Friday, July 03, 2015

What I've Been Up To

So, I'm writing a book.

Yikes, did I just say that out loud? Can we treat this like that time I cut my own hair and told you about it here but asked you not to mention it to me the next time you saw me in real life? I don't really want to talk about it. But I also don't want to pretend it's not a thing that I'm doing. Because it's a thing that I'm doing.

In fact,  it's so much a thing that I'm doing that I'm almost done doing it. I finished my first draft, beginning, middle, end, on Tuesday, and now I'm editing it. (Editing is hard! I might die!)

It's what I've been up to on Wednesday mornings at the Bean and every single day during nap time. I put Sullivan in his crib, hole up in my bedroom with a coffee and chocolate and Cloud Boat, and write like there's no tomorrow (because what if?). Some days I write so much that my laptop starts smoking! Just kidding, but almost not.

It's this thing I've always, always wanted to do. And, I mean, I've sort of written books before. Like, in elementary school. They were all probably five to ten pages long, but when you're a little kid that's pretty long. When I was in grade one, for example, I wrote a book about a sad girl who had no friends because the girls she knew were all glittery (I don't know) and she wasn't and it ended with her trying to cover herself in glitter and all the glitter falling off and her sitting on the swing set alone watching all the glittery people play together without her. When I was in grade two, I wrote a book about a sad girl who had no friends because she had to change schools and everyone at her new school already had friends. When I was in grade three, I wrote a book about a sad girl who ran away from home because, you guessed it, she had no friends. (Which doesn't make a lot of sense, I guess. I wasn't too concerned about plot holes back then. I just wanted everyone to be sad and lonely and everything to be dramatic and what is more dramatic than running away from home?)

Guess what this book I'm writing now is about? Yep. A sad girl. What is the deal with me, guys? Sadness is just so beautiful. I don't know.

Anyway. It's this thing I've always wanted to do. So, following my short career as a single-minded (unpublished) child author and a twenty year hiatus, I just...starting doing it, I guess.

Actually, no, I owe it to a friend, who probably doesn't want me linking to her sweet blog because she's all secretive and mysterious about her online persona. (Which is fair but too bad because I think you'd really love it.) A few months ago, I hung out with her for the very first time (we had a whole bunch of mutual friends), and I asked her what she liked to do and she said she was writing a book. I was awe-struck. I said, almost exactly, "What! Lucky! Fun! Jealous!"

Because I have a way with words. An important attribute in an author.

She was instantly my hero. Writing a book. Man. I almost clapped for her. It was like if I'd grown up wanting to be an astronaut and then I hung out with someone and they were like, "Yeah, I take bi-weekly trips to the moon for kicks."

I asked her a bunch of questions about her book's genre and plot and characters and how she got started and where it was going to go and who it was for and all that, and I told her how much I'd always wanted to write a book. I said it like I was an old woman who had exactly sixty minutes left to live. Like, "Oh, man, I've always wanted to write a book. I wish I had just done it, you know? And now it's too late, because I've only got sixty minutes left to live and the most I could write in sixty minutes is a blog post."

And then she said, "Well, why don't you write a book?" Because, obviously, I had more than sixty minutes left to live. I know it for a fact, because it's been more than sixty minutes since we had that conversation.

And I looked at her and said, "Well, uh, because..." And I couldn't think of any reason not to. So I went home and started writing a book, and now here I am, editing it.

It's been so much fun. If you've always wanted to write a book, you should just start doing it now. And you should find friends who also are writing books and help them and let them help you back.

I have two writing buddies, and I love them and would not have probably written even five to ten pages without them. (Hey guys. My life would suck without you.)

The other night after I'd written the final sentence of the final chapter, I sent my first draft to Writing Buddy Sarah, who lives in New York (where a large chunk of my book takes place, because of course it does don't be ridiculous), and she rode the train into Manhattan at night and sat in a park and read the whole thing from front to back. It was the coolest; it made me so happy. Even if no publisher or literary agency wants me, at least I can say I have written a book and someone has read it right where it takes place. And she 'got it' and liked it, which was such a bonus that it made me cry.

It might seem silly to a lot of people, but it was a big deal to me. (Thanks again, Sarah.)



And, like I said, now: editing. And then we'll see. I'll probably need one or two more people to read it and tell me if it's awful, and then maybe I'll look for a literary agent (know anybody?) which is strange and exciting. I have very low expectations, and am naturally very pessimistic about the whole thing. But I just want to try. Because sometimes trying is the fun part, and having tried is such a great feeling. Much better than having wished but not tried. I said to Sarah, or Mystery Friend, or both of them, that my goal was, ultimately, to write a book I liked. If someone else liked it, even cooler. And if it got published, that's just beyond anything I'd expect or hope for.

So, already, I'm 'there'. I'm where I wanted to be in the first place and I've still got some energy to expend. I figure now I'll just go as far as I can from here, and then when I feel like I've given it all the time and energy it deserves, I'll step back and see what I've got and hold my hands out in front of me and say, "That's that!"

And then I'll go do something else, or maybe this again! Isn't life nice?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

{ten years}


It has now been, officially but not to the exact day, ten years since I graduated high school.

This is pretty weird for me. I'm not an old person. I'm basically a baby. But when I was in high school, people who were ten years older than me were old people. Like, elderly, antique, crotchety, go-to-bed-at-six-thirty-type old. It can't be! It's not logical! It's bad math!

Somehow, though, it's been ten years and I'm young still. Maybe it's just good ol' magic.

I don't think there'll be a reunion. I mean, that most likely would've been sorted out by now. And anyway, Facebook has kind of ruined the allure of the ten year reunion, hasn't it? I know where most of my classmates are and what they're doing and what they look like now. It's not like those cheesy nineties movies where the goal is to go back and impress all your former classmates with how much you've changed and accomplished but also how young and fun you still are. You can do all of that on Facebook, and it's much more effective anyway because it's way easier to be impressive in a little square picture on the internet than in awkward conversation over a punch bowl in a florescent-lit gymnasium.

In any case, the realization and recognition of the tenth anniversary of my escape from the pit of drudgery and awfully awful awfulness that was "high school" has produced in me a sort of non-nostalgia that is neither fond nor wistful. A feeling of extreme thankfulness not to be "young again".

People used to tell me, "You're going to look back on this as the best time of your life." I wish I could go back to that time of my life just to tell them (and myself) that they were wrong, thank goodness. And then I'd zip back to the future so fast that they'd get time-travel gravel all up in their eyes. And I'd just laugh.

Anyway. Anyway, anyway, anyway.

I meant to say that this non-nostalgia did prompt me to pull out the old high school yearbook, which has actually been doubling as a shelf in my office and hasn't been flipped through in a very long time. So I, you know, flipped through it. That picture up top is my whole, huge grad class, minus somebody. Because there are sixteen kids in that picture and seventeen in my grad class. I'll have to scroll up and figure out who it is...

Who the heck...?

Oh right. No. I know. One guy left for a while to play hockey, but came back for grad. So he didn't get to be in the official Class Picture, which ended up in the back cover of that year's yearbook. He really missed out.

I was, obviously, really excited about that picture. Can you find me? Second row, messy hair. The guy behind me in the toque, Micah, was one of my besties all through my school years. Doesn't he just look like such an absolute peach? The two guys hiding in the centre back were both named Matt. The guy making the peace signs used to bring his cat, Kiki, to math class under his shirt and make mazes for it out of text books so that it could walk around without being seen. The math teacher always thought he was making the cat up because he never saw it and would yell at him for meowing in class. (I feel like I've told you all this before. Stop me if I have.)

I'm not in any of the sports pages in the yearbook.

Actually, no. That's not completely true. I'm in three of the four pictures on the Sr. Badminton page, which is more than any of the people who actually played badminton. Because, for some reason, I was standing behind the badminton teams while they were getting their pictures taken for the Sr. Badminton page. Maybe, subconsciously, appearing somewhere in the sports section was really important to me? Too bad if it's true, because sports + me = 0.



Then there's this gem, from my actual grad day. I really love the fact that they put Cody way out front so it looks like Matt is sitting on his shoulder. I also love how happy Micah and I look to be graduating, how we're the only ones not smiling even though we were probably more excited than anyone else in this picture to be done high school. I wonder where he is now. He's one of the ones I've lost track of. It's weird how that goes, isn't it?

I should've worn a white dress. The girls who wore white look like angels in this picture. My dress was blue.




Things I remember from this day: 

1. there were a lot of mosquitos
2. I didn't have any shoes to wear with my dress so I didn't wear shoes at all
3. our grad song was Swing Life Away by Rise Against and our 'inspirational grad quote' was, ahem: "Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." (I hope you pictured me saying that in a very breathy, airy, inspirational voice with my eyes half closed while stroking my chin.)
4. lots of other things. (Vague-blogging is very en vogue these days.Vogue vague. It just wasn't the best day of my life, and I remember that about it the most and I always say to people how much I hated that day, so I almost feel like I shouldn't not write it too. You know, in the interest of being honest but not baring my soul to the whole internet. And it's not as though you have to say why a day sucked every time you say that a day sucked, do you? Is this awkward? I feel like this is awkward.) 


Other notable appearances in the yearbook include me in a locker with a caption about skipping class, me holding my friend's foot in the air for no good reason I can see, and me giving a different friend bunny ears. These are, apparently, things I did when I was seventeen.

It really is funny. A few weeks ago I was home and my mom mentioned something that had happened in high school that had really upset me then. I didn't remember that particular incident until she said it, and even then I kind of remembered it the way you remember something that happened in a movie or a dream. To someone else.

Ten years is a lot of distance. I'm glad for that. I like that I'm forgetting things. I'm okay to remember high school in a kind of abstract way, a funny story about this person and a weird quirk that that person had. A trip we took to another town, a night spent stargazing on the roof of my car, the play I was in. Me in a locker and holding a foot and giving bunny ears and not playing badminton and the Pink Floyd lyrics scrawled in the back of my yearbook by the guy who sat behind me on the school bus.

"Shine on, you crazy diamond."

Thursday, June 18, 2015

28

My birthday is coming up on Saturday. I've been listening to Seinabo Sey's Younger on repeat this week.

You know you ain't getting any
Younger, younger, younger
Are you?

No, Seinabo. I ain't.

I'm going to be 28.

28.

28 is so young. I look at those numbers and I think, "I'm just a baby girl. Look at all this life ahead of me like the view of Saskatchewan farmland from the top of a grain elevator! Endless opportunities! Such possibility, such promise! So much wheat!" (In this analogy, wheat is time.)

But the thing about 28, really, is that 28 seems to me to be the lip of a cliff. The drop-off isn't even all that steep, but it's the tipping point. You're running through the ages, really carefree about it, because old age is a million years away and you have all the time in the world, and all of a sudden you're not running anymore; you're falling. You're falling down the side of the hill.

29 is the shallow, gravelly incline that delivers you, unscathed but a tiny bit shaken, to 30.

30 is an old stump sticking out the side of the hill like a bone out of a broken arm. It catches you on your way down and tears at your skin.

31 is a resting place. You think you're done falling. You think, I've survived! I'm okay! 

32 and 33 and 34 let you sit there, because they're kind years, I've heard.

But then 35 steals the coat off your back and when you go to chase it, you realize it's an ambush! 36 runs up behind you and kicks you in the bum! You go careening once more down the mountain; your face and body are scratched and scarred by the rocks and sticks that are 37, 38, and 39.

And then, just like that, 40.

How long does it take to fall down a hill? Like ten minutes? If it's a really big hill?

What I'm trying to say is: in two days I'm going to be 28, but in ten minutes, I'm going to be 40.

Which means that in twenty minutes, I'll be 80...

...which means I'll get the senior's discount at almost any restaurant I choose to go to to celebrate my birthday on Saturday.

Hooray!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Art




The other day, I was walking downtown when I noticed a fancy couch in a window with a big, white, spray-painted engine sitting on it. I pondered it. I was with my friend, Leah, and she pondered it too.

Engine on a couch. Couch engine. Fancy engine. Fancy porcelain couch engine. English engine. Reclining fancy porcelain English couch engine. Couch-gine. Eng-ouch. Nope.

We noticed there was a little sign on the glass which had, presumably, the name of the person who'd painted the engine and put it on the fancy couch, and also the name of the exhibit as a whole: Three Deuces.

Three Deuces.

I have no idea. The whole thing reminded me, a little, and on a way smaller scale, of the time I'd followed a group of hippies into a back alley and found a large woman in a bikini lying on an inflatable raft, covered in lettuce

However, there was also a web address printed on the glass, so I looked it up when I got home and found that it was part of an art exhibit spread out all over Regina's downtown*. There was a map on the website which showed where all of the showcases were (there were nine of them). So, kind of like an art treasure hunt? I wondered if, with some context, the fancy white couch engine might make sense. So I made Barclay come with me and find the other eight exhibits so as to clear this whole thing up.

I don't really know what to tell you: I still am not sure about the reclining porcelain couch engine, and now I have even more questions about a thing covered in feathers and also a floating television that seemed like something out of the Twilight Zone, but I love that people do stuff like this. I love that, even though I will readily admit that I didn't "get" most of the pieces in this exhibit, I could still really enjoy it for what it was - people being creative and sharing their creativity with other people in a different-than-usual way. I love that an engine on a couch or leaves stapled to a chair has some deep, hidden meaning to somebody out there. 

Art, you guys. Get into it.


*From the website: "Pop Up Downtown is a public art installation series, wherein underused urban spaces become showcases for compelling artworks from early June to late August."

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Bean Has Power

The power has been going out a lot lately in my city. It's been missing us mostly, but this week we've lost ours twice, both around the same time in the early morning.

Sask Power has commented on the outages, saying that it has something to do with wildlife. Squirrels and large birds 'interacting with the equipment at a substation'. Everyone's like, "Oh, okay, that makes sense," but I want to know what's up with the squirrels and large birds in this city that they suddenly seem to be attempting suicide en masse at 6:30 AM every morning. Like, is this a city-wide animal morale problem? Also, is there a pile of fried squirrels somewhere?

The power went out this morning again, 6:30 AM, right on schedule (RIP little buddy, whoever and whatever you were). I was about to walk out the door to hit up the Bean (it's Wednesday! Bean Day!) for my precious coffee and writing hours, when there was a sound like someone moving heavy furniture across the roof of our house and everything went dark. My first thought was, "Again?" and my second thought was "THE GARAGE DOOR OPENER IS NOT GOING TO WORK, I'M PRETTY SURE."

I was trapped. I could not go to the Naked Bean for coffee and writing time.

THE WORST. Capital letters THE WORST.

I can live without the microwave. I can sit in a darkened room. I can even go for a whole entire day without charging my phone. But I look forward to Wednesday mornings the way that a little kid looks forward to Christmas. Imagine a five year-old waking up on December 25 only to find that the presents have all been returned and the tree is in flames in the front yard and his dad is standing in front of it hoisting a can of gasoline over his head, laughing maniacally and yelling, "CHRISTMAS IS CANCELLED! FOREVERRRRRRR!!!"

That's kind of how I felt this morning at 6:30 when the power went out.

I pouted.

I checked Twitter, today's premium source for timely, accurate news, to see if the power was out across half the city as it had been on Monday or if it was just my unlucky neighbourhood this time. Some guy was tweeting angrily at Sask Power about how he felt like he was living in a third world country. The power had been out for exactly three minutes.

I stopped pouting. I did not want to grow up to be the kind of person who felt so entitled to the privileges of modern convenience that I said things like that publicly. Plus, come on, Guy, innocent squirrels are frying all around you and all you care about is your breakfast and morning coffee? Grow some empathy.

Barclay came into the kitchen then, summoned by my heartbrokenness which he can sense from a mile away. It turned him into a kind, doting version of the hulk and he broke into the garage through the old, padlocked side door (a thing we have not attempted yet in the two years that we've lived here) and opened the garage door manually, effectively saving the day. I was so happy. He warned me that the Naked Bean, as it is in sort of the same neighbourhood as us, might not have power either and I said I'd let him know, and then I grabbed my laptop and jumped into my car and drove off into the sunrise. I felt so liberated.

I sent him two texts when I got to the Bean and found that the power was on. I said, "Thanks for setting me free," and, "The Bean has power."

And I had to laugh when I reread them a minute later, because don't they make me sound like I've joined some kind of wonky religion or something? Or maybe I'm just in that kind of mood where you're so relieved about something that everything is funny? Either way, I'm sitting by myself in a coffee shop grinning like an idiot.

Happy Wednesday, everybody. Let's keep the little squirrel families in our thoughts as we go about our days today.