Archive for Removing Barriers Posts

 Mum’s the Word on Mother’s Day



Momma Pope having tea at the Empress in Victoria, BC, 2012

 “Mothers are all slightly insane.” 

― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

According to Wikipedia, “Mum’s the word” is a saying related to an expression used by Shakespeare in Henry VI, Part 2. It means to keep quiet, to say nothing. For “Mum” is a Middle English word meaning “silent.”

Now, my Mom was anything but silent. She got into an awful lot of hot water over the years for speaking first and thinking later. And more often than not, I was on the receiving end of that candour. But do you know, that’s what I miss the most about my Mom: her courage to be candid.

Sure, she could’ve softened the old truth a little now and then – tact wasn’t her strong suit – but she usually said it like it was.

My Mom has been gone now for 14 months. Boy, do I miss her! But I certainly feel her presence in my life and work. I can sense her strong spirit coming through in some of my characters…I find them saying things that I certainly couldn’t say – but that do need to be said.

Technically speaking, Mum’s the word for me this Mother’s Day – because my Mom’s not here to get all excited when I call (and pissed off if I don’t also send a card and/or flowers and/or chocolate). But that’s not to say that I won’t hear her voice, loud and clear, in my head – because I know I will.

For although my Mom lives on in me in many ways, I suspect the most important one is through my conscience – and for that gift, I am eternally grateful.

Another gift my Mom gave me – that ALL of our mothers gave us – that I am profoundly thankful for, is…life. She brought me and my brothers into this world and showed us how the game is played. And when she was done, she left.

My Mom lived her life her way. And as I watched the 5 min photo tribute, set to the song, My Way, again this morning, yes, I still bawled like a baby 🙁 but more importantly, I was reminded to use the precious gift my Mom gave me…to live fully, with no fear and no regrets.

Because our time here is finite.

Related blogs:

When a Fear Demands to be Faced

Even the Best Parties Have to End

Leaving What and Who We Love

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening and the playwright of Saviour. She is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and the Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive Maryanne’s weekly blog, please sign up here. The Mothering Matters blog series begins May 11th, 2015…subscribe here to join the discussion.



It’s Never Too Late to Revise – Lessons in Creative Collaboration


Lynne & MA goofing around on boardwalk

MA & Lynne goofing around on boardwalk, Sidney, BC

 “It’s never too late – in fiction or in life – to revise.”

– Nancy Thayer

What do you get when you cross a writing retreat with a play work-shopping session and a girl’s weekend?

I suppose it depends on the people involved – but in our case, we had a heck of a lot of fun, consumed vast quantities of food (and wine…at least, one of us did – more on that incident a little later) and yes, even made some significant headway on two plays.

I also learned (again) about the benefits of playing nicely in the sandbox with others when it comes to collaborating on a creative project. For this, I must confess, is not an area I have extensive experience in (creative collaboration or sandboxes). When it comes to writing, I prefer solitude in my sandbox – particularly during the early phases of a writing project.

As I mentioned in the November 2014 issue of The Watering Hole e-zine (Boundaries Edition), a friend and colleague of mine, Lynne Karey-McKenna, came to my place last fall for a week of work-shopping two of my play scripts, The Neighbours and The Widows. Another friend, Theresa Chevalier joined us a few days later.

We had a hoot!

The week began with Lynne heading out on an extensive grocery-shopping expedition. My pantry was loaded – a good thing because all that creative brainstorming makes a gal pretty hungry.

Our first work-task was to tackle The Neighbours, which will be a one-woman play. The script itself was in the very early stages – a few of the beginning scenes had been written but most of it was just a detailed outline.

Now, as you may have heard (I have told anyone who would listen – usually more than once), in real life, I do indeed have very strange and annoying neighbours. At least, they irritated the heck out of me for the first 3 years I lived in my home – and then, strangely enough, when I actually sat down and started writing the outline for the play script, The Neighbours, things next door improved dramatically.

For a taste of the specifics of my neighbours’ antics, you can check out the blog, Sometimes Situations Have to Go Springer. I obviously hadn’t yet read the book, Shut Up, Stop Whining and Get a Life – nor met Zopa the Magic Monk & Meditation Master 🙂

At any rate, enough weird and wacky events had happened in the noisy little bungalow next door that I was finally motivated to write the details down, if for no other reason than to try and figure out what to do about the situation: sell my home and move, try and change their behaviour (hah!) or learn to accept what was going on and not dwell on the negative.

Now, Lynne is an actress and a director. She is also a writer but she has decades of experience in acting and directing, so her skill set is very different to mine. And this, I realize, is where collaboration can become a vital part of the creative process. Although it was important that our personalities worked well together (and they did – boy, did we have some laughs!), it was our different perspectives that really got the creative ideas flowing.

Lynne & MA in Fish on Fifth sign

MA & Lynne at Fish on Fifth, Sidney, BC

But creativity, I’m learning, is a very subjective term; it means different things to different people. As a writer who mostly specializes in creative non-fiction i.e. writing about real-life events, I may write creatively but the bulk of my work is based on reality. Fiction has never been my strong suite – I use it when I have to.

Lynne, on the other hand, has a vivid imagination that loves to explore all sorts of new and exciting possibilities. To her, reality can be an excellent starting point for a fantastic fictional story. So when it came to The Neighbours, she encouraged me to let my imagination soar.

This, however, is easier said than done. For when it comes to writing about real-life events, I am like a dog with a bone about holding on to what really happened – and what I learned from it all.

And in all fairness, prior to our brainstorming session, I don’t think Lynne was completely aware of the extent of the real-life situation next door – nor the serendipitous chain of events that led me to buying this particular home in Sidney by the Sea of all places…and certainly not what happened the day I moved in.

But the more Lynne heard about the facts, the more open she was to letting me work them into the script versus using them solely as a jumping-off point for a completely fictional play.

So that’s exactly what we did. And what an incredible process – for both of us. I would write a scene or two and then Lynne would act it out for me, so I could hear what it looked and sounded like. It was so helpful to be able to see and hear my dialogue and stage directions come to life – and then tweak accordingly. And interestingly, the more relaxed I became with the process of working with someone I trusted, the less obsessed I was about sticking to the facts.

So much so, that I nearly abandoned the pumpkin incident.

“What’s this about a pumpkin on the neighbours’ door step?” Lynne asked me one morning over coffee. She’d been reading the outline again.

“Oh that,” I said, waving my hand dismissively, “It’s no big deal. I was just a bit psycho about the carved pumpkin that was still on their doorstep in December.”

She raised her eyebrows. “And?”

“And it drove me crazy!” I said. “Who the hell leaves a rotting pumpkin on their doorstep six weeks after Halloween?”

“So what did you do?” she asked.

“I ran over there one day, grabbed it off their step and then raced back home and put it in my compost bin.”

“That,” she said with a smile, “is awesome.”


“Because it’s crazy stuff like that,” she said, “that really sheds lights on who the character is.”

And that character, of course, is based on me. This is when I realized that Lynne knew exactly what she was doing. As a director, she was working with me, the playwright. As an actress, she was observing firsthand the character’s personality and motivations…trying to figure out what made her tick. Because Lynne knew that once we figured out what made the character tick, we’d be able to figure out where the story goes – and how it ends.

But of course, it was also me and my life we were brainstorming, so the experience wasn’t just an exercise in creative collaboration; it was also a therapy session of sorts that helped me get to the bottom of what really pissed me off about the whole neighbour situation. So perhaps you won’t be surprised to learn that Lynne also has years of experience as a counselor.

How’s that for the universe sending me the perfect person to help me write The Neighbours?

One of the things I love the most about writing is that the process helps me understand whatever is I’m experiencing. For although we cannot change the past, if we take the time to learn from it, then perhaps with a little help from our friends, it never is too late to revise – and tweak accordingly as we move forward in the story of our lives?

At any rate, that’s where I was at when the next house guest, Theresa, arrived to work with Lynne and I on The Widows play. And things just kept getting more and more interesting.

To be continued…please see It’s Never Too Late to Revise – Part 2.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening and the playwright of Saviour. She is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and the Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive Maryanne’s weekly blog, please sign up here


Social Media Marketing Tips for Frustrated Small Business Owners


woman looking at computer

Are your social media marketing efforts bringing you the results you want?

Do you even KNOW what results you want?

That’s a rather important first step, I learned yesterday. I took a FANTASTIC one-day course at Royal Roads University called Social Media for Small Business. It was taught by Jordan Keats.

However, I must confess to having been overwhelmed at times – and I wasn’t the only one. To many of us, social media is daunting. It’s one thing to post a cute pic of me & my dog on Facebook. It’s quite another to learn how to use social media as an effective marketing tool that will lead to results – but doesn’t take a huge amount of time, energy and money.

Once I determined the results I was looking for – book sales – I had to ask myself the next obvious question: was posting my dog’s photo on Facebook going to achieve that?


How about my habit of posting blogs that only a handful of people – most of whom have already bought my current book – will read: is that going to yield book sales?

You get my drift.

That’s why I took the class. And frankly, sitting in a computer lab for 8 hours, learning about SEO and hashtags, tribes and google analytics wasn’t just overwhelming, it was exhausting.

Another writer in the class put it perfectly when she said to our instructor something to the effect of: “You are the social media native. We are the social media immigrants. We’re still learning the language, the culture, the lay of the land…and to be honest, it’s not only frustrating and confusing – most of us don’t even want to be here! We’re here because we have to be. We know we have to learn this so that our businesses can survive.”

Here, here!

And even though I didn’t understand half of what Jordan was saying – and patiently showing us on the massive overhead screens – I dutifully took detailed notes and crossed my fingers they might make more sense later on.

And sure enough, something interesting happened on the drive home. All that he’d said started to click into place…as it related to my company.

By the time I got home, I’d stopped perceiving social media networking as yet another ‘marketing thing’ I had to figure out and conquer because I needed the sales – and instead start to view it as an incredibly useful tool that, when used correctly, would help me reach new people who wanted to hear from me.

In other words, the internal barriers I had towards social media started to dissipate.

When I got home, I read through all my notes and highlighted the key points. Then I set a clear, tangible goal of what I wanted to achieve through my social networking efforts (number of books sold). Then I determined exactly which social media platforms I was going to use and how. Then I made a SHORT list of the tasks I needed to do and when I was going to do them over the next six weeks.

And since the best way to learn something new is to teach it to someone else, I’ve jotted down a few pointers for any other small business souls out there who might also be stumbling through the cyber-wilderness of social media.

Here are 10 social media marketing tips for small business owners:

1. You have to determine what results you want to achieve from your social networking efforts. Increased visitors to your website? Increased product or service sales? Increase number of subscribers to your e-zine?

2. You need to figure out who your  market is. Then you need to find your market…your peeps, your tribes. Check out Seth Godin’s Tribes video or book.

3. You’ll need to do a bit of trial and error to determine which social media      platform/s is best for you to connect with your tribes: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. You don’t need to do them all!

4. Facebook is excellent for connecting with friends and maintaining relationships.

5. Twitter is great for connecting with like-minded people you don’t know. Twitter is  a fantastic way to build a buzz about your business or product.

6. Hashtags are really important to use in your tweets because they help target  who will see your posts. Do a hashtag search first to make sure you are using the correct word/term to reach the people you want to reach.

7. Retweet other people’s tweets!

8. LinkedIn is not a sales platform (oops). LinkedIn is about connecting to like-minded professionals. It’s a great place to learn about what the people in your industry are up to and share ideas, job postings, etc.

9. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, which is basically just the key words you need to use in your blog posts, article titles, web pages, tweets, etc so that search engines can find them. Here’s a quick trick to see how search engine optimized you are: google the key words that pertain to your business and see if you or your business comes anywhere near the first page of rankings (which is where you want to be).

10. Google Analytics tracks your social marketing efforts. You set this up on your website and then you can see who is visiting your site, how long they are staying, which pages they are visiting, where they’ve come from, etc. Very important!

Hope these help. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to dash. I’m heading into Twitterville to do a little anthropological observation of the tribes I might like to join 🙂

Related blogs:

Pssst…Might Sharing be the Secret to Social Media Marketing?

Smooth Sharing on Social Media – How Easy is it to SHARE Your Blog or E-zine?

6 Tricks to Getting More Marketing Mileage Out of Your Blogs

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening and the upcoming book, Barrier Removed; A Tough Love Guide to Achieving Your Dreams. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions Inc and the Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund.