November 26, 2010


One day after American Thanksgiving is as good of a day as any to think about gratitude. There has been a lot of upheaval and sadness and stress over the past few weeks, in every realm of my life, but also excitement and anticipation and elation. I am bursting with news (yes, book news, mostly), and a general sense of unreality that pervades just about every waking hour.

It is not the kind of state that (for me, anyway) is particularly conducive to writing, but I hope to get back into that by late next week at the latest. In the meantime, I am enjoying feeling fortunate for my work (the real work, and, yes, even the day job), the people in my life (who amaze and inspire and provoke me into hysterical laughter on a daily basis), the city where I live (today’s freezing rain notwithstanding), and all of the general benefits that go along with being an independent adult in urban Canada in this day and age (freedom from civil unrest! public transit! hot running water!).

Gosh, I’m lucky! I can hardly believe my good luck, some days. It’s a good thing to remember through the tough times.

Off to knock on wood…

November 8, 2010

The Incongruous Quarterly

Have you guys heard about the Incongruous Quarterly? Its tag-line is publishing the unpublishable, which initially made me nervous until I found out that "unpublishable" might just mean too long or too short or too weird or too raunchy or too...something. It is still their mandate to publish good writing.

The first issue is available online here.

The deadline has now passed for the issue I'm guest-editing (fiction), but there will be other calls for submissions coming up with other guest editors. Submit! It is online-only, but this is a reflection of budget, not quality.

The way that I got involved is a story that makes me happy: last December I'd shown up at one of Sherwin Tija's wonderfully strange events: the Arcade Choir. From the event description:
Forty singers stand in the middle of a room. They are not professional singers, though some of them might be. They all have iPods, and on every single one of those iPods is the Arcade Fire album “Funeral”. At a signal, they all press play and, the album loud in their ears, start to sing the opening strains of the first song of the album.
Now this singing won’t be very pretty. They’re singing not only the words, but the instruments as well. People are encouraged to hum, howl, beatbox, make any noise that will translate the songs to the audience better.
Not everyone will know all the words. The people in the choir will have listened to the album plenty of times, but not very carefully. They know how the song goes, but won’t necessarily know the lyrics. Or know them correctly.
Because the music in their ears is so loud, they won’t be able to hear themselves, their neighbours, or the sound of all of them collectively. This might result in some very bad singing, but the choir is encouraged to sing their hearts out, the way one does when you’re in the shower and only singing for the joy of it.
I showed up alone, a little apprehensive, but too excited about the event to skip it. I love that album. And singing. So I went in.

I met two other women who had showed up alone -- and both of them were writers, too. (Writers: a curious and fearless bunch.) And one of them was E., IQ's co-founder and editor-in-chief.

Me: striped and singing.
It quickly became evident that it was a lot more entertaining for the singers than the audience (who all dashed out at the first opportunity). But it was really fun and funny (Sherwin recorded is the strangest thing ever) and highly unique. I was glad I went -- even more so when E. approached me to get involved with the quarterly. You never know where or how you might meet someone and where that might take you. This is the thing that coaxes me out of the house on those nights when I'm feeling especially introverted or guilt-plagued about being behind with my writing.

November 6, 2010

Reading tonight!

I'm reading tonight at Le Cagibi as part of the Taddle Creek Travelling Series of Happenings to promote their Out-of-Towner issue. Sadly, I'm not actually in the issue (now that I've seen the actual magazine, which is gorgeous, I wish I'd known they were doing one, as normally submissions are restricted to writers from Toronto), but I'll be reading with Katia Grubisic, Mark Jarman, and Sarah Gilbert, so I can promise you will not be disappointed! (I am a big fan of Katia's poetry in general and of her excellent Goose Lane collection in particular.)

I'm especially looking forward to Sarah's presentation, which will apparently feature a projector for what I hope is an elaboration of her essay on Mile End. I'm similarly neighbourhood-obsessed, and I was excited to see she wrote about the lemon tree that (bewilderingly) continues to flourish a few blocks away from here in the back lane. I've brought other people to look at that tree, to convince me I'm not dreaming it.

I spent the morning trying to decide what to read. I don't feel like reading from Mother Superior, since I don't want to subject people I know to something that, at this point, they've probably heard before. At the same time, the novel I just finished writing is currently under submission (*fingers crossed* or, as my mother would say, pray for me) and the thought of actually opening the file again to look at it basically fills me with dread. Eeek.

So instead I'm reading from the new-new novel. I'm only about 60 pages in, but I'm still excited about where it's going, so maybe this is a good point to be reading from it. This will be only the second time that I've read from a first, unpublished draft. (The first time, at the QWF mentorship reading back in 2008, didn't go very well -- I was knee-quakingly nervous and more or less breathlessly squeaked it all out -- but I've done a lot of readings between then and now, so I'm going to blame nerves rather than the terror of reading something brand-new.)

But although I have mixed feelings about giving readings (mostly to do with nervousness), I have only one feeling about the importance of reading your writing out loud -- namely, that it is hugely important. No matter how my selection goes over tonight, I'm sure I'll at least get some ideas about things I want to change. And that's great.

If you stop by tonight, come say hi! The doors are at 8 p.m., but the readings will probably start closer to 9 p.m.