New Year, New Notebook

Is it too late to say Happy New Year? We haven’t quite reached the middle of January so I’m going to go ahead and wish you all a Happy New Year.

Yesterday my buddy Independent Clause blogged about a stationery accessory she bought over the holidays. You know you’re obsessed with stationery when you buy it accessories.

Still, I’ve been known to obsess a bit about notebooks myself. Here’s my most recent purchase:

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Honestly, could it be more perfect for me?

You know what, it could. Give me a second. Yup, much better:

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What’s your obsession?

 

 

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The daughter of strangers became one herself

I’m really pleased to close out the year with another publishing credit. My creative nonfiction essay, Her Story Repeats, was accepted for publication by Understorey Magazine. The editor, Katherine J Barrett, pushed me to make the piece stronger and I’m grateful for that. You can read the essay, which compares my experiences as an immigrant with those of my mother, here .

I’m taking a break from my Wednesday blogging over the holidays. I’ll be back in mid January. Until then have a tinsel-tastic Christmas.

 

 

 

 

 

Any Mummers ‘Lowed In?

A Newfoundland Christmas tradition that features in Up She Rises is mummering. Here’s how it’s explained to Rachel:

“You’ll have to come mummering with us,” Judy said.

“Mumbling?”

She laughed. “Mummering. It’s a Christmas tradition. You disguise yourself, go round to the neighbours, put on a performance and …”

She caught my wary expression. “It’s fun, music, drinking, a bit of craic.” She turned to her husband, “Tell her Bill.”

“It’s an excuse to get hammered,” said Bill.

“It’s more than that,” chided Judy. “It’s a cultural imperative, a tradition that needs to be maintained, it’s…” She grinned. “Yeah, it’s an excuse to get hammered.”

I came across an interesting article here about how mummering is making a comeback in Newfoundland, although I don’t accept the contention that it was banned until the 1990s. How do I know ? Let’s just say I may have some personal experience of mummering in the 1980s:

 

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Jenny the Wren

 

 

 

 

Free Read A Free Write

Now that Nanowrimo is behind me, I thought I’d post an excerpt before I put it on the back burner to stew until the new year. Trainee lawyer Georgie is about to meet her mentor:

“Georgie.”

It was less a question than a command. I nearly stood and saluted the woman who I assumed was Cynthia, my mentor for the next year. Except I was a bit dizzy from spinning in my chair. I shook my head to re-orient myself then said,

“That’s me.”

Her short spiky hair was jet black, with a slash of white across the fringe. On me it would’ve screamed skunk, on Cynthia it purred sophistication. She was wearing a black jacket sculpted so closely over her lithe body that I wondered where lunch would fit. The pleat in her pants was sharp enough to cause bodily harm. I too was wearing a black pant suit but colour was where any similarity ended. I felt gauche and ungainly next to her.

She took me to her club for lunch where the wait staff seemed better dressed and more confident than me. I ordered a diet Coke and a club sandwich, regretting my choice when I saw the height of the food. How would I cram that in my mouth? Cynthia sipped her mineral water and pecked at her salad. She briefed me on the firm, the expectations of first year associates, my probable workload and the other lawyers.

“Watch out for Bernie,” she concluded. “It’s best if you find your own way to deal with it, but come see me if it gets too intense.”

I was about to ask her what “it” was when an angular man with black glasses stopped at our table. He leaned over and whispered in her ear and they both laughed. Probably at me.

Cynthia introduced him as Alain Moureau, a lawyer she knew from a case. He wished me luck in my career, made Cynthia promise they would do lunch soon and headed over to join a large table by the window.

On the way back to the office, we passed one of those chic intimidating boutiques that I avoid. “Let’s have a peek in here,” said Cynthia.

The saleswoman greeted her warmly. “Darling, it’s been ages,” and they fake kissed each other on the cheek. Then she held Cynthia at arm’s length and cooed at her. “You are owning that suit,” she said. “I told you.”

Cynthia fake brushed away the compliments and then gestured at me. “Can you do something with Georgie?” she said. “She’s new.”

With Georgie ? Doesn’t she mean for Georgie?

The saleswoman raked her carefully made up eyes over my suit. The corners of her glossy red lips descended ever so slightly for a second. With one glance she had sussed the fabric (cotton/poly), price (bargain basement) and brand (Fairweather) of my suit. All had been found wanting.

She stepped briskly over to the rack of clothes to her left and began scraping the hangers past her, muttering to herself. “Wouldn’t suit her,”… scrape, scrape, “She couldn’t pull it off” scrape scrape.

Then she stopped, lifted a hanger and thrust it at me. “Try this,” she barked. The dress was exquisitely cut, with lapels and dummy buttons down the front to mimic a suit. It was a beautiful burgundy and I knew I could never pull it off.

“Thanks, but, I’m not buying clothes today,” I demurred. I hadn’t received a pay cheque yet and my credit card was maxed out.

But I was propelled to the back of the store and into a changing room whose gilt mirror and brocade chair put my bedroom to shame. The saleswoman whisked the curtain shut behind me.

I grabbed the label and began hyperventilating. The dress was over three hundred dollars. There was no way I was buying it.

I stepped into it and began sliding it around my body. I was half-dressed when the saleswoman barged in, taking the zip and tugging it up. She prodded me back out into the store and over to a triple mirror where I gazed at me, myself and I. None of us looked like we were owning the dress.

“It’s perfect,” said Cynthia. She grabbed the tag and looked at the price. “A steal. I mean that’s no more than dinner out these days, am I right?”

Yeah, for me and fifty of my closest friends.

“She’ll take it.”

I will?

“In fact,” said Cynthia, “why don’t you keep it on? We can chuck that old suit you were wearing.”

You mean the old suit that’s brand new? And besides if I wear this dress how am I going to get a refund later?

“I uhm… My shoes don’t go with it.”

Cynthia and the saleswoman looked down at my flats.

Oh God, please don’t let this boutique sell shoes.

Back in the changing room, I tried to figure out how to avoid buying the dress. I imagined the look on the saleswoman’s face when the transaction was declined. But when I reached the till, Cynthia was handing over her credit card.  “I’ll get it,” she said. “You can pay me back when you get your first pay cheque.”

For a moment I was relieved. But as the saleswoman wrapped the dress in tissue paper and slid it into a bag I realised with horror that since Cynthia had paid for the dress, I would not be able to return it.

My Own Private Nanowrimo

 

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It’s the last day of Nanowrimo and there’s no going back. Although if you look at that chart up there, it seems I am going back, having written -1 words today.( I deleted the word Nanowrimo from the top of the document.)

Yes, it’s still November, but I typed “The End” last night and that seems like a good place to stop. Plus, I’m knackered and have a month’s worth of errands to catch up on. Come January I’ll print the manuscript and start a second draft. Until then I’m going to let all those words marinate. Overall, I’m pretty pleased with myself. In one month I’ve created a viable first draft of novel number two. I expect it took me two years or more to do that with my first novel, Up She Rises. Here’s a few things my experience this month has taught me:

  1. A word counter widget that tracks your progress is beyond awesome.
  2. Write daily even if it’s only 200 words. I didn’t manage every single day but I wrote most days. It helped keep the momentum going.
  3. Grab writing moments whenever possible. I tried to carry a notebook  with me in case I had five minutes to spare. Once I wrote a scene on the notes section of my phone then emailed it to myself to cut and paste into my word document.
  4. Turn off that persistent voice in your head that says, “this is crap.” Keep writing.

So now what? Well, according to the Nanowrimo website, when you hit the target 50,000 words you upload the manuscript to the word count validator and claim your win. But I can’t. Because I didn’t.

Except, guess what? I refuse to view the 40,093 words I wrote as anything other than a victory. So, right here, right now, I’m claiming my own private Nanowrimo victory. There may even be cake later.

What are you celebrating today?

 

Poetry & Songs

Last week I relied on poetry to get me through creeping despair. This week another poem lifted my spirit. Driving in the car I heard the most gorgeous poem on Start The Week. It was called In Wales Wanting To Be Italian and was recited by its author, the poet Imtiaz Dharker. (You can hear it here, at about the 26 minute mark, but I don’t know how long it will stay on the website.)

I don’t read enough poetry, but when I got home, I googled the poem and promptly ordered the book of poetry in which it appears.

Here’s an excerpt:

Is there a name for that thing you do when you’re young?
There must be a word for it in some language, probably German…
What is that called ?
Being sixteen  in Wales, longing to be Italian
To be able to say aloud without embarrassment “Bella, bella”
Lounge by a vespa with a cigarette hanging out of your mouth
And wear impossibly pointed shoes.

And of course, since last week I’ve been listening to another great poet, Leonard Cohen. When I was an angsty seventeen year old, he was a constant companion. This song has been covered so many times, but no version is better than KD Lang’s. And I love the moment she shares with Leonard Cohen at the end. Enjoy.