October 18, 2013

garden of delights

So I'm all packed and waiting to go to the airport for my British Columbia Literary Festival Adventure. Trying to pack enough clothes for 10 days, including four events and four parties, and all the sundry T-shirts that I can never seem to go anywhere without was a major challenge. I also wanted to bring books by all my favourite authors I hope to meet in order to get them signed (Lisa Moore! Annabel Lyon!  Did I mention that I am reading with Annabel Lyon?!), but I had to cap the list at 6. It doesn't help that a lot of them are hardcover.  

Anyway, here are the promised photos from the Jardins Botaniques a few weeks back. It was an unbelievably warm day for September. 

Giant flower!

Giant gardener!

I took so many pictures of this amazing bird tree, which was stunning from every side. If you look at the people on the other side of the water, you can get an idea of the scale. 

The Montreal bird tree

Ghostly horses

Spirits of the forest

The next installation was my favourite (even topping the bird tree), though the crowds and the light and her sheer size made it hard to get a great photo.

In her other outstretched palm, she had deer coming out!

Me and a real garden sprite

With any luck my next post will be from the West Coast!

October 16, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone had a wonderful long weekend full of yummy food, friends, family, and relaxation --- or at least one of the above!
This year's Thanksgiving was a musical one. I sang in a beautiful concert on the top of Mount Royal with the McGill Choral Society Chamber Choir. It was the same material we sang in June at Loyola (in preparation for this concert), and it was an incredible place to perform. It was a huge audience and more and more people wandered in and stayed until the end. It was also an unbelievably beautiful sunny day -- I was walking around outside in short sleeves afterwards!

 Waiting to sing.

The night before, my stepdaughter and I baked two desserts for Thanksgiving dinner: a devil’s food chocolate cake with maple icing and a pumpkin layer cheesecake.

 The fruits of our labour!

Halloween came early for my co-baker

We headed out to the Townships right after the concert, where family had kindly waited on supper for us (and delayed Thanksgiving until Monday). It was a brief trip, but I managed to  squeeze in a walk and even a few rows of knitting with my morning coffee.

We also walked some paths I'd never been on before.

A new path beckons

A mother bear with three cubs has been spotted a few times around the area, so we tried to remember to make noise.

 D. walking with a big stick

The ground beneath our feet

Ce pont n'est pas...

 ...a metaphor

We missed the peak of the fall colours, but there were still a few leaves clinging to the trees.

 Leaf-blanketed road

As always, the fallen leaves made for some irresistible piles.
 Mandatory frolicking

And I'd show you a picture of the turkey, but it got eaten too quickly!

One of the surprise highlights of the weekend was turning on my computer Monday night after 11 p.m. to check on something, and somehow, without planning to, starting work on a new story that had been percolating for a few days.  Sometimes 400 words take forever and sometimes they spill right out. Another thing I'm feeling grateful for this week.

October 7, 2013

20 hours in Kingston

I think I left off of my trip recounting right around when I was running to catch the train to Kingston.  I made it in the nick of time, settled into a double seat by myself, ordered a coffee and ate the rest of my yummy mushroom risotto that I'd been too nervous to eat before my library event.  Then I read (and finished!) Skim on the way there and loved it so much. I wish I'd read it years ago!  

My train was almost an hour late, which meant getting to the hotel only around 9 p.m. --- too late to catch the event I'd hoped to see and too late to try to go to dinner. Instead I headed to the hospitality suite, which I was happy to find was very hospitable indeed: lots of yummy food and welcoming writers, including Lauren B. Davis, Marcello Di Cintio, and Corey Redekop (click through read about their own festival experiences!).   Before I turned in for the night, I also got to meet Shelagh Rogers in person! And as I wrote on Facebook (pretty much immediately) afterwards, any day with two hugs from Shelagh Rogers is basically awesome.

A welcoming flag at the hotel

Before my event the next day, I was able to catch the "You Are What You Read" session between Alberto Manguel and David Mason. It was hands down one of the very best (or maybe just most enjoyable?) events I have ever been to at a writers festival. Maybe because it was a discussion between two fanatical book lovers and collectors (David Mason is a writer as well as a preeminent rare book dealer), it got more to the heart of what I care about than the usual discussions about writing. For one it made me feel better about my own (problematically large number of) books, as well as my sentimental attachment to them and my desire to shelve them in idiosyncratic and biographical ways. And my inability to get rid of any of them, even the ones I dislike.

Alberto Manguel talked about how he now seems to interpret the world through the lens of Alice in Wonderland --- a situation to which I keenly relate. David Mason also told the story of a family that required all of their houseguests to read The Wind in the Willows when they came to stay. He said that it wasn't a matter of what they would think of the book...but of how the book would judge them. (I love this idea.) And this was just a small sample of the kind of conversation between these passionate book lovers. 

Look who's on the poster!
 (Clearly it pays to have a good photo...)

My event with Wayne Grady on Saturday afternoon was well attended and it was nice to hear the opening of Emancipation Day in his voice. For one thing, he made it funnier in his reading than I'd gathered just from the page. 

The audience was very warm, and the questions were interesting. The very first gentleman who stood up, though, seemed to have a question about why the "races" included in the event were non-white ones...but it was hard to tell what he was really asking as everyone immediately went to cut him off. I was interested in responding (or at least finding out what it was that he was going to say), but I wasn't given the opportunity. The general feeling in the room was one of alarm and expected offence, and although it is certainly possible that he was about to steer the conversation into terrible waters, I didn't actually get that sense from him. Oh well. 

After the event, I was lucky enough to meet my author patrons (two representatives from a Montreal firm who had contributed to the festival by sponsoring an author.) They were two lovely gentlemen, and I hope I can get a hold of the photos we took and post them here with everyone's permission. Even before we were introduced, I had noticed them in the audience -- giving me good vibes! I am always looking for friendly faces in a listening crowd and it is so much appreciated when I find some.

One of my favourite things at the festival was the Poem of the Day provided by my former Freehand-mate and Writersfest Writer-in-Residence Jeanette Lynes. Here's one from Sunday. I snapped a pic after my event and book signing when I ran out to spend an hour on Princess St. before catching the train home. 

Fresh poetry from Jeanette Lynes

Kingston: short but sweet and very fun! Next up, Victoria and Vancouver!

October 4, 2013

Friday and what I crave

This week has gone by so quickly I can scarcely believe it’s Friday already.

I’m craving two things simultaneously: 

  • A relaxing weekend in my sweatpants, spending quality time with my knitting and with the PVR and everything that’s been taping over the past month.
  • Some time to work on the new novel, which lately, does not seem at all horrible and for which I have had a few interesting new ideas. I have an admittedly completely unrealistic fantasy of finishing it within a year, which really could happen if I just managed to spend some time working on it every day.  NB: this kind of self-delusion is the kind of propulsion necessary to produce a novel.

I’ve been feeling that change-of-season sense of creativity, of possibility. I want to listen to new music, read new authors, make something, do something.  But first…a nap. As soon as I get home please.

Oh! And last Sunday we finally made it out to the last day of Mosaicultures, an incredible exhibit on at the Botanical Gardens of Montreal. If you haven’t been yet, you should go…and I can say this now because they have extended it by a week! It’s on until this Sunday. Here's a photo before my phone died....I'll share some more when I get the photos off of my husband's phone. This was one of the smaller installations -- some were truly amazing.

October 1, 2013

24 hours in Toronto

I'm becoming an expert on the 24-hour trip to Toronto. Top tips: take taxis, wear flat shoes, and call ahead to place your lunch/dinner orders if eating out. This will all save time and stress and let you squeeze the most out of every minute. 

This trip was less crazy than my book launch trip to TO, but it still went by in a whirl. I flew in via Porter at 8 p.m. after a full day of work, got to the hotel a little before 9 p.m., then ordered supper up to my room and started revisiting the notes I'd made for my library talk.

The next morning, I stopped by the House of Anansi offices (always a treat!) and met the new fiction editor at Anansi (a lovely woman who offered me free books...which, given the overflowing state of my apartment, is not unlike offering crack to an addict), left gleeful with a copy of Skim and Hellgoing, the new Lynn Coady (yay yay yay), had a lovely lunch with L, my new publicist, and headed to the Deer Park branch of the Toronto Public Library.

I was nervous that I wouldn't have enough to say...and also nervous that I had too much to say, or that what I'd planned to talk about would be boring (I think readers and writers often have different concerns and preoccupations when it comes to books), but everyone who attended was lovely and made me feel very welcome. Many of them had already read Bone & Bread and had interesting comments and questions.

I was very excited to meet one of them in particular: Catherine Bush's mom! I gushed here previously about getting to meet Catherine at Eden Mills, and I was so happy she asked her lovely mother to stop by and say hello.  (Her mom even rescued me before the reading by helping me locate a key to this very puzzling washroom.)

I usually get uptight about following the directives of signs, 
but this one I was quite happy to ignore completely.

L. suggested we take a picture -- I'd been too shy 
to ask Catherine for a photo together!

Then I had a fantastic though somewhat rushed visit to the brand new David Bowie exhibit at the AGO (so many amazing things to see and hear...and pretty much all the memorabilia you could imagine). I could easily have spent more than twice as long. 

A shot from outside as there was no photography allowed inside the exhibit.

Toronto looking pretty.

When I finally got to the train station (I literally ran from the cab to the gate), everyone was already boarding. But I made it!