Category: Reading

Just a little midwinter freezing and thawing

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I’ve given up. There will be no writing this week. There will be, instead, a head cold, dental work, more tests on the creaky hip, appointments, and errands. There will be a PD day (no school for the kids). The laundry will pile up. The suppers will be uninspired. I will also decree some late-night tv watching. Why not?

As for today, as my face thaws nicely post-freezing-and-drilling, I’m going to recline on the couch under a blanket and sink into a book. It stops me feeling sorry for myself, which is the state of mind I loathe more than any other. Yes, it is February. Yes, the rain came and washed away the snow, and then the cold came and froze the slush into lumps of grey. And yes, the sky is the same colour as the lumps of grey frozen everything. And there are flocks of crows in the neighbourhood trees crying and calling. (Let’s call them a murder of crows; let’s put some poetry into our grey). It’s Groundhog Day; I don’t know whether the fat fellow saw his shadow, but if he did that means there was sun.

This too shall pass.

I can feel my cheek again. I can swallow this cup of coffee. I can read a good book. Oh, and it’s fiction — Let the Great World Spin. I’d forgotten (briefly) how much I need fiction in my life. Sure, I like learning new things and taking in facts and theories. But nothing is quite as true for the human soul as the world retold through the imagination. Bless the words.

Friday giveaway: The New Quarterly, winter, 2012

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The latest issue of The New Quarterly (winter, 2012) featuring one of the chapters from The Juliet Stories. ie. your chance to get a sneak preview

Okay, friends, let’s give the giveaway a shot. So, I’ll offer up a prize, interested readers comment below, and a week from today (Jan. 27) we’ll have a draw and announce a winner. Sound like a plan?

Yesterday I visited The New Quarterly’s office and picked up copies of their latest issue. The New Quarterly is a local literary magazine with pedigree and staying power. They’ve published award-winning Canadian talent like Annabel Lyon, Erin Noteboom Bow, Douglas Glover, Stephen Heighton, Russell Smith, Diane Schoemperlen, Rebecca Rosenblum, and Andrew Pyper, to name just a few. A recent issue offered an interview with one of my favourite writers, ever, Alice Munro. Their issues frequently sell out.

Over the years, I’ve been blessed to be a part of the magazine, starting in 1991 when they published two poems that I wrote as a sixteen-year-old angst-ridden word-happy big-dreaming high school student. That kind of encouragement makes a huge difference in a developing writer’s life, let me tell you. It was the beginning of a long relationship. And their winter 2012 issue, freshly mailed and on its way to bookstores, includes a chapter from The Juliet Stories. Here is your chance to get a sneak preview of the book, which won’t be available until March.

The New Quarterly has offered me a copy of this latest issue to give away on my blog. Now, I’m a newbie at giving things away, but I like the idea. Heck, I’ll throw in a copy of my first book Hair Hat for good measure. Why not.

(Speaking of giveaways, Goodreads is giving away ten advance reading copies of The Juliet Stories. And my husband has launched a website called “Help Make Carrie’s Book a Bestseller,” (hey, we can hope!), which will also be giving away prizes to participants. Consider joining.)

Aaaaand. Enough with the giveaways. To sum up: Prizes — The New Quarterly’s winter 2012 issue and a signed copy of Hair Hat. Comment below to enter. Deadline Friday, January 27th, noon.

:::

It’s Friday, the kids are home from school, the sun is shining, there is snow on the ground, and here I am. Wondering: will I write more of The Big Fat Juicy Belly Worm today? My kids are wondering too. AppleApple keeps asking for chapter four. Truth is, it’s been a scrambled week crammed with conversations and variety and plans and a whole lot of dashing thoughts and activities. Amidst the scramble I’ve yet to find a way to settle and sit and focus my mind and find words. But I still have all afternoon.

Proofing the page: reading Juliet

I am thinking about perfection. I happily admit to being a perfectionist. Not about everything, mind you. But when it comes to writing — and writing fiction, particularly — I obsess. I consider myself a technician, deeply interested in grammatical construction and the very tiniest of word choices. You would not believe how long I can suffer over the inclusion or removal of a “the.”

But as I read these page proofs, I’m starting to question my obsession with perfection. I mean, for me it’s the way I do it and I’m not likely to change what’s working. But I’m seeing that it may not be that important in the end. In the end, a story, a whole book, it works because it leaves the reader with an impression, an emotional impression, something intangible that exists because it exists. Not because a “the” was removed. I’m not speaking against a careful craft, please understand.

I am speaking against perfection.

Sometimes, the imperfection of my creations bothers me. I’ve worked so hard and yet I know here and there is a paragraph too many or a flabby word choice that I cannot budge. But when I let myself sink into what I’ve made and forget about how it could or should be perfected, I am moved by what is being offered. To do this requires me to place a layer of distance between myself and my words, almost to read as if I were someone else.

When I consider my favourite books by other people, none are perfect — and I couldn’t care less. It’s how they make me feel when I read them that matters. It’s that they make me feel. They catch me off guard. They push me. Or they lift me. And though these books almost all display technical accomplishment, it is not for their technical accomplishments that I love them. I love them for existing.

That is the kind of book I hope to write; I hope to have written. Imperfect. With feeling.

I am loving this quiet week in my office, reading words on the page that I’ve written, gathered into a whole. I am loving being pulled right through the book from beginning to end and understanding its wholeness differently, in a new way. This feels like a special and unusual experience. I don’t expect to have it again anytime soon. I am savouring it.

:::

P.S. The photo is a detail of a photo that depicts me posing in costume to look like a very old family photograph of my Great-Grandma Carrie Anne, my namesake. (A little more about Carrie Anne here.) The photo was taken for a photo project by Ilia Horsburgh.

Days of Play

Big boy reading to little boy. The lovely thing about this was that it happened after supper, when CJ was begging for entertainment, and Albus right away offered to read him a book: Green Eggs and Ham. Albus has become such a reader over the past year or so, devouring chapter books, but reading out loud is yet another step.

I gave the kids a mental health day awhile back, and this is one of the activities we did: colouring, water-colouring, and drawing on a large single sheet of paper. The end result was not overwhelmingly amazing (I did not hang it on the dining-room wall, as the kids requested), but the process was a lot of fun. Reminiscent of the kind of hands-on directed-activity parenting I used to do on a regular basis, that is now fairly rare. It’s nice that it’s rare, because it means the kids play independently and creatively all on their own, but occasionally it’s also nice to get to be a part of that play, too. But only occasionally).

Snow day/P.D. day play.

Fooey was out for an hour, along with several other kids (I was babysitting that day). They ended with a game that involved jumping off the porch and swinging on the chain that in summertime holds up one of the hammocks. I didn’t find out about that til later. Hands-off parenting/babysitting has its downside. Though everyone came in unharmed, glowing, and happy, and devoured a snack of hot chocolate, marshmallows, and apricot cake. Is there a lesson in this?

Tuesday and Thursday mornings. As soon as the big kids head out the door, the little kids throw themselves into play. (What will we do next year when Fooey goes to school all-day, every-day?). This morning. Started with puzzles. Moved on to cooking and baking.

Followed by eating, of course. And nope I’m not involved in this game. I’m sitting at the computer nearby, typing this post. (They’ve moved on to naptime right now. Sounds good to me …).

Word!

I will be reading at The Word on the Street in Kitchener’s Victoria Park, Suday afternoon at 1:30, with The New Quarterly team. Look for us in the “Kitchener Radio Group Spotlight Tent.” There are loads of other tents, and readings, and books, and storytellers, and kids’ programming, so here’s hoping for good weather, and lots of friendly faces out and about.

Um, yes, the photo is an unrelated indulgence.Whee!

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