The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Freeing Your Inner Clown

by Tricia Dower

“I’m sure you can just watch,” Colin says as we head off to an event called “Liberating the Marvelous.” I’m interested in the part that features poetry and music but it’s supposed to open with a Clowning Workshop. That worries me.

“Workshop usually means participation,” I say.

I don’t have to go. Colin is okay going alone, but it’s a chance for me to see the Camas Collective Bookstore he treks off to every Tuesday evening for the Anarchist Reading Circle. And hosting the evening will be performance poet Paula Belina whose work I admire.

Ten people show up. When Paula starts tossing potential costume items at us from a used clothing bin, I know I will not get away with just watching. Colin adorns his head with a veil of bright yellow net and I stretch a pink bra over my t-shirt. Paula says clowning is not about hiding behind a painted face; it’s about unmasking the real person inside. Our first exercise will be to communicate how we’re feeling in words and actions. Oh, oh, I think. Encounter group. I say I’m feeling stoo-pid and everyone laughs. Look, Ma, I’m a clown.

Next we’re to find a private place in the bookstore so we can get in touch with our bodies and our voices. No interaction with others for five minutes. We should move any way we want and practice laughing. I stand in front of a shelf with my arms folded across my chest, reading book titles. Paula writhes on the floor, her maniacal laughter filling the room. She obviously didn’t grow up being admonished not to make a spectacle of herself. It occurs to me I don’t make a sound even when I’m all alone in the house: no humming, no muttering, certainly not maniacal laughter. It occurs to me I’m the strange one.

We go through two rounds of saying our first names in a way that expresses how we perceive ourselves. We laugh a lot, and I remember everyone’s name by the end. We silently pass props (a tin box, a glove), miming mini-scenes. We pair off and make faces at each other. We play follow the leader where the one who's "It" makes noises we have to repeat and, later, motions we have to imitate. Except for Colin and me, the others are in their twenties, maybe early thirties. When we begin hopping like frogs, I say, “I’m too old for this!”

We end the workshop with a Public Stunt. Coats on, we shuffle outside, form small groups, and occupy the four corners of an intersection. When the light is red, we stand motionless. When it turns green, we leap and skip and run across the street, whooping and high-fiving the others we meet mid-way. We do this until it gets boring. A man crossing towards us during one green light never looks up from his cell phone. Back in the bookstore, Paula says the stunt was to show how you don’t have to break the law to put on a public display of joy. We end the workshop by making eye contact — every person with every other.

More people come later for the poetry and to hear two guitarists and singers from Vancouver called The Holdouts. A performer named Pest, wearing a wild black outfit with a death mask, walks on stilts among us. Paula leads us through a few surreal games. I feel at home with this crowd, even though only my ears are pierced and my hair is a conventional colour. It’s good to spend a Saturday evening with creative, young anarchists.

“You like me sometimes,” Colin says. “I get you out there.”

I do. He does, and it’s fun.

Photo: Workshop leader Paula Belina, centre, wearing assorted items from the used bin as we get ready to commit a public display of joy. I’m the red coated one to the right. Colin took a bunch more shots but the batteries failed. This was the only one that made it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

No Parties, No Tunics, No Readings

By Anne Chudobiak

Last fall I signed up to give an end-of-winter reading at a place called the Yellow Door. The person responsible for the series also organizes other events. To distinguish between them, she colour codes her emails. All correspondence concerning my reading came in bright canary yellow, which is a colour that for me has always inspired panic. So when I got a bright yellow message recently, informing me that the date for the reading had been bumped up by a week, could I please confirm, I froze. Had she just given me an out? I had three days to send a reply.

The truth was that I’d stalled on the story that I was supposed to read. I’d even had a nightmare about Alice Munro, where I ran into her on a country road, only to have her tsktsk my lack of progress. I’d woken the next morning with a new resolve: If I wanted to become a more productive writer, I would have to lose some of my middle-class aspirations, like the desire for a clean house—what a time-sucker! I implemented my new bohemian value system right away. A strange smell soon developed in the kitchen, but my word count kept pace with the ick, making me think that I’d made the right decision. I became so removed from earthly concerns, though, that I missed the deadline to confirm. I received a bright yellow message to this effect on the morning of the fourth day. There I was, with a messy house and an unfinished story and even less of an incentive to move forward. My husband expressed concern that without a deadline, I’d never finish anything again.

But I had a plan. I would redouble my commitment to art! The children would go to school in wrinkled and dirtied clothes with snacks of questionable nutrition, but my happiness would become theirs, and they would grow up with nothing but fond memories of childhood; I was sure of it.

This plan lasted for a good three days. I attribute its failure to the unexpected resurgence of middle-class desire on the occasion of my thirty-second birthday last week. I wanted a party with appetizers and drinks and no funny smell in the kitchen, goals that were not at all compatible with my new artistic lifestyle. So, I compromised. Instead of losing time cleaning for a party, I would indulge in another recently scorned middle-class pastime. I would spend the morning of my birthday on St-Denis shopping for clothes. In one little boutique, I deliberated over a silk tunic in barley green. How perfect it would have been for a party, for a reading! The saleslady convinced me that if I bought it, an appropriate event would present itself. By the time I got home with it, I felt ashamed at my extravagance. I was clearly a failure as a bohemian. The tunic went straight into the closet, where it hung untouched. My story stalled again. The bad smell in the kitchen got even worse. My thirty-third year looked grim.

Then a strange thing happened. The lady from the reading called to see if I’d been receiving her bright yellow e-mails. It turned out that there was still space for me in her March lineup. At first, I hesitated: I didn’t have a story! But then I remembered the tunic, hiding in the closet. It seemed to me that this was a case where my middle-class aspirations might buoy my writing. The tunic would provide inspiration. Yes, I told the lady, sign me up.

p.s. I was sad to hear the news of Robert Weaver’s death. I ‘d only just discovered him, thanks to Elaine Kalman Naves' biography, which I’d just had the pleasure of reviewing for my local paper. Naves was due to launch the book today in Toronto at an invitation-only event that will now serve as a wake in honour of one Canada’s most influential editors.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Great Fiction Resistance

By Tamara Lee

Recently, I took steps to amend a misjudgment I’d made while studying creative writing at university. In those days, I put a vast amount of energy into developing my skills as a poet, even though I felt more of an affinity with fiction. The reasons for resisting fiction were numerous, including a niggling worry I just didn’t have the stuff to be on the Fiction Writer team. Turns out, I didn’t have the stuff to be a Poet.

Beginning in February I’ll be taking a ‘Fiction Master Class’ with author Nancy Lee, at SFU’s Writing and Publishing Program. Lee, best known for the short story collection Dead Girls, also has a collection of poetry and a novel forthcoming.

The class is meant to be a ‘rigorous and intensive workshop…to elevate submitted work to a higher level of mastery, to cultivate fertile, creative impulses and skilled, precise editorial instincts, and to strengthen each writer’s authentic voice and individual process.’

So, a cakewalk, no?

I’m not sure what I’ll work on over the next 10 weeks, whether I’ll concentrate on a series of stories I’ve been half-heartedly trying to connect, or if I will finally dive into the novel re-write. Already I feel somewhat overwhelmed and willing to quietly sneak out the back. The thing that’s keeping me positive is that I was immediately accepted into the course and not wait-listed, presumably based on the strength of my submission samples. Or, it could be there was just something she liked about my last name.

Also contributing to the Great Fiction Resistance, is this rather lengthy-albeit-illuminating James Wood column in The Guardian. While I struggled with my fiction-writing skills over the years, I somehow had let myself believe one of my writing strengths could be a flair for character building. This Wood piece has set me right. I know nothing, though my angst is not unlike Muriel Spark’s, apparently, so that’s bound to ease a troubled writer’s mind, right?

Well, no.

Now I’m trying to convince myself that working on the short story collection will be fine, useful, perhaps enlightening. But really, it’s starting to feel like I could be making the same misjudgement I made at university. There would be no harm, indeed much to be learned, were I to push through with the short story manuscript, but I’m not entirely sure that’s where I see myself at this juncture in my so-called writing life. When and how do you know where to place your creative focus?

Obviously, it will all become clearer as the ‘Fiction Master Class’ progresses. And obviously, fiction is the real Master in this latest phase of The Resistance.

(Image credit: This example of 'Stooge-Jitsu' mastery, courtesy of McWild)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

I Was So Very Wrong

A while back, I posted a rather snarky post about the dearth of Alice Munro film adaptations. (The truly curious can go here.) I take it all back. Since that snarky post, the film Away From Her has been released theatrically, is now available on DVD, and Julie Christie's performance in the film has been nominated for an Oscar ™. And big hurrays for director Sarah Polley and her nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. No, I haven't seen the film myself. I don't think I'm ready for it. (Not yet, anyway.)

Congratulations also to Canadians Ellen Page and Jason Reitman for their Juno nominations (canuckian pun fully intended). And concerning our dear, wonderful, brilliant Brampton-born Michael Cera – so he didn't get an Oscar™ nom. Pfft. Whatever. He's made Brampton cool again.

Best of luck to all our native nominees on February 24, exactly four weeks away.

Plan those Canadian Oscar™ parties now. (I'm looking at you, Ms. Munro. Warm up the hot tub.)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Good on you, A.L. Kennedy

This week A.L. Kennedy won the Costa prize for her novel Day, which was good news for my word count. I used to keep a petty tally of my published work with an eye to accumulating the forty pages I’d need to be able to join the Quebec Writers’ Federation, in dignity, as a writing member. They have another, more inclusive category, with the same array of valuable benefits, but I wanted nothing to do with this wretched sounding general membership. If it took me years, I would get my 10,000 words, array of valuable benefits be damned!

In the end, it took me so long to accumulate the forty pages that I forgot why I was even doing it in the first place and stopped keeping track at all, that is, until this week, when I found out about the Costa, which is a UK phenomenon of interest to people everywhere, including Edmonton, where the books pages of one of the papers had yet to run a review of this year’s winning title. It seems that in situations like these, editors rely on one another to share. So the editor in Edmonton contacted the editor in Montreal, and they reached an agreement, whereby that paper could borrow a review of Day I wrote last year. When I heard about that, I suddenly remembered my word count. Another 700 words! Surely I was a writer by now. When was the last time I’d checked anyway?

So I got out my calculator and it turns out that I didn’t even need Kennedy to win that Costa, although I’m, of course, very happy that she did, in a “one writer to another” kind of way.

Pictured: Esme Distrobotoing.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Seeing the Music

by Tricia Dower

I’ve had a breakthrough in listening I must share with you, even though you may have been doing this for ages.

Ten days ago Colin and I taped a radio show for broadcast on January 30th. We interviewed John Cimino, the director of Creative Leaps International, an organization that fosters learning through music. John led us through two exercises in purposeful listening.

First, after hearing 30 – 40 seconds of an instrumental piece, we were asked to share how the music made us feel. This was a challenge. My emotional vocabulary is embarrassingly limited: peaceful, happy, sad? Also, I’m not used to listening that way. Music often washes over me, depositing unarticulated images and emotions, sometimes sparking creative impulses, but at a subconscious level. I’m more comfortable expressing a fictional character’s emotions, not mine and, then, only after working and reworking the words. If you ask me my feelings at the height of an emotional situation, I have to get back to you after I’ve processed them. I’ve been doing this since childhood. In my family, emotional spontaneity was for hot-blooded types, not us Anglo-Saxons.

Another exercise was to listen to a different clip and picture a scene. Describe the setting, the action and our participation in it. I was more comfortable with that and got to thinking it might help me write.

So, two days ago, with pen and paper in hand, I played some musical clips and purposefully listened with my latest story in mind. After a few false starts I stumbled onto the music from Cirque du Soleil’s O and the images arrived. A flotilla of canoes, people singing and dancing, a boy stretching his arms over a sunken city — testing his powers, seeing if he could raise it up. The boy’s fevered dreams — frenetic and cacophonous until his muse appears. A little girl twirling around, feeling free for once, her mother watching and smiling. People mourning their dead, sending their cries up to the clouds. I saw the secret smile of the man my protagonist loved. Later, with these images in mind (and the music off), I went back into my story and deepened a few moments.

On Wednesday, I listened to Colin’s weekly show, Concert Studies. This week he played some experimental contemporary pieces I usually have difficulty listening to without close-minded judgment. But hearing through my story, I saw the music and allowed myself to experience its effect. Haunting acoustical horns were dream people signalling the start of their search. Other instruments were my protagonist and her son creeping around a house they would break into, rain on tin roofs, people loudly whispering frightened and angry words. The monotony of a specific drum beat was the tedium of my characters’ lives. It was liberating to enter my story emotionally, rather than intellectually, through music. I don’t think it would have been as effective without specific characters and scenes in mind, but, hey, maybe someday I’ll be good enough at this listening thing to be able to conjure up an entire novel from a single note.

Does music spark or inform your writing?

Photo: John Cimino, director of Creative Leaps International. You can hear him lead Colin and me through a few listening exercises on January 30, 2008, from 4 – 5 p.m. Pacific Time (7 – 8 p.m. EST) via the Internet at CFUV. You can also hear his fabulous baritone voice performing an homage to Cervantes.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Murder in Saskatoon!

Somebody gave me a Hardy Boy book when I was a kid. Probably for a birthday. I was instantly hooked and worked my way through the entire series until I ran out. My mother suggested, “Well, if you like mysteries, you should try Agatha Christie!” I was instantly hooked and worked my way through the entire series until I ran out. While waiting for the next Hardy Boy book or the next Agatha Christie, I had to find other mystery writers. And it’s been like that ever since. Having a few favourites that I return to, and eagerly exploring the unknown looking for a new favourite.

Picking up a new mystery by a favourite author is like ordering your favourite dish. It’ll be mostly familiar- the same recipe- but will have slight a uniqueness given the circumstances of this execution- the quality of the ingredients on sale that week, the mood of the chef, other almost undetectable subtleties to the techniques involved in preparation. It’s a pleasant mix of the old and new.

As I changed, the kind of mystery I was to find satisfying changed with me. As my interest in literary skill grew I found myself drawn to authors with distinct prose stylings- Elmore Leonard, James Ellroy. As my interest in psychology grew, I found myself drawn to authors who explored human nature most skillfully- Ruth Rendall (writing as Barbara Vine), Joyce Carol Oates (writing as Rosamund Smith). As my interest in gay sexuality grew, I found myself eager for writings about gay detectives, gay victims, gay villains- Joseph Hanson, Richard Stevenson. And as my interest in all things Canadian grew, I was eager to find Canadian mystery writers- Giles Blunt, L.R. Wright.

Recently, I’ve been eating up Anthony Bidulka! Until I ran out. So I’m eagerly awaiting this series to end its hiatus and serve up some more comfort and delight. Bidulka’s website is one of the best author sites around, so check it out.

Some of the pleasure I’ve had from this series is discovering Saskatoon. It comes off as quite a charming city in the book, fastened to the prairies but open to the wide world. I wonder if the series has had an impact on Saskatoon’s tourist trade, because I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s become eager to check it out for real as a result of enjoying the books!

So, I put out a call: Canadian Cities, if you’d like me to write a mystery set in your city, I will require a two-week all expenses paid residency for research purposes. (Feel free to suggest locals you’d like whacked.)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Hot for Poetry (in translation)

By Tamara Lee

The thing about my relationship with books lately—and by lately I mean the past two years—is I put them places I forget to find them. I have bookshelves and places for books (and places not for books but I’ll put them there anyway), all through my apartment. There once was a sort of order. Then there was an attempt at ordered chaos. “Order” now can be removed from both those sentences. “Ordeal”, though, is a nice word.

Last night I needed poetry. What started as a slow brewing two or three days ago had finally erupted like an old percolator coffee pot, spewing and squelching. But where in this librarian’s nightmare had I decided to file the poetry books? Some I noticed sat way in back of one massive bookshelf in the study, but my favourites—including Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon, Pablo Neruda translated by Stephen Mitchell—had vanished. Only university-bought anthologies remained—not the sort you can really dig into, but the kind with notes in the margins that scream “shameless attempt at an A-grade.”

It boiled down to crime-drama visualization techniques: Where were you that last time you thought you’d read some Neruda? Summertime? If so, it would be in that pile over there? Was it night? So, then maybe it’s in the bedroom or hallway shelves. Or maybe… “Ah, Poetry,” I railed, “I have lost you, failed you even. Can you ever forgive me?” End scene. Go to commercial.

Jonesing and homesick for poetry, finally, nearly an hour later, I was able to get my hands on the Mitchell collection, and was sated by Neruda’s "Ode to the Artichoke.” I offer this link to the translated poem, with trepidation.

The thing about my relationship with translated poetry is, reading it can unleash a special kind of misery. No two poems are ever re-told the same way; something is always sacrificed. Finding a good translation can sometimes feel like a search for the Holy Grail.

Even if one Holy Googles Neruda’s “Ode to the Artichoke,” the three or four translations of the poem may disappoint. Some of the versions may feel decent, nearly capturing Neruda’s playfulness, or his form. But a fully satisfying collection was, for me, difficult to find. (Even before I lost it in my own home.) Mitchell’s translations seem to capture the spirit of Neruda’s language the best. And set next to the originals, the translations give the reader a greater visual sense of what Neruda was doing.

But I’m not sure if poets are always the best translators of others' poetry. Even Ezra Pound’s well-received collection—plainly called Ezra Pound: Translations—occasionally feels like Ezra Pound translations, like Pound channelled through the likes of Rimbaud and St. Francis.

And yet my own Spanish and French comprehension would surely stilt a reading just as much or more as may a poor translation. So, despite the Pandora’s box of complexities when considering translated works of any written genre—and poetry is especially fragile—I can’t imagine a world without Pablo Neruda or Jacques Prévert.

It's just the searching that near undoes me.

(Image credit: Thomas Hawk)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Do you See What I See?, or, Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

I see three possibilities here.

1)Those spiral florescent bulbs are to balding men what stripes are to largish women. These new bulbs (they aren’t considered bulbs, are they?) - These screw in florescent spirals… their light is harsh, brighter and whiter than Edison’s bulb, whose light dulls the edges, those cobwebs up in the corners of the ceiling visible only in the daylight. Are the older, less efficient bulbs kinder? Where they kinder? Not really. They left terrible shadows under the eyes once we’d reached thirty-nine and a half empty already on the dip stick of our life span. Our teeth were yellower - indeed, because there was yellow in that light, the yellowish glow of forty candles. Clipping nose hairs was impossible because the cavernous spaces were always in shadow no matter how you pointed your face, twisted and pinched your nose. They were quick to light up though, quicker than these new spirals, which mysteriously enough, cannot stand being dimmed. It kills them. It’s like putting a wild bird in a cage. It’ll die. The nature of this new light source is simple: to illuminate all the pores and blemishes on your face; to seek out all idiot hairs, especially the ones growing like zebra grass out of your ears; to cast a glaring light onto your head, past your toupette and onto your scalp. It’s a harsh light they’re selling, all in the name of energy conservation. Do I look like a polar bear?

2) When you use a PC, you don’t usually hang over the keyboard. With a laptop, that can’t be helped really. I keep my elbows out so I don’t inadvertently press down on the touch pad area. This brings my body forward, my face over the keypad, the screen leaning back as if I have bad breath. So every hour or so, I find I have to pluck one of my hairs out from between the K and the L, or the W and the S. It’s getting ridiculous. I could stuff a pillow with all the hairs I’m finding imbedded in the keypad. I’ve asked everyone I know if it looks like I’m balding in the front. “You can see my scalp through the hairs. Look!” I say. Someone said it was the winter months and only normal. “You’re shedding!”

3) All is good, really. No reason for me to be alarmed. I’m getting older, but at a gentle pace. I was break dancing with my kids the other day, and I managed three complete revolutions on my back, my legs up in the air like a dead cockroach. “Ha!” I said, finger-pointing like I was pow-powing with a cap gun. “I win! I win!” I simply got nervous about my hair falling out because the conditions were all there for a perfect storm. We’ve recently converted to florescent spirals, and I only last year began using a laptop, or should I say: a shedded hair catcher. Ha!


Psst, psst, psst.

Ah, come on!

Psst! Psst!


4) My hair’s thinning, I’ve just been told by a little voice, only I had too much hair before to notice. In a couple years time, apparently… I'll be unmistakably balding.

(That is harsh!)

Friday, January 18, 2008

The January Blahs

Hi everyone. Not too much going on here today. I'm still sick – not as sick as I was a couple of weeks ago, but still not 100%. It's this cold that appears to be legendary in terms of how long it sticks around. I'm heading into week 3 with this thing. I'm pretty sure the stock price of Kleenex has gone up, thanks to Yours Truly, and my nose has been worn down to just a couple of nostrils in the middle of face I've been blowing it so much. All my New Year's resolutions have had to be postponed. Not that I had too many this year (hurray to still not smoking cigarettes!), but I did want to start off 2008 with a regular exercise program. But at least my fingers are nicely exercised. I've been knitting like a mad fiend (finally, finally WalMart is carrying natural fibres - hallelujah). And American Idol is back for season 7. And Pluto enters Capricorn a week today. (Hey, stifle those yawns, people!)

So forgive me while I keep this post short today, folks. I'm heading off to my local PharmaPlus for some more Otrivin.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Photo taken by me up north. The day before I got charged by the rhinovirus.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


by Tricia Dower

It has woven its way into everyday conversations. A man at the grocery store, stuffing what he’d bought into canvas bags: “These things are gonna be illegal soon,” he says, pointing to the rack of plastic bags.

At a dinner party, couples who leave a sizeable footprint with winter and summer residences, big cars and airplane travel share tips on composting kitchen waste. One man catches me in the living room replacing a hearing aid battery and says, “You recycle them, right?”

Colin packages up our kitchen waste and bicycles it to the composting bin at the university. We’ve been using cloth napkins for a while and he dug out old handkerchiefs for a recent head cold. “I’ll have to get you a box of white ones with your initial like my father had,” I say. I learned to iron on those handkerchiefs.

“We should start going to the soap exchange,” he says. Soap exchange?

Everybody’s trying to do something, it seems. Riding a bicycle and walking say you’re environmentally responsible these days, not poor or simply health conscious. New words like bioneers, eco-warriors and greenwashing have entered the lexicon. But we still have the ability to pick and choose. I’m personally responsible for multiple tree deaths as I print off version after version of a story. We live in the city within walking distance of almost everything we need, but the car comes in handy sometimes. I don’t always remember to turn out the light when I leave a room.

I just finished a story set in an environmentally degraded future. My characters have no cars, electricity, running water, heat, paper, soap, sanitary napkins, shaving cream, condoms, makeup, perfume, deodorant, plastic bags, aluminum foil, hair dye, toothpaste, dry cleaning, tea bags and so on. Some of our ancestors didn’t have those things, either. But they had the expectation of “progress,” defined as “more” and “better.” Safeguarding our environment feels like deprivation. Promoting sustainability, not growth, seems unnatural. Surely, some say, a technological messiah will deliver us.

I bought a book by Adria Vasil called Ecoholic, a guide to “the most environmentally friendly” information, products and services in Canada. Helpful if you have the time to make your own cleaning products and toiletries or install a green roof. (There’s even “9 Naughty Ways to Green Your Sex Life.”) If everyone followed all the advice in the book, would it offset the damage done by corporations? If everyone followed all the advice in the book would they be pissed off enough at the corporations (and the governments that support them) to find a way to stop them?

Let’s keep talking.

Photo: Adria Vasil hugging a tree.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

2008 Per Contra Prize

One thing we haven’t done before on the CWC is pass along information about writing contests. I thought I’d do that this Wednesday because the contest I just heard about is so exciting! And also, because I don’t have a story ready myself I doubt I’ll be able to enter. That means I won’t mind YOU entering and winning it. Be sure to tell ‘em I sent you! (If you win that is! If you don’t win, tell ‘em that the American Writers’ Collective sent you. Okay? Thanks.)

Check out Per Contra, one of the best on-line literary journals. Per Contra has featured winners of The MacArthur Award, the Caine Prize, the Orange Prize, the Walt Whitman Award, the Flannery O'Connor Award, the Pushcart Prize and more.

They are now accepting submissions for the 2008 Per Contra Prize. Grand Prize is $1,000 and publication at their regular professional rates. The top ten stories submitted will be published at their regular professional rates during the 2008 editorial calendar. Deadline for Entry is January 31, 2008.

The grand prize winner will be published in their Spring 2008 issue alongside quite a stellar line-up. Here’s what they say about it: Our March 2008 issue features former poetry consultant to the Library of Congress (the position now known as the U.S. Poet Laureate) Daniel Hoffman, Pulitzer Prize Winning former poetry consultant to the Library of Congress (the position now known as the U.S. Poet Laureate) Maxine Kumin, Pulitzer Prize winning author and poet John Updike, poetry consultant to the Library of Congress (the position now known as the U.S. Poet Laureate) William Jay Smith and O. Henry Prize winner Stephen Dixon, as well as great emerging writers from around the world.

Good company! How often do you get a chance to brush up against John Updike and Maxine Kumin? (Other than in the hot tub at Alice Munro's house when she throws her annual CWC party?) Good luck!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Very Short Squid Brand Fish Sauce Horror Story

The scene outside my fridge door right now. I'm afraid there will be no happy ending.

Monday, January 14, 2008

A week of comforts (in 4 slow movements)

It’s been body-to-head combat this past week or so, starting with some benign yet bothersome medical nuisances—a cornucopia of coughing, sneezing, migraines and dizzy spells—a battle-loss I’m sure most of the country is losing this cold-season, and one that required rather a lot of soothing from my somewhat-amused doctor, trying to redirect my certainty of pending doom. Benign is a good word in these cases, she smiled. Fine, but I reserve the right to whimper a bit, and try to find some small comforts beyond the excuse to laze around.

Fittingly, I later learned our repertoire this season for the chorus I’ve recently joined is lullabies. I, the sole non-mother of the group, was initially unimpressed. My childhood was hardly filled with gentle matronly singing whilst I swung sweetly in a cradle. (Hmm, maybe that’s why being ill makes me so whiney.) Miriam, our choir leader (and a new mother), did not disappoint, though, choosing a nice selection of songs from various cultures, including a gorgeous version of the Welsh “Suo Gan,” which some of you may remember from the film Empire of the Sun. And even the more traditional songs she selected have such fascinating arrangements I never would’ve imagined that after one practice I’d become a lullaby-lover.

By Friday, miserable from a week of bed-to-couch TV and DVD (in)action, I sought the comfort of the lovely Pandora, my latest favourite online music source. Since none of my current stations—not the James Brown, nor the Staples Singers; not the Bob Dylan nor the 60s garage; not the Tom Waits nor even the French chanteuses—would comfort the low-grade migraines still menacing me, I set out to create, initially, a Mozart station, and discovered this festering disease can be lulled into a sort of sleep by Haydn’s symphonies. A little wiki-ing and I discovered he was a gentle, relatively ego-less man; someone both admirable and soothing; someone who lived a long and prolific life. Someone I could admire. And now, I think I’m a Haydn-lover.

Skimming Internet headlines yesterday, desperate for something to take my mind off this aging flu-ridden body and mind, an unexpected cure for what’s really been ailing me: not enough writing and the subsequent guilt. The tidbit, about an 88-year-old ballet dancer who started dancing at 77, reminded me of a friend who at 38 decided she wanted to be a saxophone player after a relatively successful career as a poet and performance artist, and who 4 short years later is receiving scholarships and accolades for her abilities. Granted, she works hard at her craft, but nevertheless, late-bloomer stories are always comforting to the over-35 folks, stuck in a world gagging for prodigies.

I then came upon a most comforting 2006 Time article, better than any of the medicine I’d been taking: “The Surprising Power of the Aging Brain”, in which a 65-year-old new composer comments, "At a certain age…you either get older or you get younger. If you get younger, you venture out and take risks." The article reassesses the previous belief that the human brain “reache[s] its peak of power and nimbleness by age 40”, and that possibility is bound to disturb anyone lying about the house brooding. But the article reassures us (for surely only the over-35 set would bother read it, aching for some middle-age comfort): “Far from slowly powering down, the brain as it ages begins bringing new cognitive systems on line and cross-indexing existing ones in ways it never did before.”

Considering Haydn lived a remarkable and active 70 years in the 18th century, and that some of our most respected writers didn’t publish until into their 40s, I’d say there’s rather a lot of comfort from reading these new findings. And just like that, it feels as though the chills have subsided and the head is clearing, and the voice may just be able to make it through tomorrow's practice.

Now maybe, just maybe, I can get some writing done.


(Image courtesy of Portland's prolific RadRobot, who I hope doesn't mind me borrowing his image; it so perfectly expresses how I've been feeling. Do visit his site and one his many stores.)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin

Mr. Martin's name came up at dinner a few weeks ago. One of the younger guests asked if he was "that guy in the Cheaper by the Dozen movies". His companion added that Mr. Martin was also in the latest version of The Pink Panther. While I acknowledge that both the guest and his companion are under the age of 15, I die a little inside to think that to these young people Steve Martin is nothing more than a likeable goofball in soft comedies. They know nothing of his writing, his "bad" magic, his spectacular banjo-playing, the early years of Saturday Night Live... Would they find the album, Let's Get Small, as funny as I did at their age?

Steve Martin's memoir, Born Standing Up, is a reminder of how much more there is to the man besides his recent films (thank heavens). Or even his recent foray into fiction (Shopgirl, Pleasure of My Company). Born Standing Up is not merely an autobiographical recount of his brilliant career as a stand-up comedian. It is study of a man studying his art, his calling, and how he developed himself from a young boy selling guidebooks at Disneyland to selling out stadiums at his stand-up performances years later. And that's where it stops. Perhaps Mr. Martin is saving the rest – his marriage, his movies, dating Anne Heche, etc. – for a later book. But I hope not. If his fans are lucky, he will save some of his writing talent to create better scripts for himself. It would seem that Steve has been a big fan of sequels of late – so why not an L.A. Story II? It would make me feel better if the next generation knew of Steve Martin beyond a string of flaccid films. This book will certainly help.

Remarkably non-self-indulgent, Born Standing Up is a well-written read - thoughtful but to-the-point and refreshingly unsentimental. A must-read for anyone who still believes that the road to artistic success is paved with hard work and tenacity.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Road

I just finished it and I’m going to leave it out for my daughter, and she’s going to give me Blood Meridian to read. That was the deal. Sort of. She’d asked for a lift to the library, and I said I’d take her if she would pick up a book for me while she was there. I’m new to Cormac McCarthy and the only title I could remember at that moment was Blood Meridian. She decided on The Road as well all by herself.I’m also new to reading books for pleasure from the library. I’ve always paid for everything I’ve read for pleasure because I wanted a copy for my shelves. Years on and my books have found their way into boxes, except for those few that look good next to the glass vase on the wall unit. No problem, the kids need the space, and it’s kinda like the man and the boy picking and choosing what they can carry because it’s a matter of life and death. If I ever buy another house, the walls will be painted taupe, the floors will be hard, cold tile. No junk you have to leave behind, cry over, when the end comes and you have to move quickly. Library books are a good thing. I can read as many as I like and I won’t be feeling as though I’m taking the last can of peaches for myself.

I knew the book would end the way it did, and I kept asking myself why we even needed another book like this. Why do I? Seems I’ve always had my head in the ash, always looked for the dankest subjects to stir, just so I could prove I wasn’t scared, I suppose. You know, looking into the great abyss and all that.

Funny, but the one image I’ll keep with me of this story, is that of the man and boy peering at nothing, the pure black of a world without its moonlight, the man never once loosing the boy in the dark. Never once.

A tough read for this dad. A couple tears near the end, and suddenly the story became about the boy.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Mustard Seed Kitchen

Every now and then, for inspiration, I haul out my old copy of Writer’s Market. To be honest, I don’t know how reliable these 2002 listings still are. (The Canadian literary magazines were, by their own account, much quicker back then, with a three-month response time for submissions to the Malahat and six months for A Room of One’s Own, both of which have since upgraded to nine; The New Quarterly, once of a four-month wait time, now simply qualifies its editorial process as “slow.”)

But I don’t read Writer’s Market for the listings so much as the articles, like that one about the guy who collected 1,500 rejections slips before publishing in book form—did that make it into subsequent editions of the guide? I hope so! My absolute favourite part of the book, though, is the Query Letter Clinic, where Don Prues and Cindy Laufenberg teach you how to “pitch a tight and concise query,” using six examples, both good and bad. They say that these are actual pitches from actual writers, but until last week, I never quite believed them, perhaps because of their clever use of pseudonyms: Alice Amateur and Alexandra Goode, for instance.

It’s Ms. Goode (or Grabbe) who interests me here. I recently reread her proposal, on page 23, to American Profile Magazine for a piece on two Cape Cod mothers responsible for the Wellfleet meals-on-wheels program. Their Mustard Seed Kitchen also doubled as a youth centre, where kids could make friends and learn about community service.

It was, of course, a goode query, so good that the name the Mustard Seed Kitchen stuck with me, and I recognized it instantly when later in the week I came across it online in a random way. If I try to reconstruct it, it seems to me that I followed a series of writing and then mothering related links (from Moonlight Ambulette to Mothers Who Write to Catherine Newman’s blog, where I read about her experience this summer in Wellfleet of being stuck in traffic while emergency crews tended to an accident on the highway. The injured party was a young man named Caleb Potter. His mother started a blog chronicling his long slow recovery and months later, Catherine still reads about how the whole town of Wellfleet is rooting for him. Everyone seems to know Caleb. Maybe because his mother, Sharyn, had always been so involved in the community. After all, she was none other than the co-founder of the Mustard Seed Kitchen.

When I read that, I was outraged, in a "why must bad things happen to good people" kind of way. I mean Sharyn’s charity was legendary! It had made it into Writer’s Market! I guess the consolation here, to borrow from a comment on Caleb's blog, is that he “does have the most amazing friends and family, and they are a big part of his recovery.” My best wishes, then, to Caleb, his family, the Kitchen, Wellfleet and Cape Cod.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Can-Lit Savvy Test

A quick one today as I’m on deadline. How many of the authors in this old photo can you name without cheating? Not that you would, of course. Cheat, that is. Extra points if you can name some of their books. If I had access to a police artist, I'd age the faces for you, but they don't look that much different today.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

James Joyce's "Araby"

by Andrew Tibbetts

The first lesson from Adam Sexton’s “Masterclass in Fiction Writing: Techniques from Austen, Hemingway, and Other Greats” is on story structure. He uses as his superlative example, James Joyce’s short story, “Araby”.

Joyce’s short stories, along with Flannery O’Conner’s, were what got me hooked on short stories from my teenage years.

Over the past few years, I’ve been writing a story inspired by this story. In fact, I was thinking of doing a set of ‘cover versions’ of all the stories in Joyce’s “Dubliners”. My attempt would be to capture my impressions of Northern Ontario from various angles. This is one of the many things “Dubliners” does. It gives us Dublin.

Looking at “Araby” through Sexton’s lens is most disorienting. For his purposes, he avoids looking at the theme, at the setting, at the poetry of the language (all the things that attract me to this story) and instead performs an x-ray to see the bones. Who knew, that beneath that anxious and horny story of burgeoning sexuality, with its sting of psychological epiphany in its tail- who knew that beneath it all was an odyssey? Its skeleton is a miniature version of Homer’s epic skeleton- with something ‘wrong’ with it.

From a structural point of view, the activating incident is the boy’s desire to impress the neighbourhood girl he is falling for. He promises to get her something from Araby, the exotic fair come to town. This burning need to bring his desires to some shape and win some affection from the girl by his actions, by making and keeping a promise, is what fuels the story structure.

Let me just say, that it does not go well. Plot-wise (and of course, in many other ways). What makes Joyce the first great modernist is that his voyage, as opposed to Homer’s or Jules Verne’s or de Maupassant’s or any of the adventure tales popular, and still popular now that the movies have grabbed them, is that his voyager gets lost and stays there. Like Stravinsky’s cadences that do not resolve, or Picasso’s faces that do not end where they are supposed to, Joyce’s voyage doesn’t come back home.

There are so many other things to say about this wonderful writing. But instead of saying something about it, I’ll give it to you straight. Thank goodness for public domain. Here is the boy from the first mention of his beloved. She emerges in a paragraph which lists the things that ‘we’ do. The boy is one of the boys on the street. They play. They fight. They notice things. They brag, dream, etc. But by the end of the paragraph she has popped up in, ‘we’ has become ‘I’. It’s a brilliant shift of literary power and psychological-developmental subtlety.

This excerpt takes you from that birth of the individual from the womb of the tribe through to the activating incident. But never mind all those bones- turn the x-ray machine off and just let the flesh sing:

…Or if Mangan's sister came out on the doorstep to call her brother in to his tea, we watched her from our shadow peer up and down the street. We waited to see whether she would remain or go in and, if she remained, we left our shadow and walked up to Mangan's steps resignedly. She was waiting for us, her figure defined by the light from the half-opened door. Her brother always teased her before he obeyed, and I stood by the railings looking at her. Her dress swung as she moved her body, and the soft rope of her hair tossed from side to side.

Every morning I lay on the floor in the front parlour watching her door. The blind was pulled down to within an inch of the sash so that I could not be seen. When she came out on the doorstep my heart leaped. I ran to the hall, seized my books and followed her. I kept her brown figure always in my eye and, when we came near the point at which our ways diverged, I quickened my pace and passed her. This happened morning after morning. I had never spoken to her, except for a few casual words, and yet her name was like a summons to all my foolish blood.

Her image accompanied me even in places the most hostile to romance. On Saturday evenings when my aunt went marketing I had to go to carry some of the parcels. We walked through the flaring streets, jostled by drunken men and bargaining women, amid the curses of labourers, the shrill litanies of shop-boys who stood on guard by the barrels of pigs' cheeks, the nasal chanting of street-singers, who sang a
come-all-you about O'Donovan Rossa, or a ballad about the troubles in our native land. These noises converged in a single sensation of life for me: I imagined that I bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes. Her name sprang to my lips at moments in strange prayers and praises which I myself did not understand. My eyes were often full of tears (I could not tell why) and at times a flood from my heart seemed to pour itself out into my bosom. I thought little of the future. I did not know whether I would ever speak to her or not or, if I spoke to her, how I could tell her of my confused adoration. But my body was like a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires.

One evening I went into the back drawing-room in which the priest had died. It was a dark rainy evening and there was no sound in the house. Through one of the broken panes I heard the rain impinge upon the earth, the fine incessant needles of water playing in the sodden beds. Some distant lamp or lighted window gleamed below me. I was thankful that I could see so little. All my senses seemed to desire to veil themselves and, feeling that I was about to slip from them, I pressed the palms of my hands together until they trembled, murmuring:
'O love! O love!' many times.

At last she spoke to me. When she addressed the first words to me I was so confused that I did not know what to answer. She asked me was I going to
Araby. I forgot whether I answered yes or no. It would be a splendid bazaar; she said she would love to go.

'And why can't you?' I asked.

While she spoke she turned a silver bracelet round and round her wrist. She could not go, she said, because there would be a retreat that week in her convent. Her brother and two other boys were fighting for their caps, and I was alone at the railings. She held one of the spikes, bowing her head towards me. The light from the lamp opposite our door caught the white curve of her neck, lit up her hair that rested there and, falling, lit up the hand upon the railing. It fell over one side of her dress and caught the white border of a petticoat, just visible as she stood at ease.

'It's well for you,' she said.

'If I go,' I said, 'I will bring you something.'

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


I’m sick. The common cold, or acute viral nasopharyngitis as them doctor types might call it (gotta love Wikipedia). I’ve got all the classic symptoms: head in a vise, hacking my lungs out, giant gobs of green stuff, aches and pains, and stupidity. That last item having the greatest impact on this blog.

It seems every time I return to Canada for Christmas I get some sort of nasty sickness. Flu, cold, alcohol poisoning…. The cold Canadian weather must be an incubator for all sorts of nasty germs that my softened Hawaiian immune system simply can’t handle. Cold weather = more colds. Common sense, right?


Cold Myth #1 – Cold Weather Makes More Colds
Turns out there is no evidence linking cold weather with a greater risk of getting a cold. Sure, there is an increase in the number of colds through the winter months, but doctors attribute this mainly to schools (germ factories) reopening, as well as colder weather forcing people indoors and therefore into more contact with each other and sneeze sprayed surfaces. The chance of catching a cold after exposure to the virus is just as likely in the summer as it is in the winter.

Cold Myth #1a – Catching a Chill
The chill, a favorite of mothers everywhere. Going outside with a wet head or getting soaked in the rain cannot cause a cold, period. No debate on this one. A cold is a virus, and viruses are not magically made by damp hair and cold air. The logical corollary of this is that bundling up will not prevent colds. This explains why those toqueless and coatless high school kids aren’t all hospitalized with pneumonia.

Cold Myth #2 – A Weak Immune System Increases Susceptibility
Also known as the "Get Your Rest, Dear" myth. Also bogus. This makes me feel better, because it means my lack of sleep and copious drinking weren’t responsible for my cold (so there, Mom). 95% of healthy adults become sick when the cold virus is dropped into their nose. In other words, cold buggies don’t care what condition your immune system is in.

Cold Myth #3 – Feed a Cold and Starve a Flu
Come on. We all knew this was garbage. But it is fun to pig out when you have a cold, and starving a flu isn’t usually a choice. What you do need in either case is plenty of fluids and enough food to satisfy your appetite.

Cold Myth #4 – Vitamin C, Zinc, and Echinacea
Although it’s always a good idea to get your daily dose of Vitamin C, no double-blind studies have ever proven any link between a copious intake of C and the prevention of the common cold. Same goes for Zinc and Echinacea. We might as well throw chicken soup, steam inhalation, and nasal purging weirdness on the pile of mumbo-jumbo as well.

There are a ton of other cold myths out there. Milk helps mucus. Heated homes increase the spread of colds. In fact, if the cold remedy or cold prevention idea comes from a loved one or a TV ad, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be a myth.

So a cold’s a cold. A virus. No more, no less. There are no magic cures outside of the placebo effect generated by the human brain (Cold-eze, Coldfx, Airborne, et al. can attest to this). I just have to suck it up and let this thing run its course. All is not lost however, for a cold is a great excuse for making mistakes at work, not getting the yard work done, and letting Google partially write a blog for you.

Where’s the Kleenex?

Monday, January 07, 2008

A firefighter’s hands

By Tamara Lee

Our good family friend Doug is a recently retired fireman, 6’2”, with hands the size of meat cleavers. Hands that have swung axes both fighting fires and building them; hands that have tirelessly laboured in his beloved garden; hands with reputations that precede his own ladies-man reputation; hands that accompany the telling of every funny tale or dirty joke, the story building momentum with the rolling motion.

Firefighters are often a complicated breed of human: choosing an occupation, for all manner of reasons, that has them facing death on a daily basis. So when one is about to pass, especially one as vital and fun-loving as Doug, succumbing to cancer blazing through his body at a 4-alarm rate, it’s humbling for all who know him.

And today, on this last day I’ll ever see my friend Doug, his hands moved in that familiar way as he tried to tell a tale, the telling stilted by an onslaught of pain medication and the football game on TV.

I don’t remember what he was trying to say, exactly; I was captivated watching those hands, knotty and calloused by hard living and loving and firefighting. Hands that I held before leaving, so fragile now, as the fireman and friend reached out trying to reassure that everything’ll be okay.

They say a fireman never really stops being a firefighter.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

You Don't Bring Me Stories Anymore

A writer-colleague of mine from the United States of America is reviewing the weekly New Yorker story on his blog. It’s such a cool project. Check it Out!. I was thinking of copying him. But then I remembered how the whole playground goes ‘na, na, na, na, NAAA, na’ when you do that, so I thought I’d look for a Canadian equivalent. Hmmm. Which Canadian weekly publishes fiction? Hmmm. The Walrus usually has a story. Oh, that’s monthly. Hmmm. MacLeans is weekly. Oh, that never has a story. Hmmm. Canlit Journals publish stories, but they are quarterlies and full of stories. I want a single story each week to get disciplined over- like an elegant single rose in a sophisticated vase. It can’t possibly be true can it? That it doesn’t exist in Canada? Hm, Hm, Hm, Hm, HMMM, Hm.

Readers, any suggestions?

Saturday, January 05, 2008

I wanna...

Without a doubt, the New Year resolutions I’ve uttered, thought to utter, thought I ought to utter, throughout my life, have concerned my health. Among addictions, smoking has topped the list as the habit I’ve wanted to kick the hardest. It’s always topped the list. Some years, many in fact, it’s been the only thing on my list of resolutions.

That’s not such a bad thing though, not if you think about it the way I’m thinking about it. What this all means, statistically, is that the worst thing I’ve ever done in my life was light up that first cigarette about a hundred years ago. I joke where maybe I shouldn’t be joking. I’m hard at work kicking that nastiest of habits. And the weather is cooperating. The more snow gets dumped on my deck, the fewer cigarettes I smoke.

On a more cheery note, I’ve been writing quite a bit, doing my damndest to direct what I write into something that I can use in my novel. It ain’t working, but still, I’m writing, which is kinda like saying I’m thinking of quitting smoking. It's the wannabe curse thing. Why is it so hard to just do the stuff you know you should be doing? Because we’d all be perfect, that’s why. We’d stop saying our prayers and buying loto tickets. I'd stop writing.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Unsung Heroes of the Airwaves

by Tricia Dower

What do you imagine radio announcers do when a song’s playing? Sip coffee with their feet up? Read a book?

Not at CFUV where my husband, Colin, does a weekly show called Concert Studies. Low-budget community radio, programmed by volunteers, located in the basement of UVic’s Student Union Building.

I got a first hand look at all he has to do on Boxing Day when I co-hosted a special holiday edition with him. Two hours rather than his usual one because Women on Air was taking a break. Broadway Show Tunes. A departure from his usual format of “classical” music and interviews with local composers and musicians. I set classical in quotes because he does quite a bit of what some call “new music” — discordant, experimental stuff that sometimes reminds me of when the kids were little, banging pots and pans with wooden spoons.

Anyway, five minutes before Jeb, the programmer before us, finished his bluegrass show, we slid into the studio with our CDs and LPs. Jeb said one of the turntables was screwed. “Get an LP that’s trash and I’ll rebalance it for you,” he said.

Colin ran to the library down the hall and brought back something that Jeb said was a vintage classic. So Jeb ran to the library and brought back a sacrificial LP. While Colin donned the earphones and cued up our first two CDs, Jeb (standing next to a hand-lettered sign saying this CD burner is broken) worked magic on the defective turntable. At 4:00 p.m., Colin brought up the mikes and said, “Good afternoon. Welcome to a special two-hour edition of Concert Studies.”

We had planned the show together and I had lots of words to say which I delivered with a virus-laden voice, sounding like a cross between Lauren Bacall and Mr. Ed. (Too much Sing-Along Messiah, I suspect.) However, my trials were nothing compared to the one-armed paper hanger routine Colin went through.

We played about 28 songs during the show, each of them having to come out of their CD cases or LP jackets, each of them having to be written down on a log — name of album, name of song, name of artist — so the artists get their royalties and the station meets CRTC requirements. Throughout the songs and our commentaries, Colin slipped in the required sponsor messages, CFUV show promos, PSAs and the weather — each needing to be logged with time played. Whenever a song was on, Colin had to remember to turn the mikes off, bring them back up and give me the signal to start speaking again. Watching him cue up the LPs had me shaking my head in awe. With his ear to the turntable he rotated the record by hand, listening to find the right groove — it sounded like mwa,mwa,mwa to me.

We ran through the program faster than anticipated and had to go to our ‘If we have time’ list. That’s when I got to hustle, pulling CDs out of cases, telling him what track to play and telling the audience what they were gonna hear.

About ten minutes before the end of the show the blue light came on in the studio. Ordinarily, this means someone’s at the studio door waiting to be let in. But since it was a holiday, the Student Union Building was locked and the guy hosting the next show was outside. Colin had to run out of the studio and down the hall, thunder up the back stairs to let him in and run back to the studio in time for the next track. I knew that because Jeb had done the same for us.

“You’re amazing,” I told him as he perfectly cued up the Bells Are Ringing LP with Judy Holliday singing The Party’s Over, our going-out song. And so are the other unsung heroes who sit in that booth and get through an hour or more without dead air. Operating the toaster is challenging enough for me.

Photo: Colin Dower at CFUV last summer. Tune in to “Concert Studies,” every Wednesday from 4 – 5 p.m. Pacific Time, 101.9 on the dial and on the Internet at

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A Promise is a (Half-Baked Attempt to Hold Back the Tides of Chaos and Powerlessness) Promise

Because of some pope or other, ‘tis the season for reflection and resolve. The ‘turn of the year’ is such an artificial creation. There’s nothing naturally different between this week and last, it’s just a calendar thing, so it’s strange how pervasive I find the idea of a ‘new year’. But I confess: I’m a new-years-resolutionist.

Every year, I take stock, make lists. I also like other people’s lists. I like those ‘best and worst of the year’ features that crop up in newspapers and on TV. And now, on the internet. Does it give me, and others of this ilk, the feeling that we have some measure of control? That life is actually a planned activity?

Reflecting on that, I see hubris and delusion. But let’s dive in anyway.

Since this is a writing blog, I’ll give you my writing resolutions and save the personal ones for my diary. The writing is not going well, not at all, not at all- so, this is probably good.

This year, I resolve to send a story out each month.

I made the same resolution last year, and I got all the way to April. So here’s my resolution about my resolution.

I will keep my resolution until at least June.

And since that worked so well for me for a few months- of the four pieces, one was published- I will also add a second resolution:

These stories will be good.


I will keep my second resolution until at least April. Wink.

Happy New Year, folks!