Monthly Archives: February 2014

Rainforest Writers Retreat

rainforest, Lake Quinault, writers retreat,

The Lake Quinault Rainforest was mossy and very green.

I just returned from five days at the Rainforest Writers Retreat in Lake Quinault, Washington. Lake Quinault is on the Olympic Peninsula, tucked away amongst trees, and why yes, a lake. Patrick Swenson of Fairwood Press organizes these and does two a year, a week apart. I’ve been trying for three years to get in but it always sells out quickly. Last year, I finally got in but was on a waiting list (for about a half a day) because I had registered 24 hours later. Yes, it sells out that quickly and there are many alumni that return every year.

As a “newbie” there were many things I didn’t know about the retreat structure but Patrick gives pointers on the website on what to bring, and near the time of the retreat we’re all on a yahoo list where we can ask many questions. I picked up another writer on my drive down from Canada and we did the leisurely, longer Pt. Townsend ferry route to the Lake Quinault Rain Forest Resort. Neither one of us having been before, nor secure in our direction sensing abilities, we did make one wrong turnoff, not to mention somehow taking that different route on Whidbey Island (I have driven there numerous times but it’s easy to take the wrong turn–still it’s an island so you eventually get to the same spot). We arrived Wednesday evening and got our rooms in the hotel.

Rainforest Writers Retreat, Patrick Swenson, writing,

Writers writing in the lounge. The guy in red is writing by hand!

The resort has cabins, cabins with fireplaces and motel rooms. I had no clue as to what was good or not so ended up in the motel room. The cabins are more costly. The rooms are fairly basic, sort of rustic woodsy toned. Mine had an odd smell and faced the back but the bed was comfy and I wasn’t in it much. I guess these ones get shut up more in the off season. The restaurant and lounge is where the writers congregate, and besides the lodge being open for dinner in the evenings, we had the run of the place night and day. Being off season, Patrick made special arrangements. Most breakfasts were included but lunch and dinner were on our own. There is “Cabin 6” where spare munchies, some sandwich makings and the word count board lived. The other good thing is there is a homemade soup and grilled cheese sandwich day in Cabin 6 and then we have a party on Saturday night.

writing, revising, writers retreats

The Albertan contingent entrenched near the fireplace. Dead things decorate the walls.

The word count board is where everyone writing lists how many words they’re creating. Some people go into the negatives if they’re revising. I was working on revising a novel so while I did add about 4,500 words I also got rid of some as well. The main thing is to write and everyone does it differently. You can go off to hide in your room or to Cabin 6 or you can stay in the lounge or dining room, in a group or by yourself, though others will filter in and out. I went to write and write I did. By the end of the weekend, the winner of the word count had written over 32,000 words, and between the 37-38 of us there we created over 300,000 words. That’s a trilogy right there.

books, writing, short fiction

The bookstore is set up in the lounge, for writers or locals.

Most of the people are at different pro levels though some are newer writers, but I’d say the majority were working on novels. There were several, optional one-hour discussions given by Nancy Kress, Louise Marley, Daryl Gregory, Randy Henderson, Jack Skillingstead and a panel discussion with Nancy, Jack, Daryl and Ted Kosmatka talking about outlining. Many of the discussions aren’t necessarily about things we writers don’t already know but it’s always good to chat about them, be reminded about them and hear how others do it. Outlining went from those who don’t even know how their book ends when they begin writing, to those who bullet point the details. There is no right way, just many ways.

Rainforest Writers Retreat, Lake Quinault

It’s chilly enough to encourage people to write, but worth a walk to see some of the area.

Rainforest Writers Retreat, Fairwood Press, writing

Rainforest Writers. Big sweaters, booze and laptops.

As well, on Saturday night the University (of Washington) Bookstore sets up with books of all the writers present. It’s very evil and tempting and I’d wished I had more money. Writing, perhaps of all the arts is probably one of the most solitary. We sit alone at our desks and write. At the Rainforest Retreat, there was the lovely (if chilly and cold–it IS February) rainforest to explore that also has the world’s largest Sitka Spruce. It didn’t look that big until you walked up to it and realized you could put six people up on its trunk. There’s a store that sells various items including Sasquatch poop. We also sat quietly typing away or taking a break and talking with others. But it was actually really nice to look up and just see others doing the same thing; a camaraderie of our group writing solitary together.

forest, rainforest, Lake Quinault, Olympic Peninsula

The land of super mossy trees. The setting was inspiring for writing.

I made it through 50,000 words of revision on my novel, fixing some things as I went, that I’d woken up to through the talks. I got to know some of the writers a little better, and everyone would take a moment at some point to geek out and talk about “their story.” It was thoroughly inspiring, productive and fun. I’m not sure if I’ll do the retreat next year but like the group that comes out from Alberta every year, it could very well become an annual pilgrimage.

I won’t mention that I drove home through an unexpected snow storm, with the heater not working in my car and how I had to stay in Bellingham the night. No, I won’t mention that because I had a great time even if I was a popsicle by the time I got home.

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Filed under Culture, nature, people, Publishing, weather, Writing

Lost in Translation: The Mire of Cellphone Help

cell phone, cellphone companies, miscommunication, customer service

My conversation was on two different tracks, just like this sign for a public urinal in China. Creative Commons by ToGa Wanderings

Today, I tried to email Bell to find out about using my cell phone in the US. Next week, I’m going for five days to the Rainforest Writers Retreat. I’m picking up another writer in Bellingham and want to make sure I don’t get lost. I’m navigationally impaired so it’s a strong possibility. Now, my cell phone has texting and calls but only in Canada.

I was at work and made the mistake of using Bell’s online chat. I forgot that every time I’ve done so it has been an exercise in frustration where belly crawling over glass would take less time. It was only less bloody because I couldn’t reach the chat representative with my hands.

I find that cellphone companies have always been about obscuring the facts. I’ve left Fido, I’ve left Telus and with Bell, it’s hit new heights of stupidity, but I’m not convinced there is a company that won’t rip you off, try to add hidden costs or just not pull their heads out of their butts long enough to care about the customer. It’s now my civic duty to lift the veil under which bad customer service cowers, and to warn you all, don’t use online chat.

I give you the unexpurgated text (except for removing my private info) of the 40 minutes I will never get back. Enter at your own risk.

info: Thank you for your patience an online representative will be with you shortly.  Your wait time is approximately 0 minute(s).  
info: You are chatting with Rolando.
Your name: colleen
Your number: 604
Your question: I would like to know what it would cost if Im in the US and want to text or in the US and want to call (in both cases US numbers). Id only be down for a week.

You: Your name: colleen
You: Your number: 604
You: Your question: I would like to know what it would cost if Im in the US and want to text or in the US and want to call (in both cases US numbers). Id only be down for a week.
Rolando: Hi there!
Rolando: How are you doing today ?
You: Good thanks.
Rolando: I am reading your message here.
Rolando: Colleen, we cannot prorate the amount of the roaming package for texting.
You: So there is no way to call using my phone in the US without paying the high roaming charges?
Rolando: We have a good package here for $20 you can have 1000 message incoming and unlimited outgoing.
Rolando: For calling feature we also have the package.
Rolando: You know what ?
Rolando: I can help you lower down your cost.
You: Just a minute… at work
Rolando: Eventually the individual package will cost you $40. Since I just wanted to help you I can give you the combination of Calling and Texting for Roaming for $30 only.
You: Sorry about that…
Rolando: You will get 100 in-out roaming minutes and 1000 text messages outgoing and unlimited incoming.
You: But I only would be in the US for less than a month so paying an extra $30/month for something I don’t use would not really help me out.
You: It seems the best thing to do is not use the phone at all.
Rolando: Basically, roaming feature is expensive since we will be borrowing tower in other country.
You: If I used it as my plan stands now what are the roaming charges/costs if I made a phone call whie in the US?
Rolando: it will cost you $1.45
You: per minute?
You: or text?
Rolando: Yes per minute call.
You: And a text is costed at a minute, I believe?
Rolando: for texting it will charge you $0.75 in-out.
You: Okay, is that .75 each way?
You: And that includes the roaming cost?
Rolando: yes Colleen.
Rolando: That is the roaming cost.
You: So really, if I need it for a few days but mostly for emergency or just if I really must contact someone that would be cheaper than having to pay and extra $30/month on my plan already.
Rolando: Do you want to be satisfy with my performance or my effort ?
Rolando: Let me see what I can do here ?
Rolando: To better assist you and for the security of the account I would like to have your E-mail address and the 4 digit pin if you have that on the account ?
You: I don’t know my 4 digit pin.
You: naiad@telus.net
Rolando: This time I will be calling the attention of my supervisor in order to sort this out .
Rolando: Thanks for the information.
You: I’m confused now.
Rolando: I am going to help you. Do not be confuse.
Rolando: This time I will be calling the attention of my supervisor in order to sort this out . my ability to convince her will lead to the adjustment on your account. Once I come back there is a positive results.
Rolando: Hi  there!
Rolando: Are you still with me ?
You: yes
Rolando: Please pay attention Colleen.
You: ?
Rolando: My supervisor approved the adjustments on your account.

Bell Canada, cellphone service, custoomer service, lost in translation

Hell’s Bell. It would be easier talking to an alien race. Creative Commons: WikiHow.com

You: I thought you said that it would cost me an extra $30/month to use my phone in the US, but if I just need to use it for a few days it will cost me .75 per text or $1.45 per phone call. What else do you think I need to pay attention to?
Rolando: I am going to give you the credit of $30 so that to make it even I am going to add the $30 package for roaming text and calling.
You: Paying $70/month for something I’ll only use one month doesn’t make sense.
Rolando: I am going to give you the credit of $30 so that to make it even I am going to add the $30 package for roaming text and calling.
You: But that would only be a credit for one month and then I would be paying more every other month afterwards, would I not?
Rolando: yes
You: I don’t want to pay $70/month for something I will only use one month. That’s not very cost efficient.
Rolando: As I have mentioned this roaming package is really expensive.
Rolando: It is not supported by your Plan.
You: I started out asking what it would cost to use my phone in the US. Was it so difficult to tell me .75/text or $1.45? That’s what I wanted to know.
Rolando: Ma’am Iam giving you the favor to help you use your phone in US.
You: If I only wanted to fly to the moon once would your try to sell me monthly tickets to the moon for the whole year? As usual Bell’s service is

not helpful at all.
Rolando: I am helping you lowering your cost.
You: Can I or can I not make a text in the US to a US number and pay only an extra .75 cents for that one text?
Rolando: You can text or you can call but you will be charge of the said amount.
Rolando: It would be beneficial for you because in return I am giving you this for free.
You: Is it .75 cents for one text, and $1.45 for one call by the minute or are there other costs you haven’t revealed?
You: Free for one month but then I pay $70 every other month instead of $40 and I won’t be using it so tell me how this is beneficial.
Rolando: There are no other cost Ma’am.
Rolando: What do you want to happen ?
You: Did you read my original message? I don’t want to add an extra $30 on to every month of payments for something I will only use once. How much clearer can I make this?
Rolando: Ma’am didn’t I tell you that Roaming is really expensive ? You are going to use your phone there for so many days. This is why I am giving you the favor to give it to you for free.
You: For one month and then you tell me I will pay an extra $30 a month on my plan every month afters.
Rolando: I am not adding extra $30 on your account.
Rolando: i cannot provide you the package for the whole year for free. I will be terminated for that.
You: How many times have I clarified above that this would cose me and extra $30 per month. And I said I only will be in the US one week. What would my monthly bill be?
Rolando: I know that you are going in-out in US but it seems to me that you want to avail the feature on a longer period.
You: Did I not say numerous times that I would not be using this in other months?
Rolando: You will only pay the regular bill on your plan. There is no extra charges because I want you to avail the roaming package for free this month. As I have mentioned you cannot prorate the cost of the roaming package.
You: And what would my monthly bill be in March, April, May?
Rolando: $72.46 is your regular bill.
You: EXACTLY! $30 extra for something I would only use once. How often must I repeat myself? I think you’ve convinced me to seek out a different cell phone company.
Rolando: As I have mentioned I am offering to give you the roaming package for free this month.
You: AS I HAVE METIONED REPEATEDLY I DON’T WANT IT FOR EVERY OTHER MONTH.
Rolando: It will automatically expired on the 30th day.
Rolando: Ma’am this feature is not part of your Plan that we can charge you each month. Roaming feature is differnt from a regular feature. I believe you misunderstood this.
You: You know what…I can’t tell what I would get or be signed up for so forget I ever asked a simple question. This is ludicrous.
info: Your chat transcript will be sent to naiad@telus.net at the end of your chat.
You: If my monthly bill for each month becomes $72.46 then indeed it is exactly that, part of what you’re charging me.

At this point I couldn’t take it anymore and had work to do. I disconnected. On further wandering through the backwoods of the Bell site I found out this great deal of $30/month that he wanted to give me was just a regular package to the US. Notice how I changed from Colleen to Ma’am after he told me to pay attention. Nice polite customer service. I’m no farther ahead but you know what someone told me about Roam Mobility and since I really need the phone for one day I can get what I need for $3 or just pay the $1.45 per minute per call and be done with it.

I can tell you one thing…I’ll be switching again when I can, to get away from the incompetent customer service of Bell.

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Filed under consumer affairs, Culture