Research #5 – KIS(S) Keeping it Simple

 

After spending an hour trying to come up with a kid-friendly description of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, I did a random online search for ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy for Kids’ and came across a useful article on Wiki Kids Search.

Snip20190508_39I often suggest that writers use kids’ non fiction book as a launching point for research on difficult or complex topics, but had not discovered this online tool before.

Lists of library online databases (which I consider are the most under-used and under-appreciated of any public library resource) usually include several for kids, useful for homework and general research. And I’ve often them found them invaluable in the past.

But the Wiki Kids Search gave me what I needed this time.

I did not spend too much time checking out other topics. But did come away with some useful information expressed in an easily-digestible way for my current project. And will add this to my resource list for future research use.

onlinedatabasestitletite


Finding a balance


The topic of homelessness is a big one. And whatever reading and I research I do reveals it to be more intractible and pervasive than I could ever imagined. Even though I work ‘in the business’.

But I am learning lots, and in the process discovering just how much I can take in one day, and still come out on the side of thinking that people living in precarious situations can find solutions to their problems.

And that I can develop the tone and establish the boundaries for what I need to share in the book.

I’ve now implemented a bit of a schedule so I can manage both my work and my emotions.

1. In any given week I alternate research and writing about the complexities of the issue, with a close look at all the good that organizations and individuals are doing.
Today I learned about Netherlands inventor’s Bas Timmer’s ‘Sheltersuit’ – which has already been distributed to 6,000 homeless people in the Netherlands and Europe, and asylum seekers in Sarajevo and Greece.

2. The issue of homelessness is huge in my community of Nanaimo. And there are many social network platforms where this – and other social issues – are heatedly discussed. I’ve withdrawn from all the groups which attract the most vitriol and negative thinking about the causes and conditions of homelessness, and those affected by it.

Being exposed to such mean spiritedness does nothing to help me frame the subject in a  way that meets my goals of ‘providing information, challenging attitudes and encouraging empathy’.

(Although the ‘Myth Buster ‘sidebars in the book will address a number of common misconceptions I hear voiced over and over again.)

3. I alternate work sessions with other non-book related activities. Starting with a ninety-minute work session early in the morning, another ninety minutes in late morning or early afternoon, then again in the evening. In between I do some work, (also homelessness-related, but very specific work that makes a difference in 30 shelter guests’ lives every day), read a book, do an errand, take a walk, make a meal…

34. When I’m out and about in the community I do the one thing I recommend everyone try once in a while. Connect with someone on the street – with a smile, a quick conversation, a small donation. 

Many people who live on the street say that the human interaction is just as important to them as whatever donations of cash or food they might receive.


Research #4 – Those ‘aha’ moments


Most days I start work by scanning 10 to 30 links thrown up by three different Google Alerts that I’ve established. All have to do one way or another with the children’s nonfiction book on homelessness that I’m working on.

Some days it’s depressing work. So many communities struggling in so many ways with so many issues related to the problem. Growing numbers of unsheltered and unhoused people. More and more evidence of the impact of addictions and compromised mental health. So many individuals and neighbourhoods opposing efforts to create more shelter beds, more services and supports.

The scope of my research covers all of N. America. So every day there are a lot of links to follow, articles to read, and determinations to be made about if/how what I’ve just learned relates to my book.

And if it does, how to archive it and track it so I can find it when I need it.

Some days it can be hard going.

khloe-kares-homeless3

Photo: Readers Digest

But I’d estimate that for every five ‘bad news’ stories, there is at least one good one. One of the  most heartening elements of  my research is just how many individuals and organizations are coming up with innovative and effective ways of supporting homeless people. Like this one. Nine-year-old year-old Californian Khloe Thompson was so affected by the homeless women she encountered in her neighbourhood, that she set up a charity called Khloe Kares. So far she has raised over $10,000, some of which has gone towards making homemade bags which she fills with toiletries and other sundries to distribute in her community.

Another bonus to this kind of scattershot research is that it also throws up information that might not directly relate to my subject, but is compelling enough to take note of, and get back to.

Today a CBC news post alerted me for the first time to Metis road allowance settlement. When Metis people were deprived of their homes through the ‘scrip’ program, many settled in the ten-foot road allowance proscribed by the Northern Land Survey, alongside roads and railways lines. 

This led me to check into the subject further through the Indigenous Peoples of Canada website

At first glimpse, I was not sure how and if I could use this information, fascinating – and chilling – as it is. But then I thought of the connection of our modern-day tent cities to the shantytowns of the Depression, and how actions of – or inaction by – governments and bureaucracies often lead people to find their own solutions and create their own communities.


Research #3: Keeping track of online sources

 

From the beginning of this project – when it was still a tiny germ in my mind – I knew that one of the most important things I needed to do was keep track of all my sources of online information.

It’s not enough to create bookmarks of websites, blogs, database articles, etc. Online material changes, it may get deleted or moved. I therefore keep a Research Master File, using either a Word table or Excel spreadsheet.

For every piece of info. I find online that might be useful, I note:

  1. The title of the article, paper or file and the author name.
    In this way, if worst comes to worst, I can probably track it down again later with just this information.
  2. The name of the website and its url.
    Both is better than just one or another. 
  3. The date I last accessed it.
    This is important. One of the last things I do before I submit a piece of work that is based on online research is check all those links again so I know whether they are current and I can rely on them for fact checking or for including in the body of the final work.
  4. A few notes about the most important content and how and where I think I might use it.
    It’s quite likely that I find something that I think might be useful at one point, but weeks later forget all together a) what I was looking for when I found it or b) why I thought it might be useful.
  5. The name of the hardcopy folder when I’ve saved a printed copy of the article or page*.
  6. A column, left blank at this point, where I can later note where this information is used (chapter and/or page#) in the final  MS .

I know this creates a lot of paper, but I then *print out a copy of the website page or article, date it, and file it in the appropriate hardcopy folder. This may seem unnecessary duplication and a waste of paper, but sometimes it’s quicker just to grab the hardcopy to review rather than to go back to the source, and I need to have a copy in case the electronically archived/bookmarked material disappears.

Lastly, I create an electronic bookmark, saved in a named folder, so I can find the source material again if I need it without resorting to the Research Master File or my hard copies.

(I do also from time to time print out a copy of the list all the bookmarks for this project, which I will admit might be ‘surplus to requirement’).

Sounds like a lot of work, and perhaps OTT organization. But I find that starting out by developing processes for documenting and archiving research sources and content saves me the time and effort of having to make it up as I go along.

girl


Research # 2 – Mining Wikipedia for facts

Not everyone knows that the online encyclopedia Wikipedia is a collaborative – and not wholly authoritative – endeavour. Almost anyone and everyone can contribute and edit articles. Which means that not everything you may find there is definitive or accurate.

But I certainly don’t overlook it as a source for research information.

Rather, I use the footnotes and references at the bottom of any article of interest to use as leads for attributed information I might find useful.

For the purposes of this post, I randomly selected the topic of Pasty. The article is obviously written by someone with a fondness for the traditional Cornish takeout food, and quite a bit of knowledge.

My grandmother’s pasties set the bar high for any I’ve eaten since, and I like to think of myself as the pasty expert, based not only on the number of the meat and potato-filled pastries I’ve eaten, but also on the ‘facts’ I hold to be true. For example, that their crust is intended for thick miners’ hands, the men who carried them underground for their lunch, after which the ‘carrying handle’ could be discarded. And that the only proper ingredients are potato, swede, beef and onions at one end, apple and raisins at the other – despite what the ubiquitous mass-produced Cornish pasty manufacturers (many of whose products are all made across the River Tamar in England) may suggest by their brie and apple, or sausage and cranberry offerings.

pasty

Cornish Pasty

But instead of digging too deeply into the article to see what the author had got right or wrong, I scrolled down to the References at the bottom of the page. All 73 of them. Plus links to four books and two other websites.

This is where I am most likely to find useful resources, the origins of which can be followed, explored, evaluated, attributed and footnoted if I ever want to publish a treatise on the issue, and have my work stand up to the scrutiny of a fact checker.
             

So while Wikipedia is not at the top of the list of sources for secondary or tertiary research, it’s a useful place to check out if you need to know who already knows more about your topic than you do. 

Miners enjoying their Cornish pasty lunch.


Research #1 – Google Alerts

 

I’m going to be spending the next year deep in research of all kinds for a project that will shortly be announced.

Until then, I have created a number of Google alerts, using four variations of search terms. Which means every morning I receive four emails with between four dozen and 100 links to various articles and references to my subject.

Right now I spend about an hour every morning browsing through them. The ones I think might be useful, I bookmark. Soon I will have to schedule a good hunk of time each week to review each saved item, determine if I will need the information and how I will use, and archive the material I plan to use.

What I love most about research, even these Google-generated items, are the surprises that leap out at me. Referring me to something I had not thought of being associated with my topic. Links to great work being done by wonderful people. Trivia and miscellanea.

The secret will be figuring out what I need, what is too much, and when enough is enough.

 

 


Back in school

 

With no new book out in the past couple of years, requests for school visits and library presentations had dried up. But then I received an invitation to present to Grade Three to Seven students in two Surrey schools.

EbbLast week I really enjoyed the opportunity to strut my stuff, telling the creation story Why the Tides Ebb and Flow, talking about my early reading and writing, and sharing information about my books with gyms-full of students.

I’ve also been back in the classroom lately teaching a short course called Writing From Life to participants in Vancouver island University’s Elder College program. And have a workshop on research skills coming up at the may Federation of BC Writers Spring Writes Festival.

I’ve spent too much time recently with my head in stories that seem to be going nowhere and a job which, while very rewarding, is also very demanding. 

It’s been nice to be reminded where my heart is – connecting with readers and writers. I hope to be able to do even more of it in the coming months.


LP’s Book Club


I read a lot. And quite fast. So it’s not unusual for me just a couple of weeks later to remember a book but not its author or title.

At one point I started a notebook to keep track of everything I read, but that was a hit and miss kind of thing.

I did join Goodreads, but as I try to keep my social networking to one platform, I only maintain my page there erratically. And I have never really got the hang of Instagram.

So FB is my usual destination for sharing anything, and learning what others in my world – both the real and the virtual – are up to.

As a way to keep up myself with what I’ve been reading, share with others, and to elicit some kind of easy response I have created a new Album on my LPwordsolutions page.

Check it out. Comment on what I’ve been reading and share your own recommendations.

 


Taking lessons from visual art


I’ve been dabbling in sketching lately. And even though I know I will get farther by putting in time actually drawing rather than reading about it, I can’t avoid picking up a how-to book from time to time.

This week it was a $6 second hand copy of Lessons in Pictorial Composition by Louis Wolchonok from Bucknucks Books in Qualicum Beach.

Scanning the first chapter on the way home, I came across this:

“Every composition expresses some degree of tension. This element adds a dynamic quality, which gives added life to a picture. I have divided tension into six type of opposition. <>
It must be understood that most  paintings are not limited to one type of tension. Generally speaking the greater the number of forces working in opposition in a pictorial composition, the great its dynamic quality.”

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Wolchonok lists the tensions as:

  1. Opposition of weights
  2. Opposition of direction
  3. Opposition of shapes
  4. Opposition of values
  5. Opposition of moods
  6. Opposition of colour

It seems that I only have to substitute the word ‘story’ or ‘writing’ for ‘picture’ or ‘painting’, and I can find a parallel in writing – whether it’s fiction or nonfiction. I am going to have to spend a little time determining which story elements might equate with ‘weights’, ‘direction’ and ‘shapes’ in his theory, but values and moods easily find an equivalent – in my mind – in my work. And Wolchonok’s approach to creating tension in any piece of work is a good reminder of what drives story and helps a piece of work resonate with the reader.

 

 


NaNoWriMo2018: My Three a Day

 

In this case, I’m not talking about meals in a day. I’m talking NaNoWriMo Sprints.

I believe they are designed as a way for NaNoWri-mers to motivate each other to put in the time and come out with a bunch of words.

I’m racing against myself.

I read somewhere, quite long ago, that for many people a 90-minute working stretch is the most profitable period of time to commit to one task. And it’s worked for me for quite a while.

For the purposes of NaNo, and during a very busy November at work and in life, I’ve been aiming for 3 x 30-minutes Sprints a day, writing against the clock, using one of the actions identified in my Writing Down the Page exercise – which is as far as I’ve got with outlining or plotting this baby.

It turns out that my average production rate in a 30-minute stretch is 1,000 words. Work it out. If I managed to do Three a Day, I’d accomplish over 3,000 words, well over the average of daily 1,667 words required to meet the 50,000 word goal by the end of the month.

I’m lucky if I do manage two sprints. But even at that, I might stand a decent chance of making the Finish Line in 13 days.

sprint-297803_960_720

 


NaNoWriMo 2018: Then What? – a quick plotting exercise


Whenever I find myself treading water on a piece of fiction – can’t figure out where to go next, how to get where I think I am going, of am just plain bored with where I find myself – I fall back on a practise that came out of a workshop presented by the dynamic duo of Jack Remick and Robert Ray.

JR WEN

It’s called Writing Down the Page… or, as I call it And Then

I begin with a very brief summary line to conveys my starting place (sometimes picking it up from the MS), then riff down the page one line at a time, each of which begins And Then

As this is a brainstorming exercise I don’t judge or edit what gets listed, but I do try to start each line with an active verb – which helps provide momentum for the scene.

This is what one riff looked like, when I was stuck in place on a chapter book entitled Cheese Dreams.

Set-up: Brianne and her brother Peter have just arrived at the new apartment over the shop that their dad will be running as a cheese shop and deli. His businesses always fail, forcing the family to move, yet again, which means Brianne finds it hard settling in and making friends. She hopes this will be the last time they have to move if her Dad can make a success of the deli.

Their mother starts unpacking in the upstairs apartment.

And Then (AT) Brianne follow their father downstairs to inspect the shop
AT – When Dad unlocks the door, the alarm goes off
AT – B is sent upstairs to ask her mom for the alarm code
AT – Her mom tells her its in her dad’s pocket
AT – B races back downstairs to tell her dad.
AT – Brother cries because the shop alarm hurts his ears

AT – Their dad finds the code, punches it in
AT – the police arrive
AT – While Dad huddles with the police showing proof he owns the shops
AT – Brie and her brother go inside to look around the premises
AT – Their father joins them, to show them where the coolers and the counter will go
AT – As leads them out, Brie notices what looks like a mouse hole in the skirting board
AT – She hurries her dad outside before he sees it
AT – Back upstairs Breanne wonders how she can get rid of the mice before they ruin her dad’s business by eating all the cheese.

This seems – and is – a very simplistic example, but the process can be helpful in keeping you going when it feels as if you’ve come to a dead stop. And it can work even better when you get someone else to throw ideas at you. Don’t judge them, just keep And Then-ning until you run out of steam. 

Then you can go back and see what elements work to bring the scene alive.


NaNoWriMo 2018: Give them faces

When I teach Writing Historical Fiction to school students, I first give them a whole raft of pictures of people’s faces of many eras, pulled from all kinds of sources.

I get them to pick the picture of a face they ‘like’ – one that appeals to them for any reason – then their first assignment is to create a frame for the picture, then name the subject. That person will be their main character.

In a similar exercise, when I first start a story I go in search of a face to represent the main character.

In this case, I selected this person to be a stand in for my character Rowena Cole. (She is fact, Nancy Talbot Clark, the first women to graduate from medical school in the US in 1852).

I like the vulnerable, but somewhat determined look in her eye. The plainness of her hair, and for the purposes of writing THE ROUGH DRESS, the man’s hand on her shoulder which conveys an element of the story.

I will probably print out her picture, and put it in this frame, the same one I used to house the picture of Elsie Miller, the main character in my midgrade historical novel SILVER RAIN.

Elsie

Elsie Miller, protagonist of SILVER RAIN

If Nancy Talbot Clark could overcome all kinds of obstacles to forge a career in medicine, I can surely write 50,000 words!


NaNoWriMo2018: The perils and pleasures of research

Snip20181106_6


As THE ROUGH DRESS is in three parts – one set in rural England, the second in the inner city of London, and the third in Ontario (all in the mid-1800s) – there’s lots of research involved.

Which I love – often to the detriment of the story. I get so involved that the time goes by and I have no writing time left. Or I end up with so much research material that I have no idea how I might use it all.

I’ve partially solved this by:
1.   Separating the processes into two separate working sessions. I work on research for 60 to 90 mins in the morning, then do the writing for the same period of time later in the day. (Reversed today, as I woke early at 4:45 am and put in my writing time then.)

2. When I reach a place in the draft MS when I need more information or want to confirm a factual detail, rather than stopping and reverting to research mode, I type in a double ?? – or insert a footnote to specify the info I need – then keep writing. At the beginning of each research session I review the MS for the ?? and footnotes, and only then pursue the information.

3. For the month of November, the only reading I will be doing is research-related. Books on my To Read list for this project include, among others:

  • Voyages of Hope: The Saga of Bride-Ships by Peter Johnson
  • London Labour and the London Poor by William Mayhew
  • Across the Waters: Ontario Immigrant Experiences  1820 – 1850 by Frances Hoffman 
  • Roughing it in the Bush by Susannah Moodie
  • The Makers of Canada: The Pioneers of Old Ontario by W.L. Smith
  • The Rural Life of England by William Hewitt

And just to ensure I don’t get non fiction overload, I will also probably reread

  • The Frightened Man by Kenneth M. Cameron (an adult mystery set in Victorian London – wonderful voice, and great relationship between the protagonist Denton and his manservant Atkins)
  • The Agency (and others) YA series by YS Lee
  • Bleak House or David Copperfield
  • and any other new Victorian-era fiction I come across (suggestions welcomed)

Insanitities

And I will read, reread and savour all over again, Margaret Atwood’s wonderful poem Progressive Insanities of a Pioneer, the first piece I read that gave me what felt like an authentic feeling for the pioneer experience.

 


NaNoWriMo – In at the Deep End

I finally figured if I was ever going to reach The End on any of my current projects, November might be the month to do it.

So I am using National Novel Writing Month to work on The Rough Dress, a Victorian-era novel built around the true story of Urania House – the ‘House of Fallen Women’ – established by novelist Charles Dickens and philanthropist Angela Coutts to help rehabilitate women who had fallen foul of the law, and prepare them for emigration to ‘The Colonies’ as domestics.

It’s not quite cheating. I’m digging into past Shitty First Drafts, rewriting scenes as I go, with the goal of having a somewhat coherent 50,000-word story by the time I’m done.

Why The Rough Dress, when I do have at least two other novels in various stages of dress and undress? Because it has a connection to Canada, in that three of the women from Urania House did emigrate to Canada, so the third part of the book will feature Rowena Cole’s settlement in Ontario – hopefully making the book easier to sell to a Canadian publisher.

Not that finishing the damn thing is in any way guarantee that The Rough Dress will ever find its way into readers’ hands.

But I do know that if I don’t finish it, it has no chance at all.

AC

Philanthropist Angela Coutts

So I had better get to it.

Novelist Charles Dickens

Novelist Charles Dickens


When less is (maybe) more

 

I just received an email from the presenter of a photography workshop I will be taking in August. It includes useful info about the wheres and whens of the various sessions, what he expects to cover, and what we’ll be doing.

It also included a list of what I need to know about my camera before I start. Much of which assumes that my camera is much more sophisticated than it is –  and that I am much more tech savvy than I will ever be.

The truth of it is that I will be using the most simple point and click camera, which has worked for me for the past few years – traveling, taking family pics and in my early ventures into street photography. And that any ‘post-production/editing’ work I will be doing will be with only the very simple tools supplied by iPhoto on my iPad and laptop.

I long ago gave up trying to understand f-stops, exposure, shutter speeds or any other camera-speak. Or trying to find my way around Photoshop. And assumed I would never need to.

Just as when I took up sketching and decided that I wanted to travel with only one sketch pad, two pencils, one sharpener and one eraser – I also eschew the paraphernalia of photography for reasons of economics, storage space in my small apartment, time to grapple with the learning curve of new tools and techniques, and ability to haul the stuff from one place to another on my arthritic back.

(In fact, when I go shopping for pants, I always take my camera to ensure they have a pocket that it will fit into. (MEC’s Sandbagger pants are perfect, with a thigh-height pocket with a zipper).

I am looking forward to the weekend of taking photos and learning from a pro. And I know there will be moments when I will suffer pangs of camera-envy along with a degree of tech-talk overload. But it’s the outcome that matters to me. That I have a good time taking pictures over the weekend, and bring home new insights, a few new skills in composition and technique, and a handful of photos that are about just a little more than they are about – a quality I look for in my writing, sketching and photography.

 

IMG_5125

This is a fossil grinder in Morocco. He has been working at this trade for 35 years. 35 years of inhaling stone dust, with only a cloth covering to protect his face. ‘But at least he has a job,’ as one fellow traveler said. I did not buy any fossils…
Photo: L Peterson


Reverse Outlining: A revision tool that might work for you

 

The challenges of revision came up at yesterday’s critique group session, and again this morning on a Facebook page.

I developed my Reverse Outlining process a number of years ago as a way to dig into specific craft elements of the text of a manuscript of one of my kids’ books, and have since found it useful as a way to identify how a work in progress develops on the page, and provide info about what to do next.

While this  process was originally designed for fiction, I have had a couple of memoir writers use it successfully, too. You are free to use it, share it, and adapt the chart and the notes for your own use. If you are a professional editor writing coach, please ensure you credit me.

2018 Rev Outline chart

2018 Reverse Outlining notes

And if you find this useful in your work, please comment here, or drop me a 1-2 line testimonial which I can use to help pitch workshops in which I demonstrate how Reverse Outlining works.

 


Picture #4/66

Picture # 4/66

“Sometimes there’s no picture… no picture.” Thus spake Henri Cartier Bresson. And having spent quite a bit of time recently reviewing hundred of pictures posted on blogs and Facebook pages by street photographers, I see his point. Some pictures are just… well… pictures. If that. With little resonance, metaphorical heft.

No story.

I took this picture on a bus traveling through Rajasthan. A women engaged in what looked like a hopeless task. Sweeping an empty lane on a multi-lane highway as trucks and buses slowed down to pay the toll.

There would be no end to her sweeping, and the little she did would make no difference.

To me, it is a compelling instance of the infuriatingly complex nature of India. And I wished then, as I wish now, that I were a poet. I think then I might find words to describe the feeling I got when I saw her, and when I clicked the shutter.

But without the viewer knowing where she was, and what exactly she was doing, this picture is a ‘no picture’.

Just as on so many occasions I have a germ of a story, that is not a story. Until the second shoe drops. Until another element couples with the first germ to create something compelling and resonant.

Sometimes there’s no story.

Sometimes there’s no picture.

But we write it any. We take it anyway.

Because it was there. And so were we.


The Decisive Moment

A picture is like a Chekov story. A Maupassant story. There’s a whole world in it.
Henri Cartier-Bresson

HCB / Photo. Lens Magazine

I was a young teenager when I first came across Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photos. And not long after learned a little about the concept of  ‘The Decisive Moment’, the element that makes his photographs – and those of others working in the genre – so arresting.

I have watched this wonderful movie of Cartier-Bresson’s work many times. One in which his own narration conveys so much about his unique personality and provides insights into his philosophy and how he works.

Years later I discovered Vancouver’s own Fred Hertzog, and since then have often been arrested by spontaneous sightings of street photography in magazines, books and galleries.

Much as I enjoy taking pictures on my travels, they are more likely to be shots of familiar places and images that convey something of the spirit of each destination, rather than candid shots of people and places who live their lives on the streets of Guanajuato, San Francisco, Avignon, Jaipur, Fez, Winchester, Rome…

Version 2

Chinatown Lonely (LP)

Just once in a while, such as on a photo outing to Chinatown with a friend a few years ago when I went out looking for such images, I am gratified to find a few that fits the criteria of street photography.

For the past few months I have been preoccupied by the genre, reading biographies and manuals, and scrutinizing images by contemporary street photographers. I recently signed up for a weekend workshop in August with Vancouver photographer Ian Macdonald, and every day pore over new postings at the Street Photography in the World Facebook Page, trying to figure which images I find most compelling, and how the photographer has achieved the effect.

None of that has much to do with my previous preoccupation with writing. But with this new perspective, I have now unearthed a teen novel I began a few years ago called Shoot (as in cameras rather than firearms). And I have started a photo/essay project called 66. This will be 66 images – some of my own, others I run across, with some sort of accompanying text. Not for the purposes of publication. But for my own interest as I undertake this new journey of discovery.

(’66’? I am 66. And if I want to keep going – both with photography and the life itself – I can easily rebrand the project as ’99’.)


Back to work

 

In just over a month I turn 65. I am moving into Elderhood as graciously as I can. And perhaps not in the normal way of doing things, I am going back to work.

Not at the library, this time.

Last summer when I was planning my move to Nanaimo, I started looking around for a community of like-minded people. Having been a member of the Unitarian Church of Vancouver, which nicely mirrored and supported my values in both my everyday and spiritual life, I was hoping to find the same in my new neighbourhood.

shelter1I did. I was thrilled to discover the First Unitarian Fellowship of Nanaimo (FUFON), where I was welcomed in so warmly to its inclusive, open congregation.

And where, very early on, I discovered important work being done.

The Unitarian Shelter has been providing a non-judgemental welcome, a warm bed, hot meals, and companionship to Nanaimo’s homeless for eight seasons. This ‘low-barrier’ shelter, supported by the Fellowship’s congregation, the community, and with federal and provincial funding and a grant from the City of Nanaimo, will open its doors again in October offering a safe, warm and dry overnight environment for men and women from Nanaimo’s streets.

someoneAnd I’m thrilled to begin serving as the shelter’s Executive Director on August 1.

I won’t be making beds, preparing meals, overseeing the laundry, or cleaning the washrooms – other than on an occasional volunteer basis. That is best left to the Shelter Coordinator and his dedicated team of staff and volunteers. I’ll be ‘in the back’, helping build and maintain relationships with the FUFON congregation, funders, donors and volunteers and looking for new ways to spread the word about the shelter, generate funds, and build awareness of homelessness in our communities.

I am so proud to be doing this work.

And so very sad that in these times, it still has to be done.


“Do not avert your eyes.
It is important that you see this. It is important that you feel this.” 
Kamand Kojouri