On My Projects

Rather a lot of my professional writing, outside of academia, has been focused on the pulp and paper industry in Canada, with a specific focus on that industry’s attempts to integrate bio-refining in an effort to diversify. It’s an interesting topic, one I didn’t expect to get into when I dreamed of writing as a child. Lately, I’ve been expanding into the entire forest industry, not just pulp and paper. I’ve written about pellets, tree planting, the industry in the east of Québec, Ontario forest tenure reforms, and the sustainability of the industry. I’ve also written about the recent attacks on the industry by radical environmentalist groups. I’ve learned more about forestry in Canada than I ever thought I would. Importantly, I’ve learned about some of the people in forestry in Canada.

I haven’t had a chance to write a story about it yet, but one of the things I’ve been struck by most in all the research and interviews is the people I talk to. Mill managers, or executives at small companies, or the Mayors of northern Ontario towns. They all share a passion for what it is they do, and a real concern for the people who are under there care, be it employees, or citizens. I’ve seen big men nearly tear up at the loss of jobs in their mill; not jobs for them, but people with families, in small communities, where their children likely go to school together. People who have worked together for years. Or citizens who have been out of work for years, because of the downturn. Or whose jobs are threatened by false claims and misinformation about the industry in general. Real concern, and real passion.

I know someone who told me that when you’re dealing with a small company, you need to pay as much attention to who that company is as to what it does. The small companies depend on their people in a way a large corporation doesn’t. And when you speak with those people, it shows: in their faces, and in their voices.

I’d like to get a story out of this idea one day, and meet even more of these people. I feel like that would be nice.

I’m also working on a project over at Idiosyncrate. It’s fun, and I like it. I hope you do to. Be sure to let me know.

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Exercises in Writing: The Cookie Post

Lately, I’ve been looking for any opportunity to write. Tumblr posts—which I often left uncaptioned—Twitter, grocery lists. I figure writing all the time can only help hone my skills.

Recently, a friend asked me to describe a cookie I had mentioned in passing. They did so via Facebook, and I saw the notification as I retired to bed. I left it, unanswered, and drifted to sleep, contemplating how one would best describe a cookie.

I like writing about food, and so I thought it would be fun to put some effort into describing what was in fact a very good cookie.

This is what I came up with:

The cookie, eh? It was round, and had the diameter of a biggish grapefruit. It was straight out of the oven when I got it. 15 minutes or so by the time I began to eat it. The cookie had a deep caramel color, and was spotted with chocolate chips. At least that’s the impression I got. I couldn’t really see the cookie. It was too fresh, too soft, to really handle, held together only by the waxed paper cookie sleeve it came in. It had a fine balance of salt and sweet, and a rich flavour which struck me at the time, and which I can still recall quite clearly. Chocolate came through quite strongly, but not overwhelmingly. A well balanced cookie indeed. The pockets of chocolate were just coming back to solidity, on that strange cusp of states of matter one wants so badly in a good cookie. It was one of those cookies, as you so clearly have divined, that needed some thinking about, some contemplation after consumption, a process I am still working through, some days later. A good cookie, a well balanced cookie. A cookie to be proud of, and to be remembered.

What’s your favourite cookie, gentle reader? Why don’t you describe it to me?

On Gratitude

It is, of course, Canadian Thanksgiving, by and large a rootless sort of holiday, but an enjoyable one at that. I often take the opportunity to ponder the things in life I am grateful for, albeit rarely in a public forum. I won’t dwell on specifics here, except to say that I am grateful for a good many things, and that I am indeed a lucky, lucky boy.

My wife’s aunt, who according to Greek custom is also now my aunt, has invited us to a Thanksgiving dinner, at which we are to perform an original work of poetry. I’ve been meaning to post here about the process and pain of writing, about how short posts about unessential things are easier, about how weighty subjects are much harder. It would have been a helluva post.

Instead I will offer you my poem:

A Thanksgiving Poem, by S. Leslie Turriff

Roses are pink,
Violets are blue.
This poem isn’t
the poem you
expected.

Flowers are nice,
Turkey is too.
Thanksgiving is
a good time to
be grateful.

That our lives are
really quite good.
Except for bad
winters, and odd
politics.

Ebola world wide,
War in Iraq,
Syrian bombs,
Russia all whacked
out on Ukraine.

Eurozone crise,
Scotland stayed in.
Catalan out,
France all right wing
fascists.

Typhoons, Blizzards,
climate change floods.
Apocalypse,
Summers are duds.
July was OK.

Colonialism,
sad reality.
Deep rifts in the
world, and too many
syllables.

Canada could
be better, OK.
But I’m grateful,
plus there’s hockey.
Go, Habs, Go.

We have family,
friends, cats, and food.
Social safety net,
Medicare, dude.
Cheap daycare.

Pedantic words
in awkward rhyme,
can’t take away our
Thanksgiving time.
Gratitude.