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...

My photo

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, July 30, 2010

Dossiers etcetera etcetera

Every so often you have to stop everything and re-enter the real world. Case in point: have just spent most of the week putting together a teaching dossier for my employer. Like doing a grant proposal but with no $ in the offing. A good exercise in nailing down what the heck it is you do--as writing anything is generally a good way of reflecting back and making it all more concrete. But oh, how poisonous such methodical critical writing can be to invention and play. The brain cells rebel against this so much more readily these days, at this age/stage in life. Used to be I could turn on/turn off right brain/left brain on a dime. Not so much anymore. But, as with any onerous task, relief floods in when it's completed.
On a cheerier note the hummingbirds continue to make our backyard home. The other day I saw what must have been a baby no bigger than a queen bee, about the size of half my thumb, humming around the heliotrope. Truly the most amazing critter I think I've ever seen. Wings beating so fast the little thing got worn out and had to rest on the clothesline.
Small but mighty, almost invisible but there.
The creative spirit trying once again to anchor itself, those little talons hanging on to reality for dear life. Tick tick tick: how many days before September? Not enough. The rough first draft notes for a novel weighing on me. But, thank God they're there: a sketchy road map is better than none at all.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Imagine if we could think/compose at the speed of a hummingbird's wingbeat. The ruby-throated jewel of an idea buzzing at the tip of a pen florid as bee balm. Sucking nectar petal by petal, then resting on the clothesline. Swinging. A greyish blur the cat sees first, no bigger than an insect. Eye candy.
Ferocious, tough as nails, full of wanderlust,
proof that small is best,

Monday, July 19, 2010

To write or not to write...

A beach day, the writing urge placated by bringing along a pen & paper & camera. Definitely in fodder-gathering, record mode. Not always easy to get off the writing bus and take time to stare at your toes in the sand. But summer's the best time to be in this phase, where a quick detour down a dead-end road can yield anything. Everything useful. The way we writers operate, like butchers and cooks in France. Charcuterie. Making use of the oddest parts of the animal. Every bit good for something. Economy. Resourcefulness. Openness. Vive l'ete.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


A steamy scorcher of a day that made me glad of yesterday's torrential rain collected in my new garbage pail/rain barrel.
Nothing like conservation, and coming prepared, a la that K'naan song. A rain barrel like a notebook full of story ideas, all you gotta do is dip your watering can and let it d/rip.
Of course there's nothing more beneficial than regular watering. Plants and writers such creatures of habit, and gloriously phototropic; one hopes anyway. Writing towards the sun, even during drought and spells of night blindness.
Today I'm thinking of Gail Sher, her book One Continuous Mistake, Four Noble Truths for Writers:
"If writing is your practice," she says, "the only way to fail is not to write."
And if you don't write, it's guaranteed that you won't get out those words that someone somewhere might actually need or want to hear. Our words falling on the stoniest ground sometimes, yet still sprouting responses.
Like the one I got to yesterday's blog from a plumber in Baltimore who must've felt compassion for those in the town I wrote about where plumbers (ones who come to your house) have either all migrated to Alberta or just don't like plumbing.
Little difference, when it comes down to it, between writers and plumbers: we ply our crafts. For a plumber the only way to fail is not to plumb.
And plumbers have fun with words, too. Like the local guy with these ones on his truck:
"Don't sleep with a drip, call me!"
Words to consider, when water runs amok.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What do women want??

A visit to a certain town in (post) industrial Cape Breton never fails to yield something to set your teeth on edge...or to offer serious comic relief. Yes, in this part of the world where it can take three months to get your car fixed and even longer to get a plumber to make a house call, without fail every time I'm there the subject for a multi-layered piece of writing arises. The only trouble is getting down to committing the substance to paper. A story a minute, in this place--and the one presently gripping my imagination comes from the name of a new store located across from the grassed-over mine and the No Frills grocery store and the (lifeblood of the community) liquor commission.
What Women Want, it's called. Housed in a former butcher shop (I think but could be very wrong) or possibly a bake shop, it's a brick bunker of a building with thick, padlocked shutters and, on a cheery note, a row of pretty molded Adirondack chairs out front. Set between two dirt parking lots, the store is an upscale souvenir shop designed (I think) to appeal to the tourist trade, the bus tour crowd, perhaps, who frequent that other, more picturesque town 30 miles away, made famous by Alexander Graham Bell and his Silver Dart.
Cupid, draw back your bo-o-ow!
(But I digress--only slightly). Given its name, does the store specialize in, well, loooove? Things romantic?
The name connotes pampering, self-indulgence (the good kind that all of us are supposed to hanker for) and, well, in short, the stuff that girly dreams are made of.
Inside is a veritable cornucopia of potpourri, kitchen kitsch, semi-upscale knick-knacks and bath items. Some of the merch is rather appealing, but, being a Frenchy's shopper, I'm not a very reliable source/critic here.
But I love the name, and it drew me in--as I'm sure it has and will others.
So, what do women want?
As a couple of Facebook friends have pointed out, the shop-owner (presumably female) could use some more letters for her day-glo sign.
But on a more serious note, what do we want?
World peace. An easy winter. Paying work. Food for all. Clean air. Clean water. The bugs to stop eating our plants. More people to appreciate the power of the printed and electronic word, and of stories. Our stories. Good walking companions, dogs welcome. Non-picking cats. Silence, sometimes. Rain in rain-barrels. Raspberries on canes. Fresh sheets of paper. A new pen. A car or bike that only takes you where you want to go. A bike path with no hard hills. Lots of trees, flowers, bushes, and not a lot of grass. Good rocks. Red wine, preferably Italian. Goat cheese, and gorgonzola. Tomatoes. And right up there with the air and water, kindred women to talk to.
And this is just barely scratching the surface. My surface. How about yours?

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Call me a Luddite, but it's taken me this long to discover iTunes. That is, to get over my technophobia, and start using it. Oops, a dangerous new distraction from writing, not to mention a new potential addiction. It's all so clean and easy. No worries here about a gambling addiction. But online shopping addiction? Hmm. It's excellent that musicians have been able to turn the trend of downloading into some sort of profit. Just a matter of time before we writers can perhaps cash in in a similar way? If musicians of all genres can sell their work online, we should be able to sell pieces this way too? Whole collections, or individual stories, poems, essays. Except...we are comparing apples & oranges here. Chocolate and oat bran, perhaps.
But, what's to stop a writer who's gotten antsy waiting on the antiquated, grindingly slow industry from just going ahead and posting her work so that at least the readers who keep asking, Where's the Next Book? can get to read it. But but but, for the sticky issue of $$$$. We all wanna get paid for our hard, blood-sweat-and-tears labour, But we also want to reach those who appreciate--love?--our work.
Anyway, kudos in the meantime to the Writers Union of Canada and the coalition of writers and readers working now to ensure fair copyright legislation to protect us.
Okay, now off to listen to Rose Cousins's The Send Off, which is fantastic....

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Bonfire of the Vanities

The perfect beach day--scorching, but spent inside, reaching for le bon mot. A bouquet of les bons mots. Cooped up, because no experience feels completely lived until committed to paper. And by committing it to paper, excising the juicy bits for extra study under the microscope. Even on days probably better spent catching rays, getting ducked. This urge--but oh, such a luxury, a huge unspeakable luxury--to indulge it. Watching the word count creep up, almost to cut off point.
And what has the world to gain by this--what difference will it make, getting this stuff down?
A question not many writers can or should entertain too intently, perhaps.
But, what are we if not our reflections?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hot stuff (despite Maritime drizzle)

Couple of things for your attention, esp those who feel the need for a prod, better known as the magic wand of inspiration....

1) The Halifax Club Literary Luncheon
Thursday, July 22, 2010
12pm – 2pm

Sheree Fitch, Shandi Mitchell and Binnie Brennan

Sheree Fitch is a multi award-winning writer, speaker, and educator and the author of twenty-three books in a variety of genres. She has received the Vicky Metcalf Award for a body of work inspirational to Canadian children and two honorary doctorates for her contribution to Canadian literature and issues affecting women and children. Her latest work is the critically acclaimed Kiss The Joy As It Flies (2008).

Shandi Mitchell is Halifax-based author and filmmaker. Her debut novel Under This Unbroken Sky (2009) was published in Canada, the U.S and the U.K. and won the 2010 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book for Canada and the Caribbean. The narrative also picked up both the Thomas Head Raddall Atlantic Fiction award and John and Margaret Savage First Book Award at this year’s Atlantic Book Awards.

Binnie Brennan has had her work published in a number of literary journals, including The Wascana Review, Existere, and All Rights Reserved. In 2007 her children’s story A Spider’s Tale was adapted for stage in a collaboration of Symphony Nova Scotia and Dalhousie Theatre. Her novella, Harbour View, won the 2009 Ken Klonsky Novella Contest and was nominated for this year’s Atlantic Book Awards.

The Halifax Club is located at 1682 Hollis St in downtown Halifax.

Reservations can be made by calling 902.423.8460 or by email - reservations@halifaxclub.ns.ca

More information is available online at www.halifaxclub.ns.ca
or by contacting
Stephen Patrick Clare



Theme: Language Deadline: August 25th

Her Royal Majesty is a quarterly online publication devoted to publishing excellent new artwork. We are looking for visual and literary submissions for our ninth issue following the theme of language. The deadline is August 25th and the issue will be published in mid-September.

The magazine was founded in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in September 2008 and it has grown from a zine designed to serve the local community into an international literary arts magazine. Her Royal Majesty is a print magazine that is currently available for free online with handmade printed hardcopies available to order through the website: www.heroyalmajesty.ca

Thank you for circulating this call to submissions to your community.


Harriet Alida Lye Kyra Simone
Editor in Chief Assistant Editor

Under the Microscope

Hazy lazy days of summer--no beaching (yet) but room for writing, hankered for all year. Glorious, stymieing (sp?) freedom.
So easy to powerwalk, weedtrim-slash one's way through the jungle of ordinary, seeking the rare and rarefied flower,
when what's required is to stop and hover with hummingbird intensity, intent on the daily bloom.
Even just a tall green stem that lengthens, budless.
With patience and calm the colour presents itself.
Pretty funny, this juggling of perseverance with a (child's) delight in the greenness of green.
Too much brooding, too much ponderance
as lethal as cutworms.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Have I told you how much I love the Allan Street Reading Series? A funner more jennerous venue for writers reading their work surely does not exist. Kudos to the curator, writer & editor Jenner-Brooke Berger for putting these monthly events together, and to her roommate for providing the baked goods. The ASRS is to writing what various & sundry basements and garages have been to Halifax's indie/alt music scene. It's fantastic to see the crossovers in this do-it-yourself culture--immensely talented people taking the bull by the horns and not waiting for others to do it for them. The rest of us older more "seasoned" writers can learn a lot from these younger emerging folks. If you want people to hear your work--if you want to hear your friends' work--don't wait for them to get invited to read at the library or in a bar or on the radio. Bake a bunch of nanaimo bars and open up your house or deck or apartment, invite everyone you know and tell them to bring a friend, and let the readings begin!
But if you're still feeling too timid or shy or just plain old and out of steam to DIY, the ASRS is as welcoming as can be. Its energy, its vibe is Ahhh-mazing.