Previous Valentine’s Day Posts
The day it rained ladybugs
The houseplants quivered
And window sills became the stage
For the ladybugs acting out Shakespeare plays
–Only audience tiny figurines and miniature teapots
–Only applause from the frantic beating of wings on glass
As ladybugs dropped dead on the stage below.
The Carpenter was a story I wrote as a Christmas present for my mother, and was inspired by our family camping trip in summer 2013. We were hiking in Kejimkujik National Park and were surrounded by these massive, ancient trees that blocked out the majority of the sky and towered far over our heads. My dad, forever the captain of Team DIY Carpentry, routinely stared up and with stars in his eyes would say, “Look at the beautiful lumber that would make/I could make an entire set of chairs out of that tree/Look at the wooooood.”
I commented on how instead of seeing the trees he saw lumber, and in my mind I saw a carpenter walking through the woods, and instead of seeing the forest he saw only furniture growing out of the moss. The carpenter intrigued me. How did he get there? What was he like? What was his story?
It took me a long time to get around to writing this story, but I’m glad I did. It was a lot of fun to write, to imagine who the carpenter was and who he could have been if his life had gone differently. There’s still a lot I have to learn about the carpenter and what he did in those seventy years the story takes place in, but I’m almost more fond of him because I don’t know everything about him, and I think readers might feel the same way.
If you would like to read The Carpenter (it’s a very short read!) you can head over here where you can download it in essentially any format possible. Feel free to leave a review or a comment. 😉
If I’m a writer that means I’m a writer everyday, right? I don’t just don on the writer hat when I’m writing or doing writer things. I always wear that hat, right? Along with my human hat and chocolate addict hat, yes?
Of course, some days I don’t feel like a writer at all, just a stressed, unemployed student with hardly any time to read or write thanks to university preparation, job searching, and upcoming graduation. It’s been awhile since I felt like a “writer.”
Last week I was feeling particularly writerly, however. On June 12 I ventured with Zozie to Calabay Cafe in Truro to participate in a night of music and poetry, organized by local poet Chad Norman. The night featured local musicians Brian Porter, Dave Hayman, and Dale McCabe, and poet Paul Zann along with Chad and myself. Paul Zann is amazing reader. If I can ever read as engagingly as he can, I will be perfectly happy.
It had been awhile since I had done a reading in public, and I forgot how great it is to share poetry (and music) with people who enjoy it as much as I do.
Naturally I’m an introvert, and for the most part pretty quiet, but I love reading to others and hearing others perform. Whatever nerves I have (most of them being stamped out through seven years of 4-H public speaking) vanish when I start with introducing whatever it is I’m reading. Poetry is something I’m happy to share. I enjoy it. And it’s when this happens that I remember that I am a writer, not just an anxious, penny-pinching student.
And, to show you how small Nova Scotia is, two of the audience members were past graduates of my high school (one of who was a lovely gentleman kind enough to buy my book).
Calabay Cafe is beautiful, the staff is wonderful, and the chai lattes ARE TO DIE FOR (THEY ARE GLORIOUS CLOUDS FROM HEAVEN IN A MUG). I highly recommend stopping by — the chai lattes alone are enough to make me go back.
What else have I done to make me reaffirm the ownership of my writer hat?
I did an interview with Colchester Weekly, posted on the Truro Daily website.
I sold the seventieth copy of my book (which is currently out of stock, by the way).
I’m in the process of designing a bookmark.
I’ll be publishing something (it’s a surprise) at some point in the very near future.
And I’ll (hopefully) be able to spend some time this summer working on my YA novel.
Bonne chance, mes amis!
PS: Chad Norman is organizing the third annual RiverWords Poetry and Musical Festival for July 12th in Bible Hill, NS. I participated last year, and this year has a great line up. Spread the word and help support local artists. 🙂
i’m not in love
but i’m not heartbroken
i’m not lost
but i’m not found
i’m not bored
but i’m missing something wondrous
i’m not empty
but i’m not inspired
but i haven’t found it yet
Okay so hey guys. I feel like I haven’t blogged in a while…but I’ll be back with some actual non-poetry things eventually. I’m working on a new small project, and some littler ones. I plan on e-publishing a few of my short stories this summer, so stay tuned! 🙂
i like to end things on a good note
but I don’t want to leave
in the middle of the symphony
and step on everyone’s toes
as I shuffle silently through aisles to indignant whispers
long before the curtain falls
—i don’t want to miss the ending to the show, the finale
but I can’t bear to hear the final note fade
or to see your final bow
One of those days when the rain clouds
Are so low I have to duck to keep my head out of them
And they cover the sun to make morning look like dusk,
Thousands of tiny liquid stars fall to quench the thirst
Of wilting July flowers and lost souls
I go outside, coatless, to be watered
Letting the screen door slam shut behind me
In a shower of mist and creaky hinges.
I follow the river-sidewalk to a bus stop bench
With peeling green paint and take a seat
In my star-soaked jean shorts.
I bury my toes in the five inches of turf
Between the bench and the sidewalk
A world for the surfacing pink worms to cross
Where they will shrivel and die when
The sun brings their hot-concrete Armageddon.
I absorb the tiny stars in my skin
And my arms and legs and hair become slick
With the gathering galactic water.
Before I never understood why florists spray
The flowers completely if the roots are the part that
Drink, but now I know.
The ricochets of rain pelting my face in the energy of
Each ping of every drop
I sit, covered in diaphanous liquid stars
And I imagine I glow in the gloomy darkness of noon
Someone else has joined me at the bus stop bench
To be watered too, I suppose.
He wears a coat with the collar turned up
And a faded Toronto Blue Jays baseball cap
With a frayed brim like laugh lines around a smile
That doesn’t exist anymore
The rain only touches his face and his hands, folded
On his lap over wet denim jeans.
I slide over and take his hat off, because I want him to
Feel the tiny stars like I do
He’s startled like someone should be when a stranger takes
Their hat off, and his glare of surprise is brown
Like a cinnamon stick.
He asks me what I’m doing
—You’ll be watered better if you let the rain touch your skin
But maybe he sees that I’m glowing so he takes his coat off
And a grin slowly spreads across a face with a freckled nose
I know he can feel the energy of the stars in his skin too
We sit at the bus stop bench in front of a sidewalk
That wriggles in happy fat worms dancing in the stars
But that will be shrivelled and dead this time tomorrow
And everyone else has umbrellas and coat collars and hats
And we have nothing between us and the rain
That feeds maps into our lost souls
(Busy busy busy like bees — I have some reviews coming up, and a couple rants to deliver, but for now here’s a poem I wrote in a moment of summer nostalgia. What do you miss most about summer? I’m pining for walks in the rain, can you tell?)
I make an effort to avoid you
Where once I might have sought you out
It doesn’t mean I don’t want to see you
It just means I don’t think it’s a good idea
And that everything will be better if you
Forget that I exist
Art is seriously messed up. Smearing pigments across canvas, smudging charcoal on paper, sewing stitches into fabric to create a unique something, carving out chunks of wood or stone to make a likeness of someone or something that maybe never existed. Blowing into a brass tube with holes cut into it, or plucking strings on a wooden vessel to create notes to create something called music, shaping white-hot metal and gluing broken pottery together.
It can be realistic, it can be disgusting, it can be heartbreaking, it can make you laugh. It can be the most unrealistic, otherworldly thing you’ve ever laid eyes on. It can be like looking into a mirror. It can be like looking into every curve and whisper of the human mind and soul. It can be confusing, it can make no sense, it can have absolutely no purpose, rhyme, or reason.
What I think is beautiful you might think is ugly. What you find beautiful I might find repulsive.
It’s messed up, art is.
Art is waking up at three a.m. with an idea, and stumbling out of bed and smashing into the wall because you can’t find the light switch. It’s not being able to find a pen or pencil, and so you write a poem with a crayon on a napkin from the floor of your car. It’s giggling maniacally at what will surely be a masterpiece or slamming your fist in frustration because this isn’t what you wanted. It’s pulling out your hair and drinking obscene amounts of coffee and tea and spending days locked in your house wearing pajamas. Art is quiet and slow and rolling and honest. It takes time. Or maybe it doesn’t. It could take a second, a snap of a camera shutter. It lies. It makes another reality, a better one or a worse one.
We obsess over it. We lose our minds, our money, our lives.
We hold onto art from centuries and millennia and civilizations past, we worship it in glass cases and with cotton gloves and anti-contamination body suits. We study it, teach it, love it, hate it. We argue about it. About the medium used, about the artist who made it, about the year the artist was born and who his/her parents were, about what it means, about where it came from, about the symbols and hidden messages that may or may not have been included within its walls of paint and stone. We spent thousands and millions of dollars collecting it, making it, learning about it.
We judge others based on their art, we value their worth to society with their art.
We scorn artists who can’t make a living at their art and hail the few lucky ones that manage to.
We can be ashamed of our art, keep it hidden and protected like the wounds in our souls. Sometimes no one else ever sees it, and sometimes people see it without understanding it.
Art is everything and art is nothing. It is power, and yet renders us powerless at its feet.
Art is seriously messed up.
And I think that’s why we love it.
I’m trapped in this body. Cold metal forms my bones and joints, and the muscle and skin feel like a piece of rail road track to the touch of a soft hand. My arm is locked in an everlasting salute, my blind eyes forever fixed on a spot somewhere on the horizon. I ache. My silent, still heart aches. It burns to swell and grow and pulse. My eyes wish to weep and my arms desire to embrace and my legs want to run again. But that is not what I am meant to do.
In the winter the snow covers me, settles in my bent elbow and my shoulders, my eyelids and the tops of my boots. Blue jays are my only visitors. I can feel their tiny talons and feathers and imagine what it’s like to fly, and miss them when they leave. I am lonely, invisible to the people passing along the street. The frozen torch in my hand weighs the weight of a thousand slain soldiers, and their names inscribed in my cold heart are heavy, so heavy. I carry their memories in my mind, see their lives in my blind sight and hear their regrets in my deaf ears. I cradle them without ever embracing them, holding them, loving them, keeping them safe after death. I remember.
The spring brings warmth, and my metal skin isn’t quite so unbearable to touch. Rain washes away snow and I’m reminded of muddy French trenches in April – not my memories, but the memories of those inside me. Drawing on these remembrances I can see flowers bloom in my sightless gaze and feel arms around me, but I also relive dying moments, so many dying moments. Blood and muck and limbs and terror. They don’t mean to force these memories on me, but I must bear them, and they should be remembered. It is a lot to carry, but I would give this job to no one else.
In the summer I rust a little more, but stand just as straight. Teenagers sit at my feet and smoke stolen cigarettes and call at girls as they walk by, and there’s nothing more I would like to do than kick them with my solid iron boot. They don’t see what I see, blind as I am, or hear what I hear, deaf as I am. They don’t hold the memories of the dead and the gone. They don’t know that behind a layer of metal are the enduring moments of war and horror, barbed wire and gas masks, guns and boys and letters from home, letters they never got the chance to read. I am made of unread and unfinished letters, broken hearts and broken bones.
In these seasons I go unnoticed by all except blue jays and teenagers looking for a place away from parents in a world where war is a game on a screen. No one visits me, no one visits the memories I hold. We are alone in our reminisces.
There is one day in the year when I’m not alone with these memories, good and bad, beautiful and ugly. November eleventh. Every person around comes out and stands shoulder to shoulder, poppies bright over their hearts, their warm, beating hearts. I can feel them, and some of them are aching, too, the ones who remember. The weight of my torch throws out a glass circle and traps them all in my spell, and slowly I release some of the memories in my skin, my bone, my chest. I share with them the things we are supposed to never forget.
They all stand before me, taking in all the things I have to show them. They remember.
Short stories were not normally something I could find enjoyment in or share a connection with. Often they appeared to have no meaning or leave me feeling confused about what had happened and why.
Short stories need to be quick and profound.
The tone and topic in which you write a short story should be, in my eyes, dozens of times more powerful than a piece of 80 000+ words. It might not have a plot line at all, but simply be describing something: an emotion, an event, a person, some nameless thing that the reader never even gets to identify with. Short stories are supposed to make you think, question aspects of life that were previously thought to be established or unsettle concepts that need to be unsettled again. Many short stories are 500 words of dialogue attached to a character in a specific moment in his or her life. I can read novels for that and get their whole story. Give me a short story. Make me think.
I used to hate writing short stories. I loathed it. I never understood how you could get a beginning, middle, and end in so few words. How can you get action? Romance? Villainy? Betrayal? You have only a few hundred, or a few thousand, words to use to portray these things that so often make or break a plot and draw readers in.
But I’ve written my fair share of short stories over the years, little blips of characters or scenes that had no place in a novel but found their way into my head nonetheless. I’ve come to love writing short stories. It’s a bit like having a string of lovers. I can love each one, learn a bit about them, have my way with them, and move along to the next without feeling guilty I abandoned them in pursuit of something new and interesting. I don’t worry about what’s going to happen to them 25 years from now. I don’t feel bad about what happens to them because, frankly, I don’t know them well enough to care that much. They’re one-night stands. Exciting, pleasurable, non-committal.
In my recent anthology (of which you can buy a print copy by emailing me at email@example.com, or wait for the ebook edition later this season), I have a couple handfuls of short stories. I love them. They’re so fun. They’re dangerous. I can skip a beginning, an introduction to a cast. I don’t have to introduce anyone if I don’t want to. Anonymity is great. I can dive into the middle. The middle most likely isn’t the climax of the person’s life, or even their day, but it’s the middle of a moment that for whatever reason is worth writing about, and hopefully, reading.
My attention span isn’t the greatest. I get bored and distracted and look for something shiny to play with like a crow rooting through a pile of garbage. I’ve only completed one novel (I refuse to count the novel I wrote at age 13 because it’s shameful to read). I’m supposed to rewrite it within the year. It hasn’t happened yet, though I did do the majority of the outline. I started two novels this year. One made it to the 10 000 word mark and I’m still chipping away it — but slowly, slowly.
I just get so distracted. By books, by the internet, by writing short stories, by editing photos and reading blogs and sketching and sewing and and and —
See? I’m even distracted within this post.
But back to short stories.
I decided to start another anthology (to be released around this time next year if all goes well), this time a series of short stories all related to each other. I’ve written three of the pieces so far, and hope to write fifteen or so more. Fifteen more fleeting pleasures to be had. Fifteen more delicious and sinfully delightful one-night stands to experience.
Here I go, to a place where distraction can happen and loves abandoned. A world of short stories. A world of one-night stands.
I mean, it’ll get lonely after awhile. But I have my WIP novels. They are the strong relationships in my life, the ones that keep me together and challenge me, the ones I have to work out problems with. I can have fun with them, too, but…it doesn’t feel as naughty. 😉
Yesterday I picked up my anthologies from the printer. They are things of beauty. I mean, I did find one typo in them so far, but…the Typo Gods are never totally unforgiving. And I can fix it for the digital edition (which is closer to being published!). Info on where to get a print copy will be posted soon! In the mean time, here’s a sneak peek of what’s inside. This is a poem called BONES.
Tracing over the bones
Holding you together
The knots of hardness in your fingers
That move as if to some beat only
To the snap and rotation of your wrist
And straight, smooth lines of
The arms you open.
In these arms I fit.
The indents of your collarbone
Against my face
The point of your chin
Resting firmly on the top of my hair
You shift, and the hollows of your face
Roll atop my head
The imperfect perfection of your nose
Inhaling my scent
As I inhale your scent through
The plates of your chest, over your heart.
The curve of your ribcage
Meeting the pieces of your spine,
Growing to become smooth
That roll as you adjust the
Grip on my hips.
So many angles you are made of
Long and short
Fierce and gentle
Hollow and grabbing
Radiating warmth and
These are what you are made of
The bones under your skin
The sticks and stones
Making the familiar shape of your
Both comforting and terrifying
Thrilling and calming
These are the shapes I
The ones that tame
Darkness and bring
You were made for me
And perhaps I’ve been lucky enough
To have been made
Covers are done, final edits are completed (I’m praying to the grammar gods that we didn’t miss any blatant errors), documents converted, and the manuscript will be sent off tonight!
It won’t be long now before the coil-bound version of The Night is Starry is available for purchase! A digital version will be made available later in the summer, and I’ll keep you updated on that.
It’s quite exciting, self-publishing for the first time, and it certainly won’t be the last! Already I’m bursting with new ideas and stories to share, and I can’t wait for Night to be published so I can start some other projects for you.
As for blogging, if you follow my other little place on the Internet (Let Them Grumble), then you’ll know that I’m on a blogging hiatus. It was simply taking too much of my time to both maintain a blog and really make progress on writing my novel(s), but with this website I’ll attempt to update you on forthcoming projects and perhaps the occasional personal ramble or two.
Happy reading and writing, and may all your adventures be successful!