Category Archives: Short story writing

Only Child runs into outside obstacles

Me in 1950 - up against the barbed wire fence, a good analogy for worrying

Me in 1950 – up against the barbed wire fence, but I won’t let that stop me from removing obstacles

The past few days I’ve run up against screw-ups from “outside” – organizations, businesses, and individuals who have messed up in whatever they are doing connected to me. As mentioned in my last post, lack of money causes me lots of stress. But so is what causes the lack of money – or at least the worry about it.

The biggest screw-up is with CRA (Canadian Revenue Agency – the Canadian equivalent of the US IRS). First CRA messed up with my return which went in on time (April 30) and I paid what I calculated as owing even though I had to “steal” the amount from my fast dwindling RRSPs.

Six weeks later I receive a Notice of Assessment. That’s customary. But mine had recalculated the Canadian Pension Payment for my self-employment and they wanted $148. more payable by June 30, 2013 or I’d get charged interest.

Huh? It was obvious they didn’t calculate it on my net income but what amount they used I can’t figure out. Their Notice of Assessment explanation didn’t enlighten. June 13 I called the CRA customer service (or whatever it is called) and Lisa told me there was definitely something wrong with the amount calculated and not to pay it. She said it would take at least four weeks to sort it out and in the meantime until the computer system was updated the “payment” could come off my GST etc. rebated in July.

The payments didn’t come off and I received my list of future payment dates and the amounts.

Then I got embroiled in a lot of other issues (some shoved at me that I had to deal with). There was the construction going on outside include digging up a small area in my front lawn. This nonsense even interfered with another issue – my appointment with my lawyer to update my will because one of the beneficiaries had to be changed. I moved the lawyer’s appointment to the next day. Because I was in the same general area of Toronto, I stopped into Service Canada to hand in my application for Old Age Security. I do this because it’s faster to get it rolling and for someone to check over the form. Yes, I had missed something which the Service Canada clerk caught. (Some of them are pretty smart – it’s the higher ups who seem to be screwing up). And it has been approved – payments to start January 2014. Then I got a boarder (two, counting her cat) temporarily until she can get into Public Housing. This is a friend and I didn’t want to see her stuck. There has been some adjustment but we work it out – so far anyway.

Fast forward (which seems like my summer this year) to last Friday when I suddenly remembered I hadn’t heard back from CRA. Over the weekend I checked my files – nope, nothing. So I worried about getting stuck with paying some outrageous sum with interest.

Monday (yesterday) I phoned CRA and found out as I figured, Lisa did her job – she sent it on to the Tax Centre. But the jerks in the Tax Centre just started looking at the inquiry last Friday, Sept. 19 – a little over three months since I inquired. (I can see the synchronicity or whatever about the timing when I thought about it.) The customer service rep could only tell me that much. For the status until they actually do something and it shows up on the computer system, she had no info. She suggested calling in a few days. She also answered my questions about paying interest. If it is $2 or less it isn’t considered. But there is a form to fill out if you want to dispute paying the interest. I had told her this wasn’t a Sharon Crawford mistake but a CRA mistake and I would pay any correct extra I owed but I’m not paying any interest.

Last week I switched my annual high payment of house insurance premium to monthly off a credit card. Thought that was all settled when yesterday I received a letter (regular mail) from the insurance agent that there is a $.75 monthly service charge and a $2. Setup charge. Neither is a lot and I don’t mind paying them. But why wasn’t I told about those service charges in the first place? One more phone call to steal my time

No wonder I’m jaded, cynical, pessimistic (some of the time) and angry. I have a right to be. I don’t know if my late mother had to deal with crap like this.

On a brighter note, I finally picked up the time management book I had on hold from the library. This one I requested in print instead of e-copy because unless there’s a hold on it, I get nine weeks (two renewals) to read it. Should give me enough time to read it Yes, I see the irony.

But I ran into an obstacle there. The library system couldn’t check out my books (I added a mystery fiction) because my library card would run out during that time. I spoke to a librarian and first she added a temporary three week extension and suggested I come in next week with some ID with my address on it. None of my cards has that. I don’t drive, so I guess I’m discriminated against here all over. But I did some fast talking, mentioning that one of the main branch librarians could vouch for me and I taught workshops at this branch (both true) so she automatically renewed the card for a year. I don’t get nasty with librarians. However, why don’t we get email notifications of library card renewals due. The library sends other notices – holds (e-books and print) and book dates coming up.

But I have started using another tool to tame time. Will report next post next week.

I’m currently living on sales from my mystery short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point which is a good thing for sales but what does it say about the overall income picture?

For those interested check out my profile on amazon.com Just click on the book icon below.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

Beyond the Tripping Point Cover 72dpi

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Filed under Anxiety, Beyond the Tripping Point, Life demands, Money, Only child, Persistence, Problems, Sharon A. Crawford, Short story writing, Worrying

Only Child takes a crack at fine-tuning work time

Only Child is becoming a bear on time management

My late father may have been on the right track with his time obsession. I don’t recall how good he was at time management, but I’m presuming very good at  his job, because he worked for many years as a timekeeper for the Canadian National Railways. Dad was fixated on constantly checking the time and making sure his watch always worked. Much to my mother’s chagrin, he’d compare his watch to the kitchen wall clock during dinner. I do some of that (not necessarily at dinner), but it’s my time management area that needs an overhaul.

I have to take another crack at fine-tuning my time…with a mini sledgehammer. Some of my signs of spiralling in overwhelm are showing up. I forget where I put things; I almost forgot to pay the water bill on time; I have three evenings in a row where I have business meetings/courses, and I’m more grumpy than usual. The only sign not here (yet) is heading out the door with last month’s public transit pass in my purse instead of the current pass. And that’s only because it is the middle of the month.

The main focus of the cuts and nays this go-round is in my business. For the first time in months I did a monthly work schedule, including deadlines and times/dates to work on the projects. The list is too long, especially as I need time for personal writing (which may be going somewhere and I’m not going to jeopardize that). So I’ve been working the list, finishing client projects and crossing the jobs off the list. Of course, some of it takes longer than expected. Some of these clients I’ll be glad to do more work for down the road; others, no. I’m taking a hard look at who I work for or with and what I will and won’t do. Gone will be the manipulative clients, clients who don’t use email or even the computers they have (the extra work-around, meetings, etc. are draining my body and soul) and clients who well, just don’t listen – despite what is in the contract we sign. A few wel-used “no’s” may be the operative words here…even if I have to put a big NO sign up in my office.

I have to do this; I’m not getting any younger. But as I’ve pulled up my bootstraps (and maybe a few others’ boostraps too) with my finances, I think some cut-back is in order. The fallout is I’ve been neglecting some of my friends whom I don’t want to neglect…and I’m tired of the arguments about that running around inside my head. On a purely business level, with less and better clients I can focus more on doing a good job for them instead of rushing through it and on to the next client’s work. And (here it comes) gardening season is now here. God, or someone, help anyone who steals my garden time. I wield a mean weeder, but I prefer to use it to dig up weeds.

For those of you with time management problems in your work, read some of Paul Lima’s blogs on the subject. Here’s a link to one: http://paullima.com/blog/category/marketing-your-writing-and-other-services/time-management-marketing-your-writing-and-other-services/ Paul is a writing colleague of many years and I’ve learned a lot from him. He got me started on doing an annual business plan. (I just get carried away on what I can accomplish in a year) and has some sound advice. He is the Six-Figure Freelancer and the main link to his blog is http://paullima.com/blog/. And if you think he is all business, think again. Like me, he also writes short stories. And that is something I am not willing to give up. Ditto for my memoir writing and teaching in both those categories.

Meantime, I think I’ll dig out my Dad’s old pocket watch and also read some more of Paul Lima’s blogging gems.

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Clients, Life demands, Mom and Dad, No, Only child memoir, Overwhelm, Paul Lima, Prioritizing, Railways, Sharon Crawford, Short story writing

Only Child uses fiction to deal with life’s pain

Only Child reading one of her short stories

If you are writing a memoir/considering writing a memoir, but something in your life is too painful or might cause grief for you and your family, try writing it as a short story. Perhaps you or some other family member has an incurable disease. Perhaps you are dealing with a parent with dementia. Writing about a painful situation, even transformed into fiction, can be a healing catharsis, but it can also turn into the most powerful story. Almost anything is fodder for fiction. Just make sure it is fiction.

I do this. One short story evolved from a family member’s (not immediate) unexpected suicide. No way did I want to add to our family grief, but maybe I had some survivor guilt. I was also a suicide survivor (from 30 years ago) and for five years volunteered at a telephone distress centre.

The short story that evolved changed everything except the suicide fact and one character’s volunteering at a distress centre. The characters were younger, brother and sister, and the story was told from the sister’s point of view. It started with her big brother’s suicide and then went back to their life, including growing up with a mother who was an alcoholic and verbally abused her children. This definitely was not the situation in my family. In my story, the sister was filled with guilt and she felt that she should have been able to stop her brother, especially as she was volunteering at a telephone distress center. I made up the name of the distress centre and what “happens” at the fictional distress centre did not happen with my actual volunteering. For those interested, the story “My Brother’s Keeper” was published in the Canadian Authors Association Toronto branch anthology, Gathered Streams (Hidden Brook Press, 2010). Check out http://www.canauthorstoronto.org/anthology.html.

So, if you want to create fiction from fact, here are a few pointers about what to do/what not to do.

  1. Use only the incident/event as your idea to kick-start your story. The story must be fiction.
  2. Use fictional characters and events, not the actual people or their names. It’s best to have characters with different age brackets and different backgrounds than in real life.
  3. Change the setting, perhaps even the time line.
  4. Use your emotions to propel you forward, but also keep in mind that this must be fiction. You are using your emotions from the real happening to help you dig deeply when writing your story.
  5. As this is fiction, you can have a different outcome than the one connected to the real-life trigger event. Just make sure that the outcome works with the story.
  6. Make sure the story is fiction. I can’t emphasise this enough. Real life (mine) incident – one of my cousins blasted me for writing true stories about the family history. However, she said she wouldn’t mind fictionalized accounts. I’m not going to take that at face value. Readers have the knack for finding themselves or someone they know in fiction, even when it isn’t true. But we do absorb what happens in our life. And that is often the trigger for story ideas.

For another take on writing fiction from fact, check out Writing Truth or Fiction http://www.be-a-better-writer.com/truth-or-fiction.html The author here actually used a real character in her novel. And so do other authors. Here’s another take on this http://www.thebookladysblog.com/2009/08/26/writing-real-people-into-fiction/

For those of you in the Toronto, Ontario, Canada area, I’ll be teaching a Crafting the Short Story Workshop at the Runnymede Branch of the Toronto Public Library, Tuesday, March 6, 6.30 p.m. It’s free. You just need to sign up at the library. Check this one out at http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/programs-and-classes/categories/book-clubs-writers-groups.jsp and click on “Runnymede.”

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Family, Fictional characters, Healing through writing, Memoir writing, Only child, Pain, Sharon Crawford, Short story writing, Suicide, Toronto writing seminars, Writing fiction from fact