Category: Girl Runner

In Calgary, Literary Death Match report

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Hi there.

I’m still in Calgary.

The Weather Network says that it’s 8 degrees, feels like 6. It also tells me that there was a small earthquake yesterday in Banff. Coincidentally, I’m going to Banff this afternoon. This reminds of the time I was going to Calgary and they had an underground electrical fire and all the power went out downtown for a few days. Oh wait. I’ve only been to Calgary twice. That was this time. And the power was all back on by the time I arrived.

But the mayor of Calgary, the most awesome mayor in the world, Naheed Nenshi, was unable, due to the electrical fire, to attend a Wordfest event last night called a Literary Death Match. He was going to be one of the judges. (Literary Death Match is a thing. Look it up. Adrian Todd Zuniga, the fellow in the electric blue suit with the pomaded hair, who appears to have invented the event wholesale, runs an excellent circus.)

I got called in very very last minute to fill in for Mayor Nenshi. My biggest moment, possibly ever, let’s be honest. Not necessarily the best news for the audience, however, let’s also be honest. But because Mayor Nenshi was such big shoes to fill, I was only one half of his replacement. The other half was a comedian named Chris, whose last name I can’t find on the internet anywhere*. But he also had long red hair, so we kind of matched. Only he had a beard and was funnier. We were judging “intangibles.” The other judges were Johanna Skibsrud on “literary merit,” and Mark Tewksbury on “performance.” (I was sitting by Mark Tewksbury! I was offering moral support to Mark Tewskbury! I was hamming it up with Mark Tewksbury! And Johanna Skibsrud!)

It was, hands-down, the most entertaining literary event I’ve ever attended. I woke up this morning, imagining myself killing it at the “Gals and Good Times” panel I’m on this morning (because that’s what you do at a Literary Death Match; or you try to, anyway.) I imagined myself saying, in my allotted 2 minutes to speak about my book, I was here in this same theatre last night for a Literary Death Match, and I’m afraid it’s going to affect today’s performance. First, I’m a bit hungover. Second, I’m going to swear and mention body parts in an effort to get laughs. Third, I’m going to think I’m actually funny.

So, yeah. Let’s not do that, shall we. Let’s drink several bottles of water, take our vitamins, and stop blogging. Now.

I’m off to shower, eat, and attempt to look presentable. Wish me luck, please. And also with the earthquakes and underground electrical fires.

xo, Carrie

PS I’m calling the photo above Woman Prepares for Literary Death Match by Donning Very Sparkly Shirt and Taking a Selfie.

*Found it. Chris Gordon. He swears and mentions body parts a lot. In person, he is hilarious.

In Calgary, anonymous hotel room

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Hi there.

I’m in Calgary.

The Weather Network tells me it is 6 degrees, feels like 3. Thankfully, I brought along fall jacket, hat, and scarf. And four pairs of shoes, though I find myself wishing for a fifth. Do you know how hard it is to bring shoes for all occasions!? All stuffed into the tiniest carry-on bag you can imagine. It might be that the four pairs of shoes have replaced essential clothing, and I’ll be wearing this same shirt/jeans combo for the next ten days.

Reading on the plane: an advance copy of Elisabeth de Mariaffi’s thriller, The Devil You Know, due out in January, which also kept me up late last night. You’ll want to read this.

Have been rehydrating from airplane trip all morning. Went for a run on the treadmill. Meeting a friend for lunch. Workshop this afternoon, Literary Death Match this evening, panel discussion tomorrow morning, then on to Banff.

Photos while travelling will be cellphone-produced.

I’m calling the one above Woman In Anonymous Hotel Room. Actually, it looks like Very Short Woman with Unnatural Half-Smile and Flat Wet Hair in Anonymous Hotel Room.

Wish me luck. And send sociable, friendly vibes. Please, and thank you.

xo, Carrie

Homesickness prevention plan

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Home.

I had my students write about home yesterday evening. I joined them on the writing exercise, as always, and found myself feeling prematurely homesick. I imagined walking through our front door into the hall strewn with shoes and school bags and discarded socks and dead leaves and muddy patches, the living-room to my right strewn with musical instruments and sheet music and toys and books, the dining-room table ahead strewn with newspaper sections and homework, the breakfast counter beyond strewn with home folders and asthma inhalers and hairbands. I mentally picked up abandoned cereal bowls and cups of tea and carried them to the kitchen, where the counter was strewn with several apples going soft and permission forms and butter knives slathered in peanut butter and honey. There were towels and more socks on the bathroom floor. I could imagine the sound of a French horn being played in the backyard (Star Wars theme song), and footsteps thumping down the stairs, “Hey, Mom, what’s for supper?,” and the phone ringing (a child’s friend on the other end). I could hear the sound of a piano being practiced by a 6-year-old. Kevin coming in the door carrying a grocery bag with milk and eggs and checking his email on his phone, the dogs dashing to greet him excitedly.

And I won’t be here for any of this for the next ten days. What will they do without me to pick up their socks and sign their permission forms and carry their cereal bowls to the kitchen? Well, that’s just the surface stuff. What I’ll really miss is the music and the reading and the chaos and the hugs-in-passing and the many requests.

The feeling of being both surrounded and needed.

Where I’m going, I’m not quite so necessary. I’ll miss the active mothering stuff I’m so accustomed to managing all day, every day. That said, I hope to be useful and to make good use of my time away.

And I also hope to have fun. All work and no play makes Carrie a dull woman, to steal an old proverb. Damn, but it feels true right now. Lighten up, I remind myself, shoulders scrunched, hurrying off to something or other, always a few minutes late and therefore rush, rush, rush.

This, I must change. That is my goal for this trip. Lighten up.

I’m heading out West. First to Wordfest in Calgary, then the Summit Series in Banff, then to the Vancouver Writers’ Fest. Click here to find my events listings. When I’m home again, I’ll be back and forth to Toronto, and other places in Southern Ontario. I’m entering my personal literary marathon-season.

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CJ told me yesterday that they were talking about Making Healthy Choices in Health class. (He’s six.) “I said, EXERCISE. And FRIENDS.” Wow, I replied, thinking, this is wise advice, young guru, which I shall take to heart.

Right now, I’ll admit that I’m missing my friends. If there’s one element absent from my fall schedule it’s time for friends. (And, to a lesser degree, for exercise.) So I’m hoping to connect with people on this tour out West, to make new friends and see old friends, to push myself out of my introspective shell, be brave, and in this way to alleviate or even prevent the homesickness from setting in. But also to lighten up.

To lighten. As in to brighten, hearten, gladden, illuminate, restore.

Stillness & motion, noise & silence

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photo credit: Shari Lovell

This morning began unusually. I woke at 6AM, refreshed after a very very long sleep, having crashed out just after 9PM last night. Teaching takes a lot of energy, at least for someone who would skew toward introverted on the personality continuum, and I had my class on Wednesday night (a happy place to spend three hours, I must tell you, even though our windowless brick room in a hive-like building resembles a bunker, and gets very muggy when packed out with creativity and debate). What a day to go and teach. I think it was a good thing, as it forced me to be focused and to pay attention to something other than the noise.

There was some noise on Wednesday. There was this lovely interview done by the Canadian Press, which ran in various media outlets. There was the phone call from the Writers’ Trust to confirm that Girl Runner was on the list, and various emails to note upcoming appearances and media requests associated with the award. I checked my calendar a lot. And my phone. Twitter and Facebook kept pulling me in. It was a lot of noise, as I say, and I found myself unable to settle and reflect, or even, quite, to feel what was happening.

So I was grateful to my students for occupying my evening. We talked about poetry. There was so much to learn from the discussion, so many reminders of why poetry matters, why words matter.

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photo credit: Shari Lovell

Kevin had gotten take-out ramen for supper, which I reheated in our shiny new microwave when I got home, nearing 10PM. (Yes, we finally got a microwave, and I must confess my leftover lunches are much more enticing than those consumed during our long, cold pre-microwave era.) After eating, all the kids in bed, Kevin dug through his scotch collection (so many bottles, each with an inch or three of liquid, leftover from our years of hosting scotch parties), and pulled out a particularly choice selection. I don’t have the name handy. But he went online to check its current value, were it full and unopened, and announced that we would be celebrating with a $5,000 bottle of scotch. I mean, seriously?! There was just enough for two wee drams.

One of the pleasures of the scotch party is hearing our friend Mike read the tasting notes, so to keep with tradition, I will tell you that this ridiculously pricey scotch tasted heavily of oak barrels, with overtones of straw (or was that the colour?) and undertones of turmeric and cinnamon. Or something like that. Maybe it was nutmeg. And a bit of blue sky.

It was a lovely celebration. I was up five hours later to run with my speedy friend Heather, who kindly slowed down for the occasion; also because that will be my last run before I attempt the Toad, tomorrow morning: 25 kilometres of likely-to-be-muddy trail. God help me.

The book I was reading this morning is called A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki. I’m going to keep talking about it until I’m done, and probably for a long time thereafter, and the next reader I’ve got in mind is my 11-year-old daughter.* We’re both of us possessed of a lot of energy and drive (I hazard to suggest she’s got even more of both than I do), and we both of us need to find ways and reasons to turn down the noise and become still. (And not because we’re crashing!)

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my girl runner

Wednesday, after the prize announcement and before teaching, I dashed over to her school to watch her run a cross-country race. She came second out of a large field of 7th and 8th graders. “I’m so tired! Weirdly tired! Like way too tired!” she told me immediately afterward as she lay prone on the grass. “You just ran three kilometres really fast,” I pointed out. “That’s not it!” “Well, maybe you’re too frail and shouldn’t run more than 200 metres,” I suggested, tongue in cheek. She’s read Girl Runner. She smiled faintly. Then she sat up and took off her shoes. “My feet are too hot!”

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At first, she was quite disappointed in her performance, and it mattered not when I pointed out that the girl who finished first was two heads taller and a grade older. She insisted on expecting better of herself. I kept assuring her that she’d been wonderful, that she’d given her all, that I was very proud, and finally, much later, before bed, she smiled to reassure me that she was happy with the race. Mostly. I can’t argue with her. Her expectations are her own. She isn’t discouraged when she doesn’t meet them. Instead, her expectations seem to fire her with greater focus and renewed intent. Yeah. I get that. There will always be someone faster, smarter, more talented. But I think she already knows: that it’s not about comparisons. It’s about finding one’s own voice, one’s own passion.

But what about stillness? What about releasing expectation? What about rest for the mind and body?

A Tale for the Time Being is the story, in part, of a 104-year-old Buddhist nun who’s offered decades to the practice of meditation, prayer, ritual gratitude for each gift, no matter how small. She bows with her whole body to the world. She is at peace with mortality. The humility of her daily practice gives her SUPAPOWAs! Even her physical frailty is a strength.

So I wake this morning, early, thinking about how whatever I have to offer must come from a grounded place, a place where I sit in stillness and silence, practicing gratitude, bowing with my whole body to this beautiful, difficult, scary, noisy world, with openness and with humility. A gift is a gift. What to do with it? How to give thanks? How to give, no matter how tired, frail, mortal, flawed? How to be still. How to listen.

xo, Carrie

PS I’d like to point you toward a review of Girl Runner by a blog-reader who is an Ironman athlete and writer; he also digs into the history of women’s long distance running.

* Note: after writing this post, I finished A Tale for the Time Being, and discovered that in the final third of the book, there are several extremely dark scenes relating to extreme bullying, attempted rape, and child prostitution, and although my 11-year-old is a mature reader, I don’t think the book is meant for her–not yet. But sections of the book are meant for her! However, I can’t figure out how to carve out the darkness to show her the light. I think this Tale for the Time Being will have to wait, for the time being. Nevertheless I highly recommend it to a mature adult audience. What is light without shadow? (The book also contains the clearest explanation of quantum mechanics that I’ve ever read.)

So, this just happened

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The long-shot has happened: Girl Runner is a finalist for the 2014 Rogers Writers’ Trust Award for fiction. It feels like a lightning strike, which is what I was thinking about prize lists this morning, before hearing the news. And when I heard the news, via a tweet that my cellphone casually blinked across the top of my screen, it felt like a zap, an electrical shock. I guess that’s where the phrase “feeling shocked” comes from. Somewhere real.

This is what the jury said about Girl Runner in its citation:

Carrie Snyder’s Girl Runner delivers us one of the most memorable characters in decades. In 1928, Aganetha Smart won Olympic gold for Canada in track. But at 104, she is confined to a wheelchair in a nursing home, forgotten. In plumbing the depths of Aganetha’s story, Snyder has this incredible woman whisked away on one more adventure, during which she brilliantly explores the twin natures of memory and loss. Girl Runner is a witty, poignant, and finely plotted novel that offers us a character possessed of the wisdom that arises only from a life well-lived.

To which I have nothing to add. I’m speechless. This could all be very bad for my ego and my super-ego and whatever other subconscious unconsciouses are floating around inside a person, but then again, maybe it’s just all good, today, right now. I’m going to go with that. Gratitude for right now.

xo, Carrie

P.S. To celebrate, I’m considering splurging on a celebratory ukulele! That way I can join my girls, who’ve both taken up the ukulele recently, and have been singing and playing together in the evening (there is literally nothing more heart-warming than hearing them sing and play together, and I do mean literally) … look out for a red-haired sisterly folk duo in about a decade or so ….

Dear Reader* *A practical guide to helping support a book

DSC02963.jpgDear Reader,

Say you’ve read Girl Runner. 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 Girl Runner 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.)

* Ask for Girl Runner at your local bookstore. If they don’t have it, tell the owner/manager/book-loving-employee why they must.

* If Girl Runner 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. We choose books for lots of reasons, and a personal recommendation might just be the most compelling reason of all.

* If you have a book club, suggest Girl Runner for an upcoming pick. (Sometimes I even visit book clubs; visit my contact page for more info.)

* If you have a blog, write about Girl Runner. If you’re on Goodreads or Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest or Instagram or whatever the kids are using these days, post about Girl Runner. (And please tell me what the kids are using these days! I need to keep up with my teenager.) Tell people why they’d enjoy the book. “Like” my author page on Facebook.

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, pass it on.

xo, Carrie

P.S. This post has been shamelessly plagiarized from this other post, which I wrote two and a half years ago, immediately after the publication of The Juliet Stories.

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