Showing posts from 2021

2021: A Reading Retrospective

I seem to enjoy using the words "reflection" and "retrospective." Hmm.  It’s apparently customary for people who write and read to reflect on their writing and reading at the end of the year. Even if, like me, you consider reading your vocation as well as work, yet somehow don’t have “reading goals.”* My to-be-read pile:  nothing but good times ahead I do track what I read (because it involves writing in a notebook, as much as for any other reason, and what is not to love about writing in a notebook?) and I (separately) record thoughts as I read. I am also, on occasion, moved to share thoughts publicly, sometimes in formal reviews and sometimes on Instagram and/or Twitter in a #SundaySentence post.   However, I don’t have goals like “read XXX books this year” or “revisit Author Name’s work” or “read a lot of books about maps,” although I have, in various recent years, done both of those last two.   This past year, as in the year previous, I consciously bro

"What Can I Give You?" at the NOWW Blog

I've been a member of the Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop , a regional group providing opportunities for writers, for almost as long as I've lived here.  Naturally, the past eighteen months have provided many opportunities and challenges, and NOWW has been proactive in moving programming online. In the autumn of 2020, I attended a workshop with the then-eWriter-in-Residence, Susan Olding, in which she spoke of two ways to enter a work of writing: through content and through form. As we explored finding our way into a piece of writing through content, she suggested considering an object nearby. I looked out the window and saw a wooden ladder on the porch. As one does. From that seed, an essay grew, and when the NOWW Magazine editor asked if I had something for an upcoming issue, I made time to revise it. It appeared in February. And now it appears on their blog, and I can share it here.  "What Can I Give You?" at the NOWW blog.   It's about ladders, and croc


It's December, which is BOTH just another month AND a month where people do "round-up" or "best of" or "lessons learned" activities.  I also do that, in my small way, BOTH because I'm drawn to nostalgia (remember the electrifying feeling of knowing that COVID vaccination was coming??) AND because I don't like to leave all the yucky accounting-type jobs to the new year. (Though truthfully, I do procrastinate most of them as long as possible.) So here are some things. Mostly random.  A random photo to match these random thoughts. 1. Here's something I need to revise. In July, I said I don't like oat milk. Turns out I do like it well enough when it's packaged for coffee, which is all I really use milk products for these days. So I guess that's a benefit for the planet. Can we ignore the multinational corporation doing the packaging? 2. Here's something I have known before but face again, and frankly, I've never really like

Reflections on Reflecting

A few months ago, I mentioned being invited to participate in something and how rewarding it was to reflect on how my work has changed in the past few years.  That project is now out in the world. Creative Nonfiction , the US-based magazine, asks writers on Twitter to tell a story, a "tiny truth," in a tweet with the hashtag #cnftweets. They include a few #cnftweets in print issues of their magazine and in their newsletters. For their 76th issue (they've been at this "creative nonfiction" thing for a long time, folks), they  redesigned their magazine and did some reflection of their own on the genre as a whole.  As part of that issue, they asked several writers who have been tweeting (often, and for a long time) with the #cnftweets hashtag to take a look back at how their work has changed over time. You can see the entire feature here--on the free side of the issue's paywall.  And because my last name starts with A, my reflection is at the top. (To see the t


This time of year encompasses several birthdays, including mine and my book's. Yes, two (!!) years ago, Signature Editions released my essay collection,  Reverberations: A Daughter's Meditations on Alzheimer's .   Recently, the current president of the Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop (NOWW), a regional writing organization, posted a review on the NOWW blog . Here's a quote: There’s much sadness here, yet we also see humour (the many conflicting ways to make perfect devilled eggs), the defining and deepening of the author’s love for her parents, the realization of her dream to live full-time on the big lake, the kindling of an autumn romance, and the arrival of a certain understanding …    To read the rest, go here. Many thanks to NOWW President Clayton Bye for reading and writing this review--and to NOWW for posting it, and for all the other programming it offers to writers in the region.  

Listening, Yet Again

Menopause, with its accompanying insomnia, has become my friend over time. Often, up in the night, I watch or re-watch old favourite DVDs (yes, I’m ancient), especially those my husband shares no enthusiasm for.   However, even I get tired of gorgeous scenery and classic costume dramas, and as a consequence, I’ve resorted to listening to the movie with commentaries—director, producer, writer, or some combination of those.   It’s FASCINATING. I learn so much. Often, I learn that I watched a whole different movie. Especially when the movie adapts a classic. Yes, I've seen autumn here before. But I haven't seen THIS autumn. Yet.   I used to be a Jane Austen purist. I believed the BBC 1995 Pride and Prejudice adaptation was JUST BETTER than any other. I had LOTS of opinions that ranked adaptations on a scale I didn’t bother to specify, but which was mostly “faithfulness to the original book” plus some sense of seriousness and who knows what else. I had no time for ada

Random Thoughts

I was going to say, "How is October halfway over?" but I hate reading things that start that way, so I'll spare you. It's like reading an email or, back in the Days of Yore, a letter that's mostly excuses for not having written in so long. I get it: you've been busy. Let's move on.  Here's a random photo from last summer. It's a puddle, made by rain, in our driveway. driveway puddle, 2020 Perhaps this choice of photo isn't so random. I'm still thinking a LOT about rain, and how we have less this year than in recent years, and how that makes the well really slow. I'm still monitoring its output and the other info we're learning about it. And yet: I still feel mostly prepped for winter.   Meanwhile, I'm also wondering when I'll feel that the "well revamp, September 2021" life episode is over.  And mostly, I'm (still, always) thinking about when a pandemic is over. How will I know--beyond numbers and thresholds an

Bright Sides?

Not to be all "gratitude list" about it, because nothing is more annoying when you're wound up and in a funk at the same time to be told, "make a gratitude list," but. Okay, this is maybe a little gratitude-y.  September has brought, shall we say, challenges, and in learning to meet them, I have been deliberately looking for bright sides.  * The "active words on a page" part of writing my new novel had to take a back seat in September. In the rest of life, we had problems. They needed solutions. We also had situations--things that existed but over which we had no control and thus couldn't solve. Sorting it all out meant fractured sleep and focus and concentration. That meant few words.  Bright side: the novel was still there. Occasionally I'd stop at my open notebook and write down something, and when I went back to look recently, all of the notes made sense. (!!!) Apparently I was continuing to work on my novel all that time. I'm sitting d


Writing--for publication, anyway--involves a lot of waiting.* You wait for pitches and finished pieces to be accepted or rejected. You wait to hear from editors. You wait for your words to appear in print/online.  Waiting for the sun to rise. Regular life apparently involves a lot of waiting too--even when you can schedule appointments and aren't hanging around to hear by text or phone (or when you give out your cell number more frequently than we do). I have two appointments still looming this month (one fun, one not so much but worthy), and even though they aren't today's problems, I feel their weight.   Of course, it's possible to do things while you wait.  Yesterday, while waiting, I had a cavity filled and learned how to resize a graphic in Canva. Monday, I watched a knowledgeable expert fix the washing machine. For several previous weeks, I've produced and revised words.  The past couple of weeks have been full of mechanical things. I've asked many other e

August’s Gusts Gone

Below are a few of the things I’ve been pondering this August.   New glasses do make a difference in how and what I see, and that changes my outlook. So many things that I think of as metaphors are also literal.   Related: in an article about brain function by Max G. Levy in Wired , I read this astonishing sentence: “ Every thought that crosses your mind has, literally, crossed your mind, as millions of neurons in different parts of the brain chatter with one another. “ Literally. Here's a link to the article:   It’s nice to be invited to participate in something professional. Related: It’s interesting (to me) to do a retrospective of my work in a particular form over the past seven or so years. I could see where external events influenced decisions (and I’m glad I made the choices I did), and I could also see where I began to push myself to develop skills I hadn’t had before.    Waiting two years b

Things I Learned in July

I don’t like oat milk. I have tried. But I really don’t. Fireweed is pretty, but I learned that some other July. Straw hats! So much new-to-me info.                 You can find them to fit people who have big heads.                 They can feel “too hot” on a warm day.                 They do not have a convenient hole for a high ponytail (like Maggie’s                     #ponytailofjustice on FBI), so yours has to lie low,                     like a Founding Father’s. Smoke (from forest fires) gets everywhere, not just in your eyes. Great song, though. Oil cleansers, about which I’ve been skeptical due to their “flavour of the month,” gimmicky connotation, really do work to take off mineral-based sunscreen. Consistently sitting down to meet a word goal can be a remarkably effective way to accrue words for your project(s). Speaking of which, the review I posted last week, of Adam Pottle’s book, VOICE, came from some of those words. AND! When you enjoy something, it’s rea

New Review: VOICE at River Street Writing

I read VOICE: Adam Pottle on Writing with Deafness several months ago.   Recently, I finally put into words some of my thoughts about it, and those appear at River Street Writing.  An excerpt (note that these are mostly my feelings):  And wow, this book. It combines creative nonfiction, memoir, and sage writing advice. Searingly honest, it’s full of rage and beauty and a palpable, energetic love of the written word. It’s transparent and full of longing to be “heard.” It commands and rewards a reader’s reflection.   I highly recommend the book, and I notice that Adam will be the writer-in-residence at Sheridan College soon. For the review (and other interesting topics on River Street Writing's website and blog), go here.   

Later, Awhile: of Straw Hats and Visors

 OK who's thinking of alligators and crocodiles, as well as headgear? Light blue golf visor, the kind held by a sproingy cord around the back of the head, with a pattern of birds; and a straw hat. Settle in, I'm about to extend a metaphor. I've always had a big head. Possibly also metaphorically, but I'm talking about physically. As in, it's hard to find hats to fit.  Luckily, my sister has kept me well-stocked with adjustable golf visors, which are awesome. They keep the sun out of my face and let me stay cool--they don't retain the heat a baseball cap would.  However, lately I've found that visors give me a headache if I wear them too long. Also, they don't protect the top of my scalp from biting bugs or the sun. (It's been a while since the part in my hair burned--THAT's not fun.).  So I've "adopted" a straw hat from my husband, just to try it out, and I like it. I'm sampling other straw hats, just for grins.  The point is, s

When is a Pandemic Over?

Not yet.  Not even later this afternoon, when all the people in this household will be fully vaccinated, or two weeks from today, when our immunity should be ramped up and ready to go.  Not even when this country reaches some magical number of vaccinations or some magic percentage of the population vaccinated, which will in theory (or reality) mean that we humans can no longer transmit the virus in this country. Or any of the above in any other country, either.  Not before the world has access to vaccines.  But not even then. Increasingly, I'm understanding that the pandemic may never be over. Not for those "long-haulers" who continue to experience the effects of the disease.  Certainly not for those, in my extended family and not, who lost loved ones and were prevented from the social rituals of mourning that we humans have developed to accompany us through those difficult times of life.  But--ideally--it won't be over for all of us. When do we stop grieving a parent

Open Gate

Yesterday I met online with some people about a future event. An online meeting? Be still my heart.  Trust me, a meeting about the future is a big deal--a bigger deal than it might seem. We can now plan, tentatively, for future in-person events. Thanks, science of vaccines! (Get vaccinated.) For the past fifteen months, I haven't thought much about the past or future. I haven't often allowed myself to reminisce, no "gee, remember restaurants?" or "oh I can't wait to"s.  On occasion, sure. Watching TV--"was this filmed before the pandemic or in the early days?" "nope, they HAVE masks but are taking them off, when was that?" But mostly, it never felt like a useful way to spend too much time.  That meeting, though, opened a mental gate. In the evening, I suddenly remembered the joy of having someone else bring me food that they'd cooked. The food didn't need to be gourmet or expensive or fancy. Just the act of being elsewhere, in

Recent Books

  Last week I wrote about The Road , Cormac McCarthy's litmus test of hopefulness. It occurred to me later that I post about books on Instagram quite a bit, and there I share sentences on Sunday (and on Twitter: #SundaySentence is a fun hashtag to browse). And I share other book thoughts some other days, too.  Just to mix it up from photos like these.  For example. Recently, I've posted about Beloved , by Toni Morrison. Twice !  Also about The Woo Woo , Lindsay Wong's memoir about ice hockey, demons, and more.  I'm still thinking about the stories in Jack Wang's collection, We Two Alone . And Ross Gay's appropriately named The Book of Delights .  And Alexander Chee's How to Write an Autobiographical Novel . So good. I keep photos of some of his words on my camera roll, for the times when I wonder if it's all worth it. One of the best parts of reading more widely in the past year is learning how much I enjoy it--and one of the most difficult parts is seei

Thoughts on The Road

Recently, our book club* read The Road , by Cormac McCarthy. It's still with me--I haven't been able to move our copy to a shelf, although I pick it up to try. Then I flip through it again and return it to the coffee table.   Not gonna lie, I was nervous about reading it. Back in the days of All The Pretty Horses , my reader friends said of his work, "It's really good, but it's bleak."  And then along came No Country for Old Men , which I didn't see or read for the same reason.  So, 2021: Did we really need more bleak? In fact, the book club actually picked all our books in June of 2020, and I was pretty sure we wouldn't be wanting to read about bleakness. But thank goodness for vaccines. And when the book club picks a difficult book to read together--well, isn't that the point of the book club in the first place? So, if "enjoy" is the right word to use to describe this book, I enjoyed it. It's thought-provoking, and challenging, and

A Moment of the Other Kind

 A month or so ago, I wrote about having a moment . A good kind.  It occurred to me yesterday that I was having a different kind of moment--the other kind. The kind of moment when things aren't going quite right. When you're annoyed by the poor production quality of the book you're reading--inconsistent copy editing, real howlers of misused words, mysterious tense shifts.  When your down-arrow key sticks. When you have intermittent inconvenient internet issues, when the prepaid postage form doesn't scan, when the postal clerk inquires whether you might mean an address in Alaska instead of the one in Oklahoma where your brother lives, when the people scheduling appointments both respond to emails at different points in the email thread, when it's deceptively cold outdoors regardless of what the thermometer says.   When you drive the forty-plus minutes to midtown to pick up your groceries and they can't bring them out because the cash register system is down.  Day


Switching gears is, as always, a challenge for me. Once I overcome inertia to start something, I'm happy enough to keep doing it. So stopping is also hard, let alone changing directions. And yet. We're finally seeing weather typical of mid-May, which means I'll be outdoors more. I finished a presentation, which means I'm looking ahead to the next event, the other project (which one?), the different muscles. It's the season of "where was I?" (To be fair--for me, that's true of many seasons.)  Speaking of weather typical of mid-May, here we are today. And I, too, am a little blurry. Happy to watch drips and reflections. Taking stock of what's happened and what's next. Hope you can be the same. 

Forms of CNF

A few years back, Susan Olding ( Canadian writer; author of the essay collections  Pathologies and the recently released Big Reader ) served as my mentor. She helped me understand how to get from where I was (floundering in a manuscript morass) to where I might like to be (with a book on a shelf). Maybe even a book in the same section as some of these. Tangles , Sarah Leavitt; Trespasses , Lacy M. Johnson, Voice , Adam Pottle; Keep Moving , Maggie Smith; The Book of Delights , Ross Gay.  This Saturday, Susan and I are speaking about mentorship at the Creative Nonfiction Collective's annual conference. Info is at this link ; you register once--$100--for everything and get to learn from a bunch of interesting folks. It's held completely online. As is true in my life in general, I'm increasingly aware of the many (many!) ways in which privilege operates. Specifically, how privilege allowed me to participate in this mentorship. Obviously: money. Obviously: education. Obviously: