Saturday, May 13, 2017

Holding virtual auditions for characters in my third book

I am presently holding virtual auditions for characters in my third book (fiction).  You are welcome to virtually audition a character for a part in this book by going to the following link.

At this point in time, I will not reveal the book's title nor what it is about (already partly written) However, the inclusion of your character in the book after a successful audition will have a definite effect on the further development of existing characters as well as additions to and changes to the plot and sub-plots.

You may suggest characters based on yourselves or characters you have made up or are loosely based on people you know. As such, you may give the character your own name or a made-up name. (If you are basing the character on someone you know, do not give that character their real name.) Your character description can be as short or as long as you wish.

This is the first time I am writing a book this way and I think it may bring about some interesting results. You will be given credit in the book introduction for inspiring the writing of the book (unless you request not to be mentioned) and I will send you a paperback and ebook copy of the book when it is published.

If interested, please send me your character audition by filling in this form

Thank you,

David

 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

How many ears does it take to renew a Canadian Passport?

Those of you who have read my two previous posts:
will know of my Love Affair with the Canadian Embassy in Tel Aviv. But, as with many relationships which seem so simple at first, things have become complex over the years. And the chief culprit in complicating this relationship is the Canadian Passport Photo, which caught us all by surprise when the new photo requirements were released many years ago. Take a look at how complex they have become:

Photo Requirements

  • required height and width of photo and height and width of face in photo
  • be clear, sharp and in focus
  • show a neutral facial expression (no smiling, mouth closed) and look straight into the camera with eyes open and clearly visible
  • have uniform lighting - no shadows, glare or flash reflections
  • show a full front view of the face and top of the shoulders squared to the camera (face and shoulders centered in the photo, head not tilted or turned)
  • reflect natural skin tone and be taken against a plain white or light-coloured background with enough contrast between the background facial features and clothing, so that your features appear clearly in the background.
  • be originals that have not been altered in any way and not taken from an existing photo;
  • be taken within the last six months from the date the application is submitted and reflect your current appearance
There is more, but I don't want to lose you, if I haven't already.

Shorty after the new photo requirements came out, so long ago, my son had his Canadian Passport photo taken in Beer Sheva. I took his filled out and signed application form together with the photos to the consular section of the Canadian Embassy in Tel Aviv. As usual, I started passing the form, pictures and cash through the protected window apparatus (back then you could still pay in cash). 
"Whoa," the consular official said, "Not so quickly."
That was when everything sacred about our relationship changed.
"Your son's mouth isn't closed."
I had no idea what he was talking about.
"It looks closed to me," I said, "and he isn't smiling."
"There is a small gap between his lips. You will have to get new photos taken."
Taken again? And then back again from the Negev, leaving very early on a Friday morning to beat the lineup? And still not sure that the new pictures will meet all of the requirements?
"I can hardly see the gap," I said, Canadian to Canadian which is supposed to mean something.
"There is nothing I can do," the official said, "I can't accept them now, knowing that they will be rejected in the end."
So I took the pictures back and gave them to my son, explaining the problem. He took them back to the photo shop where they had been taken.  This time when I took them back to Tel Aviv, they were accepted.

After this traumatic surprise, and with the date of my passport renewal and my daughter's passport renewal approaching quickly, I turned to my Israeli English Teachers group, asking for the name of a photo shop which already knows how to successfully take a Canadian Passport photo on the first try. I was sent the name and address of Photo Zion in Renaana and was told that the consulate unofficially recommended this photo shop. Since then, over the years, I have made a number of trips to Renaana (a two and a half hour drive, one way) to get a Canadian passport photo taken. A long way to drive, I know, but worth it for peace of mind.

Now, let's move to the present. Over ten years have passed since my first trip to Renaana for this purpose. I figured that, by now, there must be at least one photo shop in Beer Sheva that knows how to take a Canadian Passport photo. So I put out feelers to a number of facebook groups where Canadian expats were lurking and requested any info that someone might have about a photo shop in Beer Sheva that knows how to take Canadian Passport photos. Someone recommended Photo Life in Beer Sheva, stating that they knew how to do this. Buoyed by new hope, I set out for Beer Sheva. The Russian at the store - let's call him Boris - said that he knew how to do this. I am used to the photographer taking a number of photos, making sure that he got everything correct and then showing me the final photo for my approval. But, exuding confidence, he appeared satisfied with the first picture taken and then set about setting it up for printing. I was then given the two photos. Everything, in the long list of requirements, was apparently correct and I was ready to make the two hour drive to the Canadian Embassy.

Adva told me that she would go with me to provide moral support. We left early on a Friday morning and were at the consulate at 07:35. (It opened at 08:00 and I was already the third in line.)
"If the photos turn out okay," I told her, "I will make the Photo Life photo shop famous. I will let everyone know in the relevant facebook groups that this is the place to go in the Beer Sheva region."
"Why wouldn't everything be okay?" Adva remarked, the eternal optimist.
"Why are you taking your computer?"
"Oh, just in case it takes longer than expected." (Maybe she wasn't as optimistic as I thought.)


I am a natural worrier, but I did feel that everything was on board this time.
Pushing through my Adult Abroad Simplified Passport Application to the other side of the window, I followed with the photos. The consular official momentarily placed the photos aside and went through the form to make sure that all was there. She then went back to the photos.
"Just a second. I have to check something," she said, leaving with one of the photos. After a few minutes, she came back. "The automatic photo check is not up, but I see a problem with the photo."
That is when my stomach fell and the trauma returned.
"You are not totally squared to the camera."
"I'm not?" It looked kosher to me.
And then it came, after worrying all about smiling, mouth closed, proper contrast and measurements...
"I can only see one of your ears," she said.
Ears? When did ears enter the equation?
"They won't accept it," she said, "you will have to have it taken again. You should be able to have it taken for free at the same photo shop."
I carefully studied the photo.
"There," I said, "I see a part of the missing ear."
"That's just a little dust on the picture."
"No, I really think that is an ear."
She did me the favour of peering over at the photo again.
"Even if it is, we need to see both ears equally."
(You can see the passport photo at the top of this page.)
I began to wonder whether they keep making these things up. The idea of going back to Beer Sheva to get the photo taken again and waiting until next Friday to see if it was now okay was too much for me. I also was not in the mood to bring all this back to Boris at Photo Life.  I don't do well with Russian authority figures. Check out my blog on this subject: You want to leave Moskva!
"Is there a place nearby where I can have the photo taken? Where they really know what they are doing?"
"Yes, at the other entrance to the building. They are good, but expensive."
"No matter. I am not leaving Tel Aviv today until everything is done."
She put everything into an envelope with the Consular Section address stamped on it.
"You can put the new photos into this envelope and drop it into the Consular Section box."
"No, I will come back with them this morning to make sure that they will be accepted this time."
When I returned with the photos, I was directed to another consular official. I told her the story and she authorized the new photos and continued processing my request.
"What's wrong with these photos," she asked, referring to the old photos as she took the documents out of the envelope.
"The other official said it is not squared properly. You can only see one ear."
"Oh. Okay," she said.

So that is it. I am not setting out to make Photo Life famous among us Southerners. And if you are eligible for the Adult Abroad Simplified Passport Application, which most of you should be, then I suggest that when everything is ready, you go and have your photo taken at the place by the Canadian Embassy and submit your application directly after that. Take into account, though, that it costs 80 shekel to have the photo taken there. (It cost 29 shekel at Photo Life, but then, they weren't worth anything in the end.)

I am sure that other Canadians would be most interested in hearing about your own experiences in this matter and tips for survival. I know that I would.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Writing ourselves into oblivion

"I don't want to get up. I can't go on like this," my character said, lying in the bed I had written for him. "How do you get up in the morning?" he asked me.
"I pretend that I am you."
"How does that help?"
"For a moment nothing appears real."

Ah, the luxury of being a writer. Writing yourself into a little oasis in an otherwise turbulent world. Or is it the opposite. Is it the turbulence you seek? Somewhere to direct the pain which would otherwise consume you. To help convince you to get up at least one more day.

"And when you know what is real, how do you go on then?" " he asked,
"I have responsibilities."
"Family?"
"Family, yes. Do you want me to write you a family?" I asked.
"Will they be less dysfunctional than your family?"
"My family is not dysfunctional."
"Really?"
"You have to get out more," I said.

There is pain in writing. Most people don't know that. There is even greater pain in not being able to write: a verbal constipation where words remain locked inside, wanting to get out.

Writing, for me, is directly linked to survival. It wasn't that way once, but it is now. A very good friend of mine told me, "It is the DOING of it that matters." And she is right. I am first and foremost writing for myself. Facing my demons face to face. Listening carefully to hear if I still have a voice. But I also would very much like to be read.

And now I will let you in on a little secret. Many of us make New Year Resolutions but rarely expect to carry them through. But I have made a New Year Resolution for 2017 which I have every intention of carrying through. And that is writing a new blog entry every two weeks. Since beginning this blog in 2011, it has never gone this long without a new entry. There are many reasons for not writing. And some may appear quite valid, but none are justified.

When I was diagnosed with Parkinson's, the pivotal moment was whether I would decide to fight it or not. At first, I was stunned. But it only took a short time to make a decision. I wouldn't go out easily. I was left with body and mind and each had declared war on the other. It was for me to keep it all together.

First I began with the body. I went to the gym for two to three weekly workouts. I joined a weekly Pilates class. We could clearly see what was getting better and what was getting worse, and adjust accordingly. But the mind is much more complex. When the body stumbles, you just begin to be a little more careful and put more work into your physical balance. When the mind stumbles, you aren't quite sure what to do, or where it may lead.

The key, I have found, is in finding your rhythm. The more you physically exercise, the better you fall into this rhythm. The more you write, the better the words naturally flow through you. My New Year Resolution is meant to keep me writing, to keep to a rhythm which will keep me moving forward.

And then there is my third book, a very different type of rhythm. It demands all of me at times and takes me to places that I didn't even know existed: some dark and others very bright.

And now that my new characters have begun waking up, I find them beginning to speak to me, and not just through the pages of the book. They appear to have confused what is real with what is unreal and their place in it. I would try to show them their correct place, but that might simply lead to an all out revolt, leaving me with no voice at all. So, the only divisions I can form are by answering back.

The one thing I haven't been able to escape, though, is their critique. I have found my characters to be my harshest critics.