R.I.P. Sylvie Fortin 1969-2015

Sylvie Fortin

If you’ve read my last blog post, you know that Sylvie has passed away. This is short and sweet. Here’s Sylvie Fortin’s obituary and wake information for those who wish to attend:


Keep in mind that we will try to record the event and stream it online. I know I’m forgetting people, so if you know someone who this would be important to them or to Sylvie, please pass it along. Thank you.


I Died Today

Michel and Sylvie Fortin

Sad news.

Yesterday, Sylvie Fortin, my soul mate, my breath, my best friend, passed away peacefully surrounded by friends and family after a decade-long battle with breast cancer.

Sylvie was co-owner of The Licorice Group and the founder of Workaholics4Hire, a company that is the Internet leader in customer support services.

In her honor and memory, I will continue in her stead and do my earnest best to continue to provide the same level of quality service her clients had come to expect from her.

As for me, personally, I’m in shock right now.

It feels like my heart has been ripped out of my chest and I’m at a loss for words. I don’t know what to say right now, and I’m a copywriter!

But another copywriter, Craig Perrine, the best man at our wedding a decade ago, wrote a beautiful and stunning tribute to her on Facebook, so with his kind permission I’m copying it here.

(I will notify you of services in a day or so.)

Michel Fortin

P.S.: In my grief and consternation over doing “Bust a Move” breast cancer fitness-o-thon event again this year (actually, it’s happening next week!), I get this email from the foundation’s senior manager who set up a memorial fund in Sylvie’s name so I don’t have to worry about doing the event.

I’m so touched by this. So I ask, rather than sending us flowers, won’t you donate in Sylvie’s name instead? She would have wanted that.


If you prefer to make a gift by phone, please call the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation at 613-247-3527. Gifts by cheque can be mailed to:

The Sylvie Fortin Memorial Fund
c/o the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation
1500 Alta Vista Drive
Ottawa, ON
K1G 3Y9

Thank you to everyone for your support and kindness.

Today my dear friend Sylvie Fortin defeated cancer after a decade of out-smarting and out-fighting that damned disease, living on her own terms the whole way.

My heart goes out to my brother-in-arms, Michel Fortin (who has been an absolute saint) and their entire family who have been by Sylvie’s side throughout her truly awe inspiring fight.

I know it’s a cliche to say that life is precious and fragile, but it is also still a breathtaking gut punch when you lose someone you love.

Yet, there is no defeat in death for there is absolutely no way for us to escape our mortal limits. Cancer can’t chase Sylvie where she is now.

For that I am truly grateful.

The inescapable truth of our fleeting time in this life hit me over the weekend. I was in the middle of a 7 hour drive when I got the news. On my long drive home I had an almost surreal and never ending stream of memories flood my mind. I laughed at the fun we had, I smiled knowing I’d been lucky to have had such an unforgettable friends, I yelled because it has been far too long since we’ve seen each other, and I had a good cry, too.

While life is fleeting and fragile, what matters most is who we get to spend our limited time with and how we experience those we love along the way.

And Sylvie lived every minute of this life with passion and determination from start to finish. No one who knew her will ever forget her brilliant and tenacious business savvy, her champion fighter’s spirit, her heart as big as the world, and her everlasting love for her soul mate, Michel.

Of course, I’ll always treasure Sylvie’s quick wit and wry humor… And I loved how Sylvie didn’t suffer fools, but she was also perfectly happy to laugh at herself, too.

Even though I knew this moment was coming, there really are no adequate words for how heartbreaking it is that she is gone.

I’ll never forget the day when Michel asked me to be the best man at their wedding. What an amazing honor. Almost ten years later I can still remember so many perfect memories from that blessed ceremony.

And it makes me laugh to this day that the Celtic shirts the groomsmen wore made us look like pirates… and that someone thought we were valets when we stood waiting for the limo outside the hotel.

I would fill up this post if I even attempted to list all the family and friends who gathered for the wedding. That gives me all the more sense of how many people are mourning Sylvie’s passing today.

The most bittersweet memory from the wedding was learning the night before that Sylvie had been diagnosed with cancer.

I’ll never forget my utter disbelief… and then how reassured I was by their unified strength in the face of such an absurd twist of fate. Sylvie’s gallows humor and unyielding fiery determination to fight told me that if anyone could beat this and live forever, it was Sylvie with Michel by her side. I was truly in awe of their bond.

From the start, Michel and Sylvie knew their journey together would not be an easy one… and I swear I have never seen two people who loved each other more and handled the unimaginable with such strength and grace.

All I know right now is that the human body is an inadequate vessel for a soul like Sylvie’s and our indelible memories of her time with us will live on with us till the end.

Be with the angels, Sylvie. I know you’d want us to be strong and laugh in the face of adversity.

I also know we’ll see you again… It will seem like blink of an eye to you now.

Just know it will feel like an eternity to us because you are already dearly missed.

Craig Perrine

Want to Rent a Webmaster?

Want to Rent a Webmaster?

As a freelancer, I do mostly copy work. But people often hire me for web design, too. Specifically, for WordPress tweaks and quick fixes. I may be a copywriter, but I’m also a WordPress geek, and a PHP and CSS nerd. I’ve even lectured at WordCamp Ottawa and Algonquin College on Web Design.

You may have joined my online course FortinPress.com. This course was created because of the countless questions I received on how I maintained and tweaked our WordPress websites.

If you were a member of our Success Chef University, you probably saw how we answered questions from members live, where I would carry out design modifications, do plugin tweaks, or troubleshoot PHP and CSS errors.

I have a few openings, so I now can do small jobs for a limited number of clients (like speeding up website loading times, configuring plugins, changing the look and feel of templates, even doing some light copywriting, and more).

So as of March 1st, I’m offering a special new kind of service. We call it “Webmaster On Call.” You can hire us for one-off quick fixes, or on retainer for regular services. And as you’ll see, the fees are extremely competitive.

If you need something really simple done, perhaps handling a quick task or fixing an error that keeps coming up, or modifying a certain theme element on your blog that doesn’t quite look right, then hire me and I’ll do it for you!

If you want your site maintained, cleaned up, optimized, and backed up on a regular basis, I can also do that for you on a subscription basis (I offer a simple monthly plan and an advanced one, too).

So go check it out, and pass the word around!


Remembering My Father

Gilles Fortin

For those who asked, here’s a copy of the eulogy I recently gave my father at his funeral (French version will follow at the end of this post for the francophones among my family and friends).

In Memory of Gilles Léo Fortin

It’s no secret that my father and I had a complicated relationship. I have some good memories of Dad. Not many, but I do have a few. I think most of them involve music of some kind, where he recorded me playing the drums during my early years in high school. And then he would make multiple copies on cassette tapes that he’d proudly passed around, saying, “This is my son!”

(Sound familiar, Tyler?)

My dad loved music and being a disc jockey of sorts. He wasn’t just recording “mixed tapes.” He was telling stories. To him, music was a method of communication. He would record tapes with songs that would express how he felt at the time, either about himself or about other people in his life.

As a kid, I remember his multiple turntables, tape decks, and libraries stuffed with records and cassettes — all perfectly labelled, numbered, and sorted — in a room my father converted into a mini-recording studio. He used to call it “MichGill Audio,” a combination of our names, as he had hoped that one day his son would take over his hobby. Unfortunately, while I will always have a fondness for music, writing is my first love.

(But writing eulogies? Not so much.)

Sadly, I also have a lot of bad memories of Dad. In fact, much of what would have been good memories — like vacations or family outings — were unfortunately tainted by many of my father’s poor choices. For a long time, I’ve harbored a lot of resentment toward him for those choices. But I’m not angry anymore. I stopped being angry years ago. If anything, I’m angry at alcohol, because alcohol took my father away. Alcohol stole his family, his career, and his mind.

And now, it even stole his life.

You see, I don’t believe my Dad was a bad person. A weak, misguided person — perhaps. And certainly a sick person. But not a bad person. Sure, he made a lot of mistakes. But I think he paid a high price for those mistakes. He missed out on my sister and me growing up and setting out into the world, as well as missing out on his grandchildren. He didn’t have the chance to enjoy the people we’ve become, and haven’t shared in our triumphs as well as our losses.

But long ago, as the serenity prayer says, which my father so fondly repeated throughout my childhood, I’ve accepted the things that I cannot change. So for a long time, I wanted us to be at peace with each other. I wanted him to know that I forgave him long ago. You see, after losing my mother just a few years ago, I knew I wanted to see my father. I knew it was probably going to be the last time I’d ever see him.

Luckily, I had that chance when I met him last year.

After having been estranged for over 20 years since he has been institutionalized, my aunt Estelle, whom I deeply admire and love, and for whom I’m so thankful for all she has done for him and my family, arranged a meeting for me to meet with my father. At first, he didn’t even recognize me. But once Estelle made him realize who I was, we hugged and cried. It was a chance for me to say “I love you,” “I miss you,” and “I forgive you.” Now, looking back, I guess it was also a way for me to say “goodbye.”

But what I didn’t say and could have said was: “thank you.” Why? Because whether he knew it or not, indirectly, my Dad taught me what it is to be a father. He was a role model on what not to do as a father. Today, when I look at all my stepchildren, like Megan who has stayed with me for close to 30 years, and now Tyler, Paige, and Celeste, who were all so willing to accept me and call me Dad for almost 10 years now, and even Tyler who recently changed his legal name so that my new grandson, Parker, can be also called “Fortin,” I guess you can say that I have my father to thank.

So, thanks, Dad.

Nevertheless, I’d like to finish with something that would be right up my father’s alley. Just as my Dad chose songs to say what he felt, I want to finish by reading the lyrics to a song that says how I feel so perfectly. It’s from “Mike and The Mechanics,” and it’s called “In The Living Years.” It goes…

Every generation blames the one before
And all of their frustrations come beating on your door

I know that I’m a prisoner to all my Father held so dear
I know that I’m a hostage to all his hopes and fears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years

Crumpled bits of paper filled with imperfect thought
Stilted conversations I’m afraid that’s all we’ve got

You say you just don’t see it, he says it’s perfect sense
You just can’t get agreement in this present tense
We all talk a different language, talking in defense

Say it loud, say it clear, you can listen as well as you hear
It’s too late when we die to admit we don’t see eye to eye

So we open up a quarrel between the present and the past
We only sacrifice the future, it’s the bitterness that lasts

So Don’t yield to the fortunes you sometimes see as fate
It may have a new perspective on a different day
And if you don’t give up, and don’t give in, you may just be O.K.

Say it loud, say it clear, you can listen as well as you hear
It’s too late when we die to admit we don’t see eye to eye

I wasn’t there that morning when my Father passed away
I didn’t get to tell him all the things I had to say

I think I caught his spirit later that same year
I’m sure I heard his echo in my baby’s new born tears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years

Dad, may you finally rest in peace.

Ce n’est pas un secret que mon père et moi avons eu une relation compliquée. J’ai quelques bons souvenirs de papa. Pas beaucoup, mais j’en ai quelques-uns. Je pense que la plupart d’entre eux impliquent la musique de quelque façon, où il m’a enregistré jouer de la batterie lors de mes premières années à l’école secondaire. Et puis il faisait plusieurs copies sur des cassettes qu’il passait fièrement à tout le monde, disant: «Ça, c’est mon fils!»

(Je suis sûr que Tyler sais de quoi je parle.)

Mon père aimait la musique et d’être un amateur de disc-jockey. Il ne produisait pas des «cassettes mixtes». Plutôt, il racontait des histoires. Pour lui, la musique était une méthode de communication. Il choisissait des chansons qu’il enregistrait sur cassette qui exprimaient comment il se sentait à l’époque, soit de lui-même ou d’autres personnes dans sa vie.

Quand j’étais enfant, je me souviens de ses multiples tables tournantes, ses magnétophones et ses étagères bourrés de disques et de cassettes — tous parfaitement étiquetés, numérotés et classés — dans une pièce dans la maison que mon père a converti en un mini-studio d’enregistrement. Il l’appelait «MichGill Audio», une combinaison de nos noms, avec l’espérance qu’un jour son fils continuerait son hobby. Regrettablement, autant que j’ai toujours eu un penchant pour la musique, l’écriture est mon premier amour.

(Mais écrire des éloges? Pas tellement.)

Malheureusement, j’ai aussi beaucoup de mauvais souvenirs de papa. En fait, une grande partie de ce qui aurait été de bons souvenirs — comme des vacances ou des sorties familiales — ont été tristement tachés par les nombreux mauvais choix que mon père a fait. Pendant longtemps, je ressentait beaucoup d’amertume envers lui. Mais pas maintenant. Ça fait plusieurs années que je ne suis plus en colère. En fait, je suis plus fâché envers l’alcool, car l’alcool a volé mon père. L’alcool a volé sa famille, sa carrière et son esprit.

Et maintenant, l’alcool a même volé sa vie.

Vous voyez, je ne crois pas que mon papa était une mauvaise personne. Une personne faible et égarée — peut-être. Et certainement une personne malade. Mais pas une mauvaise personne. Bien sûr, il a fait beaucoup d’erreurs. Mais je pense qu’il a payé un prix élevé pour ses erreurs. Il a manqué la chance de voir ma sœur et moi grandir et devenir des parents nous-mêmes, ainsi que de connaître ses petits-enfants. Il n’a pas eu la chance de profiter des gens que nous sommes devenus, et n’a pas pu partagé dans nos triomphes ainsi que nos pertes.

Mais il y a longtemps, comme le dit la prière de sérénité, que mon père répétait tellement souvent lors de mon enfance, j’ai accepté les choses que je ne peux pas changer. Donc, pour un bout de temps, je voulais que nous soyons en paix l’un et l’autre. Je voulais qu’il sache que je lui ai pardonné ça fait longtemps. Parce que, après avoir perdu ma mère il y a quelques années, je savais que je voulais voir mon père. Je savais que ça va probablement être la dernière fois que je le vois.

Heureusement, j’ai eu cette chance quand je l’ai rencontré l’an dernier.

Après avoir été aliéné pour plus de 20 ans depuis qu’il a été institutionnalisé, ma tante Estelle, une personne que j’admire et j’aime profondément, et pour qui je suis tellement reconnaissant pour tout ce qu’elle a fait pour lui et ma famille, a organisé une réunion avec mon père. Au début, il ne m’a même pas reconnu. Mais une fois qu’Estelle lui a fait réalisé qui j’étais, nous nous sommes embrassés et nous avons pleuré. C’était une chance pour moi de dire «Je t’aime», «je te manques» et «je te pardonne». Maintenant, je pense que c’était aussi une façon pour moi de dire «au revoir».

Mais ce que je n’a pas dit et j’aurait pu dire était: «Je te remercie». Pourquoi? Parce que, qu’il le savait ou non, mon père m’a appris d’une façon indirecte ce que c’est d’être un père. Il était un modèle de ce que ne pas faire comme père. Aujourd’hui, quand je regarde tous mes beaux-enfants, comme Megan qui a demeuré avec moi pendant près de 30 ans, et maintenant Tyler, Paige, et Céleste, qui étaient tous tellement prêts à m’accepter et de m’appeler «Papa» depuis presque 10 ans maintenant, et même Tyler qui a récemment changé son surnom légal de sorte que mon nouveau petit-fils, Parker, peut être aussi appelé «Fortin», je suppose que vous pouvez dire que j’ai mon père à remercier.

Donc, merci, papa.

(Lecture de la chanson «In The Living Years».)

Enfin, papa, tu peux maintenant te reposer en paix.

R.I.P. Gilles-Léo Fortin 1943-2015

Gilles Fortin and Michel Fortin

If you’re a friend or follower on Facebook, you probably have learned about my father’s passing.

For those who don’t know my story, I haven’t seen my father since the early 90s when he was institutionalized with Korsakov’s Syndrome, a degenerative mental disease caused by alcoholism.

Its main symptoms are confusion, senility, loss of memory, inability to form new memories, confabulation (making up stories), and hallucinations.

All my life, we’ve had a strained relationship. But after losing my mother a couple of years ago, I knew I wanted to see my father at least one last time.

Gilles Fortin and Michel FortinSo last year, after being estranged for 20+ years, I’ve met him at his group residence. It was arranged by his sister, my wonderful aunt Estelle, who took amazing care of him all these years.

(Estelle, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Words cannot express my gratitude. When I need courage, I simply look at you.)

It’s no secret that my father’s condition wasn’t getting any better. This includes progressive loss of brain function, including what’s required to sustain life. I suspect it was the cause of, if not in large part contributed to, his heart failure.

Yesterday morning, he left this world peacefully during his sleep. From what I’m told, he didn’t suffer.

To my friends and family members who asked, I will know his final arrangements once I meet with the funeral home on Thursday. Thank you everyone for all your thoughts, condolences, and heartwarming wishes.

I don’t have many pictures of my father. But here are some from my childhood, and the most recent one from my visit last year.


(On the left is my sister and me with my dad, circa 1976. The one on the left is mid-80s, I’m thinking ’83 or ’84, during my teen years.)

To my father…

Dad, in an indirect way, you taught me what it is to be a father.

Despite your illness and addiction, you did the best you knew how. You may not have been the best role model, but you were certainly a reminder of what to do and what not to do.

So I guess I can say, “Thanks, Dad.”

I’m so glad I had one last chance to see you. You didn’t remember me the next day, but at least it was a chance for me to say “goodbye.”

May you now rest in peace.

Your son, Michel.

UPDATED: My father’s funeral service will take place in the presence of his ashes at St. Mark’s Church, 160 rue Principale, Gatineau, Aylmer, Wednesday, January 28, 2015 at 11 am. The family will receive condolences at 10:30. A cold buffet will follow in the church basement.

Are Bottlenecks Clogging Your Sales?


When a sales page is not performing to your expectations, what’s the worst thing you can possibly do? Nothing.

By making changes, any changes, you can strengthen your copy and improve your sales — provided you track those changes. In most cases, there are relatively simple steps you can take to improve your results immediately.

The key is always be closing testing.

Sadly, the vast majority of marketers don’t even test at all. They put up their sales copy or website, and then they do nothing hoping for the best.

But for those who do, the first thing they think of is to test by adding or changing something in their copy. Or they’re confused as to what to test first.

Is it the headline? The image? The close? The price? The color? Actually, none of these. The first thing to test is actually not adding or changing anything at all. It’s to first remove something instead…

Continue Reading…

Give Your Joint-Venture Offer An Extra Punch


The other day I was asked: “How do I motivate a potential joint venture partner to bite? When you have a great idea and you’ve located the perfect partner, how do you motivate them to do business with you?”

I talked on many occasions about the power of a USP and how to define one. Being unique, or having an interesting twist or hook, will definitely up your chances of getting noticed.

But regardless of how you approach your prospective partner, before you do it is important to craft the offer in a manner that shows the benefits to your joint-venture partner.

Here are a few extra tricks to motivate a potential partner.

More often than not, showing how their clients or prospects will benefit from your offering is a big step forward. Look at all the potential benefits your partnership provides. Don’t stick with the obvious. Dig deep, and list all the advantages they get from doing this venture.

At the very least, and aside from the extra money they earn, if you can show your partner how your offering will benefit their prospects and make your partner look good, you have a headstart.

But don’t stop there.

Continue Reading…

Why Some Friction in Sales Copy is Good


Using italics, bolds, highlights, etc to add emphasis in copy is a powerful tool. But use too much, and you are actually creating the opposite effect — everything looks the same and nothing is emphasized.

So you must emphasize judiciously and strategically.

However, some have suggested that emphasis should be avoided completely. One copywriter suggested that words alone should convey the message. He referred to formatting as “speed bumps,” which reduce usability and readability.

I don’t necessarily agree with this premise. After all, if that was the case (that words alone should communicate a message), we wouldn’t have punctuation.

But I digress.

First, understand that formatting helps to drive important points home. It also boosts recall, and gives additional meaning to a message the written word lacks that nuances and verbal cues otherwise provide.

Plus, emphasis communicates a meta-message. The message beyond the message. Emotional subtext, deeper meaning, greater impact, and more.

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Multiply Your Marketing Like a Virus


People talk. They talk about products. They talk about businesses. And they certainly talk about their experiences with both.

With the proliferation of social media, the Internet provides incredible leverage to help spread that word-of-mouth, or as Dr. Ralph wilson coined over a decade ago as “word-of-mouse marketing“.

Today, “viral marketing” has become so ubiquitous that the term has been added to our dictionaries and university’s business class curricula.

But the question is, can viral marketing really help your business? I’m not talking about simply driving traffic. I’m talking creating systems to leverage, manage, and profit from the buzz a viral campaign creates.

First, understand why word-of-mouth works so well.

Continue Reading…