March 26, 2013

been there, wrote that, got the t-shirt

It has been a really big few days for this book baby of mine! (And I feel duty bound to record it here...)

The Toronto launch at Type Books was really fun, and the only thing I would have changed would have been to build in some book shopping time for myself because Type is an extremely enticing store.

Before and after the reading, I met some truly lovely people for the first time in person, and there were many friendly faces of friends formerly of Ottawa and Montreal.  It was really nice to see everyone!  I was a little giddy and huggy, and (I hope) more or less coherent when chatting to a number of attendees who were kind enough to buy books to have signed.

And there were mini-eggs!  And a whole bowl of red gummi Big Foots!  And wine and beer and Sun Chips.  Andrew Kaufman was as sweet and hilarious as his novels, and the wonderful Kyle Buckley asked some great conversation-sparking questions.

A photo from Twitter taken during Andrew's reading

The next day, I was on live national television on Canada AM!  This meant getting up at 6 a.m. to get ready (and explore the world of powdered, non dairy creamer via the hotel room coffeemaker), before publicist K drove us out to Scarborough to be on air at 8:40 a.m.

I did my own makeup and hair, but when they asked me if I wanted more makeup, I of course said yes!  The makeup artist let me take some photos of her huge kit, which I loved seeing.

Just out of the frame: approximately 50 MAC lipsticks

I still haven't watched the clip because a) I was there and b) it's much nicer to just believe what all my friends and family said about it, which is that it went really well!  But you can watch it online, if you like.

K, the producer, shared this photo on Twitter 
of Marci Ien and I chatting before the segment.

I also got to visit the House of Anansi office for the first time!  It is a gorgeous, good-vibes place full of extremely nice and stylish employees.  K, publicist extraordinaire, was nice enough to let me leave with a T-shirt* and a bag full of books, both of which made me feel positively gleeful.

Still feeling A-listy after a great trip to Toronto

Somehow, before the day was over, there were also two more photo shoots and an interview, and even more improbably (or is it??), each one was with someone kind, funny, and talented, who did their best to put me at ease.  There was also some extremely rapid shoe shopping, with some excellent results.

The post-live-national-television-appearance red boots.

Descending back into Montreal, a mere 24 hours later.

As soon as I got home, I lost whatever adrenaline was keeping my little cold from turning into a big one.  But I hope to be fully over it in time for this Thursday's Montreal launch for Bone and Bread!

* This Anansi T-shirt is not only in my favourite colours, but specifically in my favourite T-shirt colour (my cool dozen grey t-shirts actually led to the great T-shirt embargo of 2011, though free T-shirts are a notable exception) and it is a high quality Roots t-shirt, which will perfectly complement the Roots sweatpants that make up the usual bottom half of my writing uniform.  Whoop!

March 21, 2013

when books disappear

I've been thinking about the strange luck and wonderful luck Bone and Bread seems to be having in terms of coverage leading up to its release, and I want to try and get done some of the thoughts that have been swirling around over the past couple of weeks.  Since I'm about to leave for the airport to head to Toronto for the launch, now seems as good a time to post this as any!

Part of what enables the kind of fearlessness and lack of self-consciousness necessary to writing is the ability to forget that anybody is ever going to read it.  It also helps with keeping expectations low, which I think is important for the writing life.  But some of the coverage and general interest from people I know is forcing me to swerve out of this admittedly somewhat delusional course of thinking.  And it brings me to some unnerving destinations...  

Already spotted in the wild... (Indigo in Montreal)

Will anyone actually like it?  Will people's expectations be so high that they're bound to be disappointed?  This is a completely immobilizing type of thinking to have while writing, and one that I would say is not generally recommended.  But now that the novel is making its way out into the world, and there is absolutely no way to change anything at all, I'm occasionally seized with stomach-churning bouts of uncertainty.  Why didn't I think about what people like reading?  What if it's too /sad/complicated/political/emotional? Why didn't I write something else...something funny, or about a man??  Or a dog or a war or or or or......

Then I breathe and remember there's nothing I can do.  Some people -- people whose opinions I value deeply -- have read it and liked it.  Not everyone will like it, and that's okay.  Even if almost nobody likes it, it isn't even the end of the world as long as I can keep writing.  (I suppose whether I can keep publishing is a somewhat different matter, but one that it is probably equally unproductive to consider.)

So many books are released every season, and all of those books represent years of work and sacrifice on the part of the writer, and additional careful work and effort on behalf of the editor and the publisher. Most of them have already achieved certain standards of excellence.  I don't know what the acceptance rate is at literary publishers, but I would be surprised if it were very different from that of literary magazines, which often hover around 1-2% of work submitted.  So most of what makes it out into the world in the form of a book has already been vetted again and again, by people whose lives revolve around literature.  People who know what they're doing.  And there are so many excellent books/movies/tv shows/articles/responsibilities competing for our attention.  It kind of feels like a special kind of magic any time a book makes it through the maelstrom of the daily media barrage and the craziness of everyday life and finds its way into the hands of a reader.  Any time I meet somebody I don't already know who has read my short-story collection, it feels like nothing short of a miracle.  And I'm grateful.

People compare books to children all the time, and although I know there are lots of obvious reasons why it isn't a perfect analogy, there's still something to it.  All the books on the marketplace are special to somebody, there are good reasons for buying and reading all of them.  They're all different and unique and contain a world of their own...but chances are that most of them won't stick around forever, or even for very long.  Most books go out of print sooner or later.  Some get released, receive excellent reviews, then disappear.  Some get released, receive almost no reviews, then disappear even faster.

All of this is to say that I'm grateful for this chance that Bone and Bread seems to have.  I hope it finds its readers.

See some of you tonight!

March 19, 2013

so much news

There’s so much happening and I suddenly have so much to say that I feel like I could be writing three to four posts a day, even just to keep myself on top of what’s going on.  I guess this is the nature of being a writer.  Nothing but a mostly solitary struggle for years and then what feels like an overwhelming flurry of activity. 

I’ve updated the NEWS tab with some of this information, but this week (in two days!) is the first official event for Bone and Bread, a reading at Type Books with Andrew Kaufman. And Friday morning, if you can believe it, I’m going to be on Canada AM!!  I’m so excited because I used to watch this show every morning during breakfast before heading to the office, and I kind of adore everybody on it.    

And next week is the Montreal launch and official pub date (whatever that means).  I’ve been dragging my heels on sending out the Montreal email invitation to people I know, although there is already a Facebook event.  I feel a little bad about sending out messages like this -- as though I’m pestering people -- but then I think, okay, it’s just one invitation, and they might actually want to know about it, and after all, at this rate I’m only averaging one email of this sort every five-six years, so….it’s probably okay, right?

March 18, 2013

On tenterhooks and sugaring off

The photo above is of tenterhooks (from this page on weaving in Yorkshire)....and yup, that feels about right.  Not really like I'm on them, but maybe the back of my coat -- my feet dangling just a few inches above the ground.  A type of suspension that sometimes feels like floating and sometimes feels just a little bit uncomfortable.

I'm the kind of person whose sublimates worry into my body: rashes, upset stomach, eye twitches, etc.  I can feel both my arms on the cusp of a rash right now.  The season is dry and stress levels are high.

The book that I held for the first time on Wednesday is already here and there in the world.  From a Facebook message, I know it arrived at a bookstore in Guelph last week.  From a couple of friends, I know that the e-version is already available for download.  

*pause for nervous scratching*

Over the next two weeks, I have two books launches, two photo shoots, and short interviews scheduled for every form of media.  I am bursting with excitement and pangs of nerves about what to wear, what to say, and how to briefly transform from the realm of the solitary and pyjama-clad writer into a walking-talking simulacrum of a coherent and engaging author. 

The fact is, I am actually pretty shy.


I did an interview on Friday night, but Saturday we went out to the country for a family sugar shack event.  We had delicious sausages, salads, wine, and of course, the main event, maple sugar.  Afterwards, I spent the evening chatting, knitting, watching children play, and napping in front of the fireplace.  Below are a few photos from the sugaring off.

A forest of tapped trees:

Sap boiling in a cloud of steam:

More of that same special magic happening inside the sugar shack:

Finally, the main event.

The children may have been the loudest in anticipation and appreciation of the maple sugar on snow, but the adults were all able to eat more.  Yum.

March 17, 2013

Writers' endings versus readers' endings

I finished reading Juliet, Naked the other day.  It was a shockingly fast read, and it was another book that fell into what I've been thinking of as easy reads -- the kind of book I've been admiring lately.  Funny, straightforward, gently observant and sometimes melancholy and imaginative.  I liked it a lot, although I got to the end and (without risking spoilers) thought huh, that's not what I want to happen.  I had a memory, too, of my friend J. reading this novel and asking me if I'd read it and wanting to chat about how things turned out.  (Note to self: follow up on this.)

At the same time, though, the ending as written feels realistic, at least realer than what I wanted to happen possibly could be.  Of course, much of what happens in the novel is improbable and a little fantastic, and I think Nick Hornby could have, if he'd wanted to, written an ending that might have been more satisfying in terms of wrapping everything up neatly.  But I got the sense when I was reading that Hornby was deliberately resisting that kind of ending, and I respected the choice, as much as I wished for something else.  I had the thought as I closed in upon the final pages: this is a writer's ending.  The writer feels some kind of responsibility to the truth, to the truth of his characters or the world as it really is or he sees it.  But as a reader, I wanted something else.  I wanted to know everybody I'd come to care about was going to be okay and get what they wanted.

But then I thought, well... I can just make up my own ending anyway.  That's the beauty of fiction.  I kind of closed my eyes and forgot the last ten to twenty pages and made up something else instead.

March 15, 2013

A banner day

Yesterday really was a banner day (and I've just realized the banner photo on this blog is of...a of the many, many bunting banners I sewed for my wedding day).  

Most thrilling for me is to have been (I
think...this has been a long ongoing process of weeks and weeks...and I really hope I'm not jinxing it) chosen as one of the soloists in my upcoming choir concert.  Singing is my other love besides writing, and while I usually describe it as my only other talent, it is definitely something I have had to work hard at in terms of not choking during auditions.  Nervousness seems to attack my stomach and my vocal chords in equal measure in such instances, even though it doesn't seem to be an issue in actual performances.  Anyway, I am dance-around-the-apartment excited because I have literally been trying out for years and because this semester we are doing medleys from both of my favourite musicals from when I was younger: The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables.  

Also totally thrilling: my author copy of my novel arrived, and it looks amazing!

I love how thick it is (448 pages).  

I also found out about and contributed to
The Veronica Mars Movie Kickstarter project.  Veronica is one of my very favourite television shows of all time, and it is really looking as though this movie is going to happen.  (Insert an excited fan-girl squee to drown out all others.)

I also changed departments at my day job, and yesterday was my last day in my old office.  It was a very busy early half of the week trying to finish everything up.  Yesterday, we had lunch together and my coworkers gave me a very sweet card and a gift card to
Paragraphe Bookstore (!), which I am carrying around like a magic ticket, trying to imagine what I will use it for, especially since I am totally spoiled by how many books I have been buying lately. was my first day in my new department, which is really my old department because I worked there for three years before as a casual employee.  I left five years ago, which is a terrifying thought because it really doesn't feel that long.  And not much seems to have changed. I mean that literally, because when I went to look for a notebook to start taking down phone messages, I reached for a spiral one shelved on the desk and it was
my notebook, one I must have accidentally left behind, almost entirely full except for four pages.  

I'm so happy to be back among old friends, and so happy to be reunited with this amazing view of Mount Royal:

And just one week from today is my first Bone and Bread-related event, its
book launch in Toronto at Type Books!  

March 12, 2013

AWP and home again

How fondly I imagined I'd blog from Boston!  Instead I fell into bed exhausted every night and woke up later and later every single day, missing (let's face it) the majority of the AWP panels I most wanted to see.  I guess in any jam-packed schedule of events, something has to be scheduled at 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., but why did it always have to be all the useful-sounding panels like "The Five Things Writers Need to Figure Out Before Starting Their Novels" or "The Art of the Ending"..?  I swear, it's as though whiskey-drinking poets made the whole schedule to suit themselves and their own lie-abed ways.  

But I made it to plenty of events, even if I did have to sit on the floor for at least half of them.  Fiction seemed somewhat underrepresented at this conference --- although I guess since fiction dominates poetry pretty much all the rest of the time in every other way imaginable, it's hard to get too miffed about this --- and most of the craft-based fiction panels were slotted into small rooms and were packed.  Then again, there were 11,000 people at this conference, counting everyone staffing the Bookfair.

Even if only, say, 10,000 of those were writers, that's a lot of writers in one place.  It was kind of surreal.  Maybe just being around so many people was what was making me so tired.  I'm still tired.  Losing that extra hour of sleep didn't help either.

I did run into old friends and new, including some folks from Yaddo, and some people I was very happy to meet in person after knowing them a little online.  (In one case, my yellow boots led to a hello!)  But there were just as many people I was hoping to meet or run into, whose paths simply never crossed with mine. I really hadn't grasped the scale of AWP before going.

And I'm not sure how much I really got out of the panels I attended, although there were a few that inspired me to take a few notes and it might take a few days before things start to turn over in my mind.  I'll give it some time.  

In and around the conference, we did have a really nice time seeing my husband's sister and family, who were wonderful hosts, as always, and who maintain one of the most beautifully and inspirationally organized households I've ever visited.  I'm a fairly organized person, but this is rarely outwardly evident by visiting my apartment or seeing my desk at I always like take some mental notes on these things.  I also came away from the amazing Brookline Booksmith with a ton of books I've been wanting to read, pretty much all of which happened to be on sale.  Between my sister-in-law's discount card and the Fleet Foxes playing while I shopped, it was kind of an ideal shopping experience.  I think I've bought more books in the past three months than I've bought in the last three years put together.  Reading is bringing me a lot of joy these days.  It always has, but maybe there is something about not being embroiled in revising one's own novel that makes everything more delicious.

March 6, 2013

Boston bound!

I should already be on the road to Boston right now, but we're running a little late.  Just late enough to squeeze in a blog post!  We're going to visit family and attend the AWP Conference, which I only just heard about for the first time this year and I'm excited it happened to be in Boston, where we can go and check it out.  The AWP is the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, an American organization, and the conference is three full days of writing-related panels.  It's actually staggering to me how many panels there are.  The United States is a big place with a lot of writers!

Yesterday, I had the privilege of going to CBC to tape a radio interview about Bone and Bread.  I won't name the show (just in case everything I said was terrible and ultimately unusable!), but in spite of my qualms, it was a really special experience to have a conversation with someone who is a generous and thoughtful reader.  I hope and expect to write more books, but there are no guarantees in life (sorry, blogging seems to draw out every profound platitude I've ever heard), and I want to remember these opportunities for the gifts that they really are.

Projected logo on the floor of the mothership, I mean, the CBC

Being interesting and charming on command, though....oooof.  I have more to say about this, I think...the difficulty of trying to be eloquent (or let's face it, coherent) when talking about one's one work...but I think all I can say right now is that I wish it came easier to me.  I know lots of writers who are wonderful storytellers in person as well as on paper, but I am afraid I am not one of them.  I need preparation and practice, always. 

The weekend was mostly quiet, except for the reading I gave at Nuit Blanche (which was short, but I think went well, in spite of my cold and general exhaustion).  I also finished my first hat (third project), which was the major triumph of the weekend. 

I finished my first hat! The pattern is Rosebud by Jared Flood.

Okay, departure is now imminent.  My bag is packed. I'm ready to go.  Boston, here we come!  If you're going to be at the AWP Conference, let me know which are the not-to-be-missed panels, or come and say hi if you see me.  I only know a couple of writers in the U.S. of A.

I'll be the girl in the yellow boots.

March 2, 2013

Bright lights, Nuit Blanche

I had a great writing morning today.  I brought my laptop into bed with me and sat propped up in bed and wrote for two hours.  Then I had some food and came back and kept going for another two and a half, with minimal interruptions. (My husband, bless him, made breakfast and even let me out of the cleanup.  And the breakfast included bacon.) 

Part of my amazing productivity (by my standards, since I'm a rather slow writer) is probably due to the fact that right now I'm writing something fun.  I don't want to jinx it by talking about it too much, but it's a YA project I've had planned forever, right down to most of the nitty-gritty details, and whenever I work on it now it just seems to flow out into the keyboard.  I'm pretty much rolling with what I wrote the other day about easy reads and following it through with some easy writes.  Right now, anyway, it's working, and that's enough.

Today is a good day to have a good writing day because tonight I am giving a reading at Nuit Blanche as part of this event in conjunction with Maisonneuve Magazine, and it's always nice to feel confirmed in one's writerly sense of identity before doing things like this.  Although it might be a bad thing, too, since good writing days can also result in me feeling extremely socially challenged -- like I've stepped out of a different gravity and everything I say goes unheard or misunderstood and I feel like there's a piece of glass between me and everyone else who is actually normal and doesn't spend half of their time making make-up people walk and talk.  Oh well. I guess I'll find out!

Nuit Blanche is also known as Montréal en Lumière, which is probably partially why this Cult Montreal listing calls us "some of the local literary scene's brightest lights," but it is nonetheless a thrilling designation.  I'm really looking forward to hearing the other readers and hoping my cold doesn't wipe me out too early tonight.