Saturday, 16 August 2014

"The only things getting tapped here are the maple trees."

I went on vacation. It wasn't that long and it wasn't really that far, but it was enough. Earlier this summer friends of mine retired and moved from Hamilton to just north of Belleville, and now they own a house on a point with three docks and a beach and a boathouse and a bunkie and it is pretty much as perfect as you could want. I had breakfast on the dock and swam in the lake and on the second day, when it rained, I stayed inside and wrote the whole day long.

Monday, 4 August 2014

The BIG, BAD BLOG HOP

Well, not really bad. But it sounds nice as a title, doesn't it?

So a few weeks ago -- maybe a month? Time just blurs on by now as I advance in years -- the super swell Jen Sookfong Lee got in touch and asked if I wanted to participate in a blog hop. You know, one of those happy little games of "writer's tag" that take the Internet over every now and again. Since Jen is super swell (have I said that already?) and was also nice enough to TALK ABOUT MIRACLES ON CBC RADIO back in the day, naturally I said yes.

Here's how it works: you get an invitation to partake in the blog hop, you say yes, you answer four questions about your work, and then you steer the spotlight right on over to two other writers, who will themselves take part in the blog hop two weeks after your original post. Sounds easy, right? Super easy peasy as pie.

Naturally, I thought long and hard about my answers to the questions and then promptly forgot about posting until the morning of. So now here I am, typing madly into my wee laptop and trying to remember what I'd wanted to say when I was thinking long and hard about the questions in the first place. (Have I mentioned that time is passing on by and my memory goes with it?)

Never fear, though: you'll find my (hopefully more than semi-) coherent answers to the questions after the jump. Once you're done reading, I highly suggest you hop back on over to Jen's blog post about the same, to hear what she has to say about her own work (and also to see that she wants to have multiple drinks with me in the future, which means it's more or less a duty of mine to go to Vancouver now and make sure that happens, no?), and also to follow the links on over to the blog of Brian Francis, who agreed to the blog hop the same time that I did.

Also ALSO, when you're done here, you need to bookmark the websites of Liz Windhorst Harmer and Kevin Hardcastle, writer besties of mine who very kindly agreed to keep the blog hop torch -- look, I'm mixing metaphors and it isn't even noon! -- high and flyin' on their own sites in two weeks' time. Suckers.


Sunday, 27 July 2014

La belle ville

Last week I treated myself to a mini birthday present and spirited over to Montreal for a couple of days. It was, in a word, magnifique. 

I love Montreal. The last time I was there was in 2009, and I remember feeling the same then as now--like I'd stepped into a world exotic and exciting and yet just similar enough to home to feel comfortable and safe. The staircases, the flowers, the sidewalk cafes.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Falling asleep on porch benches

I was up at my parents' place on the weekend, helping to celebrate their 40th anniversary. Forty years of marriage--holy smokes. My sisters came up too and we spent hours on Saturday going through old family pictures. My father's mother had a glamour shot done when she was in her early twenties--she looks like a movie star. My grandfather, too--there's a snapshot of him walking down a busy city street, dapper in a dark suit, hands in his pockets, trenchcoat flaring in the wind.

Another of my maternal grandmother and her four siblings, splashing in an iron tub. Still another of my parents in their early early twenties, long-haired and happy and building a life for themselves out on the West Coast.

And my niece! So many pictures of my niece now. Seven months old and drinking the world in, drop by delicious drop.

I stole some time on the porch on Sunday afternoon and opened a library book, then promptly fell asleep. The bees and the breeze and the hummingbirds--you know how it is.

Later this week I head to Montreal for a few days. A wee birthday gift to myself. In and around the depanneurs and Old Montreal and the fireworks (on my birthday! Just for me!), I'm hoping to squeeze in some writing time. And some writing talks with good friends old and new. (Though there is always the train en route and back, of course, so perhaps some writing will get done in there instead and I will just eat lots of ice cream. Probably that.)

I like myself so much more now in my thirties but the sense of possibility in this decade is very different. 

It's not a bad thing, necessarily. (I also recognize that it's a bit silly. There's a whole lotta possibility left.) Still--the anxiety, it's never far away. Must do more. Must be more. And all the writing that is never good enough. So sometimes it is nice to step outside of the regular world and fall asleep on a lounger, in the sun, just because. To remember that the world requires nothing of you except to enjoy the sunshine when it comes.


Sunday, 13 July 2014

The gambler and the optimist walk into a bar...

Ten years or so ago I went to the casino with my mother for the very first time. Stepping in felt like stepping into a slightly nightmarish funhouse--all those bright lights, all that noise.

"Don't worry," my mother said. "It'll fade into a background hum after a while."

And yes, fade away it did. After a few minutes of intro-talk (what machines to zoom in on! what machines to avoid! don't play those dollar machines if you value your bank account!) my mother left me and sped off in search of her favourite machine. I meandered down the aisles for a while until I found a machine that looked okay--squat and not overly flashy, with a smiling, jolly cartoon cowboy inviting you all to sit down. It was a ten cent machine, or maybe it played quarters. It might have played quarters--I'm not quite sure now. But I sat down and dutifully fed the smiling cowboy my twenty and off we went. A couple of plays and then a bonus round! And then another bonus round! Pretty soon I had doubled my twenty and then some. This is great, I thought. How come I haven't gone gambling before? I didn't even mind when the cowboy--sneaky bastard that he was--eventually recouped all my winnings. No big deal, I thought. There's an ATM machine right over there in the corner! I'll just pop over and take out some more money...

Eventually the jolly cowboy took that money too. I stopped a short while after that, feeling sick, and spent the rest of my time wandering the aisles again, looking at the people playing the machines and wondering if it was true that some of them were wearing Depends. You don't leave your slot machine behind if you know what's good for you. You just do not. When my mother came out to meet me at the front, she found me scribbling a story on the back of a grocery receipt I'd found stuffed in my purse.

"Have fun?" she said.

"Yeah. I guess."


Monday, 30 June 2014

On the Canada Writes Creative Non-Fiction Longlist!




My piece, "Holy Ghost", has been longlisted for this year's CBC Canada Writes Creative Non-Fiction Contest. Three cheers!

What a nice way to start the week. The longlist is composed of excellent writers and I'm thrilled to be in their company!

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Literary friendships, and saying goodbye...

We have the same hair! We were kindred spirits even then.
Fifteen years ago, I won in my age category in a little writing contest put on by the Hamilton Public Library. It was called The Power of the Pen. The whole business of the thing--the little ceremony that they gave us, having our stories and poetry printed in the paper, winning A HUNDRED DOLLARS TO SPEND AT A BOOKSTORE--was just so entirely beyond cool. Someone not related to me thought my story was good enough to win a prize! That had to mean something, right? Surely, from hereon in, it would be all book contracts and smooth sailing and fun writerly times, n'est-ce pas?

It wasn't, as of course we all know. As of course anyone with any ounce of sense would have known at the time. So you win a little writing contest. Big deal. There are many, many mountains on the Alpine Path, little Emily Starr-wannabe. If only you knew what was waiting ahead. If only you knew. 

But hey. Guess who's sitting right beside me in that little celebratory picture? Why, it's none other than the lovely and ferociously talented Liz WIndhorst Harmer.

We go way back, she and I.