Sunday, 31 July 2011

YOSS Challenge: July

Okay, so this post is a huge cheat. I did not manage to write a short story of any kind in July. No flash fiction. No one-hundred word drabble. (Well, actually, there was a drabble, but I'm not a huge fan of it, not yet, and so in my desk drawer it shall stay for the time being.) In between working to save money for Scotland and then going to Scotland and in between the wedding and the shopping and the pancakes and the sausages and the maple syrup (so Scottish, I know) and the Espy and Iona and the delightful, drizzly Scottish rain and then the flight home and the stepping right back into work -- I found no time.

I apologize.

I did blog, though. I did keep track of my 365 project. And I certainly thought a great deal about stories throughout the course of July.

One story in particular.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Mysteries and loneliness (Or, Scotland: An Epiphany)

Two nights or so before I left Scotland, I had dinner at a great little Brazilian restaurant near the university. It was delicious, and the company was grand -- R. and N. and their friends S. and I., who also happened to be there, if you'll recall, on the night that I first got inkling of the book deal. Anyway, we had a grand time. Good food and good laughs and reminiscing over She-Ra and He-Man and other classic cartoons of youth. Castle Grayskull. Oh, the memories.

At one point, S. and I were talking about Scotland, and the different things that had brought us to Edinburgh. She is English, but has been living in Edinburgh for a number of years. She said something that fascinated me. Scotland is so barren, so inhospitable, and the beauty is so wild, so open. Sometimes I can't take it. I need to go back to England every now and again, just to be surrounded once again by rolling countryside, and gentle hills, and trees that give you shelter. 

And I had a another little eureka moment, in a trip that seems to have been full of them.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Horoscope fun

Yesterday was so filled with shopping and Indian food and movies and family-together-goodness that I didn't get a chance to check my birthday horoscope. So I did a little retroactive searching this morning, and look what I found:


A brush with fame -- or semi-fame -- leaves you wondering when your star will shine. Wonder no longer, as you need to get to work to make the right people sit up and take notice! 

From the hometown newspaper 

This year, you express a great deal of concern for others. Many of you will become involved in a key heartfelt cause. Others will be leaders in their field. No matter what comes down, you seem to know what to do. If you are single, you could meet someone of significance through your work. Try not to mix business and pleasure. If you can avoid that situation, all the better. If you are attached, share more of your away-from-home life. Otherwise, you could have a problem. TAURUS pushes you to achieve. 

And finally, from Georgia Nichols' website: (technically this is my horoscope for today, the 24th, but look what it says!)

This year and next are powerful for your career and public reputation. It's as if it's your turn to put your name up in lights! Trust your ability to do this. Enjoy travel, exploring new places and ideas, and capitalizing on publishing opportunities. You're going places!

Isn't that fun? Of course, who knows what might happen (every horoscope I've ever had, it seems, predicts that if I am single, I will "meet someone significant" in the coming year, and look how that's turned out), but all the same, it brought a smile to my face.

And now: waiting on sis and brother-in-law to arrive. Birthday dinner and berry trifle await. What a wonderful, wonderful weekend.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Birthday gifts

It is 6:45am on July 23 (no retroactive blog post yet!), and I am 29 years old today. And what do you know, but my first birthday present has come in the form of this lovely little book review for Instructions.

4 out of 5 stars! What a great way to start the day!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Joy on a plate (Or, A Writer and Her Bar)

Those of you who have followed my time in Scotland, both during this trip and during the time that I lived in Edinburgh, will probably at some point in the game have heard me talk of The Espy. The Espy, in a word, is nothing less than the greatest pub in Scotland (in my humble opinion, of course). When I lived in Portobello, I was lucky enough to be a scant half block away from the pub, and I made my way there at every opportunity, even going so far as to make sure I still had an Espy fund when the rest of my social money had dried up completely. 

When I moved back to Canada last November, I missed the pub like it was flesh-and-blood family. I pined for their nachos and their comfortable couch. I wanted nothing more than the chance to walk up to their door again and snuggle myself into their chairs and spend an afternoon writing away. I visited their webpage to keep up on all things Espy-related. I thought about the place so much that sometimes it still felt like I was there. And so, when the opportunity for this trip came up, naturally one of the things I was most excited about was the chance to see the pub again. And two days after the wedding, that's exactly what I did. I took the bus out to Portobello on a lovely summer's day and walked up to their door. There it was, squat and cheerful on the beach as ever. I could hear music, drifting out from inside. Laughter. The tinkle of glasses. It sounded like every other pub on the face of the planet, but only more special, because it was mine.  I'm here, I thought. I'm finally here. If my life was a soundtrack, at that moment in time At Last would have been wafting through the air. Etta James would have been standing by the pub door, arms open, ready to welcome me in. It was a magical, wonderful feeling.

And then I walked into the pub, and nothing happened.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Part Two

Morning on Iona dawned a bright and clear grey. I had big plans to catch the 8:30 ferry -- plans which wobbled a little bit when I discovered that the hotel wouldn't start serving breakfast until 8am, and then crashed completely when, at 8:20am, I ran to the desk to check out, only to discover that the clerk had actually gone down to MEET the ferry and drive new customers back to the hotel.

I was slightly disappointed, but as this afforded me another pot of tea and another half hour of relaxation in the dining room, the disappointment soon went away.

I also discovered this while enroute to the dining room that second time around. Notice anything unusual about this remote, rural Scottish bookshelf? Like, say, the discreet little maple leaf on display near the bottom?
I wonder if the Greater Victoria Public Library is still missing their copy of Changing Heaven.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Between God and a Thin Place

"Unto this place, small and mean though it be, great homage shall yet be paid, not only by the kings and peoples of the Scots, but by the rulers of barbarous and distant nations with their people. Thy saints also, of other churches, shall regard it with no common reverence."

-- St. Columba

"[It] is a 'thin place', with only a tissue paper separating the material from the spiritual.”

-- George Mackay Brown

Thursday, 14 July 2011

The east coast, and lovely dinners

Former instructor, over dinner tonight: "I'm so proud of you."

Today, as mentioned in yesterday's post, I made good on that respectably-timed reservation for a sea cruise on the east coast of Scotland. Said cruise took place off the shores of a lovely Scottish town called North Berwick. I got there early, and had two hours or so to putter around the streets (and the charity shops, naturally) of the town. I also took pictures of the shore and beachgoers as I puttered along.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Shopping can buy you happiness, and here's why

Confession: I worry, from time to time, that this blog strays a little farther from my writing life than it should. Sometimes I worry that I spend more time talking about food and flowers and dogs than I do about writing. And then I think: does this mean I don't take myself seriously, as a writer? Should I not be thinking words and phrases and verbs and character and syntax all day long? Should I not be devoting even more posts to the State of Literature, or the Gender Question in Fiction, or other, likewise things?

And then I realize, of course, that a writing life can still be a writing life in the midst of dogs and flowers and pretty dresses. And that somehow, things will all turn out okay ...

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The Luckiest

Tonight I had dinner at the house of a good friend. Broad beans sautéed with mushrooms and balsamic vinegar, green salad, to-die-for gooseberry crumble. We talked life and love and moving plans, climate change, and shared sketchy stories of life at the HI hostel in Jericho Beach. I discovered that there are hundreds of thousands of miles of fiber-optic cables sitting on the bottom of our oceans, carrying Internet and telephone data from one continent to the next.

I did not know this. I am surprised that I did not know this, but even more surprised at how it all makes a lovely kind of sense. I like to think of us all stretching long arms out to one another across the water and the sea. Somehow, I find it comforting.

After dinner, I walked home to the strains of "The Luckiest", because even though I've heard it a million times, it's still such a beautiful song. And I felt blessed by the music, by the cool Edinburgh air, by the fact that I'd enjoyed a lovely dinner and chats and laughter and new bits of knowledge. I felt -- and still feel -- surrounded by so many blessings of late. How wonderful, and how lucky, to know so many wonderful people, to have this wonderful chance of a trip. How lucky I was and am to be walking home on an Edinburgh night at all, secure in the knowledge of days more to come!

Monday, 11 July 2011

It's one am, Edinburgh time, and ...

I am so happy and contented and fulfilled right now that the thought of going back to Canada actually makes me nervous. This despite the fact that there might very well be some exciting things in Canada in the near near future. Still.

Edinburgh, how I love you. How I wish I could stay forever ...

Day 36: Maple sugar and other exciting things

Blissful day. The weather was gorgeous (apparently it's all right for the sun to shine now, seeing as how the wedding is over), and I spent most of my time perusing the charity shops and soaking in Edinburgh sunshine. R & N had to get some clothes for the honeymoon, so off they went, and I strolled the streets on my own until meeting up with them a little bit later in the day. They were with another friend, who was himself buying clothes for vacation -- we went through the shops on Princes Street and then stopped in Princes Street Gardens for a while, just soaking in the sun. Weather like this doesn't often come to Scotland, as well we all know.
I heart the sunshine!

Sunday, 10 July 2011


Puttered around today, doing post-wedding things. Went to the reception hall in the morning and helped R & N clear up, and then I went for a wee walk on my own -- got some groceries, took a few pictures, etc. I got R & N some ice wine and maple syrup/sugar as a wedding present, so of course they asked for pancakes, and you can't have pancakes without sausage, so off I went for that.

Anyway, came home and puttered around in my room for a bit. N's parents, who are from Ireland but were in town, obviously, for the wedding, came by, along with his sister and her partner. I didn't want to intrude on family time, so was happily working away in my room. And then R. came in a while later, and asked me to join them for dinner.

"But I don't want to impinge on family time," I said. "Seeing as how they've come specifically to see you."

"But you are family," she said.

And, well, my heart just went all warm and fuzzy. And now the night is dark, and quiet, and I'm full of cheese and bread and wedding cake, and feel ever so loved indeed.

The wedding, and white hot moments of joy

I’m here. I’m actually here. And by now I’ve walked up and down the closes, trammeled my feet across countless stones, taken pictures. I don’t know where to start.

So of course I suppose it makes sense to start at the beginning, then, back on the day of the flight. A fairly uneventful day – up too early (3:40am, thank you travel jitters), off to the hospital with my mother in the morning, and then a few hours spent lounging in the hospital lobby, using their free Internet to catch up on True Blood and Glee and other delightful things. Made my way to the bus station for 2pm, though not before seeing my mother one last time and giving her a goodbye-but-don’t-worry-it’s-only-for-two-weeks hug. Got on the bus to Toronto. Arrived at bus station, and celebrated the beginning of my two weeks’ vacation with a veggie hotdog, straight from the grill outside Union Station.

Is there anything finer than street meat on a hot day in Toronto? I think not. Moment of joy for July 7, absolutely. (And yes, you may take that any way you see fit …)

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Day 31: Love, gardening, and childhood memories

Today my mother and I stopped at my grandparents' on the way home from work, ostensibly to pick up a table but also, as it happened, so that I could say a quick goodbye before flying to Scotland tomorrow eve.

My grandparents built their first and only house in 1953, the year before my mother was born. They raised six children in a three bedroom house, and fed them with love and laughter and hundreds of fresh, home-grown vegetables. When I was a child, their garden was enormous. They grew corn and rhubarb and sweet peas and snap peas and carrots, tomatoes and onions and squash and lettuce and hundreds of other things over the years. My earliest memory of my grandparents' house is of picking peas with my grandmother -- watching them drop into the pail and fill it up was the most amazing kind of magic. (Years later, I discovered that I was rather quickly taken off pea duty because I was squishing the pods between my fat little hands. Ah, well. In my memory, I was the most obedient, most careful of pickers, and that's how the memory shall stay.)

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Day 30: Approved

So it would appear that A Cake of One's Own has officially been approved as a Kickstarter project. Wonderfulness!

Now, however, I have to make a video. And seeing as how my previous forays into videomaking have been amateur at absolute best (and cringeworthy at their worst), this is cause for no small amount of concern. No matter. The lovely people at Kickstarter (who sign their "Welcome to your Project" emails with Love, Kickstarter -- how awesome is that?) say that one can take all the time they need to put the profile of their project together. And maybe my AV whiz friends can help. We'll see.

In the meantime -- yay! Maybe that dream of a year's travel around the world is still within grasp.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Day 29: Giggle Therapy

I've been somewhat down and frustrated of late. That is, somewhat more frustrated and down than I seem to have been for the past, I don't know, year and a half or so. Sheesh.

Today I tallied up my job application list and discovered that since I started applying to jobs in Canada -- keeping in mind here that I started applying to jobs back in June of last year, when I was pretty sure that I would be moving back to Canada-land, and thus have been applying to jobs for a year now -- I have amassed a list of 137 job applications.

One. Hundred. And. Thirty. Seven. Jobs.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Day 28: Sleep, glorious sleep

Another simple thing for today. Today, after a long day not spent doing anything in particular but in doing a whole host of smallish little things, a day in which I started feeling tired right after I woke up and am now about to fall into bed pretty much exhausted, I am thankful for and rejoice in my comfy, comfy bed, and a safe room in which to sleep.

There have been times when I was not so comfortable.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Day 27: The Ivories

When I was nine years old, I spent a good year or so bugging my parents for piano lessons. We'd gotten a keyboard for the previous Christmas (you know, one of the cool synthesizing kind that played all kinds of funky sound effects in addition to being an instrument), and when I wasn't scribbling stories or poetry--this was back before I'd realized I wasn't a poet--I was playing on the piano. I wanted lessons. Real bad.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Day 26: Young the Giant

I heard this song for the first time a few days ago, on the radio. And now I'm totally in love. I feel the way I did when I was nineteen and a piece of music made the whole world seem like it was made of joy.

Suddenly I can't get enough of this band. And suddenly, middle-of-nowhere Ontario farmhouse and impoverished writer status notwithstanding, the world seems like a lovely, powerful place to be.

My body tells me no/ but I won't quit/ 'cause I want more

I do want more. I want all of it. No quitting from this corner, either.