Les Semaines

June 10, 2007

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

 §

Gearing Up

It's definitely that time, which has once again managed to sneak up on me. Time to hurry hurry hurry and get everything ready to run another Clarion West workshop. We're not in bad shape to get started, but there are a thousand details and ducks to get in a row before Friday, when we move everything over to the house and the students start arriving. Hear me, I am NOT panicking. I am calm as calm.

I just have a very long, complicated To Do list.

And getting things sorted at work has been busy, since I'm taking the last two weeks of June as holiday and I'm off the months of July and August anyway. Basically, I'm getting ready to end the academic year for all three programs.

For the first time ever, I attended our College's graduation ceremony. Because for the first time ever I had a graduate who was graduating from the doctoral program I run. It was started in Fall of 2003, and this is the first person to complete his dissertation. Kind of momentus, at least for us. Besides being smart, Ken is also personable and I have really enjoyed working with him. He was the trail-blazer for the program in many ways, and much of what I've learned about running the doctoral program he was the impetus for because he was the first to need the answers. It helps that his wife was one of my Preservation certificate students and I love her. I even made a found poem out of her description of visiting the dump at the Minidoka internment camp. It was great to see them and their new baby, born very shortly after he finished his dissertation.

One interesting thing is that is that I ran someone I hadn't seen in over twenty years, the roomate of a close friend from my undergraduate days. Such a Seattle coincidence: the only time either of us have attended a College graduation, me even though I've worked there over 17 years (ulp!) and she because a close neighbour was graduating.

The world is a very small place.

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

Listening

Mishmash.

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Reading

PopCo is probably my least favourite of the three Scarlett Thomas novels I've read, I think because it's the first that has been so obviously didactic. She always deals with smart themes, but this one ended a little less satisfyingly, I think because it was all so noble and good at the end. This one focuses on codes and cryptographs. Here the focus is a young woman who works at a huge toy corporation. She is swept away with an assortment of her coworkers to a secluded retreat in by Dartmoor so they can come up with ideas for a new line of toys. Then she starts receiving messages in code. All her life her grandfather trained her to break complicated codes and her mind thinks in those terms, so she is immediately challenged by it, and she's still thinking about her grandfather's death and the treasure code he broke when she was a child--but wouldn't tell anyone about. While I stil lreally enjoyed this--particularly how clever it is, I was left feeling just a little let down.

Susan Beth Pfeffer's young adult novel Life As We Knew It follows a young girl's diary when an asteriod hits the moon and pushes it closer to earth, causing all kinds of physical strains on the earth (tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, volcano dust darkening the skies so that crops failed). It covers the slow failure of society over the time and her family's struggle to survive. Compelling reading, and well-handled.

Ann Turnbull's young adult historical novel, No Shame, No Fear is the prequel to Forged in the Fire, which I read two weeks ago. This follows how Will, the son of an up-an-coming merchant meets Susannah, the daughter of Quaker weavers. This is just at the time when Quakers were being arrested even for meeting for their worship services. Will's growing interest in the Quaker faith sets him directly against his father's wishes, and both he and Susannah watch as their friends are beaten, arrested, and suffer the horrible privations of 17th-century prisons. A well-told, fascinating story, and a charming, realistic romance.

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Writing

During our writing retreat Saturday (scheduled early because of Clarion West starting next week) I finished the novel re-write! The novel is now over 10% shorter, tighter, and better. It's still damn long--roughly 136,000 words--but now it's done, except for proofreading, until an agent or editor gives me revision direction. Somehow finishing feels just a little anti-climactic.

I've started reading over the new novel just to see where I am. I haven't really worked on it for over a year while I worried over Gypsy Davey. Surprisingly, it reads well to me--so much so that it doesn't feel like I wrote it, but that the main character did! (It's in first person, and she has a lively voice.) What a strange feeling.

I never did manage to complete my poem for the writing workshop, and in fact skipped the worskhop because I was feeling so behind with everything. Bad Neile! The feeling was made worse by the fact that I was totally blocked about the poem. I hope I will be able to reach my Write-a-thon goals! I'm trying not to panic, but I am getting nervous, especially about my ability to switch gears back and forth between fiction and poetry.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: old journal

Thursday, August 13
Toronto

Drove the car back to Gloucester--the early part in a pouring rainstorm that left really deep puddles in the road--that caused an argument because Christina thoght I was going too fast. Dropped her and the bags off at the train station, then filled the car and returned it to the rental place, which was closing down and two of the three being had been made redundant.

Got back to London in the early afternoon, but neither of us were feeling up to much--we mostly slept until it was time to walk to the theatre fo Death and the Maiden. It was a powerful play--a bit slow to start but then taut and gripping.

Sunday Christina was exhausted and sick. I was tired myself and slept a large part of the day. Made a couple of forays for last minute souvenirs and to a huge antiquarian book fair in the Russell Hotel and then to the British Museum, which was packed out. Did get to spend some time staring at the Lindisfarne Gospels, and browsed through oter illunimated books and some Eliot Practical Cats stuff. Dash through the Anglo-Saxon stuff to the Hutton Hoo treasures, but still a little too crowded, so I bought a Lindisfarne postcard and left.

Monday we wrestled our stuff to the airport and endured the flight. We were pretty much goners that day.

Tuesday Christina and I went to lunch at Kensington Kitchens, then while she and Matt had a union executive meeting I wandered around the Bloor bookshops. Christina made a stuff zucchini for our dinner from their garden.

Wednesday I caught the train to London (Ontario) to see Kathryn. On the train sat with poet Daniel David Moses on the train, and had a very pleasant chat. Kathryn was at work when I arrived, so I went to the new mall and ended up buying six peices of clothing (all but one on sale and very inexpensive).

Kathryn and I met outside her office and walked across Blackfriars Bridge to her house. Strange being in London--so much familiar and strange. Went to dinner at a new café--pretty good--then to a farewell party for Sonya, who is off to law school at UVic. Late and smoky night--my lungs very congested. Got up as Brian left to drive Sonya back west--slow morning. Got the train back to Toronto just before noon, feeling quite congetsted and a little ill all the way.

Back at Christina's now, making myself tea.

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