The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Friday, May 30, 2008

A Traffic-stopping Sad

I’ve had this magic realist problem lately. It’s kept me from blogging. Any time that I might have normally spent here has been spent weeping. This dramatic new habit takes up a lot of my time. I have to schedule my days around it: 9:00, dentist, 10:30, breakdown, 11:00 recovery (ice, concealer, blush).

None of which sounds good, I know. Except. There’s this thing about sadness. It kind of opens you up. There you are, walking around all raw and exposed, as though emerged from a surgery so fresh that the results are not yet known, and the world responds.

In my case, the response has involved the bestowing on me of some new powers, chief of which is my ability to stop traffic. Seriously. I can now use any crosswalk with impunity. If you have ever been to Montreal, you will know that this is not the normal state of affairs. Crosswalks exist here only in theory. They are not respected, not even by the police. That is unless the pedestrians trying to use them are sufficiently despairing, i.e., as sad as I have been this spring. I slump on the corner, waiting for an opening, and cars screech to a stop, with the drivers waving me—encouraging me—across. I can practically hear them cheering.

But that is not the only thing that has changed. I am no longer susceptible to parking tickets; prices keep getting lowered for me; my landlord has become suddenly attentive to my concerns. I no longer have to open my own doors or push my own buttons on the elevator. In yoga class, I don’t have to get up from my mat to get a yoga block: someone will always get it for me. Yesterday, the woman from the local lingerie store—the same woman who eyed me suspiciously for years out of a fear that I might inadvertently lactate on her merchandise (she used to make me line my breasts with Kleenex before trying anything on)—called to let me know that a new bra had arrived and that she thought that it would look good on my body: “I wish we had it in blue. I know that you would like that.”

And that is just the adult response. I haven’t even gotten to the children, or the cats. I feel a bit like a Disney princess in a forest in bloom, with bluebirds landing on my shoulder and deer eating out of my hand. I attract small things, especially strays. They needlessly brush up against me, on the street, in the playground. They sit beside me on the metro. If they fall, I am allowed, nay expected, to pick them up. And, those I know, I can influence with Pied Piper control. I’ve been testing this power, by doing more and more ridiculous things with it. Last week I took a three-year-old, a four-year-old, and two six-year-olds across the city by bus, with no problems. It was a breeze. I would have never attempted such a foolhardy journey on my own before the sadness.

So there you go. A small update on me. I was feeling low, but the response has been such that is no longer possible for me to maintain this feeling. I’ll just have to start getting my own yoga blocks, opening my own doors. Too bad about the crosswalks, though.

Ray LaMontagne, Shelter, Hold You In My Arms

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Progress of a Story: The Inner World of the North American Male

I’m trying to write about somebody like my dad. It feels superficial and dull. I realize what I don’t have a good sense of is the man’s life from the inside. Many of the responsible men of my father’s generation got jobs, had families, were good providers. Their lives are easily seen from the outside. They were all about those visible signs of success. But I want to be more aware of their lived experience. I’ve asked members of my on-line writing site to recommend some authors. Here’s the short list: Raymond Carver, Phillip Roth, John Updike, Andre Dubus, Richard Yates, Tom Perrotta, Ron Carlson, Richard Baush, Evan S. Connell, John Cheever, Steve Almond, Norman Mailer, Tom McGuane, John Irving, and Jim Tomlinson. I think it’s a good list. Some new, some old. Some classic, some rare. I think I’ll do a binge reading this summer before I take this story any further.

Photo of "Barefoot Business Man" from WichitaKsDailyPhoto

Monday, May 26, 2008


I’d like to blog about Obama one day – dude’s got me feeling just a tiny bit hopeful with all his talk of change. Something about the way he hasn’t allowed himself to get nasty sets him apart from what I’ve seen of politicians so far in my life. I don't think he's a liar.

I’m hooked on the race, tuning in to CNN almost nightly. Their panels of experts go over and over the same material until something new comes up – I love that! And I find myself waiting with bated breath for Clinton’s announcement that she’ll drop out of the race. It’s like waiting all summer to find out who shot J.R., or Mr. Burns! Not that I have anything against Clinton. Had there been no Obama, I’d have been just as thrilled about her, though for other reasons entirely.

I think I find myself cheering on Obama because he’s graceful and dignified, and that all politicians after him will be somehow different, improved. Is that being naïve? Like I said, I’m hopeful. It’s the whole change thing.

The two old dudes of the Taylor-Bouchard commission on accommodation(?) seem dignified and decent. Boy, what a pleasant surprise that was, huh? For once, I don’t mind the millions spent on a commission/investigative committee. It was worth it, I think. Especially after reading that a “controversial” Quebec writer called our Governor-general, the negro queen. Yuck!

You know, all this talk of change, and promise, and hope, has me thinking about that all-important first sentence, how I’ve been floored a couple times since becoming Vestal Review’s first reader. An opening sentence should be a thing of beauty, the reader marvelling at the peaks and valleys of the letters strung together to make a city sky-line at night, a million possibilities, the universe as backdrop. Right?

The super first sentence comes alive after the initial read. You’re grabbed by the collar, told there is something so fresh in these words, it feels original -- that here there be insight. What a privilige this'll be!

There’s a trigger and it’s been pulled in those three seconds it takes you to be introduced to the story and the writer. Your mind is drifting to other stuff already, though you may not know it. In that sentence, it’s like you’ve lost yourself in a novel page. You’re reading but you’re also paused basking in the smarts radiating from the words, the way they’ve been strung together to create meaning. You’re reading, but you can’t help seeing it as a picture, a window as if into a life -- you’ve faded into a trance-like state of hyper-awareness. Call me Ishmael -- have there ever been heavier words? Once read, the first sentence should sprout giant dragon wings and take off with you hanging on for dear life.

Ah... you know what I mean. It’s all about being swept up; you’re somehow willing to accept the risk you might be dropped while on the journey. It’s feels worth it, like this might actually be change-affecting.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


by Tricia Dower

“You really didn’t feel the cat sniff your toes?” Colin asked after the Picton reading.

Apparently Books & Company’s resident cat had checked out my open-toed shoes while I was reading and given them a sniff. Apparently everyone in the audience saw it. If I even noticed their smiles, I must have thought I’d said something clever. Must have been lost in the miasma that enveloped my brain on May 9th when I did my first reading in Victoria until this Monday when Colin and I returned from Toronto. A fog of nervous, I-can’t-believe-it’s actually happening, excitement.

Everything was new and special, beginning with the little push-button TVs on the back of every seat on the Air Canada flight to Toronto. In Economy, yet! (I couldn’t remember the last time I was on a plane.) It took me a while to figure out the minimalist headset but once I did I spent the five-hour flight happily jabbing my finger onto the screen behind the head of the guy in front of me.

I last visited Ontario over two years ago and the best part of the trip was reconnecting with folks I hadn’t seen in ages. “Usually you have to die for so many old friends to show up,” I said, when it was my turn on the stage in the spotlight on May 12th at the Supermarket. Standing room only, no podium, intimidating. I read from the title story, Silent Girl. It felt like I belonged there. It was fun.

The next evening I sort of crashed the party of another Inanna author, Jacqueline Borowick. She was launching a bilingual book of poetry in the party room of her apartment building. Our mutual editor had invited me to read to satisfy a Canada Council travel grant requirement for two readings in the same city. A few people I’d worked with during my incarnation as an HR executive showed up to cheer me on, but most of the crowd was an unknown quantity, conservative, I’d say, and unprepared for me.

“Read something light,” Inanna’s editor-in-chief whispered to me before I went on, “something from Cocktails with Charles.” But I hadn’t planned on that. It would have been like being told to dance Sleeping Beauty when you’d rehearsed Swan Lake. Besides, with the exception of the one story she suggested, my book isn’t light. Why falsely advertise?

I read what I had the night before and partway through I was thinking, “Oops.” One woman laughed inappropriately when I said “underpants” and no doubt felt terrible about it once she realized where the story was heading. I noted many stricken faces but soldiered on. “I sure know how to kill a party, don’t I?” I said when I finished. They laughed politely. To be fair, two women came up afterward and said they enjoyed the reading and asked me to sign the books they bought. But most probably left in shock, maybe even a little cross with their friend Jacqueline for inflicting me on them.

The bookstore in Picton had advertised my reading in local papers and through e-mailings, but at 7:30 p.m. on May 17th when it was supposed to begin, the only people there were my husband, my son, and the two friends we were staying with, rattling around in the football-field-sized special events room above the store’s main floor. The store owner brought up carafes of coffee and plates of cookies.

“Should I go home?” I asked.

“Not yet,” he said.

About five minutes later the rest of the audience showed up at once, forming a huddle as they climbed the stairs. Not many, maybe twelve in all, but they were attentive. I had the whole program to myself and got to read from four stories and talk about them. Got to share my passion for the issues I wrote about and answer questions. One woman talked to me at some length afterwards about feminist concerns. One man said he thought violence against women was the greatest human rights abuse in Canada today. I ended that evening feeling very gratified. I'd met exactly the kind of readers for whom I had written my book.

In less than a week I’ll be off again, this time to Vancouver and Calgary. Carrying a suitcase of laundered clothes and a better idea of what to expect when I share my words with others.

  • May 27: Café Montmartre, 4362 Main Street, Vancouver, beginning at 7:00 p.m. Fiery First Fiction with Julie Paul, Madeline Sonik, Pamela Stewart and me.

  • May 29: McNally Robinson bookstore, 120 8 Avenue SW, Calgary, beginning at 7:00 p.m. Readings from Madeline Sonik’s Stone Sightings and my Silent Girl.

  • June 2: I'll be signing books at Inanna's booth at the Congress of the Humanities at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

    Top: Reading on May 9th at the Legacy Art Gallery in Victoria.

    Montage, centre, signing books at the Victoria launch and clockwise from top left: fellow CWC-er Andrew Tibbetts (right) and fellow Zoetroper Ruth Taylor who came to see me on May 12th at the Supermarket in Toronto; at the reading on the 13th with former business associates Suzie Labonne, Donna Morano, Julie Dubien and Lorraine O'Connor; Silent Girl on the New Releases shelf at Books & Company in Picton; the cat that sniffed my toes; with my son, Mike, in front of the Fiery First Fiction display at Books & Company.

    Wednesday, May 21, 2008

    The Progress of a Story: Immigration

    With our spotty, barfy dazes lifting we looked around our new country. The first thing my sister and I came to love about the Red Oak Hotel was the ice machine. As soon as we were able to stand-up we were sent to get our own ice, and ice for our parents. “Our” ice was wrapped in towels and held to our heads to bring down our fevers. Their ice went clinking into drinks.

    Since I’m writing my new story under the gaze of this weekly blogoscope, I’ve been noticing things about my writing habits that went under the radar before. For example, as I started to write this story, scraps of things I’ve written previously have been recalled.

    Once, I'd spent a frothy half day coming up with a little scene in a hotel for a contest. It never really went anywhere. My own family had spent the first weeks of immigration to Canada in a hotel room where my sister and I recovered from chicken pox and my parents drank and bickered.

    This fun little nuclear family “No Exit” popped back into my mind now that I’m writing about Christopher Hebblethwaite’s decision to move his family from England to Canada. I routed through the thousands of computer files I have in my writing folder (thank goodness for that little dog with the flashlight in his mouth called file search!) I opened it up for a cut and paste and re-polish and now it’s on its way to finding a home as part of this story.

    I realize that this quilting approach happens to me all the time. I tend to write in scraps. Some of the scraps stay stray, but others of them band together into a pack. A story is a pack of wild scraps.

    Monday, May 19, 2008

    A Memorial Day Moment

    By Tamara Lee

    When I was a kid, long weekends were book-ended by spending hours in the belly of an RV or in the backseat of a car, heading. We sometimes headed to visit family, but usually we headed into the Interior of BC.

    It’s during those hours of travel, I think, that I became a writer. First, I started off as a dreamer then I started scribbling those imaginings down in little Duotang notebooks.

    Long weekends still make me a bit nostalgic, even though now I rarely travel during them, the highways and campsites too super-clogged for me to entirely relax.

    Besides, in a way the most pleasurable part of long weekend travel, of any car or train travel really, remains the getting-there part. The part when I get to stare out the window, think or not-think, and dream up stuff.

    Hope everyone had a great weekend.

    (Image credit: ANOXLOU)

    Wednesday, May 14, 2008

    The Progress of a Story: Dad

    Excerpt from a work in progress:
    Christopher Hebblethwaite’s eight sisters turned to him, eight teacups suspended somewhere between eight saucers and sixteen lips, aiming their various serious looks in his direction. He had no idea what they were all doing in his living room talking with his wife but he felt instantly guilty. He reminded himself he was a full grown adult now by running his hand across his after work stubble.

    I wanted to write a story about my dad. I think like a fiction writer so when I say ‘about my dad’ I mean that I’m going to explore certain qualities of his personality or of the situation of his life or of our relationship. The character, I’m going to make up. All the plot stuff, too. So if it’s not a documentary of my own father, what it is? Let me tease it out.

    It shocks me when I think back to memories of my father and to realize that he is younger in that scene than I am now as I recall it. For example, I was five when we immigrated to Canada. I have a few vivid memories of that experience. The entire time I am being led from one country to another by an all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful father. To me, he was wise, ancient, a perfect force of nature. To think that in his reality he was just some schmo in his thirties who was probably full of worries and doubts? This freaks me out. I remember myself in my thirties. I knew nothing. I was the farthest from wise. Of course, now, in my forties, I’m wise. Of course. Of course of course. But not in my thirties. No.

    I tried to re-imagine the whole experience from his point of view. It was eye-opening. It actually put me in touch with experiences of my own adulthood. Did I ever make a decision and have to stand firm with the consequences for the sake of others' need to have faith in me? Lord, I think I have. And do my kids think of me as some kind of archetypal Father. Lord, it’s scaring me.

    I’ve never felt like a man. I’ve always been a boy, who has lately found himself stuck inside this (aging) man’s body. I wonder if my father felt like a boy the entire time he was embodying, for me, the archetypal man.

    So, I begin this short story with the idea of trying to get that feeling. Of being a boy in a man’s body, having to make a man’s decision. It won’t be about my father. Even though it will be about my father.

    HEY! Check out my blog over at Descant for the scoop on Tricia Dower's reading!

    Photo from Boot Camp for New Dads- a great idea!

    Thursday, May 08, 2008

    One more sleep...

    …until book launch. Months of preparation and it’s finally here. My daughter has arrived from Maryland—the absolute best Mother’s Day giftand today we’re doing indulgent girly things like getting our nails done. The launch venue is beautiful, people will have stuff to eat and drink, and I’ll be wearing a new dress. How could it be anything but good?

    Then it’s off to Toronto for the Fiery First Fiction seven-author readathon on the 12th. I’m attending another Inanna author’s book launch on the 13th and have been invited to read there. On the 17th, I’ll be in Picton for a third reading which my son, who lives in Minneapolis, will attend. More wonderful Mom’s Day news. As luck would have it, he has a business meeting in Scarborough the day before and will drive down for the event.

    In between: visits with friends we haven’t seen for over two years. All thanks to Silent Girl.

    If you live in Toronto or Picton, here’s the scoop:

    Date: May 12, 2008
    Time: 7 PM (Readings begin at 7:30 PM)
    Venue: The Supermarket
    268 Augusta Ave. ,Toronto, Ontario

    Reading Order

    Tricia Dower - Silent Girl
    Pamela Stewart - Elysium
    Nila Gupta - The Sherpa and Other Fictions
    Lien Chao - The Chinese Knot


    Shari Lapena - Things Go Flying
    Nathan Whitlock - A Week of This
    Claudia Dey - Stunt

    Date: May 17, 2008
    Time: 7:30 PM
    Venue: Books and Company
    289 Main Street,
    Picton, Ontario

    Reading Order

    Just me, so far. Yikes!

    See you back here on May 21st, maybe with some photos.

    Image: The Fiery First Fiction bag. Supposedly you get one with a purchase of even just one of the FFF books at participating bookstores. I want one!

    Wednesday, May 07, 2008

    I Like Me Some Canada Council!

    I heard about the Canada Council grant for writers a few years ago, around the time I was struggling with three jobs, having difficulty squeezing time in to breathe let alone write. It occurred to me that if I got me one of those babies I could let a job go. The criteria for emerging writers is 'four published stories' and I had three. I guess I wasn’t quite emerging enough. I’m picturing a baby’s head crowning right now and the obgyn not quite ready to declare that things are on the move, but hey! Rules are rules.

    Well, I had to let the jobs go anyway. A little thing called sanity. But as soon as I had that fourth published story (“Ugly is the New Pretty” in Descant’s fabulous fashion issue) I sent in an application.

    And now I am the proud recipient of said fundidge! I would like to thank my parents for giving me the enthusiasm for creating and also for giving me tons of stuff to write about. Of course my stories of dysfunctional families are about all the other families we lived beside in the suburban neighbourhoods of Ontario, our friends and neighbours. Of course, by that I mean none of the really close ones. If you’re reading this, you’re exempt.

    I should say that I’ve been writing a bit more than usual. I squeeze it in. I get some words on the page, even if they aren’t inspired. I have a guilt-based work ethic. My country is sponsoring me to write, damn it, so I’d better friggin’ get to ‘er.

    I went to “The World’s Biggest Bookstore” and bought “How to Write a Short Story”. I thought it would be a great symbolic first purchase. I thought this year I would blog about a single story that I am trying to write. It may get dull, but this is for science, I mean Science, and for History, and for Literature. Anyway, I’m going to post this before I change my mind. (Thank you, Canada Council, mwah, mwah, mwah, kisses for each member!)

    Tuesday, May 06, 2008

    Awkward à la Montreal

    Last night, I went to Casa del Popolo. This is a veggie restaurant/venue for indie bands. When it first opened, it seemed to signify a youthful resurgence for the city of Montreal. That was almost a decade ago. Why do I still think of it as new?

    Maybe because the last time I’d stepped inside was in 2001. I still remember the evening. I was wearing a black and white checkered dress that had a lot, a lot of give. I was pregnant. It was smoky. I thought that I might die.

    I was there with my husband to meet an old friend of his who was in from New York City, where he’d been living in his van, for more than a year. I’d met the two of them at the same time, in 1994, at an Allen Ginsberg reading. The friend and I had exchanged numbers, but it was my husband and I who eventually hit it off, united by our newfound disrespect for Ginsberg, who primarily read poems about very young boys. That reading not only turned me off the Beats, it turned me off readings, it turned me off poems.

    “It’s really good that you and N. didn’t work out,” my husband likes to tell me. “I don’t see you living in a van.”

    So, there we were, reunited. I was trying hard not to choke on the smoke clouding our table. I was trying to keep up with the conversation. What had N. been up to? Travelling through the States, photographing abandoned factories? How romantic. How freaking wonderful.

    I was getting angry. The effort was too much. I couldn’t contribute to this kind of highly artistic, flighty conversation. I couldn’t even breathe. I had to get out. I had to leave this behind. Youthful resurgence was clearly over for me. I would devote myself to my family, to my child.

    And I did. Until the Fiery First Fiction people came to town yesterday. The Montreal launch was at Casa. I’d just have to get over my annoyance with youthful resurgence. I’d have to go inside. And I’d have to do it alone. There are only so many people I know who are interested in attending readings, and it seems that they are never available. A. was with her kids, K. was in New York (being highly artistic and flighty, damn her!). As for my husband, he never recovered from that Ginsburg thing. Literature is dead to him, but he always encourages me, “You go. Go!”

    I read the menu a hundred times. This is the kind of luxury solitude affords. I decide on a cider. And then I sit down with it at the end of a very long table. I see a lot of people who I recognize, but, with one or two exceptions, we don’t acknowledge each other. This has been my experience of the literary scene: pedophile poems and awkward interactions or lack thereof. To pass the time, I think of all the things I know about the people around me. There is this one guy who I’ve met a thousand times. I always have to say, “We met at that dinner party. With the bellydancers? And the Tex Mex food? You really don’t remember? It was R’s birthday. She had just left her husband. You were the catalyst for the breakup. Don’t you remember what her husband found on the couch one night after you snuck out? I certainly do.” I can see from the blank look on his face that I will have to give the same speech the next time we meet. And the next time.

    I also recognize one of the authors, although it takes a while for me to figure out why. I don’t know him, but I know his features. I’ve seen them on his young son. Once, at the library, when Junior was going through some kind of violent preschooler phase, he’d leapt out of the stacks to attack a younger, smaller, infinitely more fragile toddler, whose mother, my friend, promptly freaked out, making me feel sad for the author’s wife. The kid hadn’t really hurt anyone, and it was definitely my most memorable trip to the library ever. I’d seen her wandering the streets alone with him, waiting for him to outgrow that particular phase. That was a long while ago now. Last fall, when my daughter went for her first sleepover, her friend’s older brother invited a friend, too. It was the library attacker in a much calmer, happier, more mature form. He had the top bunk. By all accounts, it went well. I believe there were pancakes for everyone in the morning.

    This is how I occupy myself, alone with my cider at the big table, thinking about library attacks and pancakes, bellydancers and angry husbands. Until something amazing happens. A woman comes up and introduces herself. She is with the LPG. She is hosting this event. And she knows Tricia! I enjoy our conversation and marvel at her social skills: is that a Toronto trait? Maybe, because when it happens again, it is a young guy, also from Toronto, this time from Coach House Press. It is so lovely talking to kind, socially ept strangers that I almost want to follow them back to Ontario. Probably pregnant women never have to breathe in smoke there. Probably no one ever gets into fisticuffs at the children’s library. And probably marriage breakers have the courtesy to remember more of the details, so they can rehash them as they forge social bonds at literary readings.

    Monday, May 05, 2008

    Launches, readings & what-have-you

    The writing workshop I attended recently wound down a few weeks ago. (If you’re interested, you can find my Workshop Notes here). Since finishing up, I’ve been swamped taking care of all the little things I’ve neglected over the past three or four months, so there hasn’t been much in the way of writing or submitting. But I’m happy to say that many of my writer pals are keeping busy:

    *Pasha Malla’s new book, The Withdrawal Method, can now be acquired online, and he has an upcoming book launch on May 28 at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto. Since he didn’t include a plane ticket in the mass email I received, I won’t be able to make it, but you should go. His note says of the event: “Adults will be reading things they wrote as children, and then we will drink. Somewhat accurate information here.”

    *Tricia Dower has upcoming readings, also, one of which I will be able to attend. No plane ticket required; it’s here in town. For more info, have a gander here.

    *Andrew Tibbetts will likely be reading his Malahat Novella Contest-winning story somewhere sometime, after he’s done lunching with all the literary big wigs (with really big wigs, I understand). Stay tuned.

    *A story by our pal Hannah Holborn, "Without Strings", is in the just-released anthology, Love You to Pieces: Creative Writers on Raising a Child with Special Needs.

    *And I think Anne Chudobiak has a reading coming up, too, but I can’t find the information. Nevertheless, she always has some great review out there to read, so Google her already, will ya?

    *Finally, another pal, and former CWC-er, Melissa Bell, has been blogging about yummy things over at Check her out.

    So, say, if any of you have something going on, why not post a bit about it here? Brag, people, brag. I love the inspiration (and plane tickets, if you’re offering).

    Friday, May 02, 2008

    How to record telephone interviews on your iPod

    1) Buy a GRIFFIN iTalk Pro stereo microphone ($45) to enable recording on your iPod.

    2) Buy a recording control, e.g., Nexxtech Multi-Phone ($39.99), to plug into your phone line.

    3) Record away!

    (It only took me a year to figure this out. My test run is today.)

    Thursday, May 01, 2008

    They're Here!

    The missing books arrived at about 3:00 p.m. today. The UPS guy let me take a picture of him and his truck. He said a train derailment slowed things up.

    I'm happy now.

    (Image by Colin Dower)

    MIA: 100 Copies of Silent Girl

    by Tricia Dower

    For today’s blog, I had planned to run a photo of me opening the box containing my copies of Silent Girl. But the box isn’t here. Inanna received its copies a week ago and mine were to have been shipped directly from the printer along with the others.

    “It looks great,” my editor wrote. That’s some comfort.

    The box is probably stuck in Vancouver, waiting in the wrong line for the ferry. Living on an island might be special, but the mainland gets everything way before we do.

    I’ve got over a week before the launch. If I don’t have the box by then, you don’t want to be around me. I’m jangly enough as it is.

    So, I should look for the positive, right? The anxiety of waiting for the books has temporarily displaced my obsession over the possibility I missed a typo.

    I proofread those galleys so thoroughly I can recite most of the stories by heart. Colin proofread them. The editor proofed them. So did a professional reader. All of us found different things. Is that good or bad?

    What if I spot an error when the box does arrive? Will it be like finding a cigarette burn on a new table or a wine stain on a favourite sweater? Will the book feel ruined to me?

    What if other people find a typo and don’t tell me? I still recall the error I found nearly thirty years ago while a communications flak for an insurance company. The woman who edited the policyholder magazine was meticulous about proofreading. She had just dropped the latest issue off at my desk when I let out a little, involuntary gasp.

    “What?” she demanded.

    “Nothing,” I said.

    “Tell me!”

    She’d reprinted the words to the Simon and Garfunkel song “Old Friends” on the cover. Except it read “Old Fiends.” She never forgave me for spotting that. In a meeting later that week she referred to me as “Miss Eagle Eye in her prison suit.” (I thought that navy pinstripe number of mine was quite smart.)

    A friend who just learned her book is going into second printing is happier about being able to correct typos than she is about the brisk sales. I can relate.

    I could relate even more if the books were here. If you spy one in a bookstore, please give me a shout.