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Let’s talk about the weather

March 25th, 2014

Here in Canada, we never have a shortage of conversational openers. We have, instead, the weather.

snowing even harder, March 25, 2014

It kind of looks like this right now, in fact, on March 27th, but I’m not getting my camera out to record it again.

what I was doing while it was snowing, March 25, 2014

It’s not a bad way to spend an afternoon, really, in front of the fire, computer on lap, snow coming down. Even at the end of March. If I can stay awake, that is.

March 26, 2014

I’ve got so much happening this week that I haven’t been able to check in here often. I’m getting ready for my trip (to London, England)! Planning! Coordination! It turns out that the London Book Fair is on at the same time, so I’ll be meeting with publishers, too, and even going to a party (that means packing some different clothes than I’d originally planned, not to mention footwear). I’m also volunteering for my daughter’s swimathon, this Saturday (you can sponsor her here, if you feel inspired; she plans to swim 5,000 metres!). And it’s our youngest’s 6th birthday on Saturday, so there’s a party to be planned. Good grief. Not to mention all of the usual soccer and gymnastics and music and meals. And the book is about to become an ARC here in Canada! And I’ve been on the phone with the designer in the US to discuss an illustrated map for the book! And this daily yoga challenge continues, in a hopeless attempt to get me to the other side of what seems a never-ending winter, as pictured above: I’m on day eight. And I’m late for today’s class, in fact, and need to run out into the snow right now!

First day of spring

unrelated photo, with stuffed animals on shelf

First day of spring.

All I notice is the sweeping array of dog poo in our back yard as the snow retreats, ever so slightly. It was an icy run this morning on dark wind-swept streets, every step slipping backward a fraction. The banks of snow could hardly be more ugly if they tried, grey dirty pocked icebergs that seem too solid ever to melt entirely.

But they will melt! I know they will!

This will genuinely be a ten-minute post.

It will be illustrated by no new photos, because I don’t have time to download them. They’re mainly of our depressed back yard (yes, the yard itself feels depressed and no I’m not merely projecting!). You don’t need to see it. Well, not today at least. I’ll be sure to inflict the sad photos on you in the not-too-distant future.

It’s been a writer’s life these last 24 hours or so.

I was a guest at a book club last night, to talk about The Juliet Stories. It must have gone well, because I was there for nearly three hours, although I must admit to a case of nerves as I approached the house. It had been awhile since I’d talked to strangers about Juliet. But as soon as I landed and settled in, it was a pleasure to speak and to listen. There was one point — my favourite moment in the whole evening — when the group began spontaneously dissecting “Disruption,” and its meaning (the last story in the book, excepting the epilogue). The initial question had been directed at me, but I kind of found myself sitting back and listening instead, and enjoying that version of engagement.

Today I received the copyedits for The Candy Conspiracy. Remember?! My first picture book will be published by Owlkids next spring, and we’d had rather a long pause between communications, as the artist won’t begin work on the illustrations until next month, so there was no rush to get the final stamp on the text. It never rains copyedits, but it pours. Or something like that.

Finally, in the mail today I received a new book: The M Word: Conversations about Motherhood. Kevin was here when I opened the package. “What’s that?” “A new book. I’ll be using it for readings,” I said. “Whose is it?” he asked, probably only half paying attention. “It’s mine.” “Who wrote it?” “It’s mine. As in, I’m in it!” “Oh! It’s your new book!”


Oh, and I’ve emptied my inbox. For real. I cannot believe this to be true! Cross it off the list, baby!

But I’m out of time. More on this and everything else in a future post. The bus is coming. It’s time to venture out into the blowing snow and icy wrath of this first day of spring.

All best efforts


Today: just one damn thing after another.

This week: same.

My tried-and-true mantras of exercise, eat well, sleep well are failing me. I keep doing everything “right”–I floss! I spend time with friends! I snuggle my kids! I read and relax! I share the domestic workload!–yet my body conspires to remind me that it is human and vulnerable. I’m sick again, is what I’m trying to say. AppleApple was sick yesterday. And Albus is still on meds for strep. So, really, this has not been the healthiest of winters despite all best efforts.

All best efforts do not guarantee optimum results.

That’s no lesson, just observation. I’ve cobbled together a total of 30 minutes at my desk, broken minutes, and I’ve done what I can, but it is time now to prep for the music lesson run. On a day this foreshortened, against my will, I’m finding no inner calm, only the rebellion of my expectations banging furiously on the implacable wall of reality. I wonder what it would take to gently pacify my expectations, and simply relax into what’s happening, embrace the inevitable. I can’t imagine it, but it must be possible. It might be the difference between storming through the day and riding out the day, surfing the day, floating on the day.

Hm. Those images took me to a beach in a tropical country. I like that thought. Can I float through a day in which I’m required to slog through snow and slush?

I’m out of time.

A wild Wild Writers Fest


This is the little park at which I stopped to take photos on my way to this year’s Wild Writers Festival. I was running late, due to a croupy son, and half a night spent lying beside him listening to his breathing, and then accidentally sleeping later than expected in the quiet morning house. “Why didn’t you wake me up?” I said to Kevin, as if it were his fault, and he should have been my alarm clock. He whirled me a breakfast shake, and made coffee while I tried to look presentable and gathered my supplies.

The night before I’d been at a book club. Actually, it’s been a busy week, and all the nights seem to have been late ones, with class prep on Wednesday, then class on Thursday, then soccer and running and a book club on Friday, and then the croup. I chugged the shake, slapped on mascara, and took the coffee to go.

But I stopped to take photos.


This was my destination, yesterday morning: the CIGI building in uptown Waterloo, where the Wild Writers Festival was being held; a six-minute walk from home. In some ways, it’s convenient to attend a festival in one’s hometown: the six-minute travel time, for example. But in other ways, it can be harder to leave it all behind and dive in. I knew, six minutes away, Kevin was stuck with two soccer coaching gigs, a sick kid who needed to be taken to a walk-in clinic, and a swim kid to send off to a meet.

But there’s no point in being somewhere if your mind is somewhere else. So I arrived, and dove in.

I sat in on a publishing panel that featured my Canadian editor, Janice Zawerbny. And then it was my turn to lead a panel titled “From literary magazines to small press success,” though I’m not sure we covered the topic, exactly. My four fabulous panelists were Claire Tacon, Colette Maitland, Nancy Jo Cullen, and Elisabeth de Mariaffi, and part of the pleasure of being moderator was getting to know them all, through their writing, in conversation at the panel event, and then less formally afterward, when we were all feeling more relaxed, perhaps even giddy. From here on in, I will hug every moderator of every panel I ever sit on, because oh boy, moderating takes far more effort than I’d previously appreciated. The hour and a half flew, however, which seemed like a good thing.


Then it was on to lunch, which I ate in the green room, catching up with Miranda Hill, who I met while sitting with her on several panels at writers festivals last year. After lunch, I sat in on her panel on MFA programs, which was really fascinating, especially given that I’m dipping my toe in the teaching of creative writing for the first time right now, and still trying to figure out the value of that enterprise — not so much for me, as teacher, but for my students. The session ended movingly with all three panelists (Leesa Deen and Helen Humphreys, along with Miranda) remembering the work of Bronwen Wallace, a Canadian writer who died too soon. It was an unexpectedly moving moment.

It was then nearly 3 o’clock, and I felt, guiltily, that I should go home and relieve Kevin. He’d been texting me updates throughout the day. I was in the green room, gathering my stuff, when I heard that something exciting and romantic was going to happen at the poetry panel, the last session of the afternoon. And then I knew I had to stay.

The panel was terrific: Bruce Taylor, Amanda Jernigan, Kerry-Lee Powell (whose collection The Wreckage I had to buy after hearing her read), and George Murray. And at the very end, as rumour had promised, George Murray read a poem to us all, that was clearly meant for his girlfriend, Elisabeth de Mariaffi, who was sitting in the front row. It was called “The Proposal.” And then he proposed.


It can’t get more wild than that, really, can it?

Then I went home, practically flying. There’s more, but I’m out of time because today I’m taking the child to her swim meet. Which isn’t wild, but shall be done.

Making it your own


On the evening of summer solstice, I found myself alone with one child. He had the idea of making peppermint tea. I had the idea of having a picnic. So we did. Then we walked the dogs around the block (we had to hurry home due to having drunk all that peppermint tea). We squeezed all of this leisurely activity in an hour, because that’s what we had, and it did feel leisurely.


We went to pick up his swim sister.


We dropped off the carshare car at the library and walked home through uptown, which was bustling on that warm newly summer’s evening. We stopped for frozen yogurt. And when we got home, the light was so lovely that she had a picnic too, even though it was very late, and then they played together, just the two of them, an unusual sibling combination, on the trampoline.

I didn’t feel a need for a special ritual to mark the change in seasons and to say thank you for the peaking light. I just felt grateful for the company and the unexpected sense of serenity as the three of us said hello to summer together.


Here’s my glowing girl. She earned two more silvers yesterday, and placed well in her third race of the day, too. The surprise was the best part — neither of us had anticipated that she would be in contention for medals. We arrived back in town in time for her soccer practice (and to pick up her younger sister and a friend from their soccer practice).


Here’s what she did when she got home: she made the medalling experience her own. She awarded them to the dogs, not for any particular achievement, just for being there. Suzi stepped out of her hers. DJ posed.

Assortments from Life on this Thursday, June 6th

kids + bike + roller blades + dogs + mom

* We still have no internet, and the promised technician still hasn’t turned up. But I’ve learned how to use my BlackBerry as a hotspot, so it’s a win for advancing my IT skills.

* Over a 24-hour period on Tuesday and Wednesday, I ran 25.5 kilometres. I spread the distance over three separate runs, thankfully before the weather took a chilling nose-dive this morning. I’m not sure what compelled me. Dreaming of another marathon? Despite trying, I can’t squeeze my time to fit in those necessary long runs. Would a series of shorter back-to-back runs boost endurance enough?

* Also, on a similar subject, I ran barefoot in sand this past weekend. It felt light and fast, as if I were a child again. The muscles in my feet complained for the next couple of days, but in a good way, like they’d awoken and wanted to be used more often. I wouldn’t run more than short distances barefoot (I went 5km on Saturday), but would love to do it once a week, to strengthen different muscle groups. If only there were always a sandy beach nearby, and temperate weather.


* A mom at soccer, who manages the local YMCA, said she thought I’d make a good spin instructor. The idea probably appeals to my vanity, at least a smidge, but nevertheless I find myself rolling it over as an interesting possibility.

* Walking the dogs with the two little kids is the perfect post-supper occupation.

* The dishwasher works. My goal is that each child stacks his or her dirty dishes into the miraculous cleaning device without being reminded. Given how well the socks-tossed-on-the-floor lecturing has gone over the years ….


* I finished a project last week. I always forget how finishing unbalances me for the next little while, until I take up the next new and absorbing something. What will the next new and absorbing something be? There are so many possibilities!

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