So I have all this news building up, and I find myself with a few spare Sunday minutes.
I’m in Five Islands, Nova Scotia, near Parrsboro. At an awesome place called Mo’s. It’s a cafe/hostel/gallery/venue for art of all kinds. The women in the kitchen are making biscuits and rhubarb muffins, and I’m drinking coffee and feeling like I snuck in the backdoor of heaven somehow. Shhh, don’t want Saint Peter to figure it out and send me back down.
If you were here, you’d see me wiggling around on this wooden chair, trying to scratch the bug bites on my upper thighs without actually appearing to be scratching my ass in public. Life is good.
Kev played here last night, at a big outdoor party. Steve Bowers and Keith Mullins were on the bill, too, and Alana Yorke. It was lots and lots of fun. We had a wee fire afterward, sat around drinking beers and singing songs and laughing so hard. We stayed at the hostel last night, sleeping in bunk beds, and it was the best sleep I’ve had in a long time. Now, the coffee and the promise of a rhubarb muffin.
Last night was particularly fun because I got to sing with the band. This is something we’ve been doing more of lately. I’ve got back in the habit of carrying around my battered copy of Homing, and Bowers has got in the habit of asking me up on stage to read from it in the well between the A section and the B section of the song of the same name. And then I get to sing the B section with the band. A section that is Meaghan Smith’s part on the record. Usually there’s a female vocalist of some sort also on stage, whether it’s Meaghan or Fleur Mainville. But last night, it was just me. After I finished my reading, I looked at Steve. He winked. I pointed to myself and he nodded. I took a deep breath and sang that beautiful chorus, with its refrain of “always homing and never home.” And we brought the house down. It was easily the best five minutes of my week.
We’re gonna do it again at the Carleton in Halifax on Thursday, drop by if you can.
Oh, and the screen thing. Did I mention yet that Homing has been optioned? And that I’m starting work on the screenplay? Well, it has and I am. It’s terrifying and awesome and so very strange. Oh that little, accidental book and the places it insists on taking me.
An interesting question on the last post, from Binnie. Do I ever suffer reader’s block. Binnie, I’ve never thought of it in those terms, though that is exactly what it is. And yes, I suffer it all the time. Way more than I’ve ever suffered writer’s block. When I read something really, really good, I generally faff around afterward, unable to settle on something to read that’s not going to let me down. This was a problem after reading, say, Fugitive Pieces.
I’ve recently started a book, I don’t even remember what it’s called, because it happened to be the thing I grabbed on a quick trip to my bookcases between guests staying in the room that houses my books. It is totally not scratching the itch right now. I mean, I don’t even remember the title. But I hate not finishing books once I start them. So I will probably read a few unsatisfying pages a night, and supplement that reading with magazines until I get through.
Wow, I’ve never spent so much time thinking about how I read. What do you do when you get Reader’s Block? And what are you going to read this summer? I have four weeks off coming my way, and need to build up a stack…
The times, they have been busy. I am cramming to finish editing a book for Invisible, by an awesome writer from Dartmouth named Anna Quon. The book is called Migration Songs, and I’ve read it probably four or five times in its entirety now, and it still knocks me on my ass. Anna is a writer of such purity and power, that she can do that. Impress the hell out of her copyeditor on editing read-through take four. It’ll be out in October, I think it is, and you should be sure to get yourself a copy then.
Beyond that, I am reading like mad these days, just flying through novels and memoirs and non-fiction books of various sorts. Recent favourites include Turn of the Century by Kurt Andersen, which I read for the first time when it came out ten years ago and I loved it then. I re-read it and loved it even harder two weeks ago.
Then I devoured Dry, by Augusten Burroughs, a memoir of his time as an alcoholic and in recovery. I started reading it one night at quarter after ten, and when I looked up again I’d read a hundred and sixty three pages and my stomach hurt from not sleeping. I seriously considered calling in sick the next day so I could finish it off. Binge behaviour indeed.
And right now, I’m just about to polish off A Musician’s Guide to the Road by Susan Voelz. Who? She was in Poi dog Pondering, and more than that, she is one compelling writer. I picked up her book from Kev’s stack, thinking I could just read a few pages to get to sleep, that I wouldn’t get sucked in, because it’s a guide book, not a narrative. Wrong! I mean, sure, I feel like by reading it I get some insight into Kev’s life on the road. But also… it’s just a really good read.
And last week the deep and delightful Matt Epp was our houseguest. My houseguest I should say, as Kev was on the road (see above re: insight etc), so there were dinners and breakfasts and talks in the garden. And maybe best of all, I went to see him play at the Company House on Saturday night. It was good because Matt is good, and so that’s always a treat, but also because it was raining so hard, and I’d gotten caught in it on my walk down there and then I sat at the bar and drank white wine and wrote like the devil, a bunch of stuff about Evan Cornfield… I am starting to get a picture of him… what he looks like, how he stands on stage, what he WANTS. I wrote a little scene that feels right now like the beating heart of his particular story, if not of Fallsy Downsies overall. And maybe it doesn’t actually even end up in the book, but right now, I feel like I received some secret present, like the tap of writing was pouring pure chocolate and I was lucky enough to be there with my mouth open and a bucket at the ready.
Ain’t it the truth. Lists, lists, lists. I just made three: a master list, my sub-list and Kev’s sub-list. Later, I might make a list of the lists I have to make. My brain is swirly and the only cure is listing. Once, when we were on vacation, after a time of great list-making and gnashing of teeth, we saw a comic in the paper. A man and a woman on a desert island. There’s nothing around. A palm tree. And he’s saying to her, “Okay, if it’s that important to you, we can make a to-do list.”
That comic is my marriage. And my brain, in a nutshell. Emphasis on nut.
That said, Fallsy Downsies is alive and well inside my head. Read from it at Porkpie, a few disparate sections that I wove together, and it felt great. Great great great. So great. So that’s good.
And I’m awaiting further news about Homing-the-film (my publisher and I signed an option agreement with a new local production company a few weeks back, which is super exciting, and really only made sense to me when I heard myself tell my mother, “so, they wanna make a movie out of Homing.” Craaaa-zeeee.)
Meantime, I make lists and read other people’s manuscripts. I’m editing a gorgeous book right now for Invisible. It’s called Migration Songs and it’s by Anna Quon who’s awesome and from around these parts. I’m really excited to be working on it. And given the list of things to do that’s breathing down my neck… I’d better go edit some of it right now.
If you like writers, you’ll love Porkpie. Every couple of months, we serve up a handful of writers reading new works, all for a mere five dollars.
The next seating is Thursday, June 4th at 7pm at The Company House in Halifax. Tara Thorne and I co-produce and -present this sucker, and we are very excited about the line up for this one:
Sue Goyette (amazing poet and writer and teacher and all round good egg), Charles Crosby (author of extremely ribald and entertaining book, Backspin. One of my favourites of last year), Jackie Torrens, writer of astonishing depth and humour and pathos, plus, comedic actor extraordinaire, Jessica Marsh, stalwart of the old-school Blowhard reading series, plus massage therapist to the stars. Oh, and I’ll read, too. We were chasing a fifth, but he’s not going to work out for this time, so I’ll step into the breach.
For god’s sake, don’t miss it.
There was a moment during our retreat to Morden. We were gathered outside, near the picnic table. It was Friday night… or Saturday maybe? God, it’s blurred together already. In any event, the Nova Scotian members of The Common were all there—Sean, Sue, Ryan, Sarah and Carsten. Sarah had something to say, she insisted we all get our drinks. We did. She proposed a toast, holding out her Carlsberg (of all things). She said, “it’s so awesome that this writing group has turned in to five such awesome friendships.” We clinked our drinks, and then she said, “damn it, I practised that in my head, and it did NOT have two awesomes in it.”
It was appropriate though. The retreat had way more than two awesomes in it. First of all, she’s right… it is awesome, the awesome friendships that have grown out of that writing group. We have such interesting discussions, and take the piss out of each other so naturally. We are so well balanced, the right blend of hilarity and sincerity in all we do and say to each other. We can all live in a two-bedroom cottage for two and a half days and still like each other at the end of it.
So that’s a lot of the awesome. Then there’s the beauty of Morden. This was my first stay by the Bay of Fundy, and it was incredible. The way the sunlight slanted across from New Brunswick, the rocky rocky shore… how many millions of years till it’s a sandy beach, I wondered as I picked my way along it, wishing I could take every single rock home. The incredible verdant freshness, the rolling hills. The lightning show to which we were treated on Saturday night; the way it rained with wild abandon.
And then the writing. I’m not sure most of The Common got actual work done, but I sure did. Pages and pages and pages about Dacey Brown, the female singer songwriter in Fallsy Downsies, the lone wolf who’s lost her voice, but thinks she might find it if she hops a ride with Evan Cornfield and Lansing Meadows. Plus, a section that’d been missing, a section that connects the night that Lansing and Evan meet, and the roadtrip that takes them to Antigonish together.
Plus, with a little help from my friends, I figured out the ribald game at the heart of the novel. All in all, an awesome, awesome weekend.
Good god, the busy-ness lately. And not with anything particularly riveting. In fact, I’m not sure that I could tell you what, exactly has been occupying my time lately. But I have that hunted dog feeling, that feeling of the world and all its demands nipping at my heels, relentless. Which is hilarious, because compared to a lot of people I know, I have few duties. Work, meals, groceries, the odd workout, the occasional conversation with my husband. So what has me on the run? Who knows? Monkey mind, maybe.
I mean, sure, I’m editing a book, and jurying a competition, and it’s the inaugural Atlantic Ink Festival…but beyond that, not much on the go.
I did just register for this. The Google Book Settlement thingy. It was surprising to discover they’d scanned not just Homing, but also Oral Fixation, an anthology I was published in more than ten years ago. Wow, they’ve been busy. Well, now they can get busy sending me a little cheque, and oh, I do love those.
What else? The Atlantic Ink Festival, that’s what. Tonight I went to Outside the Lines, which is a lovely little bookstore on Quinpool, for a reading and reception with Sara Tilley, whose book I am loving, Ian Colford, who cannot stop racking up nominations for prestigious awards, and Stephen Kimber, whose storytelling always at once soothes me and makes me envious. So, it was a great night.
Tomorrow, the Common heads to Morden, to Sarah Mian’s family cottage, for a weekend writers’ retreat. I am planning to get rather a lot done on Fallsy Downsies, and also to drink rather a lot of wine, and maybe stay up all night or most of it, singing Meatloaf songs. Because THAT’s how we roll.
This week, I’ve been reading Amphibian, by Carla Gunn. It is kicking my ass. With its goodness. Her protagonist, Phin, is a kid who’s obsessed with climate change, and all the ways humans seem to be wrecking the world. The voice is so clear and fresh, and the writing is breaking my heart in a dozen ways. Also, there’s a beautiful green frog on the cover.
Which makes Frog Hollow Books an appropriate place to launch it, I guess. Which is just what Carla will do tomorrow night. I’m really excited, because it’s always great to get to hear a new writer read (new to me, and new in that this is her first novel). But also because I’ve been asked to open for her.
It’s been a long time since I read from Homing. So I’m super looking forward to seeing you there tomorrow night. Be sure to come up and say hey after.
Starts at 7 at Frog Hollow Books at Park Lane Mall…free admission, but bring a few bucks if you can, to buy Carla’s book!