Category: The Juliet Stories

Unexpected messages

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A nice thing has been happening recently. I open my email inbox and discover — a letter from an unknown person who introduces herself and says she’s just read The Juliet Stories, and that she had to write and tell me that the book moved her in some way. (And, yes, so far these messages have all been from women.)

I can’t really tell you how bizarre and lovely that feels other than to say that it kind of blows my mind. That people out there are reading the words in my book, and responding to those words. And I’m just here going about my every day work.

Here is someone who read The Juliet Stories and then wrote about it on her blog.

Another reader left a comment on my blog on Mother’s Day. She wanted to tell me that her 16-year-old daughter had brought her breakfast in bed that morning — along with a copy of The Juliet Stories.

:::

This has been a very busy, short week. I’ve squeezed a lot into four little days, met a few deadlines, made some good contacts, accomplished some research, and even gone for a few runs. And cooked a few meals. And washed a few too many late-night dishes.

And it doesn’t stop just because it’s Friday. Tonight, I’ll be visiting a book club.

:: On Sunday I’m reading at an event called “Un/Certain Words” at the Grad Lounge in the Student Services building at Wilfrid Laurier University, starting at 7pm.

:: On Tuesday morning I will be in Burlington for Books & Brunch, hosted by A Different Drummer Bookstore.

:: And on the following Wednesday, June 6, the Waterloo Public Library has invited me to give a talk about writing, and “green dreams,” and The Juliet Stories. More on that last event soon, as details get finalized.

There’s more, but that gets us mostly caught up for now, I think. Must squeeze in two more errands before biking to get the kids for swim lessons. Happy Friday!

Reminder: reading tonight, Type Books, Toronto!

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?

Party night

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party night

My thoughts are all over the place on this Monday morning. I’m wondering: should I blog our week in suppers? Skip over that and write about my weekend of solo parenting? Share news about upcoming events and unexpected Juliet feedback?

Last night, I set my alarm for swimming. I woke at 2am. I’d been dreaming about sleeping (again!). I decided to turn off the alarm and really sleep. I have three early mornings planned this week; given that I also have two evening readings, self-preservation starts to come into play. It was a little easier to turn off the alarm given that yesterday, late afternoon, I ran 12 pain-free kilometres, keeping up a good pace and plotting my return to distance running. That counts as my first real distance run since my injury in January. It’s short, as far as distance runs go, but it was a blast. Next week … 14 km??

Uh. Where was I? Oh yes, self-preserving.

Tonight, I’m ferrying children from dance to soccer practice while Kevin has an early soccer game. Tomorrow, I’m at the Starlight in Waterloo (come, too!), from 7pm onward. Readings start at 7:45. And on Wednesday I’m headed to Toronto for an event at Type Books called the “Short Story Shindig” with Heather Birrell and Daniel Griffin, and hosted by Kerry Clare; 7pm (come, too!). This is all very exciting, but doesn’t go terrifically well with excessive early morning exercise.

As I said to Kevin this morning, “This isn’t the year of the triathlon. This is the year of The Juliet Stories.” (Which may be the first time I’ve admitted that, even to myself. I really really liked the year of the triathlon. I felt so hard-core. Sharing my book feels less focused, less goal-oriented. Maybe I need to start thinking of readings as races. They definitely affect me in similar ways — I’m nervous before, wired and happy during, and it takes me a little while to come down afterward.)

So. Slightly less focus on exercise, slightly more focus on evening events.

Now. Let me tell you all about my weekend with my kids. We had so much fun! Why can’t we have this much fun all the time? Is it because I’m usually trying to get too many other things accomplished? That can’t be entirely it, because we seemed to accomplish quite a lot, even while finding time to relax. Our weekend included …

:: watching Modern Family on Friday night while sharing an entire bag of Cheetos (which were utterly disgusting, may I just add)

:: trampoline ninja jumping (everyone!)

:: a bike trip to the grocery store for picnic and party supplies, followed by a picnic in the park

:: reading outside while two girls rode giggling past me on scooters and bikes too small for them

:: hanging laundry on the line, baking bread

:: playing on electronic devices; taking lots of photos

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personal pizzas for party night (the one with the olives, asparagus, and eggplant? yes, that’s mine)

:: “Party Night,” wherein we had homemade personal pizzas and punch with ginger ale while watching a movie, then gorged on episodes of Modern Family while simultaneously gorging on boxed cereal and utterly disgusting candy; the rules for Party Night go like this: everyone gets to choose one treat from the grocery store (under $4), and we stay up as late as we want; oddly, three of four children chose boxed cereal (Corn Pops, Frosted Flakes, and Froot Loops, for the record). We have never felt so collectively gross. I blame the milk. Maybe the sugar too. It was surprisingly easy to herd the children off to bed at a not entirely unreasonable hour (9:30ish) …

:: … though AppleApple and I got distracted searching for my old Grade One piano book in the basement, which we never found, but we did find one of my old and relatively simple classical piano books, and ended up staying up for another hour playing songs. The Wild Horseman. The Happy Farmer. One of Muzio Clemente’s simple Sonatinas (she’s learning it!). Minuets from the Anna Magdalena Bach notebook). Bliss!

:: sleeping in

::  making and delivering, on bicycle, invitations for an 11th birthday party (a week from today!)

:: more bike riding and trampolining and laundry hanging; hey, whatever makes us happy

Mother’s day was capped off by the return of Dad, and supper out at all-you-can-eat sushi with my mom, too.

And that is plenty for one blog post. Never got to the unexpected and lovely Juliet feedback. Well. More tomorrow.

A series of entertaining digressions

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this photo is unrelated to this post’s content; but I digress

Last night, I was invited to read at The Bookshelf in Guelph, which is not far from where I live. It also happens to be the city where my husband and I bought our first house. (I always drive by and peek at it; yesterday, I thought that it looked like it had been sold again; it was a smallish house, a “starter” home, on a fairly busy street.) Our first two children were born in that house. And I spent many an early morning at The Bookshelf with my eldest. He was an early riser (and I was not). Mid-morning was a foggy slog, for me. It helped to put him in the stroller and walk somewhere. It helped, also, to have a destination. So we often walked to The Bookshelf, which was open early. We would sit in the children’s section and read. Our home library is stocked with many board books that came from The Bookshelf.

But I digress. It’s what I do.

I was invited to read with Andrew Hood, whom I’d never met. Originally from Guelph, he now lives in Halifax, and he’s launching his second collection of stories, The Cloaca, with a tour. Catch him tonight in Toronto at the Gladstone. I read first, and then sat back and enjoyed Andrew’s performance of his work. Let’s just say I laughed a lot. He has a talent for dark humour. We shared the stage for a Q&A.

Toward the end of the Q&A, a question came from a young man in the audience — a Nicaraguan doing graduate work at the university. I’ll admit that when he introduced himself I felt a twinge of fear; if I worried about anything during the writing of the book, it was whether I could accurately capture a country not my own. (Okay, I might have worried about a few other things too; but that was top of the list.) But what he wanted to say was that he felt there was another character in my book: the character of Nicaragua. And he wanted to know how I had gotten Nicaragua so right. At which point I started breathing again. I didn’t have a terribly deep answer for him, but I think he’s right, the place is a character too, and if I got it right it’s because I wrote about it the same way I write about all my characters: with great affection. Maybe too much. I really love my characters. I know they’re flawed, but I love them anyway — or, not even anyway — I love them because of their flaws. And so I love Nicaragua for its noise and its smells and its danger and its wild beauty. I mentioned how loud Nicaragua is, and he said that when he first moved to Canada, he thought Canadian cars must not have horns. That’s how quiet we are here, by comparison.

I’m going to digress again.

We subscribe to The Walrus, and yesterday the June edition arrived. In it is a really fine review of The Juliet Stories. I can’t link to it, because it doesn’t appear to be online, but here’s a taste: “Snyder’s new book is the rare successful execution [of a novel in stories], a stream of sensual imagery that grows more sophisticated with each page.” Isn’t that lovely? Just as lovely is the reviewer’s excellent summary of the book: “The Juliet Stories highlights the lessons we learn in youth and with age, and the conflict between the freedom we value and the security we desperately need.” Love that.

One more digression.

Sitting on my desk right now (atop a pile of possibly important papers) is a registration form for a senior recreational women’s soccer team. I’m thinking of joining! Agh! That would mean five out of six of us would be playing registered soccer this summer (CJ will join in on practices, since Kevin is coaching two of the kids’ teams). It would also put us at soccer fields six out of seven days a week, sometimes at multiple fields on the same day. Is this too crazy? The funny thing is, the kids are totally excited. They want to see me play. I’m still wavering, wondering whether it’s too much. Also wondering whether I’ll totally suck. I haven’t played soccer since the age of TEN. That’s a mere twenty-seven years ago.

Wait, I have a final digression. It’s short.

Just discovered this amazing new Canadian magazine called Eighteen Bridges. It’s got excellent writers, long-form journalism, quirky and interesting subject matter, and I’ll give you a link to an article that shows what I mean. Jessica Johnson (an old friend from my National Post days) writing about, ahem, waxing. Girls, you know what I’m talking about. Or maybe you don’t. I personally lack any experience with it, and it was comforting to read about another woman in the same position. Um. Okay, it’s impossible to write about this without sounding all wink-wink. Forget what I’m saying; read Jessica’s piece instead.

And on that note …

Telling tales

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“My days are full, yet I keep asking: how can I fill them just a little bit more …”

That’s my tagline, which you can read in full to the right of this post. In practice, it means integrating work with life. Work isn’t over here, and life over there; ideas are everywhere, experiences intermingle. It means conversations about deep things grabbed in passing. It means discussing story ideas over supper. It means writing about things that matter to me; or finding ways to make the things I’m writing about matter more.

I think it can be a confusing way to live. It’s next to impossible to keep things in balance. But maybe that’s coming at it from the wrong angle. Maybe balance is not so important; maybe what matters is throwing yourself in to whatever you’re doing, at any given moment, and being there.

It’s not about ticking boxes, or trying to fill the columns evenly.

Into what column would I file running? And how would I categorize photographing the kids on a sunny afternoon? Watching a soccer game? Baking bread? Cleaning the bathroom? Writing a new song? Doing an interview? Leading a workshop?

Today’s experiences include: spin class; preparing supper in the crockpot before breakfast; research; spending the afternoon with my four-year-old; conversations with friends; organizing my kids’ running club; taking my daughter to soccer practice and going for a run; and stopping in at a city meeting about a parking garage planned for our neighbourhood that will block a bike trail.

I’m leaving a few things out. Deliberately. I’d like to blog about my current writing plans and projects, but the truth is that freelancing is a tricky business, not just in its feast or famine nature, but also because not everything comes to pass; or happens when, or as, you think it’s going to happen.

But it’s a solid day, in a week that looks to be packed as full as ever.

:::

A funny thing that happened on Saturday afternoon. I walked uptown to buy food, and stopped in at Words Worth Books. There at the front counter was The Juliet Stories. My first thought was, oh, that’s nice, it’s displayed right at the front. But then I realized it was stacked on a pile of unrelated books — not part of a display, but about to be purchased. It was a “Wow! You’re buying my book!” moment. When the customer discovered I was the author, a pen was found and I signed the book for her, right then and there. She was shopping with friends, and one of them ran to get a copy so I could sign it for her too. It was a little burst of excitement, all around.

And, see — it fits in no particular column. Household chores? Check. Being a writer? Check. Wandering into a new, unplanned, and unusual experience? Check, check, and check.

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