Writing is a solitary pursuit--the imagination guiding the hand moving the pen. I'm pretty old-school, valuing the work of good editors and the revisions process before letting my words go public. But life is short, right? And sometimes, just sometimes, we need to spout off.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Speaking of belonging, issues of identity and the importance of place, here's the song from which my forthcoming collection, A Bird on Every Tree, takes its cue:
 Thanks to Vintage Lunenburg and the inimitable Helen Creighton.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Happy 2017!

A Bird on Every Tree

How does a person belong? Lots of talk in Canada lately about identity and home places, especially Indigenous and settler nations and cultures: how a person locates themselves spiritually and globally. How present-day life experiences mirror, or don't mirror, an individual's or a community's body and blood memories. How identity is, or isn't, something that runs far, far deeper than a person's here and now.

As writers we assume the right to cross certain boundaries as respect, empathy and humility would guide us. Creative freedom requires it--BUT this doesn't mean there aren't limits and exceptions.
To write another person's experience effectively you need to have--in profoundly real and metaphorical ways--walked their walk.

To some extent each of us has to determine for ourselves, maybe, what constitutes appropriation and what doesn't. But speaking as a white woman of settler background, I know the places where I have no "right" to overstep myself--places where the experiences of racism and its hideous ingrained consequences are experiences I have not been victim to.

Writing well means listening really, really well--and not just to our own voices!!

As individual writers, from whatever community or walk or homeplace we're coming from, don't we each have enough of our "own" territory to cover? Enough of our own material about our own identities?

For many if not most Maritimers, place plays a crucial part in how people in our region self-identify. How we talk about "belonging" and what it means: a temporary, ever shifting state despite our attachments. I say this with all respect to the Mik'maq and other First Nations communities whose un-ceded territories our white settler cultures occupy.

My newest book, A Bird on Every Tree, coming this fall from Nimbus Publishing's Vagrant Press, is a collection of stories that in various ways explore the problem of situating ourselves, physically and emotionally, between what's known and what's unknown, what feels safe and what feels dangerous.   From a mostly but not exclusively white point of view, they focus on the push-pull between our human longing for a comfort zone and the restlessness of seeking more.  ✈︎

Sunday, May 31, 2015

These Good Hands is in bookstores now. Based on the life of French sculptor Camille Claudel, it's a story about misogyny and mental illness--and in equal measure, about compassion and the power of art, and of writing itself.

Monday, January 26, 2015

A long time coming...

A few mementos from the Vichy era in France--WW2-issue coins, a Nazi pin--and a key from a house once dear to my heart. Keys figure large in the novel, set in the asylum for the insane at Montdevergues, France.

These Good Hands--my fourth novel, a decade in the making--is due out this April. Can't wait to see the book in print. The past month has been like house arrest, doing the edits--but all good, all satisfying and great working with a fantastic editor. His toughness and keen eye have helped bring out the story's best. A whole lotta darling-slaying has been going on, the process that separates the good from the dross. Funny how we writers write a lot of stuff for ourselves--stuff we may need to know while telling ourselves the story, but stuff our readers can happily do without. It takes a really good editor to point this out and to help us cut the stuff that, in one famous writer's set of rules, is what nobody reads. Onwards.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Under wraps

Say the subconscious is an ironstone edifice
with a few rocks loose, a terrifying iron
staircase inside that starts off circular, then climbs
calcified walls in an Escher-like zigzag.
this particular image is called.
In any case going up is easier than
descending, the most heart-stopping part
looking down. The foreshortened end of
the circular stairs
a dot.
So you put off leaving, and stay
at the summit as long as possible,
the view from the top quite splendid--the stuff
of dreams, if you have x-ray eyes
that can see to the very bottom of the
arm below. Bottles, golf balls, no doubt
a dead rowboat or two.
And all those dares, double dares, triple,
stories, kids' bragging, tales of scaling the flagpoles
at the very top,
just to show off...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Nothing great was ever done without much enduring.

So said St. Catherine of Siena. Enduring surely applies to most things to do with words, with writing, with waiting, with finding time for writing, with persevering through the present state of publishing, etc etc etc. Catherine also said Love, and speak the truth.
Words to boost us on these bleak rainy days that are so short on daylight. The greyness and bareness plotting, surely. All the natural world in wait. Snow, some snow would be good. A healthy bit of blizzarding (once school is over, marking finished, grades submitted, DONE) and that hunkering down that means winter. That hallowed season for word nerds: the best kind of hibernation, with no temptations of bee balm, hummingbirds, grass. Tho I'm not sure how Catherine would interpret this, kneeling in Tuscany six hundred years ago. Hang in, hang in. It's what we do, along with being honest, even when the truth hurts.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Oh, that day again, that comes around faster than we can prepare ourselves. The heartbreak lurking just under the skin. Stoicism. Reserve. That is how my dad, a veteran of D-Day, would have it. No sentimentality, no glorifying war. My dad, dead three years now, almost to the day. He influenced me more than I can know; his influence on me grows more profound every day, every year. An example of trying to Do the Right Thing. Of not complaining, or wearing your heart on your sleeve too much--but by living, making a statement. That war is evil, that nobody wins, that people are people, and life is always, always, to be treasured--regardless of whose it is.

Two years ago I wandered along Juno Beach--the very strand on which my dad landed with his company, his brigade. My little dad, driving a tank. Blood shit and corruption, was how he quoted a buddy describing the war. Burnt flesh. The stench, the utter, utter waste of death.

The very worst thing for me, when he died, was knowing how his youth, his best years were spent on this. Knowing how he had been shortchanged. And knowing, now, how all who do battle--whether in Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, wherever--are being shortchanged, swindled of life.