Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Such Excellent Company

Today, The New Quarterly announced the longlist for the 2017 Edna Staebler Personal Essay contest, and I have an essay on it! At the link, you'll see the other writers in whose company I am thrilled to have work. (She said roundaboutly.)

The folder holding drafts of "Atomic Tangerine" is several inches thick. No kidding. It's been, as they say, a journey, one I'm still on.

I've had really insightful and substantive feedback from writers whose opinions I value very highly. So it's lovely that the essay is recognized at this level.

And now, back to work on three other pieces that are still forming and swirling and shedding dead weight, where I hope to apply what I learned from all those drafts of "Atomic Tangerine."

Many many thanks to The New Quarterly for administering this contest--they're a lot of (often rewarding) work, and I appreciate the opportunity to participate as an entrant.
Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Something Else She Was Right About

"She" being my mother. Of course.

What she was right about: talking about something only to vent, without aiming at a solution, isn't particularly helpful.

Yes, sometimes people "think aloud," and sometimes people just need to express frustration.

But not every issue requires--or benefits from--my input. The world doesn't need another horrified person expressing anger or horror or sadness.

Besides, if too many people are talking, who's left to listen?

I don't mean to imply I'm not writing (revising/editing/dreaming)--I am. I'm doing my own work, even when I'm not sure of its originality or cosmic value. I'm doing the work that is mine to do.

And in the rest of the time, I try to keep my mouth shut and listen--for new voices, new ideas, new resolve.
Wednesday, June 7, 2017


June brings longer days, shorter nights, and chores--ongoing, unrelenting, neverending chores. Both continuous and continual.

Still, there's always time to read. I recently finished Medicine Walk, by Richard Wagamese. So much to ponder. Two things stand out immediately: how the characters stand so firmly on the land, and how physical work is described.

Picking up the book at random, here's a short sample of a chore (from page 186):
The ground was stony beyond the scrim of topsoil. It was gravel, mixed with sand and rocks the size of bread loaves. He bashed away at it and had to get a pick from the trailer and he swung it hard, the clink and the clip of its bite echoing dully off the trees. He'd broken a sweat by the time the hole was cleared enough to get the post-hole digger at it.
I've never done work that hard, but I've broken a sweat like that, felt daunted by the first post-hole-equivalent in that way, and been glad of a water jug, just as this character was.

I wrote about some of that type of work in the essay that appeared in Compose last month, though much of my work that afternoon was mental, not physical.

As this summer wears on, I'll read other books. But when I work, I'll remember this one. I'm so glad Richard Wagamese wrote it and it was published so I could read it.
Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Seasons Change

I love May. My surroundings change so much--from mud and dirty and lingering snow to green, out-of-control grass and budding birches.

I also hate May. I get really grouchy. It's hayfever season--merely annoying to me but seriously annoying to my husband until all the trees quit dropping pollen everywhere.

Mostly, it's just that May brings change. Between-ness is uncomfortable to me. Even though I'm celebrating the fact that I finished a lot of work (and some recent visible publications! bonus!) this winter, I still didn't do everything I wanted.

So I've been struggling a bit--trying to get out from under layers, like the ones below that kept me company yesterday as evening fell.

Summer is just...different.

For one thing, we're outdoors more of the time--but never, it seems, enough.

Most important, my energy for writing and revising is different, so it's time to change projects. New writing is stirring--I can almost feel it in my palms. It's exciting.

So I put away the remnants of the projects from the winter and spring I didn't quite get to and try to focus on what I did finish.

And I'm (still, always) listening--to new voices, to long-ignored voices, to new-to-me-voices, to inner voices, to the voices of this beautiful, beautiful world.
Wednesday, May 24, 2017

May is "Marion Overshares" Month

Just kidding, sorta.

"Sorta" because both essays that went "live" this month shine a spotlight on elements of my life that may not be social media-worthy. Though I did write them, and I did submit them for publication, and they're out there. So any second thoughts are a couple of years/decades too late.

August heat and obsessive love at Gravel Magazine in "Through the Hearts of Space": 
You drive through the August night. The swampy heat climbs the back of your neck to twine in your hair, where it clings like kudzu. 

The aftermath of illness at Compose in "Bypass Instructions": 
On a sunny early-August morning, I load my new chainsaw, the squeeze bottle of cherry-coloured oil, and the small pair of loppers into the red wheelbarrow. 

But I said "just kidding" because I've been very lucky. By circumstances of birth, I have a lot of choice about what to share and what not to.

Others, as I continue to learn by listening (my word and my work for 2017) live in a different reality. One in which their voices often remain unheard. I have a responsibility to listen to them.

So here's a list, from the fabulous resource The 49th Shelf, of Books by First Nations and Inuit Women. These titles are just a few of those I hope to immerse myself in this summer.

And while I'm at it, The 49th Shelf has tons of lists, organized by various subjects. (Including, speaking of immersion, books about swimming.) Very helpful for broadening your reading horizons!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

New at Compose!

I'm thrilled that my essay, "Bypass Instructions," is up now in the Spring 2017 issue of Compose!

In it, I humblebrag (or maybe just brag) about chainsaws and cutting trees. But all of that is in service to more serious subjects--love, of course; and recovery from illness (yours and/or someone else's).

Also in this issue: five other nonfiction pieces (family histories and cooking! beating the illness odds! river philosophy! school pictures and family relationships! caring for people and dogs!) that are excellent reading--good companions to mull over while you work outdoors. And fiction, poetry, and featured interviews, of course. Plus artwork!

Thank you to the Compose editorial team and publisher!
Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Canadian Shorts: Proceeds to Refugees

Canada Post (a term I use to refer also to various courier services) has brought me some very nice things lately. Including this!

Sponsored by Mischievous Books, the Canadian Shorts anthology contains "Canadian-themed short stories featuring top entries of the 2017 Canadian Shorts writing contest."

Best of all, proceeds from anthology sales will go to the Canadian Council for Refugees, a nonprofit organization committed to refugee and immigrant rights.

And the anthology includes my short story, "A Map of the Moon," which placed third in the contest. It's about maps, tardigrades, motorcycles, dreams, and trying again. And family. Of course.

The anthology is available at a link on this page. With 15 short stories, it's the perfect summer read for lazy, rainy afternoons. While you're at the Mischievous Books site, check out some of their other titles for adults and young adults.

It's such an honour to have work included in this anthology! Especially when it supports such a great cause. Thank you, Brenda Fisk (managing editor of Mischievous Books) and the contest jury.

It's been quite a month, with an essay now live at Gravel and another forthcoming in Compose (new link next week!). I'm grateful.