May 3rd, 2018

May Likes

Thanks to Zainab–expert liker and enthusiast extraordinaire–for sending these along… Please keep those contributions coming!

512. When your city comes together after tragedy – when you refuse to let hate win

513. Being Canadian 
 
514. Walking around my home after the cleaning lady has done her magic
 
515. Tea made in a teapot
 
516. Earl grey tea with a hint of vanilla or lavender 
 
517. Keanu Reeves
 
518. My new bed–bigger, fancier, and very comfy
 
519. A California Cabernet Sauvignon namely the McManis one 
 
520. Newborn babies and how they just snuggle into you
 
521. Indian food especially a good Korma
 
522. My hairdresser – worth her weight in gold 
 
523.  My hearty Orchids that refuse to die and only need to be watered every 7-10 days 
 
524. My instantpot – electric pressure cooker 
 
525. Making a dish that would take me 3-4 hours in 30 minutes in my instantpot 
 
526. Going to see the ballet- The Eifman Russian ballet company is amazing 
 
527. The feeling when you wake up a few mins (not more) before your alarm and you feel like a superstar as you got up on your own terms 
 
528. The Raptors
 
529. The Habs
 
530. TFC- Toronto Football Club
 
531. When you you hear ABBA is going to make new music 
 
532. A fresh manicure and pedicure in the spring time when you can wear flip flops home
Yay!!

April 26th, 2018

Likes for hard times

Everything is sad here in Toronto. Or is it? Today on the radio, I came in part way through a segment where the hosts said some name-that-tune contest they were running was going to help the city get over its sadness. I thought that was wildly glib, and then it turned out they were talking about the Leafs losing. And then I didn’t know what to think.

Since Monday’s terrorist van attach, I’ve been in some dark places, both on the internet and in my own head and I’ve actually written a bit about it, but nothing fit for public consumption, I don’t think. Instead, here’s some things I like when nothing much else seems good… Please please, send me more to like!

491. Random acts of kindness, doing and receiving.

492. Sending cake in the mail.

493. New hard things I think I might be able to do.

494. When vertigo rocks me to sleep (I’m really trying here)

495. New hard things my cat learns

496. Having other people be excited about my birthday

497. My birthday

498. Being impressed by what someone else can do

499. Playmobile hands

500. All of my highschool yearbooks, just not the photos of me

501. The new The Tick series on Prime, which is excellent

502. taboule

503. when a friend trusts me to help them with something really important

504. sidewalk chalk

504. cracking the shell of a Smartie with my teeth

505. spearmint gum

506. ginger anything

507. ginger brownies in the Martha Stewart cookie cookbook in particular

508. my new very expensive pillow, which is filled with shredded memory foam

509. fantasies about buying an even more expensive pillow, someday

510. whenever anyone says anything nice about my home city of Toronto, even though there’s plenty else wrong with it

511. keeping on plugging away at something long after it would have been acceptable to give up

 

March 14th, 2018

A Year of So Much Love

One year ago that book of mine came out. So Much Love was so many years–and tears–in the making that it could not be anything but huge in my life when it actually became a public item. The subject matter is also dark and emotional, and I’d been deeply immersed in it for seven years when the book came out, in addition to the sense of vulnerability coming from events in my actual personal life. So even though I tell writers who are just starting out that one gets tough from having books in the world, inured to reviews and criticism simply by having experienced them–that wasn’t true this time. I was basically an open wound when So Much Love came out.

There’s a few paragraphs in one of the chapters about a character searching for waterproof mascara and I own that mascara in real life (research budget!) and wore it to the launch. I cried a lot about this book, literal and metaphorical tears both. It was shocking to have other people gain access to what was starting to feel like my own personal dreamscape. And even more shocking to talk to them about it–it was like letting the light in. I had been alone with the book for so long, and though eventually my brilliant editor Anita Chong came along shouldered so much of the load, I still felt cloistered with it. The many different reactions to the book–so many of them excited and engaged–let me finally step back from my own work and see it as a real book and not a dream. For the people who read it, So Much Love is a novel with a distinct shape and structure, characters and event, a beginning and an end. I never thought I’d be able to experience the book that way, but the longer I wasn’t writing it, the more viewpoints I heard–some very different from anything I’d imagined–the more it began to make sense to me as a finite object.

Other people related to Catherine and Julianna, Grey and Kyla, Sue and Donny, too–cried for them and got frustrated, and felt hope and sadness for them. They related to other characters or didn’t, felt suspense or eagerness, felt revulsion or impatience, felt so many things in the course of the novel. Readers of SML were reminded of people in the real world who had suffered similar crimes, of crimes they themselves had suffered. They thought of how incredibly difficult it is to suffer and recover. They felt the novel echoed that or didn’t, were troubled by its dissonances and resonances, were concerned, excited, questioning, scared, bored, thrilled.

Not everyone liked the book, and a few people were very clear in explaining that to me–in print, in person, on the internet–but pretty much everyone was civil. I’m actually startled by how well I coped with harsh words about the book,  given my feelings about SML per above. One reason is probably that I had kind people–mainly friends and family, but sometimes strangers–around to say, well, this is just one set of thoughts, there’s lots of other thoughts. And another reason is that I read Dana Hansen’s review in the Winnipeg Review and Marsha Lederman’s review in the Globe and Mail very early in the process, plus Bret Josef Grubisic’s in Quill and Quire and those were not only positive but seemed to read the novel in the way that I had written in. Because I saw in these reviews that people could connect with SML in the way I had dreamed–and because I knew they have a right not to–I was more or less ok with even the darkest comments on this book. It was still people sharing their thoughts on the most important thing I’d ever written, and that was generous, even if it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear.

Oh, the generosity of this year. From the moment I stood at Kerry Clare’s lovely launch for the very brilliant and funny Mitzi Bytes and she took time out of her own big day to give my book a little shout out–can you imagine a friend like that?–I thought things might be ok. So Much Love and I received so much heartfelt *thought* this year–from the really searching, interesting questions at the panel discussions to the TV presenters who tried so hard to get me to calm down.

And then there was the pleasure of all the other authors who I heard read and talk–one of the best things of being at so many readings and festivals was getting to hear about all the other fantastic books that were out this year. Getting to do events with my beloved Mark Sampson because for the first time we had books out in the same season. I will never get tired of hearing him read my favourite scene in his novel The Slip, when Philip tries to get the poppy that fell under the dean’s desk.

And the BiblioBash, the very fancy party in support of the Toronto Public Library, where I was a guest author!

And the time SML was nominated for an Amazon First Novel Award and there was a giant poster of the book cover and it was all so fancy!

And the many simple, kind, brief emails I received that said in so many words, I enjoyed your book and wanted you to know.

That time I was a headliner at WordFeast in Fredericton–a headliner!

It was an amazing year.

But also.

My dad died just shy of three weeks before So Much Love came out, so even though I was happy about so many things that happened this year, I was always sad too. He never read the book–by the time there was an edited version that was presentable, he was too sick to do so. I will be sad about that forever. He was upset about it too–we were sad together. He was proud of me and my book. When I finished the final edits, I sent then off and went straight to the hospital and told him. He was always happy to hear about stuff like that.

I did not talk much about his death this year because I didn’t know what to say. Often it seemed like my mind was perfectly blank. But all my grief seemed wrapped up with the book somehow. Every time I had to travel alone for a book presentation, I would be excited and enthusiastic and then afterwards wind up standing outside weeping. It’s hard book to present when you’re already in a dark place, and I wanted to be true to the novel and give my all to panel discussions, readings, anyone who wanted to talk to me. I knew I was never going to have this opportunity again, to share this work that I love so much and worked so hard on and cliche as it sounds, I knew my dad would want me to do it.

So I did. I don’t think I said no to a single event or opportunity with regard to So Much Love and I truly enjoyed almost all of it. I’m so grateful for the readers and the friends, and everyone who gave me opportunities to share the book or made those opportunities worthwhile.

The traditional duration of book promotion is a year–two publishing seasons, spring and fall. And there’s a weird little part of my brain that feels, well, now the year is over, and everything will go back the way it was. I wrote the hard dark book I needed to write and I took a year to share it with the world the best I could, and I now I can move on to other things. Because my father’s death and the launch of So Much Love were so close in time, part of me feels like once I stop working on the book, talking about it all the time, he won’t be dead anymore. Which obviously I understand is a strange little mental trick and impossible but the thought is there.

It was a strange hard year. Thanks for reading, for writing me notes, for coming out to readings, for all the kindness. New years and new books beckon.

February 27th, 2018

Still liking

I’m not even going to get into how things are going for me, but at least there are still things to like…onwards! And, if I haven’t already been clear about this, contributions to the list from one and all are very welcome–are in fact one of the things I like most in the whole world. Please, hit me up!

From Fred

475. Instagram stories
476. the smell of lavender
477. the part of yoga where you just lie there
478. slightly too many pillows on the bed
479. extremely long showers

Group project contributions from Team RVC (myself, Fred, Mel and Zai)

480. dorm life
481. ice storms
482. Annie’s (ancient and defunct dance club in Montreal)
483. Princess Diana
484. Clinque bonuses
485. hair mascara
486. glitter
487. Party of Five
488. Namur, Quebec
489. cheese curds
490. Biore nose strips (the old, best kind)

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.

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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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