Saturday, 24 March 2012

Recovery, Fangirling, and Literary Mischief

Finally -- the cold seems to have retreated in defeat. Hallelujah! Though I still have this cough that sneaks up every now and then. I feel like I'm emerging back into the world from a germ-induced fog. Back to the computer. Back to the notebook. Back to the words.

Even awash in sickness and snot, though (aren't I painting pretty pictures for you today?) somehow I still found time to get up to literary mischief during these past few weeks. Fun times!

1) Literary Luncheons and Other Endeavours

For years now, ever since I spent time in Edinburgh and got to experience the magic that is their literary salon, I've had a dream. A dream of an opening and welcoming space for writers that isn't quite as official as a literary salon (going to a salon all by your lonesome is terrifying) but isn't just a meet-and-greet-free-for-all either. I want to meet other writers, the dream went, and I want to do it over yummy food. I mean, what could be more perfect than that? So I resolved, years ago, that when I was finally in a space of my own and had the means to do so (this is key, since I had hardly any means at all, of any kind, when I was in Scotland), I would host a literary lunch.

A literary lunch? How exactly, one might say, is that different from a literary salon? I suppose it isn't that different, in a way. It's still a space for writers and readers to get together and network -- it just happens slightly earlier in the day. But I gambled on the fact that I was hosting said lunch in my teeny tiny (but wonderful, oh so wonderful) apartment. There's only so much pomp and circumstance one can sustain when you're in a space sans couch, when people have to sit on the floor and eat with their hands. This is what I figured, anyway. So I took the plunge. I posted an ad on Kijiji, advertising said lunch, sat back, and waited to see if anyone was crazy enough to respond. I also talked about the lunch on Twitter, and put out Twitter feelers to see if any of my tweeps were interested in coming.

And wouldn't you know it, but people were interested! Excited, even. And they promised to bring food as well! So time went by, and I drew up my menu, and on Saturday, March 17th, Hamilton had its very first Literary Lunch.

It was a grand success. There were seven of us there in total, a mishmash of writers and booklovers and artsy types. My apartment was more than big enough for everyone. No one minded sitting on the floor. (I did have extra chairs, and we made ample use of those.) And for people who had never really met each other face-to-face prior to the day (some of us knew each other from Twitter, and I had been lucky enough to meet two of the ladies who came at previous engagements), we all got along swimmingly well. I got to see the folks behind Not My Typewriter, and Lay Off The Books!  It was fantastic. So fantastic that we've decided to make a monthly thing of it. The Lit Lunch for April is being held at the home of one of the girls who came to this inaugural event (her name is Sara, and you can find her here), and we have big plans for literary-themed things later in the year. Fun fun! So, you know, if you're in Hamilton (or heck, from Toronto, or anywhere, really) and feel a hankering for some of the Lit Lunch fantasticness, keep an eye out on this blog. I'll be blogging and talking details about the next one soon enough. Hopefully it's just the first step towards strengthening Hamilton's network of writers and readers and booklovers galore.

One of the girls who came, too, just happens to be opening a bookstore in Hamilton later this year. So we got all giddy and bookish talking about that. I foresee great things from this Lit Lunch phenomenon. I'm so glad I did it. And I hope that I get to host another lunch at my place at some point in the summer, so I can make use of my lovely little patio!

2) Pivot Reading Series

Back in the spring of 2011, when I was living at home with my parents and trying not to splinter under the constant barrage of rejections from publishers, I read an essay in the Spring 2011 Nonfiction Contest Issue of PRISM International. The essay in question was "Missing In Action", by Ayelet Tsabari, and I loved it so much that when I finished reading the essay I instantly Googled Ayelet's name and read everything I could about her. I devoured her website and decided that my own website was definitely in need of a revamp. Then I decided that Ayelet was my new favourite name, even though I didn't know how to pronounce it. (Eye-let, like the fabric? Eh-let? What?) Then I read "Missing in Action" again, and cried, because it was incredibly obvious to me that my own life would never be one iota as interesting as the life of this woman. And then I cried because it was also incredibly obvious that I'd never be as a good a writer as she was, either. And then I cried because my novel was being rejected left, right, and centre, and I was penniless and living with my parents, and I'd never been to Goa, and would probably never travel anywhere again ever, nor would I make money, make anything at all of myself, live on my own again, or do any of the exciting things that normal people do, because I was a failed writer doomed to walk her parents' dog along a quiet country road for all eternity. The End.

Anyway. As we all know, eventually I got a job, moved out of my parents' house, and started climbing back to the front of civilization again. I kept writing. I got that lovely little acceptance from ECW. I put "forthcoming novel publication" on my CV, and started to think that maybe this writing endeavour wasn't hopeless after all. Etc. etc.

And then, one day early this year, Ayelet Tsabari started following me on Twitter.

Ayelet. Tsabari. Followed. Me. 

Honest to God, it was like being followed by a movie star. So I instantly followed her back, and sent her a little direct message saying how much I loved her essays. And she wrote back almost right away, and suddenly I was bantering back and forth with Ayelet. Tsabari.

And. Then. She said, "Hey! I remember your work -- I read Evolution when it was published in PRISM and loved it!"

Cue heart explosion, right there. We're funny little creatures, we writers. (Or maybe I am just stranger than most. It's a definite possibility.) That nod from a writer you admire is the greatest elixir ever.

ANYWAY. The upshot of all of this was that Ayelet and I decided that we definitely needed to meet and have a literary lunch of our own at some point in the year. And when I heard that she was going to be reading in Toronto at the end of March as part of the Pivot Readings Series, I decided that I just had to go. The cool thing about that, too, was that a friend of mine from my UVic days, the poet and short story writer Caroline Szpak, was now living in Toronto, so I decided to make a grand night of it and see them both at the Pivot Reading on March 21st. And that, my friends, is exactly what happened.

I'm guessing that I've gushed enough, and am now probably verging on creepy, but suffice to say that the night was wonderful. It was so lovely to see Caroline, and catch up (and she gave me a copy of her chapbook! And it is amazing! I am blessed and so lucky to be surrounded by so many talented people), and meeting Ayelet in person was just amazing. We have mad plans for a lit lunch of our own sometime soon, and I'm a giddy kid at Christmas just thinking about it. She's a great reader, and if you find yourself in Toronto you should definitely look and see when next she's reading, because it will totally be worth your time. I guarantee it. Her collection of short fiction, The Best Place on Earth, will be coming out with HarperCollins in the spring of 2013 (which is also cool, because it means that our books have the same birthday season, hurray!), and if you don't know it already, you should definitely hear her story of how it came to be published.

And I should stop fangirling now, I think. Moving on.

3) Last but not least ...

I, erm, appear to be on the shortlist for PRISM International's 2012 Short Fiction contest. Happy dance! What a nice email to receive. I'm sharing spots on the shortlist with a host of really talented writers, so just being in their company makes me all warm and fuzzy. Huzzahs all round.

And just think: a year ago I was unemployed, penniless, living at home, and worried that things would never happen. Now, here I am, surrounded by the richness of new friendships and words. Moral of the story? Who knows what goodies the future might hold ...


  1. It all just sounds so lovely! Congrats on the shortlist, you talented lady you.


  2. Thanks Pamela! :) How's life in Vancouver treating you these days?


  3. Sounds like things are going so well for you. Well done! It's all so well deserved and I'm thrilled!

    1. Thanks lovely! Things really are going surprisingly well. I'm sure there's all kinds of lessons in there for me about letting go, and stopping all the worry (ie. should I be in Hamilton? Should I be travelling? Should I be .. elsewhere? etc). I am trying to sit back and enjoy all of it.

      Will be that much more to enjoy now that the cold has disappeared, I'm sure.


  4. I feel the same way as Sinéad and Pamela. I'm very happy that you're living your dream right now: in your own place, writing, publishing, hanging out with authors and other lit all sounds so fun!

    And congratulations on making the short list! It really does not surprise me. :)

    1. Thank you so much, my dear! It's been fun. I hope that the rest of the year holds more of the same ... and maybe even a trip or two out Belleville way.

      And thanks, too, for your vote of confidence re: the shortlist. I'm all warm and fuzzy inside now. The news certainly came as a surprise to me. :)


  5. Well, how is it pronounced?

    1. Eye-yell-at.

      I think it's so pretty!