Thursday, October 19, 2017

Now Available: Cradle of the Deep

Available now: my mother's memoir, CRADLE OF THE DEEP: MEMOIR OF A LAKE SUPERIOR COTTAGE.

 It's really real!

My sister, Sue Agnew, and I have been working for months to make make her family stories available for the next generation, and for her extended "family."

This project has been a real labour of love: first for my mother and now for my sister and me.

Mom would be saying, "They're just family stories!" But if you're interested in life in northwestern Ontario in the 1920s and 30s, early cottage life (my mother had to train herself not to call it "the camp"), mathematicians, history and memoir in general, or (eventually) juggling kids and a beloved summer spot 1200 miles from home, you might enjoy reading it.

Hooray for publication day!
Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Challenge: Taking a Moment

Recently a friend was posting a black-and-white photography challenge, and added my name to her challenge list.

I don't always do challenges, but this one was fun and came at a good time. I'm moving a lot of projects ahead but in teeny tiny increments, and it can get frustrating.

Looking for a good black-and-white photo on my near-daily walk forced me to take a moment.

And here they are.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Enjoy the Process

My work has found a few new readers in the past six months, and I'm grateful for that. I enjoy sharing my thoughts and hearing others respond.

Recently I've switched focus from sending work out. I'm spending more time at the page, scribbling, creating and revising and editing, and finishing commitments to others.

It's so easy to focus on the product--the publication. "Where have you been published?" "My work has appeared in x, y, and z." It's how you connect with the outside world.

But I'm ready to be back at the page. So I'm telling myself, "Enjoy the process."

Recently, my husband and I were driving home from town at the time of the evening when a large, near-full moon was rising. Even though I knew better, I couldn't resist trying to get a picture of it.

Here's what I got.

Yup, not only TRYING TO TAKE A PHOTO FROM A MOVING CAR, but impeccable timing: behind the road sign.

More impeccable timing: behind the roadhouse.

At least in this one you can kind of see the moon, though also: hydro tower.

You can see another hydro tower looming on the left, but this one also exposes (haha get it?) the sheer folly of trying at all to 1. get a great shot of a rising moon 2. from a moving car 3. with a cellphone camera.

I'm sure "real" photographers could achieve results that are SO MUCH better than this, even with the same parameters.

But, as it turned out, the results weren't the point.

Just trying, even though I knew all the layers of folly, was worth doing. It let the two of us share a project--on a drive home that we've made a million times, at the end of a long day, in the brief respite between spending money at the grocery store and stocking the kitchen shelves.

The process was fun. 

And I've been enjoying, somewhat, the process of creating new work, sculpting new visions of existing work, idly dreaming new dreams of different kinds of work.

The results may well be the writing equivalent of blurry, ill-timed photos of a rising moon. But that's okay. It's challenging and rewarding. And that's sometimes fun, and sometimes even better.
Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Without Words

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Lines on a Page

One way I relax is to draw lines on pages. One page at any given time. But, over the years, many pages. Many sketchbooks of pages, in fact.

I like sketchbooks. I like drawing lines in them. They get full. The End.
Let's be clear: I do not do this as ART, art, or art, and I don't even do it as art. It is not a statement about anything.

Except that I like colo(u)rs. I like doing something with my hands. I like to do repetitive tasks when I need to relax, focus, or daydream.

It's fun for me. Colo(u)red pens and what people here call "pencil crayons" add to the fun. Some lines I make are official Zentangles (TM) (go to the link to see what it's all about) but (I love to follow rules, but also, I don't) most aren't.

I have even filled at least one sketchbook with straight lines in different widths and colo(u)rs, when I was first playing with a particular set of felt-tip pens. (Crayola, okay? I'm telling you, I'm not a serious artist.) I've chosen not to save those in my Really Useful Box (TM) of sketchbooks and instead have used those pages in other of my non-art projects.

For example, I still participate in a summer creative challenge called "Index Card-A-Day" or ICAD, as I did in 2014. (Quick version: from June 1 through July 31, you decorate an index card in some way.) In fact, I've done some version of this project every summer (thanks, Tammy!) though I still don't participate in the official groups because writing is enough pressure, and I enjoy doing something that's not for public consumption.

(Full disclosure--for the past two years I haven't even been using an index card, which is about the ONLY rule Tammy insists on. Which is another reason I don't share--I don't want to clog her Instagram feed or Facebook group with non-actual-ICAD posts. Instead, I've been using those small envelopes that my father used to call "personal" envelopes. Not the ones that bills [and sometimes cheques or checks] arrive in. For some reason we have hundreds of those small envelopes, some many decades old, and we NEVER use them. So, daily during ICAD season, I've been doing something with the outside of an envelope and then slide in some sort of detritus from my day--a leaf from my walk, a receipt from a supper out, the grocery list, the stir-stick from my coffee, a bit of paper reminding me of sometime I'm grateful for.)

I bring this up because art-ish (near-art, art-esque, art-adjacent) projects are fun for me. And sometimes, while I'm drawing lines on a page, I think about what some of my characters might be doing. As in, what idiotic thing is Martin up to now? But mostly, I just draw lines on a page. And it's fun.
Wednesday, September 20, 2017


Revising. Man oh man. So, you remember how Fred Flintstone drives his car? How, after he leaps in, he has to scrabble his feet for a while before the car finally starts moving?

Recently I realized I've been doing some of that as I revise this novel.

It's been going well. Sorta. That is, I've been making lots of changes. After the initial surgical removal of an entire plot line, the word count has been rising and falling as I cut and replace and expand and lop again.

But. Have I made progress? Yes! and no. I completed several large tasks and tracked the ripples through the rest of the chapters. After that, my activity took the form of messing around making smaller changes, without actually addressing the crucial big revisions that represent the necessary, exciting, and scary improvement to the last two-fifths of the book.

But I didn't know that I was stalling. After all, I was working every day, changing words! Adding them! Cutting them! See? Progress!

Last week I met a writer for a "parallel play" work session, and we started with a status: an "I am here" statement. Without necessarily meaning to, I articulated a. that I was avoiding the second half, b. why I was avoiding the second half (more or less) (beyond "it's scary," which is a given) and c. why I really really wanted to stop avoiding the second half.

And somehow, my brain heard that as "Hey, there's a problem; let's start conjuring some solutions." All kinds of possibilities have suddenly appeared for the second half of the book, most of them focused on that last two-fifths. Now all that remains ("all") is to implement those ideas. (Which I am actually doing. Yes! Progress!)

All it took ("all") was the right setting, the right time, and a trusted listener.

And perhaps a few days or a week of Flintstone-ing ahead of time. Or who knows, maybe those days weren't strictly necessary. Or maybe they were this time but won't be in the future. But now I know I might need to ask myself whether it's time to pick up my feet and just let the car just go.
Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Medical Things

I had a medical checkup today. Here are a few things I've been pondering in the car and waiting rooms, and, to be honest, in the middle of the night last night.

1. Medical appointments aren't performances. They are simply progress reports--a way for you to find out the way you're living, even on those days you don't have an appointment.

2. However. Even knowing #1, sometimes you (one) (I) can't help but be nervous about a medical appointment. (See: middle of the night last night.)

3. As my sister said when I was texting her from the waiting room, "Everybody's got something." We're all human, and humans are imperfect, and even when you're (one is) (I'm) generally healthy, which I am and am extremely grateful for, things happen. Sometimes big things, sometimes small. Sometimes they need fixing, sometimes they don't, and sometimes they can't be fixed.

4. For the most part, it's good when your doctor isn't particularly interested in you. You WANT to be boring. You don't want to be the person who keeps her awake at night. You want to be the ho-hum one who gets checkmarks and prescription refills and heads back to normal life.

Today I got to remember all of these things--and head back to normal life. Whew.

I'm also sending kind thoughts and solidarity to my friends and relatives (and yes, strangers) whose lives have been turned upside down recently--literally, in the cases of those living in Texas and Florida, and physically, for some who have had medical issues. Everywhere, people are rebuilding their lives in significant ways. They're creating new definitions of "normal life."

We're with you. Y'all got this.