Category: Girl Runner

Art on the driveway

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Change. When you make art on the driveway in winter, here is what happens to it over the course of several months.
I would like to speak today about the idea of being, at least in part, a public person. I wonder how others do it. How do you manage to travel, to run to appointments, to make presentations, and dress professionally, and be brushed and unwrinkled and fresh smelling? How do you exercise and eat well and keep a sharp eye on your children’s needs, both physical and emotional? How do you clean your house and yard and fold laundry and cook food from scratch, and lovingly tuck your children in at night, and read them bedtime stories? How do you go to the soccer practices and piano lessons and swim lessons and travel tournaments and meets? How do you teach classes and welcome students and read essays and comment and mentor and remain open and flexible and funny and never bitter? How do you host meals and go to parties and celebrate birthdays and be a good partner? How do you meditate and feed your spirit and do yoga and stay fit and healthy of body and of mind? How do you continue to make art that is worthy of being called art?
I know I set the bar high, and I know it’s me doing the setting of the bar. We all have our (tragic) flaws. Mine may be that I want to do it all, big and small.
I want art on the driveway. I want books in translation. I want to run fast. I want singing. I want fun. I want to braid hair and apply bandaids and hold hands and honour all the stories. I want deep still quiet reflection. I want to stir. I want to comfort. I want invention.
And I’m sitting here in my office with the dogs, slumped on my stool rather than walking on my treadmill, with eyes at half mast and emails unanswered, wondering how exactly to do all of this. Because I really don’t know.
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advance reading copy, i.e. not for sale, still needs to be proofread, but looks awfully book-like
And then this arrives in the mail. Seeming to say: well, you’ve done something you wanted to do, woman. Now, enjoy it for a moment. So I sit on the radiator (because I’m cold because it’s still winter, this spring), and I read the first chapter out loud to myself (and the dogs).
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mirror, mirror

How to host fun stuff when the house is full of dog hair, and other laments

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this morning’s run

I’ve been thinking about readings. Maybe because I read at one last night here in Waterloo, representing Goose Lane Editions, on behalf of their new anthology, in which I’m pleased to have an essay: THE M WORD: CONVERSATIONS ABOUT MOTHERHOOD.

There is a bigger launch party tonight in Toronto for THE M WORD, but while my name is on the poster, I won’t be there. This is due to a calendar error. Plans were in place, carshare car rented, chalkboard schedule adjusted, and then, yesterday afternoon, I saw the listed time on the poster — 6PM. 6PM?! Two hours earlier than I’d thought. Oh no! I emailed the book’s editor, Kerry Clare, to double-check. Yes, the launch starts at 6PM (at Ben McNally Books, if you’d like to hear all those other wonderful writers read). So that meant with Kevin at the dentist and me doing swim lessons, I couldn’t magical think myself to my destination on time. I’m sending regrets, and they are enormously regretful, because I was planning on hugging a lot of writer friends tonight.

This will have to suffice.

*Hugs*

I don’t know about you, but that felt unsatisfactory.

I’ve been thinking about readings, and how some people just seem to come into themselves more fully when on stage. It’s like they’re radiant. Like there’s no barrier between you and them. You could listen to them all night.

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the Canadian ARC for Girl Runner exists! (I haven’t held it yet, but it’s on its way)

My fall calendar is filling up with readings: I’ve got invitations to festivals coming across my desk, and a book launch to plan (Sept. 6th is the official pub date for Girl Runner), and I’m so looking forward to the opportunity to speak and read, again. I really do like being on stage — more accurately, I appreciate it. Even though I felt rusty last night, after a few months off, it’s a remarkable place to get to be, standing behind a microphone, talking to people. Walking home along the dark cold streets, I thought myself a most fortunate woman, and most fortunate writer, to get to share what I’m doing in this way.

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In other news, which is not exactly news, I’m a tired woman, a tired soul, right now. I am not sure how to remedy this (although I’m sure my mother would remind me to get more sleep, and if I were my mother I would be saying exactly the same thing).

The house is full of dog hair. Every flat surface is covered in piles of maddeningly random objects. The taxes are due. The laundry pile has stamina. The fridge is full of leftovers that need to be magically transformed into suppers-everyone-will-agree-to-eat. And I kind of feel like for sanity’s sake I need another uke night with friends, or a morning coffee get-together, or to invite friends over for dinner, but I can’t figure out how to host fun stuff when the house is full of dog hair and every flat surface is covered in piles of maddeningly random objects. You know?

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so I get up and go, despite the snow

Experience points, or life as a video game

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Monday: returned the copyedits to my editor in New York. Big day. That means the book is nearly done, and very little will change from here on in, but I need to take a deep breath when I say that because I’m a tinkerer and tweaker, and it always seems that just a little more effort and a little more time will make the book just a little bit better, so how can I let ever let it go? But I let it go.

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Yesterday: felt at loose ends. I wondered, as I sat before the fire holding this computer: am I getting enough done today? I decided to tally it up, even while wondering what’s enough, exactly? I didn’t write the opening sentences to a brilliant new novel yesterday. I didn’t cross everything — or even more than three things — off of my massive to-do list. But I gained a few experience points here and there. (To explain: my brother Christian has an amusing habit of giving himself “experience points” for all of the little odds-and-ends of must-dos in his daily life; life as video game. Oddly satisfying to do, actually.)
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Yesterday, tallied up

Up at 5:40 to meet Nina for a run. Floss, take vitamins. Run 8 km. Conversation. 3 friendship points.
Shower. Deodorize. Brush hair. 3 points for good hygiene.
Dress. Eat eggs on toast. Drink cranberry juice. Hug and kiss children and check backpacks. 3 points for smooth start to morning.
Take nap (half an hour). 2 points for renewal.
Drink water and surf Facebook. Waste half an hour. Lose 2 points. Also make arrangements via email re book club visit tomorrow evening. Gain back 1/2 point.
Blog about two books. Stop tallying points.
Call allergist and change Apple’s appointment to next week. Leave message at horse farm about camp this summer. Cross several items off to-do list. Points! Lose steam, fail to return other calls.
Transfer files from dying iMac to laptop. Gather all essays written in last number of years into single folder (think: non-fiction book???). Get distracted reading old poems. Win points, lose some.
Begin writing dedication and acknowledgements for GIRL RUNNER.
Eat leftovers for lunch. Read newspaper.
Try to fix iMac with help from brother Karl. Sit in front of fire. Email Hilary (agent). Finish writing dedication and acknowledgements, email file to Kevin for his opinion. Begin writing this list.
Greet Albus, home from school. Fail to think of acceptable snack.
Walk to meet CJ at bus. Also meet Fooey. Walk home with CJ and Fooey, chatting to both simultaneously about school day. Carry Fooey’s bag. Meet Apple walking home too.
Host playdate with CJ’s friend, steer them away from electronics. Help very grumpy Fooey make her own snack. Negotiate trade with Albus: read for half an hour = play Minecraft for half an hour. 
Horse farm calls back, brief conversation about summer camp.
Chop potatoes, onions, garlic, parsnips and squash and make curried coconut soup for supper. Turn on radio. Turn off radio. Receive but do not reply to several work-related emails.
Make Apple eat snack and remind her to get ready for soccer practice. Text Kevin to pick up milk, bread on way home. Instruct Kevin on last-minute supper prep. Yell at Apple to get ready for soccer practice already! Lose points for losing cool; gain points because child now ready for soccer practice.
Drive Apple to soccer practice. Chat with other moms and watch soccer practice. Discuss practice with Apple on way home. Fill up truck with $100 worth of gas (!!!!!). Definitely lose green dream points.
Exchange parenting duties with Kevin, who leaves with Albus as soon as we arrive for their team’s soccer practice.
Eat (cold) supper with Apple. Plan CJ’s birthday party with Fooey and Calvin, add to guest list. Clean up supper, put away food, fill and start dishwasher. 10 points just because.
Supervise Fooey’s piano practice. 2 points.
Feed children snacks. Supervise tooth brushing. Read Farmer Boy in front of fire. Put CJ and Fooey to bed. Bonus snuggling points.
Fold laundry. Try to think of acceptable snack for Albus, now home; no acceptable snacks. Albus retreats upstairs unhappily. Lose a few points. Kevin leaves for hockey. 
Eat grapefruit in front of fire, read first chapter in book that happens to be on coffee table nearby: IMAGINING LONDON, by Anna Quindlen. 1 point for self-comfort.
Convince Apple to brush teeth and take asthma meds before letting her finish her book in front of fire, whilst snuggling with dogs. Apple finishes book, briefly discuss, send to bed.
Albus back downstairs, still seeking snack. Helps crate dogs in basement. Cheers up. 3 points for mysteriously good mothering moment. Albus drinks chocolate milk and eats peeled orange. Brushes teeth. Goes to bed.
All children now hugged and in bed! A million points!
Surf Facebook lamely for forty minutes whilst castigating self for not being in bed. Read article on lost Malaysian plane, for example. “Like” photos and statuses of friends. Do not reply to work-related emails. Am reminded of the old days when I would slump in front of the TV and watch just because I was too tired to do anything else. Mildly depressing; maybe necessary? No points gained, but decide no points lost either.
Brush teeth, take probiotics and fish oil. Lock house. Turn out lights downstairs. Carry folded laundry in basket upstairs. Read LADY ORACLE by Margaret Atwood for approximately fifteen minutes. It’s not even 11pm! Turn out light. Goodnight.

I finished my book!

 
this dreadful photo is brought to you by my laptop’s camera and shows my foot on the treadmill and the rear part of a sleeping dog; you will just have to trust me on this

I finished my book!

It’s true! The manuscript for Girl Runner was delivered this afternoon around 1:14 PM, ready for the next step: copyediting.

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote a post with a similar title: “I finished my book!” I’d just completed what I believed to be a satisfactory first draft of Girl Runner (by which I mean, actually, a second/third/or even fourth draft) that I felt was ready to be shown to my agent. “Did you write THE END?” one of my children asked, and I admitted that I generally didn’t do that. I didn’t do that today either.

THE END

It’s not the convention anymore, to inform the reader that the story is over. I wonder why not? It has a certain tidiness to it. Maybe we don’t accept the same sense of an ending anymore.

I am currently walking off my lunchtime samosas on the treadmill, while typing this post.

Samosas eaten in the last four days: 11. (I bought them in bulk, for a fund-raiser, and apparently am going to consume them single-mouthedly.)
Miles walked since consuming lunchtime samosas: 1.95
Dogs currently in office: 1. Scratch that: 2. (Suspicious: what was she up to?)
Oven: not fixed.

Word count on finished manuscript: 87,001. (Seriously! And 1!)
What I want to do to celebrate: ??

Public meetings attended on the subject of a giant condo being built opposite our house in the very near future: 1 (yesterday evening)
Kilometres run/walked yesterday, the bulk of them through heavy snow: 13.5
Hot yoga classes attended, also yesterday: 1

Mood: mixed, melancholic, muscular

Girl Before Runner

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one way to clean up the toys in the back yard, left out since the fall: cover them with snow

I was doing so well with my plan to visit FB only during portions of the day devoted to waiting in the car or standing on the sidelines, as happens virtually every day. In fact, I did so well that FB got in touch to tell me what I was missing, to which I said, haha FB, you are only confirming that my goal has been achieved!

I was doing so well until this morning, when I did a bit of work on my FB author page. If you feel so inclined, please *like* it. I will use the page for promotional purposes so as not to clog up my personal page with self-cheerleading, which can get a bit tedious. I don’t want to lose friends.

Anyway, this morning. This morning, I had news to post on my author page, so I visited FB and instantly got sucked into the vortex of liking, making witty/supportive comments, clicking on links, and, I must confess, looking at photos of Leonardo DiCaprio (hardly on purpose, I swear!). Therefore, I recommit to climbing back on the wagon henceforth.

Here is my news: we’ve had offers for Girl Runner from Catalan and Poland. Catalan and Poland! That means Girl Runner has sold in 11 territories, and will be translated into eight languages (German, French, Spanish, Italian, Swedish, Dutch, Polish, and Catalan). I’m told that the publishers will send me copies of the translated book, which in my imagination I’ve already lined up on my office bookshelf to gaze at in wonder. Will they all have different covers? Will the title be changed in translation?

I’ve received comments back from my US editor, and the news is good. The work that remains is minimal. I expect to have a finished manuscript to deliver (to all of these publishers!) within the week.

Oh, and we’re getting a gas stove in the living-room! It won’t be installed for a few weeks, but I have a funny feeling we’ll still get use out of it this winter. Yesterday, I was tossing shovelfuls of snow onto banks already so high that I was lifting the shovel to shoulder height. There’s nowhere to go with this stuff! When I came outside for my run, at a very early hour this morning, I discovered that in the night the snow ploughs had gone by and thoughtfully undone all of yesterday evening’s work, filling in the nicely cleared sidewalk and driveway with heavy, rock-hard street snow. In a rage (and in my running shoes), I grabbed my shovel right there and then and cleared the sidewalk again, tossing the snow on the street-side banks, because there was nowhere else to go. It was like human v car, with car obviously winning. Have we noticed how much we privilege cars over humans in our culture?

Then I went for my run, slipping and sliding and tripping, and generally wondering whether it was worth it to expend such an effort for a pace so ridiculously slow. Is this even running? I asked myself. Could 5 kilometres under such conditions perhaps count for 10? How the heck could I begin to train for a marathon under these circumstances? (As I’m not training for a marathon, this was a purely theoretical question, but now that I mention it again, it makes me want to!)

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there’s a boy in that bed

Albus is home sick for the fourth day in a row, but I’m sensing his imminent return to school. Every day he ate noodle soup for lunch, and we sat together reading the newspaper. Today’s conversation centred around the new book deals, and what I might want to write next.

“You should write Girl Swimmer. And then Girl Cyclist. And then Girl Triathlete!”

“Well … it’s not really a sequel kind of a book.”

“You could write a prequel! Girl Before Runner.”

“Before Girl Runner?”

“Girl Before Runner.”

“Girl Before Runner. I like it.”

Word of the year

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I read a lot of books in January. It was a meditative month, and I loved it. Frankly, I could spend my entire life doing nothing more than reading and writing, with brief breaks to run and eat, and then back to the thinking, please.

It’s a good thing we have all these kids, I said to Kevin the other night, or I’d be a hermit. I have these ascetic traits that are very hard to shake.

I met with my word-of-the-year friends on Monday evening. I’ve already written about last year’s word: Stretch. I spent most of January quietly testing out the world Welcome. But just before meeting with my friends, I had a last-minute change of heart (this happens every year), and chose instead Success.

I chose this word because it terrifies me. It terrifies me and I believe that it shouldn’t: and I like a challenge. I want to know what it feels like to claim all of the positive aspects of this word while overcoming the negative ones. Since selling Girl Runner this past fall, I’ve found myself cowering from the idea of being successful. I continually frame that good fortune in deliberately distancing terms: it was luck, it was chance, it was a lightning strike, it was like winning the lottery. In other words, it wasn’t me. I didn’t do it.

You can’t see them, but I’ve started and erased about ten sentences here.

The sentences all have to do with how maybe, maybe I might have had a little something to do with my book’s good fortune. See, I can’t even let myself express this idea out loud. It sounds like bragging, I guess. Caveats flow from me. And I have been fortunate, there is no doubt about it. And lucky. But was it really entirely chance? Was it anything like buying a lottery ticket? Or maybe, maybe does spending half of my life in single-minded pursuit of becoming a good writer account for at least a fraction of this luck and chance?

If I were a man, would I be having this conversation with myself? I genuinely wonder.

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And that is why I landed on the word Success. I feel compelled to tuck Welcome into my back pocket for moments when I need a soft place to land, a comforting lens through which to view the decisions I will be making this year. But I know deep inside that it’s Success I need to wrestle with, Success that challenges me, and Success that I hope to step inside and claim.

Two quotations, both attributed to Nelson Mandela, a successful leader if there ever was one, and someone who did not rest on past successes. His humility radiated power.

“There is no passion to be found in playing small–in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

What am I doing, by distancing myself from the challenges and possibilities inherent in taking risks, in claiming responsibility both for my failures and successes? What rooms in my life am I walling off, out of fear and superstition and what is probably, in truth, a false humility?

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“I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”

Success isn’t an endpoint, in other words. A moment of achievement is a moment that should be celebrated, yes. But it’s no place to pack it in. Pause, reflect, breathe, and gather strength in order to carry on with one’s work. The freedom granted me by earning a living from my writing (at least for the next few years), comes with the responsibility to use that freedom well. Not to shrivel up. Not to crumble under the weight of expectation (my own, I mean). Instead, to work with passion, to tell stories that wouldn’t otherwise exist, and to write and teach with the humble intention of doing good rather than harm.

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