Saturday, January 5, 2013

Meet the Trifectans: Cobbie's World (Tom MacInnes)

1.   What is your name (real or otherwise)? 

     My name is Thomas Charles MacInnes.   I am 49 years old (as of Jan./13) but still get called Thomas Charles when I am in trouble. :)     
     I was born and raised on Cape Breton Island *(The song sung in this video tells a bit of the story of Cape Breton. It is sung by a lovely girl named Aselin Debison, from my hometown of Glace Bay. The setting is near the harbour in Glace Bay. I am somewhere in the crowd with my girlfriend/future wife. We named our first born daughter, Leah Aselin in tribute to the singer and to have a bit of Cape Breton heritage in her identity. "We Are An Island" is the unofficial national anthem of my island home. People often cry tears of pride while singing it. ), in Nova Scotia and lived there until graduating from High School at age 18.  Family and friends back home all still call me Tommy.
     I currently live and work in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada.   I am an elementary school teacher with 24 years experience.  My students and their parents all call me Mr. MacInnes.   My two daughters, Leah and Sophie, call me Daddy.  My wife, Keri, calls me Honey (when she's not calling me Thomas Charles!).
     My friends and family in Cobourg all call me Tom.  You may do so, too, my friends.

2.   Describe your writing style in three words. 

      Journalism-style commentary.    
      ***24 years of writing report card comments influences my style, for sure.

3.   How long have you been writing online? 

      I have been writing since I was in grade school but, only the past year or two, on-line.   I write on Blogger and on Wattpad and then get my stories out to a wider audience using Twitter and Facebook.  
      In grade school, I used to make up stories and use my friends as the characters and they would lean across the classroom aisles to see what I was conjuring up as I scribbled away with my pen on paper. Nowadays, I make up stories and my friends lean in closer to their computer screens to see what I've conjured up.  In essence, not much has changed.  I'm still writing to please my intimate audience.

4.   Which, if any, other writing challenges do you participate in? 

     I write for pleasure on Wattpad, leaving Trifecta as the only on-line writing challenge I particpate in on a regular basis.

5.   Describe one way in which you could improve your writing. 

     More experience writing creatively would be helpful. I have spent the vast majority of my writing life, writing newsletters, report cards, non-fiction style essays, etc.  I have dabbled in creative fiction but, comparatively speaking, 80% of my entire writing output has been non-fiction in nature.  Therefore, the simple act of being forced to write creatively on Trifecta is helpful for my in the development of that side of my brain, as it were.  
     Furthermore, I am also going to school and learning so much from the other great writers on Trifecta.  It is not insincere flattery to say that I have learned so much about the craft of creative writing from Jester Queen, Draug, Scriptor Obscura, etc., etc., and so on down the long list of great writers on the roster. 
     Finally, I am a wordy Son. "Why write a little when I can write a lot" has always been my mantra. Perhaps, as you can attest after reading all of these words, writing in a more concise fashion would be beneficial, too.
     So, to keep regularly writing outside of my comfort zone, to write more concisely and to keep learning from those writers who are already masters at their craft are the two main ways I think I can improve.

6.   What is the best writing advice you’ve ever been given? 

      From a technical point of view, the standard line of, "Show, don't tell", is something I think about a lot as I write.  I try really hard to create worlds where the reader's imagination will take them places rather than me laying it all out for them.  It isn't easy to resist the temptation to describe away your story but, I am learning to do so with greater regularity

7.  Who is your favorite author?  

     Being the non-fiction kind of guy that I am, my favourite authors tend to be non-fiction writers as well.   My favourite authors include such writers as Sebastian Junger and Jon Krakauer. I love how both writers are able to describe places ( i.e., Mount Everest, the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan, the Atlantic Ocean, etc.) and create poetry out of the things that happen there such as the science of a wave's ability to capsize a boat, the physics of bullets and gunfire, the Death Zone's impact of the human body on Everest).
      When it comes to fiction, my fiction tends to be directed at the students in my school and/or my oldest daughter at home.  At school, I have loved reading J. K. Rowling (especially the first book in the Harry Potter series. The cadence of the writing made it, arguably, the best read-aloud novel I've shared with a class). I also like Kate DiCamillo for Tale of Despereaux, Cynthia Rylant for all of her books, Deborah Ellis (the Breadwinner Trilogy) and so on.   
      I read lots of newspapers, magazines, Twitter links that take me all over the map and much, much more.
      However, beyond any question, my favourite reading is done at approximately 8:00pm each night when I read to my oldest daughter, Leah, before bedtime.  Reading together at night has been a part of Leah's life since the day she was born. The sharing of stories and the adventures they contain, combined with the warmth of our bodies snuggled closely together well, nothing comes close to beating that for pure, unadulterated love.  In fact, just prior to Christmas, 2012, we finished the Little House on the Prairie series. I admit that I had a difficult time reading the scene where Pa Ingalls said good-bye to Laura, as she set off for her new life as a married woman with her husband, Almanzo.  She is my Laura and I am her Pa. I life full of love, surrounded by books.  Life is pretty darn good.

8. How do you make time to write?

     To be honest, it is difficult to consistently set aside time to work on my writing.  Both of my girls are involved in weekday events (i.e., swimming lessons, dance, etc.) so, that eats into my non-work time.  I work full-time as a teacher and there is always preparation work, marking, etc., that takes up a lot of the time I have after the girls go to bed.  What little time there is left over, my wife and I try to share as best we can.  It is easy to become so wrapped up in being parents and workers that we lose those unique aspects of our lives that make us who we are.  
     For me, writing is one of those things I have to make a very real effort in order to do. I don't write consistently enough for my liking. But, I am a quiet, introverted type of person so, I am comfortable stealing away for a few minutes, here or there, to work on my stories, blogs or poems.  I retire in 2018 and hope to develop a more consistent and fruitful routine at that time.  Until then, I try my best to do the 333 word Trifecta but, I tend to have better luck getting the 33-word Trifextra done. For now, that is the life I lead and it is sort of how things have to be.

9.    Give us one word we should consider using as a prompt. Remember--it must have a third definition.

     I like the word, Harbour.  I grew up next to the Atlantic Ocean, in a small fishing/coal mining town called Glace Bay. So the idea of a functioning harbour was an important part of what made my town tick. Also, the notion of seeking safe harbour in a storm is a concept my hometown upbringing understands all too well, as well.  So, if you want a good word, try Harbour.

10.  Direct us to one blog post of yours that we shouldn't miss reading.

          I will point you in the direction of the one piece of writing that has, more than any other, put me on the road to being a serious author.
         About three years ago, a teaching colleague posted a question on my School Board's e-mail conference system about a book called "Hana's Suitcase".  It was around the time of Canada's Remembrance Day celebrations (where we honour our soldiers and all who fought in wars for Canada) and my colleague wanted to know if anyone had read "Hana's Suitcase" and, if so, what they thought of it.
         I replied with the blog post that you will shortly read for yourselves.  "My Hana's Suitcase Story" recounts one of my favourite moments ever as a teacher. It details the power of a story to transform lives. It also, describes those moments when a student and a teacher form a bond that transcends mere academic achievement.  
         When I posted this story on our e-mail conference system, I received more letters and e-mails than I ever had about anything I had ever done as a teacher.  People were moved to tears.  One lady even asked if she could copy my story and give it to her mother who collected "teacher stories".  When I heard that there was a market, albeit a niche market, for teacher stories well, I thought that maybe I could draw upon my years of experience and have the makings of a little writing career.  
         Ironically enough, not long after that, I discovered Wattpad and began writing there. I found Twitter not long after that and began to see the potential for marketing opportunities by posting my work on-line.  From Twitter, I discovered the Trifecta Writing Challenge and the rest, as they say, is history.

         So, now you know me a little bit better.  Glad to be a part of such a talented and welcoming family that exists at Trifecta.


    1. Tom, I love teachers. I can't explain how teachers have shaped and saved my life. Loved reading your response. It's okay that your'e long-winded. I hope we chat more and grow as writing peers together. Be well. Oh, I'm 48 this year (2/9)

    2. Well, aren't you a sweetheart! I wrote this opus earlier on in my Trifecta tenure. I am sure I could do a tidier job of answering these questions today. But, in any case, I appreciate your interest and am open to any sort of help that we can give each other. I had several of my students participate in challenges this past school year, which worked out very well. Trifecta folk are fairly decent folk from what I have come to know. Glad to have you among our ranks. :)