The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

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!)


Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Congrats A. on your piece and B. on your baby! New writing, new people, lots of new love in the world!

Tue Jul 17, 03:38:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Chumplet said...

Yay for your review showing up where it belongs!

Boo to back pain. It's hard to back up the car, isn't it. Major pain. I had a bout of sciatica a couple of years ago and I've never been the same.

The nesting instinct is incredible. I remember being seven months along with my first child, sitting awkwardly on the kitchen floor and scrubbing the baseboards. Who, in their right mind scrubs baseboards?

Tue Jul 17, 08:50:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Anne C. said...

That's hilarious, Chumplet. I was thinking about baseboards this week. I thought it was imperative that I scrub them regularly when pregnant. I don't know why. I certainly never scrub them now.

Tue Jul 17, 09:12:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

An adventure indeed, so glad it ended well in both respects, Anne. Now how do I get my hands on a Saturday Gazette in Calgary.....

Tue Jul 17, 10:07:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Anne C. said...

If I knew how to do that, I would have seen your piece in the magazine last fall.

Wed Jul 18, 10:53:00 am GMT-4  
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Wed Jul 31, 05:41:00 am GMT-4  

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