Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Work at home: the after-school shift

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Halloween planning is in full swing at our house. Last night was pumpkin carving. Costumes are at the ready. And candy is coming ... candy is coming ... CANDY IS COMING!* [*scary voice]. The eldest has plans for a two-part evening, involving stopping home mid-route to dump off loot, anticipating of course that his bag will get too heavy to haul. Maybe we should make a rule, however. When your bag gets too heavy to haul, you're done.

*

I had a small breakdown yesterday evening. I had to go outside and stand on the porch to collect myself, and even then, I wasn't fully collected. I took note of how many hours of domestic labour I do every day, just to keep our household squeaking along, and it was frightening. By my calculation, I spend five hours every day on chores. Five hours! This work includes: laundry, dishes, cooking, overseeing piano practice and homework and checking backpacks, bedtime, errands, and driving children to and from extra-curriculars. From 4pm until 9pm or later, day in, day out, my energies are consumed by basic household tasks. And Kevin makes the lunches. And only occasionally do I have time, during those hours, to, say, scrub the toilet or vacuum. (I have actually cleaned the shower while showering; do other women do this too? Wash the bathroom sink while brushing one's teeth? Clean fridge drawers while trying to make supper? This is multitasking at its least pleasurable.)

Far and away the bulk of that 4-9 shift is spent on those first three items: cooking, dishes, and laundry. Cooking from scratch takes time, effort, and advance planning. Cleaning up a day's worth of dirty dishes and containers from lunch boxes for six people, for three meals plus snacks, is an enormous job. (Sometimes Kevin does the dishes, not me.) It often takes us a full hour, minimum, to clear the kitchen from one end to the other. And I do laundry every day, usually two loads. Sports-related gear does not marinate well, shall we say.

Anyway. Yesterday. Yesterday, at the start of this 4-9 shift, I made a leek and potato soup, and roasted eggplant and zucchini to make a zippy baba ghanoush. I also served children snacks and fielded an endless stream of complaints from the two youngest, who were, frankly, exhausted after school. The complaints got louder and louder the nearer we came to mealtime, until they were a droning background hateful hum. "Garlic? I hate garlic! You always ruin supper. Onions! I hate onions. You promised supper would be done in three minutes! You lied! I'm starving!" Things improved briefly once I'd convinced the two youngest to set the table. Except this turned into a pitched battle over who would do what. By the time Kevin walked in the door after dropping AppleApple at swimming, supper was on the table, and two children were literally weeping and gnashing their teeth (because of the colour of their plates, if you can believe it, and if you have small children, you will).

I'd had it.

Almost two hours of work, a lovely meal prepared from scratch waiting on the table, most of the family present to eat together, and ... a household in tears.

True story.

I went outside, leaving behind barking dogs and wailing children, and stood for a few moments in the cool autumn evening. Nearly all the leaves were blown off the trees in Monday's wind. It's been raining off and on for days. The world could hardly look more bleak.

But there was no solution for it. I didn't want to go for an angry stroll in my crocs. I was hungry and tired. I went back inside and sat down in silence at the table, and in silence we ate. Everyone seemed apologetic. One of the after-school complainers was particularly penitent and even tried the garlic-laden baba ghanoush, just to make me feel better. After that we weren't so silent anymore. Life went on.

We need to find some way to direct that after-school exhaustion and angst elsewhere, because, as I explained last night, I'm a person too, even though I'm Mom, and my feelings get hurt too when people yell at me and say mean things. Sometimes I think I get the yelling and the mean things because I'm the most loved and most trusted person in their lives -- know what I mean? If you're feeling really rotten, you want to get it out, and you direct your unhappiness at the safest target -- the one who will understand and love you anyway.

But it's not ideal.

And it's not ideal that the daily labour of keeping this house ticking falls largely on one person. My children get a free ride, basically, and that's been my doing, not theirs. I haven't trained them to do much in the way of helpful household chores, and have expected little help from them, but good grief. I think it's time to start. How many chores do your children do? And what chores are they? Do you have tried-and-true methods of assigning chores and splitting up work?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Obscure CanLit anxiety dreams

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I have a theory about anxiety dreams: I think they don't count for restful sleep. I woke this morning feeling utterly exhausted by the dreams I'd just been through. I'd lost my phone. I'd appeared late for an event at a festival due to taking a shortcut and sliding down a steep hill of mud and having to climb back up again. I realized we'd scheduled that over-achieving daughter of ours to take ballet at the same time that she had soccer and swimming. Worst of all I went on an angry rant at a stranger, which proved completely unjustified: I accused him of stealing some cards from me, and it turned out that he'd found the cards and kindly mailed them on my behalf.

Dream rage is very disturbing. Does anyone else do that? Rant and rave in their dreams? Maybe I'm repressing something.

In any case, I awoke with residual dream-emotions of guilt, worry, stress, and whatever one wrestles with while trying to scrabble up a steep muddy incline.

A hurricane is coming, apparently, or at least its outer skirts are expected to brush our part of the world. On the bright side, soccer tryouts are cancelled tonight, so we can look forward to a leisurely family supper. I'm making fish and potatoes. A grainy mustard sauce for the fish, and potatoes fried in leftover bacon fat with onions. Yum.

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I realize that this blog has recently come to be dominated by the writer part of me. And the writer part of me is admittedly anxious. I don't feel that close to the industry, here in the wilds of Waterloo, but there is much in the news about publishing to be anxious about. But how anxious to be? In the print media, newspapers are putting up paywalls online in an effort to earn back dollars lost in advertising revenue, which has collapsed. A midsized independent Canadian publisher declared bankruptcy last week. And two huge multinationals, Random House and Penguin, just announced a merger agreement this morning. I've been reading the news, and the commentary, and some excellent blogs on the subjects, but I can't wrap my head around what it means. Are people willing to pay for well-written words? Is traditional book publishing dying out? Does it mean no one can make money publishing books, or print? Does it mean we'll all be turning virtual pages very soon? Or writing "books" in new formats: serially, like blogs, or quippily, like tweets? I don't even know why I'm speculating on the subject because I have no good ideas or insights. None.

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At our house, we still like books. The old-fashioned kind that carry evidence of their history around with them in physical clue-like ways.

At our house, we still get the daily newspaper delivered; I read it at breakfast and lunch and in the evening, usually while eating.

But then, once upon a time, not so long ago, I loved writing letters. I've converted happily to a mixture of email, texts, and social media, none of which I can store in my hope chest in shoeboxes up in the attic.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, I wrote regularly in a journal. Now I write here, unless I'm having a day too dark for here.

I don't seem to miss the letters or the journals, except abstractly. Maybe I won't miss books. I almost can't type that sentence, because I just can't believe it could ever be true.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The tired Sunday post

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Mother Nature and Junot Diaz

If you read my blog you'll find Kevin's Halloween costume funny (I hope); everyone else will just be baffled (especially because Kevin never remembered how to pronounce his last name). At the party last night, Kevin spent a lot of time explaining to everyone else who he was, and why. I spent a lot of time eating cheese and pickles and olives and cheese again. Wasn't sure I'd make it into party-land standing, let alone wrapped in vines plucked off the side of our house, but a nap with the dogs on the couch gave me a couple more hours of stamina.

Yesterday was a Chapters day, and I enjoyed myself despite (because of?) spending five hours behind a table stacked with my books, smiling and waiting for people to approach. Thankfully, many friends turned up -- for the hugs, right? One bought me a coffee and a protein box from Starbucks, which lasted all afternoon. And I sold a bunch of books, and not only to friends. I tried to tailor my pitch to whomever was approaching. Mention the setting? But offset it by adding, "It brings a child's innocence to a politically-charged situation." (Thanks to Charlene Diehl for the suggestion: I was riffing about pitch ideas on Facebook during the slower moments yesterday.) I also said that it was a good book club book, and I'd got strong and heartfelt responses from readers. I used vague phrases like: "mother-daughter relationships," "family drama," "memory."

During a mid-afternoon lull, I had four back-to-back long conversations with people who apparently were just looking to chat and didn't buy the book (that was a low point). I gave advice on how to get published. I declined free manuscript reading. One woman said she rarely reads in English (she is French), but that she felt extremely drawn to the book. She stayed for a long time, but never quite made the leap to purchase; I wondered whether I should have pushed her harder, but pushing is not really my forte. My inner-Menno recoils in horror at all this self-promotion. What if I'd said, "Maybe there's a reason you're being drawn to the book." But I couldn't, and didn't. (But I'll admit I wondered afterward: maybe there was a reason.)

A woman originally from Romania said she thought it would be too close to her own experiences to read, and apologetically walked away; but then changed her mind and came back all in a rush and bought it as a gift for a friend.

Mid-afternoon I posted on Facebook that no men had yet to buy my book, but lots of them were smiling at me. Of course, three minutes later a man bought the book. By the end of the afternoon, I figured about half the sales had been to men. Some were buying gifts for their wives. One had never met a writer, and complimented me on my author photo. He's the one who had the best line of the day. After I'd signed the book for him, he said, "Damn, I should have had you write 'Thanks for a wonderful night!' so I could show it to my ex."

See. I wouldn't get any of this stuff if I'd stayed home instead.

This morning I listened to an interview with Junot Diaz (the real one) on YouTube -- Kevin had found it while researching his costume. I guess this is one way to discover a new writer -- be mistaken for him. It's a very long interview, but if you've got time while kneading bread or doing dishes, listen in. I started around the 19th minute, where he's talking about the book being an archaic medium because it moves at a human rhythm, not at the rhythm or speed of a machine; it's archaic because we have been trained to become machines, and to forget that we are humans. He also said that to find something new, you have to first be lost.

I resonated with so many of the things he was saying, and I think other writers will too. (Be warned: he did use the F work often enough to interest Fooey, who was playing in the living-room. "It's that word Mommy uses when she's driving," she said. Argh! I keep promising the kids I'll stop swearing in the car, and I keep failing miserably. Just like a human or something.)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Come see me at Chapters today, starting at 11am

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stickering Juliet

I'm just going to go ahead and call this Publicity Week.

Yesterday, for example, I went around to local bookstores and stuck GG stickers onto my book's cover (as in above photo).

And if you're looking for a chance to get a stickered book signed (preferably one I've written), I will be spending the better part of the afternoon at Chapters in Waterloo, starting at 11am. I'm just going to brush my hair, round up some children, and head there now.

Hope to have time to blog more in-depth about other happenings from this past week, but meantime, promote, promote, promote.

Come and say hello. Please. And thank you.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

This morning I walked

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This morning I walked my littlest to nursery school. He desperately wanted to walk, not catch a ride with Kevin. The walk seems to be a critical feature of his transition from home to school. I walk him to the bus every other day, and Kevin usually walks him to nursery school (today he was off to Toronto for work, and couldn't spare the time). I could see how important it was to CJ that he walk, not drive.

So I said, hey, I'll walk you to nursery school today.

On our walks, we play a game that CJ makes up on the fly. Today we were making juice out of foods of a certain colour, say, red, or blue. "Blueberry juice! What else is blue?" I'm pretty sure the juice gave us special crocodile-fighting powers. Or maybe it was leaf-fighting powers. Fallen leaves feature pretty regularly in these games as objects that must be avoided or danced over (he has a special sideways zig-zag to defeat the leaf powers).

This morning I was glad to feel willing to relax into the moment. To walk my son to nursery school.

Yesterday, by contrast, I was completely miserably resistant to the demands of the day. It felt like a day designed to thwart any sense of autonomy and independence. A long list of must-does barked at me all day long, and I raced to keep up, and barely managed. Dentist appointment, groceries, bank, voting, piano lessons, cooking, laundry, dishes, cleaning, dog walking, putting children to bed. I didn't have a moment to spare in front of this computer. I resented it.

I wonder: is it okay to resent days that are clearly brimming with privilege and wealth and health and opportunity? Is it okay to resent being able to care for my family and my teeth and my house? When such a day is evidence of a full life rich with fortunate responsibilities? I don't know whether or not it's okay. Maybe it's pointless to judge an emotion.

I guess it just means I'm human.

But the day did improve post-dentist. And by the time I was walking our yappy dogs around the block with two chatty children in tow, I was pretty much okay with it all. The house was clean. There was still time to read to them before bed. We've finished Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and are moving on to Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, one of my personal favourites.

(During this reading, I've been trying to figure out why Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has had such success and longevity. It's quite awkwardly written in parts, and has these long rather boring songs, and Willy Wonka is a strange and scary man with peculiar prejudices against things like gum-chewing, and the way he stole the Oompa-Loompas from their own land and brought them to work in his factory makes me deeply uncomfortable. And yet. My theory is that it's the unromantic sympathy and clarity of the opening chapters, and Charlie himself, which save the book.)

I'm going to write for the rest of the day: the quiet hours that belong just to me. I'm not going to worry about writing a perfect book. No books are perfect. I'm going to follow my own advice and write in order to discover what I'm writing.

And then I've got supper, laundry, a kid with swim training, another with soccer skills, a visit to a book club, and a party in Toronto: Anansi's 45th birthday bash. Wow, hey. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming ...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Reading at IFOA for the GGs

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hospitality suite at IFOA

You're going to suspect that I do nothing but jet around to festivals and parties. Heck, let's pretend it's true. Let's pretend I'm not sitting at home in a slubby hoodie neglecting the sick kid on the sofa who is playing video games. At the very least, I'll provide no photos of my current state.

I'll admit it. I ache. I think it's a combination of playing soccer on Sunday followed by all the driving and standing and sitting required by parties and readings. I have it down now: I've got comfy but good-looking shoes for the standing parts and the parties, and I save the heels for the readings themselves.

I'm doing a bad job of telling this story.

Yesterday, Kevin and I drove off to Toronto, mid-afternoon, leaving my mom to look after the sick kid and everyone else (dogs too! good grief!). I checked in at IFOA (Toronto's International Festival of Authors), and the organizers let me use a hotel room to change in (for some reason, I didn't get a hotel room out of this event, perhaps because Toronto considers Waterloo to be a suburb or a cousin once removed? In any case, no hotel room for GG finalist Carrie Snyder). Kevin and I also ate sandwiches and eggplant dip in the hospitality suite: supper.

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here's what I decided to wear

Then we went to the IFOA party. I can't remember the title, but it was crowded with industry folk, and it was hot. I was happy to talk to the people I knew, but equally happy to stand on the sidelines and just observe. Best moment of the evening: when we were approached by a very excited woman who came right up to Kevin and said, "Junot Diaz?!" Needless to say, my husband is not acclaimed American writer Junot Diaz (who wasn't at the party in any case), but when we checked the author photos in the IFOA guide, we thought, hey, maybe he should put on a name tag. And grow a goatee. Because otherwise, people, I'm basically married to Junot Diaz.

The woman was embarrassed when she realized that I was the writer, and that she'd never heard of me. People keep joking that I may need to change the title of this blog, but I'm not too concerned. I reassured her, and she said she'd buy my book. (But I'm thinking she'll probably buy Junot's instead.)

Should I do more name-dropping? It seems almost obligatory. Here's who we talked to at the party: Sarah MacLachlan (my publisher); various Anansi people; a lovely woman from the Canada Council who had read my book thoroughly enough to know exactly which story I was going to read when I told her the title (I was impressed!); Iain Reid (One Bird's Choice); Linda Spalding (fellow GG finalist) and her husband Michael Ondaatje; Ania Szado (a writer with whom I toured back in the Hair Hat days); Eva Stachniak (The Winter Palace; she is Ania's friend); Mark Medley, books editor of the National Post, who commissioned my best writing assignment ever, which just ran on Saturday: a review of Alice Munro's new book, although it is more ode than review; the woman who thought Kevin was Junot; and a few others, though possibly by accident. We were there for an hour and a half, so clearly we didn't excel at the mingling.

Then Kevin spotted Vincent Lam (The Headmaster's Wager; fellow GG finalist). Vincent was leaving the party, so we thought we'd better follow him, because I didn't really know where I was going for the actual event. Vincent and his wife were both super-friendly, and possibly super-human (he's an emergency dr and she's a family doc and they have three kids under 7). We had a nice chat. After awhile, we were joined by an IFOA publicist, and Linda Spalding, and set off for the theatre, quite clearly going the wrong way. There we all were, tramping around in the dark surrounded by a very high fence. "I'm sure IFOA will provide us with a ladder," said Linda Spalding. Thankfully, no ladders proved necessary. Eventually, we went the right way, and were soon backstage at the theatre. Our group now included Robert Hough (Dr. Brinkley's Tower) and Tamas Dobozy (Siege 13) and the poet Phil Hall (Killdeer).

I tweeted a terrible photo. Vincent Lam tweeted a better one. Guess which is which.

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We met Shelagh Rogers. She gave me a scarf because it was freezing backstage, and you've seen what I was wearing. I read second to last, which gave me ample time to freak out. I handled my nerves by going into an almost comotose stillness during the first several readers. Conserving my energy, I thought, if I thought anything at all. It was kind of peculiar, actually, and prevented me from doing any useful networking backstage. But when it was nearly my turn, the stillness broke and I got very jittery, which was quite unpleasant. I don't usually get so jittery. I had to go for a little walk in my noisy high heels. But then I thought, just harness the energy and be glad you've got it: better lots of energy than none. I also thought, perhaps rather melodramatically, You're doing this for Juliet, so just go out and do it.

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that's me onstage

So I went out and did it. I settled down instantly, under the lights. I read "She Will Leave A Mark" from the first section. I think the story carries more poignance and depth after you've read the second section, but it's a good story even on its own. I love reading. The only emotion I felt at the very end of the story was, well, a kind of bittersweet sadness. Because the moment was over.

I enjoyed being asked by the stage manager if I'd like something to drink at the booksigning table (white wine, please!). And I enjoyed signing books. Kevin brought our stack and had all the GG finalists sign them, but there was a mix-up with Vincent Lam's. Kevin is going to need to find a second wife named "Sandra" in order for the dedication to make any sense. More proof that my blog title is in no danger of becoming obsolete. But then Michael Ondaatje shook my hand and told me he'd loved my reading. Hm. So maybe fifty-fifty.

The evening was starting to get really fun, probably because my publisher Sarah and her husband Noah Richler were on the scene, so we were talked into going back to the hospitality suite, which we hadn't planned on doing, being responsible parents from Waterloo, Ontario. Just being around Sarah and Noah has the effect of regressing me to my pre-child self -- almost; but let's not call it regression. Let's call it staying in touch with my spontaneous glam girl side. I'm shocked to report that side still exists.

But I'm not shocked to report that spontaneous and glamourous doesn't go exceptionally well with early mornings and sick kids and walking wet dogs in the rain.

No regrets. This is an strange and happy little bubble of a moment. I'm going to float while it's floating. (But thanks to kids and dogs I'm quite sure that I won't float away.)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Vancouver Writers Fest: I was there! And now I'm home.

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over the Rockies

Is this going to be a long post? I have a funny feeling that it might be. However, the process of writing it is being somewhat interrupted by a very chatty four-year-old who is sitting in the rocking chair in a patch of sunlight beside me. And so I am attempting to compose this post while simultaneously maintaining a conversation on a variety of topics. Right now we are on the seasons: "And it goes round again and again, again."

Don't it, though.

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Granville Island hotel

Travelling is such a strange thing to do. Being somewhere else. Being away. There is the transition, the waiting, the getting there; and then there is the being there, when home feels like a dream. Travelling solo is particularly strange, and, I must admit, quite easy to get used to, at least for short patches. On my own, I'm only myself, with only me took after. The responsibility seems so light.

It was an especially lovely trip, from beginning to end. It seemed blessed with lucky moments. I walked into the airport in Toronto on Thursday morning, and the first person I saw was my friend and former boss Noah Richler. What are the chances? He was off to Alberta (have you heard? -- his new book, What We Talk About When We Talk About War, is a finalist for the GG in the non-fiction category). I then met up with Heather Birrell, another literary friend (Mad Hope); but that had been pre-planned. We were on the same flight to Vancouver, and managed to get seats near each other. Neither of us are happy fliers, and our flight experienced a lot of turbulence. She was seated behind me and she reported that every time we hit turbulence, my head would pop up: apparently my spine stiffens when fear strikes. But we survived. I brought headphones and watched three movies. I'm not ashamed to report that two of them were children's movies: Brave, and Madagascar 3. Brave was EXCELLENT, plus I cried (I was in the middle seat; and I think we've now established I may be the kind of fellow passenger you'd rather not be stuck sitting beside, what with the weeping and the palpable terror). I dozed off during Madagascar 3, after which I started a very long melodrama called People Like Us, but then the plane landed and I missed seeing the last ten minutes (and it wasn't the kind of movie I wanted to experience twice). Heather filled me in on the plot.

We were in Vancouver!

Okay, let me interrupt to explain that nearly an hour has passed since I first began typing this post. Maybe this should be a two-parter, a multi-chapter saga? I've only just gotten to Vancouver, for heaven's sake. And it's nearly time to pick up my swimming child from the pool.

I'm going to speed this up by doing some name-dropping. Walked into the hotel, first person I saw was Sheree Fitch (Night Sky Wheel Ride): big hugs. (But then we didn't see each other again; this happens at festivals, with people coming and going.) Good thing I had Heather to introduce me to some more writers: we were soon headed for dinner with Jessica Westhead (And Also Sharks) who was travelling with her husband and their brand-new seven-week-old daughter (whom I never got to hold, dammit). We were also joined by Emily Schultz (The Blondes), whose book I'd reviewed for the Globe back in August.

After dinner, Heather and I went to see Anne Perry and her biographer Joanne Drayton being interviewed on-stage. We were both toast at this point, our bodies telling us that it was nearly midnight, so we debriefed in the morning over breakfast at the Granville market, after which we got very lost, after which it was time for our morning events. I'd woken at 4am, been unable to fall back to sleep, and got the front desk to open the exercise room for me so I could run/spin.

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outside my hotel room, Friday morning

My first event was with Riel Nason (The Town That Drowned) and Marjorie Celona (Y), moderated by Shaena Lambert (Radiance). I had a moment of panic while prepping and felt incapable of choosing the right section to read, but it all turned out fine. We spent the hour and a half reading and talking about child narrators, among other things, and the feeling in the room was just lovely. Afterward, I signed books, and one of the women who sat down to talk to me said, "I've never wanted a character to win an award before, but I just really want Juliet to win." Nice, hey.

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Chris Cleave, me, and Annabel Lyon, backstage (photo taken by Marsha Lederman)

I had about twenty minutes between events to freshen up and eat a banana, and then I was back at it. This one was in a large theatre with Annabel Lyon (The Sweet Girl) and Chris Cleave (Gold). We were each interviewed by Marsha Lederman, and then came onstage together at the end to answer questions. What can I say about this event, other than it confirmed for me that I really love being onstage. I'll admit it. Onstage is a great place to be. It requires the burning of lots of energy, and there's an element of risk to it, but if you know me, you'll know I like burning energy. The risk part, well, maybe I'm drawn to that too, a bit.

Something else about being onstage: I've learned that it's no good wishing I were different. To be comfortable, all I have to be is myself. I love watching those performers who are quick with witty anecdotes, but that's not me; and that's okay too. We're all different. When I'm in the audience, I want to see a real person up there, not someone pretending to be someone they're not. I think that's the only secret, honestly.

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outside my hotel room, Friday afternoon

After that happy shiny event, I went for fries and a beer with Marita Daschel (Initiation Trilogy); we met through the blog a few years ago, and though we'd never seen each other face-to-face, nor spoken, it was like being with an old friend.

Walking into the hotel, the first person I saw was Sarah MacLachlan (my publisher at Anansi). We were meeting for dinner in less than an hour. I grabbed a quick rest, took a hot bath, and let myself come down from the day's excitement, to unwind, though not completely.

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this is how much I unwound

Sarah had invited Anansi people out for dinner at the Sand Bar. I knew no one except for her. Seated around the table were (more name-dropping ahead): Rawi Hage (Carnival), Madeliene Thien (Simple Recipes), Anosh Irani (The Song of Kahunsha), Pasha Malla (People Park), a young woman named Thea whose story collection with be published by Anansi soon (sorry re lack of details), me, A.L. Kennedy (The Blue Book), Graham Gibson ( The Bedside Book of Birds; he's also known as Margaret Atwood's husband; she was stuck in transit and couldn't be there), and Dennis Lee (Alligator Pie). I was seriously crashing at this point, glazed eyes and brain, and thankful for light conversation from the women seated near me. After dinner, Sarah and I dashed off to hear A.L. Kennedy read (and I do know her name is Alison, but can't help but think of her by her initials).

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at dinner; and an accurate illustration of how my brain was behaving, at this point in the day

The evening ended in the writers fest hospitality suite where thankfully Heather came after I texted her an SOS -- I knew no one and was feeling like a wilting wallflower. But I also didn't want the day to end. Of course, it finally had to (I'd been up since 4am after all). All that was left was a short night's sleep, a morning walk in a hailstorm to fetch breakfast at the market, and the packing up.

I spent yesterday travelling. I enjoyed a quiet peaceful flight with no spine stiffening moments. On the ride home from the airport I met an international trade specialist and an expert in honeybees. And now I am holding my sad four-year-old whose sister just stepped on him, probably because I am writing this blog rather than paying attention. So it is time to stop typing and to pay attention.

Tomorrow (Monday) I'm in Toronto for a reading at IFOA. Anyone coming?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Problem solving with hair

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I got a haircut!

And then I came home and took photos, but of course. This reveals a possible narcissistic tendency, but hey. It's a nice cut, and I only get these done semi-annually, usually just before some big event when I realize that my ends are all split and I've been jamming the mess into a hairband at every opportunity.

Problem is, I can never duplicate what the stylist does with the blow drier, in part because I have no blow drier, and in part because I have no talent executing most of the beauty rituals which are supposed to be second nature to women (that may explain why I have no blow drier).

Getting ready for a trip makes me anxious. Once I'm out the door I'll be fine, but meantime the smallest details seem overwhelming. There is something about getting a haircut that gives me a sense of control, of being on top of things, of taking charge. I've gotten the same basic cut for years (you're looking at it), and I'm extremely cautious when it comes to length, probably due to some really unfortunate shearings back in my teens and twenties, including the time I shaved my head (age eighteen), which is an experiment I would recommend to no one.

Is this haircut preparation enough for the next couple of exciting, jam-packed, out-of-the-ordinary days? Well, I hope so.

See you in Vancouver. (Here's a link to my schedule of events, both of which happen on Friday.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

On being a professional writer who also provides free content

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October hosta

For about 48 hours after the GG announcement, I found it very amusing to narrate my life by captioning all activities with "GG finalist, Carrie Snyder ...", as in "GG finalist, Carrie Snyder, is going to finish these supper dishes before anyone gets a bedtime snack," or, "GG finalist, Carrie Snyder, would like a cup of tea and a back rub." I'm not sure anyone else found it quite so amusing.

But it amused me this morning too, as GG finalist, Carrie Snyder, stood on a stool in the downstairs bathroom attempting to remove spiderwebs with a wad of toilet paper, and a giant nest fell down her sweater sleeve. ("I told you that bathroom is infested, Mom!" "Yeah, there's definitely a weird looking nest above the sink." "That's an orb spider." "A what?!" "Don't worry, it's not poisonous.") It continued to amuse me as GG finalist, Carrie Snyder, trudged upstairs to clean the bathroom floor. ("Someone peed on the floor!" "There's pee in the upstairs bathroom!" "Somebody missed the toilet!") And the fun kept on rolling as GG finalist, Carrie Snyder, sorted a dark load of laundry while repeatedly shouting up the steps, "I'm in the basement, come down if you want me to zip you up!" Apparently, GG finalist, Carrie Snyder, had misheard the request. "He said that he wants you to pick him up from nursery school." "Oh." Sorry kid, but GG finalist, Carrie Snyder, is leading a writing workshop for high school students this afternoon, and can't. GG finalist, Carrie Snyder, also has a vague toothache in the very same spot where the dentist put in a filling last winter (remember that?), which seems like ominous timing given she's flying to Vancouver in two days. GG finalist, Carrie Snyder, is also panicking slightly about what to pack for her trip (how many shoes can she fit into a carry-on bag?). GG finalist, Carrie Snyder, got up in the middle of the night to turn off her alarm and did not go to yoga this morning. Despite getting extra sleep, GG finalist, Carrie Snyder, did not look fabulous in the mirror this morning; she really should have gone to yoga.

GG finalist, Carrie Snyder, is putting the hammer down. Stop this now, GG finalist, Carrie Snyder.

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This feels like a miscellany day. I've been having some random and more serious thoughts on a related subject.

It's the subject of being paid for one's writing. The Globe and Mail (a newspaper in Canada) is going to attempt a "paywall," by asking subscribers to pay for content; apparently, readers are not pleased. The New York Times does this as well, and the truth is, ever since it did, I've stopped reading NYTimes articles online. And I'm a writer! I get that writers and editors need to be paid for the work they do, and I respect the work that they do; so why not pay for quality online content? I think the answer is three-fold: one, I'm lazy and it seems like too much work to set up an account and try to remember passwords, etc.; two, I still get most of my news from the daily paper and from CBC radio; and three, there's a ton of free content online.

Let's address that final issue. I write a blog. I provide free content, practically every day! I understand why professional writers dislike bloggers -- professional writers would like to make a living doing what they do, thanks very much. Most bloggers, like me, do this in our spare time. I have no desire to monetize my blog, nor to figure out how to make money off of it, mainly because I do it for fun. It would change everything to try to blog for a living.

That said, here I am, trying to write for a living. It's dismal to report, but freelance rates, per word, have actually gone down since I first started freelancing, over a decade ago. I'm not sure freelance writing (for magazines and newspapers) was ever an excellent money-making occupation, but in today's climate it's an excellent way to sponge off your spouse. So, is being a writer a sustainable occupation?

GG finalist, Carrie Snyder, has yet to figure out how to make it so.

And it isn't for lack of trying. I'm beginning to wonder whether being a writer, a serious writer of fiction with hopeful freelancing on the side, is in actual fact a hobby, or an act of volunteerism, or of love, or of obsession, rather than being what one could legitimately call an occupation. A job.

This isn't meant to be a pity-me rant. I don't feel pitiable, not at all; I've been doing exactly what I want to do; and I do make (some) money at it. Nevertheless, I feel prepared to look at coolly at my options and draw some fairly harsh conclusions. Our four kids need more than I can offer them as a writer; and I don't believe the burden should be carried unequally by Kevin. The question is: what, then? Well, I've got some ideas, to be revealed in good time. For the immediate present, I'm sticking with the status quo, doing the freelance jobs that come in, working on a new book, applying for grants, hustling, and jumping up and down for The Juliet Stories. And blogging.

I love writing. I never started writing fiction thinking that it would earn me a living; and that wasn't why I started blogging either. With my writing, every step along the way has felt like a gift: the first time I had a poem accepted for publication; the first time an editor at a magazine wrote back to tell me she liked my story (even though she was turning it down); the first time I earned a grant for an unfinished manuscript; the first time an editor called to tell me that she loved my book and wanted to publish it; and on and on. In between all of these steps were innumerable impersonal rejection letters, fat self-addressed envelopes stuffed with rejected stories, and, once I'd acquired an agent (another exciting step), calls of reassurance that also brought news of "no, thanks." None of this could have been undertaken if it weren't answering an extreme personal call -- a deep probably irrational desire -- to keep writing, keep learning, keep practicing the craft. None of this would have been undertaken if I hadn't loved doing it.

Certainly, none of it was undertaken with an idea of dollar signs dancing in my head, a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I'm a highly impractical person, and I encourage my kids to dream impractically too. To pursue doing what they love, no matter what it pays in monetary terms.

But the thing is, we also have to figure out how to pay the bills. That's where I'm at right now. I'm doing what I love, and I'll keep doing it forever; but I'm going to have to do something else, too. My word of the year, this year, was actually two words: work and play. An interesting, difficult, troublesome choice, I think, and prescient.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Good morning, good Monday

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this is what the sky and leaves look like today

Oh boy. It's scheduling crunch time at our house. Indoor soccer season starts this week. Rep tryouts for next summer's soccer season are ongoing, and now include two children and one dad. I'm off to the Vancouver International Writers Festival on Thursday. And I think I need a hair cut too!

This was one of those weekends that does not replenish, to revisit last week's word.

(Although my poetry book club on Friday evening falls into the category of replenishing the interior resources while possibly depleting, ever so slightly, the bodily ones, due to surprise champagne and scotch to toast The Juliet Stories. We've chosen Lorna Crozier's Book of Marvels for our next read.)

Here's how our weekend progressed, in soul-sucking fashion. Kevin was at a conference in Niagara Falls on Saturday, while I went to AppleApple's first swim meet in Etobicoke (ie. not nearby), with two children in tow. The meet was well-organized, but there were hundreds of swimmers and seemingly endless heats for each race. For four hours, I entertained two small children in the crowded pool gallery, in order to watch their big sister swim two races that amounted to less than two minutes in the water, total.

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big smiles for the camera!

The little kids were very very good, but I can't say it was fun for the three of us. I had to ration our food supplies, not wanting to lose our coveted spot by making a long trek back to the truck for more. And I couldn't even read to them because of the noise. I'm not actually sure how we made it through those four hours. But that evening, both played "swim races" with toys in the bathtub.

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she's the blur in the green suit

AppleApple is new to competitive swimming, and had only learned to do her turn on Tuesday, and her start dive during the warmup at the meet. Neither served her very well, shall we say. She was in tears when we met her in the changeroom after the second event. Turned out her expectations had been rather high, and she was terribly disappointed in her times.

Given that dives and turns in short races make a huge difference, I assured her she'd done her best, and could only improve. But here's the thing: she's not one to be discouraged. After she'd cried it out, she cheered right up and said she'd just work harder and do better next time.

Kevin and I improved on the day by driving safely home from our respective locations, despite the rain and the distance. And by ordering take-out Viet-Thai food, including a fiery soup that soothed my scratchy throat. And by snuggling with the doggies and the kids, watching bad tv. A snuggle with those doggies would improve any day.

Sunday's non-replenishing activities included more swimming (a practice for AppleApple), during which I ran 15.5km, and decided to shelve my plan to do a marathon in a few weeks' time. I haven't put on the mileage required, and I'll be busy with the Wild Writers' Festival the day before. Instead, I'd like to aim for some winter/spring races, and keep doing these longish runs on Sundays to stay prepared. There is only so much a person can do. You know that fashion advice to look in the mirror before leaving the house and remove one accessory? I feel that applies to my life, sometimes. I look at the day's schedule and I think, one of these things needs to go. Sadly, it's usually something fun.

We also took everyone shopping for indoor soccer shoes, including me and CJ. And then I took Albus shopping for a new winter coat, which was not something either of us wanted to do. So .... I baked bread when we got home. It made me feel like I'd done something other than be a consumer.

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more sky, more leaves, today

Uh oh. I'm beginning to suspect this a grumpy post. Maybe it just matches this weather. Wet, dull, windy, colours draining away.

Friday, October 12, 2012

An idle restlessness

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One of the questions I'm asked most often is: how do you get everything done? The funny thing is that from my perspective, I actually have quite a lot of time to sit around and stare out the window. It does seem to be true that I get a lot of different things done, but I'm not going crazy; often I don't feel busy enough. I had no explanation for this until my friend Zoe informed me last week that she'd figured it out.

She said: You don't procrastinate.

And dammit, if that isn't the truth.

Oddly, this can cause problems.

It's true. Getting stuff done too promptly can cause all sorts of unforeseen hassles. "Jumping the gun" is the phrase that comes to mind. Then I have to undo what's been done.

But it's also true that the habit of not "putting off til tomorrow what could be done today" is a useful personality trait when one is aiming for maximum efficiency. (And I do realize that maximum efficiency is not what everyone is aiming for.)

Over the years I've come to recognize the drawbacks of not procrastinating, and now force myself to slow down on certain major decisions. Because I know that once decided, I will throw myself in whole-heartedly. When I'm in, I'm all in. Knowing this has caused me to sit on the fence for longer than comfortable when making big (and sometimes even small) decisions. However, once a decision is made, I don't wait around, I get to it.

This applies to basically everything. I don't say I'll run tomorrow instead when it isn't raining or cold; if I've planned to run, I just run. If I see that the floor needs to be vacuumed, I just vacuum it. If a kid is expressing a particular need, I try to address it immediately. (I mean the less tangible, emotional needs that I know they can't meet themselves; sorry kids, if you're really thirsty you can get that glass of water all by yourself.) Sometimes this means dropping other less pressing tasks. Sometimes it means staying up late at night, or blocking off time on the weekend. Often, very often, it means doing something I don't feel like doing.

But as soon as I start doing it, I'm good.

Maybe that's because I tend to be almost obsessive when on task. Doesn't matter what the task is.

But here's the thing: If I've finished up everything I'm working on, and have not decided what to throw myself at next, I find myself in a restless idle state that does not suit me. Do I need to find more things to do? Or do I just need to learn how to enjoy the idle moments when they arrive? Because there's always something more to be done. Always -- should I choose to take it on. I could be going for a walk this afternoon with my camera in hand, snapping fall photos. I could be writing a poem about chickens for my poetry book club this evening. I could be stretching. I could be reading. I could be writing.

Or I could be sipping a cup of tea and staring out the window, and, frankly, that possibility seems the most likely.

(But part of me wants to be doing more! So much more! ... But what?)

[p.s. Update on afternoon activities: I wrote the damn chicken poem for poetry book club, feeling the pressure now that I am a GG finalist, even if not for poetry. And I read out loud to the (largely unresponsive) dogs from Lorna Crozier's new book of prose poems, The Book of Marvels (what do dogs know about prose poems? These things are marvelous). And I drank a cup of cooling coffee that has sent me into serious over-caffeination. Should have stuck with tea. Otherwise, I'm altogether happy with this afternoon's not-quite-staring-out-the-window activities.]

Thursday, October 11, 2012

International day of the girl

the leaves are changing colours
Last night I dreamed that I was lying on the floor of our local independent bookstore wrapped in a sleeping bag. Beside me was a shelf of books that had mine on it. I was trying to sleep, but kept reaching up to check my book, just the cover.

Interpretations, anyone?

I've just spent a sleepy and tired day doing ... next to nothing. I suppose there is clean laundry, and that's something. And fresh chicken stock. But, yeah, that's it. Lots on my mind, but it's all too scattered to amount to action.

Today is the International Day of the Girl. I'm thinking about the girl shot in the head in Pakistan because she attended school and became a public voice by blogging about it: her writing leaves behind a permanent record of her experience, like Anne Frank's did. (Though there is still hope, apparently, that she might survive the shooting.) Malala. I don't know what else to say about this because it is too sad, knowing that all over the world girls are treated differently because they are girls. Some beliefs are just plain wrong. I am not a person eager to split the world into right and wrong, but this is wrong.

In what small way could I mark today, for girls everywhere?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A wild autumn wind

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When I woke up from my nap this morning, the word that came to mind was "replenish." But now the same word sounds a little bit suspicious, like the advertising copy for a facial cream or something. Nevertheless, replenishment is on my mind. Or maybe just napping. That was my second nap of the morning, truth be told. I went right back to bed after my early morning run and slept until the kids had be dragged up, too; and after walking CJ to the bus stop, I came home and crawled back into bed again, and let myself sleep for as long as I wanted. Which would seem to suggest I have no deadlines pressing.

In fact, I've just met a couple of deadlines, so I am feeling the relief of that; and giving myself permission to take some extra rest.

My inbox is quiet.

This week is a quiet interlude sandwiched between several very busy ones.

One of the questions asked yesterday evening at the book club I visited was: what changes now that your book is a GG finalist? And I had to say: well, nothing very obvious, really. Like any opportunity, you make of it what you can. I think (though I'm open to argument) that this nod is meant to acknowledge work done, not to fix my feet in any literary firmament, nor to launch me in some way. What really matters is the work I'll continue to do. Maybe this will make that work more possible to continue, but then again, maybe not. Whatever I try to publish next will have to stand on its own merit, not on what came before.

I've been wondering: why are we drawn to books with stickers, or movies that have won awards? I'm as guilty of it as the next person. I know it's not a guarantee of excellence, and yet I'm still willing to take a chance on something that has some kind of communal stamp of approval on it. I may not even mind if I don't ultimately like the book or movie--it won't feel like time wasted--because at least I've participated in a cultural conversation, just by showing up. And so, it occurs to me that perhaps the most tangible benefit of having one's book stickered is that it gives the book (briefly, at least) the opportunity to enter into a wider conversation.

Wow, that's some autumn wind today. It's wild out there.

Sometimes I think what I'm hoping for, and maybe waiting for, maybe in perpetuity, is not replenishment, but a strong wind to blow clean the mind.

(But replenishment sounds so much easier.)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tuesday hodgepodge, with a recipe for green tomato relish

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So it's already Tuesday.

I'm visiting a book club this evening to discuss The Juliet Stories. I've got beans soaking for supper. And the sky looks white from where I'm sitting. The dogs are sleeping on top of each other on the couch. I searched the attic for winter hats and gloves this morning. And I ran 6.5km in half an hour, but my watch told me I'd run 7.8km, so I was a little disappointed (even though I realized that it had to be off -- I'm not an under 4 minute/km runner).

The turkey was fabulous this weekend, but I took no photos. The last-minute prep got a bit hairy, so I forgot to use my camera altogether. But I spent the better part of Saturday in the kitchen, cooking a feast for family, and I can't think of any other way I'd rather spend my holiday. On the menu this year: turkey, gravy, traditional bread stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, mashed squash with brown sugar and ginger, brussel sprouts with pecans, and green salad. Pumpkin and apple pie for dessert (not homemade), with freshly whipped cream. I stuck with the basics. What could be better? There were 13 of us around the table, and we ate almost an entire 14 pound turkey; cleaned up the leftovers for lunch the next day: turkey and cranberry sandwiches, with green tomato relish.

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Which reminds me, some of you have requested my green tomato relish recipe, which I hesitated to post until ensuring it was good. Well, I'll be darned, it's good. We ate almost a pint of the stuff for Sunday's lunch. Here's the recipe (and be warned, it involves a lot of weighing -- we actually dug out a scale from the basement for the purposes of making this relish; and then we all weighed ourselves too, just for fun.) Also observe: we canned spontaneously and had to make lots of substitutions.

Green Tomato Relish (from Joy of Cooking)

Combine in a large bowl: 8 pounds of green tomatoes, thinly sliced, and 2.5 pounds onions, thinly sliced, sprinkled with 1/2 cup salt. Stir well, cover, refrigerate for 12 hours. (Confession: We were short on time, so ours sat for about 1 hour.) Rinse the tomatoes and onions in cold water, drain.

Now, in a large nonreactive pot, bring to a boil and dissolve 2 pounds of brown sugar in 1 and 1/2 quarts cider vinegar. (Confession: We substituted at least a pound of white sugar, and 1 quart of white vinegar. I added some extra sugar before canning, too, to taste.)

Once sugar is dissolved, stir in the following: 2 pounds green bell peppers, sliced; 1 pound red bell peppers, sliced; 6 cloves garlic, sliced; 1 tablespoon dry mustard; 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt. (Confession: We didn't have enough peppers, so I added chopped zucchini and eggplant to make up the difference in weight.)

Add tomatoes and onions and stir together well.

In a moist square of cloth, tie together the following ingredients, and add the cloth to the pot: 1 tablespoon whole cloves; 1 tablespoon ground ginger; 1 and 1/2 teaspoons celery seeds; 1 cinnamon stick broken into pieces. (Confession: We had no celery seeds. We made no substition for that lack.)

Simmer, stirring often, for about an hour, or until tomatoes become translucent. Can while hot in a boiling water canner: 15 minutes per pint or half-pint, 1/2-inch headspace.

:::

I'm putting up a link to the Wild Writers Festival, which is a brand-new literary festival here in Waterloo, coming on November 2 and 3, and bringing to town a really fabulous line-up of writers, including Diane Schoemperlen, Russell Smith, Alexander MacLeod, Helen Humphreys, Alison Pick, Merilyn Simonds, Miranda Hill, Elizabeth Hay ... see, I don't want to stop listing names, they're all so terrific. Personally, I'm hoping to pop in to Kerry Clare's blogging session, which is right before my panel discussion. Spread the word! And come if you can!

(And if you're in Toronto, please know that Waterloo is closer than you think, and that you're coming to one of the prettiest parts of the city, which just happens to be my neighbourhood -- the festival is being held at the Balsillie School of International Affairs.)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Thanksgiving.

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I am thankful for family. I am thankful for a full house. I am thankful for a holiday that celebrates feasting together.
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I am thankful that the dogs are part of our family now. I am thankful for a long morning run before the cold sleet came. I am thankful for colourful leaves against a white sky.
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I am thankful for work. I am thankful for energy. I am thankful for surprise gifts from friends.
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I am thankful for a day of rest. I am thankful for good books to read. I am thankful for leftovers.
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(Photos look better viewed in full on Flickr.)
And I am thankful for clean dishes.

Friday, October 5, 2012

{this captioned moment}

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{This photo hints at how difficult it is to capture my emotions, to see myself clearly, in a week that has included: a challenging 25km trail race; an early Thanksgiving dinner with family; witnessing The Juliet Stories becoming a GG finalist; many interviews during which it was not me holding the recorder and taking notes; a celebratory reading; lunch out with Kevin (rare); a dear friend's birthday party and morning coffee with more friends; an inbox full of greetings from friends near and far; prepping to host family for Thanksgiving; and the every day domestic work of cooking, dishes, laundry, groceries, school schedules, bedtime reading, hugs and kisses and soccer and swimming and ordinary life.

I'm here, in the midst of this wonderfulness. Feeling at once stronger and more centred than I'd imagined; and unexpectedly vulnerable, open to tears and laughter and big emotions. Open to putting my foot in my mouth. Open to stumbling (or, more accurately, stumbling no matter how much I want not to).

I am failing to caption this moment. Am I supposed to admit this? That life is too sprawling and complex and amazing and heartbreaking and mundane and fabulous to be captured in the words I spell out, with hope that I'll transcend my limitations? Knowing I can't? Knowing I'm going to keep trying, imperfectly, for as long as I can find words?}

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Back on the good old ground

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"are we going to be millionaires?"
happy family
These photos were taken on Tuesday, just after the kids arrived home from school.

I think a person can sustain a high of excitement for about 24 hours, tops. So, yes, I'm right here on the good old ground today, and it's a fine place to be. I sense that Tuesday's news has genuinely begun to sink in. That's almost a little bit sad. I never want it to feel commonplace; when I think about The Juliet Stories, I always want to feel as shocked and astonished and flooded with joy as I did on Tuesday morning.

But then again, those emotions are unsettling and burn a lot of energy. I've gotten up early the past two mornings to exercise, and my energy level is feeling on the wane. Wax and wane.

There are stickers. Did you know that? My publisher is going to send me some "GG Finalist" stickers that I can take around to bookshops and stick onto my book. I promise not to let my children stick them onto our sticker table, or their clothing, or their faces, even though that would make for a funny photo.

This morning, I did an interview with a local paper. We met at Words Worth Books in uptown Waterloo, which gave me the opportunity to buy the other four GG finalist's books. Don't they all look lovely?

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The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam, The Purchase by Linda Spalding, Siege 13 by Tamas Dobozy, and Dr. Brinkley's Tower by Robert Hough

But 'tis time to return to regularly scheduled activities. I have deadlines to meet, and this weekend I've also got a turkey to bake and family to host. (I'll be sure to host the family and bake the turkey, not the other way round.)

And now, a few links, if you're not saturated already.

* Please go on and listen to a few songs from Danny Michel's new album, Black Birds are Dancing Over Me, which is so very joyful. "Go on and let someone love you," has been the line running through my head these past few days.

CBC Hamilton's piece on me (I was born in Hamilton, Ontario, and I'm happy to be claimed by any place I've lived that would like to claim me!).

Me and the kids on local TV (Kevin walks into the background of the opening shot, too).

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A day out of ordinary life, with thanks and mile-wide smiles

reading at the launch of Waterloo's Wild Writers Festival, yesterday evening

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with Tamas Dobozy, fellow local writer and GG finalist

with my husband, Kevin, who told me my hair looked fine (but I think it's a bit wild, no?)
So. That was quite a day.

Apparently I only stopped grinning ear to ear when it was entirely impractical, such as while doing a reading from The Juliet Stories.

I know it's cheesy to say so, but yesterday was truly special. It was a day out of ordinary life, yet still grounded in it. I don't expect to have many days like it in my lifetime. Below, at the risk of sounding giddy and foolish, a few highlights.

- I'm glad that I posted early on yesterday, when the news was still so fresh and astonishing. That post is a keepsake in words. (And I'm glad for all the moments my blog has captured over the years that I've been chronicling our family's adventures, big and small.)

- I rode a wave of excitement yesterday, generated by the goodwill of friends and family. Thank you, all who joined in to share the moment. (It reminded Kevin of when we had our first baby: the genuine outpouring of happiness that greeted that arrival.)

- A friend arrived, early afternoon, offering Goat cheese and "Grapes" (wine): get it? Double Gs to celebrate the GGs. And bless her heart, because I hadn't eaten lunch. And I needed someone to hug. And the glass of wine didn't hurt either.

- My kids! Oh my goodness, they arrived home all together in a clump, and Kevin had met them partway and shared the news, and they were positively giddy (at least the older ones were). Beaming. Everyone fighting for hugs. Albus's first question, which he kept repeating in hopes of receiving a different answer, was: "Are we going to be millionaires?" Um, sorry, kiddo, you may not realize this but I'm a CANADIAN LITERARY WRITER. That will never happen.

- When a TV camera arrives at your doorstep, you will discover where you draw the line in terms of what you're willing to share publicly. Did I rush to shovel the Lego off the floor? Did I brush my hair? Did I make my children turn off the wii? No. But I did remove my crocs, which I wear as slippers around the house, and put on shoes instead. So apparently that's my line and there ain't no crossing it: crocs.

- The publicity. I've got to tell you, it will sound crass, but it's sweet to know that news of my book's existence is being broadcast around the country. I'm not sure a writer can ask for anything more than that. Here are links to the articles: I spoke to Mark Medley at the National Post first (he caught me literally within 15 minutes of the announcement, smart man); Victoria Ahearn at The Canadian Press interviewed me next, which was lovely because a lot of papers carry the CP stories (and everyone used Vincent Lam's photo, which makes sense as he's the most well-known of the five finalists); I spoke to Paul Irish at the Toronto Star next (mid-wine, actually); then I spoke to Robert Reid at The Record, and they also sent a photographer to last night's event. Apparently I'm on the front page today, but I haven't seen this to confirm it. And then the TV crew showed up while I was making lentil soup for supper.

- Can you believe the beauty and candour of those photographs? My friend Nancy Forde took them at the party last night. She also took my author photo, which appears on the inside cover of The Juliet Stories. How lucky am I to have a personal chronicler of life's big moments on the scene with camera in hand? (She also took photos at my book launch, way back when.) If you want more Nancy, visit her work on Flickr. She's got a gift.

- I squeezed in a run before the reading. Thank goodness for running. There is no better way to burn nervous energy, quickly and efficiently.

- My mom reminded me that occasionally things come along that are more important than a good night's sleep. Isn't that the truth.