Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Clicking Through

After a hectic month, the pace of my life has slowed. Each day still has a to-do list, and I love to cross things off. I haven't had a personality transplant or anything.

BUT. I'm aware that I have a little breathing room. I have time to click through on Twitter or Instagram and read what's linked. And so I have. I've also read many of the articles I'd bookmarked during the busy season.

Most recently, I read an extraordinary piece by Josie George, a UK writer. Her site holds many brief, pithy pieces and I've enjoyed every one. Bonus: she uploads audio files so you can hear her reading them, too.

I first read this piece, Forest. It begins with a lovely, closely observed experience of nature, both in the past when she still walked and in the present from her wheelchair. Wonderfully pleasant and evocative.

And then this:

"Nature is being repackaged. To encourage us to love it better, to save it, we are told more and more that it will make us feel good, that it is something designed to heal us. I know it is true — that it can — but I don’t know how I feel about that."

Yes! She articulated something I've been mulling over but hadn't found words for. And she goes on, taking this insight into unique spaces. I'd quote more but I don't want to ruin the surprises and connections. Go there and read this, seriously.

Suffice to say that she carefully considers the relationship between the natural world and we humans, with satisfying conclusions, the kind that should have been obvious but weren't (to me).

Her blog is populated with other excellent essays, and I look forward to her book, Nothing Ordinary: A Still Life, due for release in January 2021. Her general website is here.

It's really fun to have the time and space to sample the rest of the world again.

Go ahead. Click through. What pleasures await!
Wednesday, November 27, 2019

After the Launch and Celebration

You make cake. Apparently.


This is pumpkin spice cake, dusted with cinnamon and powdered sugar.

The plate is Spode Christmas Tree,* of which I have plates and bowls and other random bits and bobs--salt and pepper shakers, candy dishes in many odd shapes. Most of them came to me courtesy of my father, who (apparently) enjoyed selecting random pieces and, in my adult years, found Christmas china a safer gift than books, since I often bought my own.

I've been trying to cull books, since they seem to accumulate around here, but it's tough going. For one thing, it feels cruel to remove books from our house when I just brought one into the world. And for another, some books leave our house fairly easily and rapidly, which means that many of the ones left are special in some way.

I have whole sets that my father gave to me in hardcover over the years. I haven't read James Herriot's veterinary series in decades, but my set (with my father's dated inscriptions) will stay on my bookshelves.

And then there's the half-shelf of Baseball Joe books, inscribed to my father by his mother some hundred years ago of birthdays and Christmases. I've lost count of the number of times I've read them. I'd have to check my book list to see when last I pulled one off the shelf for something other than the pleasure of looking at Gran's handwriting.

As always, I'm reminded that books aren't "just" words on a page, as if the creation of the artifact (from writing through production and shipping and sale) isn't a miracle unto itself. A book, especially one received as a present, is a thought made tangible--a gift from the past, a gift for the future, a way to touch those who have gone before and, if we're lucky, those to come.

As the year winds down, I'll make extra time for reading these gifts, with a slice of pumpkin cake at hand.

*In my family of origin, Christmas decorations were forbidden until (American) Thanksgiving, when we could start using Christmas china. While we tore up stale bread for stuffing, we'd listen to the Christmas albums (on the hi-fi yes I am a million years old you're just jealous) in a prescribed order. The Christmas tree was erected on December 21, not so much to honour my father's birthday on that day as to forestall the mess of the season until after Mom had submitted the semester's grades. Each year, we got at least one book as a present but only Daddy could hold up the take-turns of present opening to read. If you've ever wondered why one of the labels I use is "transcending my upbringing," look no further than those and similar traditions.
Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Whoa-oh-oh-oh, on the Radio

As we near the Saturday launch for Reverberations: A Daughter's Meditations on Alzheimer's, I have the opportunity to talk about the book, my mother, our family, and writing. It's been a lot of fun to chat with interested people.

Here's some official links:

On CBC Radio's Thunder Bay morning snow, Superior Morning, with Lisa Laco.

The November issue of Thunder Bay's arts and culture magazine, The Walleye. The "Five Questions" is the interview with me, done by Susan Goldberg, an awesome writer and interviewer.

And just yesterday, an interview with Heather Dickson in Bayview Magazine. Lots of neat photos accompany this one.

I keep saying how grateful I am, and it's true. For my parents, my siblings and their children and grandchildren, and our extended family of cousins. For my husband and his children and partners and grandchildren.

For the support from teachers, librarians and library programs, health-related programs, and arts programs--paid for by all of us.

For private businesses, some supported in part by public programs, for their hard work to bring to market the arts that writers and other artists create.

In these days after Canadian Thanksgiving and Remembrance Day, and leading up to US Thanksgiving, I remember others' support and sacrifice, and I am grateful.


Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Surprising and Not

'Tis the season to think about consumer goods. Lots of stories in the zeitgeist about shopping, budgeting--holiday extravagance and how to avoid it. But I've been thinking about the goods we have and use every day.

Last night I noticed that I'm usually surprised when we run low on coffee filters, even though we use at least one a day, and I KNOW that we do. 

On the other hand, I'm rarely surprised when we're low on dish soap--also used daily, also by me.

That set me thinking about other pairs.

I'm surprised when I use up a tube of lip balm. I'm not surprised to use the last Q-tip. 

I'm surprised to use up a glue stick. I'm not surprised to come to the end of a roll of tape.

We're low on cinnamon--surprising. Black pepper, cloves, chili powder, and curry also fall under the same "we never use the whole jar before they mysteriously disappear" assumption. (I also don't remember buying chili powder, so how old IS it? A separate issue.)

In fact, all the contents of my spice shelf seem to stay there forever, or at least until I cull them. 

In conversations with other writers, I've learned that being too close to a work makes it difficult to judge whether elements of that work are surprising, and therefore possibly interesting, to a reader. 

I'm currently trying to select a piece to read at the book launch (in under two weeks!), so I'm considering what readers might find interesting to hear. Thank goodness I have other writers and readers in my life to ask. I may never have enough distance to know, myself.

My husband's novel-in-progress, on the other hand, fascinates me. I read and gave notes on an earlier version, so this time through isn't completely UNfamiliar, but his revisions still create surprise. 

I'll be happy to return to my own novel--it's had two drafts this past year, and it will get another, smaller revision soon. It will be fun to see what surprises it holds for me.

Having the time and support for in-depth work on a single writing project is such a glorious gift. It's a chance to fully inhabit a world and spend significant time there. 

It's a gift in another way, as well--a chance to stand back and look with new-ish eyes at previous work. 

Lots of gratitude around here these days.

And now, it's time to put on another pot of coffee (we have plenty of filters at the moment), and while I wait for it to brew, I'm going to peer at the dates on the spice jars. Some surprises are more welcome than others. 
Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Launch, Signing, and Celebration

I had a filling replaced this morning. Now that it's over I plan to lie on the couch and be dramatic--my hand on my forehead, repeating "all the drilling!"--until the numbness wears off and it's safe for me to eat lunch.

Meanwhile, here's this bit of news.


Hope to see you there!
Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Creative Nonfiction Resources

Last weekend I presented a workshop about choice in creative nonfiction.

In nonfiction, you have a lot of opportunities to choose--for example, the form your work takes (whether in print, drama, sound, or some other medium), the type of research you pursue and select to include, and how personal or not you want your creative nonfiction to be.

PLUS all the techniques of fiction are available to you--setting, plot, point of view.

All you have to do is tell the truth, and be honest about times when you aren't sure. (Ha! That's "all.")

In any case, I bombarded workshop participants with handouts and even forgot two, so I'm linking to them here.

This one includes a couple of exercises we did in the workshop plus others.

This one includes other resources--podcasts, organizations, publications, you name it.

Neither is in any sense comprehensive--they're just places people can go to keep learning about creative nonfiction.

Many thanks to the Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop for inviting me to present, and thanks to those who came for their patience and enthusiasm for nonfiction and writing.
Wednesday, October 23, 2019

I've Seen It!

My author copies have arrived! Surely it will appear in stores soon. When it does, I'll share that information here and through other social media.


I'm feeling lots of feels, as apparently one does when one's book appears in the world.

Gratitude, mostly--for all the support along the way. Not only from friends, writer colleagues, and other individuals. Also, support from public funding through the Ontario Arts Council, and from the private company, Signature Editions, that is my publisher.*

I'm also feeling hope. Hope that perhaps somewhere another daughter who wrestles with guilt and fear might find she's not alone, and that life after the most difficult transitions can bring gifts.

* Just pointing out that Signature is also supported with public funding, as are all private companies that take advantages of "incentives" and "rebates" or information provided by governments, or perhaps use roads and public utilities, or whose owners eat food certified safe from pathogens and take medication. Don't let election campaign rhetorical strategies fool you into believing otherwise.