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.

About me...

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A writer, mother, teacher, friend, I love books, blizzards and beaches, music from Hildegard von Bingen to the Beatles to Bonnie Raitt to The Brood; I love medieval churches, red wine, creme caramel, and roasted beets, and walking the woods and coastlines of home. 

Friday, April 23, 2010

The gift of critters

"If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men."

St. Francis of Assisi

Entering Day Three of doglessness. Silence except for cats' purring and birdsong.
What a large & loving community, that of bereaved pet owners.
Tis better to have loved hugely & intensely than to cruise along with lukewarm feelings.
All the things that animals teach us (especially dogs).
Non-judgement, unconditional love, spontaneous joy.
In breaking our hearts wide open they teach us compassion,
and the hereness of the here & now.
How sacred these bodily lives--theirs & ours.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Lost my dear dog last night; had to have him euthanized because of his advanced cancer.
My first dogless stroll today, our route of eleven years, was like walking with one leg,
or two instead of six.
All around the pond, one of everything:
One crow (sorrow)
One turtle on a rock.
One magnificent Great White Egret, a wizard perched on a boulder,
plumes wisping,
poised to catch a fish, or a minnow
in the murky brown,
the sky's flipside.
The edges of rocks submerged, like teeth.
One of each, a different size and shape
for every function.
A hard medicine, such singularity.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

DIY Culture

Vampires and Nickelback--the mainstream's enacting a Darwinian dialectic, I'd say. Survival of the fattest, to a point. The old institutional approach to books and music burying itself alive (gasping for those final asthmatic breaths) in its cannibalistic frenzy to feed consumers. Methinks the trend has overshot flavour-of-the-month; how about panic-attack-of-the-week?

How else to explain biosolids grown in biosolids passed off as art? Maybe all it will take is a little volcanic action--a cloud full of toxic grit, particles lethal enough to down a jet and collapse the world's airline industry. Some seismic, cataclysmic shake-down to change things up.

Writers, musicians of the world unite. Think if we all withheld what we make from the greedy who would brand everything into one coddled-pap piddling stream of beige. Think if we threw our c(l)ogs into the machinery and seized the mode of production; filled every corner, every cranny on earth with our stories, poems and songs.

What a performance that would be. What lava-blasting pyrotechnics, blanketing the bland with ash.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Check out today's Globe and Mail, Books section, for a sadly hilarious satire--effective because it's so true--about how consumerism is eating the heart out of literary art.


It's enough to make you wanna live in a tent and eat berries and write yourself into the sunset, pencil in hand.

Maybe/probably it has always been like this, that the pursuit of ever-shrinking (??????) dollars drives what gets picked and what gets passed. Somehow, though, I think the (past) recession continues to give license to those whose knee-jerk response/first priority is covering their sorry arses and scrambling to make some/more money. No one wants to lose money, and nobody wants to go hungry.

BUT imagine the metric tonnes of literary works from the past that wouldn't have a hope today of ending up anywhere but in a landfill, if publishing had been dictated through the ages by dollar figures and sales projections (based on what, you have to wonder).

Under the current climate--so much more dog-eat-dog than when JK Rowling first entered the scene, lo, a decade ago--her initial 16 rejections (or whatever) might number in the 1600s now.

Oh ye of little faith.

Anyway, we'll rant and we'll roar like true word addicts. And take heart (sort of) that the idiocy sometimes somehow gets redeemed. For proof of this, here are just two fine examples:

Anne Frank's diary was rejected at least 13 times on the grounds that Frank lacked any 'special perceptions, feelings'.

Animal Farm by George Orwell was rejected by at least one sage publisher because ‘It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.’

Lust for Life by Irving Stone, rejected 16 times (‘a long, dull novel about an artist’ ) found a publisher and went on to sell about 25 million copies.

For a plethora of examples, go to


(to list just two of a plethora of links) and smile all the way back to your desk, my friends!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Rave, with apologies to Anne Lamott

A literary week here with wall to wall Atlantic Book Awards events. Good to see people celebrating the results & rewards of squirreling away for years at their desks.

It reminds you that there is a community, large & diverse as buttons in a Frenchy's jar: of people who spend their lives clutching pens, paper (oh please like old fashioned carbon paper, the kind that unwinds from typewriters) close enough that their hearts' impressions transfer.

So easy to feel like an oddball--a solo mismatched snap--when everything hollers: Why would you do that???

It's so hard, and some, yes, some, make it look fairy-easy. Forays into found attics and hardwood living rooms of prose; trips into the pure green tea of poems. The pressure cooker, the sourdough starter of lines. Fingernail scratchings of tender spots.

The do-we-have-lift-off lid-about-to-fly-sky-high voices.

Words wide enough to snuggle themselves around an eighteen-wheeler barreling through neon.
Shitty first drafts, shitty fifth sixth and seventh drafts tearing a strip off fiction that karate-chops and monster-trucks flavour-of-the-week over story--


Lullabies for babies, the sore-hearted, sorer-headed, rants for the smarting, kazoos for the farting
dogs named Walter barking
cat-eating cats in love with marking.
Earth is round, earth is flat,
Whether books are skinny or fat.

Let's fall in love again and again and again with words.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Beware bad advice

One of the true perks of teaching writing is getting to hear students' stories. A brilliant night of readings this evening at a former student's apartment. Four writers. A full house. A filmmaker filming them. Wonderful chitchat between acts.

A reminder, tho, not just of what a rare privilege it is to help nurture young talents, and what a gift, but what a responsibility.

Especially when they divulge bits of advice thrust on them by some instructors.

Advice suitable for framing, after you've wrung it out of your system--quickly.

Advice to be pulled out like a whoopie cushion.

Bad as it is, it's worth a laugh.

"Never write stories about kids," a certain unnamed prof advised a certain brilliant young writer who happened to be writing a brilliant novel about a kid. "Stories about kids don't work," said the prof, "because kids have no money, don't have sex, don't do drugs or drink." Likely there was something in there as well about kids being lazy bums who don't have jobs.

The student said, Um, what about Huckleberry Finn?

To which we might add Ellen Foster, Anne of Green Gables, Emily of New Moon, Harry Potter and the narrator of at least one Jonathan Safran Foer novel, to name a few that spring instantly to mind. Shout out the others you know!

May you find this advice as dangerously funny and misguided as I did.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

F for Absence

Falling offa wagon, failing to blog, forgoing fortitude, forgetting fun....
One of those weeks with other preoccupations, daily doodling on the bottom rung of priorities.
Blogging no different from yoga-ing, walking or running, I guess, or remembering to dust.
Sometimes we should promise ourselves to quit those chores that become onerous. Other times it's simply a matter of quietly picking up the leash and taking yourself for a walk, back towards the practice, the habit.
"Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life."
"If you love something set it free...."
"Never put off today what you can do tomorrow."
"I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today."
You gotta love those cliches, wha'? Whether they come from Jonathan Livingston Seagull or Popeye & Wimpy...
Why is it, tho, when I contemplate cliches, they flare in my mind like fake copper plaques on drugstore shelves...1970s merch now known as "giftware."
Not always, tho. And you never know when or where you'll stumble across one that speaks, or squeaks, and then apologizes for itself. Cheese is as cheese does, but we snort when it bears a certain truth: a thought glimpsed like a tiny (sacred) cow high up on a dandelion-dotted hill across a wide meandering stream.
This week's best, tagging spotted on a bench:
No rest for the blessed
Long life for the wicked.

Write on.

Monday, April 5, 2010


Digging & hoeing. Easter Sunday in the garden. Weeding, thinning, transplanting, all in a burst of unprecedented sunshine. Warmth.
Tulips pushing buds, Lenten rose hellebores blooming on seed catalogue schedule.
Beds groomed, shoots nudged, nursed along--alas, to be chewed to the nub.
Quiet as fog in the night they come, focused as cats after birds.
Hoof prints in the finely-turned soil.
At daybreak not a tulip standing.
Salad for the wanton deer, graceful marauders.
Doe-eyed, bovine-jawed,
white-tailed flares at the edge of the lawn
into the trees,

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday

Clouds hugging the horizon, a wary stripe of blue above: the layered sky. Greyness speckled with the upstart purple & yellow of crocuses. A tunnel of light. How it is here, now. A few days after the collision of protons in Geneva.
Physicists seeking the Higgs boson, 'the God particle' in their $9 billion experiment: the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) with its 17-mile-long underground tunnel.
Fears of black holes: the sun blotted out for good. Holes left in the sky by exploded stars, or something like that.
It would leave us in the dark, they worry. Speculation, conjecture? Nobody knows.
They hope to recreate the Big Bang moment.
But then some say the Higgs boson is thwarting everything, refusing to play along.
Thwarting matter, thwarting time, the seen and the unseen?
Let us place more faith in the sun.