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.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

On playing my first jig

Eighteen years ago, I got a fiddle for my birthday. It was 1996 and Hi, How Are you Today had been making its way through All Of The Radio Stations. I was wildly in love with Ashley MacIsaac. (This was before I knew that he was gay, obviously.)

Even more than that: I was going to be the next Ashley MacIsaac. I wanted to be stomping and fiddling and winding my way around a stage, somewhere. You could fiddle and dance at the same time. It was the ultimate dream.

I wanted to be Scottish. I wanted to be Irish. I wanted a voice and an accent that was sexier and more musical and more interesting than I could ever hope to be. You could be a writer and a musician, couldn't you? You could write and play piano and play violin and take pictures and be a dancer and do all of these things in exactly the same kind of perfectionist way, couldn't you? You could be good at all of these things, couldn't you?

I took lessons for six months. Maybe a little less. And then I put the violin away and didn't touch it, more or less, for most of the the next sixteen years.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Celebrity bookselling and other random things

I am doing duty at a bookstore in downtown Hamilton today. Bookselling at the lovely JH Gordon Books, y'all. After a few scary moments at the beginning of the day when I was unable to find the store keys and then forgot to flip over the OPEN sign, things are now peachy. If you're in town, come say hello.
Did you know that just *being* in a bookstore makes you more attractive? COME TEST THE THEORY.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

What happens when you show up.


I saw this video a couple of years ago, right at the zenith of my Eat, Pray, Love fascination. (If you don't already know, I am a big fan--all the love and all that jazz--of Elizabeth Gilbert. She's up there with Cheryl Strayed. Go here for some more ramblings on my love for both writers, and my not-so-subtle admission that said love might make me one hair shy of a stalker.)

What I love about this talk is the idea that maybe, just maybe, inspiration isn't so magical and out-of-the-way and impossible to reach after all. It's an idea that doesn't always stick with me. Perhaps this is why, whenever the conviction comes again, I'm always glad to be reminded of it.