Showing posts from 2019

Two That Stuck: #2019 #History

Disclaimer: I read, and I enjoy it, and I read for many different reasons. I have opinions about books, which I might share in person but will likely not reduce to stars on any of the popular platforms. From time to time, I share books. I don't share everything, which means I quite enjoy some books but don't share them here. I wrote a little more about reading, and books, earlier this month . Which includes links to other books I've written about. THAT SAID ... I may write more about books in 2020. Today, I'm saying something about two books that have stuck with me throughout 2019. They are The Cooking Gene and All Among the Barley . One afternoon when I was old enough to think of being with my parents as "visiting" them, but not late enough in the 1990s that visits were all about my mother's Alzheimer's, a mealtime conversation turned to family history. (We Agnews were a barrel o' laughs.) While we lingered at the table, my father pul

Closing in on Winter

A lot of things are going on in a lot of places. Out here in the wilds of Shuniah, we've been playing our seasonal game, "What stinks in the basement?" We ruled out garbage and dead "visitors." Also cardboard, which can take on surprisingly foul odors. My husband saw a wolf in our area this afternoon.* He was on his way back from town, where he'd talked to some people about furnaces and plumbing and whatnot, in his effort to diagnose the source of the smell. Good times. Or rather, bad times, with some consolations. But we've got a good life. In many other places, people have behaved badly and are continuing to deny it, while others try to hold them to account. Lots of places are melting or on fire, literally or figuratively. Children are in cages, their parents in detention. It's appalling. Wearying and worrisome. Plus we're getting a stretch of really cold days. Am I ready for the dark winter days? Or should I order more books?**

So Many Good Books to Make Time For

It's the "best books of" lists. I don't make those. I don't really review books. I feel squicky giving stars on Goodreads so I don't, so far. I enjoy a lot of books, and a lot of writers , and a lot of book businesses . And a lot of book-adjacent things , like book statistics , and when and why characters might name items . Sometimes I write about things here, and sometimes I don't. That said, here's another book I greatly enjoyed: Daughters of Silence , by Rebecca Fisseha. I hope it appears on lots of "best books of" lists. It should. It's challenging in the BEST ways. Relationships aren't what they seem. Some are more destructive, some are more delightful, all are deliciously complicated. Cultures clash, several times over: several cultures, none has the "right" answers, all make demands that while obviously conflicting, all seem reasonable. At first. Fisseha is somehow able to covey the weight of family exp

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 g

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) w

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 progr

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

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!

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 Northweste

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 e

Insta Un-Worthy/Un-Insta-Worthy

Last week was Thanksgiving! (In Canada.) Happy Thanksgiving! I made a pumpkin cake. It was fine. It was good! I mean, it tasted good. Looked okay, I guess. (Except I didn't think through the whole "dust with icing sugar" thing and cinnamon kind of gunked up my sifter, but that's a problem to be solved some other time.) It came out of the pan looking a bit fancy, as bundt cakes do. It was also relatively easy to produce. I'd make it again except that it's suddenly hard to find spice cake mixes on grocery store shelves (possibly because of the time of the year). I could also make a spice cake from scratch and add in the add-ins, but let's not get crazy. I took a picture of it (obviously) but decided not to post it on Instagram. It didn't really feel "Insta-worthy." And that led me to consider whether my tens of followers there would have really cared. It's the kind of thing you think about when you've been quietly working in

Reverberations: Coming Soon

As I mentioned in July , my essay collection is coming out this fall! The first copies of Reverberations: A Daughter's Meditations on Alzheimer's are due to arrive later this month. Here's the cover. That young woman is my mother, Jeanne Starrett LeCaine (later Agnew), in her days as a mathematics student. Kind people near and far have been helpful all along in making my semi-coherent thoughts into words into essays and now into a collection. I'm especially grateful to that apparently limitless font of encouragement and good judgment known as Susan Olding , author of the essay collection  Pathologies (and much more!). Many thanks also to Winnipeg's Signature Editions for plucking my manuscript from their slush pile and working diligently to slot it into this autumn's releases. It feels fitting that this book finds its place in the world at the harvest season, when the birch and mountain ash are especially golden and glorious. P.S. Part of me wo

Different Perspective

We certainly picked an excellent time of the year for a quick business trip to Duluth! See? That background shows the same lake I see every morning. The birches and poplars are beautiful here--golden and lovely, brilliant against the everygreens, as you see in the foreground. And yet, this is a different view, giving me a new perspective. I feel refreshed. I appreciate the beauty of this place all over again. I hope everyone has the chance to do something similar, from time to time. It's lovely to choose your life again, even when you think you already appreciate it. (Photo of Lake Superior from the lookout at Mt. Josephine, Grand Portage, Minnesota.)

Stolen Title: There and Back Again

(It's the subtitle of The Hobbit .)  I'm back from vacation. I saw lots of beach and Atlantic Ocean. Waves. Piers. Sand. Also, horses. Since I've been home, I've Handled Many Time-Sensitive Things. Today has been more of a bust, both writing-wise and all-the-other things-wise.  And yet. I'm managing to do the next ONE thing. (Wash bedding.) And the next. (Respond to email.) And the next. (Check in here.) And the next. (Research next steps for a project--just google three ideas I had.) Which is also like writing and revising. (WHAT ISN'T?) You reread things, you fix something, that causes a cascading change that requires adjusting, which means an entire set of scenes can go.  But you don't have to do all that at once. Just the next thing.  And sometimes doing things is easier when you remember the colour and texture of the sand (how different from the sand here), and the wind off the water (more persistent and salty). 

Washing Away

I'm currently on a real vacation, somewhere else. Here's a picture of the surf I left behind. It's ramping up for autumn storms. I hope to spend time at a different beach while I'm gone. If I can't--they've had some storms of their own--that's OK too. I'll still have completely new experiences to refresh my outlook.  It's been an eventful spring and summer, so the timing of this break is perfect. Happy approaching autumn, everyone!

Writing is Gathering

With a book coming out this fall (!!) and an almost-finished novel (meaning, maybe I'm almost finished with it!), I'm noodling with new work.  So far, it's been the writing version of what I do nearly every day: go to the beach and pick up things. Sometimes glass, sometimes other stuff I think is interesting. I bring it back to the house, take a picture, put it into a jar, look at it, think about it, take it out, look at it some more. Will this noodling turn into anything? In a few months, will I have anything other than a jar full of driftglass, another of interesting rocks, another of broken pottery?  Who knows. But for now, for me, writing is gathering.

The Summer of Baking

Last week, I hinted that 2019 was the Summer of Baking. The main thing I learned about baking this summer is that many things are cake. Blueberry buckle? Cake in a square pan (when you make it in one). Johnnycake? Also cake in a square pan. (This one shouldn't have surprised me. It's right there in the name.) Banana bread? Cake in a long pan. Also applies to anything with "loaf" in the name. Muffins? Cake portions in a cup = cupcakes = cake. Blueberry cobbler? Arguably cake but also arguably breakfast (scones and fruit = breakfast). Blueberry pie? Not cake but really good. Something about the salty crust makes the blueberries taste sweeter. So there you have it--one thing I learned in the summer of baking: most things are cake (cake is sneaky that way). And here is where I sit on mornings when I am trying my darndest to pretend that summer isn't yet over. When the sun got higher in the sky, the chair started steaming from the heat. I love t

Popping in to Suggest a Read

Hi. I'm revising and waiting for feedback and attempting to prepare to launch a book. And fitting vacation in. Apparently 2019 is the Summer of Baking. Recently, I re-read this Guardian article by George Saunders, about what writers do . You should read it too. In case the link gets stale, it's from March 4, 2017. As usual, he says things so well.

More Revisions

See? Here's what my most recent set of revisions looks like. I'm currently revising the manuscript of my essay collection, Reverberations , coming this October from Winnipeg publisher Signature Editions. Yes! A book! I'll share more details about it later. I've got manuscripts to take apart! Which means I may not post much in August. Happy rest of summer, everyone.

Welcome Delivery

Because not every "dry well" is a metaphor. Especially in this warm stretch of July. Especially with family visiting. We expect the well to get low--and although we'd hoped to eke it out until the family was gone, we have a solution. Water. Energy. Which is also handy in several of the metaphorical senses of "dry well," too.

Revision Fatigue

"Revision" sounds like "decision," and in fact consists of a lot of decisions. Which explains why I'm sort of punchy at the moment. Also why periodically I pick up our loppers and head into a clump of trees to open up a trail. Or take sandpaper to old wood and, later, fill a brush with paint and swipe back and forth on the sanded, wiped surface. Here's what the revisions look like. Note that we are still at the "duct tape" stage. In fact, the "layers of duct tape" stage. "Layers of duct tape in what may yet become complementary patterns" stage. I think the colour combination is already working, but that may be just me. That's what later stages of revision are FOR: making a coherent whole from disparate parts. Which means lots of decisions, mostly answering forms of the question, "how well is this working?" I do find answers--and eventual peace in making decisions--in trimming branches bloc

Books are Awesome

Yes, breaking news. Books, though, really are awesome. I  mean, look at these: About being ordinary and extraordinary About fear and illusion and preconceived ideas I'm not buying books (and bags and boots) this year, except for when I am. Which is to say, when my "wear in public" boots don't fit any longer, or (for example) when I want to read a book that's important to my novel and don't have a copy. Which is the case with  Hound of the Baskervilles . And yes, I know it's in the public domain. Yes, I could read it online. But that doesn't work for me, for my revision process. So. So when Toronto's  Gladstone Press  advertised a Canada Day sale on Instagram, I jumped on it. And I got not only books but a bag. And they are all lovely. I mean--lookit that dog's paw with a fingerprint in it. It has a topographical map bookmark, too. (The one for Mrs. Dalloway is a picket fence.) Als

All Projects, All the Time

Summer! Project season! Here's a couple of projects we finished recently. The table used to be unfinished cedar, several years old. We have another just like it. Plus a bench that will resemble the tables when it's finished. The chairs were always white but were also sporting a bit of rust, as one can do when one is 30 years old. Here's a project Nature has been working on. Lilacs sure are pretty, especially the ones growing high enough that the deer can't get them. These projects don't preclude others. I'm revising--even while applying paint to tables, I'm moving scenes around. I'm considering whether someone would choose the "really stupid dangerous" option or the "just dangerous" one. And I'm reviewing podcasts about story structure, with which I always could use some help. Then I go inside and apply fingers to keyboard to try out what I imagined. I hope your summer is blooming nicely!

Whatever Works

A writer friend recently read Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird . She's also doing Morning Pages from Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way . Another writer-friend is recruiting "bunkmates" for Camp NaNoWriMo, which is apparently the summer version of NaNoWriMo. She suggested creating your own project--not necessarily drafting a new work, which is (as I understand it) the function of NaNoWriMo, but perhaps editing or submitting or researching or something else--intensely, for 31 days. Others are creating schedules and valiantly attempting to stick to them, even though summer is here, with all the summer things--like WARMTH and SUNSHINE and GELATO and STROLLS. (And for me, bug spray.) For many who work in a teaching capacity, summer feels like "found time," and their fear is that late August will bring despairing moments of "whaaaaaaaat haaaaaaaappened to aaaaaaaallll that tiiiiime?" (Flashbacks to childhood feels. Though I also liked school a lot.)

How It Looked

I was recently at the Creative Nonfiction Collective's conference. Here are some of my favourite moments from the trip. Enjoy. Why my novel has been "cut" from 90K words to 94K words a time or two. On a medical building. Love art like this. Didn't buy it. Really wanted to.

How It Looks Around Here

I'm traveling this weekend, therefore, Spring is springing and I am reluctant to leave. Here's what I'll return to: I'll enjoy being with other folks writing creative nonfiction. By my oh my, it will be great to come home again.

A Creative Exercise

Over on her blog, Transactions with Beauty, writer Shawna Lemay posed an interesting question recently: "What words would you most like to get tattooed indelibly on your skin?" She has a whole list. (She's also in the middle of a Springsteen phase, and she takes lovely photographs.) It's tough to say. One reason I haven't seriously considered a tattoo is that words change meaning for me over time. I don't know that a word I wanted and needed to see daily at 30 (integrity) would be something I'd want or need to see daily lo these several decades later. However. Shawna's right; it's a fun exercise. At the moment, I'm toying with this: "It is a truth universally acknowledged." Yes, it's the opening to Pride and Prejudice . Perhaps mentioning Jane Austen on the blog linked above primed the pump. But the quote also says something about writing and the writer, I think. We worry a lot about whether "it's been done al

Oof, Some Days

So. Some days, your back hurts. Some days, it's not your back that hurts, but the hurting back still hurts you. Some days, your back stretches tall and you feel invincible. Some days, you stand and walk and bend over and your back feels okay. Some days, you can only hang on, hoping for a stretch of sunny days to make you feel foolish for taking a jacket. Some days are all about waiting, but not passively--resting while you wait, readying yourself to grow again. Like this. Some days are for blooming.


Agave plants bloom once, late in their lifetimes, and it's pretty dramatic--a tall (ten- to twenty-foot or even taller) spike shoots up quickly over the course of a few weeks, then sprouts flowers. (This is not a technical, botanically correct description.) After it blooms--which can take 10 years, or 20--the plant dies. (Don't fret. It has left behind little plants. For a longer version of this story, see Charlotte's Web . Or Little Shop of Horrors .) A friend in Tucson has been monitoring a blooming plant since early April, posting updates on Instagram. It looked like variations on an asparagus stalk crossed with a Dr. Seuss illustration of a plant ready to open buds. Just a few more days, maybe, until it flowers. Yesterday, he posted a picture of it lying across the road--high winds uprooted it. Imagine, all that time put in to maturing, then working so hard to bloom. Then taken out before the work pays off. A LITTLE ON THE NOSE THERE WITH THAT "LESSON,&qu


I've been home for a week or so, but part of me still feels as if I'm traveling. That is to say, I'm still in the triage stage of return--what bills must be paid today, what else must be done for today's deadlines, what food do we absolutely need for today. Meanwhile, some students and teachers are nearing the ends of their terms. As a result, or maybe it's coincidence, I've found some good advice out there lately. Wrap-up thoughts, if you will. A message to leave with people as they move ahead into the rest of their lives.  One of my favorite online advice-givers is Lee Martin, a writer of novels and memoirs who also teaches in Ohio. Here is a recent blog post, Ten Precepts for the Writing Life . And here is my favorite precept (today): "Write because you know you'd be less human if you stopped." And, if you are at a point in your writing life where you wonder what's next, or if you are venturing beyond the structure of a classroom,


So last week I shared a photo of blue skies and sunny weather. That's where I was, and that's what the day felt like. Here's how the weather is now, here: This photo doesn't necessarily reflect my mood.  But the changeable weather of springtime--especially mercurial this year, it seems--makes it a lot easier to be indoors unpacking suitcases. I'm happy to be home, though. Vacations are nice, but so is getting back to work.

Welcome, May

I learned today that my essay "Hours of Daylight," originally published in Prairie Fire , was recognized in the Personal Journalism category of the National Magazine Awards . Here's a picture of a blue sky on a sunny day. Because it's May! 

April is Poetry Month, Part 3

Disclaimer: I am not a poet. I do not write poetry, except sometimes accidentally. Disclaimer: As a person closer to fuddy-duddy fogeydom than hipster up-and-coming-hood, I have great respect for the traditions in which I was born. Namely: * immersion in the work that came before now, this moment when my fingers are on the keyboard * development of skill (through education) in traditions and rules * devotion to and respect for reflection, time, and care in expression Disclaimer: I am not here to trash or demean "insta-poets" or "is this poetry" or "how can these young whippersnappers make millions from poetry" or whatever conversation of the moment is happening around social media and poetry. Equally, I am not here to say "we should all do this." I'm just here to share what I enjoy. April is Poetry Month. Last week I talked a little about my Instagram feed and the pleasures it brings . Among the images of journals, fabrics, and col

April is Poetry Month, Part 2

Social media is...interesting. I appreciate its ability to connect people and try to manage its ability to exacerbate disagreements. My (current) favourite is Instagram, where my presence is newest. I have curated what I see there carefully, so that my feed is mostly images from arts and artists, with a smattering of books, bags, and boots (none of which I am currently buying) (except within certain rules). So, poetry. One of my favourite accounts is Today Calls, a product of artist Christof Migone. The visual is black (itself an interesting addition to what I see, given that most of my feed is so colourful), with a recording of three voices. The text each voice reads is below that day's entry. The commentary within and among prompts is interesting. All the voices are interesting. The events that they use as prompts are interesting. It's a really fun way to experience poetry, especially in the form of a daily moment. I haven't seen anything like it on Instagram or e

April is Poetry Month, Part 1

Of all the forms writing can take, poetry still mystifies me the most.  Prose, whether fiction or nonfiction, makes me think of lines--roads, maybe, or sidewalks, or even deertracks through grass. These lines don't have to be straight. They can backtrack or meander, they can be short or long. The lines don't even have to be connected. They can look like ||| or =. Just--they're lines.  Maybe. In contrast, poetry may be more like experiencing a park by sitting on a bench under one tree in that park. On one hand, you're there in that moment experiencing that bench under that particular tree. On many other hands, you're experiencing that same place in different times, different weather. You're also looking at other parts of the park, observing the blades of grass or the rocks or the cacti or the demonstrators--even if the poem doesn't direct you to look at them, they're there. All without the poet specifying those things. Maybe.  Maybe it&

Truth, Fact, Memoir, Fiction, History, Journalism

As I've mentioned, this Thursday evening is "Ask an Author ," a panel discussion in Thunder Bay in which four writers with different backgrounds and publishing experiences answer questions. On Saturday, participant Jeannette Lynes is presenting two workshops, sponsored by NOWW : one about novel basics, and another about historical research and writing. Fun times ahead! Also recently, the Association of Writers & Writing Programs held its conference. If you've seen mention of "AWP 19" in the writerly social media world, that's what it refers to. The most recent issue of Assay , a journal of nonfiction, has lots of interesting articles about nonfiction, what it is, and ways to teach it. All of which is to say, many recent conversations (both aloud and in my head) have turned over the differences and similarities between truth and facts, creative nonfiction and journalism, historical fiction and history, memoir and memory. For starters. As I p

Fun Upcoming Event

April 4, from 6:30 to 8:30 PM at the Mary JL Black library, this is where I'll be: That's my husband, Roy, who's currently prepping to answer questions in a panel format. I participated in a similar event last year. It was different--in February, with one-on-one chats available. This year's panel format will allow for those on the panel to comment and learn from each other too. Should be fun.  This event is one of many sponsored by the Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop from (roughly) September through May. Many events are free. Others have a nominal cost. All are worth checking out! For more information about NOWW, go here.

Names, and Why to Use Them

Last year, my essay "Atomic Tangerine" appeared in The New Quarterly . In it I reckon a bit with names of things.  When I moved here a dozen years ago, I wanted to learn everything about this place, and learning names seemed like a good start.  Then I started to ask why--why did it matter whether that wildflower was a butter-and-egg or a marsh marigold?  And after that came "so what?" A reader could probably guess that a butter-and-egg would be yellow (butter, eggs...)...and the point is?? I've been thinking about the "so what?" issues around names as I continue revising my novel, which is set in northwestern Ontario. Perhaps a character notices that the types of trees in northwestern Ontario are different from those nearer Toronto. Why bring it up at all? What does that say about him? Does he even know the names of the types of trees?  I've recently read Melissa Harrison's novel All Among the Barley , a coming-of-age story s

Toast Workarounds and Multitasking

I have cut way back on small-picture multitasking, which I define as "doing more than one thing at a time." Listening to podcasts while exercising or stretching (which I actually do fairly often because they combine successfully). A less successful example is listening to podcasts while scrolling a newsfeed and ostensibly carrying on a conversation. However. Bigger picture, I still multitask, by which I mean "working on several projects in the course of a specific time period." Within the same day or two or three, assembling information for income taxes. Preparing (cleaning and cooking) to host the book club. Revising. Writing. For example.  Sometimes, small-picture multitasking results in toast that looks like this. I do like almost all toast, and I'm old enough now to eat it even when it has burned bits. However. It's not my preferred toast. I am capable of better.  But I'm not delivering because I'm not paying attention solely to

Revision as Decluttering

I'm revising a novel, and not for the first time. In the previous large revision of this work, I eliminated an entire point-of-view character. It was a satisfying revision--visible in lots of ways. The word count dropped by nearly one-third, in about five minutes. Poof, all those words, gone. (Into a scratch file, but realistically? Gone forever.) That change required a cascade of other revisions, mostly simplifications, which required time and a bit of help. For the past few months, I've been doing a different kind of revision, one that I think of as more on the "decluttering" end of a spectrum that includes "renovations" and "building a new house." Taking out that point-of-view character and her whole odyssey are more like renovations, where you take off that deck that was never really useful. Other revisions are smaller but still have easily defined edges. For example, downsizing from two bedrooms to one lets you ditch an entire bedroo

Gratitude: It's Never Wrong

In the Autumn of 2017, I learned that the editors of Compose magazine nominated my essay "Bypass Instructions" for a Pushcart Prize. Such excitement! I really appreciated learning that those editors felt my work stood out in their magazine that year. At some point, I searched online for Pushcart Prizes, looking to see when I might reasonably quit wondering about it. I saw an article by a journal editor that said (a paraphrase), "Being nominated for a Pushcart is nothing to brag about--don't even mention it unless you win one." People in the comments took issue with that approach, and others piled on to support the original poster's online eyeroll. That post confused me--I was partly horrified at my earlier excitement (had I been bragging?) and partly annoyed at this random person I neither know nor cared about raining on my parade. Regardless, I slunk away to delete "Pushcart Nominee" from my online profile. In the autumn of 2018, I saw twe