Sunday, January 18, 2009

Yes We Must

Dear Friends,

I am eagerly looking forward to Barack Obama's inauguration this coming Tuesday, the day after tomorrow! Dear friends are down in Washington with their family to witness this historic event and I look forward to hearing their report from the front lines, or more likely, the way back.

It was deeply fulfilling to cast our absentee ballot votes this November, though the process was unnecessarily Kafkaesque. As with many challenges in life, we were tenacious and persisted, and finally, we were counted.

In an extraordinary blast-from-the-past profile of Barack and Michelle Obama in The New Yorker (January 19,2009) with a charming photograph of the two of them and an interview by Mariana Cook from May 26, 1996, "A Couple in Chicago," Michelle is quoted thus:

"There is a strong possibility that Barack will pursue a political career, although it's unclear. There is a little tension with that. I'm very wary of politics. I think he's too much of a good guy for the kind of brutality, the skepticism. When you are involved in politics, your life is an open book...I'm pretty private, and like to surround myself with people that I trust and love.... There is a possibility that our lives will go that way (into politics), even though I want to have kids and travel, spend time with family....In many ways, we are here for the ride, just sort of seeing what sorts of opportunities open themselves up."


And here Barack Obama speaks more personally, even poetically, about his bond with Michelle and the mystery of what makes their marriage work:

"...what sustains our relationship is I'm extremely happy with her, and part of it has to do with the fact that she is at once completely familiar to me, so that I can be myself and she knows me very well and I trust her completely, but at the same time she is also a complete mystery to me in some ways....It's that tension between familiarity and mystery that makes for something strong, because even as you build a life of trust and comfort and mutual support, you retain some sense of surprise or wonder about that other person."


Yes we can. Yes we must.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Baby, It's Cold Out There

Before I moved up here to the North Way, I never talked about the weather much, that was a sign of a bore, or a boor, but up here in Montreal, it's one of the ways we bond with loved ones, friends, and strangers.

Today, yesterday, the day before that, tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, it's been hovering and will hover around -30, that's Celcius folks, the wind chill making it even more bitter. The kind of weather where your face burns and your toes and fingers go numb, even with gloves on. Don't go out with wet hair, as is my habit (being a swimmer, indoors lately) or you will don a halo of icicles!

My old beater of a van is now stuck on Old Orchard. I thought I was being a good citizen not parking in front of someone's driveway and inadvertently slogged myself into a mini-snowbank. New "winters" notwithstanding, no body could free that sucker. Thanks to the kindness of strangers, I had lots of help, and there will be more tonight.

But there are some nice sides to these Arctic temps, so enjoy some of my own favorite winter pleasures.

Huddle in front of ... a blazing fire

Drink some... hot, sweet, milky tea... or strong, rich coffee and warm your hands on the sides of the cup, your face in curls of steam

Find yourself an enveloping read...or two and catch up on that stack of unread magazines, journals and newspapers

Bundle up and go a great film (I'll be viewing Defiance)...or watch one on dvd curled under flannel sheets and a cloud of duvets and blankets

Take comfort in...the warmth of friends and loved ones

Slow down your pace and relish some...luscious indoor time to write, dream, and think

Stay warm if you live up here

And send me news from warmer climes if you are down south.


Monday, January 12, 2009


Response to literature--indeed all art--is subjective, like falling in love. A review is one reader's response, albeit a public one. The best reviews strive for balance, given that most readers of the review won't have read the book being discussed or dissected.

Gang reviews do a disservice to authors and readers, though they are expedient for busy, overloaded literary editors with too many books and too little space. These round-ups barely allow room for a rudimentary thumb's up or thumb's down. They coerce the reviewer into a beauty contest, dealing with each work primarily in comparison to the others, choosing a winner. Often the works discussed share little in terms of vision, style, or voice. Such comparisons are reductive,odious,as they are in the human realm.

Each book, new to the world, deserves being analyzed and discussed as a unique entity.

As a novelist with three works of fiction published and one on the way, I've done some reflecting of late about what is ultimately most important to me regarding each of my book's lives in the world. I savour and cherish reader responses after the long years of ass in chair time imagining and writing into my volumes of short stories and novels. I also hope for a life beyond the internecine Montreal literary scene (gotta love it) and beyond the small and shrinking market here in Canada (O Canada, adopted home, I love you too)!

The White Space Between, my latest, will be published in the U.S. this spring. Check my website in a bit for events there, certainly New York, my home town and Minneapolis, MN, home of my BFF and a wonderful literary city. Other venues as well.

I long for The White Space Between to be translated into other languages and to reach foreign countries. So Germany, The Netherlands, Denmark, Korea, France, Japan, Israel, my fingers are crossed. Not to mention you French publishers here in Quebec.

It's a great big world out there. Thank goodness for that.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Acts of Faith

Dear Friends,

Today, on this cold winter Friday, the sun just a platinum shimmer in a silvery sky, I plan to crack my novel-in-progress. I've been away from this book for awhile, out and about on behalf of The White Space Betweeen, celebrating the holidays with my family, doing freelance projects.

I'm anxious, the pile of printed paper, some 100 pages or so, possesses a forcefield around it. Wish I could have a stiff drink to help me belly up to the task...but it's too early! And I'm not a big drinker anyway.

Why is writing so scary? Well, what's inside can be as terrifying, compelling, as what is outside.

Why so daunting? There is that pesky gap one must bridge between the glimmering conception of a story and the actualization of that story, the distance between the perfect idea and the dishevelled jumble of words, characters, and notions on a page that compose most first drafts. Usually, something in there glows, there is a nugget to build on. One must persevere, have faith, put that ole critic out on the back porch, even in the outhouse for awhile. Writers must be kind to themselves in order to keep on keeping on, kind and tough and uncompromising.

Got to commit to serious ass-in-chair time to do the work.

Writing is an act of faith. Good work accomplished by venturing into unknown territory, taking risks. For me, stories are how I make sense of my life and the world, how I attempt to create some order--and beauty--out of chaos.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Settling In to 2009

Hi Folks,

I think I'm over my re-entry blues and managing to get stuck-in to 2009. Yesterday, we took our daughter sledding on Mount Royal,the Beaver Lake Hill, and enjoyed a brisk crystalline walk with our Berner Monty-Booh after a few thrilling, chilling runs down the hill en famille, squeezed onto the same ole boogy board we just used to ride the waves in Delray Beach last week. I'd been horizontal on my couch refusing to brave the cold and had be literally dragged outside by Rosy,who was her usual feisty, gung-ho self...but it was well worth it.

Ye Old Winter Sports and all that. (These northerners have something there.) With glowing eyes and wind-burned cheeks and the wonderful physical tiredness that January exertion brings, I enjoyed my cozy evening fire and hot sweet tea and enveloping book all the more.

I'm warming up the material on my next work-in-progress, my third novel and fourth book, tentatively titled, All But Forgotten, reading over the 100 pages or so that I've written, imagining into the characters and stories. It feels wonderful to be creating new work. I feel most myself when writing and am out of sorts when I'm away from it for too long. How good to be back.

Taking time out as well to explore an edgy new short story writer whom I'm reviewing. Stories about loss but written with great verve and humour. That's all I'll say for now. Wait for the review.

Speaking of reviews, when you have a moment, check out the perceptive, connected piece on The White Space Between on the blog Buzzing Blue and the reader reviews on, that's right .com

Apparently, more in-depth articles and reviews of the novel are in the works and reader responses have been so fulfilling. Thank you for those.

Now, back to that blazing fire, that cup of hot, sweet, milky tea, that novel....


Friday, January 2, 2009

Re-Entry Hell...or back to real life

Dear Friends,

Happy New Year to you and yours. I hope '09 brings good, sweet,and easier times for those suffering under this world-wide recession.

I am back after a paradisal visit en famille to balmy Florida and my 82-year-old Mom,travelling from Montreal's winter palette of black,white and silvery-gray into heat and explosive tropical color. We all pile into my mother's modest condo, kids on air mattresses on the floor, and spend lazy days strolling the beach, frolicking in the waves, soaking up sun, sand, and the beauty of the bursts of fuschia, golden and scarlet flowers. Not to mention those palm trees.

My mother is extraordinary for 82, still beautiful, very active, and completely compus mentis. She has mellowed with age, or perhaps I have mellowed with motherhood and life experience. This is the first visit in a long while where we haven't had an altercation (what a great euphemistic word, how mild and clinical it sounds, nothing like what it means, love that) or two...or three altercations...not to mention not even one knock-down-drag-out that only passionate mothers and daughters can suit up for and knuckle down into. Enough. I've already had a lifetime's worth of those conflicts. Mom and I got along well. In fact, we actually all enjoyed one another's company, playing Apples To Apples, or smacking tennis balls around the clay courts, or enjoying twilight or nighttime swims which seem totally cuckoo, loco, to Floridians during their "winter."

It was fulfilling to give my mom a copy of The White Space Between, which is dedicated to her and my two other mothers. She read it while I was there, with great pride and enjoyment, though perhaps connecting too many dots between Willow and me. Ah well. She's a shrink, after all!

Evenings were cool and refreshing, clear skies scintillating with stars. We pointed out the constellations, letting the day's sweat, salt, and sand dry on our oiled skins.

I always experience seasonal disorientation while down in Florida--thinking that it is summer--that I will return to find it summer. This confusion begins on arrival, as my daughter Rosy bursts out each year when we exit the Fort Lauderdale Airport's sliding glass doors into the balmy heat: "Does anyone love these palm trees as much as I do?"


Outside the gated communities of the comfortable were storms of foreclosures, signs everywhere that despite the beauty of sunny Florida, many were in crisis, barely feeding their families, losing their homes. These tough times are bound to continue for another year or two.

Articles in the paper featured skate-boarders looking for foreclosures, cleaning the scum and rats from abandoned pools, enjoying new challenges on their boards as night set in.

We can only hope that Obama, our hope, will slowly, steadily put our world to rights, narrowing the gap between the haves and the have-nots, the have-too-much's and the have-little's.

There were the heart-warming stories. Like the head of Barnes and Noble who financed new homes for a group of families in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans who had lost their homes, restoring faith in these people's hearts that there are decent folks in the world who are not just grasping and grasping more and more and more.

We've returned home with a coconut and plan to smash it tonight as snow drifts down outside, drinking its sweet milk, and chewing on its flavorful meat, perhaps with a glass of champagne for Michael and I to celebrate, well, life, family, the hope for better in the New Year.

Now I have to belly up to re-entry chores, re-entry hell. Clean out the mucky fridge, do laundry, buy food (yeah, this family's gotta eat), slog through my email...take loads of leaves ('member I told you 'bout the ones that don't fall till the snow falls) to the dump and warm up the material for my fourth book, my new novel, the one I began before the launch of The White Space Between.

Not to mention enjoying, savoring the pleasures of home. Like a cuddle with my gorgeous winter dog, Monty Booh, a Berner who as I write is outside on a cloud of snow, in heaven, nipping at drifts.

Write me!