Open Letter

An Open Letter to the BC Teachers’ Federation – A Reflection on Military “Propaganda”

Note: The following letter was forwarded to me and is reprinted here with the author’s permission. The individual has asked that they remain anonymous to prevent any internal backlash. As today is Remembrance Day here in Canada, I felt obligated to reprint it today more than ever. 

Dear Sir or Madam,

It is regrettably with a heavy heart that I find myself writing to you today, and I wish to direct these words to whomever is responsible for the approval and creation of the poster found in the link included below:

http://bctf.ca/uploadedFiles/Public/SocialJustice/Programs/GlobalEd/Military_Recruitement_Web.pdf

This poster was brought to my attention today by a colleague, and it is my understanding that it owes it’s creation to the Social Justice department of the British Columbia Teacher’s Federation. I must admit that my initial feelings upon seeing this poster were that of outrage. Tempted as I was to call your organization and lodge a complaint, I decided instead to think about what I had seen and why someone might have thought that the creation and distribution of such nonsense might have been a good idea in the first place. As the afternoon wore on, I cooled off enough to get my thoughts in order and came to the conclusion that perhaps the individual or individuals, whatever the case may be, that generated this work may just be ignorant as to the function of the Canadian Armed Forces. Perhaps it was a case of best intentions gone horribly wrong, or maybe the heart was in the right place but the head was firmly stuck up the arse?

Whatever the case may be, this issue still needs to be addressed as I think the author of this work failed to take a number of things into consideration. But I must start with disclosing the fact that I am currently an active serving member of the CAF with 17 years of service, with multiple tours of duty, and many numerous operations both domestic and international. So perhaps my opinions on this subject does contain a certain amount of bias. That being said, when it comes to social issues facing Canadians today you won’t find a stronger supporter than me. I truly believe that the level of social development this country has achieved is what has made us a truly wonderful society. And although there is always room for improvement, you would be hard pressed finding a more diverse or inclusive land to live in. Values like these are what makes us unique in many regards, and many across the globe hold us in high esteem and as a beacon of hope for the rest of the world to emulate. It is values like these that make me proud to call myself a Canadian, and it is values like these and the people that hold them dear that I would do anything to protect. Which, as it happens, is why I do what I do. So that is why it breaks my heart to see those who claim to fight for social justice slander those of us who actively fight to protect it.

So lets look at the poster. Your poster is divided into two parts, or at least it is laid out that way on your website. The top half as I am looking at it asks “Are You Thinking About The Military?” in an uneven and gritty font seen often in numerous anti-drug posters from the 80’s, no doubt this was done to really jump out and grab the attention of the youth you are so worried about losing to the brainwashing of Canada’s mighty and fearsome military juggernaut. The rest of the first page goes on to encourage prospective recruits to ask questions to themselves, their family, and their recruiter. Now this portion I can totally get behind 100%, as these are all very good and important questions that should be asked before making a decision. Pursuing any career requires plenty of foresight and careful consideration, and the military is no different. What irks me is not the first page, which is good food for thought for anyone toying with the idea of a career in defense, but the second page.

Here, the gears get switched here as the author(s) attempt to build a case against the defense of their own country. The first point on the poster encourages the readers to raise awareness with teachers that military recruiting is a social justice issue. That is false. Military recruiting is no more a social justice issue than picking up after your dog is an environmental issue, or losing a loonie in the couch cushions is an economic issue.

The next two bullets instructs teachers to report the sightings of recruiters to their unions, and for students to report the same to their teachers. In this case it feels like the creator is somehow drawing comparisons that men and women in uniform should be treated no differently than some stranger in a dirty trench coat skulking down the halls of a public school. Not to mention missing the fact that recruiters do not show up unannounced and uninvited to places of learning. When they do show up, it  is arranged ahead of time and usually coincides with a career day or a job fair. Military recruiters do not, I repeat do not hide outside in the bushes ready to grab the first kid they see and throw them in the back of a cargo truck to be shipped off to war. Really the whole tone of this second page is rather alarmist while being short on actual facts.

Bullet number four encourages educators to teach all sides of the story to the students, as well as the sobering facts and figures that come with it. This I actually do respect and encourage as well. However if the teachers who are supposedly teaching all sides of the story from an unbiased perspective are the same ones who can’t tell the difference between recruiters and pedophiles lurking in the halls, then I think that any hope on encouraging fair and thoughtful discussions in our classrooms is probably lost.

Moving on, point five encourages us to support counter-recruitment programs in schools. Well we certainly don’t want our kids to find jobs, do we? No, better to get an arts degree and live in your parents basement suite until you’re 38. Point six, pretty much just an extension of point five. The materials used I imagine are probably construction paper, glue sticks, and lies.

Point seven provides a link to another webpage, one that at first I couldn’t tell if it was actually being serious or not. At times, Operation Objection seems to depart from reality altogether and devolve into some sort of self parody that had me scratching my head in confusion. If these are the kinds of resources your department is using as a tool for developing social justice policies, then I think you may need to pump the brakes and take two steps back from the whole campaign while you give your head a shake. At the very least try to reach out to other groups and get some educated opinions on defense policy, and try not to rely solely on a website that claims that the cadet program is Canada’s effort to raise an army of child soldiers. Really, I can’t even be upset with them because the nonsense being spewed is so surreal.

The next point encourages the public to do what they can to counter “military propaganda”. Now, I’m not sure what you consider military propaganda to be, and quite frankly I’m a little bit confused by this one. With a budget of only 0.9% of the country’s GDP, we can’t even afford to keep our aging aircraft flying, let alone run some sort of slick propaganda machine to brain wash the masses. What exactly do you consider propaganda to be in this case anyway? Would that be recruitment posters? Cause that’s not actually propaganda, those are the equivalent to “Help Wanted” adds. I’m sure you don’t open the news paper in the morning, flip to the classifieds, and say to yourself “Aha! There’s a job opening at Sears, this is a prime example of Retail Propaganda!”. Of course you don’t, that would be very silly. The rest of the points on the poster I’m not going to bother touching, it’s late here and if you haven’t figured it out yet then a few more lines probably won’t help any.

I’ll finish this off by saying that despite your best intentions, I found this poster to be grossly offensive and I consider it a personal slap to the face after spending the last 17 years serving my country and people the best way I knew how. If there is anything you can take away from this letter, let it be this. We’re not monsters, murderers, political party hacks, or shills for the military industrial complex. We are public servants, nothing more nothing less. And we take great pride in serving the public, even when at times the public doesn’t seem to reciprocate those feelings. We do our jobs the best we can, despite the fact that we are short on equipment, funding, and people. Somehow we still manage to get the job done, despite all these challenges. And despite the great cost that all to often comes with the job. The hardships, the injuries, the fractured families, the lives lost, all to serve the public.

To serve Canada, the people, and all they stand for, that’s what they do. And for your department to spit in the face of all we have accomplished, all we have sacrificed, and have the audacity to call that “social justice”? Well, I guess some people just don’t get it. Tomorrow is Remembrance Day, and I will go to the ceremony and pay my respects to those who have fallen. Those who decided to give instead of take. Then I will go home, pour myself a drink, and think long and hard about the friends I’ve seen come and go through the years. Those who gave and were injured in such ways that they couldn’t give any more, those who became frustrated at the bureaucratic red tape and the disrespect from misguided campaigns such as this and left the service frustrated and broken, and those who gave their lives because at the end of the day there was nothing left to give. I will think of them all for a long time, about who they were, what they did, and what they stood for. I shall reflect on them for a long time. Then I will think about your department, this campaign of yours, and all the good it has achieved.

I won’t have to think about that for very long.
Regards,

[Redacted]

 

Note: Because today is Remembrance Day, and in light of the above message being spread by the BC Teacher’s Federation, it seems appropriate to end this post with In Flanders Field by John McCrae, composed on the battlefield on May 3rd, 1915.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

An Open Letter to John Connolly

Dear John Connolly,

I’ll be the first to admit, I should be busy reading A Time of Torment, which was just (mercifully) released in North America. There is a bonus working in a book store, even if it is a mass retailer. The moment I realized Torment was released I was able to leave our lunch room and ravenously search our shelves until, upon realizing I couldn’t find our five copies (Five? Only five! Blasphemy!) demand assistance from my coworkers to whom I promised a shiny quarter to the first person who could hand me a copy. The shiny quarter ended up going to my boss, who located Torment in the mystery section. We generally shelve your books under general fiction because of its beautiful culmination of elements taken from different genres. On more than one occasion I have found it in horror and mentally decried the foolishness of my coworkers. Yes, it is horror; yes, it is mystery; yes, it is paranormal and at times, when Rachel makes her appearance, a tiny bit romantic. It is all that and so much more. Charlie Parker is so much more.

I began following the story of Charlie Parker around the time The Reapers was first released. It was the first of your novels that I read. I am a sucker for assassins and banter and blood splatter. It seemed right up my alley. I loved it enough to hunt down your other work, not realizing that Charlie Parker was the true antihero of the series. I was easily smitten by his sarcasm, his nobility, and oh, the fact that he is being flipping haunted by his dead wife and daughter holy shit this is amazing oh my god oh my god homaigawd. 

Sorry, I lost my head there a bit. I’m a little madly in love with your writing (and your wry Irish wit which, if my Irish relatives are any indication, is a national thing. We Canadians aren’t nearly as exceptional in the biting sarcasm and smarm.) And that is precisely why I write this open letter to you today.

For however many years your writing has accompanied me through my various phases in life. From hospitals to parental divorce to marriage and finally, into my own timid foray into writing. Charlie Parker has accompanied me every step of the way and, perhaps more importantly, challenged me.

No, that isn’t quite right. Parker doesn’t challenge me. At least, not in the way I mean. But you do. Your writing does. I’ve read and reread every book of yours multiple times. Reading them as a teenager, and into very young adulthood, they were just fascinating adventures into the human condition, a remarkable blend of paranormal, supernatural, and violence, which really just rings all my metaphorical bells. But as an adult, now educated and having taken numerous classes where the focus was primarily on analyzing literature, I see so much more in your work.

I see the tiny threads connecting each story. I see the way in which Parker’s fate is predetermined now and he, having died and returned to the natural world, is now an active participant in his own destiny. He has embraced it, or appears to in my mind. Granted, I am only on page 137 of A Time of Torment. Anything could happen.

And his meeting with the Collector at the beginning? Oh my god, I nearly peed myself from the level of badassery that was spilling from the pages.

Since I’ve begun to reread the series, yet again, I’ve taken my time with each novel. I’ve searched for hints of things to come. The exact moment I realized I needed to start paying attention was when Sam, I think in The Wolf in Winter, handed Charlie a cross made of sticks and told him it was to protect him. That was it. I knew it. Never has a series captured my attention and forced me to utilize so much of my memory to try and piece together the what if’s and what’s to come’s.

And you’ve given your readers an honest chance. That’s what I love about the Charlie Parker stories, more than anything. Deep reading aside, any dedicated fan (as I like to call myself) has an honest chance to guess what might happen on the next page, in the next chapter, in the next book.

And yet you continue to shock me, book after book. There is no denying your skill to engage the readers and create beautiful imagery melded with real, honest to god people with faults and hopes and downfalls.

It makes me profoundly jealous. I know your literary prowess didn’t appear overnight; even now I reread Every Dead Thing and some points make me cringe and think Now that might just be a bit too much. Reading your work in order, I can see the transition, and the trepidation as the supernatural and unreal becomes more prolific and the characters begin to test their limits.

It is, for a lack of a better word, glorious. You, sir, are a phenomenal author, and it makes me horribly jealous.

Thank you, for that. No. I mean it. Honestly and without an ounce of sarcasm (which anyone who knows me can tell you is quite remarkable in itself), thank you for making me want to be a better author. Thank you for making me look at my own writing and see the borders I have drawn around it. Thank you for unknowingly telling me to set fire to those borders and draw characters out of flame and ash and send them out into the world.

Thank you for Charlie Parker and all he has suffered. Thank you for Angel and Louis, who are my favorite assassins of all time. Thank you for Sam, for the subtle ways you have made her more than a child needing to be protected, for giving her a greater purpose. Thank you for all the stories, and the many more to come (I hope.)

Thank you so much for making me want to be a better author.

Most sincerely,

Kathleen Sawisky

An Open Letter to Whirlpool CEO, Jeff Fettig

To the Whirlpool CEO, Jeff Fettig,

Dear Sir,

My recent experience with your Whirlpool W10219708A Compact Front Loading Automatic Washer has been, how to put it delicately, something of a bit of a joke. Were I a calm and reasonable person, I might describe it as mildly frustrating, perhaps even undesirable. Instead, I find that the simplest and most effective way to describe said experience is to equate it to that of a Shakespearean tragedy, with more irony than even the Bard himself could possibly muster in this day and age. I am, therefore, obligated to write to you now and express my dissatisfaction with as much vim and vigor as I can muster. Vim, because that is one of the cleaning products I utilized after the A10 error supplied by your clownish machine caused my laundry room to flood, and vigor, because that was the rate I wished to strangle myself after I was able to finally run a successful load of laundry without calling in a local priest to exorcize what I can only assume is the restless spirit of some North American Buffalo God whose golden idol was bulldozed to make way for our condo.

Spoiler alert: The priest was useless and the rabbi has since stopped returning my calls.

But I am getting ahead of myself, as I am want to do when I find I have wasted the majority of my day scooping water out of the bottom of a washing machine with a ladle.

My husband and I purchased our condo just over two years ago, and were most thrilled to learn that appliances such as a washer, dryer, stove, and fridge would all be provided by Whirlpool. There is nothing quite like pulling the plastic off a shiny new brushed steel appliance. I suppose I might equate it to the sensation of peeling the top off a yogurt cup or, to give an example you are more familiar with, unzipping a dufflebag filled with grand wads of cash that you can roll around in naked.

But the good times were not to last. Fairly soon we began to notice several things going awry, least of all the fact that our neighbour down the hall turned out to be absolutely insufferable and, quite frankly, a bit of a dick, as well as the presence of a mad pooper in our building. Those issues were negligible though, when compared to the vicious, insensitive flashing of the A10 error which began to appear on our washer’s display. I’m sure you aren’t aware of what A10 means, given that you probably do not furnish your house with the same appliances that you sell. That would be silly. Why use an itty-bitty stackable washer and dryer when you can pay orphans with baby smooth hands to wash your clothes for you in the local enchanted spring? I am, of course, only assuming your local spring is enchanted. Ours is filled with geese, and thanks to a series of unfortunate events involving the retrieval, and subsequent returning of their eggs, I can confirm they are not enchanted.

A10, sir, means there is a clog. A nasty old boogery clog that is preventing the washer from draining. There is only one solution when an A10 error happens, and it is quite possibly the most aggravating solution your company could have possibly come up with. A10 means taking a flat blade and prying off the bottom bit of the washer (in my case I opted for a butcher knife so I could feel marginally superior to the machine I was servicing) and then proceeding to open the small valve at the bottom to clear out the blockage.

Youtube ensured me that this was very simply, but could get messy as there might be a bit of water in there, so make sure you have a towel nearby to mop up any mess.

No man, woman, child, or god could have predicted the torrential flooding of water that gushed from my washing machine. Indeed, had I not been wearing arm floaties there was a very strong chance that I might have drowned at that moment. Frantically I shoved the plug back into place and raced for more towels as the now soapy, mildew-esque water began to seep into our baseboards, which are now permanently warped, thank you so much. I threw every towel I had at the floor, watching helplessly as they became instantaneously soaked by the deluge of dank washer water.

Now here I must offer kudos. It is very convenient that the means to dry said towels is so close by. Theoretically one might able to toss the ruined towels into the dryer with one hand while sopping up the mess with another. However, I must caution you that towels, when soaked absolutely through, are rather heavy and thus, when attempting to pile them into the dryer, you can expect them to drip to the point where you may slip and fall on the linoleum, only to find yourself being crushed beneath a mountain of towels, quietly whispering ‘why’ as your life flashes before your eyes and the room around you grows dark and cold.

If you manage to struggle free from the pile of death and you manage to get those towels into the dryer, you are still up shit creek, as I learned. Because much like the vagina of your mother, it is still absolutely soaking in there.

That was rude of me. I’m sorry. I’m just so upset that I wasted my own day off doing this whole process over and over again.

Oh, didn’t I mention that? This is not the first time we’ve received the A10 error. It has happened multiple times over the last two years and, fortunately, we have become masters in the art of hastily acquiring towels, bed sheets, and duvet covers to cover the flood in order to prevent even further damage to our walls and baseboards.

Where was I? Oh yes. So you’ve managed to survive the flooding, the crushing, and now the drying, and somewhere a long the way you’ve found a spare dry square of cloth that you can place under the Magical Faucet of Neverending Water. You’ve probably accepted at this point that no amount of specialty fans or emergency clean up will help with this issue, so you might as well let yourself be baptised in the abysmal flood of suds. Miraculously, there is an end to the water. Somewhere between the swearing, crying, and fighting with your spouse, the washing machine does appear to be fully drained and you are able to carefully pick out the microscopic piece of lint that managed to ruin your entire load of laundry, your baseboards, and, at this rate, your marriage. Now you put it all back together, press the cancel button, let the machine finish draining automatically, and do a test run on “Spin/Drain”. Yes, you’ll have clean underwear for work ye-

Are you serious? Are you fucking kidding me? There is another A10 error? There isn’t even anything in the machine! I just cleaned out the trap! There is literally no reason why this machine should not work unless for some reason it is cursed in which case Whirlpool better have a damn exorcist on retainer because apparently I need one!

I’m not going to mince words any more than I already have. I am frustrated. In a wild effort to do several loads of laundry today (because your machine is only slightly bigger than a bread maker and thusly I have to do my four bras in two separate loads) I have soaked, dried, and soaked again the following:

5 towels

2 Duvet Covers

1 King-Sized Fitted sheet

6 rolls of Off-Brand paper towel

7 paper napkins

1 Fuzzy blanket

Untold number of hand towels

 

These are the atrocities of war. The victims of untold flooding. The smell of mildew is now firmly embedded in the above textiles and as such they have been relinquished to a cupboard which we have deemed to be our “Emergency Stupid Washer Is Broken” cupboard where we can grab them, as well as a bottle of vodka, at a moments notice. The duvet covers were unsalvageable even after being washed in a real machine. The off-brand paper towels were as useless as one might expect them to be, however I believe given the amount of fluid ounces of water that was used that day, even Bounty, the Quicker Picker Upper would have had their work cut out for them.

Now let’s talk about the smell. Yes, the smell. I don’t know if you have any idea what it is like to live in a condo, and before you decide to call your pent-house suite a condo let me explain: a condo is a living space where you can stand on either end and long jump to the other side without much effort. Condos are tiny. They are tiny and cramped and they do not come with air conditioning unless you pay extra, which we would have done except that we had already used up our ‘extra’ budget on a washing machine that is probably imbued with the spirit of Mrs. Topechka, an angry Ukrainian Turn-of-the-Century Pioneering Woman who does not care for our new-fangled ways. So there was no room in the budget for an air conditioner, which, given that we live in Alberta, means we rely heavily on fans during the summer. But not all the fans in the world can stop heat and water from crushing together and creating the stench.

Let me tell you, when something stinks in a condo, it really stinks. My husband’s mildewy dress shirts, for one thing, which he put in to wash over night only to wake up and discover an A10 error the next morning. Our towels. The towels we used to clean our bodies with. All of these things, now forever drenched in the scent of mold, mildew, and probably my tears. And the stench in the condo is horrendous. The water sat in the washer for less than 12 hours and yet the smell that culminated in our condo is so ripe that it is literally transcending time. I can feel my eggs shriveling up in my ovaries. My children will be born with a perpetually puckered nose simply because the odor in the condo is clinging to everything. My cats curled up into the corner of the den and projectile vomited everywhere before dying abruptly. My dog has turned rabid and is now locked in the bathroom, which I imagine is making her even more upset given that the bathroom is right across from the laundry room and is probably the second most smelly place in the condo.  They say Vicks Vapor Rub under the nose is a good way to deal with the smell of decaying bodies, but what they don’t tell you is that smearing it all over your face will only serve to help the smell of mold and mildew permeated deeper into your pores. I am actually molding as I sit here and type this.

But yeah, sure, shit happens, right? Roll with the punches. I did try to make a game out of it for a while. I played “What will dry these towels faster: The Majesty of the Sun or This Perpetually Disappointing Whirlpool Appliance?” I am sorry to say by the end of the saga it was Majestic Sun: 4, Whirlpool Appliance: 2. Of course, those games only take you so far, especially as you spend more and more time steeping in the smell of mold, watching water trickle carefully out of a small valve that you have adjusted the perfect amount to avoid more flooding. It makes a person introspective, really gets you thinking about life, the universe, and how goddamned crappy an appliance has to be if the smallest item not classified as a textile in the washer somehow causes it to have a grand mal seizure. I mean, let’s be honest here, I know it’s a small appliance for a small space, but I should be able to leave a receipt for a box of tampons in my pocket without having to worry if the neighbours below us are going to have flooding in their kitchen.

And yeah, cleaning your pockets is always a good plan prior to doing a load of laundry, but give me a fucking break, I actually do have other things to do (aside from today which I dedicated entirely to watching water trickle from a valve, did I mention that yet?) I have a condo to clean, a rabid dog to walk and/or put down, food to make, actual work to do for my actual job which I am actually paid to do, and clothes to pu- Oh, well. I guess I don’t have clothes to put away at the moment, but we know whose fault that is, don’t we? The point is, people generally live very busy lives these days, and worrying about a scrap of lint in a pocket is not on the top of my priority list. If your product cannot sustain itself in those little moments, how can anyone ever expect it to clean the grass stains off of my metaphorical snub-nosed child’s soccer gear? Failure to do its most basic job in the face of slight interruption does not bode well for the longevity of your product.

And before you ask What about warranty? Yeah, that was a year long. And as is tradition with all things produced in the 21st century, it broke roughly 6 minutes after said warranty expired. Of sure, we called in the dealer a couple times, but that was about as useful as nailing a banana to a fruit bat. It was not useful at all, and was incredibly pointless and, in the long term, will probably result in the loss of life.

So what is the point of all this, you might ask, knowing full well that you are going to receive a snarky reply.

The point is I assumed Whirlpool was simply a brand name and not a description of what I could expect draining from my washing machine. The point is I would very much like to know why the Whirpool washer has the constitution of an anti-vaxxers child in a room full of whooping cranes with nasty coughs. The point is, I would very much like my washer to not break down the next time I forget to pick each stray thread off of my jeans with a pair of tweezers prior to washing them. The point is, I am horribly disappointed with your product, with its ability to do its most basic function, with my ruined towels and bed sheets and duvet covers, with my warped baseboards that will detract from the resale price of the condo and, perhaps finally, I am disappointed knowing that it will only be a matter of weeks before A10 comes back and we have to repeat the whole process all over again.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to put my head in our Whirlpool oven. I’m not sure if I’m hoping it will work or not. One thing is certain, the outcome either way is sure to be exciting.

Sincerely,

Kathleen Sawisky

An Open Letter to Gregg Hurwitz “Thank you for the perpetual fear of mantoids”

Sometimes I write open letters to people who annoy me. Sometimes I write letters to people who inspire me. Sometimes I write letters to my openly passive aggressive neighbours. Today’s letter falls into column ‘B’.

Dear Mr. Hurwitz,

Over ten years ago I managed to get my paws on a copy of The Kill Clause.  I was wandering around the local Chapters in Kelowna, searching for books to take with me on my latest hospital stay. Having previously read The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen before my first surgery, I decided it was in my best interest to not read about anything surgical, but instead focus on my favorite subject: Revenge. The Kill Clause stood out to me because A) It had kill in the title, and B) Clearly involved a vengeful parent, which in my angsty teenage mind was just perfect. Soon enough I had read every book of yours I could get my hands on. I turned to Amazon to find copies of Minutes to Burn and The Tower (and thank you so much for the perpetual, unending fear of mutant praying mantoids. I am never travelling to the Galapagos.)

Your books have accompanied me to the hospital numerous times, have been my go-to when I need something familiar to sink my teeth into. Even now, older and mercifully educated, I open them and discover subtleties that were certainly over my thirteen-year-old head.

By the time I turned seventeen I was, let’s say, a little more… brash. And having taken to writing as a means to not lose my mind in between spinal surgeries and the perpetual angst, I began to suspect that what I was pursuing was not so much a hobby as it was a calling. Who knows?  Years later, as I venture round amateur writing communities I find there is a shared surreal sensibility, that a writers words call to them, that their characters speak  to them. Personally, I just like writing about explosions and a badass female character.

But seventeen-year-old me was in a different state, and she very much wanted to believe that what she was doing was more than just a way to pass the time in between lucid moments, free from (totally legal, honest) drugs. So stupid, idiotic, naive, dumb-dumb me did a stupid dumb-dumb thing, and emailed you for advice. Make no mistake. The minute I pressed send I had instant email regrets. Even to this day I get embarrassed just thinking about it. I very quickly pushed the whole incident from my mind, figuring that you, holy balls favourite author ever would in no way have time to email back a silly person such as myself. I may have even blocked out the entire incident just to protect my own self-respect.

Then something fantastic happened. You emailed silly, dumb-dumb, moronic, teenage me back.

And I may have peed myself with excitement. Just a little bit.

It was a huge moment. Holy SHIT, I thought. I worship the ground this man writes on! Holy flippin’, ass-crackery shit! 

I can’t recall much of what I wrote to you, but I do recall including a vague request for advice on how to pursue writing as a career, and you told me something that I have followed religiously for the last 8, lordy, almost 9 years.

Write every day. Even if it is just a sentence.

At the time it didn’t mean much to me. Write every day? Uh, okay. But I’m already doing that. So…

But I figured, what the hell, if Gregg Hurwitz tells you to write every day, you damn well do it. You take your medicine and you be grateful you live in Canada and the medicine is covered under your provincial health care (sorry.)

I continued to write and read. Every day. A sentence here. A paragraph there. An idea scrawled onto a post-it that has become part of an impressive collection of half-ideas. I never stopped. When I move from my winter to spring jacket, I find the pockets stuffed with scraps of paper, covered in ideas that, quite frankly, may have been written in a drunken haze given how unclear they are.

Still, I wrote, and indeed, write.

And last year, after almost 9 years of working away at it, observing how my own understanding of writing has grown and matured and, in many ways, thrived, I made a desion that is was time to publish. I briefly considered traditional publishing when it occurred to me that I didn’t want the hassle. It was never about fame or fortune, but just getting this damn series out of my head.

Several months ago I ran a GoFundMe to pay for an editor. Two and a half months ago I paid that editor and sent her my manuscript, desperately hoping the end result would not be her calling CSIS on me (so far so good.) Three weeks ago, give or take, I got my manuscript back, filled with changes to be made. Now, today, I am sitting on 42 changes left to be made, each one seemingly more intricate than the last.

This is coming off far too self-congratulatory. It isn’t meant to be. What I wish to say is thank you. Because at a time when a silly, dumb-dumb teenager from a broken household, with a mangy spine, was trying to find her place in the world, you told her that it was okay to keep writing. Without meaning to, you gave me the permission I needed to continue doing something I loved. To those around me, writing was always just the hobby. The something that Overly Awkward Kathleen did during her free time because she couldn’t socialize well with others.

Overly Awkward Kathleen socializes much better, still puts her foot in her mouth, and has learned to adapt to the world around her. Overly Awkward Kathleen never stopped writing, not even for a second. And it never occurred to me what an accomplishment it could be, or how remarkable crafting and honing a story can be until just recently, when I realized the end of my (first) journey was in sight.

I still buy every one of your books on the day they are released, and I always look for inspiration, to see how you yourself have grown as an author from one book to the next. You continue to inspire me each time I reread any of your work. That being said, I always skip the first chapter of The Kill Clause, because it is too sad, and parts of The Tower are just a bit too graphic for my brain to handle. And I won’t ever reread Minutes to Burn because goddamned giant mantoids and an entire Navy SEALS team.

Mantis_silhouette

LOL NOPE

Thank you.

Most sincerely,

Kathleen Sawisky

 

A Brief Open Letter to Billy of Billy’s Library

Dear Billy,

While I appreciate your concern for my family life, I do not believe I actually require Stephen R. Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families. I would, however, like my copy of A Monstrous Regiment of women and presumably [Redacted] of Toronto would very much like her 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure there are a few areas my husband and I could improve upon. Sometimes we snap at each other, and we tend to use sarcasm as a defense mechanism, but we are definitely working on talking through our issues instead of acting passive aggressively about it. Unlike the people who live in my condo, who are the epitome of passive aggression. I’m fairly certain one day it will become full-on aggression and the end result will be a murder. In which case a detective book like Laurie R. King’s A Monstrous Regiment of Women might come in handy. I’m not saying I have the skills of Mary Russell-Holmes, but I do consider myself to have a keen eye for investigation. I almost became a private investigator once, but then an angry old white man told me that pretty young white girls don’t make good PI’s. How he knew I was white is beyond me because we were talking on the phone. How he knew I was pretty is another mystery all together, as I am not. This leads me to assume that perhaps he is not that good of an investigator after all.

Then again, maybe he was the head of some crime syndicate, and knew I was on to him and was trying to throw me off the trail. That is also a possibility, but still highly unlikely. If I had a copy of Monstrous Regiment of Women I might be able to use the skills gained from reading said book to determine what his angle was. Instead the only thing I can do is help him work through the family issues he is inevitably having with his wife. I say inevitable, because let’s face it, one does not become a PI because one’s life is all sunshine and rainbows. The guy probably eats Film Noir for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which may account for the intense weight he is carrying around, at least according to his image on the website I looked up.

Of course it isn’t fair to judge someone by their image. Instead I choose to judge him based solely on the fact that he thought calling me pretty would somehow get me off his case. The joke is on him. Now I have his social insurance number and a list of his fears, and I’m just biding my time until he slips up. That makes me sound a bit like a villain in film noir but I promise you I am far from it. I am just a simple (and apparently pretty) girl from Canada who would very much like to give this 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families to [Redacted] and receive her copy of Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King.

So, let’s you and I make this happen, eh?
Sincerely,
Kathleen Sawisky Esq, PI
Integrity Commissioner

 

An Open Letter to the Government Agent Who is Undoubtedly Investigating Me Right Now

Dear Government Agent Who Is Undoubtedly Investigating Me Right Now,

Before I start, let me say I love my country. A lot. I am very proud to be Canadian and I have zero qualms with Municipal, Provincial, or Federal politicians. I love being Canadian, I always pay my taxes, I love my free health care and roadways and public education. I don’t have any feelings one way or the other in regards to politics, religion, or people’s sexuality. Live and let live!

With that in mind, I can understand how questionable my recent Google searches must seem. Along with seeking out information on weaponized viruses, I have also begun to look up things like “How do bombs work?” and “How to make a pipe bomb” and “BOMBS????” I’ll be the first to admit it seems really, really bad, and if I were in your shoes my first instinct would be “Well, she’s getting arrested.”

I promise you there is a really good reason for me looking up absolutely awful things, like “types of guns used by special forces” and “terrorists” and “how to make butter milk”.

I hemmed and hawed over whether or not it would be a good idea to look those things up. For one thing, I have a brother in the military and I do not, under any circumstances, want to be doing anything that might inadvertently jeopardize his career. Further more, my husband is distinctly half-brownish, and while I’m not suggesting there is a… let’s say, tendency towards racism, I would hate to make any travelling we do more difficult on him simply because his very white wife decided to Google “Plastic explosives”.

A few fun facts about me:

  • I was raised Anglican
  • I love reading thrillers and suspense novels
  • I bake in my spare time
  • I have a crude sense of humor
  • I raise money for the local children’s hospital every year through Extra Life
  • I have never once been radicalized nor, I don’t think, ever been in contact with someone attempting to radicalize me, aside from this one guy  who, incidentally, I reported to the RCMP hotline because I love my country.

The last thing you should know, kind sir and/or madam, is that I write. I love to write. Fairly soon I will be publishing my debut novel. It’s in the hands of my editor right now in fact! So for the last six weeks I’ve been working on the plot of the second book in the series and while I had hoped to make it revolve around a virus, I found the science just didn’t work in my favor. Which leads us to this unfortunate situation. Yes, I decided to make it about an errant terrorist who likes big ol’ explosions. Of course, I quickly ran into a problem. Namely, I know absolutely nothing, and I mean nothing about how bombs work. I know they make explosions. That’s about as complex as my education in bombs goes. Am I saying the word ‘bomb’ too much? I probably am. I’ll stop.

You might have noticed, in performing the inevitable research you have done thus far, that I even made a Facebook post about the fact that I was deeply unsettled by the fact that I obviously need to do this research so the book is reasonably accurate, but I didn’t want to be put on any list. That is how concerned I was regarding my illicit Googling! Someone suggested the library which, yeah, in hindsight would have been the best option. You probably have all eyes on the library too.

You might be thinking here, “Okay, Ms. Sawisky, if that is indeed your name. Why go to so much effort to explain to us that you are in fact not up to no good and are really just some half-assed woman pretending to be a writer?”

Quite frankly, I needed another blog post, and in realizing that it is pretty easy to find me on Google now, I figured I’d take a chance and make a letter directly to you. To save your time! Because you don’t need to research me any more! Would a terrorist really be this gormless? Not a chance. (Although when you think about it, what a cover, right? Like, a terrorist who professes to not be a terrorist. It would make for some snappy television and…. and I’m not helping my case, am I?)

I know, I know. One internet post is hardly enough to convince you that I am not an evildoer, so if you’d like we can absolutely discuss this further. You can reach me at… Wait, what am I saying? You already know where I live, work, and what my phone number is. You probably have a list of my fears too. Joke is on you – I fear nothing! Except the retribution of the State. And also the fact that Donald Drumpf might become president.

Now, I’m going to go back to researching stuff about bombs. And before you ask, no I’m not going to put stuff about actual bomb making in the book. I’m not an idiot.  I just need to know, like, what would be left after a bomb explodes and what sort of stuff goes into bombs and… You know, stuff for character motivation. So I’ll go back to my research, and you can go back to combing my internet history. Give me a call if you have any questions. I promise I’ll take it seriously.

Sincerely,

Kathleen Sawisky, Esq.

Integrity Commissioner

PS: I really do love my country.

 

An Open Letter to Our Scummy Neighbour

An Open Letter to Our Scummy Neighbour

(With sincerest apologies to those of you without scum)

Congratulations on your brazen daylight heist. Your decision to steal a bike out of a locked parkade is remarkable given, and I can’t stress this enough, it is locked and only those who live in the building have access to it. In that way I thank you for narrowing down the list of suspects so quickly, you remarkable molding bread loaf of a human being.

Really, I can’t imagine what must have possessed you to look at our stall and think Hey, that is a bike. I like bikes. I will steal that bike. I can only assume you were raised by wolves and spent the more important years of mental growth inside a refrigerator box behind a strip club where you were hand-fed day-old sausage links by some pole dancer by the name of Bertha. And the worst part, Bertha is fucking disappointed in you.

Here’s the thing, Scum Lord of the Elephant Men. We all have to live in this condo building together. We have to be kind and gracious to each other. We have to ensure we don’t hang annoying sheets off of balconies, or let our dogs shit in the elevator, or, you know, steal from each other. Stealing is, believe it or not, wrong. So, when you decided to steal my husband’s bike from what is, by all intents and purposes, our property, you committed a crime. Crimes are bad. That’s why we call them crimes and not Dance Parties or Cupcake Unicorn Celebrations. Crimes are bad and when they happen, we call the police to report them.

Just answer me this, you who has the social skills of a rotten orange wearing a pair of googly eyes… Why steal? Why steal from a neighbour? The chances of you knowing who we are is fairly slim, but on the off-chance you do know us… did we offend you? Was it the passive aggressive notes? Was it the fact that I didn’t care for the poop in the elevator? Or are you just a bad person with a bad life and so you feel the need to inflict your badness on others?

Are you unhappy, Scum-Satan? Is that why you steal?

Many people are unhappy, and you know what? They don’t fucking steal other people’s shit.

You have a chance to make this right. You can return the bike (that is the favoured outcome) or you can come up to 3314, knock on our door, and apologize, and then return the bike. Either way, the bike comes back to us, or you are paying for it. That is the thing about committing crimes, asshole… People hold you accountable for the mistakes you make. In this case, you made a costly one.