I’m late to the Springsteen party. I got obsessed with Dancing in the Dark a couple years back. Mostly that line: I’m dying for some action, I’m sick of sitting around here trying to write this book. Tell me about it, Boss.
Last week I watched a couple of documentaries about Springsteen. A BBC one called Glory Days, and The Promise: The making of Darkness on the Edge of Town. And the way he spoke in those films about his artistic processes, and also about fame and intrinsic self-ness, and trying to protect that thing that makes you an artist when everyone wants a chunk of you–that just set me on fire.
And so the next thing I knew I was buying a ticket to see him play in Moncton.
And now I’m like a kid with her first crush. On the drive home from Moncton Monday morning I listened to his tunes cranked loud with the window down. Probably pressed repeat on Dancing in the Dark twenty times. Ridiculous. But irresistible. Part of it is his affability, his control, his generosity on stage. More though, it’s his uncanny ability to put his finger exactly on the themes and ideas that consume me right now.
His songs are exactly what I need as I go deeper into Fallsy Downsies. The themes of economic dissolution, small towns falling apart, the ways in which industrialization fucked up everything. And then too the yearning for escape. I check my look in the mirror, wanna change my clothes my hair my face. The longing. Evan and Lansing. And Dacey always on the go, taking risks to feel alive.
Oh, sorry. I just wandered off to watch some live footage on YouTube. See? Kid with crush.
Alright, look, obviously, the dude is a superstar for a reason, all tight jeans and charisma. But also hard work and depth and an innate understanding of the human condition and all its attendant frailties.
Thing is, you just never know where you’re going to find your connection. Could be in a grassy field in Moncton with thirty thousand other fans. Could be at the wheel of a rental car at 7 in the morning, trying to find the right highway to get home, window down even though it’s kind of too cold, wind pushing your hair everywhere, infectious synthesizer hook and words that knew what you were thinking even before you did. Both perfectly content and endlessly yearning.
It’s just exactly what I need right now. Even if we’re just dancing in the dark.
First, some business remaining from last time: in the wake of that last post, pretty much every week, someone has taken the time to google something like: stephanie domet beautiful great writer. Which makes me laugh every time. I have a thick skin — you couldn’t not in my line of work — but I have to say I love the good and open hearts that beat inside my friends. You are lovely, lovely people. I appreciate your lavish praise, and will do what I can to be worthy of it!
Now, onto that. This being September, it’s been back to business round these parts. New radio season, and a recommitment to weekly writing. It was not easy, and it was not overly fruitful, but I did drag myself out of the sunny garden on Saturday and down to the cafe to crank out some pages. Four wee ones (at this rate, the book might get finished by the time I’m fifty), but better than none. I am not stumped, or blocked or any of that bullshit. I just — I don’t know. I am terribly undisciplined. And also kinda busy. Editing two books right now. Helping to plan the Writers’ Federation Fall Into Writing Gala on September 24, which is going to be awesome, and an amazing Nocturne event, about which I’m really excited, called It Was a Dark and Stormy Night — which will basically be an interactive journey through your average writer’s personal hell — I mean, daily life. That’s happening October 15 at the Company House in Halifax. So there’s a lot going on, and that’s all great. But none of it is more important than writing Fallsy Downsies. Though most of it is more fun, let’s be honest. And with other people counting on me delivering — all that stuff FEELS more important.
So there’s that. If you feel like issuing a deadline with some kind of stern consequences attached, please feel free.
And I don’t need you to keep up the flattering google searches but… I’m not gonna tell you to stop!
And finally, here’s a little musical treat. Because you’ve been so good.
I am awash on a sea of nostalgia. And a sea of fog. And a sea of anticipation. And a sea of longing. And a sea of momentum. Let’s take them sea by sea.
Last weekend I went to Toronto–nominally for my brother’s birthday and for mother’s day, but really to relive some of my misspent youth, seeing Lowest of the Low at their 20th anniversary show at Massey Hall. I’d forgotten the power of those songs, somehow, songs that were once as intrinsic to my every day as water and air. I was slammed back against the shores of my early twenties in Toronto, a time of huge confidence based on nothing, and massive confusion, a feeling that everyone but me knew the score. I remembered with force endless crushes that came to nothing, a patchwork life made of half a dozen jobs in restaurants, book stores and delivering Now magazine, late nights that lasted till morning. And I remembered the powerful excitement of hearing songs with lyrics that described the streets and bars and cafes where all those days and nights got frittered away. The way a line like: “And I will hold this coin that reminds me of the time when you nearly kissed me blind on Bathurst Street, it’s true,” or a whole song about the Carlaw Bridge, or about taking a walk up to the Only, the way those songs about where I lived crammed themselves into my heart and my head and still won’t go away. And how, after a childhood and youth spent in suburban sameness, a suburb I never saw reflected by name or description in anything I read or heard, unless it was the crummy little suburban newspaper–after a childhood and youth spent consuming stories from elsewhere till you could almost believe stories only happened in English country gardens, in New York City, the deep south and on the Great Plains–after all that, to find my way home to songs that were about my own beloved streets and places, well. I was done. Still am. That band, that band in front of whom I drank and danced and swore and cried and yelled and crushed, that band articulated what up till then I’d been unable to. That stories happen right here, right where you are, and those stories, those stories are worth telling. Those stories need telling. And anyone can tell them.
And I started my Toronto novel, The Pawnshop Blues. Which never came to much, see under drank, danced, swore, cried, yelled, crushed. But some seed was nestled then. And when I was ready to write Homing, I wrote it about the real place I live, the real place I love. Those city stories, those small city stories mean as much, are worth as much, as any story in any English country garden, or on any Great Plain.
So, there’s that.
The sea of fog. Halifax is having one of those springs where the sun don’t shine. I am trying to ignore the outside world, the natural environment. I am trying to pretend it’s merely a long grey hallway I take to get from home to work to downtown to the farmers market and back. But the pretending is wearing thin. It’s hard to feel like doing much when faced with a solid wall of grey, fifteen days out of seventeen. You know?
And so to that sea of anticipation. The sun will return eventually…right? And I will go out into it and pull weeds in the garden and contemplate the annual plan to build a shed–and maybe even do it this year. And I will go for long walks in that sunshine and think thoughts that aren’t just survival based. And Kev will come home from tour. And I will start writing again. And and and.
About that. That sea of longing. And momentum. Those two are linked. The momentum is, unfortunately, not the kind I had in the early winter, when I was writing every day and burning up the pages. It’s the momentum of a quotidian life, with coffee, shower, work, home, supper, magazine, bed, lather rinse repeat ad nauseum. There is no writing there. I have been consumed by my job, again. And I do love that job, oh I do. But my characters are going quiet in the back of my head, and that’s always terrifying. I feel the pressure (from where, I’m not sure, myself I guess) of four years since Homing, what have I done for you lately. I feel the heft of the book I am writing, the knowledge it’s not going to be done soon, even if I were working on it regularly. And it’s a feeling that’s worse than fog fifteen days out of seventeen.
So what am I going to do about it? That’s a great question. With an obvious right answer. I am going to write. Easy to say. Hard to do. I remember those days of my early twenties all that passion I didn’t know how to direct, but one thing I did know was to write every day. And I did. Whether it was going anywhere didn’t actually matter. I was clear enough then just to make sentences on a page, every damn day.
So here’s my renewal of that passion. One scene a week, without fail. One page a day if that works, or the whole thing in one shot, more likely. But one scene a week. And more Lowest of the Low on the soundtrack, to remind me to kick it over. Kick it over.
Or the other way around, or maybe both. I am on the road right now, as Kev takes living rooms and basements around Ontario by storm. He earned a Home Routes tour and so we’ve spent the last couple weeks together in the car, touring around, playing a concert in a different house each night. It’s been intense and awesome, and I’ve even managed to get some writing done.
More importantly, I’ve had that magic time in the car to let my mind wander and pick through the elements of my story that still stymie me. And I’ve had some important breakthroughs–some insights into what actually motivates Lansing Meadows, and what eventually leads to the rift between him and Evan Cornfield. And even Dacey Brown is moving into sharper focus.
I will be sorry to leave this full time artist life behind in two weeks. Though I hear from afar there are a number of juicy stories unfolding in Nova Scotia, and I feel the pull of daily radio. It’s a tough balance, the two lives, and I will be spending some of my remaining time figuring out how to balance them better. I’ll be back on the air on February 28th. The novel’s first draft won’t be finished–but at least I’ll know how to proceed. And that feels like a huge triumph. A more reasonable, achievable goal is a completed first draft by September, a completed second draft by the end of December. And if it goes my way, maybe publication by fall 2012.
In other news, it looks like Lady Hammond has received first draft funding for Homing, with Tricia Fish screenwriting. This is great news for that team, and I’ll be interested to see what happens next.
So, lots of forward momentum. And, for a taste of what I’ve been up to on the road, here’s a little video from our stop in Kanata, Ontario. Don’t say I never gave you anything.
Where does the time go? We were just in Newfoundland, and then suddenly, that was two weeks ago, and here it is December. And now I’m on that holiday rollercoaster, keeping my arms and legs inside the cart at all times and just enjoying the ride. I love this time of year, and this year, I seem to be loving it a little more than usual, even for me.
I am getting nothing done, writing-wise, and I am accepting that. January stretches out, empty, bleak, cold and waiting for me to fill it up, warm it up with sentences. So, that.
For now, I am just along for the ride.
There’s something about Homing-the-book that seems to resonate with local songwriters. Or maybe they’re vying for inclusion on some eventual soundtrack. Ryan MacGrath has a song inspired by the book. I haven’t heard it yet, but as with Steven Bowers‘s beautiful song about pigeons and coming home, I am beyond flattered to know that it exists. They’re both amazing songwriters, and if you haven’t checked them out yet, give yourself an early present, and go do so now!
Quick note to say Kev Corbett is playing Tunes at Noon at City Hall in Halifax today… grab your lunch and I’ll see you there!
It is festival season round the Domet-Corbett household. The weekend just past, we were in Lunenburg for the excellent Folk Harbour Festival. Kev released his brand new record, Son of a Rudderless Boat, on Thursday night on the Festival’s mainstage. It was awesome. He received a huge, rolling, standing ovation (not that standing-Os are rare round these parts, but this one seemed to go on and on. And then all weekend long, he was getting high-fived everywhere we went. It was super cool.
The weekend coming up is the second annual Shelburne Writers’ Festival. I’m hosting the proceedings, and will be reading, as well. Maybe from Homing, but more likely from Fallsy Downsies. I am excited to be sharing the stage with writers like Donna Morrissey and Kenneth J Harvey among many others. Kev will also be playing… he’s the live music portion of the open mic on Saturday night. It’s going to be a fun weekend.
It’s also going to mean our garden remains unweeded for another week, but such is the life of the would-be cultural power couple. Ha.
So come on down to Shelburne. It’s a lovely little town on Nova Scotia’s south shore. We had a blast there last year, and are looking forward to a repeat performance. See you there?
In true vacation form, I was felled by a miserable cold. And then it started raining, and who knows when it will stop? So, it’s been like that.
We’ve been a busy couple of vacationers. Kev‘s been working as hard as he can getting his record finalized. Album art, check. Looks great. Got it mastered by the guy he wanted, check, listening to it right now, sounds great. Get it all off to the duplicators, well, that’s been a bit complicated, but we’re getting there.
Last night he took the mastered disc out to the car to listen to it. I couldn’t sleep, despite a liberal dose of cold medication (or maybe because of) and so I slipped on a dress and flip flops and padded out in the pouring rain to join him in the car and listen drowsily. Great way to hear it. Highly recommended. I hope you find at least one great rain storm after you get your copy of Son of a Rudderless Boat, coming soon to a folk festival stage near you (provided Lunenburg is near you).
As for me, I have yet to set hands to keyboard for the purpose of writing the treatment. This is so my MO. I write at the very last minute, and then only if my life depends on it. I can see it all so clearly in my head. I see Leah in scenes that aren’t in the book, but are nonetheless her scenes, scenes that came so naturally, I must have always known I’d need them for some other purpose. And Henry, my god, he couldn’t be more alive to me if he actually lived next door. Don’t tell the others, but Henry’s my favourite.
Anyhow, as with every single vacation here in the Sheridan Homelands, it doesn’t matter how much time we spend, it’s never, ever enough. We have a week left here, and there are still so many people to see, three decks to build (today was supposed to be the day, but see under: rain. Actually, Tuesday was supposed to be the day but see under: ridiculous cold), a CD to pick up and a treatment to write.
If we ever took the kind of vacation that involved flying over a body of water larger than the Saint Lawrence Seaway, how would we ever get anything done? I imagine if I ever had a real vacation, I’d be dangerous.
And how’s your July?