Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Too soft, the letter
S steals stress from
my tense pen. It
lends itself not to
the protective T
of tension, to
which I cling so
tightly. Tooth on
tooth grinding, tense.
Turmoil. Tumultuous,
intangible goals tip-toe
away from me because
of this T in my writing.
So tense, so tense
each line a bullet
racing for its
destination -- until
S slices said race,
languorous S
seductively meanders
across my page. "See?"
S says, somewhat smug.
"Slow down. Enjoy the
journey that you
start in T, end in

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Published by Troy Media

Writing about natural gas, as this story demanded of me, was a tall order. With no experience in the oil and gas industry, I had my doubts about how well I'd be able to pull off this freelance gig for TroyMedia.com.

Applying my inquisitive nature and donning my best listening hat, I set out to interview everyone from industry executives and scholars, to a restauranteur and unexpected sources in the agriculture industry. After hours of research and weeks spent waiting for callbacks, the story took shape in my mind and became clear as a blue flame burning at midnight.

The client said the story is "solid," and it was used to launch Troy Media's 19-part series. 

Check it out here, and thanks for celebrating this with me.

- Tannis

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Open letter to myself

Why haven’t I been able to find myself as a writer? Why does it seem like everyone has what it takes to be a beautiful writer but me? Am I not an artist of the word? And how pretentious does that sound: An artist of the word. Try “writer,” Tannis. Keep it simple, avoid adjectives, no passive voice; trust the reader’s intelligence. And practice: practice writing, practice patience, practice varying your sentence structure. 

Read like a writer: it might not be fun, but it must be done. Every word matters – weight each equally. You are used to pounding out a story for a newspaper without considering the artfulness of your craft. You are only starting out as a creative, artistic writer and you must be patient with yourself. If this is what you really want to do, expect to face hurdles and force yourself to learn from them as you overcome them. 

Write, write, write. Don’t distract yourself from writing: tell others’ stories with creativity, artfulness, accuracy, and attention to detail. Above all – and as Richard has told you time and time again – forgive yourself; give yourself permission to fail, for it is only then you will succeed. For the record, the definition of success is this: the privilege of being able to continue doing what you love, and that is to write.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Jasmine's funeral

Her funeral is tomorrow, and I can’t go. Her funeral: Jasmine, the strongest person I knew for some of the most important years of my life. Her eyes were so dark they were black holes that revealed, in their most intimate depths, cosmic fire. I sit here now, twenty-eight years old, and look at my reflection in my darkened computer monitor – I do that when I’m writing so as not to be distracted by the words on my screen – and study my face. Young, rosy cheeks and a pink nose, freshly peeled from the burn I received vacationing in Costa Rica only days ago. Sunkissed bangs pulled lazily into my hazel eyes, and the necklace my mom bought me from China twinkles around my neck. Everything makes me think of my best friend though my teenage years. 

China: where her mom is from; where Jasmine went after high school to be with Jeff, the man who would become her husband a decade later, only five months before she died; Costa Rica: Where I received the news via fucking Facebook that Jasmine had finally given into the cancer the doctors told her six years ago would kill her in five. Stubborn thing: she held on long enough to marry her sweetheart, and with nothing left to hope for, she gave into her fate. She wasn’t happy about it, though. She wasn’t filled with the cliché sense of peace and acceptance one might hope graces those about to die. 

I visited Jasmine in the hospital in January — flew out to Vancouver and spent a week by her bedside. We hadn’t seen each other in years, and she knew why I was there, but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t say my final goodbye to her, instead choosing to try to make her laugh at all the old memories we shared in our teenage years: That time we were fourteen and decided to steal my mom’s car to go to a party; the time in Grade 8 she let me learn to kiss with her boyfriend (even though I didn’t know, at the time, that he was her boyfriend – she was keeping it secret); tipping hay bails – cinnahays, we named them – in farmers’ fields at night so we could look at the stars while we lay on them, planning our lives together; talking about how we want to die, unaware in our innocence that death would one day actually claim us. I forget what my answer to that question was – how we wanted to die – but hers remains indelible: “Riding on spaceship, listening to Stairway to Heaven, and eating pancakes.”

Sunday, February 6, 2011

La mode

Today was easily the most boring day I've endured in a very, very long time. A good thing, I'd say, since it gave me time to unwind and let my thoughts settle.

After spending some quality time enjoying the silence a la Depeche Mode, little Archie and I went for a long, frigid walk. Chilled to the bone, I needed an activity that would enjoyably pass the time and warm me up.

"What's warmer than apple pie?!" I exclaimed silently in a thought bubble. That was it: I would while away the afternoon and warm my bones by baking an apple pie.

Having never done this before, my expectations were quite low. Armed with a dream and a recipe harvested from the Internet, I bustled down to my neighborhood Safeway to gather my needed supplies: apples, and lots of 'em.

I didn't have to make my shell afresh as I still had some frozen, left over from Thanksgiving, but everything else was prepared today. It wasn't too hard, and I had bushels of fun imagining myself an old granny as I peeled and cored the Granny Smiths.

Here's the pie, pre-oven:

Lots of sugar and a couple hours later, the pie emerged -- and just in time for my roommate, Amber,  and her lovely friend, Bryan, who just so happened to walk through the door as I was pulling the pie from the oven. 

Here's me with my craggy masterpiece:

And here are a few of Amber, Bryan, and little Archie:

Now, the pie cools and we await my handsome boyfriend's arrival before we devour it, a la mode!

Ennui go

Boredom breeds baking:
Apple pie, slice of challenge,
Sweet activity.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Feelin' groovy

I've tried cross-country skiing before, but always to no great success. As a skier for the past 20 years -- and a boarder for the past 11 -- my challenge is typically the inability to remember that my heels are not attached to my skis. The result: skin that ends up looking like a beat-up piece of fruit, bruised and tender from a long day of falling.

Yesterday, however, I disregarded my painful past with cross-country skiing. It was such a beautiful Alberta day -- it actually broke the zero-degree mark -- and, with the sun blazing in the clear blue sky overhead, it seemed the perfect opportunity to spend some quality time outdoors with my handsome man. With no regard for the pain that may have been awaiting us, Nathan and I decided to rent some skis and head out to K-country for a day on the trails.

Needless to say, it was a shaky start for each of us. There was plenty of falling, and we have some bumps and bruises to show for it, but by the end of our 9.2-kilometre ski -- which took a whopping three hours -- we were in our groove and skiing quite convincingly.

As tired as we were, Nathan and I agreed that cross-country skiing is definitely something we'd like to revisit together. Voici quelques photos:

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Creative cross-training

As any avid athlete knows, a vital part of being active is cross-training. Not only does it build strength and create balance in the body, but it makes us better at the sport we primarily practice.

Writing is my greatest passion, but I've felt lately that a little artistic variety might inspire a renewed sense of fearlessness and patience. It was with this mentality today that I went down to the Mona Lisa art supply store and, for the first time in a decade, replenished my supply of paint and brushes. I would not have been so successful in my mission were it not for the kind gent who walked me through the store, helping me select everything I would need to begin my creative cross-training.

Sadly, I did not catch his name. What I did grasp, though, were his views on patience with ourselves as we practice our art -- whether it's writing, painting, yoga, or throwing horseshoes (OK, he didn't actually say that last one, but you get my point). As I went off on a nervous monologue about my desire to dabble in the visual arts, the philosophical purveyor of paint reminded me that patience and forgiveness are two of the essential ingredients in anything we practice.

"That's why it's called 'a practice,'" he said with a kind smile, wrapping up our browse through the store's aisles as he took my debit card.

"You're so right," I smiled back at him from my side of the counter. "Thank you so much for all your help, and for that little life lesson."

The debit machine beeped in approval, and I bounced out the door into the crisp, January air, excited to colour my creativity a few new shades.

A small, acrylic painting I did to get the paint-ball rolling.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Story in BeatRoute's first issue of 2011

Last month, I had the opportunity to talk with Montreal-based musician Jon Cohen. Covering everything from media censorship to music, our conversation was an inspiring snapshot of a man who fearlessly pursues his passion as a musician. Check out the story in this month's BeatRoute.


I'm so grateful to have given myself permission to fail, because that's just what I did with my "25 healthy days of Christmas" challenge. Far from an epic fail, however, I still went for long walks with my little pup on a much more regular basis; I hit up several yoga classes; and I went to the gym more frequently.

Over the holidays, I secured a part time position with lululemon. Having worked there briefly last year, I knew already what a wonderful company this is to work with. It is a society of goal-oriented, healthy, positive people. As I move toward embracing my fitness and writing goals, I am confident that surrounding myself by such people in this culture will propel me forward to making my goals a reality.

While the 25-days challenge wasn't fully met, I have forgiven myself for said failure because, as my philosophy goes: in giving myself permission to fail, I have given myself permission to try (again and again, if I must). Moving into 2011, I have a continued commitment to working out on a regular basis and trying new things to keep me engaged and passionate about living a healthy lifestyle. In addition to my goal of doing yoga at least once a week, I have signed up for an abs class to meet my goal of getting back my six-pack (this year), and I will also be waking up extra early on Wednesdays to take part in a TRX suspension class.

Here's to a year of healthy living, meeting goals, and giving ourselves permission to fail.