Saturday, March 28, 2009

Focus on the Positive

The weather is a bit like my life as a writer. No spring. We've had another snowstorm this week and it feels like the middle of winter. Same with my book. No spring release. Instead, it's to arrive in the fall. So I've cancelled my Milwaukee presentation at the geneology conference. I think it's better to wait for the book. The good news is that my publisher is working with a new and better distribution outfit and I'll be exposed to markets outside of the US of A. So, being a Cdn. it makes me very happy to know I've a chance to be in Cdn. bookstores. 

My publisher, Bloooming Tree Press, down in Austin, Texas is small and the publishing world is so very big. I guess I just have to learn patience. Hard to do sometimes. But like I tell my dear old mom in the nursing home, you must focus on the positive. 

I see that Anita Daher's book, Spider's Song, has been nominated, in the Books for Young People category, for a Manitoba Book of the Year Award. That's positive news, for sure! Congrats and fingers crossed for her. She's been a wonderful mentor to emerging writers like me and Spider's Song is a book that tackles difficult teen issues with sensitivity and warmth. 
  
And another positive thing ... which actually makes me feel a bit self-
conscious, but ... the warm and friendly super-blogger and author of the fun and spirited,  I So Don't Do Mysteries, Barrie Summy, gave my little ole blog a little nomination, which I will wear with pride. I'm a bit slow, here, Barrie, but super thanks.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Bull Rider


I especially like reading books by people I've met - either for real, (of course, that's the best), or through the internet- (which is becoming a great substitute).

So, last year about this time, when I was still in the forming class of 2k9 (and yes, I'm a dropout :( - sad, but true - twas a hard decision), I was able to have dinner with the author of the fabulous new release, Bull Rider. Suzanne Morgan Williams was en route from the high Arctic back to her home in Nevada - and my city of Winnipeg was an overnight stop for her. 

Who'd want to go to the Arctic in March? Global warning researchers, perhaps? Russian spies? Polar bear enthusiasts? Snowmobile test drivers? How about a children's book writer? Yes, Suzi was researching another novel. And now that I've read her first book, I'll be sure to watch for her next one.

Bull Rider covers a lot of territory. There's the whole issue of young men going to fight wars and coming back forever changed. Then there's the exotic world of bull fighting. Now this is something I've only seen on TV - I can't imagine a more crazy 'sport'.  But the way Suzi develops it in the book, I could actually begin to understand the rush that attracts young males.

Then there's the topic of traumatic brain injury (TBI). That really intrigued me because my husband is a TBI survivor. It's a difficult injury because a) it's invisible; b) it goes on and on and on, and c) it's subtle and different for each individual. Suzi obviously researched her subject!

I was so impressed with Suzi's ending. Ben, her TBI survivor, is not given a story-book ending. And that is the strength of Bull Rider. There are no happy endings. No easy solutions. Just the victory of trying (kind of like staying on a bull). Wonderful metaphor. Hey, and it applies to the writing career, as well. Stay on. And if you fall off, get back on.

Thanks, Suzi! All the best.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Time management

When you work full time, it's a challenge to fit writing in along with the other activities of life. So, I've been looking forward to these two weeks off in March. You should have seen my 'to do' list. Actually, making a to-do list was on there, because getting priorities in the right order takes time, too. So now I've about 48 hours left. My fridge is still cluttered, ditto for the downstairs freezer, and the front hall closet. Sigh.

But I've enjoyed long daily walks in the woods with the family canine. I've finished reading Suzanne Morgan Williams new debut Bull Rider (more about that in tomorrow's post), I've started a super interesting work of nonfiction called, The Unknown Gulag (more about that when I'm done), and I'm indulging in Stephen King's On Writing memoir. 

I've also been visiting my mom in her new place at the nursing home. Now that is another world. Of all the ailments of age, dementia scares me the most.  I had my 16 year old and her friend come along to visit and they were thrilled to find a mini pool table. An old (they're all old) woman (and also, mostly women) came by to watch. The girls were happy to have her there, until ... the woman began mumbling something and pocketing the balls. Oh, dear. 

In other news ... the pussy willows by the old train tracks are showing just a hint of their silver fur. Winter can't last much longer. 


Monday, March 16, 2009

about time

I still have another week off work and it's wonderful. The gift of time is a such a treat. I got this New Times link from a listserve I'm on. A new memorial has been erected in Kyiv to remember the 1932/3 famine in Ukraine. 

It's about time.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Chetnia: Readings from Russia

I jump around in my reading - like my food preferences, I enjoy variety. Sure, I have my staples: nonfiction about my favorite historical times. But I also like to read what's currently being published in the juvenile field, plus, books in my mother tongue, German. Reading books in the only other language I'm fluent in, is somehow refreshing and I regret not being able to read in other languages ... like Russian, for instance.

I've just finished reading a journal of translated Russian work. It's called Chetnia: Readings from Russia.  This edition, Volume 3, Summer 2008, has "Road Trips" as its theme. The authors include well known names like Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) and Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837) to contemporaries like Peter Aleshikosvsky ((short-listed for the Russian Booker) or Dmitry Glukhovsky. The latter's excerpt from his novel Metro 2033 published in Russian in 2007 and translated in this journal by Paul Richardson), Chapter Five, entitled For Cartridges, was my personal favorite in this themed collection of 'roads'.  By googling Metro 2033, I learned that there's even a video game out based on the novel (a novel which, by the way, was first published in installments on the internet. Click on the above link and watch a youtube documentary about the book's success.)

The setting of Glukhosvksy's book is the near future in the Moscow Metro. It's dark and this darkness is a major force of the chapter. I'm not a big fan of science fiction or fantasy, but this excerpt really caught my imagination. The suspense was very real. I was in the dark with the character and felt cheated when the chapter ended and I couldn't read on.

My other favorite from this collection was Chekhov's Sakhalin Island. I could find Sakhalin Island on my modern map of Russia and it was fascinating to read about how Chekhov saw it more than a hundred years ago. Explorers didn't just head west in those years. The island is still a controversial place.

Chtenia: Readings from Russia is a quarterly journal. Journals and journeys - both have the same root, which is from the French word meaning "day." Daily writing, daily traveling. Writing is the journey - and the roads are geographical, historical, psychological, or political - but always personal.

As a Canadian I feel linked to the Russian headspace with our common expanse of a harsh, huge landscape. It does affect the psyche. And yet our roads, so similar, are also so different. Kind of interesting.  

Back to my pile of books. What shall I taste next? Reading is simply the most amazing human invention. By giving us the ability to step into another's world, we can become more than who we are. Yes!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Happy 90, Mom!



Every life is a story and each starts the same way. Once upon a time a baby was born. Today, ninety years ago, my mother was born. Here's nine decades at a glance.

1919 A stork delivered Else to Federofka (a small village near Zhytomyr which is near Kiev which is today in Ukraine. Back then, Federofka was part of the USSR.)

1929 Stalin's first Five Year Plan calls for the 'liquidization of the kulaks' and forced collectivization. At 11, Else (and her family) is exiled via freight train to Yaya, Siberia (near Tomsk). Else becomes an orphan.

1939 Else is now 20 and living in East Prussia - not too far from Koenigsberg (present day Kaliningrad). With the outbreak of WWII, Else becomes a worker in a munitions factory for Hitler and against Stalin. Her flight from East Prussia in 1945 when the Soviets gained control, is unsuccessful.

1949 As a half-starved 30 year old POW survivor (having worked in Stalin's coal mines in Ural), Else illegally crosses back into West Germany, finds her remaining scattered family, and starts to work in a hospital in Pinneberg near Hamburg. Here she later meets another Soviet POW survivor and later gets married.

1959 Else is now a 40 year old mama with 2 pre-schoolers in a new country called Canada. The family's first home is on Cathedral Avenue in Winnipeg's north end. Her husband, an ex-Luftwaffe pilot and five year Gulag survivor, gets a job in the furnace industry.

1969 Elsie (her Canadianized name) is a 50 year old potato chip worker, paying off a mortgage on a brand new house in the suburbs. She dearly loves her home on Kirby Drive and makes great friends with the neighbours.

1979 Elsie is a 60 year old cottage owner and gardener. She's proud of her tomatoes and of her Sweet William biannuals which proliferate at the Lake Winnipeg cottage.

1989 Elsie's a 70 year old grandma. She crochets, chats, and travels - enjoying the golden years of retirement with the added pleasure of
Suzi, the dog, and a couple of grandchildren.

1999 Elsie's an 80 year old widow with a third grandchild. She'd been married
forty and a half years and lived in her Kirby house for almost thirty. She tries hard to adjust to living in an apartment at Meadowood.

2009 Now Elsie is 90 years old and yet another adventure begins. She has a new home in a nursing care facility - for now, here at Tuxedo Villa. Arthritis and osteoporosis have crippled her body, but her mind is still clear and she struggles to come to terms with her physical limitations.


Soon she'll make new friends, and together with her old friends, she'll continue to have warm (and not so warm) memories of a life of challenges that 90 years ago in Federofka, no stork, proud papa, or loving mama, could ever have imagined.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Friday, March 6, 2009

messy criminal


I come home from work on a Friday afternoon and look forward to just relaxing in my living room with a big mug of chamomile tea and some evil, crunchy tostidos and I see the big mess. Someone let our dog, Buddy, into the house with a piece of tree and he demolished it on the living room floor. Shards of bark and wood litter the sitting area like wood chips litter a woodpile. Yes.

He looks so sweet, doesn't he? Life would be simpler and cleaner without a dog. But who wants a simple, clean life? Not a writer, that's for sure. Writers love chaos and messiness and the unpredictable. We thrive on it. Okay, maybe I'm just speaking for myself.

It seems like my book will never be out and so I'm starting to feel a bit destructive like Buddy, my dog, only instead of chewing wood and spitting it out, I'm chewing words and leaving them in disarray all over the place.