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. 

Saturday, August 28, 2010

More vulgar data: Corrections, please!

Today's Globe & Mail has a fantastic interview with Jonathan Franzen, whose comments make recommended reading for anyone who wants to write worthwhile fiction. Besides his remarks on characters as the bedrock of a novel, he says: "Every good writer I know needs to go into some deep, quiet place to do work that is fully imagined. And what the Internet brings is lots of vulgar data. It is the antithesis of the imagination. It leaves nothing to the imagination."
As soon as school starts, time to unplug and delve. Easier said than done. Aimlessness gets addictive, and so do surfaces.
Franzen also talks about how good days are ones when he writes well, and bad days when he writes nothing.
Translation: The queasiness that comes with too much summer, days full of too much fun, all play and no work. Peace, true peace, found only through focus and the escape into discipline.
Okay, one last beach day, swimming and reading a trashy novel whose title I'll keep to myself. Counting down to September 1st.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

If just one person gets it....

Seems like after a book's initial buzz, the thing disappears down a deep black hole--until, sometimes years later, miracle of miracles, you find that a whole bunch of people you don't know have been reading it and living inside it and doing all the wild and wonderful things readers do with books that engage them. Never underestimate the currency of the imagination, or the fact that, no matter how subjective the whole process of "judging" books and authors is or can be, books do have legs. They never stop being like kids acquiring lives of their own. Some more strong-willed and muscular than others, but that's quite okay. So it goes with art in all its forms and permutations. Reminders of the mysterious mechanics at work without our knowing it; dumb luck or karmic? Regardless, the nudges that banish acedia.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

End of summer ennui?

"Acedia is like the bad fairy who is not invited to a royal christening, and in her indignation exacts a terrible revenge," writes U.S. poet Kathleen Norris in Acedia & me: A Marriage, Monks, and A Writer's Life. A wonderful book, and fit reading for these dying days of summer. Autumnal anxiety a useful, healthy antidote, I would say, to the alternative: the restless, unhappy numbness of not caring, not applying oneself, of drifting along without focus or hope. A state Norris considers to be deeper and darker than depression. A poisonous feeling that saps people (maybe especially writers?) of the urge and the energy to create, which is an urge that relies on optimism.
So we put our faith in fall? Back to school, nose to the grindstone, hamster on the wheel--the all of it, the quotidian stuff of daily routine that focuses some of us, anyway, away from the staying-stillness of lying on a beach, etcetera.
Norris also quotes St. Benedict, suggesting that it is important to remember at least once a day that we will die: the best antidote of all to acedia, that slippery slope from carefree to careless to despair. Writing such a tricky, odd balance between thinking we have forever to find the right words, sinking happily into its present, and eternally playing beat the clock.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Burnt toast, fallish nip

Started day with usual nay-bore-hood stroll. Dripping trees, shifty skies, more grey than blue. Smell of burnt toast in the seeping, creeping damp--a crack of the whip to get back into shape,
routine-wise. At the desk, lost in words for hours:
A good day,
pulling in scraps, tidbits jotted here and there
these past weeks.
Something about the slant of light now, the wind itself,
the restlessness of trees,
the countdown till school.
All a reminder to write/make hay
before the first frost of marking hits.
No better place to be, though, than here
(or there) on my dinosaur desktop,

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

All things are local

Small is grand. Also funny when magnified in ways that omit explanation. This morning, for instance, when, lacking anything much to post on FB, I mentioned watching seals in the Arm--which makes perfect sense if you live in Halifax. The comments that came back pointed out how weird that sounds to anyone not from here. Objectivity. The struggle, always, to put yourself in your reader's glasses, in his or her skin, his or her Hawaiian shirt or Bermuda shorts or whatever.
Seals in the Arm: some kind of tattoo? Like the huckleberry leaves that as kids we licked and fixed to our wrists, the yellowy imprints they left, utterly temporary. This in the day when serious ink was exclusively naval. Anchors, undulating babes, text: "Mom" inside an inky heart.
Ephemeral--the huckleberry ones. As short-lived as the sighting of a seal's snout, its wake stirring the deep, narrow channel at high tide. Mornings best, the water a green wind in the rockweed. Just like when we used to swim there. Dog-paddling.
A solitary seal doing its best to motor past a speedboat. Head just like a retriever's on the breakaway before sounding.
And gratitude from the land-bound for such small things: their presence swimming out there as if the water were pure. As if all might be so resilient

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Found art

Nothing like a trip--even a short one, to another neck of the nearby woods--to get you thinking outside the box. Best of all is a walk on the slightly wild and whacked side to see what people can do with a little imagination and the most ordinary of objects. A reminder for all of us who might think our current subject matter isn't hot, crazy, deep, dark, messy, gritty, graphic, gory and/or sexy enough, for instance, to draw readers.
The main thing is to keep in mind that creating is first of all about play. And summer is about vacations. Not to say that anyone's avoiding hard work. But there's a time and a season, right?
So. If someone can make objets d'art out of pop bottles, so we can spin engrossing tales about kids working in thrift shops and perverts shooting wedding pix. All right? Okay.