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retrospective: old journal

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Les Semaines



Weeks Two & Three of Clarion West 2003

I swear I've started this journal several times--I don't understand why I can never find the file when I'm looking for it. It's spooky. And annoying.

So now I've had to combine journal entries for two weeks because there's no way I can possibly do justice to two entries. So, there were two weeks here. They were full. They were chock full. So how to approach them?

I should say that July 6 was Jim's birthday. Quietly celebrated. Alas, without cake. I tried not to let Clarion West distract me too much. Tried. Can't compete with getting him the TiBook and the Airport system last year, so I didn't even try that, just contented myself with getting him a couple of DVDs and a CD and the drill set he asked for, and of course the ring I got him in Istanbul, but he's already been wearing that for a month. Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday.

And Clarion West.

Kathleen Ann Goonan was a quiet teacher, adding wisdom here and there about markets and agent relationships, while the students focused on getting into the swing of writing and critiquing. The story she read at her Tuesday night reading was a knock-out, and is now onsite at SCI-Fiction. That was great. She was wonderful to talk to, and I've always loved her writing a lot. She has a fascinating take on nanotechnology and possible futures.

Liz Hand energetically helped the students focus on their work and on pushing it farther, talking about how to make a living as a writer and bonding closely with the group. On Tuesday she read a section of a novel that won't be published for another year, and which I'll definitely be getting as soon as it's available. She's a natural, understated but lively teacher, and she's another writer I've admird a long time.

I feel like I don't have much insightful to say about either of the weeks as the class goes, though they seem to be able to heal from the various clashes, they're writing amazing stuff, working hard, not getting near enough sleep. Fascinating personalities, that are coming in closer focus for me. The house seems to be working well except for the noise from the surrounding fraternities and rooming houses, which seem to reach a crescendo but that may be calming down some. The parties were fun though I never feel as though I get time to talk to more than one or two people.

I feel as overtired as the students, having trouble sleeping at night with ideas and things I have to remember racing through my head. I'm not productive in the few hours I'm home, and having trouble keeping up even with reading email, much less with answering it.

It's another amazing, draining year. The weather is sunny and on the verge of being too warm. Days flicks by as quickly as pages of a book.

So Clarion goes.


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I've been giving Tori Amos' Scarlet's Walk another chance. The problem for me is that while the individual songs interest me, they are all too similar and there are too many of them for the album to work for me. Maybe I need to keep listening until more of the songs compel me to listen....


last week's listening § next week's listening



Jasper Fforde's Lost in a Good Book, like the previous in the series, The Eyre Affair (see my March 3, 2002 entry for comments) is a clever romp. I'm not entirely sure why I read this, as my feelings about this one are the same as the first: while I like the idea of this I find it less fun than I think I should. In this episode Tuesday Next is blackmailed by Goliath Corporation into releasing a villain who she's previously trapped, and in the course of it must learned how to jump into fiction without her uncle's machine. Oh, and she has to stop the end of the world, too. Other people will enjoy this far more than I did.

Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt has understandably received several awards and great reviews. It's a fascinating tale of a an alternative history in which the plague wiped out European civilization, and so the Islamic and Chinese civilizations rose much more strongly than they have in our world. The story is told by following a group of characters as they are born and reborn into the world as thinkers, inventors, experimenters, and in the bardo in the brief interstices between their lives. The characters struggle to understand the bardo and the meaning of life and death and how to build a better world. A fascinating growth in character and civilization. An intriguing thought experiment.

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is a big fat book that doesn't read like one. I was amazed at how quickly I could read it. I'm a quick reader, but I still was surprised. Like all of the previous ones, I found it a great fun romp and well worth reading. I enjoyed it,and especially enjoyed seeing Harry Potter as an adolescent and some of the twists in the story. I won't give a plot summary as they're available so many other places. Have fun. (See my June 13, 1999 entry for my first read of the second, August 8, 1999 for the third, July 23, 2000 entry for the fourth book, January 27, 2002 for my re-read of the first and March 24, 2002 for my re-reads of the second and third.)

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last week's writing § next week's writing


Retrospective: old journal

May 1990

May 18, 1990
Vancouver --> Regina

At the airport I spoke briefly to Gerry Gail's husband and to Cindy whose voice I could not recognize. Twenty years since we were friends; it's hard to think about. So long ago, but I remember well how I felt then. I remember her room and then the room she moved into, staying overnight there and her staying overnight at our house. How we were close, drifted apart, close again when we were both friends with Darlene, then drifting away finally--she to Rob and me to Laura and The Mustard Seed and then university and my life. She has three children now, teaches music. I have no children and work in an office messing with papers and students' plans and education and come home to write when I can. Different lives we have made for ourselves.
     Down below a wide flash f water then snowy mountains in the clouds and now flatter country the east side of the Rockies.
     After weeks of rush, write a grant, write a query letter, working on the conference proceedings, both editing, typing and a little writing, I'm back on a plane on my way to the League of Canadian Poets meeting in Regina.
     Ann York called th other night to say she won't be there, but John and Blaine will be, and Lala Koehn and a few other people I met last year at the meeting in London. Should be interesting to see what happens in the meeting after the awkward battles least year and their subsequent rearrangement of the meeting style. I wonder, too, how my reception at this meeting will compare with my reception at the last when I was a new member and participated in the reading, was greeted by Richard Harrison of the membership committee, with his compliments about my work, and the kind words after my reading. Being new made me self-conscious, but it was wonderful, too, especially being nominated for the committee, even though I didn't get on it, it was still quite an honour to be nominated and to be seriously considered [1]. I don't want to fade totally into the woodwork in this meeting since I won't be reading or new. All of us, a crowd of pets, hoping not to fade into the woodwork, all with our own agendas. My main agenda item is to feel part of a group of Canadian writers and to visit with friends I've made tentative bonds with--Susan McMaster, Richard Harrison, Blaine...and to see John, especially. We shall see.
Edmonton --> Regina
Stopped in Edmonton, had time to stretch my legs and leave a message on Jocelyn and David's answering machine. That was that, and I'm back on the plane.

May 20, 1990

Now that it's all over, and I have committed myself in several directions, I still feel inside-outside. Accepted by many of the writers I care about but after that strange trip from Regina to Vancouver on a different flight, I feel less certain. I was, of course for much of the time inarticulate and isolated, that and overwhelmed. Had a chance to connect with a few people, briefly, maybe too many? Anyway, it was satisfying in many ways. When I arrived on Friday the Feminist Caucus was just taking a break, saw John and Blaine immediately. Met Sarah Davies the new assistant, and sat down to listen to the discussion, distracted with fatigue, but taken by the women on the panel, Ahdri and Marie especially. They are both very focused, dedicated to their work and their people. I had a chance to get to talk to Marie a couple of times about James Welch and Joy Harjo--about writing from different perspectives. In bits of talk here and there.
     Then to a book launching at a theatre down the street--four readers, among them Pat Lane and a woman whose work seemed very interest (maybe too many lists) and live--about grasses--what a thing to say something's about, but so.
     Barely a break between that and the new members and Saskatchewan writers' reading. A lot of male dramatics in the reader, some down well, some poorly, with great teenaged thrusting of loins. And Steve Smith's wonderful performance of "Two Kinds of Talk" and Steve Heighton's modest reading of his work, strong work. And Anne Szumagalski, a presence, like a centre to the meeting. Heather Spears sketching the poets as they read.
     The reading went late--and then there was a session in Doug Smith's room before--out the window of the plane's shadow in a rainbow circle of light on the clouds (must be an illusion from the propeller, something...)--anyway, a welcome and a chance to talk. After the reading we went to Pat Jasper and Susan McMaster's room to talk about the readers--a large degree of consensus, except about the grass poet. Then to sleep, aching and tired.
     In the morning BLaine and John knocked on my door for a wake-up call and we went down to breakfast, joined by Steve Heighton--or was that lunch? Then to the business meeting, which seemed to go well and quickly. Got through it all on time, though we started late.
     I forgot to mention that after the caucus panel there was a meeting at which I agreed to organize the panel for next year with Ahdri.
     The panels began with the ethics panel--Victor Jerrett Enns, Cathy Ford, and Richard Harrison. VIctor talked about issues of invasion of privacy, and the damage caused, and Cathy read quotes from her work to do with poetic ethics and then I had to leave to catch the senior writers' panel. Joe Sherman moderating, Francis Sparshot, Anne Szumagalski, and Heather Spears. It seemed to barely get off the ground and I was sorry to have left the previous discussion. They talked about early influences, and Anne was the only one with great stories to tell, but all three had started young it seems with quite sophisticated work.
     Now a great view of Seattle in sun--I could see the trees of the zoo, Discovery Park, Green Lake, we're flying in right over the harbour. One of those roofs north of the red of Marketime is our house.
     I will also be on the awards committee for the Lampert first book prize. Richard Harrison nominated me and all the panels were elected without further nominations--except for the Lowther, for which I nominated John,and he's on it.
     It was an odd, fun frenetic meeting. The group reading in Mona Fertig's room was lovely--a chance to share our work and to hear what other people are currently doing, Heather Spears sketching as we went along.I got a photocopy of the sketch she did of me while I read "Tuppence in Pocket"--amazing how is resembles the photo of me on the back of Seven Robins. Quite a coincidence--or truth.


1. I don't even now remember what committee that was. I think for the Lampert Award committee, which I get on a year or so later.

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