Glorified Secretaries of the World, Unite….

•June 29, 2010 • 3 Comments

Again and again I must ask myself; why do I have a blog when all I want is to do what I have always done, and write cryptic remarks and notations, Lines of Future Genius,  possible epigraphs and notes toward love letters that will never be written, all in one of my beloved raggedy journals? I have this curmudgeonly prejudice that journal entries are not meant to be typed or seen by anyone. I have been making daily use of a journal for more than half my live. No, that is not accurate. Let’s call it an even 3/4 of my life. Sometimes I forget how old I am now, how young I was then, when I started it all. This writing life among the multitudes. One writes daily, if one is lucky. One contemplates just what sort of a writing life one wants. In this age, the blog is becoming the daily touchstone, or perhaps it already is, for an apprenticeship to the written word. Or rather the typed word. One day, will we stop calling ourselves writers, and instead, more accurately, redub ourselves as typists? The secretaries of the human experience, taking eternal dictation? That is not a bad image. Let me just go scrawl that down in my journal….

I have been writing. I got my grant, finally, after these fair few years of trying to figure out what grant committees actually want from me. The truth is that I still don’t know. I don’t know what I did right any more than I knew what I did wrong. And I think that is how it has always been and ever will be with this work. This writing work I have taken rather arrogantly upon myself. I don’t know where what I do right and what I do wrong begins and ends, and maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe that is the point. To do just enough of both so that a lovely counterbalance is struck. Maybe the point is not brilliance but some sort of cancellation. One writes to break even.

I am sitting here in a house that isn’t mine. A friend has gone away. He is coming back tomorrow, and though I am happy to welcome my friend back, I am loathe to relinquish this house. I do good work here, when I am not too distracted. I think I do better work here than when I am at home. Why is that? I have to wonder. Why should that be? I don’t know. Maybe writers need a place to go that isn’t where they eat and bathe and lay down at night. Maybe it is as simple as that. Or maybe it is this house. I feel at home here, in a wonderful way that is not the way I feel at home when I am at home. Here, I feel at home even though it is not my home. And that is something very unusual. For me, at any rate.

Today I read a gorgeous travel article by an acquaintance, Timothy Taylor. Though to call it a Travel Article seems…highly erroneous. Suspect, even, given the breadth and depth of it. It feels more like an incantation, to me. It is that potent and moving. Which is no surprise, given the writer who wrote it. It is…extremely intimate, as good personal non-fiction is. When I read something like it, or in that genre that is as effective and beautiful, I feel so…strange. I feel such a coward. Because I have never been able to do what they have done. I have never been able to write as myself, to risk that by sending it out into the world.

This blog, of course, doesn’t count. Hardly anyone will read it, which is why it is even possible for me to write this to begin with. There is no real intent. But what is it to write something true about oneself with actual intent? I don’t know. I have never tried it. But reading Timothy’s piece makes me want to take a risk. I am inspired to risk something, having read this, safe in my seclusion, not a soul around, sipping tea at a table in a room filled with light, scattering toast crumbs, making sounds in my throat that are the vocal representations of a kind of affirmation that only comes when one has read something True, and must respond verbally, even when there is no one to hear. Especially when there is no one to hear. Another question raised by this reading experience is why what one reads inevitably becomes something about oneself? There is no reading of something without turning it into a mirror that does or does not reflect the self.




•November 5, 2009 • 14 Comments

Today I found out that Ellen Miller died. Almost two years ago. Two years of still hoping she would have a new book out soon, even though her old one is out of print, and has been for awhile.

It’s strange, how sad and lowdown it brought me, this old news scavenged from the murky depths of my web browser.

Ellen, I will always read your book. It will always thrill me and murder me and resurrect me. And you too, I guess. Isn’t that what we want? What you must have wanted? For someone to read your book after your death?

Well, that someone is me.

Remember, Ellen. Every word written is a victory against death. Even if to write them is sometimes like being killed.

NaNoWriMo Commences….

•November 2, 2009 • Leave a Comment

So what, I’m a day late? I was too glutted and lazy yesterday, the day after Halloween, to do anything but lie on the couch, eating leftover candy and groaning.

It’s down to business today, though.

I’ll have to write double-time.

This is the math I’ve come up with:

November has 30 days. I’m only going to plan to write during the week. Therefore, November has 21 working days this year. 50,000 word divided by 21 = 2380.95 per day. That’s not so bad at all. I’m sure I will write far more than that on some days, and on others–not so much.

So far, I’ve written 0 words. But today is the first actually working/writing day of the month. So give me a break.

New Stuff.

•October 25, 2009 • Leave a Comment

It seem counterproductive to write a bunch of disclaimers addressing all the reasons for which I haven’t been writing in this blog for so many months. As usual, I will at least mention the fact that few people (if any) actually read this thing. Of course, if I wrote in it more often, perhaps they would. But. I digress.

I think I really will start writing in this thing more often. I think part of me really still feels uncomfortable with the notion of a blog, which is rather ridiculous and backward of me, but there it is. I don’t know what is worse—the thought no one is reading it, that only a few people are reading it (and probably by accident) or that people might actually at some point start to read it. Though most people keep a blog for their readers, I think I still fall back on old notions of posterity and keep it mainly for myself, so I can look back on it and see what I was up to on any given day. Of course, if I never write in it, I am defeating my own hazy purpose.

Anyways. Since last I wrote, I have been embarking on some writing projects of note.

1)     I competed in and finished a working manuscript for the International 3-Day Novel Contest. My manuscript weighed in at around 100 pages, give or take whatever typeface is used. I packaged it up and mailed it in a conspicuously brown manila envelope. Actually, it wasn’t really a manila envelope. It was an envelope I made myself out of some brown packaging paper I had lying around, because I really am cheap like that. So we’ll see if it manages to rate even an honourable mention when the results of the contest come in. At this point, I barely even think about it without cringing and breaking out into a cold sweat, so I don’t think I am over the trauma of having written an entire “novel” over the course of a long weekend. Ugh. Shudder. I’ll find out in January.

2)     I wrote and submitted yet another grant proposal to Canada Council, and this year I am more hopeful than I ever have been upon completion of a grant application. Which is likely not an indication of anything. I am quite certain I still won’t get the grant. But if I don’t get it for this project (a post-war Vancouver/feminist perspective of the Holocaust and WWII novel) then I can rest easy in the knowledge that nothing I want to write will ever tempt them, and I can stop torturing myself with these yearly “polishing of the old begging bowl”, as my friend Oscar so picturesquely puts it. I won’t know for sure until March. I’m trying not to think about it. Much.

3)     I’ve decided to give NaNoWriMo a try. I want to use the month to write a series of linked stories that go with several I’ve already written and published, with it in mind to send out the collection in December to a few Canadian presses. It’s time I tried to get my own book out there. I know this. Now I just have to get off my ass and actually take the plunge. Gulp. And in the meantime, I will send out the individual stories to places other than Broken Pencil and subTERRAIN. I’m trying to branch out. Descant and Prairie Fire, look out!

I’ve been reading a lot lately. I am going through one of those obsessive reading phases (as opposed to my normal book inhalation diet). Right now I am swooning over Michael Cunningham’s A Home at the End Of The World. Sigh! So gorgeous. I love it utterly. I bought it for 55 cents at the VPL Book Sale earlier in the month. Actually, I was very frugal. I was taking the train home, and didn’t want to buy more books than I could comfortably carry. So I chose 8 or 9 real gems and called it a day. I still haven’t worked my way through last year’s mountain of acquisitions. Several of the books I bought this year are actually doubles of my favourites I am going to send to friends as Yule gifts, so I was even more virtuous than I appeared to be from the outset. There are some books I can’t leave on a table. I just *have* to buy them, no matter how many copies line my shelves. I justify this OCD behaviour by swearing I am going to make gifts of them. Some of them actually do make it into a parcel here and there. Others….well. You can’t have too much of a good thing, can you? Don’t answer that. That is always a rhetorical question when I ask it.

I wrote a short story this month called Down and Out at the Ovaltine Cafe. I hope to place it soon. I’m thinking of sending it to subTERRAIN for their Signs themed issue. I’ve never actually published anything with them, so it would be a nice little victory if they took it.

Oh, yeah—most importantly of all, the Broken Pencil anthology (otherwise known as Can’tlit: Fearless Fiction From Broken Pencil Magazine) I’ve got a story in has finally hit the bookstores.  It was released on Thursday at a launch party in Toronto (I rather feel like I’m still waiting for it to come out, as I wasn’t able to make it to Toronto for the party. That, and the fact that I’m still waiting for my contributor’s copies). It has a wicked awesome cover, and there has already been a review of it posted, both in blog format and on the ECW webpage. So go buy a copy! Right now!

Also, Rhonda Waterfall has her first collection, The Only Thing I Have, out with Arsenal Pulp this month, and one of her stories is being featured on I just read it tonight. Go read it too, and maybe we can talk about it.

Poisoned Longing.

•July 8, 2009 • 3 Comments

Do you ever stay up late reading a book, wallowing in the delicious melancholy that drags you into its arms? The strangest books will do this to me, sucker punching me in the gut. Sometimes I don’t even like the book that does it. It’s like hate sex with someone who nonetheless fills you with an overwhelming sensation of tragic nostalgia—maybe it’s the scent of his aftershave, or the texture of her hair falling into your face. Maybe it’s your own desperate euphoria. Either way, you’re flying—straight into a brick wall, maybe. But flying nonetheless.

The book that’s doing this to me right now is White Oleander by Janet Fitch. I resisted reading it for a long time, and I didn’t like it at first—but then I had some kind of strange breakthrough with it, and I can’t put it down, and I don’t want it to end. It’s beautifully written. Usually when I hate a book it has something to do with not being beautifully written enough. The other reason I will usually hate a book is something White Oleander may be guilty of: and inappropriate/inauthentic/unbelievable narrative voice for a young protagonist. I felt that way for the first while, while the narrator Astrid was 12-14, but now that she is 16 and has been through a lot of shit, I feel like she has grown into her voice. I don’t know. It’s interesting. And I’m not sure what this novel is all “about” sometimes. It’s the sort of novel I don’t usually like to read, involving all the Tragedies of Woman. That sort of novel usually makes me so angry I end up throwing it against a wall. Not because I don’t care or feel anything about those tragedies, but because it brings up too much of my own emotional past. Landscape I’m fucking sick and tired of navigating over and over again. I am not a fan of having certain emotions played upon. There is a strange poison in it that lulls and kills.

But in the end, I feel this book may not be what I initially thought. I have just over a hundred pages left, so we shall see. And I want to read something else this woman has written—something to guage it against, style-wise. I will say that it is a vast improvement on the last book I read, On Beauty by Zadie Smith—the only fucking part in the whole novel I actually liked was the very last scene. And who knows? That may only have been because I was so goddamned relieved it was finally over.

The World gets Softer and softer.

•July 6, 2009 • Leave a Comment

My favourite asofterworld comic EVER!

Until next week, of course.

Channeling Rhizomes.

•July 5, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I’m up at nearly midnight, hunched over my computer,  trying to write 140 character stories (including spaces) that must also include 1/3 of the words from another 140 word story (including spaces) written by someone else in the spirit of Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizome theory and concept of the assemblage. I’m starting by choosing the words I want to use from the existing stories.I feel like I’m in writing class all over again, and I like it. Sometimes a writing exercize really forces you to refine what you are trying to do with your writing. Especially when you are extremely limited in some way. Or restricted, I suppose I mean. Constrained. Sometimes that is when the true lingual acrobatics are on display for all to see. We shall see, I suppose. It’s for this thing Steel Bananas is doing. Sometimes I think some of the best stories I’ve ever written were the shortest. Though this is a tad shorter than I usually make them. Ha.