… and she’s off!
Here’s where I’ll be tomorrow (or today, if you’re reading this on Wednesday, March 7th): at the Harbourfront reading series in Toronto, 7:30pm.
Which is exactly where I was a little over two years ago, except then I was in the audience, listening with such pleasure and joy to a conversation between two literary lionesses, Alice Munro and Diana Athill. At the time, I jotted down the moments that stuck out for me, including Alice Munro’s confession (and I’m quoting my own post here) that “she doesn’t consider herself a very brave person, and though she might be a brave writer, it was very difficult to come back from that writing world and have to deal with the consequences of what she’d written. She admitted that she’d caused pain, not purposely, of course; and one could infer that it pained her greatly to have caused pain.” Kevin tells me that both with Hair Hat and now with The Juliet Stories, coping with being published has been much harder for me than doing the writing work itself. And so I appreciated re-discovering Munro’s insight. Maybe I, too, am a braver writer than I am a person.
But I’m trying.
And on that note, here’s also where I’ll also be tomorrow: lunching with a few of my very favourite Canadian book bloggers, one of whom, Deanna, was a friend in grad school. It will be the first time I’ve had the chance to meet Kerry Clare of Pickle Me This or Patricia Storms, who is best known as a children’s author and illustrator (if you subscribe to Chirp magazine, you see her work monthly). Kerry and I spent last week emailing back and forth, questions and responses, and you can see the results of our interview here. Kerry proved both a sympathetic reader and a sharp interviewer, and she’s not afraid to go in-depth even on the blog medium. I must confess that I’m a little nervous about meeting these three. Blogging creates these strange relationships, mediated through the very specific information we choose to share. Sitting down to lunch at the same table — What will we talk about? What won’t we talk about? As much as I love blogging, there’s nothing like meeting in person and diving into the shared space of a moment. I might be nervous, but, oh, it’s going to be a treat.
And be warned, I’m bringing my camera. Toronto, here I come!
party venue, yesterday afternoon, pre-cleaning
party venue, one hour later
Let me tell you about the party. Ah, the party. The party!
All of my dreams last night were an extension of the party. It was like I got to drift through its pieces again as I slept, moving around the room, standing on stage, hearing the song being played to a still room filled with people. What I’d hoped for was to create a moment we could all share.
Good grief. I was so nervous before it was time to read. So nervous my teeth were chattering. Every clump of people I greeted, I blurted out “I’m so nervous! Gah!” or some variation on the theme. I was grateful for the distraction of laughter and silliness. And then it was showtime. My publicist introduced my editor who introduced me. My editor’s words had a weirdly calming effect. I stopped shaking. I could feel myself preparing — and prepared.
Stepping on stage. I was surprised by the lights. I couldn’t see anybody. I could hear and sense and feel, but not see. I felt so happy to be there. There is no other way to express it. Pure joy. As I read the words, I felt as though I was also standing apart, observing, watching, savouring. I thought about the years of work. But I also thought about how it had seemed this occasion might never happen, how I’d fallen down and gotten back up again, considered giving up, but been somehow unable to. I thought about the friends who believed in me — many of whom were there last night. I thought about how lucky I was to be reading these words out loud, to a room full of people who had come just to hear them. Actually I can’t even express my feeling of great fortune.
On stage, I felt like I was doing my job. That sounds pedestrian. It’s not. I felt like I was doing the job I was meant to do. My job is to bring everyone along to a different place, in their imaginations, all of us together. A writer standing on stage and reading is asking of her audience a huge favour: have faith in my words, take a leap with me, come along.
That’s what I wanted. And it felt like that’s what happened. Thank you, generous room of listeners.
Afterward, signing books, only occasionally forgetting a name, I kept wondering at how effortless it felt. I mean — everything. The nerves beforehand were as they always are. It’s been a long time, but I used to act in high school and university. I’d feel the same way. Eaten up with anxiety, just get me on stage, please. There is something magical about being on stage. I feel so free. Free to be myself, or some comfortable projection of myself. I can hardly remember anything from the hour or so before reading, though everything was perfect, the room was insanely beautiful (thanks to the incredible efforts of my party planning committee — Zoe, Rachel, and Nathalie), so many people kept arriving, drinks were offered and many well wishes, yet it was a total blur.
But time on stage was so different — it seemed to stretch and expand. I could relax into the moment, drink it all in. I can’t explain it. I guess that’s what I mean when I say it felt like I was doing my job. The very definition of work/play.
When I came off-stage, I was greeted by an absolutely bursting AppleApple, whom we’d let come along. The pride in her face — I wish I could have stopped time and drunk it in. And then it was on to book signing. The bookseller (Words Worth Books) sold out — every last Juliet. The party planning committee seamlessly took down our event’s decorations and packed up, and at 10pm the club opened the doors and their DJs started spinning, and those of us who felt like dancing stayed and danced until finally the place was completely changed. From intimate candlelit book launch to grinding club floor. And then it was time to go home.
“You throw a good party!” someone shouted to me on the dance floor. And it felt like, yeah, this was a good party. Listen, I will happily throw a party like this, say, once a year, if you’re willing to come. As far as readings go, it will be hard to top. I ended the reading by playing the song, the lullaby I wrote for my character Gloria, who is a musician and performer herself. I didn’t say it was me singing; I introduced it as Gloria’s song. One of the most thrilling parts of the evening was hearing from so many people that they LOVED the song and could not believe it was me — and where could they get a copy? I don’t have an answer to that yet, though the song is embedded in the ebook, within the story to which it belongs. Frankly, I’d like to record more Juliet songs and put together a little EP and make that available in conjunction with the book. But that’s still a dream.
Last night. Last night wasn’t a dream. But it felt like one. I couldn’t have imagined a better celebration for the book, the perfect punctuation mark for all those years of work.
I didn’t take my camera along. But my friend Nancy was snapping photos all evening, and she promises to send me the best and I promise to post them here for you.
Nerves. I’m feeling fidgety. Distracted. Anxious. Nervous.
The kids are sensing the vibe, which brings out different responses in each. AppleApple wants to help. Albus is extra-thoughtful. CJ keeps giving me kisses. Fooey is extra-rebellious. I think they’re all expressing the same thing though: Say it’s okay, Mom!
It’s okay, kids.
What’s happening tonight is just a party. I mean, it’s a big party, for me. But still, it’s just a party. If I can hope for anything, it’s to be relaxed and comfortable and to embrace the moment. I hope the words glide off my tongue during the reading. I hope to remember everyone’s name — I really really hope for that.
What else to hope for? All of the above seems quite enough.
Yet I could go on. And on. I hope not to discover something’s been stuck in my teeth all night. I hope not to trip walking onto the stage, or off of it. I hope my foot stays out of my mouth. I hope my hair dries pretty. I hope my voice hangs in. I hope my kids are good for the babysitter. I hope there’s not a blizzard. I hope my hands don’t shake. I hope I remember how to sign my name.
Oh yeah. I hope to have fun.
I hope to have fun.
I hope to really really really have fun. That too. That most of all.
We’ve got flocks of crows in the neighbourhood. Occasionally, they choose the trees in our yard and gather in the bare branches. Even when they are silent, their wings rustle heavily, a sensation of suspended watchfulness. It’s hard not to think of them as being a sign. Though of what? I often hear them calling loudly in the early morning. On a less poetical note, their poop is everywhere.
This early morning my alarm went off, and I thought, no, I don’t feel like swimming. I’m fighting a cold that has claimed part of my voice, and I’m on the mend, and somehow submerging my head in cold water for an hour didn’t seem terribly wise. So, as my friend Nath would say, I “logicked” myself out of getting up, turned off the alarm and napped restlessly for another twenty minutes. But I couldn’t return to peaceful sleep. Apparently I’ve now trained myself to be AWAKE at 5am, alarm or no alarm. Exercise every day was the mantra that shoved me out of bed. I didn’t feel like going to hot yoga, but went anyway. I wanted to be doing something that amped up the lungs and the heart, rather than strengthening and stretching and being all zen and calm and whatnot.
This will be good for you, I told myself.
And I won’t deny that it was.
Sometime in the future, however, I can imagine rising early to write. Yes, it’s early, but I feel so AWAKE. The house is so PEACEFUL. I could write for four hours and it would only be 9:30 or so. Then I could nap. Then I could meet someone for lunch. Then I could exercise. Then I could write some more. Then someone would make me supper. And do the laundry and the dishes. (The children would be able to care for themselves.) Wait, this is turning into full-fledged fantasy.
Clearly something at which I excel.
Here is the crow just landing, or just taking off, from the larger photo above. The wings are a blur. There is something about the colour and tone and the scratchiness of the branches that looks like brush-strokes on mottled paper. The density of the silhouette.
This morning I’ve been taking pencil to page and crossing out words here, pointing arrows there, timing myself reading passages out loud and noting the times down. I’m turning this copy of Juliet into my reading copy. I’m not sure whether I’m just landing, or just taking off.
I am not the only Carrie Snyder ever to publish a book. In fact, I’m not even the only Carrie A. Snyder ever to publish a book. Another Carrie Snyder published a book entitled Euthanasia and another on Death and Dying. Folks, that’s not me. And Carrie A. Snyder published several books on drawing. How to Draw Horses. You Can Draw Funny Animals. Also not me. And, just speculating here, probably not the author of Euthanasia either. I wonder whether people who find us awkwardly listed together on Amazon or Goodreads assume that the Carrie Snyders are all one really weird person? As an aside, I used to spend a lot of time drawing horses. Badly. I probably could have used that book.
I am currently reading Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann. Stories to break your heart. They kept me up late last night even though I should have been resting my cold-laden head.
I finished The Tipping Point last week. An excellent marketing book, if only I could figure out how to put the ideas into play. How does one tip? How to tip The Juliet Stories from the somewhat echoing chamber of my circle of friends and family (yes, that’s you!) and into the broader world? I thoroughly enjoyed Malcolm Gladwell’s chapter on Connectors, Mavens, and Salespeople. I’m pretty sure my eldest is a Maven-in-the-making, and it was comforting to read about the upsides of this personality-type: Albus is the only person I’ve ever met who pores indiscriminately over any flyer that comes through the door; he also knows exactly what things cost, and if there’s a latest new anything, he’s onto it. The interesting thing about Salespeople is that they are able to change the moods of those around them. And their own moods are quite unaffected by those around them. This is what is known as charisma. Though I wonder–are you only charismatic if you’re an upbeat person? Connectors are people who seem to know everyone. We all know people like that. I’d like to be a connector, but I’m probably not. I’m terrible with names for starters. If I forget your name, please don’t be offended; I have a blind spot. I’ve forgotten names of people I’ve known for decades and see on a weekly basis. I wish I were exaggerating. This will be torture at book-signings.
I’m also still reading — dipping into — the biography of Mordecai Richler. In my defense, it’s very thick! And the author, Charles Foran, is definitive in the extreme, leaving no cocktail party or early rejection letter unmentioned. I can see why he would choose this approach, given that he’s writing about a very complicated person about whom others had vastly varying and polarized opinions. But it’s a lot of detritus. Life is stuffed with minutiae and a writer’s life may have even more, given the writer’s penchant for writing things down.
Last bookish musing of the morning … I had an interesting conversation this morning between a friend and a friend-of-a-friend about the shifts in the book industry, and how publishers are exploring the possibilities within digital publishing — publishing children’s books as downloadable apps for your iPhone, for instance, or creating a multimedia experience out of an existing children’s book, again downloadable to your phone. What do parents out there think? Would you entertain your child with a book-app, or a book-related game?
News: Confirmed Juliet-related dates
Feb. 25 Launch party at the Starlight in Waterloo, 7:30-9:30
March 7 Harbourfront reading series 7:30
May 16 TYPE books in Toronto with Heather Birrell 6-9
While I’m excited about the anticipated activity, it also gives me pause. Hurray! Readings! is followed quickly by faint queasiness: Gulp! Readings! A reading is like a race: I’m happy when I’m actually doing it, and I’m thrilled to have done it immediately afterward, but the lead-up is crazy-making.