Les Semaines

April 10, 2005

what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: old journal


AWP & Taxes

Sorry this is a two-weeks-in-one entry. As usual, life is very busy. I'm finally getting over the flu, Jim is getting over his cold, and things are speeding up to make up for time lost and slowed down due to illness.

Wednesday night after Jim came home from work, we loaded up the car and drove north to Vancouver. The roads were pretty clear as was the border crossing so we made good time and got to our friend Damon's before 9:00. He has a great set up for guests (a bedroom and a bathroom near the entrance of his condo and downstairs from the loft where he sleeps) and amazingly enough, lives only about five blocks away from hotels where the AWP meeting was being held. Talk about convenient! (And lucky for us.) It's a terrific condo, too, lots of light and windows and the loft is terrific.

The conference itself was huge, about 4,000 people, which meant that it was easy for us to avoid the few people we wanted to, but surprisingly enough, we kept bumping into people we wanted to see, most especially William Pitt Root, who was both Jim's and my M.F.A. thesis advisor back in the day. It was wonderful to meet up with him and his wife, Pamela Uschuk. We saw a lot of our Malahat Review table friends John Barton and Rhonda Batchelor, we had a great brunch with Elaine Brown and chats with Randy Watson who was at Montana when we were and whom we hadn't seen since we left there and Kitty Lewis from Brick Books where my second book was published. We were mostly going because Jim's press wanted him there for a signing so I felt rather like an adjunct, but it was so great seeing everyone that I had a good time. We didn't go to many panels, because the first one we went to was so bad -- very little discussion of the topic but everyone reading their poems. Fine if it had been booked as a reading or an excuse for a reading, but it had been booked as a panel discussion so it felt pretty damn lame an self-serving on the part of the participants. I later went to another panel that was made rich by the presence of Jan Zwicky talking about lyric and narrative in poetry, and I also attended an informational session on query letters for novels that was useful to remind me about doing it though I didn't really learn anything new though that things are a little different in the mainstream world than in the speculative fiction realm. Not much, though.

Also had a lovely moment when a woman who works for Arc magazine said she'd discovered my first book, Seven Robins, when she was doing an internship for that publisher and that she'd really liked it. A writer's moment in a crowd of 4,000 writers! I bless her for saying that.

We left earlier than we had originally intended to because we were still recovering from our colds and had done everything we really wanted to at the conference. We could have stayed for a couple more readings, but home sounded better.

We arrived home to discover that part of our ancient lilac tree had fallen in the wind across our back yard and was resting on our deck. It do no damage but Jim was worried that it would and so we spent a couple of hours out in the drizzle chopping it up. He and Chuck and later Zac chopped the rest of it down on Friday and now there is just a stump. I guess the good thing is that we have a better view of our espaliered apple trees blooming, but Jim is going to plant something else there very soon.

The rest of this week was up catching up, writing, me doing our taxes (ugh! we owe a lot!) and a Clarion West people dinner to meet up with one of the founders of Clarion South in Australia, which was a lot of fun.

last week's thinking and doing § next week's thinking and doing


I've been pretty much obsessing over Jorane's new album, the You and the Now. It was released in Canada last year, but was released last week in the U.S. I loved Jorane's first album, vent fou, but had been progressively less interested in the following eps and albums -- though the sound was always interesting her song structure was getting looser and more experimental and the work just didn't hook me. When I heard she was going to do a more pop album I didn't find that encouraging though I should have. She's too edgy to do what anyone else would call a pop album. This is more like vent fou enriched with her recent experimentations but with songs with tighter pop structures. It makes for wonderful listening -- the pop makes the songs immediately catchy and the edgy experimentation, however toned down for this album, make it rich and never boring. And most of the lyrics are in English -- they too are evocative and not didactic. Overall this is a great pleasure.

last week's listening § next week's listening


Finished Assassin's Quest, the third book in the Robin Hobb fantasy series I was reading. It was just as enjoyable as the first two, and so I went and ordered her other publications.

Sean Astin's There and Back Again: An Actor's Tale is a fairly entertaining look at the world through a Hollywood actor's viewpoint. No big revelations, just a description of his life so far with about half the book focusing on the making of The Lord of the Rings. Thoroughly readable.

Nuala O'Faolain's My Dream of You is a mainstream literary novel about an Irish woman whose life as a traveling journalist based in England has suddenly come to a halt when her gay comrade-in-arms suddenly dies. She returns to Ireland to investigate a divorce that took place just shortly after the height of the Potato Famine, when the poor of Ireland were emigrating in massive numbers and those left behind were starving and scratching out the barest kind of living on the margins of the land. The divorce was of England landowners, caused by the wife's affair with an Irish man, who to the English appeared a peasant and to the Irish of an old leading family. It's a novel where the more the main character finds out about the historical situation, the more she begins to learn about herself. Beautifully written though without much tension to pull the reader forward.

An Assembly Such As This is the first part of Pamela Aidan's version of Pride and Prejudice from Darcy's point of view. I found it highly entertaining and loved how it matched the original story. Purists would hate this one less than Linda Berdoll's Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife but I'm sure they'd still dislike it.

last week's reading § next week's reading


I had a poem accepted for an upcoming issue of Strange Horizons, an online speculative fiction magazine.

Sunday after AWP Karen and I did our usual coffee shop writing session, and yesterday Karen, Barry, Jim, and I had our monthly writing retreat, which was productive for all four of us.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: old journal

Thursday, August 8, 1991

Stromness, Orkney

Got up very early, ate from a trolley Mrs. MacDonald had kindly left for us, got a taxi to the train station. The train was full of German youths acting giddy. Christina began working, while I slept and watched the north of Scotland go by. I admired the mountains and trees and sheep running away from the train.

Got in to Thurso about 11:00 and got on the bus for Scrabster. The ferry left about an hour later. Windy and a little cold, but fun. I stood on the Hoy side to watch the Old Man of Hoy go by and watched Stromness come into view.  


The Old Man of HoyThe Old Man of Hoy, a sea stack off the island of Hoy.

StromnessA view of Stromness from the ferry.

Went to Mrs. Hourston's and settled in. Slept for about a 1/2 hour then walked through the town, into the gift shops along the end, past the well where the Hudson's Bay, Cook's crew after he died, and Franklin's Erebus and Terror loaded water for the long trip across the Atlantic. Stopped and got fish and chips and had a quiet evening watching the news with the release of John McCarthy and Christina phoned Matt. Rain tonight.


A Stromness viewA view along Stromness waterfront.


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