Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tis the Season...

Ah, dear blog I have neglected you. I think it's because I'm trying to not drink (so much), and there's a strong correlation between my drinking and my writing. So if this blog stinks we'll know why. Christmas is a really stupid time to stop boozing, by the way.

So it's two days before Christmas and my house has been an utter drop in center for people coming to get their books signed. I'm flattered, but deep down I realize that a signed copy of The Prairie Bridesmaid is the perfect last-minute-I-love-you-so-much-that-I-couldn't-get-this done-sooner gift. Besides, how the hell am I supposed to get my own husband's gift if I can't leave the house because my mom's hairdresser's sister is supposed to be popping by to get a book signed. We're approaching the point where I might be giving my husband and my two year old copies of the book - a book I'm sure they are both sick to death of. Ahh, these are, of course, nice problems to have.

Last weekend I was in Calgary for a reading and a bookclub appearance. It was fun - there was only one lady who resented my book and felt it a good idea to tell me. I had a great interview at the CBC. I love CBC; people who work there are smart.

Calgary was beautiful - giant fluffy snowflakes, mountains and temperatures above zero. It is sooooo cliche to live in Winnipeg and complain about the weather, but it is seriously fucking cold here right now. Minus 40 or something, haven't left the house in days. It is this weather that will force me to get my next book written. If I lived in Calgary I would be too busy catching snowflakes on my tongue and staring at the mountains to do anything. A condo in Mexico, however - I could definitely get writing done there.

On a completely unrelated and desperate note, I am attempting to potty train my son over the holidays. I've spent the past two days covered in pee and poo. I wish there was some sort of toilet camp you could send them to. Potty training (or if you're a politically correct helicopter parent - "toilet learning") is making the writing of this second book seem as easy as wrapping presents. On that note I should go wrap up a copy of The Prairie Bridesmaid for Rob.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I was recently cornered at a gathering by someone who told me how abominable she thought my book was. Part of me really respects someone who can tell a writer to her face that they think her book sucks. I would never have the guts to do this - and, being a writer, I know a lot of people who have written books. I tell them about the parts I do like, or I just don't say anything. I certainly wouldn't seek them out to give them negative feedback. But you gotta admit, that takes either courage, or burning can't-control-myself hatred of the book.

The other part of me wonders what the point is in telling someone you hate their work. I mean if you went to someone's house and they were serving a casserole that you didn't like would you tell them, your casserole sucks! Probably not. It's been made. It's been served. This book is like my casserole, except it took over 6 years to make.

The other interesting thing about this situation is that I really don't care if some people don't like my book. Seriously. How could I? It would be an excercise in creative self destruction. Yet, when told to my face the problems with the book, and it was predominantly the language to which this person took exception, I feel obligated to defend myself and my book. Why is this, I wonder. I just kept tactfully saying, it's a realistic representation of how the the character thinks and talks. I'm sorry that you were offended...but maybe don't read my books. This conversation went on for a long time and went nowhere. Next time this happens I'm going to say, Bummer. I hear Alice in Wonderland is a good read.

I've been really lucky thus far as critics and readers of my book have been kind - so the odd upper cut is probably good for me. As an artist and writer, I get that I'm opening myself up to total criticism. And if it makes you feel better to slam my book...then have at it. I can take it!

I think that the bottom line in all of this is that people just want a chance to express their opinions in life. So if my book gives them a chance to contemplate something, formulate an opinion and then express it - whether it be good, bad or ugly, then I feel I've done my job.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Should Your Parents Read Your Book?

I invited my mother to an event with me this week. When I emerged from the bathroom dressed and ready to go she said you're wearing that? I didn't see the problemo with a sweater, jeans and boots. What's wrong with this? I would be speaking to group of Alpha Omega Ukrainian women, many of whom, as my mother pointed out, she personally knows. Denim, I was informed was not appropriate. The sad part is that by the time the whole scene unfolded, at thirty-five years old, I sullenly went upstairs and changed. On the way to the event she also told me that I better not read any parts of my book that contain swears. Geez.

She did redeem herself a few days later; she showed up at Chapters again when I had a signing and accosted people, telling them to buy the book. It's more effective to unleash her in Chapters than it is to have me sit there for three hours.

Additionally on the subject of parents, I was over at my parents for dinner tonight when my dad informed me that he was on page 80 of my book. I must admit that I'm a bit disappointed because I really enjoyed those situations when people would come up to my dad and talk about his daughter's book. He hadn't read it, but he totally fudged his way through it.

His only comment about the first 80 pages was that he felt it was not very fictional and he was afraid to keep reading. I asked him why he was reading it now, four months after it was released. Winter, he said, nothing better to do.

I also wanted to say kudos to the Words Alive Brandon Literary Festival. This was a fantastic event!

Reading: Just cracked Reading By Lightening by Joan Thomas
Watching: Just saw the movie Happy Go Lucky Good flick, worth seeing. No time for tv these days.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Mothers & Teachers

My mother and father-in-law just returned from a month long tour of the East Coast. In amongst their trip pictures of lighthouses were photos of my mother-in-law repositioning my novel to the front rack at every single Chapters/Indigo location she visited on the East Coast.

I've been doing Chapters book signings lately and my own mother comes out to them. When people stop by the table (yes, once in a while customers will do this), my mom pops out of nowhere and starts muttering to herself that her bookclub LOVED this book, or that The Prairie Bridesmaid will make the perfect Christmas gift for everyone she knows. She'll turn to the customer/victim and state "I've read rave reviews about this book!" and then she'll recite them. She wanders around the store with a stack of books in her arms - one facing out in every direction in a subtle attempt to recruit people over to the signing table.

I should curb all of this behaviour, but I don't. There's something really comforting about knowing that regardless of your book sales, your mom (or mom-in-law) will always support you.

There is a segment of the population who do not support me, in fact, they seem to hate me (and my book): elementary school teachers. The disenchanted, I-hate-my-job, the-world-f#@king-sucks teacher protagonist of this book has caused a few pair of cotton panties to get all in a knot. I have a lot of respect for what elementary school teachers (teachers in general) accomplish in a day. A lot people wouldn't be able to do it, and well, my character happens to be one of them. I'm surprised they are always trying to skewer me, because by creating this character, Anna, I've essentially elevated them to sainthood.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Talking and Refusing to Talk

The book clubs have been fun - though I did get repeatedly speared by one woman who just didn't believe that a teacher would do all of the things that Anna does is this novel. I didn't bother telling her that I'd done all of it and a lot more as a classroom teacher. I like it when people get out their pointy sticks...makes for a more interesting evening. For the most part, however, the book clubbers have all been kind. Though, as I was leaving one of them, a woman almost ran me down with her Hummer.

I've been doing lots of talking lately - interviews, bookclubs, festivals etc. and it's been great. Ironically, I spent Thursday evening at a class for parents of children who don't talk. Ahhh, the irony. I was told things like...your child is in the ditch and you just need to help him get back on the road. Apparently Oskar should be rattling off 50 words by now - at almost 2. He simply won't talk. He does have an excellent sense of humour; we are pretty sure that he can talk, but chooses not to so that we get to attend these classes and watch powerpoint presentations about how to connect with your child. Hell, he proably has a blog about this on his toddler facebook page.

Reading: I'm currently reading Joseph Boyden's novel Through Black Spruce. At a fundraiser next month I've been assigned to defend it as the book that should win the Giller. There's a scene in it about an aboriginal 5 year old boy being led off to residential school by his parents. It made me weep. It should win. (Well, Cellist of Sarajevo should win, but that's another blog)

Watching: Madmen. I had to take a break from the book and have turned to the shoulder of MADMEN for the past few nights. I've watched something like 13 episodes in the last 3 nights after Oskar is in bed. The 50's were a bizarre time and I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. Advertsing is a bizarre industry and I'm still trying to wrap my head around it.

Writing: Well, I'm finally writing. Enough said.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Book Clubs... Here I Come

I'm going to three book clubs in Winnipeg this week...and I wish that I could attend all of the others that are happening in other provinces and even in the States.

I have to be candid though, I'm worried. I drink a lot and I shoot off my mouth, and said mouth can be foul at times. So, I'm thinking that my plan at these events should be to pass on the booze - though I don't think, to date, I have ever passed up a free drink (see previous blog about the career counsellor; the things we'll do for free alcohol). At any rate, I shall try to pass on the red wine.

It will also be strange to be sitting in someone's living room listening to them dissect something I"ve spent years writing. I could be subjecting myself to total torture and criticism -and much of it, I'm sure, deserved.

The point of bookclubs is not to be polite because the author (aka white elephant) is in the room. A good book club will discuss things about the book that work, but it will also address things about the book that do not work. Maybe I'll get asked ...what the hell were you thinking when you wrote blah blah blah ...because I think it was pretty stupid. My worst fear, probably, is that I will entirely agree with these types of comments.

All of this said, I'm thrilled that people are choosing this book for their clubs. Really. This means that real readers who like to think about and talk about books are sinking their chompers into my novel...and this excites me!

Wait a minute...why isn't my own bookclub doing The Prairie Bridesmaid

Friday, September 26, 2008

Career Counselled at the Hotel Bar

I'm at the Suites at King West in Toronto. Just spent the evening, with my lovely friend Gwen, being hit on by a "career counsellor" at the hotel bar. Career Counsellor? Really? Such people exist?

He proceeded to tell us that women supress sucess and that men don't supress success. The reason that men are called "charismatic" is because they don't stifle who they are as women do. Really? I said. Yeah, women try to hide their assets, men use everything they have.

He went on to tell me that I needed to stop promoting my book and start promoting myself. And furthermore that I need to "promote" my book to the core auience - women, but sell to the "new constituents" - men. I, apparently, according to Brian, am the product. Furthermore, on the book cover, the skirt needs to be hiked up to sell to the new constituents. Ugh. He kept quoting Tom Clancy- I've never read Clancy, but apparently according to Brian, he's very successful.

As we were leaving the hotel, Gwen politely asked Brian where he lived. The 29th floor of the hotel. Really? You live at the hotel?

Good Night!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Mistaken for Miriam

I was doing a live television interview recently...it was wayyyy too early in the morning so I'll let you figure out which one it was. The co-host opened by telling me how much she loved my book. She then proceeded to describe my book to the viewers: it's a road-trip-book, about an aunt who takes her niece and nephew on a trip because their mother is having a breakdown.

Should I interject? Tell her she's not even close, but I'm really glad she's enjoying this other book that I didn't write. Perhaps suggest she have that writer on the show? I duuno. It's too early, I've only managed to get down half a cup of coffee and really, I don't care. Two cups of java from now I might.

Alas, she realizes she's got the wrong book and gets the whole thing on track again, says that she's reading my book at the same time and loving it (or at least the back cover). She apologized both on and off air. The reality is she's the host of an early morning show that I'm never awake to watch; I'm the writer of a book that she probably doesn't have time to read. And it's all okay.

All of that said I am half finished Miriam Toew's new novel The Flying Troutmans and I'm seriously LOVING it. And guess what...it's a road-trip-book, about an aunt who takes her neice and nephew on the road...

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Flies, The Mice,The Cat and The Kid

Well, all of this book stuff has certainly been fun, however, it's left my homelife in quite a state. I think that my husband and two year old have had just about enough of this book.

We have a fruit fly infestation because I can't seem to remember to put the produce away. My friend Gwen (writer of Mary's Atlas) told me that if you put a banana in a glass, cover it with saran wrap, punctured with teeny tiny holes, it would trap them. I thought I was catching loads of fruitflies. In the end they were just having lots and lots of sex, and then, of course, the plactic wrap broke and there were kabillions of them all over the kitchen. Oskar has had a good week of not being forced to eat fruits and veggies as there is an all-out-ban in the house. The problem is rectified, however, now.... there are mice. Really.

I thought that since we took in a stray cat who we've called Dr. Puddles, the mice would not return as they do each fall. Owning a cat wasn't high on my priority list, but at least Dr.P. doesn't help herself to everything in the cupboards at 2 am. Rob, Dr. P and I helplessly watched the unreachable, very cocky little mouse in between the cupboard and the stove munching on a cracker stuffed in there by Oskar. Dr. P got bored and sauntered away.

I'm sure Dr. P. would argue that day to day survival amidst the terror of a two year old is hard enough and she should be exused from battling the mice invasion. Example from that day: Oskar decided he would kiss Dr. P. We thought this was progress as he usually just tries to play cat rodeo with her. She lovingly tolerated little Oskar as he desperately tried to kiss her on the mouth, which she clearly wasn't into. Finally, to show his affection he gave up and settled for sticking out his tounge and dragging it across her back.

Anyway, it feels like things around the house are crazier these days because I'm not really on top of anything. Who am I kidding? I probably never was.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Reality Check

So I went from my book launch Thursday night - which was truly fantastic to a more humbling experience this afternoon. Costco

My book launch was packed; everybody I know and loved and lots of people i don't know, but could love came out to hear me read. Well, actually I chatted more than I read. It was my dream come true really - a one way conversation about a book that I wrote with 200 people.

I went to my first signing this afternoon at a Winnipeg Costco store. Not only did people not line up - huh? But I think they were trying to not to make eye contact with me. I guess the idea being they wouldn't feel guilty about not buying my book. I do the same thing at Safeway when I don't want to eat the fish samples that those sweet ladies with the hairnets are always trying to dole out.

Bless the Costco employees and managers - they chatted me up. Two of them even bought my book! Things did start to pick up eventually and I signed and sold a few books. But I can't be sure that after I wrote "Enjoy the read, Sally" that it wasn't stuffed on a shelf somewhere amidst the chips.
Kudos to Costco anyway for trying to promote local writers, I say.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Book Launch of My Life!

It's 3:30 in the morning (so please excuse any typos). I've had a lot of drinks. There was some crazy dancng to U2. My first book launch ever is over. The last guests have just left my living room. It was one of the best nights of my life. Less painful than the birth of Oskar.

My Prairie Bridesmaid launch at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg was amazing. It's humbling that that many people would come out to hear me speak and read. It's a surreal experience to sign books, to have of people wait in line to have books signed.

Thank you. Thank you. More tomorrow when I'm sober enough to reflect on the experience!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The story of Getting Published. Yawn.

How the hell did you ever get this book published? This question has been posed to me several times lately and I'm not quite sure how to interpret it. I'll choose not to interpret it as this book is sooo bad and who in their right mind would put it out....but rather what was the process of getting this little number onto bookstore shelves.

It's sad, but I actually probably started writing the first draft, with the help of a lot...lot of wine about 7 or 8 years ago. It was a story written in a cabin at Turtle Mountain loaned to me by the good folk at Stella's Cafe.

I joined the Manitoba Writers Guild (can't say enough good things about these guys) and got accepted to a mentorship and was assigned Sheldon Oberman as my mentor. He was succumbing to cancer during my mentorship but continued to see me. We had a conversation about the show Six Feet Under, which at the time i thought was bizarre. But that's just the kind of guy Obie was. Oh, and he also told me my stories should be a book.

So I wrote a book. It took a couple of years.

Next I hired an editor - Marjorie Anderson. She's an awesome editor and she makes great tea. This was courtesy of a Manitoba Arts Council grant. Apply for grants. I got rejected soooooo many times before I got one. They can only say NO NO NO for so long before they shell out one of those sympathy grants. Editing, by the way, took another year.

When I thought the book was ready for the world I sent it out to some agents and publishers. Then I collected rejection letters from pretty much anyone who read my book. They always said it was well written, funny, blah blah, blah, but not something that they could sell. Which apparently is the point of publishing books.

One can respond "Fuck you, I quit" or "Fuck you, this book will sell." I did neither. I stuffed my book in the back of a closet and started a new manuscript. It was only 6 years...whatever.

I signed up for a writing workshop at Sage Hill. There was pressure to write, so I brought my old manuscript along just in case I buckled under performance pressure. My teacher Steven Galloway kept offering to read it and I handed it to him on the second last day. Ha. Good luck with that. Steven was the first person to tell me that I could publish it and it would sell. I was, apparently, sending it to the wrong places. Steve's is the most sarcastic person I've met...so it must have killed him to be kind.

I scoured the bookshelves and found an agent that represented this kind of book. There weren't many. I should mention somewhere in all of this I got hitched and knocked up. 3 weeks before I was to give birth, Samantha Haywood contacted me, said she'd take me on, if I did some revisions. Perfect.....in three weeks I'd get my edits done, have a baby and get an agent. Except a couple of hours later my water broke. Fuck. No edits, unless you count editing milk out of my breasts or poo out of diapers.

Sam waited. Six weeks later, while my son slept I wrote, got the edits done, got the agent. Life was grand!

A few months later...we were submitting to publishers. All was well. Except for one thing. My niece needed a liver and I was a match, so she would be getting my wine-soaked liver. I signed with my publisher, literally within days of signing my liver away. When you sign with a publisher you are committing , at least in my case, to doing several more drafts, with deadlines. "So when you say I won't really be able to move and I'll be in sheer pain for several months, will I be able to work on my book." "No." "Even with the morphine drip?" Whatever, sign me up for everything.

The day before the surgery a deceased donor was found, transplant was successful - with a likely healthier liver. All was well...again and I was off to the races with my edits.

My publisher has taken these pages, once deemed unsaleable, and turned them into a lovely book available at a bookstore near you.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Wedding Crashing

Thank you Patricia Robertson. You gave me the book review in the Globe and Mail that every writer dreams of...but as importantly you inspired me to do a little wedding crashing this weekend.

I was at my cousin's wedding Saturday night at Winnipeg's wedding central The Fort Gary Hotel. The beauty about this majestic joint is that there are always three other nuptial parties going on besides the one that you are attending.

In her review of my book, Patricia reminisced about wedding crashing in her Winnipeg days, which in turn inspired me to, along with my good sport of a brother, check out the other weddings at the hotel.

We congratulated two different brides on their beautiful dresses and thanked them profusely for inviting us to share their day with them. The first bride looked horrified and confused, mentally flipping through her invitation roladex, trying to figure out who the hell we were. We grabbed a quick drink and split as she seemed to be one of those stressed out brides who might actually know everyone who she invited to her hitching party. The free drinks would have been a nice bonus if we weren't already getting free booze and sausage at my cousin's wedding downstairs.

At the second reception, Alanah, who was marrying Constantime, said she was thrilled that we could share her special day with her. She was half in the bag and having a grand time; she even posed for a photo with us. I will post this tomorrow when I'm not so sleepy.

This isn't an orignal activity and Vince Vaughan made it look way cooler in The Wedding Crashers - but it's damn fun. And there's the thrill of maybe getting grilled on how you know the groom and possibly getting thrown out of the wedding.

It's interesting though, that a bride can spend years and all of her savings planning the perfect wedding, and then any old writer can invade the celebration and shamelessly blog about it.

Try it. Let me know how it goes.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

It's Escape

Weird things have been happening this week, the last couple of weeks really. I've been downing beer and wine...starting at 11 am. I haven't watched television - had cable in years and all of a sudden I've devoured two entire DVD television series in a week - Calfornication and Rescue Me, both of which I highly recommend. When I'm not boozing or watching rented DVD's I'm at wading pools, kids museums, the zoo, the beach, anywhere with Oskar. He's wondering what the hell ever happened to pajama days. We like pajama days.

It's Escape.

My book comes out this weekend and I am trying to dig a tunnel out of this reality. For years and years and years and years I've written away and dreamed of having a novel published. The great thing about dreams are that you never consider the consequences, you only entertain the beauty and benifits. Winning the lottery. You envision your house your car, your unemployment - not the fact that you'd become a consumeristic idiot contributor to rotting the planet. Writing a novel. I saw the book advance, the book launch, the signings the readings, the fame. haha

But now that it's actually happening, it's terrifying that people will read (and pay for) something that has actually come out of my brain. I wish I was one of those cool people who doesn't give a shit what people think, and maybe four books down the road I won't care. But right now, apparently, I do.

Come Saturday, when the book is finally released, all will be well. It will be fun. It will be everything I ever dreamed of. Until then, can anyone recommend a good television series?

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Back from Vacation

I've just returned from vacation. What better time to start a blog than now. What the hell.

A trampoline at the rented cottage was a bad idea. It meant a) I spent a whole week on this bouncing piece of nylon with my almost-two-year-old son and b) lots of bleeding noses and various other injuries. Though I must admit it was fun until a shitty diaper came flying at me out of one of his pant legs.

A week parked in front of a lake, with a lot of cocktails, enabled me to forget that my first book is coming out in a little over a week and that I have a launch on the 28th. These things make me more nauseous than the trampoline.

Back to reality!