|at the Starlight on Tuesday, photo credit Zara Rafferty|
|photo credit Zara Rafferty|
No, I’m not a real surfer. But life feels a bit ocean-like these days, rolling, never steady. I spent yesterday in Toronto. It turned out that parking was easier to find than anticipated, so that bike never left the back of my vehicle. (Although parallel parking on Queen St. West at rush hour was an exciting opportunity to test my driving skills.)
Some fine moments from my day …
:: smiling at people passing on the sidewalk, some of whom seemed shocked to be making eye contact with a stranger
:: meeting another Snyder from Kitchener-Waterloo at Book City, and trying to piece together our geneological connection
:: eating Korean stew with my lovely little sister on Bloor street; and hanging out together, not in a rush at all
:: making an it’s-a-small-world connection with Daniel Griffin (who also read last night at Type)
:: mingling with the awesome crowd at Type Books before the reading, and putting faces to blog-names
:: being introduced by the lovely Kerry Clare
:: reading a story to a group of people who were really listening
:: getting teaching-creative-writing advice from Heather Birrell (who is a high school English teacher, and who also read last night)
:: finding all the dishes done when I got home
Some less-fine moments …
:: worrying about my dress
:: the chilly wind that swept Toronto all of yesterday
:: forgetting someone’s name during the book signing (AUGH! This happens virtually every time, and every time I curse my name-bank-blank-spot. This is how bad it is: I have literally blanked on the name of a family friend, known for twenty-five years, and seen on a regular basis. I don’t know how that’s even possible. And I hope it doesn’t indicate early onset dementia.)
But this is all to say: Life’s good. It’s messy and it’s good. It’s crazy and whirling and I couldn’t quite believe that I was up at 5am this morning for a spin/kettlebell class, and there’s dirt all over the basement, and I have a basket of laundry waiting to be hung, and no, I will never catch up on my emails — or, really, on anything at all, ever — but this is it. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything less. I love the doors open policy that brings five boys into my house on a Wednesday after school (and leaves behind sweaters not belonging to my kids; be sure to check our lost and found pile, parents). I love seeing my kids excited about moving dirt into new garden beds (yesterday’s major project, overseen by Kevin, bless him). I love lifting kettlebells over my head (is that too weird?). I love getting to read my stories out loud.
Keep the waves coming.
Just a quickie this morning, as I’m headed to the big city to do some work, meet my sister for coffee (I hope), sign some books, eat some supper, and read at Type, as it’s apparently affectionately referred to by those in the know. See poster for details. I’m also looking forward to the Q&A afterward with Kerry Clare.
I’m hoping to park somewhere relatively central and then bike around Toronto. Is that insane?? My bike fits in the back of our truck, and I’ve got a helmet and a good lock. Last time I went to Toronto, I ended up hiking all over and feeling very sweaty and late; I’m hoping that by cruising, even very slowly and cautiously, on my old junker of a bike, I will at least not be late. It looks like rain, however. Pray for me people.
Hope to see some friendly faces tonight.
(Last night’s event here in town was just lovely, met a ton of new people — lots of writers — and had some funny interactions with a slowly sinking microphone, which livened up my little set. And Heather B rolled with our family’s usual Tuesday afternoon chaos, bless her. And my soccer kids had great games, including a goal for the one who’s usually in net!)
Here’s a link to the review of Juliet in The Walrus, if you haven’t read it (and feel so inclined). I like how they call The Juliet Stories “Carrie Snyder’s new novel.” Which could be something we end up talking about tonight at the Short Story Shindig. What is this thing I’ve written anyway?
sending happy vibes
When I woke up this morning, I remembered my dream. It seemed ominous. I’d been dreaming about sleeping. As in, I was sleeping inside my dream. I think that might define tired.
We’ve entered May, which is a month more packed with events than usual. So let me begin this post by telling you about some of them, in case you’re interested in attending/listening in/sending happy vibes. (I was going to say “send advice,” but it strikes me that advice is not at all what I want. I want happy vibes. Please.)
May 3 (tomorrow): If you’re in Guelph, listen in to a live (gulp) interview I’ll be doing with Dan and Peter who host a show called “Books for Breakfast” on CFRU radio. You can stream it live, or listen to the podcast later. You can. I won’t. I cringe when I hear my own voice. It sounds so different inside my head. My instructions are to pour myself a cup of tea, have my book handy, and pick up the phone when it rings at 8:30am tomorrow. I’ve arranged for the kids to be out of the house a wee bit earlier than usual.
Also tomorrow, immediately after the interview, I’m off to represent the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival. I’ll be leading writing workshops for teens at an enrichment conference here in town. I’m going to call this day: The Day of New Experiences. Which is much better than its alternative and less motivational title: The Day of No Napping.
May 7 (Monday): Guelph, the ebar, 7-9pm! I’ll be reading with Andrew Hood, and doing a little Q&A afterward with Dan from The Bookshelf. Look for me at around 7:20, according to the schedule I’ve got. Any friends from Waterloo interested in coming? I’d love to carpool with someone.
May 15 (Tuesday): Indie Night at the Starlight in Waterloo! Doors open at 7. There will be nine authors, brisk and entertaining readings, and books for sale. Heather Birrell will be there with her new book Mad Hope, and fellow Anansi author, Robert Hough with his new book Dr. Brinkley’s Tower. And many more. Should be awesome.
May 16 (Wednesday): Short Story Shindig at Type Books in Toronto! 7-9pm. I’m reading with Heather Birrell and Daniel Griffin, and our host for the evening is the most awesome Kerry Clare (who writes the best book blog on the block, Pickle Me This).
May 27 (Sunday): reading at Wilfrid Laurier University. Details to come. Apparently Congress 2012, a gathering of some 7,000 academics, is coming to Waterloo, and WLU is putting on a literary salon to entertain those so inclined.
May 29 (Tuesday): Books and Brunch at A Different Drummer bookstore in Burlington. Starts at 9:30am. I’ll be reading with Jay Ingram and Dennis Lee.
Note to self: find a more efficient method of posting this information on blog.
Meanwhile, onward. I started today with a good run with a dear friend in early morning light that was nothing short of beautiful. Pink sky, fresh light, new day. That’s the good thing about not sleeping. Being awake in today.
Today I was here. Do you recognize this place? I took this photo in the atrium of the CBC building in downtown Toronto. I was at the CBC to record a “riff” for The Last Chapter, a book show that airs on CBC Radio. I have no idea when/if it will air. I’m glad it wasn’t live. To be honest with you, I can’t remember what the heck I actually said. I sat in my own little room with headphones on and answered questions into a microphone while a friendly producer smiled at me through the glass. I wondered, at one moment, whether she was giving me the sort of smile you’d give to a skittish horse or anxious child. As in, you’re doing great! No really, you are! No really! The whole interview tilted in a direction that was personal; but that’s that nature of the book that I wrote. I understand why readers are interested in those aspects of the book. I understand, but I’m not sure I’m qualified to talk about that part, at least not with any kind of objective perspective.
Here’s what I thought about after the interview. When I was writing the book, it felt like an entirely fictional creation. I couldn’t even think of it as having any relation to my actual childhood experiences. But now, when I’m asked to reflect on the personal connections, I can see the many links between my actual experiences and what turned up on the page. It’s complicated. And in writing about real experience, fictionalizing it, it’s become muddled. Even in my memory. So much of what happens in the book — the stuff of plot — didn’t happen. But then, so many little details were things I actually experienced. The wind through open car windows, driving through a cloud that had come down to the ground, playing on the flat roof of our house, bomb shelters at the school and just down our street, listening to grownups play and sing beautiful music, the sound of the ocean at night, and on and on.
My brothers had the chicken pox, and I didn’t. We moved around the city, much like the Friesens do. We attended the same schools.
Yet when I was writing it, I didn’t see my own family in these places and circumstances, I saw the Friesens. I didn’t want to write about my own family, and my own circumstances. That’s why I invented the characters. But I see how wound together the real and the invented became in the telling. I think it may have been wiser to say, as Alice Munro would have, that I made everything up. I did. But not from scratch. Maybe it was like making bread from a sourdough starter. The bubbling beginnings were there.
Anyway, that’s what I “riffed” about, though I suspect much less coherently, in a studio in Toronto today. And they recorded it. And who knows what they’ll take out of it. Ever feel like you’re swimming further from shore than you meant to go? I felt that way today.
I had another physio appointment this morning. It’s hard work retraining these muscles. My physio says she expects it to take another four weeks of work (and that means daily exercising at home too) before I can run without pain. And only when I’m running without pain will she begin to address some of the more technical problems with my stride. I’m grateful to be running again, if only for 20 to 30 slow-paced minutes a couple of times a week; but I’m frustrated by not being able to push harder, to run faster, to challenge myself at the pace and speed and distance that I could just a few months ago.
So I feel in between. Very much in between. In a kind of quiet zone I’d never planned to visit let alone linger in.
It occurred to me this morning that I’m in a similar place with my writing. Last year I worked so hard on the specific project of Juliet. In parallel, I worked so hard to become a long distance runner and triathlete. I achieved both goals. And then I fell into this in between zone. And I’m lingering. And I’m impatient. And I’m anxious to get training and working hard again.
For my writing, the in between zone is the launching of the book. It’s done. It’s ready. Here is its chance to enter the world and sink or swim on its merits. I feel a great responsibility toward it, and toward those years of effort. I want to help it find its way. It’s my job, too, to spread the word, to share the words. And that takes time. And mental energy. And painstaking work that feels a little bit like those strength exercises I’m doing every day now. Tiny repetitive muscle motions that are much harder to do than it would appear.
What I hope for, with both of these lingering lulls, is to emerge on the other side stronger and fitter, with muscles retrained and fresh ideas gained and the pent-up angst of a forced rest period channelled into positive energy and drive. Writing a book and training for a marathon are similar exercises. Both require intense commitment to a goal, and the ability to keep working toward that goal even on off days, even when the point of the goal feels temporarily lost. Will this forced wait renew my commitment? Return me afresh to work that can seem, at times, tedious and interior?
I don’t know for sure. But I can hope.
Say you’ve read The Juliet Stories. Say you’ve liked it. Or even, like this reviewer, say you’ve loved it. You think others should read it too. And you can’t wait to read the next book by this writer. Dear Reader, if this is you, please consider. There is much you can do to help. Small things. Practical things. Things that could make a huge difference in the life of this book.
Here are some ideas:
* Review and rate The Juliet Stories at the big online bookstores. You know the ones. (Visit here and here.) Positive reviews and ratings help move the book higher up in the rankings and bring it greater visability. (Negative reviews don’t help; if these exist, rate the review itself as unhelpful.) As of this writing, The Juliet Stories is sitting #81 in the category “Short Stories” on a major bookseller’s site. That’s pretty awesome. Just imagine where it could go with your support.
* Ask for The Juliet Stories at your local bookstore. If they don’t have it, tell the owner/manager/book-loving-employee why they must. Here’s the thing. The big box retailers, Costco and Walmart, sell bucketloads of books, but my publisher can’t afford to send my book there. Not yet. Not unless word-of-mouth spreads sales like wildfire. Big box retailers aren’t really bookstores, and they treat books like any other piece of merchandise, expecting it to sell itself — and within three weeks upon arriving or they return it. Big box stores tend to return lots of books to publishers, often damaged — and in Canada, they do so without any cost to themselves; the publisher carries the burden of all unsold books (yes, it’s crazy, but that’s another story). Right now, it isn’t practical to place The Juliet Stories in the very lucrative big box store market. So make sure your local independent has it. Or your mall’s Coles. Or the Chapters on the outskirts of town.
* If The Juliet Stories is already at your local bookstore, hurray! Tell the owner/manager/book-loving-employee how happy you are to see the book, and how much you like/love it. Make sure the book’s cover is visible, facing forward on the shelf.
* Buy the book. Sounds obvious, and you already have, right? It may surprise you how often this practical step is overlooked.
* Tell your friends about the book. Heck, tell strangers. Word-of-mouth does wonders.
* If you have a book club, suggest The Juliet Stories for an upcoming pick. If you live near me, ask me to visit your book club — I’d love to, and I will. (And I promise not to cry, drink all of your wine, or answer in monosyllables.)
* If you have a blog, write about The Juliet Stories. Or interview me for your blog. If you’re on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest, post about The Juliet Stories. Tell people why they’d enjoy the book. “Like” The Juliet Stories’ Facebook page.
Dear Reader, Virtually all of this holds true for any book you love. And virtually all writers are just like me: hoping their offering gets found and read. Spread the love.
One more thing, Dear Reader. I can’t tell you how glad I am that you’ve found and read Juliet. Truly. Thank you.