Showing posts from 2017

Thank You Notes

Dear Everyone Who Works or Has Worked at a Publication: Thank you for the energy you expend helping writers find readers. Thank you for making time, on occasion, to include a brief comment with a rejection. Thank you for your honesty, your care, your attention. Thank you, too, for the occasional reminder that you are as devoted to good writing as writers are. We may disagree about what constitutes "good writing," and that's cool. Artists can disagree about definitions while agreeing that art is important. Because of you, writers and readers can meet in (sometimes imaginary) rooms to discuss imaginary or re-imagined people. What a gift. Specifically, I extend gratitude to the readers and editors at the specific publications listed below. And because this post is not about me-me-me, the links go to the submissions pages of those publications, which writers should bookmark. Then, writers, browse archives to get a sense of their definition of "good" before s

Getting Work "Out There"

As part of my ongoing effort to evaluate 2017 and plan for 2018 , I'm meeting with folks to kick around some frustrations and ways to address them. By the way, it's really fun to do this kind of thing with word-people you trust. Maybe trusted artists in other disciplines, too. For example, we spontaneously invented a series of metaphors around snowfall to describe various stages of the creative process. Fun times. One of our discussion topics was how to distinguish between what is and isn't within our control, especially relating to having work published. In our control: researching and submitting. Not in our control: whether it's accepted. I've written about this before, many times , because it's basically rejection, one of my preoccupations. Also as part of the evaluation process, I'm reminding myself to be grateful to those who administer contests and keep publications afloat. Next week, I'll give specific shoutouts. Meanwhile, gratitude is on

Looking Back

It's December in what has been a VERY busy year. Throughout the month, I'm looking back at the past year and looking ahead to what I want to do in 2018. Besides, of course, focusing on getting stuff done in that last-minute pre-deadline rush, the one I thought I'd grown out of when I was no longer taking formal classes. However. Deadlines and all that. One joy of this year has been playing around on Instagram. I don't do fancy stuff--mostly just posting the same "here's the view from the window" I've always enjoyed capturing with my camera. But I've posted fairly often, and recently I've been posting snow pictures; in fact, some of the ones I've also uploaded here. In any case, Instagram assembles the nine photos people have liked the most into one shot. Here's mine: It surprised me to see the photos from earlier parts of the year--even just earlier this autumn. Why? Because the landscape out EVERY WINDOW now is so very diff

Serious Snow

We had the first serious snow of the season yesterday. See? And a few weeks ago, I wrote about not remembering my jeans --how seasonal transitions require new wardrobes and remembering hacks from the end of the season. That whole process, going from not-remembering to "oh yeah," also works with mitts and scarves and hats. Just in case you were wondering.

So Hono(u)red

In the spring, my essay " Bypass Instructions " appeared in Compose literary journal. Compose has been a going concern for at least five years--it's set to publish its 10th issue soon--and nominates its content for prizes. I learned today that Compose nominated "Bypass Instructions" for a Pushcart Prize ! You can read all their nominees at the announcement in the link. I so appreciate this vote of confidence from the journal--as well as the positive responses from readers. Thank you, Compose !

Of Course! Wait...Really?

Lately, I've been moving several projects forward simultaneously. My days are packed with teeny incremental steps on several fronts. I'm learning several surprising things. Some big. Most small. Like, for example, what I do and don't need to have handy. Decades ago, I bought a Filofax planning system. (Influences: Thirtysomething and Alexandra Stoddard.) Ever since, it's held All The Important Things, as well as Most Things It Came With. A couple of months ago, I decided I should use my Filofax more wisely, or not use it at all. To start, I asked myself some questions. Do I really need to carry the addresses of all of my cousins (especially when we communicate mostly through social media)? How about that fold-out four-colour map of the world, including time zones? Is that a "gotta have at my fingertips!" kind of insert? What about the daily to-do lists from two months ago? The answers: No. No. No. And answering those questions has made me face a


"I don't remember my jeans." I stood in front of the credenza where a stack of denim lies folded on the top shelf. My husband, poor man, happened to pick that moment to pass within earshot. His raised eyebrow told me that he didn't quite know what I meant. Whatever. I did. It happens every year--at some point in April or so, I quit wearing jeans so much and start wearing shorter versions of jeans, or more lightweight workout pants, or (gasp) dresses. And at some point in the fall, I go back to the long pants. In the interim, I forget my jeans--the individual quirks I used to know about each pair. That one, the most comfortable pair, has a small rip near the zipper. I remember now, vaguely, that I decided in April I'd think about later. Later is now, and now is later, and I can't worry about the times I've worn them recently without remembering that rip. I can only hope whatever else I was wearing covered it up. Because I realized I didn't r

Blank Square

Sometimes, there's no more beautiful sight than a blank square. Like this one. That's today on the desk calendar my husband and I share. It's the first blank space on the calendar in several days. You can even see some of yesterday lapping over the edge to today. The events that have filled the past several days have been great--lots of celebrations and fun events, a few meetings, some generic errands, much that has been entirely pleasant. And yet--it's been a lot of interaction for me. I really enjoy this blank square. There's another one, tomorrow. Errands will fill up one or the other of these days. But for now, I'm enjoying that sense of possibility stretching ahead. Maybe I'll even find the internal space to face a blank page. It's high time.

Autumn Leaves

This time of year I'm still walking outdoors, and enjoying it, for as long as I can. Soon, the snow on the roads won't melt during the day, and the ice will force me to the treadmill. But not yet. Monday, I picked up two leaves--one a bright orange birch-type with a dark streak down the middle, another with lobes (like a maple or white poplar) that was a tasteful pink-and-yellow. They were lovely, a really eye-catching moment of brightness on a grey day when autumn has nearly-but-not-quite lost its glory. There they are, below: No, really.  See, it started raining while I was out, and an unpleasant encounter with workers in my neighbourhood had left me rattled, so when I got home I put my dripping waterproof jacket and pants into the dryer without emptying the pockets.  And then I had to race through the shower and get to town for a work date, and on the way, two different cars apparently didn't see mine (though I was driving with my lights on, even) and

Setting Down the Backpack

My sister and I recently finished a long-term family project: we published my mother's memoir , the compilation of family stories our mother wrote for the five of "us kids" in the early days of her retirement. We gave it a new name, CRADLE OF THE DEEP: MEMOIR OF A FAMILY COTTAGE . We took advantage of technology available today to publish it. And now we can be sure that our brothers' grandchildren can know their great-grandmother, just a little. It's been a joy to spend time with my mother again, to hear her voice in my head. I write quite a bit about my mother, mostly about times that weren't so happy for either of us. I have had to work to be sure that's that impaired woman isn't the mother I think of all the time--because that wouldn't be fair. That's not who she was for most of her life. Family business can sometimes like feel like a burden. Settling estates, meetings with lawyers, transferring assets or accepting the lack thereof. Ma

Now Available: Cradle of the Deep

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

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. Ahhhhhh.

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: be

Without Words


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 arti


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 wee

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 i


We've been calling this summer "the summer of all the house projects." Truthfully, every summer has its share, but this summer seems to have MORE than its share. Some we planned for: replacing the multi-paned picture windows, and in the process (we hope) stopping significant leaks; shoring up the landscaping that makes it possible to park cars near the house; rolling the new roofing paper over the bathroom at the camp to address wind damage. Some we didn't plan for: the slow leak from the main 2nd-floor bathroom down the pipes into the basement, the existence of which my husband has suspected for some time (I guess it's good we found it) and the repair of which required cutting drywall, which has now been replaced and painted over; the birch branch that dropped seventy or so feet to clock the top of the car, creating several large dents and taking out the roof rack. OK, so the camp and the car aren't "house." But they were also projects. All

Recent Results

I have some really exciting and humbling news to share! * My essay "Atomic Tangerine" was shortlisted by The New Quarterly for its Edna Staebler Personal Essay contest and will appear in the journal in 2018. Also, the essay by Susan Olding, who mentored me this past year, won! I can't wait to read it. The full announcement , for their poetry, fiction, and nonfiction contests, is here . It will be a treat to work with the TNQ editors on my essay. * Another essay, "Entanglement," was shortlisted for EVENT's 2017 Non-Fiction contest! That announcement is here . I appreciate the recognition. * My peek behind the scenes is also live at the blog for  Compose . In it, I share a little about how I came to write (and rewrite and continue to revise) "Bypass Instructions," which was published in their Spring 2017 issue. ( The original essay is here .) It was very valuable to me to reflect a little on my writing process, especially about an event (my hu

Vacation Reading

In summer, I try to pick up books that I might not normally read. At a recent book signing, I picked up a new-to-me cops/crime trilogy, the Intuition series. The books have as a home base a mythical town northern Minnesota that is based on Atikokan, though the second book goes to Winnipeg and the third also includes Quantico and towns all along the highways of the north-central US. The main characters are a young cop and her intuitive girlfriend, and they're great. The secondary characters, too, both friends and antagonists, present an interesting array of characters that feel like real people. The second and third volumes in the series demonstrate more confidence and polish than the first, but even the first title presents a satisfying puzzle to be solved. And yes, their author, Makenzi Fisk, is the publisher at Mischievous Books, which published the Canadian Shorts anthology in which one of my short stories appeared. Although knowing her inspired me to check out the books

Vacation Ramifications

I've been on vacation for the past two-and-a-half weeks. Admittedly "vacation" is a nebulous concept for me, since I live where I used to go for vacation. Still, my sister comes annually and we stay at our family camp together. We wake up in a hydro-less little place our grandfather built 93 years ago on the shore of Lake Superior. We perk coffee on the propane heater and warm up the house a little (just enough to "take the chill off") on cool mornings by building a small fire in the woodstove. We make toast and eat local peaches and blueberries. We go out in a rowboat, and sometimes we swim (though putting on my swimsuit usually summons afternoon thundershowers). We talk, do silly art projects, work puzzles, read, talk some more, and drink wine coolers in Muskoka chairs on the beach during cocktail hour. And then we come the half-kilometer back to the house, where I live and work the other 50 weeks of the year, to make supper and to take showers. Nobody sai

Of Family, Crankiness, and Devil(l)ed Eggs

My essay entitled "Nulliparous" is now live at Pithead Chapel ! Go here for some summer reading. It's really neat to be part of this publication. This month, there's more creative nonfiction as well as prose poems and fiction. Lots of great stuff! (And they're accepting entries for their short story contest, too.)

Cross Words

For the past year, I've done a crossword puzzle nearly every day. I got hooked while on vacation. It's been really fun to try to figure out what other people think words mean. Plus I've learned about things along the way. Like the plant indigo comes from: anil. And that there are many sites devoted to crossword puzzles online. Also it reminded me of this 2006 documentary, Wordplay. In the trailer above, former President Clinton says he does them to see what people are thinking about. Me, too. Many more recent movie stars than I had anticipated. Right now, I'm thinking about going for a row with my sister. To read more about that, you could check out this essay, " Backwards, Opposite, Contrary ," at Full Grown People. There's lots of other good stuff at FGP, too. So: a ten-letter word for "holiday without leaving home" is "staycation," and I'm on one. Even if that's NOT an officially recognized word for puzzles.

Baseball Joy

If I were doing a "summer" mind map--you know, that brainstormy tool that looks like a visual tinkertoy assembly, with spokes connecting a central idea to disparate topics--one of the topics would be "baseball." Ahh, baseball. A League of Their Own. The Boys of Summer. The Church of Baseball. Lemonade and hot dogs in the blazing sun. That. And this: Baseball Life Advice , by Stacey May Fowles. I haven't been to a baseball game since a Tucson spring training game 2007. At least I think that's when it was, and the league, and the location. I know I was there with my father (and my sister), and Daddy wasn't feeling 100%, and the dust didn't help his breathing, but once we landed in some seats, he got out a pen and started scoring the game in his own style. As he did. But baseball exists not only nostalgia-tinged hazy memories like mine. Games are going on, now, and people still enjoy it and are inspired by it. They look to the game for ent

Revisions, Yet Again

I'm at the nausea stage of revising my novel--that is, the thought of other people reading it nauseates me and, I worry, reading it would nauseate them too. On yesterday's walk, I noticed this balsam, which made me think of revising all over again. The rust-colored branch that's hanging down was cut but not severed when the municipality trimmed back the trees growing over the street. I didn't stop to check closely, but I think the extending branch was damaged at the same time. I don't know enough about the secret lives of trees to know why or when or exactly how, but I have noticed that evergreens also prune themselves. They drop needles that are no longer useful to them. These branches had help, but trees back in the bush are also dropping growth. Which is what I've tried to do with this novel--get rid of the parts that aren't useful, that no longer work. The novel has taken several twists and turns through the years, as I've learned and expe

Now Live at FGP

My essay, " Backwards, Opposite, Contrary, " is now live at Full-Grown People! Here's how it starts. Rowing: using oars to propel a boat.  When you row, everything is backwards. You face away from your destination. Your right oar is to port, the boat’s left side. Your left oar is to starboard, the boat’s right side.   Maneuvering feels strange at first, but with practice, your brain adjusts. As it does to so many things. It's about...a lot of things, actually. The ways time changes expectations in relationships. The limits of minor rebellions. When the place you go to "get away from it all" is the place where "it all" actually is. Mothers, and fathers, and the cryptic ways we show our love for each other. And rowing. With an awesome photograph by Gina Easley . Here's the link to the whole thing . Many thanks to FGP editor Jennifer Niesslein!

Shuffle Rebellion

Sometimes I don't sleep well. I've been blaming hormones; it might be age. Regardless, sometimes I just don't sleep well. Yes, even when one of my feet is out from under the covers. (I read somewhere that receptors on the soles of your feet, when cold, signal the brain that it's time to sleep.) Yes, even when I wear earplugs. (My husband is an excellent snorer.) Yes, even when I exercise, do gentle stretching, limit light from screens, yadda yadda. So--although I missed the article in O, the Oprah Magazine --I was interested to read articles about the "cognitive shuffle" trick. Like this article, from the CBC. Basically, you think of a word--a short one, without repeating letters, like COMB. (That was my word last night.) And then you mentally list other words that start with those letters. The idea is that the task is repetitive enough to be calming but engaging enough to keep you doing it. But I can't follow directions. I mean, I could. I lov

More Excellent Company

Exciting news: one of my new essays will soon appear at Full Grown People , an online publication specializing in for essays about "The Other Awkward Age." Namely, adulthood. I have admired the work there for some time. It's such a wide-ranging group of contributors, and they (soon to be we!) create a resonant hum of recognition in readers by sharing unique experiences. For example, "Going to Ground" by Sarah Einstein is a recent and especially vivid evocation of how lives have changed in the past year. I highly recommend it. But don't stop there. For example, the Submissions page advises writers to carefully scrutinize the endings of their essays. So go there and root around a bit--there's a lot to see.

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.

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.


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 characte

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'

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

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!

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 antholog

Her Voice in My Ear

My mother was born in a home in Port Arthur, Ontario, 100 years ago today. She died nearly seventeen years ago but had disappeared gradually for several years before that, so she's been gone about twenty years. Yesterday I stood in line at the bank because there are still some things you have to see a human about. I try not to go when I have a specific appointment after, because I'm more patient if I'm not in a particular hurry, but there are some times when you can't effect that, either. So standing there trying to ignore the minutes ticking by, I watched a woman of maybe seventy years help her ninety-plus-year-old father with his banking. I wondered how that would feel, to still have parents today, never mind ten or fifteen years from now. I was my parents' "late in life" baby. I started what I hope is the second half of my life without my mother. With any luck, I'll live longer without Mom's presence on the planet than I did with her here.

Now Live at Gravel! my essay, " Through the Hearts of Space , " about * driving through Little Rock on sweltering summer nights, * listening to New Age music, and * (of course) wallowing in obsessive love. Thanks to the folks at Gravel, a journal published by the folks in the MFA program at the University of Arkansas at Monticello. Lots of fun reading in the summer issue!

Showing Up

While I'm on vacation/holiday/family visit , I went to a Rally for Science. (The days are warm in Tucson, so we rallied instead of marching.) And it was great! I haven't attended rallies or other events at home in Canada, for various reasons. For one thing, although I'm a U.S. citizen with family in the country and I and vote, I do intend to live in Canada for-you-know-ever. For another, we live in the country, so rallying with others (or even attending evening functions) is a commitment--planning, leaving early, weather, the usual. (So maybe they weren't so much reasons as excuses.) In any case: I went to this. I'm on vacation, so I have no "opportunity cost" calculations (if I spend all morning at THIS event, I can't be working on THAT project). The place was relatively convenient, since my sister was driving, we're mobile and could park far away without consequence, and we agreed that we could leave any time we became uncomfortable. (Somet

Words Mean Things

Consider the following labels for ways one can spend time: Vacation. Holiday. Family visit. Their meanings overlap but are not identical.  I am currently experiencing at least one of them. By the time I get home, I will have cycled through all three, individually and all together, and no doubt all possible combinations of any two.  While I'm away, I plan to do loads of nothing, though I am taking notebooks (of course) (yes, plural) and my sister has assured me she will share art supplies. Sort of an R&R Boot Camp.  Once I go, I'll be happy about it. And also happy once I'm back home. 

Yes! and No!

From time to time, I get great satisfaction from cooking up the carcass of the holiday turkey. Broth! Soup! Good smells! Competence! Thrift! Say YES to actions that expand your skill set! Today, I'm throwing away something that I think was the carcass of a holiday turkey. It might be something else--I'm really not sure at this point. And at the moment, I just don't have what it takes to investigate, even if it means I'm missing out on all the things in the previous paragraph. Say NO to actions that don't bring you joy! In light of that particular experience, I was amused to read this essay at Brevity this morning. By Shawna Kenney, the essay's entitled, "Never Call Yourself a Writer, and Other Rules for Writing." It's awesome. My favourite excerpt: "Say this writing mantra every day: I am my own mantra." Your mileage may vary, and rightly so--the essay is full of fun. Sometimes the right answer is "yes," sometimes it

The Tapestry of a Story

Over the weekend, I sampled the S-Town podcast while I was on the treadmill. Aaaaaand THERE went the rest of the weekend. Sure, I ate and drank and went outdoors and got the newspaper and did the Sunday crossword. But I also listened. Here's some background. A. It's produced by those who brought the Serial podcast to the world, which in turn was made by experienced folks from This American Life, and focuses on the life of a character in a small town in the southern U.S. B. It's in a significantly different format (aside from being a story told by voices on the radio): all seven episodes were released at once. It thus lacks the "simultaneous reporting" feature of the two seasons of Serial and other true-crime or investigative journalism podcasts, when attention to the initial story brings forward information that can shed light on or solve the initial mystery. The fact of A made me, frankly, a little leery. I liked Serial, but I've heard storytelle

When Do You Think About "Where?"

The past few days have included several writer-full conversations touching on "where are you going to publish this?" I've written a little recently ( here , here , and here ) (okay, maybe more than "a little"?) about matching written pieces to the needs and interests of particular publications. Sharing finished pieces is an understandable need/desire/obsession/step in the process. Most of us tell stories FOR READERS--first for ourselves as readers, and then for other people. One recent conversation held a new slant. A writer who's still in the early stages of a project has received suggestions from a person whose interest in the project is driven by business and publication. That's great--that's what the person providing input is supposed to do, it's her role. And there's nothing wrong with the suggestions, either--except that they may not work well with the story the writer WANTS to tell. Which got me thinking about writing pieces fo

What It Looks Like

Last week I wrote about finding a particular contest to enter. (The full post, at the blog for the Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop, is here .) I'm just back from the launch of the anthology, made up of ten stories that were chosen from contest entries. Here's the cover by artist Becca Paxton, chosen by the contest committee after inviting submissions of artwork on the theme of "Rebirth." Becca says she hadn't thought of a title and so was calling it "Untitled." Clever. To me, it looks like Ophelia. However, she's the artist, so it's her call. The launch and celebration was a grand event. So much work goes into a contest, and it provides great opportunities to meet other writers, talk shop, and generally broaden one's horizons. The reception, featuring food mentioned in each of the ten stories, is a bonus. Thank you to the members of the Niagara Branch of the Canadian Authors Association. It is an honour to have a small part i

How I Did It

I recently wrote a blog post for the Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop , of which I'm a proud member, about how I even knew to enter a contest in another region and generally how I decide where to submit my work. The tl;dr version: research. Along the way, I mention Compose and the Ten Stories High contest , sponsored by the Niagara Branch of the Canadian Authors Association . NOWW is also accepting entries for its contest --$10 (free to NOWW members) with excellent judges. Consider submitting! For the full blog post, go here .

International Women's Day: An Important Difference

On International Women's Day, I like to think about my mother and my grandmothers. Fiercely intelligent, curious, driven--and teachers, all of them. Doing the best they knew to do, though their actions might be viewed differently through today's social and moral lenses. I think about my sister, whose companionship I treasure. I think of my nieces--competent adults with energy and gifts to share. I think of women unrelated to me whose presence in the world has taken up space, and also, in some miraculous fashion, makes room for other women alive today and in the future. Some years it's tough to feel optimistic about the role of women in the world. That would be this year. For me, anyway. It's extremely difficult to accept that one particular woman--who had so much to give and gave it freely, who was upright (AND RIGHT), who never fit "properly" into a traditional "woman's place" role and paid for it over and over (AND NEVERTHELESS PERSISTE

Three to Think About

Welcome, March! Here are three thinkers/writers/speakers whose virtual paths have crossed mine recently. * Richard Conniff's strange behaviors blog, where he writes about animals and behavior and animal behavior. I've been reading and responding to this post in particular: Useless Creatures (and Why They Matter) . Not everything in the world has to demonstrate its value by doing something for human beings. * In the Sydney Review of Books , by James Bradley , this essay:  "Writing on the Precipice."  The idea with which I first engaged was his discussion of the power of story, one of my ongoing interests. He says, "There are moments though, when our stories fail us, moments when the world's complexities exceed their power." The rest of the essay also has much to ponder. He considers various ways people have recently written, both fiction and nonfiction, about science and nature. Reading and digesting it is taking time, in a good way. * This talk, &