Shakespeare’s Heartbeat

There was once a time when I was mad about Shakespeare: Just after high school in Winnipeg I had the pleasure of playing Juliet in a 3-week run of a professional production of Romeo and Juliet.  Later on when I was living in England I visited Shakespeare’s home and grave in Stratford-Upon-Avon. I enthusiastically studied Shakespeare as early as I could including the first folio in theatre school and university.

Shakespeare’s first folio is the 1623 published collection of his works and my teaching Thespians conditioned me to rely on the first folio as my textual guide over the modern editions. The first folio was written in an old version of English but it gave clues and direction on how lines were to be read and interpreted based on the spelling of the words, the rhythm, and the breath.

Juliet’s lines are words full of vowels. Consonants for Romeo. So Shakespeare had a vision for how he wanted the character’s faces to look on stage.


The firmest rule I never forgot as an actress: Never eat your words. Not a single one. Every letter, every sound is there for a purpose. Hollywood actors tend to butcher Shakespeare because they speak the lines as we would in a contemporary way. With over-emotional deliveries that garble up the lines – something that Shakespeare never intended. So for that reason, Shakespeare’s works in my opinion don’t belong on film.

The weight and the story is carried in the prose. Every play-on-word is intentional. There are no accidents.

Shakespeare wrote his sonnets in Iambic Pentameter; a kind of rhythmic pattern that consists of five iambs per line:

  • An iamb is a metrical foot that consists of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one.  (“daDUM”)
  • Penta means five.
  • Meter refers to a regular rhythmic pattern in poetry.

daDUM     daDUM     daDUM     daDUM     daDUM

It’s the sound and pattern of the heartbeat. Which is why he chose to write Romeo and Juliet in its entirety this way.

Beautiful, right? Let’s take a look:

[Romeo] But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?

[Juliet]  For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch,

Try reading those lines aloud to yourself and be sure to hear those daDUMs.

The best part for me when composing iambic pentameter poetry is this:

  • I put my hand on my chest and write with the beat of my heart
  • I tap my toes to check the rhythm
  • I write about all the love in my heart. Even if it’s fleeting. Even if it will be gone tomorrow. This moment is everything. Capture it. Now.

Juliet and Romeo met, fell in love, made plans to marry and dropped dead in a span of 48 hours. But it’s in that 48 hours where all the juice happened. Drop everything if you can to capture those emotions, no matter how foolish.

I’m following National Poetry Month’s theme of “The Road” for all the poetry I am doing this month. And to pay tribute to Shakespeare and to his sonnets, I decided to give it a whirl and write my own modern romantic love sonnet about “the road” —  in iambic pentameter. Every line is intentional. There are no accidents:

Spring Steps by Wendy Sinclair

Her heart sinks down into her boots
Every salty step like murder
She sings the bitter-sweet swan songs
All that could not out-live the storm
His body moves like Spring’s first thaw
Scents of creamy lilium
Melodically do dreams do touch 
The skip put back now in her step


For more Shakespeare info enjoy this short and wonderful TED Ed:


The Road to Poetry

April is National Poetry Month, and the League of Canadian Poets has declared the theme for 2016 as The Road”  —  a subject that couldn’t be closer to my own heart. Existing and emerging poets are urged to explore the roads that brought us here, and the roads most important to our literary journey; Even more, we want to know about the roads in your future, in our future, in the future of poetry in Canada.”


My journey shown on a road map looks a bit like this: 14 months ago I dusted off my long-abandoned love for creative writing and started taking it for a spin. The path led to a re-kindled love of poetry. So here I am, 35 years old, writing poetry with the same affection I did when I was a teenager and not surprisingly, much of the inner landscape remains the same.

I’m an amateur, there’s no doubt, but I’m wise enough to know that poetry doesn’t need to be judged on whether it’s good or bad —  it is what it is. The point is that it is up there on the list of the greatest comforts and pleasures in my life. I’m sure most poets would agree.

When reading poetry our minds tend to defer judgement of good, bad or successful. Try to think of it instead as the poet handing you a telescope pointed in a direction of a secret paradigm and saying: “Here;  look through this”. If you care to open yourself up to it, the telescope can provoke all five (or six, depending on who you are) senses through its literary devices.

National Poetry Month is a great motivation to get your poetic juices flowing, to find support and community and to celebrate.

Here are a few random shares of my own poetry: The first is an Etheree poem (ten lines of unmetered and unrhymed verse, the first line having one syllable, each succeeding line adding a syllable, with the total syllable count being fifty-five), the second is a free verse, and the third is a custom rhythmic poem.

Silent Screams 
Toes losing grip
Bend, pull, bliss, sweat drips
In my blue eyes burning
Mirror reflection shows flaws
Righteous steadfastness perseveres
The sweet smell of flesh pressed to my mat
Commit to pose and welcome the divine.

The Storytellers
Blue sky, cracked paths
jumbled, blue jays limping
swallowing them up
feather by feather
drop to the drums of hell
birds fry in balled-up spinning
turning into gold
from those nuggets spawn
The Storytellers
wide limbs, shining skin, three eyes
granting lives, twirling fate
and giving brothers and sisters
or none at all
at life’s final breath
they turn us to jays
launching high into heavens
or falling

We are prisoners chained in this cave
Knowing nothing of reality
And knowing nothing of any science
The only sound that bounce off these walls
are the echoes of compliance

From the firelight here to the sunlight there

Puppet showman have screens
to cast imperfect copies
of perfect things
it would sting my eyes if I was to see
something truer than what has
been shown to me

Drag my body out into the light
Eyes wince beyond the divided line
Running casts a million dark shadows
Compelled to make it up to the sun
Through the ice tundra and meadows

When I return blind to set you free
You will cast me away and stay chained
Groping your faint sights on my third eye
For I have seen the sun and the moon
Both together in the same sky

From the sunlight here to the firelight there

Puppet showman have screens,
to cast imperfect copies
of perfect things,
it would sting my eyes if I was to see,
something truer than what has
been shown to me

I look forward to dedicating some time this month to the theme of “The Road” and perhaps composing a sonnet or two, and making some tracks in the future of Canadian poetry. Catch up again in a few weeks! 

The Deal You Make With the Learner

Learning objectives are the ways we plot our destination when we are creating or teaching a course, editing curriculum, or designing instructions. They are essentially the sweet deal we make with the learner to get them to join us on this journey.

The Importance of Learning Objectives

The learning objective is a statement of what the learners will learn by the end of the lesson. It’s saying to the learner: “Listen, if you spend the required time on this course, I promise that you will obtain XYZ”. 

Learning Objectives need to be clear, measurable and transparent. And they must tell the learner:

  1. What they will learn
  2. By when
  3. To what degree
  4. Under which conditions

Here are some examples:

  • By the end of this talk, you will be able to explain feminism to a child in elementary school.
  • By the end of this course, the learner will be able to tie a Fisherman’s Knot by hand, in one go, using two slippery lines.
  • After the completion of the 12-week lesson, the golfer will be able to hit the ball 200 yards, with a 7-iron by the 10th try.
  • After reading this essay, the learner will be able to follow the steps to give themselves compassion and be able to recognize the signals of when they need to do it in their lives.


Writing Learning Objectives

Assuming you haven’t created your content, learning objectives can be inspired by the agenda, the course descriptions and the business goals.

There’s a basic formula:


So “Gain an appreciation for classical music” may not be a fully-developed learning objective until you’ve added the specific conditions, degrees and times:

“By the end of the session learners will understand the history and musical composition of classical music and will be able to identify the characteristics of classical music.”

Value for Both the Learner, the Teacher and the Writer

Perhaps you may have taken a course with no learning objectives or written pieces with the intention to teach without any objectives in mind and the end results were happy and satisfied learners…


However, generally speaking, learning objectives give both the learner /teacher/ writer:

  • Security – no one is asking why am I here? No one is questioning what is useful and what is just bonus material.
  • Accountability – if everyone is clear on what should be covered and what needs to be taken away and by when, everyone is held accountable for their own role.
  • Fairness and transparency – The learner should be well-informed of any metrics or assessments post-lesson, and these assessments should be based on the learning objectives.
  • Structure – By giving the learner objectives you are making it easier for the learner to concentrate. As a writer/instructor/designer, you can gather your content accurately, write it and present it in a clear and organized way. This is my personal reason for using learning objectives. I tend to write broadly and paint the concept with a large brush. Learning objectives have helped me narrow down content and see the lesson from the learner’s perspective.

It’s important to note that as a writer or a teacher, you are welcome to go off on tangents and add in personal stories or additional details outside of the set learning objectives — and this is usually appreciated by the learner.

Imagine the lesson like a road trip. You are the driver. The learner is the passenger. Consider the learning objections to be like the directions to your destination — you are free to take the scenic route but you’re setting out on your journey with the end in mind. And your learner is enjoying your company while trusting that you will get them to where they need to be.

Click here to learn more about Writing Effective Learning Objectives.









The King Has Spoken

From humble beginnings as a creative kid raised by a single-mom, Stephen King takes us along through his struggles — from not being able to pay the bills to not remembering writing ‘Misery’.  And teaches us the lesson most writers find difficult to grasp: How to give yourself permission to be one, unapologetically. 

Stephen King’s Autobiography: “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” (published 2000)

What I love about this book are the anecdotes from his childhood, his insights on the craft and the teachings on writing, many of which include comparisons to all things basic and primal. His advice either made me say “Yes! Yes! Exactly!” or it made me pull out my pink highlighter and make wild notes that I promised myself I would never forget. Consider Stephen King the feather to your Dumbo the Flying Elephant – the magic is inside you if you believe you can. He reminds us that we don’t have to buy into the over-complication of writing and overwhelming rules put out by academics. Writing as I know it, and Stephen knows it, is mostly instinct. Trust it and you will have fun.

Here are 16 King Tips (some of them direct quotes from his book) for keeping your sanity as a writer and how to be shameless if and when you lose it:

  1. Ideas come from the empty sky. Your job isn’t always to go looking for these ideas but recognize them when they show up. Stories are found things, like fossils in the ground.
  2. When you first write the story you are telling yourself the story, as if it’s just for you. When you rewrite, your main job is to take out all the parts that are NOT the story so that it can belong to anyone.
  3. Writing is a lonely job but having someone in your life who supports it and who believes in you makes a lot of difference.
  4. Don’t give up on your story when you feel it’s going nowhere. You are doing good work even if it feels like you are “shovelling shit from a sitting position”.
  5. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around. So when arranging your writing room, put your desk in the corner. NOT in the middle of the room.
  6. Basic rules of vocabulary – Use the first word that comes to mind if it is appropriate and colourful. The adverb is not your friend.  Remove as many as you can. They are like dandelions.
  7.  Avoid the passive voice. Just so we’re clear, the passive voice is when something is done to someone. “Amanda was fired by her boss” as opposed to the active voice which is: “Amanda got fired”. The problem with the passive voice is that it is dull and timid. “Timid writers like the passive voice for the same reasons timid lovers like passive partners”.  (Well said. Agreed).
  8. The reader must always be your main concern. Without the constant reader you are just a voice quacking in the void.
  9. Fear is the root of most bad writing. Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation. Good writing is also about making good choices when it comes to picking the tools you plan to work with.
  10. Writing is seduction. Good talk is part of seduction. If not, why do so many couples who start the evening at dinner wind up in bed?
  11. Tell the truth. Write anything you damn well want. Anything at all…as long as you tell the truth. Honour the characters. If they swear, if they kill, if they do everything you never would. But don’t hold back so that you will please people or so that you don’t appear crazy. “If you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second-to-least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”
  12. Sanity includes insanity: The writing can be carefully crafted and both deliriously intoxicating  at the same time. Often we are told our writing style must be one or the other – functional or creative. King compares it to having wild sex when we are stone-cold sober. So why can’t writing be like that?
  13. If you have to force yourself to make time for it you’re probably not a writer. Stephen tells us: “Once I start work on a project, I don’t stop and I don’t slow down until I absolutely have to”. I can personally relate– when you love writing, it’s a compulsion. You can’t stop the juices from flowing. You want to spend every second of your free time doing it. However there’s a luxury King has that I simply do not;  a partner (his wife, Tabitha) who seemed to take care of all the domestic duties and child-rearing so that he could dedicate his time to his craft.
  14. Read, read, read. If you want to be a good writer you have to be a good reader. Read anything you can get your hands on. Turn off your TV. I’ve been saying this for years.
  15. Have no shame about the subjects you choose to write about. We can’t exactly help what interests us or where our mind wanders. We write what we know and we write what we like. You can never please everyone all the time but you should aim to please some of the people some of the time. You as a writer hold all the power.
  16. Give yourself permission. Writers, readers, musicians, artists — we are made to feel guilty by society for these “self-indulgent” hobbies of ours, aren’t we? So Stephen gives us the permission and validation we’re all hopelessly longing for: “If you feel permission to do all the reading and writing your little heart desires, however, consider it hereby granted by yours truly.” (Love ya, Stevie). 

Stephen King has a quote in the book which resonates and gives the most comfort to me as a writer, a single-mom, a reformed people-pleaser and a general flying Dumbo in the universe:

“If you disapprove, I can only shrug my shoulders. It’s what I have.”


The Emotion Thesaurus

I stumbled on The Emotion Thesaurus the way you’d expect when you’re mass-purchasing resource materials at the bookstore to assist in developing a craft. Back when I was an elementary school-aged author, Roget’s thesaurus was the best friend who gave me the kick in the pants to push through using the same simple descriptions in my narrative. Next to reading, reading, and more reading — It was the cherished tool that helped shaped my vocabulary.

The Emotion Thesaurus is an easy-to-navigate “guide to character expression” because emotion, when written about, needs to be powerful. It also needs to capture the fine balance of verbal and nonverbal communication.

It’s essentially a Show, Don’t Tell for Dummies.

Authors Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi categorize the distinct human emotions alphabetically with a corresponding list of their physical responses.

The pages also cite examples of internal sensations, mental responses, cues of acute or long-term effects of said emotion, cues of suppressed emotion, a list of other emotions that one may escalate to, and even writer’s tips.

Let’s take for example, the emotion of  ANTICIPATION:

Sweaty palms
Biting one’s lip
Obsessive clock-watching
Begging someone for details, for an answer, for a look at something
Leaning in
(and about twenty others)

The application technique is to go back through one of your pieces of writing and find all the places where you name the character’s emotions — then swap it out for an action.

He sat in anticipation until she finally approached the passenger door”.

gets re-worked as:

He sat fussing with his collar, unable to think about anything else but her, until she finally approached the passenger door.

Presto change-o!

By giving your character an action (instead of labelling the emotion as a noun or adjective) the readers witness more “doing” and more subtext. The emotion becomes the by-product of the actions or intentions, which is far more interesting. It then becomes a visceral experience for the reader, which is kind of the point of reading, isn’t it?

Prepare for The Emotion Thesaurus to give your narrative richer colour, while refraining from spoon-feeding the reader the emotional state of your character.