Saturday, 25 April 2015

Floating

A week ago I hosted a Steel City Stories evening. It was a great deal of fun. At one point, one of the storytellers mentioned how she'd once had a conversation with me where I said something along the lines of loneliness is part of the writing life, and hearing it from her--as in, my words spoken back to me from someone else's mouth--made me feel odd. Almost terrible. Like being flashed in terrible, if only for a moment. Sometimes I forget how glib one can be with true things.

Had a Skype conversation with my dearest friend in all the world a few nights ago. We have decided that I need something to look forward to. Is that so terrible, this plotting and scheming so that one might have things to work towards? For the past few years I've felt so guilty about how I squandered my twenties. It doesn't feel like squandering on the one hand--how much I learned about myself during those twenties, how much I hurt and loved and felt and read and was--but when you're up against the reality of trying to regain financial stability and paying down debt and staying in a job you do not love because it probably pays more than you will ever make doing the thing that you do love--well, it feels like squandering now.

And so I find myself feeling guilty about AWP, despite how much I loved it, guilty about wanting to book another trip now, and soon, guilty about wanting to pick up and start a new life somewhere else because who has money for all of this? Certainly not me.

You had more experience in your twenties than a lot of people have in their lifetimes, another friend said to me a while ago. Now you get to pay for that. Consider yourself lucky to have had that at all.

I am paying, I understand that. The cup cannot runneth over forever. But meanwhile I am not writing, I am not playing, I am not dreaming the way that I used to, the way that used to say this will be hard, but you can do it. Now I look at things and I think: it isn't worth it, anymore.

I am so terrified of a life that just shrinks away under the guise of responsibility. Paying debt and working hard and sleeping because you have no energy for anything else and your world keeps getting smaller, smaller, smaller until it just isn't there anymore.

So. I need something else to look forward to.

Universe, please pry me open, is what I am saying.


Thursday, 16 April 2015

The echoes of a person you once knew

So I went to AWP last week, and it was lovely. Magical. So much fun. Book fairs and cupcakes and dinners and readings and long talks with friends new and old. One of the nicest hotel rooms I've ever stayed in. Long bubble baths at night, reading the haul that I brought back from the book fair.

Did I mention that there were cupcakes?


 I felt like my old self again. My pre-2014 self, alive and excited. 

Monday, 6 April 2015

Flying away

I'm heading to Toronto tonight, ahead of our flight tomorrow morning to Minneapolis and the excitement that will be Little Fiction | Big Truths at AWP. I am excited, not-excited, nervous. This happens every single time I travel somewhere--choking anxiety followed by the push on through, the resolution, the one step in front of another and eventually you'll get there.

Matthew Kabik, who is a pretty smart dude and all kinds of wonderful besides, has written an open letter to the writing life that pretty much sums up my current frame of mind, irony of being on the edge of attending a writing conference notwithstanding. I am sad reading it, and also so relieved. Yes, yes, yes someone else feels the same way. Yes. 

Somewhere in the past ten years I started believing that writing could do something for me that it can't. What that something is, I still don't know. Or maybe it's just that I thought writing would solve a problem, and it is, it does, but the nature of this problem is that it never goes away, no matter how many times you solve it, or think you solve it, or come close to understanding. There is always another thing to uncover.

Last week I went to Toronto and had lunch with the spectacular woman behind KissCut Design and we talked art and work and life and hard times and I felt, walking through the Toronto sunshine later that day, a little like my old self. Excited like my old self. Hopeful like my old self. I am hoping that this feeling will come back to me at the conference. That I will search and see it and pin it to the ground and wrestle it and myself back to some kind of truth, together.

There has to be another way, I tell myself, even as I dream about flying away altogether and starting a new life somewhere else. Something more than feeling stuck where you are, grateful and also guilty because you don't love your job, because it drains you even as it's easy, because you feel buried under how grateful you are for the money and how tired you are from working all the time and then coming home and trying to work all the time when you're there. The words feel so much smaller than they used to, so paltry, so unimportant.

There has to be another way. There has to be another life.


Sunday, 29 March 2015

Dealing only in truth

A couple of weeks ago, Penguin Random House (love them forever) sent me a copy of this book to review:
They also sent me a copy of THE BURIED GIANT, which is wildly (ha) different from the book above and which--embarrassed face--I'm still trying to get through. I don't know why I'm having such a hard time with it, except to say that I used to inhale books back in the day and now I find it all so much more difficult. Harder to devote my attention, harder to really get swept away by a narrative. I don't know what that means.

Am I still even a book lover? Has that changed too, along with so many other things?

Or maybe I'm just a slower reader, now, than I used to be. Maybe I'm making a big deal out of things that just have tiny, simple, almost-invisible answers. I don't know.

*

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Thoughts and things

I haven't written in here in what feels like forever.

It has not been forever. It has only been one month, a little over.

I am so tired of the cold. Even though the snow is gone (hopefully for a long time) there's still a chill. Two weeks ago we had a Sunday where the temperature zoomed up into spring and you could see the difference in the people walking by you on the street. People were smiling. They looked looser, more excited, happy.

So many times I want to open my mouth and say things, these days, and I always end up thinking what's the point. 

I mean, not in the sense that I question whether there's a point to having your voice heard, putting what's turning over and over in your head actually out into the world. I know there's value in that. Something special about it, something that matters.


I just -- I don't know. I'm working so much now and making actual money -- money that isn't instantly gone to pay loans and debt and food and rent and all of those other things, although I'm still paying those things too, it's just that now there is more room -- and all of this is great, it is wonderful, and I am so grateful, I truly am, but I have no time to myself now where I'm not exhausted, and so I think: why bother with anything else? Why bother working so hard on things that might not see the world when you can just dig into your comfortable job--your unexpectedly interesting job that has put you in the path of so many fascinating people--and buy bookshelves for your house instead?

Why work hard for a chance at something when you can work hard for a definite something? Doesn't that make more sense? Doesn't that add up?

And I know, I know. You build a career, one story at a time. One word at a time. No one said this would be easy. (In fact, most people say it sucks.) You do it because you love it. Etc. etc. Or, you do it because it's so much a part of you now that you can't see any other way.

A few weeks ago one of the nurses at my work said that her greatest fear in life is for her daughter to grow up and decide she wants to be an artist.

I laughed. And then I went into the bathroom and cried a little, because she is right, because I'd have argued against her for so many years and now I just don't have the energy.



Friday, 13 February 2015

Feeding oneself

I'm going through the submissions to the Big Truths anthology and my heart is breaking, bit by bit. How lovely all of these stories are, and also how sad. How hungry they make me. They're all about food and they're also, every one of them, not about food at all so much as they are about love and sadness and sex and hurt and fear and longing and grief, so much grief, so much memory in the way that a wafer can taste when it dissolves on your tongue.

I feel humbled and so lucky to read them.

All of this reading about food has made me think about recipes--the food kind, yes, but also the mental kind, the things that you cobble together when you want to build a life. What do you carry with you? What do you hold close and then eventually let go? What mixes with this and that to make you who you are?

I joined a gym earlier in January. I'm not terribly out of shape but there is a certain pair of favourite pants that somehow, over the course of the past year, stopped fitting. I would like to wear them again. I would like to run regularly again and feel better, have more energy, be able to do more. Fit into my favourite summer dresses. Look into the mirror and think, maybe, maybe, maybe it's not so bad. Maybe you can build a life for yourself, with your running and your writing and your trips and your music and your pictures and it will all be okay. Books or not. Writing or not. Maybe this is a recipe, too, for how to be.

I'm up north for three days as of tomorrow. Lots of snowshoeing over a frozen lake and drinking tea and watching the wind blow through the trees. There may or may not also be guacamole involved. And dogs. There will be dogs.

(To cuddle with, obviously. One can be fed in all manner of ways.)

Sometimes the urge to say something and the simultaneous inability to find anything to say is so strong I almost can't stand it. I want...I don't know.

I want, I guess. I want to be fed.

Maybe that's all it is.








Sunday, 8 February 2015

Starstruck

I met Roxane Gay yesterday.

Roxane Gay.

Roxane Gay.

She came to IFOA and gave a reading, and a talk. I went for a late lunch with the altogether fabulous Dana of Editorial Eyes fame beforehand, wherein we fangirled and philosophized and ruminated on all that is right (and not so much so) with Canadian publishing. We also discussed Harlequin cowboys and cowboys in kilts, as you do.

And then we went to the talk. And the room was packed and I was so thrilled for her, this writer I've come to admire so much through the years, this woman who could command this kind of space. And she was introduced and came out onto the stage and she was every bit as beautiful and powerful and amazing as I thought she'd be, and she took a photo of the crowd and had us laughing before she'd said five words, and then she asked is Janet here? meaning Janet Somerville, queen of all things book and book-related in this country, and I saw Janet wave from the back and I was happy for her and also so jealous because Roxane Gay called her out by name.

And then Roxane turned back to the audience and she said, is Amanda here? and I jumped up like an idiot, a crazy idiot, and I waved my arm and squeaked out "Yes! I'm right here!" and she smiled and looked back at the both of us and then just said, "I know them both from Twitter."

And then she began her reading and her talk and I was basically done, finished, in heaven and blissed out and whatever else you want to call it.

Roxane Gay called me out by name.

Roxane Gay called me out by name. 

It was a lovely talk. So funny. So honest. So brave in so many places. I tried to live-tweet parts of it and then had to stop because it was all too much, too hard to think about tweeting when all I wanted to do was sit and absorb and think thank you thank you thank you a hundred times over.

Topics covered: Channing Tatum (but of course), Nick Jonas, publishing two books in one year, the backlash against Bad Feminist, the love for Bad Feminist, An Untamed State's journey to publication, the struggle around the perceived need to always have something to say on the Internet, some response to whatever's going on. Also random strangers wanting hugs on the street, and Jupiter Ascending, and Bill Cosby, and how nonfiction takes the writer into all kinds of places, and how it is possible to be both a shy and public person all at once. And a hundred other things.

She was so gracious, and so funny, and the whole thing was so wonderful and I did not want it to end, but end it did, and I filed out with everyone else and took my place in line with my books clutched tight, these books of hers that I'd read and loved, these books that had saved my life in some kind of way last year, when I read them and understood that it was possible to be flawed and contradictory and still want and hunger for more, for a better self, okay to be stumbling and sad on the page and still have that be part of what one shows to the world.

And I went up to her, and gave her my books to sign, and she said, "Amanda? As in, Amanda Leduc?" and when I said yes she smiled again and said, "It's so nice to finally meet you."

I wanted to say so many things. (Like: thank you for pronouncing my last name correctly!) But you don't get a lot of time in a book signing line, so I watched her sign my copies and I thanked her and told her how happy I was that things have gone so well for her, how much I think she deserves everything that has happened as a result of her writing. I'm sure she's heard it a million times by now but I really truly do believe it.

"Thank you," she said. "That means so much."

We talked a second more about her stay in Toronto (22 hours in total, fun fun), and she said, "Next time, we should hang out," and you know, it may or it may not come to pass but oh, what a lovely thing to have someone say to you, someone you've admired for so long. 

"Yes," I said. "Yes, definitely." 

And then I got out of the line, and she went on signing books, and I met up with my friends and we dispersed back out into the snow and went our ways and it all feels like a dream now, the loveliest dream I've had in a long time.