2016.

Hey 2016.

I’ve been waiting for you.

I’m afraid of you, a little bit. You’re all fog and mist and muddled reflections in waters that never seem to settle.

I don’t know what you’ll do to me

–where you’ll take me

–who you’ll throw across my path

–who will fall off if the path is rough

–what art I’ll see

–which landscapes will becomes the most familiar

–whose smile will be my favourite.

There’s a lot I don’t know about you, 2016. You’re a tall, dark, handsome mystery.

We have things to do, you and me.

Little things, mostly.

Westminster Abbey
This lanky, exhausted, bedraggled Libby got to see Westminster Abbey in 2015.

2015 was the year of big, strange, weird, wonderful, messy things.

2015 gave me a massive push from behind.

I tripped through 2015. But it was the almost-not-quite-a-face-plant that I needed.

I’m grateful for 2015.

You, 2016, I think you will be a good transition year.

A transition to where or what, I don’t know. But that’s why I need you.

 

– Resolutions –

I make resolutions every year, 2016, and I never keep them. They loll around on my bedroom floor until February, and they usually end up kicked under my bed.

Resolutions are my biggest dust bunnies.

This year I’m making small resolutions. If they end up under my bed, they will be mouse dust bunnies, not mammoths.

Tiny, tiny resolutions. So tiny they’re cute and a little bit disconcerting.

  1. Write a sentence every day (other than on Twitter).
  2. Drink more water.
  3. Read (at least) 15 non-university required books. Preferably diverse ones. 
  4. Go on a solo road trip.
  5. Watch an Audrey Hepburn movie.
  6. Finish a painting.

So here I am, 2016.

Have at me.

 

 

Canadian Summer Reading Challenge 2015

April is the cruellest month.

There’s final papers, spring blizzards, sleep to lose, food to stress eat, and exams to study for (maybe even oral exams, if you’re a lucky student of the University of King’s College).

But it’s done. It’s over. I survived my first year of post secondary education at the oldest chartered university in North America.

I read hundreds of books from 2100 BCE to the 21st century. I read Plato, Dante, Shakespeare, de Beauvoir, Kant, Heidegger, and Arendt. I read until my eyes hurt and my brain stopped absorbing information.

During this year, as I squinted at the musings of many different dead white dudes mainly from central Europe, I began to miss the Canadian voice. The comforting, familiar humour, kind will, dependable dry wit, patriotism-inducing, big city buzz and small town silence of the Canadian voice is one I grew up with.

In recent months years the amount of Canadian authorship I’ve consumed has dwindled, partly because I have less free time than I used to, and partly because I’ve been trying to get as many pretentious-sounding classic novels under my belt as possible like a good little history nerd.

I’ve never read a Margaret Atwood novel for Pete’s sake. What kind of monster am I?

Over the winter I decided that summer 2015 would be dedicated to reading Canadian-written books (with special effort to read Canadian authors who are women and/or people of colour and/or Atlantic Canadian).

I hope to conquer one book a week until the end of August–this should put me at around 15 books (taking away one week for when I’m in the UK, and another for to allow for laziness the potentiality of day trips that will take momentary precedence).

Each week I’ll either write a blog, a series of tweets, or maybe EVEN A VIDEO WHO KNOWS? sharing my Canadian reading experiences. I don’t want to say I’ll be writing solid reviews for each one, but I’ll definitely share my thoughts about each little Canadian literary nugget that finds its way into my hands.

I also caved into getting an Instagram account, which I plan to be using as a visual extension of my blog. I’ll be posting what I’m reading as well as general attempts at making a square of pixels aesthetically pleasing.

Ashley's staff pick. Book 1 of my Canadian Summer Reading Challenge.

A post shared by Libby (@libbysometimes) on

I’ve compiled a tentative list of the authors I want to read, some for the first time and some to revisit, but none of these are set in stone, in part because I’m not yet sure what books I’ll have access to. I’ve already bought two books, but before I buy more I need to be reunited with my dutiful library card.

Sadly I am made of neither money or Canadian fiction.*

Do you have any reading challenges this summer? If you’d like to take part in the Canadian Summer Reading Challenge with me (or a more/less intense version of it), please send me a link to where you’re posting your progress, or leave comments/tweets to let me know what you’re reading and how you’re doing!

Happy reading!

If you have any suggestions for books, please leave a comment or tweet/Instagram me.

*If you’re a Canadian (especially Atlantic Canadian/woman/person of colour) author and you want to send me a copy of your book in exchange for a review, please send me an email at libby.maire@gmail.com or DM me on Twitter! 🙂

Country mouse in the city (WINTER EDITION)

Nova Scotian winters have a notoriety for being unpredictable, messy, and invoking the good humour of its residents. As someone from a rural area, my experience with snowstorms entails school cancellations, Dad plowing the driveway and section of the dirt road with his little Kabota tractor, and sitting clandestinely around the warm glow of the wood stove, waiting for the snow to melt off the internet antenna so we can check Facebook to hear the news from neighbours throughout the community.

This is the first urban snowstorm I’ve had to endure (the last snowstorm class was happily cancelled and I stayed curled up in my little apartment all day). No, today was my first venture out into the Arctic city.

Living five kilometres off campus, I foolishly thought I could hop on my regular bus and make it home before dark.

gcyjp

LIES.

Rookie mistakes.

I’m not going to continue whining about the weather because we all know exactly what it’s like if you live in a place where it snows in excess.

I am, however, going to marvel about the wonderful things that happen when you walk through Halifax during a snow storm.

The two buses I attempted to travel on were stuffed full of people who had shared weather and bus-related jokes with me at the bus stop. The bus drivers were so cheerful I wanted to hug them, and thoughtful enough to let people off in the middle of traffic with the promise that if they saw them later, they would pick the enduring traveler back up.

After making the executive decision to get off the bus following twenty minutes and twenty metres of distance achieved, I headed out into the final frontier.

[I would like to take this moment to apologize to my boots for calling them bulky and ugly.

You are perfect, Boots, don’t you ever change. Your steadfast tread protected me from the snow-covered sidewalks that had deceptively hid their icy intentions underneath. Your thickness prevented the mutiny of my toes from my feet. You keep doing you, Boots.]

Chances are, if you’re walking because the buses are stuck in traffic two kilometres deep, other people have also abandoned ship bus. These people become your allies, your companions, your Fellowship of the Ring. They become Viggo Mortesen, Orlando Bloom, Sean Bean, John Rhys-Davies, and Elijah Wood.

Because guys with beards get even better looking when tromping through the snow like a wild ranger, amirite?

These companions are the only living things you can see within visible distance (which, to be honest, isn’t very far).

By the time you leave backed-up traffic behind, there are no cars heading into the city, and the roads are empty and the sidewalks are ankle-deep in snow. I opted to walk on the road, something that is the only option in rural areas anyway, but occurred to me might not even be legal in the city. (Can someone please tell me if I committed a crime or not?).

Viggo Mortesen and Orlando Bloom stirred up a conversation a few metres in front of me. “When did you start?”  “Around five.” “Oh, same.” “Do you want some water?”

At this point it’s dark and everyone I encounter is red-cheeked, sweaty, and panting because let’s face it, Halifax is literally just one giant hill and snow is damn hard to walk in if you’re not an athlete or in possession of snow shoes.

On a flat stretch I caught up with Sean Bean, who had passed me on a particularly steep hill due to my lack of physical strength and fullness of bladder. (Sidenote: use the bathroom before heading out into a snowstorm). He asked me how long I’ve been walking (an hour and half since my departure from campus) and I asked him where he started from. We both chuckled tiredly at his remark about it being good exercise, wished each other luck, and went separate ways where the road split.

Elijah Wood was carrying two bags and lugging a suitcase on wheels up a hill as I was going down. He joked about his travels as we passed. I hope he got to where he was going to, and that it’s less blizzardy there.

IMG_20150202_180904265There is a moment, when your companions are gone and you pause to take a breather, that you realize how quiet it is when there’s no cars. You can actually hear the snow falling. You can hear silence, something that in the city you feared was lost and only available in weekend visits to the country.

So thank you, Halifax. Thank you for making a massive mess of the roads and turning the most good-natured people out of the buses and to the snowy trails to each individual’s Shire, each person’s home. Thank you for providing a little bit of companionship during my ninety-minute trek, and for the moment of peaceful silence in between the snowflakes.

Thank you for #stormchips.

And I will thank you even more if you cancel classes tomorrow. 🙂

Safe travels everyone!

In the Village: EBSNS supporting young artists

“Think of the long trip home. Should we have stayed home and thought of here? Where should we be today?”
― Elizabeth Bishop

Elizabeth Bishop is one of those poets few people know about, but there’s no particular reason she isn’t a household name. A writer who went on to earn international acclaim, she spent some of her childhood living with her grandparents in Great Village, NS. I’m not entirely sure why every Nova Scotian isn’t yelling her name from the rooftops, but Great Village is one place where Bishop is praised and raised proudly to the lips of many of the people I’ve talked to.

I first became involved with the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia (EBSNS) three years ago when I entered their writing contest for the Elizabeth Bishop Centenary Festival, celebrating the poet’s 100th birthday in 2011. The contest revolved around the theme of home, an homage to the fact that Bishop’s own writing often reflected back to her childhood in Great Village.

I was pleased and honoured to find out I was one of the winners of the contest, along with several others in different age categories. As a wee, shy fifteen-year-old, reading my short story at the festival in August 2011 was daunting, but there my love of reading to others took seed and began growing — plus I met Laurie Gunn and Sandra Barry of EBSNS, author Sheree Fitch, and took a poetry workshop with Anne Simpson. This time spent in Great Village among passionate poets and painters, along with other young writers, was the first big push in continuing the idea of turning my writing into a career (still entirely not sure how to do that, but heading that way nonetheless).

In 2013, the EBSNS published Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop, a collection of all the winning entries from the contest. The launch was once again an inspiring experience, and one of the first times I was able to see my work printed in a legitimate printed form you could, like, buy.

When I got an email from the EBSNS inviting me to read at the new cafe, In the Village, of course I jumped at the opportunity. The afternoon featured several young artists (poets, painters, writers, and actresses) with a connection to Bishop: Maria Duynisveld, Laura Sharpe, April Sharpe, Anneke Stroink, and myself found ourselves at the microphone in St. James United Church. The talent I heard and saw today once again reminds me that I am far from alone in the prospering front of young artists.

For Maria and I, this was a flashback to our participation in the Centenary Festival three years ago and a reflection of how we’ve changed since then; Maria shared this reflection in her reading.

What the EBSNS has done for me and other young artists is remarkable. As I’ve written about in the past, I’m a strong advocate of supporting young writers and giving them the opportunity to have their work shared with the public and with other artists of a similar age. It’s hard being taken seriously, and the reward of seeing the genuine emotional impact our work has on others is what young artists need to keep pursing their goals, dreams, and talents.

The importance of receiving such support is paramount to young people. They need to know their work is good, valued, accepted, and cherished, or someday they might stop doing what they love. Many people write or paint or act for themselves, but having the chance to be supported by those working and volunteering in the field, or even just as an enthusiastic patron of the arts, can be the difference between a hobby and a career.

The support from those I’ve met as a result of my interaction with the EBSNS is some of the support that has done the most for me and my pursuance of my writing career. Thanks to the EBSNS, I’ve been published, had the opportunity to share my work multiple times, have met some truly wonderful, kind, supportive people, and have firmly established that I’m headed in the right direction. Merci beaucoup, mes amis!

For more information about the EBSNS, Elizabeth Bishop, and Great Village, please check out these sites!

The Elizabeth Bishop Blog

The Elizabeth Bishop Society

The Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia

Poems by Elizabeth Bishop

 

I did some writer things

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!

Libby

 

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. 🙂RiverWords 2014 (2)-page-001