Friday, July 17, 2015

This Means Something

The Saskatchewan Festival of Words is happening in Moose Jaw right now. It's a four day literary festival - think readings, interviews, panel discussions, workshops, a slam poetry contest, shows (music and theatre) and anything else that you can possibly imagine a bunch of writers and poets and word nerds doing when they're scraped together from all the corners of Canada and plunked down in a small town for a weekend.

Last night, there was this thing called a - ready for this? - Readception (When I told Barclay about it, he said, "Sounds fun. Is it before or after the Novel Tea?"). There was cheesecake, first of all, and there were also six authors who each had three minutes to read a small portion of one of their books and say a few words. I've been to this event before, two years ago, but that time it was very different. Not, actually, because it was different, but because I was different. Or, I was in a different place.

Life-wise, I mean.

I was pregnant, first of all. I was just starting to tell people. I was anticipating motherhood. I was crib shopping and asking my sister-in-law grossly personal questions about labour and child birth and epidurals. I was excited about it, overwhelmingly excited, and I saw everything in life through the lens of this new beginning.

And this time, last night, two years later, I was on the verge of another new thing. A very different kind of new thing. I'd written a book, a whole novel. With people in it, and some metaphors, and a plot (It might not be any good at all, but the point here is that I did it). I was just starting to admit it to people. I was anticipating this life-long dream I had coming true. I feel like some people might think it crass to compare the upcoming birth of a baby with a silly little hobby, and I know they're not the same thing, but, also, YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW. Or maybe you do. But, like I've said probably a million times before on this blog, this is just something I've always, always wanted to do.


Last time, I'd watched with a passive kind of interest as the authors took the stage and shared their words. There were one or two that I loved, but I was a tough audience. I enjoyed the evening immensely, but was okay with the program being short and sweet.

This time though, as each author was announced I was on the edge of my seat like I was reading a thriller. As the lists were read of the books that they had written and the magazines they'd contributed to and the other various and interesting ways that they used their skills, I leaned in. As they walked toward the stage with the confident, comfortable air of people eager to share their words, proud of their work but not arrogant about it, I found myself wanting to go up there too.

Which is weird and crazy, because I can't think of anything more terrifying than reading my very own, very personal words to a room full of literary snobs. But still, I thought to myself: wouldn't it be cool? To be one of those authors up there? Reading from my book?

I was, as they say, inspired. The kind of inspired that makes you feel like your legs are made of straw and your stomach is full of helium. It's not very comfortable, but it's also quite nice. I love hate it.

We'd been given raffle tickets as we entered the room. The last little event of the night was the draw for a door prize. I, full of inspiration and daydreams and naivety, held my ticket with both hands and thought to myself, rather dramatically, If I win this, it means something. Because I'm five. I quickly laughed the thought off. I know, I know, that that's not how life works. But my brain just gets so caught up in these things sometimes. And I feel like it's probably okay to let your imagination run around in the confines of your own head sometimes. Right?

So, anyway, the lady read the numbers off, and I mouthed them right along with her. "Nine," we said. "One, Four." We took a breath and paused for dramatic effect. "Three, eight, seven."

And then I said, right out loud, startling Hannah, who sat in the chair to the left of me, I said, "WHAT!?"

I know it didn't mean anything, but still. I stood up, and I walked to the front of the room. In front of everybody. Just like the six legitimate authors had done before me. For a very short minute, I pretended that I was one of them and that I was going to stand behind the podium and say, "Hi, guys. It's so great to be here. I'm going to be reading a small chunk out of my first novel, Violent V. I, uh, I really hope you like it."

It felt like I floated to the front of the room, but it was probably much more awkward than that. I am not a graceful human being. I headed straight for the podium, and at the last possible second, I turned to the man standing there and accepted my big blue gift bag. I bet he was thinking, Wow. I've never seen someone so excited to get a frisbee that says SaskPower on it.

What can I say? It's very nice, durable plastic.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Interesting Things

Can you tell I had so much to do and now, suddenly, have nothing to do at all?

Well. I shouldn't say "at all". There is, actually, plenty I could do. But Sullivan is asleep, and I am trying to be quiet. And normally this time of day I'd been sitting here doing a little research into Bolivia or naming imaginary people or trying to figure out how to make a certain character disappear into thin air in a way that is interesting and mysterious and traumatic and, also, noble.

So today, it really does feel like I have nothing to do at all and here I am. Talking your face off. I'm going to tell you all sorts of interesting things, (but mostly just things) about myself and my life as of late. You look curious.

First of all, I've wrecked my foot. Last Wednesday, I was walking out of my house and off of the step and suddenly I was over there on the ground saying, for lack of better words, "Nope! Nope! Nope!" I'm sure it's just sprained, but a week later it still hurts day and night and is a beautiful shade of bright purple-y blue. I can walk on it though, so that's good.


Yesterday, when I was walking on it, I stepped on a piece of glass. There was blood and more pain, and if I had not been able to walk, that wouldn't have happened, so I don't know.

You must think I'm very careless. I am.

What else?

Oh yes, one morning before work, I asked Barclay to cut my hair. He said no. He said, "I have to leave in ten minutes." I said that that was a valid point.

And then a week later, at about the same time, I asked him to cut my hair again. He said no, and I said, "But please? I just want it gone. It'll only take a minute."

So he did. He cut off 18 inches and then, guess what? I fainted. Right into his arms. I don't know why. It was weird.

So that's me in a nutshell. Hair cuts, foot cuts, etc. What a fine life we are livin.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Waiting Mode

My coffee tastes so good this morning.

I don't get it. It's the same beans as usual, same Bodum, same water...must be something extraneous. Maybe its me: my taste buds or my attitude. Maybe it's the cup I'm drinking it out of. Maybe it's the weather forecast or the music I'm listening to.

There sure is a lot that goes into enjoying something.

I feel jittery today. My chest feels like it's full of birds, all flapping around, trying to get out. It is not because of the coffee.

(Though, the coffee sure isn't helping.)

It's because yesterday I sent the first draft of my book off to three people for them to read. Their job is to tell me if it sucks or not. I chose the people very carefully, two librarian friends and a writer friend, and am, like, super, super nervous about it.

(By the way: thank you to everyone who offered to edit for me; you are all amazing. That's a lot of work to offer to do for someone. I will probably email a few of you when second draft time rolls around, but probably not all of you because there were roughly thirty of you who offered, either here or in emails or in real life and I still want to have people left who have not read it when I finish it. But you should know that you offering was pretty dang encouraging and made me really happy, so thank you.)

Anyway. I'm in waiting mode now. I feel ill, I feel excited, I have that song from Mary Poppins about feeding the birds stuck in my head, I have imaginary wings rearranging my internal organs... I am, in short, a wreck.

But also, I'm having so much fun. 

Friday, July 03, 2015

What I've Been Up To

So, I'm writing a book.

Yikes, did I just say that out loud? Can we treat this like that time I cut my own hair and told you about it here but asked you not to mention it to me the next time you saw me in real life? I don't really want to talk about it. But I also don't want to pretend it's not a thing that I'm doing. Because it's a thing that I'm doing.

In fact,  it's so much a thing that I'm doing that I'm almost done doing it. I finished my first draft, beginning, middle, end, on Tuesday, and now I'm editing it. (Editing is hard! I might die!)

It's what I've been up to on Wednesday mornings at the Bean and every single day during nap time. I put Sullivan in his crib, hole up in my bedroom with a coffee and chocolate and Cloud Boat, and write like there's no tomorrow (because what if?). Some days I write so much that my laptop starts smoking! Just kidding, but almost not.

It's this thing I've always, always wanted to do. And, I mean, I've sort of written books before. Like, in elementary school. They were all probably five to ten pages long, but when you're a little kid that's pretty long. When I was in grade one, for example, I wrote a book about a sad girl who had no friends because the girls she knew were all glittery (I don't know) and she wasn't and it ended with her trying to cover herself in glitter and all the glitter falling off and her sitting on the swing set alone watching all the glittery people play together without her. When I was in grade two, I wrote a book about a sad girl who had no friends because she had to change schools and everyone at her new school already had friends. When I was in grade three, I wrote a book about a sad girl who ran away from home because, you guessed it, she had no friends. (Which doesn't make a lot of sense, I guess. I wasn't too concerned about plot holes back then. I just wanted everyone to be sad and lonely and everything to be dramatic and what is more dramatic than running away from home?)

Guess what this book I'm writing now is about? Yep. A sad girl. What is the deal with me, guys? Sadness is just so beautiful. I don't know.

Anyway. It's this thing I've always wanted to do. So, following my short career as a single-minded (unpublished) child author and a twenty year hiatus, I just...starting doing it, I guess.

Actually, no, I owe it to a friend, who probably doesn't want me linking to her sweet blog because she's all secretive and mysterious about her online persona. (Which is fair but too bad because I think you'd really love it.) A few months ago, I hung out with her for the very first time (we had a whole bunch of mutual friends), and I asked her what she liked to do and she said she was writing a book. I was awe-struck. I said, almost exactly, "What! Lucky! Fun! Jealous!"

Because I have a way with words. An important attribute in an author.

She was instantly my hero. Writing a book. Man. I almost clapped for her. It was like if I'd grown up wanting to be an astronaut and then I hung out with someone and they were like, "Yeah, I take bi-weekly trips to the moon for kicks."

I asked her a bunch of questions about her book's genre and plot and characters and how she got started and where it was going to go and who it was for and all that, and I told her how much I'd always wanted to write a book. I said it like I was an old woman who had exactly sixty minutes left to live. Like, "Oh, man, I've always wanted to write a book. I wish I had just done it, you know? And now it's too late, because I've only got sixty minutes left to live and the most I could write in sixty minutes is a blog post."

And then she said, "Well, why don't you write a book?" Because, obviously, I had more than sixty minutes left to live. I know it for a fact, because it's been more than sixty minutes since we had that conversation.

And I looked at her and said, "Well, uh, because..." And I couldn't think of any reason not to. So I went home and started writing a book, and now here I am, editing it.

It's been so much fun. If you've always wanted to write a book, you should just start doing it now. And you should find friends who also are writing books and help them and let them help you back.

I have two writing buddies, and I love them and would not have probably written even five to ten pages without them. (Hey guys. My life would suck without you.)

The other night after I'd written the final sentence of the final chapter, I sent my first draft to Writing Buddy Sarah, who lives in New York (where a large chunk of my book takes place, because of course it does don't be ridiculous), and she rode the train into Manhattan at night and sat in a park and read the whole thing from front to back. It was the coolest; it made me so happy. Even if no publisher or literary agency wants me, at least I can say I have written a book and someone has read it right where it takes place. And she 'got it' and liked it, which was such a bonus that it made me cry.

It might seem silly to a lot of people, but it was a big deal to me. (Thanks again, Sarah.)

And, like I said, now: editing. And then we'll see. I'll probably need one or two more people to read it and tell me if it's awful, and then maybe I'll look for a literary agent (know anybody?) which is strange and exciting. I have very low expectations, and am naturally very pessimistic about the whole thing. But I just want to try. Because sometimes trying is the fun part, and having tried is such a great feeling. Much better than having wished but not tried. I said to Sarah, or Mystery Friend, or both of them, that my goal was, ultimately, to write a book I liked. If someone else liked it, even cooler. And if it got published, that's just beyond anything I'd expect or hope for.

So, already, I'm 'there'. I'm where I wanted to be in the first place and I've still got some energy to expend. I figure now I'll just go as far as I can from here, and then when I feel like I've given it all the time and energy it deserves, I'll step back and see what I've got and hold my hands out in front of me and say, "That's that!"

And then I'll go do something else, or maybe this again! Isn't life nice?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

{ten years}

It has now been, officially but not to the exact day, ten years since I graduated high school.

This is pretty weird for me. I'm not an old person. I'm basically a baby. But when I was in high school, people who were ten years older than me were old people. Like, elderly, antique, crotchety, go-to-bed-at-six-thirty-type old. It can't be! It's not logical! It's bad math!

Somehow, though, it's been ten years and I'm young still. Maybe it's just good ol' magic.

I don't think there'll be a reunion. I mean, that most likely would've been sorted out by now. And anyway, Facebook has kind of ruined the allure of the ten year reunion, hasn't it? I know where most of my classmates are and what they're doing and what they look like now. It's not like those cheesy nineties movies where the goal is to go back and impress all your former classmates with how much you've changed and accomplished but also how young and fun you still are. You can do all of that on Facebook, and it's much more effective anyway because it's way easier to be impressive in a little square picture on the internet than in awkward conversation over a punch bowl in a florescent-lit gymnasium.

In any case, the realization and recognition of the tenth anniversary of my escape from the pit of drudgery and awfully awful awfulness that was "high school" has produced in me a sort of non-nostalgia that is neither fond nor wistful. A feeling of extreme thankfulness not to be "young again".

People used to tell me, "You're going to look back on this as the best time of your life." I wish I could go back to that time of my life just to tell them (and myself) that they were wrong, thank goodness. And then I'd zip back to the future so fast that they'd get time-travel gravel all up in their eyes. And I'd just laugh.

Anyway. Anyway, anyway, anyway.

I meant to say that this non-nostalgia did prompt me to pull out the old high school yearbook, which has actually been doubling as a shelf in my office and hasn't been flipped through in a very long time. So I, you know, flipped through it. That picture up top is my whole, huge grad class, minus somebody. Because there are sixteen kids in that picture and seventeen in my grad class. I'll have to scroll up and figure out who it is...

Who the heck...?

Oh right. No. I know. One guy left for a while to play hockey, but came back for grad. So he didn't get to be in the official Class Picture, which ended up in the back cover of that year's yearbook. He really missed out.

I was, obviously, really excited about that picture. Can you find me? Second row, messy hair. The guy behind me in the toque, Micah, was one of my besties all through my school years. Doesn't he just look like such an absolute peach? The two guys hiding in the centre back were both named Matt. The guy making the peace signs used to bring his cat, Kiki, to math class under his shirt and make mazes for it out of text books so that it could walk around without being seen. The math teacher always thought he was making the cat up because he never saw it and would yell at him for meowing in class. (I feel like I've told you all this before. Stop me if I have.)

I'm not in any of the sports pages in the yearbook.

Actually, no. That's not completely true. I'm in three of the four pictures on the Sr. Badminton page, which is more than any of the people who actually played badminton. Because, for some reason, I was standing behind the badminton teams while they were getting their pictures taken for the Sr. Badminton page. Maybe, subconsciously, appearing somewhere in the sports section was really important to me? Too bad if it's true, because sports + me = 0.

Then there's this gem, from my actual grad day. I really love the fact that they put Cody way out front so it looks like Matt is sitting on his shoulder. I also love how happy Micah and I look to be graduating, how we're the only ones not smiling even though we were probably more excited than anyone else in this picture to be done high school. I wonder where he is now. He's one of the ones I've lost track of. It's weird how that goes, isn't it?

I should've worn a white dress. The girls who wore white look like angels in this picture. My dress was blue.

Things I remember from this day: 

1. there were a lot of mosquitos
2. I didn't have any shoes to wear with my dress so I didn't wear shoes at all
3. our grad song was Swing Life Away by Rise Against and our 'inspirational grad quote' was, ahem: "Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." (I hope you pictured me saying that in a very breathy, airy, inspirational voice with my eyes half closed while stroking my chin.)
4. lots of other things. (Vague-blogging is very en vogue these days.Vogue vague. It just wasn't the best day of my life, and I remember that about it the most and I always say to people how much I hated that day, so I almost feel like I shouldn't not write it too. You know, in the interest of being honest but not baring my soul to the whole internet. And it's not as though you have to say why a day sucked every time you say that a day sucked, do you? Is this awkward? I feel like this is awkward.) 

Other notable appearances in the yearbook include me in a locker with a caption about skipping class, me holding my friend's foot in the air for no good reason I can see, and me giving a different friend bunny ears. These are, apparently, things I did when I was seventeen.

It really is funny. A few weeks ago I was home and my mom mentioned something that had happened in high school that had really upset me then. I didn't remember that particular incident until she said it, and even then I kind of remembered it the way you remember something that happened in a movie or a dream. To someone else.

Ten years is a lot of distance. I'm glad for that. I like that I'm forgetting things. I'm okay to remember high school in a kind of abstract way, a funny story about this person and a weird quirk that that person had. A trip we took to another town, a night spent stargazing on the roof of my car, the play I was in. Me in a locker and holding a foot and giving bunny ears and not playing badminton and the Pink Floyd lyrics scrawled in the back of my yearbook by the guy who sat behind me on the school bus.

"Shine on, you crazy diamond."