Thursday, April 30, 2009

The place which is many places

I lived in this house the summer I grew up. This house stands beside railroad tracks, not far from the downtown of a small city which is laid out like a European town, with a plaza at the very centre. When I lived there, this house was shabbier, and the deep hollow of the yard was filled with lilacs.

Part of me has never left this city. It makes appearances even now, disguised as cities of my imagination; in my stories, the square is broader, but a diner still serves breakfast on one edge of it, and a fountain still plays, and people busk there, and people come to watch an eclipse.

Last weekend I visited this city, and in a solitary half-hour I walked a circuit of my old houses, and took pictures of them as they are today. I believe this house here is the only one of which I have no pictures from before. I wanted it that way, at the time, because I was unhappy there. Now I wonder when this house will have its turn in my imagined city, and who will live there, and whether she will walk home as I did, in the early morning, tired eyes set against the dew-bright grasses beside the tracks.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

They say whiskey'll kill you, but I don't think it will

--Bob Dylan, "Nettie Moore"

It's proving to be a very appropriate soundtrack to my story revisions. Gus, for her own special reasons, loved the sixties and has never stopped listening to Dylan.

Although I'm sure any of my major characters can be read as me-analogues, I wonder if this love of Dylan makes Gus a bit of an analogue of my dad? Not as he was, but as he might have been, unwed, unbred, wandering in the hills with his camera-lenses slung over his shoulder and his bad haircut like the guy in No Country for Old Men.

Gus is a rolling stone, no two ways about that; and she wants peace more than almost anything.

While my dad was very much for peace, I don't think I ever figured out whether he believed it was possible. I suppose that is key. Gus, for her part, knows it's not possible, and that is her cross.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Peer feedback reviews

...in the form of Submit! (my writing group). I have been given the duct-tape to fix the broken story. I have also been given a great deal of homemade pizza, chewy brownies and berry pie. I proceeded to burn it all off in nervous tension while I read the conclusion to the broken story: twisting my hair, swinging my foot, drawing little triangles on the table with my fingertip and chewing the skin off my lower lip.

This tension comes from the distance between this story and a thing which really happened: a distance apparently not enough to allow me to read it with complete equanimity.

Other stories, I've been able to read to the group without flinching, because those stories were less new and because I knew they were good. This one was still wet, and not good yet, and it felt quite a bit like something private and nasty: a dental examination, perhaps, or the scrutiny of a hostile lover. This despite the fact that my group consists of the most mature, supportive, talented people for whom I could possibly wish.

Hah... my problem is that they're all rather too good for me, I suspect. Established and intelligent people who manage to write brilliant things while raising children and conducting admirable careers. While I, held together with safety-pins, imperfectly powdered, and not quite sober, attempt to distract them with pyrotechnics as I discover too late that my fly is undone.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Progress Report

Because I was feeling as if I had not made much, until I began listing it all to the in-laws, and discovered that although I haven't finished much this month, I have been seeding all kinds of things.

Short stories accepted for publication:
"The Tongue of Bees"

On submission:
"The Duellist, After Her Prime"

First drafts complete:
"Bleaker Collegiate Presents an All Female Production of Waiting for Godot"
The violence story, which really needs a title

First drafts in progress:
"A Sovereign Cure for Pneumonia"
"The King of Bramble Heights"
"Forty-Nine Days in the Intermediate States, with Extracts from the Great Liberation by Hearing"
The talking fish story
"Seven Postcards from the Garden of Earthly Delights"


Of course, I've already fallen down on my commitment to write a story a month this year; but if I were to actually, you know, finish some more of the ones I've started, I wouldn't be far off. In terms of word count this is possible. In terms of emotional commitment, I don't know... word for word, they're harder than novels, although finishing a short story doesn't give me that full-brain smackdown that finishing the Dickensian Fantasy did.

And now: I have very extravagantly gone and bought the second season of Criminal Minds and I am going to watch more than one episode, while eating popcorn.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

By Grand Central Station I sat down and pulled out my camera...

...no weeping whatsoever. A passerby mumbled "That'll be a beautiful shot."

I was well-dressed, I had dined on the company and I'd been flogging my brain all day, so that it felt loose now and light. I dropped my colleagues at their hotel and walked to mine, through this luminescent fog, deliciously cool.

Manhattan in spring is always a few weeks ahead of Toronto, and so my visits there are touched with wonder and disbelief. (They have forsythias already?) And in between meetings I buy coffee and walk on Fifth Ave because that's the part I know best, and I greet the library even if I don't have time to go inside, and I photograph the buds on trees and the stately shop-windows.

And I come home through turbulence and we bank down close over the lake and I see my own city, a smaller jewel. And everyone on the plane is a famous actor or a model. And I call my husband from the ferry; and he is glad.

And through the following week at the office, I stealthily add to my aluminum notebook all the thoughts and thoughts and thoughts. If only I were immortal or could forget the press of time.