Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Nut Allergies

Life is good.

Went to the specialist in Calgary, after an 18 month wait, and was cleared of suspicion of nut allergies. I had been suffering from hives for several months, and correlation with consumption of almonds/marzipan was sufficiently compelling for my doctor to order me to stop eating all nuts and to carry an epipen with me at all times. The hives vanished the second I stopped eating nuts; the one episode of hives I had after that, when I went back through every thing I had eaten that day, I found a "may contain traces of almonds" label, so that freaked me out a little -- if mere traces of almonds could now trigger the reaction, strongly suggested that problem was escalating. So I went 18 months without eating any tree nuts. Which I discovered are in everything everywhere. Indeed, "almonds are the new peanuts", peanut allergies being sufficiently widespread and scary that a lot of places (schools, cruise ships, many restaurants) have simply banded them, often replacing them in recipes with almonds.

Besides having to avoid a lot of my favorite dishes, I was constantly annoyed by packaged foods with the "may contain traces of" warning labels, since the legal department insists on putting that warning on everything, whether or not there is actually any chance of contamination. A colleague passed me a research article on a study into what the variations in the wording of these warnings meant (did "processed on the same equipment that processes peanuts and tree nuts" imply more or less danger than "may contain traces of", etc.) and the researchers concluded that all the warnings were meaningless legalese. Basically, if you have allergies, you shouldn't eat processed foods.

But tests proved I'm good to go. I'm not allergic to anything I was tested for. The hives were just random outbreaks caused by underlying thyroid issue, which I already knew about and which is not serious.

So life is good!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tesseracts 15 Launched

Robert Runté reading from "Split Decision" at Edge book launch, When Words Collide Festival, August 14, 2011 (Photo John Archer)

I was at the When Words Collide Festival in Calgary last weekend, where Edge publications launched their Tesseracts 15: A Case of Quite Curious Tales collection. As one of the contributors in attendance, I was asked to read a brief excerpt (the first 1/3) from my story. The readings were a wild success -- I can hardly wait to read the stories by the other authors who read excerpts, they were all exceptional -- and I was completely overwhelmed by the reaction to my own reading. I had hoped that my story was amusing, but had no idea that it could generate the gales of laughter with which it was greeted by the live audience. The publisher was apparently surprised too, because they approached me to do a second reading at their multiple book launch again the next day. I read the second 1/3 of my story, again generating a much stronger audience reaction than I would have ever believed possible. The audience for the Edge multiple launches was much bigger than that for the first reading, so the impact of having that many people 'getting' my humor was overwhelming for me. I have never done a public reading of anything I'd written before, so always thought of writing as a solitary and introspective act. You send stuff out there, but you never really know how people are reacting, even if they comment that they liked your story. Hearing their laughter live, is an entirely different experience. Equally gratifying are the tweets and emails I received following the festival telling me how much people had enjoyed the story, a couple even going so far as to say my reading was the highlight of the convention for them. Talk about validation! I could see public readings becoming quite addictive!

The avalanche of positive feedback for that story contrasts sharply with the invisibility of my role as editor. The books I edit for Five Rivers do acknowledge my role in the colophon, but I doubt that many people notice or care -- I can't imagine getting a congratulatory email saying "nice job editing on that book!" since it is by definition an invisible role. Audiences never get to see the before and after manuscripts, or alternate versions of the novel by a different editor (as one gets with directors and plays), so there is no basis upon which readers can judge what editors do. And it is even worse in the case of my growing freelance business (, since most of the writers who come to me for coaching do not want anyone else to ever find out that they sought the help of a development editor. I feel I have had a major impact on the success of at least a couple of authors, but no one will ever know because the advice is always given in strictest confidence.

Given how much I enjoyed the positive public feedback I received this weekend, I may have to reconsider how much time I am devoting to editorial work verses my own writing. Though, editing does pay better, and I am really good at it. Hmm, maybe it's my day job I'll have to give up....

Though professoring is a pretty good gig too. Indeed, I've just received confirmation that I have been given the 2012-2013 year off teaching to write a textbook on student evaluation, so there is one book I will be writing for sure (and getting paid for). Now, to see if I can write a textbook that generates the same sort of positive feedback. (Well, I do intend to use a lot of humor -- god knows, the field could definitely use it. The other texts are all so uniformly boring!) Much as I enjoy teaching (comes with a live, captive audience) it will be wonderful to have time to write without feeling like I am stealing time from my family, students, or etc.

Anyway, can't wait to read the reviews of Tesseracts 15 when they come out...I just got my author's copy at the convention, so I haven't read it yet myself, but if the author readings this weekend were any indication, its one of the best YA collections in years, so should do extremely well. The publisher's table sold out of all the copies they had brought to the convention, so that is probably a good sign. The editor told me they had over 300 submissions, and that they just took the best of the best, so I am really looking forward to reading it. I am definitely in good company with this one!