The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

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.


Blogger T said...

Hey, happy belated b'day. And congrats on the reading. And the new dress. St-Denis? Well, that is a mighty shmanzy dress, I'm sure. Remember to get pics!

(incognito, under a different sign-in...)

Tue Jan 29, 02:41:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

I love this. What colourful fun. I'm left with images of yellow and green. At 32 you are guaranteed to have lots of days and years to wear that tunic. Happy birthday and get cracking on that story.

Tue Jan 29, 06:27:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Anne C. said...

Thanks, guys. No time yet for the story. Oh, oh.

Tue Jan 29, 07:27:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger MelBell said...

Hey, happy birthday, Anne!

Cupcakes! Wow, did you get cupcakes??

Tue Jan 29, 09:25:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Anne C. said...

And to you too, I think!

Tue Jan 29, 09:50:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger ad said...

I can already see the barley green of the tunic.
How did I miss your birthday too?

Fri Feb 08, 11:53:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Mary Soderstrom said...

I'm sure you look terrific in barley green.

And the reading is March, you say? You'll finish it: there's nothing like a deadline to concentrate the mind.


Mon Feb 11, 01:56:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Anne C. said...

Thanks, Adriana and Mary, for stopping by! I wish I had a drink or a nibbly to offer.

Tue Feb 12, 03:51:00 pm GMT-5  

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