June 19, 2013

Winnipeg moments

I feel like there’s more to write about than this Winnipeg trip, but what I want to write about is less of any actual thing and more about that expectant, spring-y feeling of possibility that seems to be in the air right now…in spite of Montreal’s continuing iffy weather.  Maybe I just feel that way because I’ve come to the end of a long string of public writerly responsibilities (which are really wonderful to have, but which weigh on me heavily), and I feel like I might be able to get back to some happy medium of actual writing and seeing friends, neither of which seems to have happened very much in weeks and weeks.  In other words: hurray!  It truly does feel like school is out, and me with it.  Maybe that’s really all there is to say about it, so… done!

This past weekend, I went to Winnipeg to give a reading at McNally Robinson as part of the Thin Air Winnipeg International Writers’ Festival. I view this trip as a landmark in that it is probably the first trip in my entire life where I did not overly stress out about packing for it in advance.  (Yes, it’s only a weekend trip, but that hasn’t stopped me from insane packing stress in the past.)  I spent almost no time packing and my suitcase was even really light (especially for me)….until this happened:

A fundraising book sale for the Thin Air festival...can't beat those prices!

My friend K enabling me.  Her hubby A. carried their adorable baby 
while my books got wheeled over to the hotel.

I know my husband and I need to go through and prune our collection…and I know we just paid a back-breaking sum to clean the ones we have, but I couldn’t help myself.  This was actually the restrained pile because as I was browsing I noticed a bunch of books (mostly CanLit) that I’ve purchased over the years and STILL haven’t read.  With my selections this time I tried to take into consideration a) what I will actually read  and b) what is not likely to be available at the university library (hence the inclusion of more than a few mysteries/thrillers/YA books).  Unfortunately, 
I was so excited about my purchases that I actually managed a faux-pas of plugging the used book sale while at the bookstore for my reading (doh!!)  But in my experience, book lovers aren't deterred from buying new books by the prospect of buying used books at some point later, so I hope no harm was done.

Thanks to some very accommodating friends, I was able to pre-schedule seven separate hang-outs over the course of the weekend, along with the planned bookstore reading. I saw new babies, new houses, and shared a cup of bacon.  I had the most delicious homemade brunch in St-Boniface, a wonderful salad at Prairie Ink, and gin and tonics in Wolseley.  I dished with poets, fiction writers, graphic novelists, and above all, loved all the low-key hanging out and catching up with friends. I miss you, Winnipeggers!  So nice to see you all. 
The reading itself went well, I think, and at least was not entirely populated by people I know.  Most importantly, there were people there (never a guarantee!).  Thank you so much to everyone who showed up!!

Check out this amazing display!!! McNally Robinson is the best.

Me and the indefatigable G.M.B. Chomichuk, just before the reading.

Before the reading, I had a nice dinner and chat with fellow Banff alumnus and brilliant novelist (and reviewer, as previously blogged hereJoan Thomas, whom I'm sorry I didn't get a picture with because she was looking lovely and so summery.  On the other hand, it gives me an excuse to post this photo instead, from a few years back, that I don't think I ever blogged:

Hanging out in the Rideau Hall bathrooms
 at the Governor General's Literary Awards (2009?) 

The few parts I’ve been reading from Bone and Bread at different events didn’t seem to be quite long enough for the time I needed to fill, so I decided to read a section that I haven't read aloud in ages.

I last read it at the QWF mentorship reading many moons ago, and I remember hearing my voice high, tight, and probably near-hysterical sounding.  Definitely my worst reading ever.   For some reason, the section felt so strange and raw and interior, and I could sense it wasn’t connecting with anyone in the audience.  
I think it’s possible the readings or some selections of them were being recorded for broadcast on the radio (and this might have contributed to some extra nervousness), but I’m sure they wouldn’t have used mine.                     

So I was happy I decided (at the very last minute…while standing at the podium!) to read that part and kind of own it, for lack of a better term.  It might not have been the most brilliant delivery in the world, but it wasn't awful, which was the previous baseline.  I don’t think the passage has changed at all (if so, only very slightly) in the intervening years, but I’ve changed, and the way I was able to read it in front of an audience has changed, and that makes me really happy.  

The next three photos below all courtesy of my friend Greg Chomichuk (you can follow him on Instagram here):

 Me in conversation with the lovely Charlene Diehl
the warm heart at the centre of Thin Air

 Signing stock at McNally Robinson

After the reading, I went out with some friends, most of whom used to be part of a writing group I was in that grew out of a class with Dennis Cooley at the University of Manitoba.  At least four people from our class have now published books (some more than one), and I expect that list to grow in years to come. 

Writers group alumni! (Can Lit quiz: can you spot the 
experimental Canadian poet and critic?)

All in all, it was the perfect trip (including being bumped up to first class on the way in!!) except for a small hiccup in calling a cab to pick me up from the Neighbourhood Bookstore and Cafe, which was so neighbourhoody it didn't appear to have a street address! The guy who was working asked me to check my receipt and then ran outside to look, to no avail. And apparently if you only provide an intersection, the taxi company doesn't actually dispatch you a cab...although they don't tell you that until you call back fifteen minutes later after being eaten alive by mosquitos and getting anxious about missing your flight.  

Even the employee couldn't figure out where it was.

A la prochaine, Winnipeg!

June 7, 2013

The Walrus Summer Reading Issue

Have you gotten your copy of the new issue of the Walrus yet?

I’d already noted the gorgeous cover when people were tweeting about it online. (I've never outgrown my childhood love of infinite regress pictures either...or whatever they're called.)  And I was excited to find out who the six promising new Canadian writers were.

One of my remarkable husband’s remarkable poems is in here.

Well, it turns out I already know one of them --- my husband!  Exciting new Canadian writer Derek Webster. You might say I'm not the most objective reader in this case, but I think his poetry is amazing.

Get the new issue of the Walrus and check it out!

June 6, 2013

Epic Sunday and other randomness

On Sunday morning I had a photo shoot with Terry Byrnes, which felt like a rite of passage for a Quebec writer.  (If you're not familiar with his work, you can read a little about it here.) It was so nice to meet him at last, and I’m very curious to see the results!

On Sunday afternoon, we officially moved over to our new apartment (i.e. slept over there), even though things are in shambles and we’re still missing a lot of important everyday items (curtains, coffee maker...). But I'm ecstatic, anyway. 

Then, on Sunday night, I had such a fun talk with a book club in Toronto.  Sadly, the connection wasn’t good enough to sustain a Skype chat (though we got a brief glimpse of each other!), so we chatted on the phone.  Thanks so much to those generous readers for inviting me in!  I loved hearing their smart insights into the novel, as well as other books their club has enjoyed over the years (note to self: read Colum McCann).  If only the snacks could have beamed through the phone, too...

I view this as major progress, by the way, that a day with two such semi-public-writer engagements didn’t totally undermine half of my week with anxiety leading up to either one.

In other bookish news, I also recently recorded an excerpt of Bone & Bread for Cityline, which you can listen to on their website here.  It’s about five minutes of me reading from the first chapter.   


Last night I went to my first sewing class (led by the costume designer in my knitting group, mentioned before here).  I was more than a little afraid that I would be the worst one in the class (flashbacks of grade seven and grade eight home ec class!) and attending has done very little to allay those fears.  But I’m trying to hold on to some shred of misplaced confidence after sewing all those wedding banners last summer.  It is a little unfortunate, however, that accurate tracing and cutting in a straight line are among my two worst skills.

 Tracing my skirt-to-be

Other randomness:

Some pink corduroy pants I keep trying to get rid of somehow keep coming back into my life.  They’ve been given a leg up by the fire (they were in a bag in the car, and therefore smoke-free) and the unseasonably cold weather. Someone send me the strength to just stop wearing them.
I’ve been sleeping on a makeshift pillow composed of a pillowcase, a blanket, two sweatshirts, a zip-up fleece, and a towel.  I’ve finally smooshed it into exactly the right shape to be able to procrastinate on pillow purchasing for another week.
I’m desperate to sit down and read something, but these days are so busy it’s impossible to justify.  Even my lunch hour has its own list of errands.
I’ve been dreaming prolifically at our new apartment.  I’ve had more vivid dreams in the past four nights than I’ve had in as many months.