Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

poem-great at eight (For Rachael) August 17, 2013

Filed under: Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 4:10 pm
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You’re eight

and in your mind you’re great

Your dreams are there within your grasp

You clasp them tight and know

that as you grow

You’ll meet each goal

Your soul desires

Until someone you admire says, “No!

You don’t have talent,

you can not do

what your dreams are telling you.”

If you believe these sorry words

If you accept this worry heard

If you allow your dreams to die

if you sigh, and don’t ask why

then I suppose you wield the sword

that kills your dreams.

The naysayers set it in your hand

but they can’t swing it.

So throw down the sword,

hold tight to dreams that stir you in the night!

Those dreams that feel so right,

that make you mighty, those dreams

to sing, to act, to write!

Practise each day, to hone your craft

in every way, no matter what the naysayers say!

Opportunity looks like hard work.

Luck is believing you are lucky.

Practice makes perfect.

You will move past eight, and if not yet great,

Just wait!



This poem grew out of a Twitter conversation.  Diana Gabaldon said that she knew when she was 8 that she should be a novelist (she went on to earn a Masters in marine biology and a PhD in ecology before she got around to trying, though).  I was 8 when I started writing stories, sharing them in school, and dreaming of being a writer. Rachael Hofford said that when she was 8 she was told by her teacher that she had no talent for writing and that she should give up that idea.  As an English teacher, I know first hand that some of my students who dream of writing aren’t very good, but the only way for them to get better is to read and to write.  Practicing their writing by emulating the best that they read  will teach them the skills to become good writers.  Maybe they lack a spark of genius, but it may come later with life experience.  If it doesn’t, there are still many writers who do well telling a story.  Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t.  You may have to work very hard, and you’ll need some luck as well, but your dream is just as possible as anyone else’s.


standing stones at the solstice… December 21, 2011

I’m spending a lot of time the last couple of months reading Diana Gabaldon novels. The Outlander series is about standing stones, and the opportunity to time travel on the sun and fire feasts of assorted solstices. When I realised the day, I posted this on the Diana Gabaldon Facebook site, but I thought I’d share it with you as well.

On this Winter Solstice Day, may the stones guarding your reality open to your dreams…

What are your dreams?

What is standing in the way of achieving them? If your desires are attainable, just as a little more light is added to each day from today onward to summer, take a few moments daily to take steps to fulfilling those dreams. Write a few words, learn a few things, work out a few minutes. Each small step leads closer to reality. Then the stones of your reality won’t be blocking you, they will be the doors to your destiny.


do it! November 2, 2011

Today one of my students was singing show tunes to himself as he packed up at the end of class.  As I placed the musical, and we got talking, I told him this story.  It occurred to me that I haven’t shared this one with you all.

When I was about 8, my parents took me to the Banff School of Fine Art’s production of Fiddler on the Roof.  I remember the excitement of driving from Calgary to Banff, I remember falling asleep in the car on the drive home, and I remember loving the music.  We bought the album, and I sang those tunes constantly.  I particularly loved “Far From the Home I Love” which is sung by daughter Hodel as she goes to Siberia to join Perchik.

When I was in grade seven, our school mounted a production of Fiddler on the Roof.  Auditions were announced.  I wanted to be Hodel.  I went down to the drama room, heart pounding, and discovered that grade 9, Richie Eichler was going to play Tevye.  My heart stopped.

My little trio of friends called him the Maharaja, because he was always surrounded by a harem of girls.  He was funny, kind of goofy looking, and we couldn’t quite figure out what the attraction was, but we were in awe of it, nonetheless.  At least, I was.  I was petrified of auditioning in front of Richie Eichler.  He didn’t know me at all, of course.  There was absolutely no reason for my panic, but I was paralyzed.  I couldn’t do the audition.

A few months later, I sat in the audience and watched the girl playing Hodel butcher my song.  She couldn’t sing at all, and so she recited it like a poem.  It was a knife turning in my gut.  I could sing.  I could have brought the audience to tears with that song.  I sing it with tears pouring down my face even today.    It’s the kind of song that the audience is crushed by.  I felt guilty.  I was angry with myself for not having the courage to go through the audition, because I would have gotten the part, and I would have been good.  It was a painful lesson.  I decided the next opportunity, to act in Fiddler on the Roof, I would audition for Hodel.

You may be able to guess what happened.  I never found another production of it.  Now I could perhaps play Golde, but I will never be able to play young Hodel.  I had one chance, and I lost it.


I have won many other auditions over the years, and had the opportunity to sing other roles, but the role that sparked my star-struck dreams was never to be mine.

Damn Richie Eichler!   Damn my pointless fears!

Never let your imagined worries stop you from taking hold of your dreams.  You may not get a second chance.



PS. As a matter of trivia for Grace Awakening fans- The real Lloyd played trumpet in the orchestra for this production.  I remembered him quite distinctly playing in the band for Fiddler, when we met officially for the first time a couple years later as teen volunteers at Kelowna General Hospital.


do October 8, 2011

Filed under: Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:49 am
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“Do or do not.  There is no try.”


I keep running into people who want to write lately.  Actually, since most of these people have been on the periphery of my life for a few years, it’s just that I am learning, now that I’ve got a book out, how many people I know harbour this dream.

What is it about the power of story that so many of us hold the dream of sharing words with the world?

I tell all of those who share this dream with me the same thing: what is stopping you?  Why aren’t you writing?   The answer isn’t important to me, the question is entirely for the would-be writer.  You have to identify your enemy if you want to defeat it.

Face down the negative and write something.

It’s like those commercials that are out at the moment, “I don’t want to pay a mortgage.”  “If you don’t want to pay a mortgage, then don’t.”  Unlike the bank, where you have to work through some plans to be free of your mortgage, all it takes to write is your fingers and a steamy mirror.  Paper, pencil or a computer will do as well.

Get started today.  Put down some words.  Later you can decide what they’re for.  See where they take you.  Let the journey begin today.


Seriously, Cornelia? March 8, 2011

Filed under: Literature — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:31 am
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Sometimes when you’re reading away, the characters do something so absolutely stupid you just have to shut  the book.  The hard snap can give a little of the satisfaction of a smack upside the head.

I had this feeling most recently while reading Cornelia Funke’s Inkspell this weekend.  Meggie read the character of Orpheus into the Inkworld, a stupid, illogical move destined to do nothing but create trouble.  Obviously she needed a new villain for the third book, but that was soooo obvious that it was painful.  It insults the reader’s intelligence.

Inkspell was hard to get through in a number of ways.  I kept falling asleep while reading it in the bath, and that almost never happens with a book I’m reading the first time.   The series is oddly compelling though, and it’s been sneaking into my dreams.  Once  I awoke as the dream me was observing to someone, “The characters are knocking on the door, but they just can’t get out of the dream.” 

A bit freaky, that.


possibility August 1, 2010

Filed under: Poetry,Pondering — Shawn L. Bird @ 5:31 am
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Within each glimmer of it
Dreams are born
Ventures are launched
Hope is the fuel for the journey.

Whether it brings victory or defeat
There is always
‘Next time…’




screams in the night July 19, 2010

Filed under: Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:08 am
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Beware the deadly hedgehog with its armour on its back

It is sneaking through the linens preparing to attack

Though you may slam the door on it, it’s coming through the wall

Although it’s very tiny, there is no hope left at all.

You will die a gruesome death, my friend, unless you show your fright

Your screams will echo loudly  ’til you defeat it with the light!


My husband has the craziest dreams.  The other night he woke up screaming, so I  asked what had happened in the dream. Ya ha.  Armoured hedgehog attack.  No kidding.  I’m still laughing!


Dreams and names June 5, 2010

Filed under: Grace Awakening,Literature,Pondering — Shawn L. Bird @ 6:51 am
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Names…had potency. They pulled their owners in their wakes, the way that dreams can, the way you can wake up from sleep and believe that what you dreamed actually occurred. And even later, even when you realized the mistake, it was difficult to re-adjust your thinking.
But if dreams were potent, names were more so, especially the ones people chose for themselves. They might grow into the ones that were given to them, through the familiarity of use, if nothing else, but the ones they chose defined who they were like an immediate descriptive shorthand. (Charles de Lint. Memories and Dreams. p. 298)

Dreams touch us in diverse ways. Dreams of the bizarre, the hoped for, the feared all make appearances in our sub-conscious while we sleep. Usually they remain hidden, but if we come close to waking, to touching reality, then the conscience learns of their existence. When dreams touch awareness, then we touch the mystery and must sleuth out meaning or embrace the mystery. While the fears that wake us screaming in the night can paralyze us, we can also allow our subconscious to use dreams challenge us, inspire us or help us break through to a brilliant neural network of solutions

I often go to bed with a problem on my mind and awake to the solution fully formed. I have gone to bed thinking about right hand melody and left hand accompaniment patterns that would not go together.  The next morning I’ve sat down at the harp and played the previously impossible on the first try. The subconscious is amazingly useful when we harness the power. The dream does actually occur in these cases, contrary to De Lint’s suggestion, because the dreams create reality.

Just like dreams, names are powerful. We gift our children with names that we hope they will live up to. My daughter’s name means “strong and womanly.”  I think she has definitely grown into her name. My son’s name means “victory of the people” and I like the notion that his successes will help others. My name, a derivative of John, means “God’s gracious gift.” I was raised as a precious arrival, and definitely felt blessed and appreciated. Shawn is also, of course, more commonly a male name. Aside from the incorrectly addressed mail and being assigned to the all male dorm at college youth weekend, it hasn’t proven too problematic, at least since getting over the angst of youth. Perhaps I’m more inclined to celebrate the feminine with jewelery and shoes to counter the masculinity of the name.  I think male Shawns are quite different from female Shawns, and that’s an interesting concept! As De Lint says, the name I chose is perhaps more potent because it is a huge choice to join individual identity in the union of marriage.

The names of the characters in Grace Awakening are carefully chosen. The names reflect the characters’ roles and personalities, or are small salutes to special people. I spent hours and hours on name sites getting the perfect name for each one. The names frame the personalities. Click on the Grace Awakening site and scroll to the sub-pages at the bottom to see articles about this.

How does your name define who you are? Have you changed your name? Would you change your name? Why? Why not?


Seizing the dream May 10, 2010

Filed under: Pondering,Reading — Shawn L. Bird @ 3:01 am
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Before I had the blog up and running, I was writing blog entries. Here’s one from a month ago.

April 11, 2010
Dream that dream

Yesterday I picked up the unauthorized biography of Susan Boyle by Alice Montgomery, called Dreams Can Come True. Today I was reading the back. It begins, “On 11 April 2009, forty-eight year old spinster Susan Magdalane Boyle stepped out on to the stage of Britain’s Got Talent to jeers and sniggers.” I’m sure you’ve seen the You Tube video. It probably hit you in the gut just as it hit me and thousands (if not millions) of people around the world. We know Susan Boyle’s story by now.

Check the date. April 11, 2009. Exactly one year ago today shy Susan Boyle, unemployed, gathered her courage dared the “jeers and sniggers” to stand on that stage and take another stab at her dream. She opened her mouth and captivated the world. Look what has happened in that year.

She has rocketed from obscurity to world renown. She has travelled the world singing to thousands of people, and broken records for pre-order CD sales. She has been interviewed, photographed, and become the subject of an unauthorized biography.

What a difference a year makes.

In a year, a baby can be conceived, carried, delivered. A book can be conceived, written, published and on book shelves. A hundred pounds can be lost at a healthy two pounds a week. A student can earn an A and secure a scholarship. A career can be made. A dream can come true.

What will happen to you in the next year? What can you do to make your dreams come true? Are you brave enough to take the steps to see your dreams realized by this time next year? You don’t need New Year’s Eve to make a life change, spring is a wonderful time to make a new beginning.

Is it time to seize your dream?


Ecstatic Ideas May 4, 2010

Filed under: Commentary,Literature — Shawn L. Bird @ 8:36 pm
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Last year by recommendation of my student Robyn, I read Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. As I read, as is my habit, I dog eared the pages where I found wonderful thoughts. When I finished the book, I went back through all those dog eared pages to copy down the quotations that had struck me as being particularly profound. When I finished, I returned the book to Robyn.

A few days later, I went to post all those quotes, and they were gone! Somehow the computer had not saved them. Only the first two quotes remained. That means all the brilliance of Zusak’s prose was distilled into two thoughts. That is profound in itself.  Of the two, here’s the one that strikes me most deeply today:

“He was…enjoying the ecstasy of an idea, not daring just yet to envision its complications, dangers, and vicious absurdities. For now, the idea was enough. It was indestructible. Transforming it into reality, well, that was something else altogether. For now, though, let’s let him enjoy it.” (Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief. p 128)

So what is the idea that fills you with ecstasy? What indestructible idea of a dream tantalizes you between waking and dreaming?

Stay away from complications, dangers, absurdities and realities. Allow yourself to bask in the euphoria of possibility. Where could those ideas take you?

My ideas have brought me here.

Reality is a dream awoken.


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