The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Vagrant Revue of New Fiction

By Anne Chudobiak

Vagrant Press, the fiction imprint of Nimbus, Canada’s biggest English-language publishing house to be found east of Toronto, recently released The Vagrant Revue of New Fiction, a collection of stories featuring fifteen different authors from Atlantic Canada, some of them relatively new to writing.

In an interview for the Chronicle Herald, editor Mary Jo Anderson comes clean on the difficulties of the selection process in what is, after all, a small community (she and co-editor Sandra McIntyre received two hundred anonymous submissions): “I discovered [afterwards] that a rather large number of my friends had submitted stories which were not chosen. Fortunately, they are pros, they understand the process, and they are still my friends [….] There were very few stories that I think were publishable as they were and there was potential in them but they needed considerable work.”

I am making my way through the collection. So far, the standout story is Elizabeth Peirce’s Fifteen Heresies, which is about the selfishness of selflessness, and seems to take some details (but not all!) from Shambhala International, the Halifax-based Tibetan Buddhist community, which in recent decades has attracted a growing group of mainly American sophisticates to Canada's East Coast. In the story, a woman falls for a man, in part because of the exotic pull of his religion, only to become quickly disenchanted.

Monday, July 30, 2007


By Tamara Lee

This is my favourite part of year in Vancouver.

The weather is usually at its best, and we’ve been getting great Indian summers in recent years thanks to global warming (keep those air conditioners going, Eastern folks, Vancouver needs you!). And the idea of fall is just enough to get us out and doing as much as we can before SAD sets in.

It seems, too, the only time we’re allowed to have fun here in Van-town is this time of year.

The civic government in Vancouver has a history of red-taping live events and festivals, especially those where alcohol is likely to be consumed. We’re a city borne out of loggers and miners and prohibitionists and tea-totallers. A city dubbed locally as 'No-Fun City.'

Still, there are some great events to check out. Because come winter, when we could really use a festival or two and they’re especially hard to find (with the exception of that new-ish cleverly-named Winterruption, but more on that later, like in late-fall), we'll be kicking ourselves for not getting the most out of the sunny days.

So, for now, it’s all about summer.

Here are a few of my favourite things to do in August, when in Vancouver:

*Visit one of the many Gulf Islands for the day. Or splurge and spend the night, say at this great little place we found on Salt Spring Island last year; Lakeside Gardens, a little cabana (well, they’re really just fancy sheds, but very cute and cosy) on St Mary’s Lake.

This year, I’ve a hankering to visit Gabriola Island.

*Go to the Fair at the PNE! It’s the ultimate in cheesy good fun for silly city folks. Aging music legends; slice-em, dice-em guys; SuperDogs; mini-donuts; a motorsport extravaganza; caged livestock; and the incessant sound of whirring rides and ‘Win a House, Win a Car!’… Ah, summertime good times.

*For a good time of a different sort, there’s the Vancouver Pride Parade. What more do I need to say? It’s crazy fun, and the livestock is (rarely) caged.

*The Powell Street Festival, celebrating Japanese Canadian arts, culture and heritage. Great food, great crafts, taiko drums, and an amateur Sumo wrestling competition that is just priceless. Well, so is the whole event.

*Bard on the Beach is doing Taming of the Shrew, among others. Beach, starry skies, Shakespearean comedy: so that’s definitely on my list.

*Quasimodo, Boca del Lupo’s live roving theatre spectacular is long sold out, but I’m still hoping to get a ticket for it.

This last one proves, to any civic government types who might care to pay attention, how much Vancouver is gagging for culture that's not pre-packaged and massively sponsored by corporations. (But then Vancouver civic governments also have a long history of not paying attention to what its citizens want.)

Nevertheless, there you have it. Some things to do in limited-fun city, Vancouver. Enjoy!

(photo credit: Cyprien on flicker) nd the co

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Lights, Bushels and Microphones

by Tricia Dower

I came back from this year’s Victoria School of Writing summer session even more pumped than I did last July. Greater than the sum of my own parts, you might say. Being a “veteran” had helped. Knowing where to register on Monday morning; the location of the washrooms, water coolers and dining hall. Mary from my writing group was there, too, giving me a built in best buddy right away. The biggest difference, though, was that I knew about the open mic readings in the Music Room and I'd prepared something not a second over the five-minute limit. About 800 words if your words aren’t on the order of supercalifrgilisticexpialidocious.

Last year I wimped out: My stories are too long. Why would anyone want to hear five minutes of one of them? They wouldn’t know how it turned out. They’d think it was boring and stupid. If I were a poet, it would be different. If I were a poet, I'd have a five-minute piece with a beginning, middle and end. Everyone else in my workshop got up at that microphone and read something.

For a year I was infected with a mild case of self-loathing for not getting up there, too, for withholding my vulnerability as well as my words. So this year, I signed up for the first night. Second on the list, after the evening lecture. Nervous, but nowhere close to fainting as one woman claimed she was. I had practiced the first five minutes of the title story of my someday to be published collection. I read in a clear, not too wavery voice. The audience listened and applauded. I returned to my seat with a satisfying sense of redemption. What happened over the next few days, however, proved the greater benefit. People came up to me in the dining hall and on the grounds wanting to know more about the story and how I came to write it. I entered into conversations I wouldn’t have if I had not stood at that microphone. I had allowed myself to become part of a community. I spoke with others about their readings, too, and, by the end of the week, felt I knew most of the fifty or so other students, even though only ten were in my small-group workshop.

This idea of community through sharing was reinforced a few days later when, on the one free night of summer school, Colin and I witnessed a Poetry Slam at Floyd’s Diner down the street from our house. We went to show our support for the performance poets we’d met Canada Day weekend (see Colour Me Hip), expecting the turnout to be paltry. Instead, the diner was jammed with mostly young folks, noisily showing their support for the ten poets who braved the microphone for a chance to represent Victoria at the Canadian Festival of the Spoken Word in Halifax, October 10 – 13, 2007. I ended up being a judge, subjecting myself to (good-natured) jeers when my scores didn’t please the crowd. What we witnessed, in the parlance of MC Shayne avec i grec, was “awesome.” If I had been courageous, the slammers were scaling Everest in tennis shoes. They had memorized their work and delivered it with choreographed moves and energy, occasionally throwing in beat boxing and singing. And the audience was with them. Poetry was alive and rocking in Floyd’s Diner that night. After two rounds, four of the ten slammers were chosen. I wish we could send more.

Don’t hide your light under a bushel, the Bible says, sort of, in Matthew 5:15, an admonition to broadcast your faith. We use it nowadays to mean don't hide your talents — not easy for those who’ve been raised to be modest, to not show off. After experiencing the community feeling of the Music Room and Floyd’s Diner, I can see that letting ‘your light shine before others’ is not a who-do-you-think-you-are expression of conceit. If you let your light shine, others will feel free to do the same and we’ll all be richer for it.

Next week: what else I learned in summer school.

Below: three members of the new Victoria Slam Team, left to right: strong cottonwoods, M. Power, and Steven J. Thompson. Jane B. completes the team.

Friday, July 27, 2007

No Regrets Podcast

By now you should've somehow
Realized what you're not to do

"Wonderwall," Oasis

We are driving from Montreal to Halifax. It's not a difficult drive, just so long as we take lots of breaks and bring something to listen to: radio can be sketchy in the Maritimes. One commercial station we picked up briefly in New Brunswick played Meatloaf, Justin Timberlake and REM in disturbingly immediate succession. Elsewhere, there is nothing to tune into at all, which is why we invested in a car adapter for our iPod. We can now listen to anything ever recorded, or so it seems. The only problem is that with so much choice I sometimes forget to take breaks, even with my driving partner there to implore me, "Please. Pull over. You're hallucinating, again."

"Just a little further. I like this song!"

And so we continue until my true mental state reveals itself to be truly mental, when the same impulse that compels me to drive at faster and faster speeds (in spite of a corresponding rise in paranoia concerning highway police) also compels me to turn on the kids when they make some normal kid noise in the backseat. I threaten them with abandonment, death or worse, "No Santa! No Christmas!" When I cancel Christmas, it's time for us to stop.

But today, I didn't wait to go mental before pulling over, and for that I have to thank CBC's Definitely Not the Opera for their No Regrets podcast, which my husband downloaded for our trip. It was the Hockey Day in Canada show, which made me excited, because I had meant to catch it when it had first aired on the radio, because our sometime contributor Pasha was supposed to have been on it. How lucky to find it in my iPod half a year later! I listened carefully for Pasha, tuning out the kids who were getting increasingly restless in the backseat.

I didn't realize it, but the podcast was a different entity from the radio show, and Pasha's bit wasn't included. Luckily, the rest of the show was interesting in itself. The topic was regret—chiefly, how to avoid it—and the main piece of advice was to consider every choice in terms of the distant rather than near future. If I skip out on dinner with my friends tonight, how will I feel about it tomorrow, like it was no big deal? How will I feel about it on my deathbed, like I missed out on living?

After I heard that, I decided that I had better take the next exit. We stopped at a beach, providentially placed across the street from a Tim Horton's. I didn't once question the quality of the water. It was the first time my kids ever got to swim in a river. They were happy to have their freedom. Esme, as usual, wandered off to interrogate random strangers. She honed in on a lanky teenaged girl in surf shorts and a bikini top who was alternating between running with the other kids, up and down the beach and off the dock, and wading in shallow water with a new-to-walking toddler. The girl had tattoos that were already beginning to fade. The baby had white blond hair and blue eyes. A woman not much older than my thirty-one issued instructions from a picnic table. I assumed that she was the baby's mother, but Esme knew better. She used her protected five-year-old status to ask the pertinent questions. The girl and baby were mother and daughter; my near contemporary, the grandma.

"Yep," the girl told Esme shyly. "She's mine."

When I dried off, I headed across the street to the Tim Horton's, where I was served by a very young man with white blond hair and blue eyes. He was covered in tattoos that were already beginning to fade. I wished that I had brought Esme. She would have had no problem asking the right questions. In any case, I made sure to leave a tip, although this caused a stir amongst the old men in line behind me. They scoffed as though to say, "You don't have to do that, here."

Back in the car, I resolved to take more breaks. Stopping was much more fun than taking Christmas away from little kids. What had I been thinking?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Leonard Mendelsohn 1937-2007

There was some stuff I'd heard before, but that was mostly my fault for taking so many courses with the man. I didn’t realize at the time, that Leonard Mendelsohn, as with most professors, must have had one good intro, one good set of anecdotes that he used in all of his courses. You wouldn’t expect a teacher to write fresh intro material every semester. This isn’t comedy, right? My mind would drift, never too far, through his mentions of medieval bear-bating, the dying Shakers, or his son David, the highly ranked wrestler. I’d check on his skull cap to pass the time, thinking this may be the day it finally slides off the back of his head… thinking, some double-sided tape would keep it from traveling.

He read Don Quixote to his sons when they were young. The smallest, the least able to sit still, would ask too many questions, interrupting the story, and David, I think it was, would tell him to show a little patience… any questions would answer themselves further along in the story. I tell my children the same thing nowadays, the look of pride on Mendelsohn’s face my assurance I’m doing the right thing.

I was a bit pissed. This was a nighttime course and I hadn’t had any supper. There was also an idiot sitting up front who’d kept us off topic all semester (you know who you are). We were at the end, and Mendelsohn has asked if there were any questions. I was pissed, mind you, so I was certain to make a fool of myself.

“Yes,” I said. “I have a question.” My mind was racing back through the whole semester to that first day when we'd received a photocopy of an essay by George Santayana. Something to do with Comedy. I didn’t quite get it at the time, but neither did most of the group. Mendelsohn wanted to make sure from the get go that we wouldn’t be thinking this was a course on delivering the shtick. “You said we’d come to understand what Comedy was all about by the end of the semester. So what’s it about?” Oy!

Off topic again; he’d told us that it was tough dealing with the notion that he’d never again get the chance to read Chaucer, or Don Quixote. There just wouldn’t be enough time. I still think about that, wondering if what he’d really meant was that these works are read for the first time only once in a lifetime.

Don’t know what else to say, except that I feel privileged to have found Leonard Mendelsohn at Concordia University. Actually, doesn't really feel like anyone's gone and left the building. I think back on my university days, and he's right there.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deadly Spoilers

by Andrew Tibbetts

I’m the fourth in line in my family for Harry Potter. So that means I have to go around with my ears plugged and my eyes blinkered for a week or two every time that British pauper tosses another edition into the wind. Last time out, I heard that Dumbledore died before I got my crack at the book- I was much pissed. Today I was getting my lunch at a Second Cup coffee shop (because I’d gotten a giftcard honorarium for giving a half-day workshop on anxiety) when I saw a young man trying to rip the hands away from the ears of a young woman and trying to yell something into her ears. She was going, ‘don’t tell me, don’t tell me’. He was going, ‘who dies is…, who dies is….’. I immediately got out of line and ran to the bookstore. I work at a university. You wouldn’t think they’d have Harry Potter at the bookstore, but they do. Tons of him. I bought one and quickly ran away from all human contact. I’m going to stay away until I’m done the book. It’s fourteen thousand pages long and weighs more than my Chevy Cavalier. I should have grabbed some snacks. I’ll see you. In awhile. Don’t wait up.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Taken for Granted

by Steve Gajadhar

Sunday, July 22nd. The power is out. Growing up in Saskatchewan this was a regular summer occurrence, the heat of the day causing massive storms at night. Drops pounding down on the shingles. Thunder. Lightning lashing out at the earth, and the smells pushed through the screen door by the wind. When it was over everything was cooler and still and we’d sit and stare into the candles instead of the TV. Now the power is out here in Hawaii, the wind having knocked over a pole or some distant relay. Sirens in the distance. The wind screaming as it parts around our all of a sudden flimsier house. Now it’s should’ves and what ifs. I should’ve picked up those extra flashlights and candles, the bottled water and jerky. What if the power never comes back on? What if it’s us versus nature?

Post-apocalyptic literature, a sub-genre of speculative sci-fi, attempts to answer these questions. Post-apocalytpic lit and its subject matter cousin, social contract philosophy, have always fascinated me. Human beings stand atop a massive pyramid of technological infrastructure, and most of us have no idea how any of it works. Post-apocalyptic lit posits what the world would be like if the pyramid was swept out from under us. The physical results of an apocalyptic event are easy. Good post-apocalyptic literature explores the “us” part after the pyramid is gone, focuses on the relationships we have between each other, nature, and god.

Post-apocalyptic lit production surged after World War II, when nuclear weapons gave us the power to annihilate ourselves and the Cold War left many authors wondering if we would. Titles such as “Alas Babylon” by Pat Frank, and “A Canticle for Leibowitz” by Walter M. Miller, explore the value of humanity as its own entity, separated from the technology that caused the destruction. Pat Frank showed us the brighter side of recovery and soldiering on, while Miller seemed to say that we are doomed to repeat our mistakes. Between the two they illustrate one of the core dualities of human nature.

Yet the Bomb is only one of the ways to start humanity along the path of the dodo. The pandemic is also a popular and even more prolific form of the post-apocalyptic genre. “The Stand” by Stephen King is black and white in its literal modeling of evil versus good, but it also avoids the pitfalls of confrontation as the sole plot device. “Oryx and Crake” by Margaret Atwood is a satirical warning against runaway progress and a metaphor for the effect of the individual on society, both themes underpinned and highlighted by an exploration of the necessity of religion. Then there’re impact events like the Chicxulub meteor that killed the dinosaurs, explored in “Lucifer’s Hammer” by Larry Niven, and in numerous Hollywood special effects extravaganzas. Thematically, impact event post-apocalyptic fiction seems mostly concerned with the survival and rebuilding of mankind. Aliens could also be the demise of our way of life as in “The Day of the Triffids” by John Wyndham, or the now classic (due mostly to the very bad movie) "Battlefield Earth" by L. Ron Hubbard. Wyndham’s book is a scathing illustration of the dangers of ubiquitous homogeneity a la the Soviet Union, a dominant point of view in the era Triffids was written, the 1950s. Ironically, our machines could revolt against us with runaway nanotechnology, or all powerful governors from the future.... We could even gradually decline Roman style, as in Gene Wolfe’s “The Book of the New Sun” series (also based around a dying sun), a great illustration of knowledge—both of origin and technology—simply fading with time.

Any post-apocalyptic list would be incomplete without including two prominent apocalyptic scenarios dominant in the early 21st century. The first, ecological disaster brought on by changes to the environment, has never been done better than by ice-nine in “Cat’s Cradle” by Kurt Vonnegut. In addition to being one of the finest satirical novels ever written, Vonnegut’s book is also an admonishment of irresponsible scientists (Oppenheimer) and human stupidity. The second is an event that most religious people of all faiths of every generation have believed to be occurring within their lifetime: the end of the world by supernatural, religious forces. Or what I like to call eschatological apocalypse, which is also the branch that is the historic originator of all post-apocalyptic fiction. The “Left Behind” series of novels by Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins is easily the most well known and best selling post-apocalyptic series of all time. Religiosity aside, the one thing the eschatological genre gets right is the end of the world. The world will end, if no sooner than in a few billion years when our sun runs out of fuel.

Left out of all these categories are the books that don’t fit neatly into any of them, of which I’ll list three, and three finer books would be hard to come by. “Blindness” by Jose Saramago takes away sight instead of the pyramid of infrastructure and technology. The results are as disturbing as they are illuminating, and show how quickly we can devolve into wandering packs of individuals bent on survival at any cost. “In the Country of Last Things” by Paul Auster is a book about hell as a post-apocalyptic New York, complete with a symbolic river crossing at the beginning. Allegorical and idiosyncratic, death and the search for death dominate along with the theme of nothing ever being released, for nothing new is created anymore, only transformed and scavenged. Samuel R. Delany’s “Dhalgren” is one of the most interesting sci-fi books ever penned, probably one of the most interesting books ever penned. It is a dense work and hard going in stretches, but the persistent reader is rewarded with the literary equivalent of an M.C. Escher print in which the ending sentence loops to the opening sentence. How many authors can tackle the very nature of perception in one long prose poem?

Post-apocalyptic fiction asks the simple question, who are we in crisis? Noble or evil? Lions, or merely upright hyenas? Our power was out a little short of an hour, but in that time I imagined the chaos that would happen if power never returned. How quickly would we revert to our kill or be killed roots? I live in a place where many people live “off the grid,” providing their own power and drinking water to their small properties. I had a debate at a party one night with a kindly off the gridder. His argument was that he and his family would be fine and be able to cope should the apocalypse come. I shook my head, and told him that I think the true nature of humanity is that a gang of us would come and take his property from him and kill him if he resisted. He had no return argument to offer, because deep down he too knew the nature of his fellow man. So do our great writers, and fiction is the best way to explore this nature and the end of the world. I hope it stays the only way.

Must Reads:

Jose Saramago, “Blindness”
Stephen King, “The Stand”
Pat Frank, “Alas Babyon”
Kurt Vonnegut, “Cat’s Cradle”
David Mitchell, “Cloud Atlas” –Particular interest due to part of it being set on the Big Island. I didn’t mention it above but this is still one of the best books of the last ten years.
Samuel R. Delany, “Dhalgren”
Walter M. Miller, “A Canticle for Leibowitz”
Paul Auster, “In the Country of Last Things”
Gene Wolfe, “The Book of The New Sun” –The inconsistent narrator will throw some off, but Wolfe is one of the world’s finest living writers and creators.

Further reading:

Keith M. Booker, “Dystopian literature : a theory and research guide”
Alan Weisman, “The World Without Us” –Forthcoming in 2007
John Wyndham, “The Day of the Triffids”
Margaret Atwood, “Oryx and Crake”
Nevile Shute, “On the Beach”
Peter George, “Red Alert” –Adapted into Dr. Strangelove by Stanley Kubrick
Harlan Ellison, “A boy and his Dog” and “I Have No Mouth but I Must Scream”
Robert Heinlein, “Farnham’s Freehold”
Larry Niven, “Lucifer’s Hammer”
Mary Shelley, “The Last Man”
Cormac McCarthy, “The Road”

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Blooming stop them! They’re reading!

By Tamara Lee

So I’m reading a novel, which shall remain nameless (I know, that’s lame but there it is) and I am supposed to think this novel is the bees knees. I’m supposed to appreciate it; failing to do so makes me a heathen/illiterate/simpleton. But the thing is I think this example of The Great Novel is just okay. Why I think this, though, is irrelevant here.

And, no, I am not referring to the new Harry Potter book. Potter, though, is relevant.

Recently I read such know-it-all critics like the mighty Harold Bloom and A.S. Byatt think the whole Harry Potter series is not only poorly written, but bad for literature, and bad for the future of our children.

‘What? That’s a bit over-the-top, isn’t it?’ I thought, as I read the Wikipedia version of the story (Wikipedia, of course, being the online version of crib notes, but there it is). Anyway, reading this criticism made me curious, so I decided to look further into their arguments against the Potter-phenomenon.

Now, let it be said, I have not read a single Potter book, but then, I’m allergic to mania. It’s how I roll. This last Potter book, though, intrigues me, mostly based on J.K. Rowlings’ comments that this is the book she'd always meant to write. So I thought I’d see about catching up with the Potter-plotline. Enter Wiki-crib-notes.

What I discovered is there’s rather a lot of criticism against the books. Where have I been? Me, I’d always assumed it was well-received by all. I should have known better.

Certainly, initially, the book was hailed and compared to Roald Dahl, but eventually, as with most things that become highly successful, the detractors set out to curb the enthusiasm. Enter snotty lit-crits.

What Bloom, Byatt and Faye Weldon argue, in general, is that the series is pap and children should not be reading pap, lest they learn bad reading habits, and not learn how to appreciate real literature. Jeez-louise, people who say stuff like this make me embarrassed that I read ‘real’ literature.

Okay, so Bloom’s an old man, raised during a time when TV and Gameboys and Internet weren’t a distraction. I sympathize with his frustration as a teacher, or in his case a Professor of Literature, but it is, despite his huffing and puffing, a different world. Hell, he’s 80; it was a different world, even, when I was growing up.

When I was a kid, I read S.E. Hinton and Judy Bloom (surely, no relation to Harold), as well as ‘classic’ literature. Reading was never a problem for me; I started at four and never stopped. I read anything. But then, I was encouraged to read. And the more I read, the more I was curious to try other flavours.

Encouraging people to broaden their reading tastes is the domain of parents and teachers. That anyone, and least of all a teacher, would discourage reading (even reading mediocre fiction) is incomprehensible to me. It’s rather like teaching folks how to ride a bike by telling them how not to do it. Lesson: Don’t bother getting on one in the first place. There, that’ll learn ya.

Bloom’s history as a notable critic and booklover is undisputed; attend one of his Ivy-league classes or read one of his tomes and you’ll surely believe it. Meanwhile, there are the rest of us.

The history of privilege and admonishment about reading choices is long and subjective. Early novels were primarily about love and adventure, and when they weren’t being slighted by the Brits for their ‘French’-ness, thus inferiority, they were name-called ‘women’s’ books. That is, until men got hold of them and made them ‘respectable.’ (That J.K. Rowling was asked by her publisher to use a gender-neutral name in order not to frighten off the boy readers just proves how far we’ve not come.)

No doubt Bloom would call me a few choice names for not appreciating the novel I’m reading-but-not-enjoying. I feel as though he’d judge my working-class upbringing; my gender; my blogging activities as lacking.

Happily, I wasn’t raised by Dr. Bloom, and I can carry on reading and disliking whatever classics I choose. And maybe pick up this last Harry Potter, to finally see what all the fuss is about.

Friday, July 20, 2007

For Adults Only

by Melissa Bell

This past week, I did something I’ve never done before. Something I never thought I’d have the guts to do. It was really scary, and I drank more wine than I probably should have, and the minute I did what I did, I felt a little like I might have to go throw up. But there was no turning back. The deed was done.

I wrote a piece of erotica and sent it out.

There. I said it.

A few years ago, during National Novel Writing Month, I decided to write a romance. I figured it would be fun. And it was. Incredible fun. Until I got to the sexy bits. Then things got challenging. How far was I willing to let these guys go? And why was I feeling so uncomfortable and hideously self-conscious with my writing all of a sudden?

Flashback to the summer of…well, a long time ago. I was fourteen. My girlfriend, Nancy K., and I had huge crushes on The Hardy Boys. As in the TV characters (we weren’t interested in the books; those were for guys). Nancy swooned over Shaun Cassidy. I was smitten with Parker Stevenson. We spent hours dissecting each television episode, critiquing the stars’ wardrobes, their hairstyles, and sneering with green-eyed envy at the female guest stars who were lucky enough to actually get to stand next to our beloved idols.

We would spend hours together at each other’s houses and on the telephone creating fantasy scenarios involving our celebrity heroes. “Can you imagine if there was a contest to fly to Hollywood and we won and we were walking down the street and we ran into Parker and Shaun?” Or “What if they had to film an episode in Toronto at the Royal Ontario Museum or something, and we were walking down the street and we ran into Parker and Shaun?”

And then one night, during a giggly sleepover, Nancy did something I had never thought anyone could or would do. She put pen to paper and hastily wrote a story about Shaun and Parker and herself and me. I can’t recall what ridiculously contrived circumstances she had invented that threw us all together in that story, but I do remember it was a fun read. Nancy, at fourteen, was a good writer. And such was my introduction to “fan fiction” – I had no idea at the time that such a thing actually had a name, or that anyone else ever did this kind of stuff. I was immediately inspired to join in the fun, and over the next couple of months, Nancy and I wrote pages and pages of scandalously purple prose, our amateur scribbling becoming more and more detailed and “torrid” as our imagined relationships with the young detective duo grew into marriage proposals and families and buying houses in Beverly Hills and attending the Oscars. We knew no shame.

Until the day Nancy’s mother discovered what we’d been up to. And she didn’t like it one bit. I don’t know how Mrs. K. found the notebooks that Nancy and I had been swapping back and forth, or really what was contained within our writing that she found so objectionable – other than what we’d been taught in ninth grade health classes, we were completely uninitiated in anything even closely resembling sex.

But Nancy and I had gotten pretty good at describing passionate kisses, deep longing looks, tender moments of running our fingers through the blow-dried hair-dos of our objects of affection, and whispering sweet nothings of teenage desire into the ears of Shaun and Parker as we watched the sun set on Malibu Beach from the terraces of our fantasy mansions. Mrs. K. phoned my mother who, concerned with my reputation among my friends’ parents, suggested that it was probably best that Nancy and I should immediately stop what we were doing. I was mortified that our “secret” was out. I was also terrifically embarrassed, humiliated, and wracked with shame.

Nancy and I didn’t see much of each other after that. We didn’t know it when were creating our own little fictional world involving a pair of Tiger Beat cover boys, but we’d been “bad girls.”

So I guess it’s no real wonder that, decades later, when I decided to bring a couple of consenting adult fictional characters together for some grown-up-style hanky panky, I choked. As much as I wanted to, as much as I knew a “romance” required numerous descriptive passages of sexy carrying on, I felt ridiculous. Never mind that I’d read umpteen hundreds of detailed paragraphs of lurid prose and god-knows-what over the years, I couldn’t bring myself to create it myself without a crippling sense that what I was setting out to do was somehow wrong. Thank you, Mrs. K.

But now I’m thinking that maybe, just this past week, I’ve finally turned a corner. As a total newbie to the genre that is erotica, I’m not particularly hopeful that my recently-penned submission is going to go anywhere other than directly into the editor’s trash. Or that maybe she’ll read it and think “My heavens! This Mel Bell is a walking cesspool of freakish depravity! I must leave at once and go wash out my eyes with soap!” But you know what? It doesn’t matter anymore. Writing about something doesn’t mean it actually happened. Or that I would even want it to happen. But what I do want to happen is for the Mrs. K.s of my memory to stop telling me what I should and shouldn’t be writing about. “Bad girl,” Mrs. K.? Maybe. Maybe, in your eyes, I was. Maybe I still am. But I’m not fourteen anymore. Thank god. And I can write about whatever the hell I like.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Article removed for revision and publication. Wish the author luck!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


By Anne Chudobiak

I am a nervous person, plagued by skin problems and back pains. When I realized that I was going to be out of town on Saturday—the day that I was supposed to have a piece in my local paper—my back seized up. How would I secure myself a hard copy? I wasn’t going far, just to Ottawa, but I wasn’t sure whether or not the newsstands there would carry the Montreal Gazette. I asked my friend B to save me a copy.

“Unless you have to go to the hospital,” I told her.

She was pregnant and overdue, and as guilty as I felt asking anything of her, I couldn’t resist the urge to harness some of her “mom” energy: she was in task-completion mode. She had long since run out of things to do in her tiny apartment. She had washed the windows and the mouldings. She had sorted all of the toys into baskets arranged by age. She was ready for her baby, and willing, apparently, to pick up a copy of my paper, even if she went into labour.

“Especially if I go into labour,” she said. “There’s a page in the baby book for newspaper clippings.” Then she went on to advise me on how to best organize my own clippings (make photocopies and store the original in a scrapbook with plastic sleeves to protect against yellowing). I was all the more convinced that I had made the right choice. Pregnancy had propelled my already industrious friend into overdrive: she would get me my paper, have her baby, and document the birth—no problem. There was no need for me to make any enquiries in Ottawa. Besides, I could always read the Gazette online. My back felt immediately better.

But Saturday morning, when I went online, I couldn’t find my piece in its electronic form. It wasn’t where it should have been with the other book reviews. I started to worry that it hadn’t made it into the paper at all. I became so worried that I got into the car and headed to the Rideau Street Chapters. Driving was difficult. I had sciatic pain down my right leg that intensified whenever I pressed down with my foot. I wished that I had more substantial shoes than Flojos flip flops. Would it kill me to buy some real sandals?

I had decided to go all the way downtown, because I thought that the Chapters there would be more likely to have an out-of-city paper. This was based on my unsuccessful attempt the summer before to get a copy of the Ottawa magazine fiction issue in a West End suburb. The employees I’d spoken with then had told me that the downtown store got everything earlier. I hoped that “everything” would include the Gazette.

I felt heartened when I saw the curent summer fiction issue of Ottawa magazine on prominent display at the Rideau Street entrance. It seemed like a good omen. Surely, they would have my Gazette. They didn’t, which I somehow took as a sign that my article hadn’t been included in any edition, on- or offline. I limped out of the store, trying to remember the details of the freelance agreement I’d signed (the new, controversial one that prohibits writers from ever publishing their material elsewhere). Hadn’t it said that the paper could decline to print anything at anytime? There hadn’t been any clauses about editors giving jilted writers a heads-up to forestall back pain in the more depressive amongst them. Probably this kind of thing happened all of the time. Probably I was just a big baby.

I went to the Byward Café for a sad looking muffin. Across the street was a newsstand. That’s where I finally found my paper, and, to my relief, my article, on page J07. I don’t know if that’s what cured my back pain or if it was the Birkenstock Ramses sandals that I bought afterwards in a happy splurge at the nearby Byward Bargain Centre.

As for B, she did indeed have her baby that Saturday. I don’t know if she had the presence of mind to send out for the paper, but if not, it’s okay. I have a copy that I can give her when she’s ready. (Welcome, little boy!)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Lows and Highs with Sara Jane Morris

By Tamara Lee

Friday night, I went up to a local hotspot, Rime, where the food is a little mediocre and the wine is served just a touch too warm, but there’s often a good live show to tame any tempers ready to ignite.

This particular night did not disappoint.

After a so-so snack of mezes and mojitos, my friend and I settled into our seats only half-expecting to be fully entertained.

Tucked in between two acoustic guitar-playing brothers, Neill and Calum McColl, sons of the late great singer/songwriter/activist Ewan McColl, was Sara Jane Morris. Some of you oldsters (and youngsters dipping into the ‘80s music vault) will remember her as the female voice on the Communards’ big hit cover, Don’t Leave Me This Way.

These days, Morris doesn’t just sing, she emotes and acts and story-tells and jokes. She uses her body, her face, her hands to get the tale across (‘Imagine a song sung from a prison cell, by a woman who has just murdered her lover, after catching him in bed with her best friend, but he’s dressed like the scorned woman… It’s a London thing’).

Her range is something like four octaves, reaching lows that only her didgeridoo-playing husband David Coulter (Tom Waits, Marc Ribot, Kronos Quartet) might reach, and highs that rally, well, Jimmy Sommerville. That she didn’t get to play Janis Joplin in the biopic that was never released (the role was foolishly given to Renee Zelweiger) exemplifies the depth of the fickle nature of the entertainment industry. The execs-that-be obviously had not heard Sara Jane's loose and lovely rendition of Piece of my Heart.

We were treated to two solid acoustic sets of songs from her 25-year repertoire, opening with a Nick Cave cover, making their way through blues, ballads, folk, jazz and R&B, covers and originals, and ending with the Communards hit (unintentionally, because the much-jet-lagged trio caught the giggles and couldn’t make it through their earlier attempt). It was a catchy sort of bosa-nova version. For an encore, she sang Ewan McColl's The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, and though I'm not fond of the song, the way Ms Morris sings it, I couldn't help but pay attention.

But it's a funny thing when the musicians who sang the disco hits return to play the Folk or Jazz Festival; going from black-and-white suspenders and pill-box hats to layers of paisley cotton. It reminds you where you've come from, and that's not always a good feeling.

So, although this intimate affair was a precursor to the full-band gigs she was meant to play at the Folk Festival later on the weekend, I think seeing her in such a small venue allowed us to appreciate more how beautifully she and her voice have aged.

And for those few hours, we could pretend we too had aged with grace.

(image courtesy of n16)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sunday, Muddy Sunday

by Melissa Bell

Supposed to rain here in the GTA today, folks. I hope so. I do loves me the T-storms here in the T-dot. Bonus: My next door neighbor has been building a deck in his backyard for what seems like years now. He hammers in the mornin’, and hammers in the evenin’ etc. etc. and while I admire his diligence and work ethic, I won’t miss the noise-making if the weather keeps him and his love of things hammerable quiet for the day. Unfortunately, if it rains, he’ll probably spend the day indoors installing about six hundred bookshelves. Not to sound too complainy or anything, but Mr. Next Door has been either hammering or drilling something nearly 24/7 since he first moved into the place over a year ago. These are the details of life that become magnified when suddenly working from home. Not that he can really be all that into his home improvements because his ground floor walk-out still sports vertical blinds for crying out loud! Hello, Noisy Neighbour? The 80s just called and they want their window treatment back!

But never mind him. Mind this: Our CWC guest blogger and regular comment-making reader, chumplet, a.k.a. Sandra Cormier, celebrated the release of her latest novel last week, The Space Between, from Wild Rose Press. Go, Sandra! And heartfelt congratulations!

Also: While nosing around Ms. Cormier’s blog and poking all about, I was led to the blog of “The Rejecter.” No need for me to get all unlazy-like and provide a link – google “The Rejecter” and you’ll get there all pronto-like, trust me. I learned more about the publishing industry and how literary agents work with clients in just a few hours of reading her blog than I have in years and years of…well, let’s just say that you can spend years and years working on a kick-ass novel or what-have-you – if you can’t compose a decent query letter, you’re really going to be up against it. “The Rejecter” is not for the faint of heart. But her blog is a well-wrought dose of the writing world reality. Just because you’ve quit the proverbial rat race and sold the family farm to write something that you think is going to be the solution to Man’s Eternal Struggle doesn’t guarantee that people will be throwing roses at your feet the minute you type “The End”. Now you’ve got to find someone to sell the darn thing for you. If it’s saleable, that is. And if you happen to score a sale in the “genre” of literary fiction, Novel Number 1 better kick some serious commercial butt or else there isn’t going to be anyone taking a chance on Novel Number 2, no matter how brilliant it might be or who your daddy is. And if Novel Number 1 does happen to send cash registers singing throughout the land, Novel Number 2 better be tarted up and waiting in the wings, all ready to sing out like Baby June, or you’re going to have one very, very short career as a writer.

Is it five o’clock yet? I think I need a drink or seven.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Postcards from Courtenay, BC

by Tricia Dower

Friday night and first up on the program: our beloved Outlaw Social. We will see them three more times over the weekend in jams and workshops.

Saturday afternoon. Tanya Tagaq from Nunavut presents her own version of the ancient Inuit art of throat singing: moans and sighs, grunts and growls, gasping rhythms and high pitched wails. Primal sounds like those I made giving birth. I can’t listen for more than ten minutes. My throat begins to ache and I think I might hyperventilate.

Saturday evening. Boston rocker Sarah Borges interrupts her concert to announce that a boy has lost his mother. He’s waiting in Security. An hour and a half and Guy Clark later, a second plea goes out to the mother. I find it hard to concentrate on the music. I recall my son Mike at age four wandering off in a K-Mart and my relief at hearing over the intercom: A young fellow wearing green corduroy pants is looking for his mommy. I can still see those pants. During Watermelon Slim & the Workers, the boy appears a few rows in front of us with a man and woman in yellow Security t-shirts. He thinks his mother was somewhere in our section. He’s not four — thirteen, maybe, old enough to have emotional resources and a few phone numbers in his head. He says something apologetic to the Security duo and the woman says, “It’s not your fault your parents are irresponsible.” Colin and I speculate as to where the parents might be and dredge up sick jokes about abandoned children. Then, more soberly, we wonder if the mother is lying somewhere, hurt. After more time with no word, I seek out a Security guard who tells me the boy is with his grandmother and the mother is “enjoying the music.” I don’t know whether to be relieved or furious at her. I escape into the rich, bluesy alto of UK legend Joan Armatrading, buy her new CD and stand for over an hour while she's singing so I'll be first in line to have it autographed.

Sunday noon. We find relief from the burning sun in the shade of a tarp over a wooded stage not far from the river. Ontario-based harpist Sharlene Wallace teaches us how to pluck a string and plucks more than a few herself, transporting us to serene internal landscapes.

So many options all weekend. Six different stages. Forty-nine bands and soloists in eighty different performances, all but twelve running concurrently with others. We read the write-ups and mark our programme, making difficult choices. Over the 32 hours we spend at the fairgrounds, we take in 28 of the performances, including the closing night kitsch of thousands of people, many too young to remember the day the music died, singing along with Don McLean: Bye-bye, miss American pie. The high point for us, though, is the Sunday afternoon all-jazz jam in a barn with Ottawa’s Kellylee Evans, the USA’s John Jorgenson Quintet, and Germany’s Marc Breitfelder & Georg Schroeter. Hundreds of us rock the barn, jumping and dancing, clapping and cheering. The natural talent and improvisational skills of these performers is astounding. My eyes fill with the thrill of this experience you won't find on any CD.

Photos: Outlaw Social (credit Barbara Podrick), Tanya Tagaq, Joan Armatrading, Sharlene Wallace, and Kellylee Evans (credit Ed Lemieux) who performed at the 2007 Vancouver Island MusicFest in Courtenay, BC.

Friday, July 13, 2007

561 of 924

By Anne Chudobiak

Montrealers, my review of Jacques Poulin's latest book to appear in English translation, My Sister's Blue Eyes, will be in this Saturday's Gazette. I'll post a link as soon as I can. In the meantime, I have to get back to reading. I am more than halfway through Middlemarch! Will Dorothea ever find her way into Will's arms?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Don't matter who killed the pig...

By Antonios Maltezos

We were at the Montreal Biodome on Tuesday -- first time, so we didn’t know what to expect. Tropical stuff for sure, and we’d be moving in their environment, hence… The Biodome. But to be truthful, Granby Zoo was much better. They had apes! -- one big silverback and a bunch of chimpy looking females. What an experience standing there on the good side of the thick glass imagining what would happen if that silverback were to get really, but really angry. Would he be able to smash through the glass? I say yes, though I don’t think he knew that, that he could smash through that glass as easy as I could, umm... break a brick with my bare hand if I got really, but really angry, silverback angry. I had nightmares of that gorilla for days afterwards. He’d broken the glass and I had to fight him so my family could escape into some kind of petting zoo full of baby goats and ducks and chickens. Each time, he’d catch me with a right cross, or an overhead thumping like in the cartoons, and I’d have to force myself awake. Anyway, The Biodome was kinda boring. Out of 121 pictures, we printed two, and the rest we stored on a cd I haven’t bothered labeling yet. My wife chose a near perfect head shot of Zoe for framing, and I chose the other picture -- me posing with a stuffed pig, 5 by 7 matte. I think it’s the coolest picture ever. The woman at the Pharmaprix even thought it was an awesome picture. As we were waiting for her to print out our slim order, she grabbed a stack of someone else’s pictures and held them up for us to see. “He’s got fishes, and you’ve got a pig,” she said, shmirking like she was really, but really proud of herself. My wife snickered, and to tell you the truth… I smiled. That lady had unknowingly given me a compliment by recognizing what was for her a very odd picture, me posing with the porker. It wasn’t something she would do, or even ever think of doing. This was pure manly stuff, thank you very much, just like that other guy taking pictures of the bottom of his fishing bucket… shot after shot of his fishing bucket slowly filling up. Not something a woman is supposed to understand. They’re trophy shots. Mine is a trophy shot. Don’t matter who killed the pig. He’s dead and I’m not. Get it?

The Writing Life

by Andrew Tibbetts

The thrills of the writing life are special. Like a handful of diamonds scattered in a field of mud, they are too precious to give up on. But the mud! The mud! You’ve heard the litany: hours of staring at blank computer screens or pages, hours of changing sentences around and back over and over again, hours of empty-head, the moment where you realize the great outpouring of writing from yesterday has revealed itself this morning to be shit, the moment where you realize you have completely stolen this plot from a movie you saw last year and your version isn’t even as good, the moments where its undeniable that you are a bad writer but can’t stop yourself, the rejection letters, the waiting and waiting and waiting for rejection letters, the acceptance letters that are subsequently invalid because of the folding of magazines or production houses, hearing from a friend or acquaintance that your writing is ‘interesting’, watching the eyes glaze over when you tell a new person what you do, and back, back, back again to the blank computer screen. Why would any sane person put up with it?

Yesterday, I was commissioned. For the first time in my writing life an editor approached me to write X for Y dollars. The relative size of x or y is immaterial. This is one of those diamonds, one of those writing life diamonds that turn the mud into the most exquisite backdrop possible.

And now to the blank screen to carve x out of nothing.

Monday, July 09, 2007


By Tamara Lee

Montreal this year, because of its unseasonably warm winter, had a rather pesky onslaught of mosquitoes while I was there. I can’t hear or see one without a surge of panic ripping through my neuroses-addled brain, ever so briefly positive West Nile or the Plague are just a mosquitter-prick away. Like most bugs, though, the feeling passes soon enough.

This travel bug, though, is not going anywhere.

Back in Vancouver barely a week after nearly seven weeks away, and already I’m researching possibilities for my next trip. Not that I have the money to travel right now, or seemingly ever again, but oh that itch.

Much like the schooled desire to buy Duotangs, spiffy pens and a new swanky wardrobe sometime near Labour Day, this urge to skedaddle in the spring and summer months is fueled by nostalgia.

Growing up in the Lee family meant we were always getting away to somewhere, any chance my parents could. We were spoilt for all the trips we took up and down the west coast. I was one of those lucky kids who occasionally left school early, before the rest of the holiday travelers took up precious driving room on the Interstates, thus forgoing the dreaded Sports Day and awkward end-of-year goodbyes. Instead, my classmates would watch silently as I gathered the last of my books and pens and headed out on An Adventure. And I’d try not to skip on my way out the door.

But maybe it wasn’t envy those kids felt, like I’d thought it was. Quite possibly they couldn't have cared less where I was going.

Some people are not into travel, I've heard. But are non-travelers actually lacking a ‘curiosity gene’? Surely there are genuinely curious people who prefer never to leave home? Perhaps travel-bugism is nurtured, or could some folks really be born to travel?

Nevertheless, now more than ever, I’ve the yen to travel longer distances, to get beyond the damned mountains that always seem to be getting in the way these days, to cross terrain and visit monuments with names I’ve always pronounced incorrectly.

But then again, is this really travel-bugism I feel, or some other condition, like writers-blockosa?

Perhaps I’ll first try my hand at some travel-based fiction, then see what condition my condition is in afterwards. Although travel writing, I fear, has become the new literary heroin, I think it's time to pick up some Bruce Chatwin or better yet, 'The Lore of the Wanderer'.

Not sure if this prescription will cure what ails me, but it may ease my buggy brain for a while. At least until the bankbook starts showing more promising numbers.

(photo of ‘Travel Bug with Trailer' courtesy of fullmoonclayco)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Colour Me Hip

by Tricia Dower

I feel both hip and retro after having spent approximately twenty-seven hours last weekend in a socially conscious coffee house reminiscent of the ‘60s, soaking up today’s versions of folk music and poetry with a much younger generation. It’s cool now, apparently, to snap your fingers quickly rather than clap when the performer says something ‘righteous’ or ‘real.’ Cool to wear any kind of clothing and hair of any length. This generation seems much more nonconformist in appearance than mine was, but I probably just can’t read the code.

Colin and I saw twenty-one performances over five days. Most of the music (and certainly the poetry) was original. The occasion was the first annual Solstice Festival for the Folk, a hastily put together event in response to Victoria’s cancellation of the international folk fest that had been a Canada Day weekend tradition for years. We went last year. Open air, grandstands and big crowds. The Solstice was intimate, the biggest turnout maybe eighty people on closing night, drawn by our favourite local band, Outlaw Social. There was a little-engine-that-could feel about this event. Some performers had given up other plans to make a showing. Others helped out behind the scenes. When café owner David Cardinal announced that the festival had ended up in the black, the audience cheered.

I enjoyed the music, but was just as impressed with the performance poetry. One man wore a beret and referred to himself as post-hipster. Listening with eyes closed as a base guitar accentuated his words, I traveled back to the time of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William S. Burroughs, minus the smoky rooms and sexism.

Hanging out in a coffee shop for twenty-seven hours, you start to blend in. We received a special door prize for loyal attendance. We learned that some of the performers work there, foaming milk for lattes and spreading cream cheese on bagels. We got especially friendly with festival organizer and poet Shayne avec i grec and sound technician and poet/singer RadaR. (No doubt their mothers dubbed them differently at birth.)

Shayne had memorized his pieces and spoke them with dramatic flair, looking at and connecting with the audience, allowing us to feel the energy and rhythm of his words: urban sprawl/draped over landscape/reclining/spread like early morning traffic jam and serial commuting. So much more engaging than the hallowed Reading.

RadaR performed the song poem What is Revolution? It doesn't want to leave my head. You can hear it here. Her s.o. and performance partner strong.cottonwoods (we’re not supposed to know his name is Scott) handled the boom-chick-a-boom-boom beatboxing accompaniment. Their work is more hip-hop than hipster in sound but the message brought back the idealistic, youth movement of the ‘60s.

Many of the performers sang or spoke of social injustice, environmental destruction and war. They are the new generation of idealists and artist activists. It's reassuring to know they're out there.

P.S. You’d think we’d be festival-ed out, but as you read this, Colin and I will be up island at the weekend-long Vancouver Island MusicFest in Comox, following Outlaw Social like groupies. There are 39 other performers, as well, but the only names I know are Joan Armatrading and Don McLean. Colour me way out of touch.

Photos: Shayne avec i grec (top) performing at the Solstice Festival for the Folk; strong.cottonwoods (left) and RadaR (right)

Friday, July 06, 2007

(Given the) Boot Camp

by Melissa Bell

And so it begins.

Summer. And the unique thing about this summer, for me, is that I get to write and write and write and pretty much do nothing else if I don’t wanna. Now how did I work that, you may ask? Council grant? Award? Sudden marriage to a wealthy patron of the arts? No. Nothing so glamorous as any of that. Simple fact of the matter is I got canned from the job-job.

Was it expected? Yes and no. Won't I miss the people I worked with? Most of them. Any regrets? Ah, regrets. I’ve had a few. But then again, too few to mention. (And sincere thanks to you, Mr. Paul Anka – I can always rely on a fellow Canadian for putting the appropriate words to these kinds of things.)

Right now I’m listening to the music of The Tragically Hip spill out from my awesome little laptop. No need to read anything into the band of choice. My current situation is far from tragic, and I’ve never been anything close to “hip”. The only relevance is that I never listen to music while I write. It’s always felt distracting and superfluous. But tonight…well…things are different now. I’m probably going to listen to a lot more music. I’ve missed it. I’ve missed a lot of things. My fault. No. Scratch that. My choice.

And disappointing you is getting me down…

I’ve got a glass of cool white wine at my side. At least a dozen large writing projects to finish. And the unique opportunity to work on all of them unencumbered for a little while. My only fear right now is the fear of letting myself down by not taking full advantage of this rare opportunity of a clean-slate summer to actually accomplish a number of things that I always vowed I would “if only I could find the time”. Well, the time is now. It has found me. Time for me to put up or shut up, dammit.

For years I would spend long hours at the end of my day trying to cram as much writing as I could into the quiet night before I had to check the time and get to bed so that I wasn’t a full-on zombie the following day. Partial-zombie is par for the course – that’s normal right? At least in my own experience in the workaday world of cubes, coffee machines, and photocopiers. I have always had the luxury of being kept awake at night by a capricious muse. Others aren’t so fortunate. They get children with ear infections. Or car payments. Mortgages. I have none of these.

I put it off. I put it off. I put it off again…

But now…well, now I still do have the obligation to work. Lounging about unbathed with a bag of chips and Maury Povich is not on the agenda. Me bum is going to be sitting in front of my laptop by nine – or earlier – each and every morning for as long as I can eke that out. I’ve been trained.

Summer off? You’ve got to be kidding. It’s all about being a writer now. Full-time. Hard core.

(And don’t look so smug, Mr. Noodles. Your evilness has no effect on me. I’ve always secretly loved you.)

Wish me luck, my friends.

And have a wonderful safe weekend.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Getting Away...

By Antonios Maltezos

… you know how they tell you to close your legs when you go down one of those extreme water slides? Well, I went head first down the Everest slide at the Val Cartier water park Tuesday afternoon, and I’m still blowing my nose. Wtf!? Twice, my creaky old body went airborne. We camped Tuesday night, and I almost kicked my legs through my sleeping bag, dreaming of cliffs and things. Bastards!

... what a blast, though!

Mt. Everest slide at the ValCartier water park...

Me on the Everest slide...

Me and da wife shortly after my ordeal on the Everest slide...

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

Article removed for revision and publication. Wish the author luck!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Stella, Baby

I'm still busy with actual paid work so I've asked my family to pick up some of the slack, both with the house and this blog. Today's picture is courtesy of Esme, who was inspired to draw it after reading one of the Stella books by Montrealer Marie-Louise Gay.

p.s. My review of Lullabies for Little Criminals is now available online.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Happy Federal Holiday!

By Tamara Lee

I must aplogise for being late with my post; it's been a very indulgent weekend. Out in the 'burbs with my mom because I just haven't been away from my apartment quite enough these past 2 months.

But I've managed to sort of celebrate Canada Day for the first time in years. I was in Montreal for Jean Baptiste Day last weekend, the day many quebeckers celebrate as a national holiday, while many others use it as an opportunity to drink openly in the streets. Many businesses were closed. Few places in Montreal were not filled with music or blue-and-white face-painted revellers. It was sort of like Carnivale.

Canada Day in Vancouver, however, like most events here, is rather subdued. Perhaps that's the way it is everywhere in Canada, I don't know. I think there were fireworks somewhere and I'm sure many people watched them. I did not. But I didn't need to, either. The epitome of Canada Day in Vancouver, for me, was one of the first things I noticed upon my return to the city: the annual massive flag draped over the main Canada Post building, like the posties all shouting to the city: "We are not working today or tomorrow! Deal."

But all the stores were selling their wares (and most had Canada Day sales), and the restaurants were open, patios full to the brim with people intent on soaking up as much sun as possible on this historically very wet long weekend. I barely remember such a sunny Canada Day weekend.

Me, I celebrated Canada Day by going shopping with my mom, making a brief belini-on-a-patio pitstop before going home to bar-b-que wild BC salmon accompanied by new potatoes and corn on the cob. No red-and-white face-painting; no fireworks; no drinking in the streets.

Just a pleasant meal, al fresco, on the backyard patio with the woman who gave me life.


Sunday, July 01, 2007

Happy Canada Day!

by Melissa Bell

Hi Everyone! I'm up north today, so one of my fellow CWCers is posting this for me today. Here, in no particular order, are 50 things I love about our beautiful country. Have a wonderful day, everybody, and for all our Canadian pals, I hope y'all have a delightful extra day off tomorrow. Cheers!

1. Rick Mercer
2. The Trailer Park Boys
3. Corner Gas
4. Icy cold Creemore on tap
5. Canoe trips in Algonquin Park
6. Montreal bagels
7. Robert LePage
8. fine old cheddar
9. Ontario ice wine
10. Dundurn Castle
11. Niagara Falls
12. Banff, Alberta
13. Ottawa
14. poutine
15. Thanksgiving in October
16. Canada Dry ginger ale
17. Mike Holmes
18. Restaurant Makeover
19. Our colourful currency
20. Bloody Caesars
21. Vachon cakes!
22. Butter tarts
23. Nanaimo bars
24. Toronto’s skyline
25. Bernard Callebaut
26. This Hour has 22 Minutes
27. Starry nights in Saskatchewan
28. Joni Mitchell
29. Alice Munro
30. FUBAR: The Movie
31. Lawren Harris
32. Alex Colville
33. Trivial Pursuit
34. Sunday mornings with Coronation Street and a pot of tea
35. Tim Horton’s
36. Biking on Manitoulin Island
37. Sailing on Lake Ontario
38. Robertson screwdrivers
39. My cat, Elliott
40. Long weekends at the Newmans’ cottage
41. Alex Trebek
42. maple sugar candy
43. Aurora Borealis
44. Patterson Ewen
45. Swimming in Lake Huron
46. Canada’s Wonderland’s funnelcakes with strawberries
47. Lilacs
48. My father’s backyard
49. National Gallery of Canada
50. BCE Place