My goodness, what a wild and exciting Giller list. And amazing news about the doubling of the purse. It’s a great day for Canadian writers, listed or not.
My own fall, those less wild and exciting, is nonetheless beginning to take shape. First up is a retreat, to the beach house in Tatamagouche this month with the Common. It has been a long time since we’ve all been together, and that house was a very good writing spot for me last time. It has a woodstove that I intend to tend all weekend long, and a big verandah on which I’ll sit to drink coffee and an expansive view over water. It’s just the place to really dive in to the new project.
A task which will be made easier by the cortisone shot I had a few weeks ago, which has completely relieved my tendonitis. Relieved being the operative word. That’s gonna make writing a novel go a little more smoothly.
I’m excited to have been invited to Fog Lit this year in Saint John. I’m doing a Saturday night event called Authors, Ale, and Acoustics, which feels exactly right for Fallsy Downsies.
And November is shaping up to be busy indeed. I am again teaching at Tatamagouche, teaming up with my friend Steve Law to offer a weekend workshop to writers who need a kick in the pants. Are you such a writer? Come, let me kick you, gently but firmly, in the pants.
Later that month I have two readings scheduled, in parts of the province I’ve not yet read in. I’m looking forward to travelling to Sydney to read at Governor’s Pub on Tuesday, November 18, and then heading to Wolfville to read at Box of Delights on Wednesday the 19th.
I’ll come to your town, too, if you invite me! And if your book club is reading my book, I’ll drop in via Skype or Face Time…just ask!
Alright, that’s enough shameless self-promotion for one night. An artless update, but an update nonetheless.
Sorry it’s been so quiet around here. I have chronic tendonitis in my left wrist and typing is painful for more than a few minutes at a time. Which sucks when you know you should be writing. Or doing dishes, hanging out laundry, cleaning the fridge, or doing a proper yoga flow.
Anyhow, a quick note about an event happening this week about which I am very excited. The Halifax Public Library is about to open a wonderful new Central Branch in downtown Halifax. The building is amazing, daring, bold, and yet welcoming. I cannot wait to go there, read there, hang out on the rooftop patio there. But first, the Spring Garden Road Memorial Branch must be put to bed. As I contemplate its closure I think about the way it welcomed me to Halifax in 1996, the respite it provided me from the confusion of my life back then, the steady workspace, the comforting smell of the old books and the old men I wrote amongst. When I began to write Homing, it offered itself as an obvious setting, so much a symbol of Halifax is it to me. So I am very sorry to see it go…and beyond proud to have been invited to help say goodbye.
On Thursday at noon, I’ll read from Homing on the library lawn (kind of a dream come true, to be honest) and then answer any questions you might have. I’ll sign books afterward…and there’s a guest book of sorts there for people to leave their memories of the building in, too. It’s a free event, and I hope you’ll come down and say hello, and goodbye.
Sarah Mian, who dolls out tough love to me every time we’re together, and then smothers me in love after, just the way I like it, invited me to be a stop on a writing blog tour. You can see Sarah’s typically ballsy, take-no-prisoners, yet somehow sweet answers here, then come back for mine!
What am I working on?
I am very carefully, and very slowly, working on a new project. Okay, fine, it’s a novel. Are you happy now? It’s a novel. It’s shaping up to be about faith, religion, sex, the body, feminism and death. So, in short, fun times! It seems crazy to even say that much about it at this very early in the game point. To be honest, I am still recovering from having written Fallsy Downsies in such a rush last spring. Or maybe that’s an excuse I’ve been using for not being further along in the new project-novel-thing.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I am strongly motivated to write in a way that reflects where I live, right now. When I was growing up, devouring stories, I never ever read or saw one that was set in my own place, in my own time. I literally thought stories only happened in New York City, English country gardens, or on the Great Plains. I’m not saying the wilds of Mississauga, Ontario were ripe for storytelling, but I do know how electrifying it was when I heard this song, by The Lowest of the Low. The shock of recognition, of street names and bars I knew, swung open a door for me and helped me see that I could talk about my city the same way Laura Ingalls Wilder talked about her little house on the prairie. And when I moved to Halifax, it became even more vital to me to write about my city, because most of the Atlantic Canadian books I found were set in rural places, in the past. I was starving for an urban novel set right this minute. So I wrote a couple myself.
Why do I write what I do?
I get obsessed with an idea, or a character, or a gesture, or a question, and then I chase it down, sentence by sentence. Mostly it’s characters I’m interested in. I write in order to spend time with them. With Fallsy Downsies I felt fortunate to have such an outsized protagonist as Lansing Meadows, and so it was very character driven for me, but I also had notions I wanted to explore, about fame and art and getting old, and his particular set of circumstances let me explore those ideas while spending time in his crusty company. Best of all possible worlds.
How does my writing process work?
Mostly I procrastinate until I have frittered away so much time that I risk some kind of public humiliation, as with Homing, which I wrote during NaNoWriMo and reported about it on national radio for DNTO, or face potentially having to give back an advance to my publisher as with Fallsy Downsies (it never came close to that, of course, but I imagine if I’d continued to procrastinate and broke my contract, it could have). And then I get down to business and stunt write my way through thousands of words a day in a fever frenzy. It’s not pretty. I wrote Fallsy Downsies entirely by hand—eighty seven thousand words, entirely by hand. And then typed it up so that I wouldn’t be able to squirm out of writing a complete second draft. I learned a lot. I look forward to whatever ridiculous gimmick I’ll need to use to trick myself into writing my third book.
Andrew Kaufman once described himself as my Fifth Business, and it’s hard to argue with that. Andrew was the first writer I met in my adult writing life. He was the only other cool person at the Humber School for Writers the summer I was there, though he was unnaturally obsessed with Molly Ringwald. But the bar for coolness was low, so I befriended him. He’s a fan of vinyl records, oversized frogs with human characteristics, and the absurd. He’s also the author of a bunch of awesome books, including All My Friends Are Superheroes and Born Weird.
I’m in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island for the East Coast Music Awards. Atlantic Airwaves taped a great show here last night, which is why I wasn’t at the announcement for the Atlantic Book Awards shortlists in Halifax last night, though my heart was there. I am so excited to be nominated for the Dartmouth Book Award for Fiction. Thank you to the jury of careful readers who chose to put my book on that list. I’m nominated alongside Anne Emery, who writes great murder mysteries set in Halifax, and Rosalie Osmond, for her book Waldenstein, which I look forward to reading. Congratulations to all!
I’m also thrilled to see my friend Stephen Law get nominated for the Savage, for his debut, The Tailings of Warren Peace. He worked like a dog on that book for many, many years and I’m excited to see him get this kind of recognition.
Charlottetown is beautiful and sunny today and I can’t wait to be back here in six weeks or so to celebrate the Atlantic Book Awards with my peers. This life, I love this life.
She’s harsh and angular and so very guilty. She thinks I’m frivolous, a fool, adorably naive. Or maybe just naive. She is coming into sharper focus, and I do mean sharper. I don’t know much more about her than what I’ve said here, but I am waking up in the middle of the night thinking about her. It has begun.
That was the diagnosis last night, from Sue Goyette. You’re ankle deep in it, she said. Before you know it, you’ll be swimming.
Honestly, I’m not sure I’m totally ready to swim again, but hey, if the water’s rising, what choice do you have?
I have yet to make actual sentences. But all I think about now is Becks, and guilt, and religion, and the body, and my gosh, there’s a book there, soon to swamp my kayak. I have started staring out the window. Always a harbinger of sentences to come. I have even made a plan, a little schedule. A work-back.
Next weekend, The Common has a mini-retreat in Hubbards. Becks and I will get to know each other a little better there, I am sure. It’s possible her name is actually spelled Bex. I’ll find out and report back.
People keep asking me if I’ve started another novel and the truth is, I have. I have five hundred terrifying words I wrote in November and have been backing away slowly from ever since. I am bone tired, if you want to know. The last twelve months took everything I had to give. Between writing, rewriting, editing, proofing, waiting, launching, promoting, travelling, and talking oh the talking, not to mention my full-time job, trying to keep the house from falling into the sea and maintaining my primary relationships, you know, it’s been a time. A time of not much rest. Very little staring out the window. Many many weeks of never doing what I wanted, only what I needed to do.
I have been sick three times since the launch in Halifax for Fallsy Downsies. I have travelled to Toronto and back by car twice. I have let my fitness and flexibility disappear. And now it’s February and I feel like I might be waking up. Maybe. I wouldn’t want to rush to call it that, but maybe that is what’s happening.
I am thinking about Becks, this character who thrust herself into the front of my mind in November. I have been thinking about her and thinking that eventually I will have to make and keep a date with her. And then another. And another and then before too long, she and I will be an item and it’ll be back into that dark dance.
Not yet. I am making my way through a stack of New Yorker magazines that piled up on the piano over the last several months. I am lifting weights and doing push ups and swimming and playing tennis. I am staring out the window. I am waking up.