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.