships–are a means to recognize that resourceful quality and work ethic and creativity. Bursaries are an equalizing force in a world in which true equality is still not where it should be.


Autumn falling again

We’ve had such a short summer. Particularly so, after last year, that stretched from April through to October, one long lazy stretch and yawn–a wonder. But this, was rain and sog through June. Shining in July, sure enough, but blasting us with November jolts now and again to keep us in line, and then such an abrupt end.

I know it’s come when the boys haven’t gone in the pool for a four day stretch. It’s over, and putting it off is only that: putting it off.

It takes a solid day and half and two nights to empty the pool–two hoses, and the drain open for the last night. With apologies to the neighbours…but my guess is, with the rain, they never noticed. Such planning: add no chemicals the last week.

There’s a sudden brightening of the grass then. Always surprising how quickly. This year, the morning I awoke and it was empty (just as at the end of June, there’s a morning I awake and it’s full), the raining was sluicing over it. There was a sense of overness, some futility. I couldn’t finish the process, clean, and pack it up; not in the rain.


So I pulled the box of Okanagan preaches from the fridge, and began to slice, thin, thin slices, for the dehydrator. An hour later, the house had the heavy sweet fragrance of drying peaches–a definite fall smell–and I was torn, by missing summer, wanting to hold to summer, feeling some burgeoning sense of fall.

I was to meet a former student for a coffee, she just returned from Korea, and now in our summer cold. Starbucks. I’m in there once a year whether or not I like it. I make a point of going to the independent coffee places, but Jeyn was already there. With her coffee, at a table. I stood at the counter, the rain down, coming down outside. I ordered my coffee from the wee chalkboard on the counter. The woman behind me ordered her strawberry-banana smoothie–should have sounded refreshing, but just sounded cold. I picked up my pumpkin spice latte BIG…and realized maybe I was more on my way to fall than I liked to think…