February 11th, 2018

Male novelists jokes

I love many books written by men, and many men who write books–I even married one! That said, there are certain subsets of the male-novelists genome that can and, nay, must be mocked, and this is the best example of said mockery on the internet, from Mallory Ortberg, my favourite internet person. I watch it with great joy every few months–perhaps you will like it too.

Male novelists jokes

February 5th, 2018

The dogs of February and more things we like

Despite my best hopes, January was cold and fighty, and then I spent the last few days of it puking (I had a stomach virus) and was in such a feverish haze that I didn’t even realize it was February until I saw Mark making out the rent cheque.

Maybe February will be better??? I have deleted the extremely negative post that I wrote about January, leaving only the above, and here are some positive things that I like, which will hopefully set the tone for February.

464. Ice wine! I had a lovely weekend at the Ice Wine Festival in Niagara on the Lake the weekend before I got sick, wherein I discovered I like ice wine (bad news: they mainly don’t serve it in bars so it can’t be my signature drink). Fun surprise! It tastes like syrup!

465. The Dogs of February This is one my favourite songs by The Lowest of the Low, which is one my favourite bands of my tender youth, and I’m pissed that I could only find it to link to on a bootleg full album (it comes in at 15:50). It’s a grumpy song (“Don’t you love it when it doesn’t/work out quite the way it was supposed to”) but lovely to, so that’s something

466. My little flash story is posted on The Oddments Tray. Claire Tacon produced and Chioke l’Anson performed and it turned out lovely. Please listen–only 2:39 minutes!

467. Declarations at Canadian Stage, written by playwright Jordan Tannahill, who is a writer I’d follow anywhere. None of the programme descriptions or reviews describe it adequately and I doubt I could do so myself, but I really did find the performance haunting and affecting. It closes February 11. Maybe you should go?

468. Spearmint gum

469. The (free) browser game Fallen London, which has obsessed me for nigh on three years. Soon I will be poet laureate (in the game).

470. Space heaters

471. When other people contribute to 1000 Things We Like

These are from Fred

472. being the only person on the bus

473. the crowns at Burger King

474. night skiing

January 25th, 2018

Email widget

One more thing: Rose-coloured now has an email widget! Exciting! You can see it at right, below the “Now and Next”: “Subscribe to Blog via Email”–just enter your email address and new post alerts will come to your inbox. Apparently now that fewer RSS feeds and readers are in use, this is a good way for folks to be reminded that Rose-coloured exists. Me, I still use the Blogger reader pane, but that’s probably one step above a hotmail address and I need to get with the times. Thanks, Fred, for the suggestion!!

If you try the subscription and it doesn’t work well for you, please let me know–there’s a few other versions out there I could try…

January 24th, 2018

Many things are terrible/1000 things we like is back

It probably just proves that I’m a self-absorbed jerk, but I feel a bit self-conscious about the fact that you can’t really tell from any of my social media that I realize that large swathes of the Canadian literature community seem to be self-immolating. If you care what I think–and probably no one does–I do realize. Boy, do I.

I’ve been pretty entrenched in following every new horrifying reveal and all of the ensuing bickering/battling over the details. I’m reeling for my colleagues who have been hurt and were still brave enough to come forward–sometimes more than once–to try to protect those who could be next, or just to get their stories known. I’m so sorry I didn’t know more years ago–though I knew a little. Mainly I have been very very lucky in most of my literary life. So lucky.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, that’s fine–it’s very depressing. And if you know exactly what I’m talking about and feel I’m not doing it justice, I’m sorry, and I know. I’m just not really equal to this sort of thing, especially when tides and tempers have been so mercurial lately. I’ll be running around the house muttering that I’m really going to tell X what I really think and Mark–who is also upset but more measured–will suggest that that’s not the best path, and then the next morning more of the story will emerge and everything is different and I’m glad I didn’t say anything. That has happened enough times that I think I’m never going to say anything ever again. I’m spending more of my time miserably scrolling through more and more sadness, wondering what to make of any of it.

And yet one must go on–and one must write, in this increasingly fractured and strange environment. Surely it won’t always be this intense, but I can never unknow what I know now and…oh no. So…I do what I can. One thing will be a re-foray back into 1000 things we like, which for the first time in it’s 15 year history, we didn’t come close to finishing in its allotted year. But as has been mentioned in this space, 2017 was a toughie for different reasons. So I’m giving myself a pass on that and myriad other things, and just trying to do more and better in 2018. Here are some of the ways I’ve been trying to buck up, cheer up, or just get up in the morning throughout the maelstrom of awfulness so far this year:

455. The The Toronto Women’s March was on Saturday and it was an inspiration and a motivation and a joy to hear the speakers, chant the chants and walk the walk with so many female-identified humans and our allies for the right to imagine own our future. And added bonus was that my mom marched with me this year, which was really wonderful.

456. Doctors without Borders Canada never ceases to inspire and amaze with what they do. I just called them to iron out a problem with my monthly donations and it made me feel a little better about everything.

457. Cookies! I’ve been bringing them to any friend who seems to need a bit of good cheer of late, because honestly cookie-baking is one of the few concrete skills I have in my arsenal. A lot of people like my baking and even if it turns out the recipient doesn’t, I hope they feel loved that I made them something. Also, I like doing it.

458. WhatsApp–I couldn’t even tell you why, but sometimes it’s really the medium that makes the messages work. Over the past year, I got into WhatsApp groups with both a gang of my university friends and (separately) a gang of my elementary/high school friends. Both groups are delightful! Why WhatsApp, when email threads and Facebook messenger and who knows what else didn’t work for either set? No idea and I don’t care–I’m just so happy to have messages from some of my favourite people, all the time!

459. Ballet classes–they are hard, but I really do like them. Grand battement is my favourite.

460. Giving away my stuff. I said in my new year’s resolution that I was going to sort through my stuff and get rid of what I do not need, but it’s hard when everything has a story or a memory attached. Then there was that awful cold snap and a colleague said her church was running a soup kitchen and they wanted to outfit those who came with warm clothes and blankets if they could get enough donations. I went right home and packed up all my extra scarves and hats and fleece blankets–Mark gave a bunch too. Even if someone did make them for me years ago, I’m sure they wanted them to go to someone who really needed them.

461. A couple fleece blankets for myself.

462. Liking and retweeting/sharing. I haven’t completely disappeared from social media–I still like and share material, even though I’m not generating much myself. I’m not sure how much the so-called “signal boost” helps, but if it does, I’m happy to do it. Also, likes help the writer, or at least that has been my experience for sure–it does feel good and give confidence when you get a bunch of stars or thumbs-ups or hearts. You feel like your message is getting through. So I’m trying to let anyone whose voice resonates with me know that. I think I might have been a little parsimonious with the likes before, just out of thoughtlessness–“I enjoyed that essay/post/photo, what’s next?” I’m trying to do this tiny thing very intentionally.

463. Reading books. I mean, that’s the heart of everything, right? Otherwise, why bother? Currently I’m reading The Making Room Anthology under a fleece blanket, and hoping for better, warmer days.

January 21st, 2018

Interview about reading

I did this email interview about my reading habits over a year ago and I’ve realized recently that it never ran. Who knows why–maybe they didn’t find my answers very interesting? The editor I did the interview with left the publication so I can’t ask. I actually do find both questions and answers fairly interesting, so here, should you feel the same way–my reading interview:

What do you most enjoy reading, and how often do you indulge in the habit? I read something almost every day—it would have to be a bizarre state of emergency that I didn’t absorb at least some text. Short stories and novels are my staples, mixed in with poetry, plays, and graphic novels. I also adore magazines but try to keep them to a minimum because they will overrun me otherwise. I’m not much of a non-fiction person, but I make occasional exceptions for biography and a delicious kind of sociological/self-help hybrid I come across occasionally. I also read a tonne online, like everyone, and it’s a mix of useful news, humour, and practical stuff, like hotel reviews. I’ve gotten away from reading creative work online as much as I used to—I’m just at a screen so much of the day as it is—but I still do read quite a bit from online journals.

What do you subscribe to and why? Not as much as I want, per above, but here’s the list right now: The New Yorker, Canadian Notes and Queries, The New Quarterly, Maisonneuve, Prism International, the magazine from the CAA and the one from Kraft (the last two are freebies but I do read them so they count). My husband subscribes to Halifax and Malahat Review, so I get a chance to read those as well. Why…these publications are reliably good. A lot journals in Canada publish wonderful stuff and I can’t subscribe to them all, but I can consistently read these lit journals cover to cover and have a lot of pieces resonate. The New Yorker is my way of following American news and politics along with a lot of authors I admire. I’ve read every issue since 2003. I find Maisonneuve has its own voice and beat and politics and it’s an interesting filter on the world. It’s a magazine I’ve watched grow up—I’ve been subscribing for nearly 10 years, and it’s better every year. [Edit: since this interview, I’ve added Room magazine to this list.]

What’s your favourite library, a) in Toronto, and b) somewhere else? I use the Toronto Public Library a lot and I’m fond of my local branch because it’s well used—often crowded with children after school, recent immigrants there for ESL or settlement classes, people just hanging out and reading. But really, I don’t spend a lot of time at the library—just pick up my holds and go, mainly. Libraries are good because they are full of books and people who love them and people who can help you access them; I don’t really have preferences beyond that.

Your bookshelves are on fire: what do you save? Mainly childhood stuff, and probably some signed books if I could find them. If the internet age has taught us anything, it has taught us that you can always get another book if you need it, so very old, odd, and signed things are the only ones that matter to me which edition I have. I have a copy of Little Women with colour-plate illustrations that was my mother’s when she was a kid and which I read a billion times when I was—that is probably the only book I have that is truly irreplaceable.

It’s Tuesday night, around 8pm. How do you decide what to read? I general write on weeknights, so if I were reading it would be because I was ill or very tired, and thus I would be reading something delightful, like a book of brief short fictions. In desperate times, perhaps a magazine about how to make cake.

Do you have a reading routine? I read every morning at the gym on the treadmill, between 30 and 60 minutes—almost always The New Yorker. Then I read whatever book I’m reading on the commute to work—40-60 minutes—assorted internet stuff at lunchtime—and back to my book on the way home. If I’m out somewhere and waiting for people, in a waiting room, on a trip, on the beach, I’ll read, but I rarely read at home except on the weekends (on weekends, I read over breakfast and maybe a bit in the afternoon too if I have time).

How many hours a week do you spend reading? Maybe 10-15, depending on the week.

Do you write in the books you read? Almost never, unless I’m reading to review something, which is in itself rare and even then I would try to avoid writing in a book.

What formats do you read most happily? Paper books, your phone, newsprint, cereal boxes etc? I prefer paper books, but it’s not a huge deal to me. I own a Kobo but it’s older and has trouble with certain downloads and certain computers, so I don’t use it a tonne—when I read on it, I find it more or less fine, but I miss the ability to flip back and forth in the text to check things or reread bits I liked. Certainly you can do that with an ebook but it’s harder, not really intended for that. I find paper books just more pleasant and easier, especially since I read on screen all day for work, and a lot of the evening when I am working on my own projects—I like a break from that. But if the day comes when paper goes out of fashion or we just can’t spare the trees, I’m fine with on-screen reading—as long as the material can get into my brain, I’m not that fussed about the medium.

How did you learn to read? I learned to actually properly read a book to myself quite late, the summer after 2nd grade. I think the delay was mainly because I preferred to be read to and that was always on offer at my house. My mom loved to read to me, she read well, I got a lap out of it, and perhaps I was a bit lazy—reading is hard when you’re learning. I still find being read to really pleasant—my husband and I will do it on long car trips and it’s lovely. Anyway, at a certain point my mom thought it was really time I learned, so she said she’d only read me a chapter if I read the first apge—so I learned. Get’em hooked first, then make’em work for it—it’s a good policy.

January 19th, 2018

Now and next

Have I been following my new year’s resolutions? Sort of. I have been doing my meditations a bit, which is kind of nice. I’ve gone to all of my ballet classes, which are just lovely. I have been pretty quiet on social media, which has been difficult but necessary as my social-media sphere has been in a dark place with all of the recent sexual harassment and abuse violations around #canlit, and it has been such an important thing for me to listen listen listen and shut up. I’ve followed a few new people too–more tips welcome. I bought a bunch of Rubbermaid tubs last weekend but so far they are just a wonderland for the cats and I haven’t gotten around to putting anything into them. I haven’t taken my blood pressure once (what is my problem?)

So that’s now–what about next?

Well tomorrow is the Women’s March here in Toronto, and I’m so excited to march with my mom and my friend C and with so many women-identified humans and allies and to feel hopeful about defining our future (this year’s march title). Last year’s march was the brightest spot in a hard winter, and I have great hopes for this one.

Then on Monday I’m doing a reading and talk at S. Walter Stewart Library in the east end. My co-reader/talker is Mark and we’ll be talking about love and marriage and writing, of course. My friend Melanie Lafleche is the librarian who organized it all, and I’m so delighted, because after all these years of us both making our careers in books, this is our first opportunity to work together.

In early February, I’ll have a flash story (not a genre I’m noted for) on the podcast The Oddments Tray, run by Chioke l’Anson and Claire Tacon. Later that month (February 13) I’m guest host and judge at Brandon McFarlane’s Creativity Gym and sometime this winter my long-struggled-with Canadian Notes and Queries essay will finally run. And I’ll also finally take my blood pressure at some point too.

I’m also learning Adobe InDesign with a digital learning module at work. This isn’t related to anything I’ve ever mentioned previously; I’m just building to a joke here. I’m learning it via these instructional videos, but I don’t actually possess the software, so I’m just learning it my mind, theoretical-style–there’s no actual evidence that I can use it properly, or that I can’t, for that matter. The other day, someone had an issue with a page layout at work and said, Hey, Rebecca, you know InDesign, can you fix this? And I said, I know InDesign the way Schrodinger had a cat.

I think that might be the funniest thing I’ve ever said. No one else laughed, but I still believe it. And I wanted you to know.

January 2nd, 2018

Resolving: 2018

I didn’t ever write the 2017 in review post. I wrote some drafts in December and they were all rather grim and hysterical, because it was a legitimately hard year but also probably because I was exhausted. Then I went on vacation for two weeks and, for the first time since I graduated from undergrad, didn’t do anything. No fooling: I had time off from work but I didn’t travel by plane or train or even car beyond a few km radius, I didn’t do freelance or personal projects or school assignments, try to pack for a move or reorganize my life. I just slept 9 or 10 hours a night, hung out with my husband and cats a lot, occasionally went out to see a friend or a movie, and ate some nice food. I built a little fort on my couch out of pillows and blankets (my apartment is cold) and read books in it, dozing off when I was tired, bringing food in there when I was hungry (my fort was full of crumbs). I saw the Dior exhibit at the ROM. I cooked a bit and had a NYE party. That’s it.

Now I’m a lot less grim and hysterical. 2017 is never going to glow with good times in my memory, but when I’ve had enough sleep it need not seem worse than it was. Instead of enumerating everything that was wrong with the previous year, here’s my resolutions for the next one, which do in fact kind of elucidate what I’m seeking to fix about my life (I’m still not in the sunniest frame of mind–it’s going down to -22C this week).

1) Ballet class: I signed up in December for the most introductory of introductions at the National Ballet School and it cost enough that I think I’ll actually show up. I’ve taken some drop-in ballet classes before and know that though they’re beyond my comfort zone I enjoy them if no one makes me feel bad about my lack of skill (including myself; mainly myself). Exercise, new people, and a reason to leave the house in winter: this seems like something I can use.

2) Mindfulness: This is not so much a resolution as something assigned to me by my neurologist. Part of why 2017 was such crap for me was that I was often ill. I have appropriate drugs for my migraines now, but I often don’t know when to take them or which ones to take–taking migraine medication too late in the game is often worse than taking none, because it has no affect and causes side effects that it wouldn’t normally have if taken at the right time. Then you’re really sick AND you have crazy side effects. Vertigo played a role in my autumn. According to the doctors, I’m not in good enough communication with my body to know what meds to take when, and mindfulness can teach me that. So I’m going to download an app and hope the app can help me, because I’m otherwise pretty much at sea. [Edit: I got Headspace and did the first session. It seemed ok. I liked the coach’s British accent.]

3) Take my blood pressure twice a week and record results: The many fun medications I’m on could cause my blood pressure to spike, so I’m supposed to be tracking this, but I’ve been lax. No more!

4) Say less on social media and listen more: I get a lot out of posting little thoughts, jokes, snippets of dialogue, requests for info, book-related announcements and general ephemera on social media. Most people are so supportive and wonderful, and the fun chatter helps me get through the day. AND YET–is that the most social media can do for me? I am so good at ducking hard news, and now here is yet another medium where I have completely blinkered myself from sadness. Well, not completely–it creeps in, and it should, especially the state of the world being what it is. In 2017 I started deliberately following folks on Twitter who made me uncomfortable, mainly activists for various forms of social justice, and I’m going to keep on doing that as much as my comfort-loving mind can stand. Another, more selfish side of this is that despite the overwhelming positivity of my FB feed, I do get a bit of snark now and then, and I can NOT take it. It’s not even bad, just someone scrolling quickly and saying the first thing that comes to mind. I simply don’t have 623 good friends, and expecting all those vague acquaintances to care about my feelings isn’t reasonable. If I say less, people will snark less back at me, and I’ll have room in my head for weightier issues than “did she really mean to make fun of my cat?”

5) Get rid of stuff I don’t actually use or want; organize stuff I want to keep in a reasonable manner: I would like to actually move house in 2018, but that’s not a resolution but a plan. In service of that, though, I’d like to start the decluttering and organizing now. Rubbermaid tubs figure prominently in my future. I love Rubbermaid tubs.

6) Finish the 3rd 1000 things we like. I can do this!

***

I think that’s all the resolutions I’m going to make for now, though there’s certainly more I could: about exercise and diet (who couldn’t?), about writing and reading (but those are my career–I feel like accountants and engineers don’t make resolutions to work hard at their jobs), about all kinds of stuff I could stand to improve on. But this is a good start.

PS–If you know someone challenging and wise to follow on Twitter, I would be happy to hear about it. Or a cheap and plentiful source of Rubbermaid tubs, for that matter.

December 18th, 2017

Nice

I am still struggling with the year-end post, and I may yet manage it, but in the meantime, I was thinking of one of my favourite moments from 2017. A few of my friends teach at a college campus in Oakville, and as you likely you know, college instructors were out on strike this fall for some very good reasons. I wanted to stand in solidarity with my friends, and with the hard-pressed college instructors in general, but me in Oakville on a weekday was not going to happen, since I work in Scarborough. I actually work around the corner from another college campus, though I know no one there. I went over one morning anyway with a batch of cookies, to offer encouragement and support.

Most of the strikers seemed to be elsewhere, but I found a few huddled around an oil-can fire–it was a cold day. I offered them the cookies and they thanked me warmly and promised to eat them all before their colleagues got back from wherever they were. “Are you a student?” one man asked politely.

I tried to explain about my friends and Oakville and wanting to be supportive but unable to miss work. I got a bit muddled and embarrassed.

“Oh, you’re just a nice lady, I see!” he exclaimed.

Sure. Or, well, I’d like to be. Maybe I’ll spend 2018 trying to live up to that comment. That seems like a good plan.

December 10th, 2017

Lists and one more reading

Lists: I’m a huge fan of inclusive and exhaustive lists like, say 1000 Things We Like (which somehow got away from me this year but is coming BACK in 2018, I swear). I love including, adding, having lots, inviting everyone in. I’m less cool with the actual main function of lists, which is to both include and exclude. Witness those horrible grade 3 lists of “cool girls,” which my having gone to a tiny country school with only two other girls in my grade did not allow me to dodge. Who was on those lists? I do not know; not me.

So I’m slightly uncomfortable with lists, overall. They are as subjective as anything else–one man’s #1 is another man’s #754345–but in a context like reviews, the subjective at least gets limited to the matter at hand. Oh, I don’t know–I’m viewing things rather darkly these days. I keep trying to write a year-end post but crying so I never finish it, so this is what you get instead. Lucky you.

Which is all a rather confusing way of saying, So Much Love made the Globe 100 best books of 2017 list and that’s lovely. It’s actually on the Quill and Quire list as well, though that’s not online at the moment.

I also contributed to a list! The very smart Stacey May Fowles asked contributors to the Open Book Best Books of the Year list to define best however we liked, and I defined it as the tough, wise, and beautiful short stories in Cynthia Flood’s new collection from Biblioasis What Can You Do.

Needless to say, there’s tonnes of other great stuff I had nothing to do with on all three lists and you should read them all and probably pick a bunch of books to read from there. BUT in the meantime, I’m doing my last reading of 2017 tomorrow night, so maybe you should also come to that! It’s The Common Reading Series 8pm December 11 at the Belljar Cafe. I’ll be reading with the lovely and talented Mark Sampson and Cornelia Hoogland.

Following that, I do have a couple other literary irons in the fire that I could work on until the end of the year. I might even finish that year-end post sans weeping. I might just bake things and read. I’ll keep you posted as the situation develops.

November 26th, 2017

Books are our friends: classic post

My friend John was asking me about this ancient post, “Books are our friends” that I did way back in 2009 for the then-blog of publisher Biblioasis. After some digging, I found the site still exists but it now auto-redirects to the new and shiny Biblioasis site, so you can’t really read the content. A darn shame, as this is definitely one of the cutest things I’ve ever done for the internet–witness someone asking me about it 8 years later. So I rescued the content and put it here, for the good of all. Enjoy.

Books are our friends!!

Hey, I’m Rebecca Rosenblum, Biblioasis author and now occasional Thirsty guest-poster. Amazingly enough, my invitation to write some posts here came just a week after the only post on this blog that I have ever violently disagreed with. I scrolled through the Bibliorgy photos while peeking between the fingers of my non-scrolling hand, brain twitching.
Books don’t go on the floor, yo–not if it can possibly be avoided. Books certainly don’t go on a dirty warehouse floor in heaps that look dumped out of a truck and scattered so that they could be stepped on or… (gasp) kicked.
No. No no no no.
Books are our friends–we must treat them as well as we are able (and not kick them). You know this, I’m sure, since you’re reading a publisher’s blog after all. Just in case, though, I thought it might help if I offered a little refresher on the Dos and Don’ts of book-loving. Even if you know all this stuff, maybe you know someone who isn’t quite sure…pass it on!!
Books Are Our Friends
Books are not a game.
Incorrect: Building a big messy stack of fiction, poetry and reference books for “fun.”

Correct: Playing Jenga.

Books are not a fashion accessory.
Incorrect: Chekov hat.

Correct: Patent-leather clutch.

Books are not a step up.
Incorrect: Standing on style-guides.

Correct: Befriending the tall.

Books are not weapons.
Incorrect: Violent backhand motion with Russian classics.

Correct: Violent downward stabbing motion with fork and/or scissors.

All this is not to say that books are delicate, needing to be preserved carefully away from human hands. Books are friends, meant to be our companions, read, loved and embraced.

Sometimes a spine gets broken in the excitement.

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, bad things happen to good books.

But that’s ok–books are there to be read, and if we can help them fulfill that destiny, the occasional incident is, well…incidental. Following these simple tips will help you keep your books mainly free of dirt, bugs, hairspray and blood, but the only reason you’d want them that way is to read them. Read books!

Rebecca

PS–Megathanks to CanLit’s Next Top Models: Scott, Wren, Jamie, Angela, Jane, Megan, David, Jordana, Ananda, Chuck, Michael, Anton and Leo.

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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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