Saturday, May 21, 2011

Stuff and Such

Oh good glory it has been a full time. My apologies for going AWOL here for a week or so.

In no particular order:

1. The chicken pox fairy came to visit our house. You would think I would recognize the signs, but in my defense, our boys had the pox almost eleven years ago, and at that point, I was reeling from the brand-new knowledge that I was pregnant with my third baby in three years. Realistically, this visit was easier and the recipient of the fairy's gifts got a torso covered with pox but only enough on her face to vaguely resemble an acne-prone teenager. The one mishap of the week was the night when the anthistamine seemed to have little effect; around midnight, it dawned on me that I had used the antihistamine from a travel kit, without checking its expiration date. March 2008. Turns out effectiveness does dwindle with age.

2. I picked up eighteen new books for review in the last week. Oink, oink. I feel like a glutton. Reviewing books is the best gig. Interestingly it is also my best source of fame. I've been writing professionally for more than fifteen years, but my "name recognition" has exponentially increased in the last year of reviewing books for the local paper. Apparently people read it. (There's a review of mine in today's paper. It was a great read.)

3. Speaking of writing, I've said for years that freelancing is "feast or famine." This school year has been a kind of lean one, work-wise, which has allowed me to edit one novel and write a draft of another. In the last ten days, though, it has been an ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT BUFFET WITH GOOD DESSERTS AND DUMPLINGS. The kind you need to roll away from afterwards. My goodness. Those clients who had all been promising me work soon were not kidding. I'm not complaining in the least. I love it and every single one of the projects is fascinating (something that doesn't always happen in the freelance world, if I'm honest.)

4. That novel I edited went out into the world on Thursday, looking for an agent and a publisher. After our first visit to my sister's cottage on the Gaspe peninsula in Quebec where they asked my husband to stay to teach at the little English school, I began to imagine a character who would say yes to this and what would happen to him if he did. I wrote a novel about him. And then a second, and this year, a third. The first novel has been making the rounds for the last couple of years. Editors love it, BUT. And it has gone nowhere. This year, I worked with a fine fine editor on fine-finetuning the sequel and both of us felt that the second book was far stronger than the first. So, as a good environmentalist, I decided to recycle some of the best description from the first book, adding it to the second, among other revisions - and decided to put the first novel away in a drawer for now. The fine fine editor noted that a sequel freed me "from the burden of exposition" -- I was able to bring the reader into the story much more quickly. I don't mind putting the first one aside. I'm not sure yet what to do with the third one though. Still pondering.

5. I've written about a fictionalized version of the place I love in Quebec for the better part of a decade now. It's more than weird to think that I'm effectively done. It feels like a muse to me, Quebec does. It's familiar enough but also very compellingly foreign. When we went to Italy two years ago, I wondered if I could write fiction about the place (read: more research trips required!) but Italy felt too foreign and inscrutable to me. I felt I did not dare to try. Anything I could think of felt either like A Room with A View or Under the Tuscan Sun. With Quebec, the difference feels approachable. Maybe it's the shared Canadianness, and the separate nationhood. The challenge for me now is how to write fiction about something else. I have several ideas in mind and I'm very interested in the stories. I can't tell, though, whether I need to write more about my muse or whether immersion in a new imaginary world just takes time.

6. For the first time, I included a real person in fiction this year. He is disguised - not with the anti-semitism and small apparatus Anne Lamott recommends for concealing identity from the original person - or, more truly, blended with several other people so that the character is an entity unto himself. However, the real version just dropped a bouquet of asparagus at my door. (Do not panic, Gentle Reader. I have no intention of making it a habit of including real people in fiction.)

7. A robin started a nest atop the wicker shelving unit we inherited from the woman who owned our house before us. Dave destroyed it as the shelves are right outside our back door and he did not want to be divebombed each and every time we went outside. We placed a plastic owl in its place to Scare Her Away. Instead, she moved to the apartment downstairs and built a nest on the second shelf. There are now three gorgeous eggs inside. And, if we are stealthy, we can see her profile as she sits on the nest. She looks strained with attention as she protects her babies. Yesterday was the first truly warm day and we weeded the back gardens, mowed the lawns and ate outside. All of this made her keep away from the nest for quite a while. You can tell we miss having a pet: I thought about ways to keep the eggs warm and called to her to tell her it was safe for her to sit on the nest, and Megan dropped bread crusts on the ground near the nest for her.

8. Our old house is for sale. I was biking past it when I happened to notice an open house sign. I turned and went home - into the house I know with every one of my senses, as well as my heart. It's a lovely house and has been well-loved the last few years too. But we decided not to move back, even though we entertained the idea for a few hours. I like that we had the choice and also that we choose to move forward and not to take the safest options.

9. I've been away from our church for several months now. When the chaos of illness in my immediate and extended family was heightened, I decided I needed to do two things: cull my Facebook friends list to a much smaller group, and finish my role as Children's Ministries Coordinator at church. I had planned to finish in May or June anyhow, but it was a good decision to leave. For a few weeks after that, I needed to be with Megan who was sick, and then we needed to be visiting my grandma or my sister, and then we chose to go away at Easter. But I also decided that when I was in town and available, I would take myself to different churches, as a mini-sabbatical, so that there would be some space for me and others between my role as coordinator and my role as regular person. My family has gone to our church - when they are well and in town - without me. It's been interesting.

Oh, I'm sure there's more. But that will keep for another day.

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