Why I Write Science Fiction & Fantasy

Before March Break I gave a talk to a Careers class at work about what being a writer is all about. My caveat right away was that every writer works a little differently, and that aside from the fact that every writer is a little nuts and most need to balance writing work with a paying day job, any piece of advice a writer might give needs to be taken with a grain of salt, since there are no absolutes. Pretty sure I lost 3/4 of my audience at that moment, since these students hadn’t been deprogrammed out of the “there is one answer and the teacher will give it” belief system.

However, a student who knew me put her hand up partway through and asked, “So why do you focus on sci-fi and fantasy, and not literary?” (I had explained that I got my start writing literary short fiction). The true, if canned answer is: “because it’s way more fun.” But these are my students, and I like to give them more truth when I can, so I explained in more detail the real reason I write SFF: because it lets me exorcise my demons, fears and worries without actually focusing on them. I could write a story, I said, about divorce or struggling with debt or the challenges my family has faced and set it in the here and now, but if I do that it becomes a little too real. If I write a story involving one of those things but set 300 years in the future or with a boggart as the main character, it allows more of a remove, where I can slip in little bits of things I understand, but more for flavor than as a direct focus.

I was thinking about that more this week while I finished the draft of Three Coins of Silver (my current novel WIP). As the last few chapters came together, I could see more of myself reflected in some of the characters’ behaviors. My lead protagonist, Mavrin Leed, is a scholar turned street performer who’s about fifty years old, looking closely at retirement, flails in the face of danger and was originally a researcher studying the many facets of his world’s deity. Obviously that’s not me. But there were moments in writing Mavrin where his regrets, the pain he feels, and his awkward moments with other characters felt familiar. The same is true of Eyasu (the overly-formal, stubborn warrior-priest) grappling with his anxiety of the future and Deyeri (the retired soldier) who feels guilty about people she’s failed or disappointed. In her case, those people are dead soldiers under her command, but exploring guilt and loss shouldn’t be strange to anyone. And so by touching on these things without dwelling too deeply, I get a little catharsis – and fun – all at once.

Or at least that’s how I explained it to my students. And while I’m sure most of them zoned out at some point during my talk, hopefully the more creative ones took away a useful lesson: that even if you’re writing about made-up characters (who may or may not be boggarts) your writing should offer a little healing, as well as being fun.


When My Protagonist Caught Me By Surprise

I’ve been talking quite a bit about my current novel WIP, tentatively titled Three Coins of Silver, but haven’t actually shared any excerpts from the draft (at least I don’t think I have; correct me if I’m wrong). I tend to keep early drafts pretty close to the chest, but I want to share a scene I wrote last week, because it’s one that caught me totally by surprise.

Three Coins focuses on three estranged friends – Mavrin, a street magician who doesn’t believe in real magic; Eyasu, a priest who questions the gods; and Deyeri, a retired soldier who avoids conflict – who lost touch after discovering a lost secret about the gods that Mavrin rejected. At the start of the novel, he’s carrying a lot of baggage that starts to get hashed out when he’s reunited with his friends, but the three of them spend the story largely not talking about what they’re really feeling until they’re forced to – cuz that’s what people do.

When I started the scene below, I expected the walls to come down between them a little, almost like old friends falling back into comfortable habits. But while I was writing, I could see Mavrin sitting in front of his friends, and I knew that this was the moment that things were going to suddenly be too much for him – not a few chapters later, when shit really hits the fan, but in this seemingly calm and quiet moment with people who used to be the closest thing he had to family. It was like he was speaking to me, showing me how he would react to the situation I put him in.

And here’s what I came up with (at least the first draft; we’ll see what it looks like after revisions) as an example of how some of the best writing sometimes comes out of nowhere:


“Is there something particular troubling you?”

“Just one thing? Try this entire madcap situation.” A corner of Righteous Authority was poking against Mavrin’s stomach, so he plucked it out and tossed it onto the bench between them. “I can’t decide whether talking with Breck and Kedar made me feel better or worse.”

Eyasu picked up the book and thumbed through the pages. “Everything we found, it was always just theory. Only Ammendul knows the truth about what She wills.”

“And do you honestly still trust in Her? I saw what happened last night, and it was the same thing that happened with Augustina.” Mavrin snatched the book from his friend. “Either these dead people are right, or your magic is all bullshit, just like I thought. I’m not sure I could live with that, in your shoes.”

He regretted his words as soon as he saw Eyasu’s expression darken.

“Bloody hell,” he muttered, studying Damisar’s name on the book’s cover. “I’ve had this thing ten minutes and it’s already making me argue with you.” He tossed it aside again. “I don’t mean to challenge your beliefs. Certainly not now.”

“You are not the only one challenging them. And I understand why you do not believe.”

Mavrin rubbed at his face again, wishing he could pry the fatigue from his eyes. “And I thought those coins floating in my room were the strangest things I’d be dealing with.” He scanned the deck in front of him, and when he caught himself noting every patch of darkness where the sunlight didn’t reach, he said, “There’s something in the shadows, Eyasu. Or there isn’t, and I’m finally losing my mind.”

Trying to pick his words as carefully as possible – for clarity, not to hide anything – he explained what had happened in Vertsa, and what he thought he had seen with Deyeri the night before. As he described it, he sounded crazy to his own ears – or would have, if the last few days hadn’t already been filled with varying levels of crazy.

When he finished, Eyasu said, “I have not seen anything specifically like that. I am afraid I am at a loss.” He let out a thoughtful grunt. “There have always been tales of creatures hiding in shadow. But if it has not harmed you yet…”

Mavrin arched an eyebrow. “You’re not suggesting I just ignore it?”

“We have somewhat more pressing concerns.”

“Lovely. If I get sucked into the void, you’d better save me, so I can throw it in your face later.”

“You have my word,” Eyasu said, without even a glimmer of amusement.

Somewhere nearby, he heard Atera loudly asking if everyone was ready to get underway – not barking orders, but asking for the opinions of her crew, which in his eyes made her a better captain than most. As the sails were unfurled and the Soul started to pull away from the docks, Mavrin decided he should have tried to convince her to kick everyone off her ship. At least then he would have helped somebody.

“Well … are you going to tell me what’s going on with that,” Mavrin said, pointing at Eyasu’s rucksack, “or do I have to guess?”

He thought Eyasu would refuse again. But he said, “On our way here, the Spawn inside those coins … spoke to me.”

He explained what had happened while Mavrin was performing for the Soul’s crew, though he glossed over what the Spawn showed him once it got into his mind. Mavrin didn’t pry. When Eyasu finished, he didn’t look any less tired, but some of the somberness seemed to leave his voice.

Mavrin considered kicking the rucksack across the deck until it fell into the bay. “Have you heard it since you carved that second box?”

Eyasu shook his head.

“Well, hopefully that means those charms of yours worked, and it isn’t just sleeping or something.” He frowned. “Is it strange that the box is containing that thing, but your other magic hasn’t worked?”

“Magic is inconsistent, it seems,” Eyasu admitted.

“Uyekel described Spawn as having different kinds of power. Maybe the one in there is less powerful than the one we saw yesterday.” Mavrin thought about what he had just said, and for the first time in a while a genuine smile crept onto his face. “It’s never dull talking to you, is it?”

“I have always tried to keep you on your toes. It is the cows’ job to knock you off them.”

When Mavrin glanced over at him, a mischievous smile had crept onto Eyasu’s face. A low, throaty chuckle rumbled somewhere deep in his chest, and that set off something in Mavrin. He put a hand over his mouth to stifle it, but that only made it worse, and soon they were both laughing so hard that Mavrin eventually ran out of air and started coughing.

Eyasu’s steadying hand on his arm made him giggle all over again.

By the time they were both under control, Mavrin massaged his weathered face and noticed Deyeri standing across the deck, arms crossed.

“Did you two take up day-drinking?”

“That was only one time,” Eyasu started saying, at the same time Mavrin said, “It’s this bastard’s fault,” and when they looked at each other they almost broke into another fit of exhausted, worn-out laughter.

As Mavrin caught his breath again, he noticed Deyeri smiling. Not ironically or by force; this was the natural smile he remembered, the one that just slightly pulled at the corners of her lips, as though she was keeping most of her amusement to herself and letting the world catch a glimpse. He could remember how that smile could grow, when they were alone and comfortable, and wondered how many other people had seen that effect on her.

The soreness in his lungs melted away, replaced by a deeper ache that started somewhere below his diaphragm and drifted upward into the rest of his body, as he looked at the two people who had been his closest friends, long ago.

“I’m sorry,” he said. Eyasu gave him a curious look, while Deyeri lowered her gaze and tapped her heel idly against the deck. “I’m sure if I wasn’t so much of a fool I could come up with a more eloquent way to say this. Or maybe there’s too much for me to apologize for.”

Now that he had looked at them once, he couldn’t again, since he knew all he would see is the scars that both of his friends bore. All because of me. He hadn’t run from ideas or truths before; he had turned his back on them. Not because he thought they would judge him, but because they would have supported and helped him, and he had been more comfortable accepting his fear and hiding from it.

And the more he thought about it, the more he realized that was just the start.

“I walked away from it. Twenty-seven years, thinking none of it mattered. Not paying attention. And people are dead. That poor girl is dead because of me,” Mavrin said, unable to control the shaking in his voice.

Looking away from them didn’t matter. He could still see the scars gouged into Eyasu’s scalp and the way his shoulders shook as he desperately tried to save the ignorant in Tanardell. He could hear the hurt in Deyeri’s voice as she told him to never call her love ever again, and her gasp of pain as the Spawn pierced her mind.

“Everything is my fault. And I don’t know how to apologize for it.”

His hand was trembling even worse than his voice when Deyeri crouched in front of him and took it in both of hers. He couldn’t meet her eyes, not wanting to see the blame or disgust in them. He waited for her to call him a fool, or slap him, or tell him he had no right to try to apologize, knowing he deserved all of that, and maybe worse.


Deyeri’s eyes were glimmering and wet, and before he could blame himself for that, too, she squeezed his hand.

“It’s okay.”

For an instant, Mavrin was back in their room in the Citadel, twenty-seven years earlier, when he told her he was researching something that scared him, and that he didn’t know when he could tell her about it. She had leaned against him in their bed and he had known she understood, that she trusted him and could wait for him, because of two simple words.

The same words she said now. Only this time, they hurt in ways he couldn’t articulate.

Deyeri kept holding his hand. Eyasu gripped his shoulder.

And Mavrin hung his head, as old tears fell at his feet.

On the Nature of Slumps

I’ve been a posting a fair bit of awesome writing news the last little while, so it might surprise you that amid all of that the last month I really wasn’t feeling it creatively. All of January I was getting solid words done on draft 1.5 of Three Coins, mostly thanks to my weekly check-ins with KT Bryski – if you can find someone to regularly report to as a writer, it works wonders, FYI – and forcing myself to write 800 words minimum every weeknight, on the advice of another writer friend of mine. But more often than not (with the exception of the last couple of days), it was a slog getting those words done; I felt like my regular energy and excitement weren’t there, even seeing the fruits of my labor in a variety of ways.

Maybe it’s partly because of semester turnover at work, which is always a bit draining. Maybe it’s because I caught up to where I stopped in Three Coins before going back for early rewrites, so I’m drafting entirely new content, and that’s a little scary. Maybe it’s because of the hundred other things I have buzzing around in my head, courtesy of the universe tossing things in our path. Maybe it was one of those little burnout periods every creative goes through. Whether or not there’s a definite explanation doesn’t really matter, since either way I’ve had to suck it up and deal with it.

One really interesting thing lately is that I’ve hardly been watching any new television or movies. Usually I’m following a few shoes at once, mixing up what I’m watching when, but for a while I haven’t felt the desire to get into anything new (except Critical Role and The X-Files). So I’ve been rewatching my old favorites, like Human TargetFringe and Castle, almost as though I needed a guaranteed jolt of what I love about storytelling. Ironically Castle helped the most in the last couple of weeks, by reminding me about the kind of writer I want to be. Not the cocky, stupidly rich side of Richard Castle (which is obviously unrealistic) but the side that gets excited about the strange, has a wealth of knowledge from book research, and understands that acting like a kid isn’t a bad thing, since it lets your brain relax.

The other thing that’s been helping me lately is listening or watching live music from some of my favorite artists – the ones who are clearly having a good time performing, even after decades of shows. There’s something magical about watching Eric Clapton at age 70 busting out “Cocaine” or “I Shot the Sheriff,” or the Killers at the Royal Albert Hall, or Elton John and his band live in Hyde Park. You can tell that they’re having an absolute blast, and that’s inspiring as a creative person. Better yet, seeing the way they feed off the audience’s excitement (and vice versa) helps get my own creative energy pumping. Because at the end of the day that’s why I tell stories – not because I’m looking for adoration, but because I want to give people something they enjoy.

Tonight, that little jolt of energy comes from a source that might surprise people who don’t know me very well: Sir Tom Jones. While I grew up on classic rock courtesy of my parents, from my grandparents I developed an appreciation for legends like Elvis Presley and Tom Jones. I’ve always loved the latter’s music, and I keep an eye out for new clips from The Voice UK, so I can see him in action. Watching the clip below from this weekend’s episode is actually what got me to sit down and write this post (and when I’m 77, I hope I’m half as active as Tom):

My point? Everyone has slumps, and I think it’s important to talk about them, and what works when you’re in them. And even in a slump, keep writing. Otherwise, to quote the Eagles (another favorite of mine), you’ll be “worrying ’bout this wasted time.”

The Power of a Single Dungeons and Dragons Encounter

What is this? Two posts in a single week? From the guy who can barely manage to post once a week on this thing? Hell yeah. This is what happens when I have a lot on my mind and working on actual writing doesn’t help.

So I have a Pathfinder campaign that I play in, and last night we had a slightly nerve-wracking combat against an undead druid and his minions masquerading as paladins. Why was it nerve-wracking? Because he threw down in a pavilion crowded with civilians that he promptly started killing with impunity, while we tried to get to him to shut him down. Yes, these are not real people, but just markers on a table. But I’m a writer, so I can see the scene in front of me as our DM describes it. And my character is basically a Harry Dresden look-alike, so each round of combat came down to me asking, “How do I get between these guys and the civilians without getting myself killed?” And with the knowledge that if my character got killed defending innocent NPCs, he’d be okay with that. I get invested in D&D, so situations like this actually evoke an emotional response in me.

We won the fight without too much loss of innocent life (and none of the party dying) and I was able to relax. And then as we’re wrapping up the DM turns to me and says he forgot something. I had missed the last session, and he says that during my character’s downtime, he started having nightmares where he sees himself committing violent crimes and feeling nothing. Sort of like sociopathic criminal activity. And the most recent nightmare involved my character torturing the woman he loves (who happens to be a fire nymph he summoned once, and rescued from being imprisoned and tortured by demons – D&D is like a soap opera sometimes). No clue as to what’s causing these nightmares.

And to be honest, that thing stuck with me. My character is a good guy. He makes mistakes sometimes, usually risking himself stupidly and not thinking things through, but it comes from a place of altruism. He doesn’t hurt people unnecessarily. And there’s enough going on in the campaign that the idea of him being compelled to go dark and hurt the people he cares about is actually a danger, so now I’m legitimately worried that he’s going to become dangerous to the people around him or something, and I have to wait until our next session to figure out what to do with it.

That, my friends, is the power of proper storytelling, and one of the reasons why I love Pathfinder or D&D. Played with the right people, you can have some properly emotional and vivid experiences, like reading a great book or watching a captivating film. The fact that you can act on that world with a freedom a video game doesn’t often allow just makes it all the more compelling. (And in my case, legitimately terrifying.)

If you play D&D or something similar, I’m sure you understand. If you don’t, you probably think I’m nuts.

Either way, I need to figure out what’s wrong with my character, and make sure he doesn’t hurt anyone he cares about.

Artsy People Are All the Same

My mom is fond of saying that “artsy people are all a little off,” and really she isn’t wrong. Admittedly I used to think about writers as having our own particular brand of crazy, but lately I’ve been watching a lot of shows where people in other creative disciplines sit around and talk shop, and I’ve realized that essentially we’re all the same.

I don’t mean formal interviews, which I often find a little dry and scripted (except Craig Ferguson, who I try to borrow from for my own interviews). What’s been appealing to me lately are informal, relaxed conversations where a bunch of actors or writers or whatever sit around and talk shop, pretty much ignoring the cameras around them. Think Dinner for Five that Jon Favreau did a while back, or Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, though lately I’ve been watching Variety’s Actors on Actors and reruns of The Green Room with Paul Provenza (which totally needs to be revived somewhere, like on Netflix).

I’m a big fan of these kinds of conversations, particularly when I get the chance to sit down like that with folks in my industry, whether it’s going out for dinner or sitting around the bar at a con. Those situations are often not only hilarious, but I always walk away either with something to think about or just feeling lighter for having been around “my people.”

We’ve done things at Can*Con here in Ottawa that try to take that energy and throw it on a stage, by pairing two authors who we know are good friends and just letting them just. Similar to the shows I mentioned above, what comes out of it is a really natural, relaxed and honest conversation that I think can teach a lot more than a formal panel or interview. If people are relaxed they share more, and talking with their peers they share even more. And what I’ve realized particularly with the ones I’ve watched recently is that there are some universal truths that span all creative types, whether it’s writers, actors, comedians, or some other group. Here’s what I’ve distilled it down to:

  • Process is Process: What’s really interesting is that the creatives I’ve been watching all describe their process as something very fluid that probably doesn’t make sense to anyone else, even peers in their field. Process shifts between projects and tends to be very personal, and it takes a creative person to understand it. If you show a layperson the scribbled notes you’ve got hanging from clotheslines across your office as you outline, they’re gonna give you a weird look, but a visual artist will probably nod and understand.
  • The Best Creative People Are Neurotic and Self-Deprecating: If The Green Room showed me anything, it’s that comedians are the worst for this – but really, we all are. It’s still a little mystifying to me listening to Nicole Kidman or Jimmy Carr or Stephen King call themselves hacks or that they’re certain their next project is going to bomb, even though every successful writer I’ve met says the same thing at some point, and I think it every day. Impostor syndrome runs deep in us all, and while that’s heartening in a way, it’s also really fucking depressing. I don’t think as creative people we should be arrogant, but can we at least get a break from our anxieties? Yeesh.
  • Collaboration is King: In Actors on Actors, Gary Oldman talks about working closely with the artist who designed his makeup and prosthetics to play Winston Churchill, and the way he describes their collaboration sounded so much like a writer and editor, or writer and agent, etc. While we can feel isolated, bouncing ideas off other people and collaborating in some form can be just as important as sitting around a table with your fellow creatives, to gain those other perspectives and fold them into your craft. I didn’t realize the extent to which actors or comedians do this, too, and that’s really cool.

The reason why this is on my mind, I think, is that I’ve realized I’m at a point in my career where guidebooks and talks that are specifically about process aren’t useful for me anymore. I know my process, ad while I might pick up the occasional trick to add to it or try out, I’m not figuring this out from scratch anymore. What I think is more useful for me is to see other creatives’ mindsets on a variety of topics; I want to listen to them talk about how they’ve dealt with specific problems, or describe the background to projects I’m familiar with, and absorb their attitudes to see if there’s anything there I can work with. And when you sit accomplished creatives together, they’re going to ask each other questions an interviewer might not think of, and answer with details they might not reveal to someone who isn’t a colleague.

Honestly, the shows I’ve described have been amazing for my headspace lately as I’m working on my current novel draft. What we need is a version of The Green Room where a bunch of writers sit around and chat. Maybe with a host. Let me stew on this, and if someone wants to take that on, you have my support.


Up Next – ConFusion!

I’m really gonna try to get into a better habit of writing one post a week. You believe me, right? Fool! Teacher holidays are over now, so we’ll see if I can pull it off. Or if you poor people reading this will once again realize that several weeks have gone by without my whimsy and honest recounting of what it means to be a writer.

After my post last week, and the moments from 2017 I’ve been tweeting about the past few days, I’m looking ahead to 2018. There’s already a bunch of excitement on the horizon, beginning with my first trip out to ConFusion in Detroit from January 19-21. I’ve heard amazing things about this con from various people, and I’m crazy excited about my schedule. Here’s where you can find me (besides in the bar, probably):

Saturday: 11-11:30 am – Black Gate Interviews Jim Butcher

  • Brandon Crilly of Black Gate Magazine sits down for a 30 minute interview with SubPress Guest Jim Butcher.
Saturday: 2-3 pm – Any Sufficiently Detailed Magic System is Indistinguishable from Magic
  • The influence of tabletop roleplaying games is widely felt in fantasy. Many stories make a ‘science’ out of their magic that reflects the carefully-balanced rules of a tabletop sourcebook. What are the trade-offs between creating magic systems with strict rules and leaving magic as a mysterious and unknown force? How do we balance the sense of wonder and magic against the desire to give readers a stable hook from which to suspend their disbelief? What makes a well-defined magic system work in a story,  and when are we showing the reader too much of the machinery behind the curtain? Brandon Crilly, Charlie Jane Anders, David Anthony Durham, Kate Elliott, Shweta Adhyam, Jim Butcher
5 pm – Autograph Session
  • Come meet your favorite authors, artists and musicians and have them sign things! (Please limit your signing requests to 3 items per person.)
Sunday: 1 – 2 pm – Hopepunk in the Age Of Resistance
  • Author Alexandra Rowland defines hopepunk as the opposite of grimdark: “Hopepunk says that kindness and softness doesn’t equal weakness, and that in this world of brutal cynicism and nihilism,  being kind is a political act. An act of rebellion. Hopepunk says that genuinely and sincerely caring about something, anything, requires bravery and strength.” What are the stories that inspire us to reject cynicism and fight for the good in this broken world. Brandon Crilly, Izzy Wasserstein, Michael J. DeLuca, Nisi Shawl, Stacey Filak
So the first item on there is pretty amazing on its own, but I’m really looking forward to all of my programming and the amazing people I’ll get to chat with. I don’t usually offer myself for panels at other cons – I think this is the first time I’ll be on a panel in the U.S., actually, so that’s pretty cool in and of itself. Events like these are my way of regenerating while still keeping my handsome looks, so I’m hoping to get a ton of writing done after I get back.
If you’ll be at ConFusion, give me a shout!
In case you missed it, Daily Science Fiction recently published my short story “Moments,” which is a time-travel piece with a literary twist. If you’re interested, you can scope it out here: http://dailysciencefiction.com/science-fiction/time-travel/brandon-crilly/moments

“Whoa, 2017 is Over Already?” + “Good Gods, It’s Really Only Been a Year???”

I remember having dinner with a friend of mine around the end of May, and explaining to him a bunch of ridiculous bullshit in my professional life that had sucked some of the energy out of me. At the end of my rant I blinked at him and said something like, “Shit, that all happened this month … and it’s still May.” Or something similar that probably included more cursing. The rest of the year gradually went a lot better overall, but I feel like 2017 was one of those years jam-packed with a lot of stuff, not just for me but for the world at large, too, and not all of it good. For a lot of people this was probably a terrible year (sorry, most Americans) but it was also a year filled with a lot of change and a lot of hope, which is never a bad thing. I genuinely believe that it takes dramatic events and a little pain for drastic changes to happen for humanity, so while there’s a lot that sucks right now, I’m confident things will get better.

Like I said, this year was busy. When I look back on everything in just my life, I’m amazed that it all fit into 365 days. And though I normally shrug off success and self-deprecate a lot, people have been encouraging me to knock that off. So with another new year waving at me from around the corner, here are the writerly accomplishments I’m proud of and grateful for from 2017:

  • 5 short stories published in a mixture of magazines and anthologies, with two more stories sold that will appear sometime in 2018
  • Another Honorable Mention from Writers of the Future, for my short story “Synchronicity and Sonata”
  • A bunch of additional short stories written and a new novel in progress, all of which I feel is stronger and better constructed than any of my previous work
  • Continuing my review and interview column on Black Gate, and actually receiving some recognition for it on occasion
  • Helping to organize the most successful Can*Con to date with an amazing team of friends, which allowed me to meet and work with a ton of new people from the writing community
  • Becoming a member of SFWA and attending my first ever Nebulas Conference
  • New projects lined up for 2018 that will stretch my writing muscles, which may or may not include a short comic and some RPG stuff (shh…)

Me with Marie Bilodeau (left) and Evan May (right) – huge players in keeping my sanity at Can*Con

Nebulas Conference night with Derek Künsken

What I think is really important is the combined experiences that have taught me a lot about my style, where I’m at as a writer, and where I need to go. If anything, I’ve learned to sit back and evaluate things carefully, whether it’s a line of dialogue or an idea for a story or an opportunity in life (not necessarily to do with writing). And I realized that while it’s good to be busy, it’s really easy to become too busy, and that’s when you have to give things up. I started off this year as a part-time college professor, an assistant editorial director for a fledgling publishing company, a writer, a programming co-ordinator for Can*Con, and on top of all of that a full-time high school teacher. Yes, I know that’s insane, and I’ve learned from my mistakes.

On that note, this year wound down with me finally attaining a permanent position with the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, which still feels a little surreal to me even though I’ve been “contract” for two months. If you don’t know much about the Ontario teaching market, it’s tough, and going into my sixth year as a teacher I was starting to lose hope that I’d ever become permanent. But this is a lesson that while your career may hit some roadblocks, if you work hard and do right you’ll land where you want to be. To quote Richard Castle, “One day you will look back and realize that every experience you’ve ever had, every seeming mistake or blind alley was actually a straight line to who you were meant to be.”

Yes, I coached a championship team. Don’t look so surprised.

Graduation ceremony at Merivale HS

Most importantly, this year was filled with a lot of laughs and a lot of time spent with good people. I made new friends, and deepened my relationships with people already in my life. I tried to be there for people when it counted. I taught some of the most brilliant students I’ve ever encountered, and got to watch a bunch of them graduate and set off on new adventures. It sounds cliche, but it’s family and friends that make life valuable, and help you get past any pain or horror or bullshit that crosses your path. I spend a lot of time on social media sending shout-outs to the people I admire and respect and depend on, because it’s easy to take people and things for granted if you’re not careful.

But I don’t want to get too prosaic or wistful. This blog is supposed to be rambling and honest and occasionally heavy with cursing, so why should an end-of-year post be any different? [I almost inserted a bad word in there, but certain people who shall remain nameless (*cough* Derek *cough*) would be disappointed.]

Okay, maybe one more thing. At times like this I usually think about one of my favorite lines from science fiction, in this case from a character we also said goodbye to just last week. It’s become of my many mantras, and whatever your feelings about 2017, maybe it can be useful for you, too:

“Things end, that’s all. Everything ends, and it’s always sad. But everything begins again, too, and that’s always happy. Be happy. I’ll look after everything else.” — The Doctor, as played by Peter Capaldi