June 17th, 2018

Trillium Preparations

The Trillium Readings are on Wednesday evening at 6:30 and the awards are announced and Thursday evening and I am a bundle of nerves and excitement (also sweat, but that’s the weather and not the Trilliums per se). Would you like to know what I have been doing to get ready? Well great, here you go:

1) Reading all the books! This was my first order of business as soon as the shortlist was announced, and indeed I was concerned about reading the five other nominees for the book prize in the time between then and the winner announcement (May 24 to June 21). But in the end it was so easy because the books were SO GOOD! I read the other nominees for a few reasons–in order to be able to make the most of the opportunity to chat with the other authors about their work when we meet at the events, in order to appreciate the nomination of my own work a bit more (someone thought MY book was in THIS category), and just because when someone brings good books to my attention, why not read them? I’ve read all five now and can say you won’t be sorry if you do too! I can sincerely recommend This Accident of Being Lost by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Birds Art Life by Kyo Maclear, The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline, Life on the Ground Floor by Dr. James Maskalyk, and Scarborough by Catherine Hernandez. I was simply blown away, and in such various ways and means! I don’t think I’ll finish the poetry books by the awards night but I’ve gotten started and it’s similarly staggering. Sadly, my abilities will not allow me to attempt the French lists.

2) Press! There was a short piece about me in The Hamilton Spectator when the short-list was announced, which was huge for me since they have never covered any of the work I’ve done as an adult (I had a story in there as a kid, though!) There as also a piece in the super-local Glanbrook Gazette–because of these two articles, I’ve been getting some nice notes from some of the back-home folks. Now Magazine also has a mini-site about all the Trillium nominees, which includes a short text interview with each of us including me. We’ll all each have a video interview posted as well–I had fun shooting mine, but I’m still scared of what it’ll be like to watch it.

3) Buying a new dress! Oh, wait, I haven’t actually done this, even though a lovely friend offered to go with me–and with three days left, I probably won’t. What I did instead was allocate myself fifteen minutes before I had to be somewhere else to run into The Bay with a hole in my stockings, sprinting past really nice dresses thinking, if I were more organized I could go try those on. Then I bought a new pair of stockings and threw the ruined ones in the garbage in the Bay changing room BUT I also bought an extra pair for Trillium night. Those have polka dots, which will hopefully distract from the fact that I will be a) wearing a dress of my mother’s from the 1980s b) wearing a dress from the grocery store.

4) Hoarding pills! Bet you didn’t see this one coming! It actually accounts for some of the disorganization in #3. I have my migraines under better control lately owing to good medication, which is why I haven’t pain-vomited in over a year (hooray!) BUT there are limits on how much of this stuff you can take in a month–I’m not sure what happens if you go over, a very slow-motion overdose, I guess. And June has been a terrible month for migraines, mainly due to weather but partly due to travel, stress, poor-decision-making on my part, and just some bad luck. So I’m down to two days worth of my strongest pills to last the rest of June (it is, please note, June 17 as I type this). The pharmacy will sometimes give you something a couple days early, but not a couple weeks. So, with two days worth of super-pills and two days worth of Trillium events, and with the potential for migraines at their worst to induce pain-vomiting, I am jealously guarding my pills like a…I’m sorry, what are those fictional characters who hoard gold under a bridge? Those. If you have had a weird conversation with me lately or I seemed on the verge of tears for no reason, I was probably way under-medicated and I’m sorry. Probably July will be better.

5) Enjoyment. I have to say, I have really liked being on the Trillium shortlist and if I could just drag this out forever and not find out the winner, I would do that. I feel pretty confident (and happy) that So Much Love won’t win–there’s so much brilliance on the shortlist, I’d be delighted for any winner at all. But this has been very fun and I’ll be sad to see it end. Open secret: I’m going to write an acceptance speech. I have never written one before when I’ve been short-listed for other things. I always thought it was presumptuous, like saying you think you’ll win, and also something of a jinx. But I haven’t won the other things I’ve been shortlisted for and I didn’t expect to, but I think it’d be fun to write the speech. So I will, and never give it but I will have had the pleasure of writing it. And pleasure is what this experience has been, so why not drag out a little extra? I am a lucky lucky kid.

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.

October 2nd, 2017

How to fly with a sinus infection without your face exploding

**Warning: this entire post is about my health—whiny, dull, and, in places, disgusting.**

I wrote last week about my glorious adventure in New Brunswick, but I wanted to keep the medical aspects of the trip for a separate post, lest they take over. For in truth, I was rather sick for the events I described. Not as sick as I have been this summer–for truly, this was the summer of illness for me. I started feeling vaguely unwell at the end of July, andwas truly ill for the second half of August and most of September. Starting late last week, I’ve been basically fine for the first time in several months, but not counting any damn chickens.

So in the second week of September, I had a sinus infection plus assorted other things, and was freaking out because I didn’t seem to be getting better past enough to fly in ten days. In case you don’t know, if you fly when your sinuses are too congested you run the risk of the pressure not adjusting properly in your ears (the “pop”) and if it gets too intense and you don’t/can’t take appropriate measures, the eardrum can rupture, which is not the worst thing that can happen to a person but causes you to bleed from your ear and possibly lose your hearing and is pretty bad. The reasons babies cry so hysterically on planes (well, one reason) is that they don’t know how to swallow to adjust the pressure in their ears and they are feeling it really strongly–unadjusted pressure hurts a lot, even if you are well and uncongested. So you can imagine (or I can) what a rupturing might feel like.

I was very worried about this. Not so much the pain, and the possibility of permanent hearing loss, though I was afraid of those things very much, but: here I am getting this amazing professional opportunity and I might have to walk off the plane and introduce myself to Ian LeTourneau, who has been very kind to me via email but whom I’ve never met, and say I have ruptured my eardrum, please take me to the hospital.

So, five days before my flight, a Sunday of course, I panicked and spent two hours in a walkin clinic to get antibiotics. I had tried to get an appointment with my own doctor the previous week, but she was too busy. All my other sinus infections have gone away on my own, but this one didn’t seem to be, and I didn’t have time to see how it panned out. So I start taking the antibiotics, in concert with decongestants, a steroidal nasal spray, a neti pot, and a nasal mister and lo and behold: the day before the flight, the mucus had gone from yellow to clear (yuck!) signalling that the antibiotics had worked but here’s the thing–other than the colour, nothing had really changed. I still *felt* like I had a sinus infection, even if I was no longer technically infected. And there was still plenty of fluid in the exact wrong spot–inside my face, where it could burst out an eardrum at an inopportune moment–even if it was the right colour.

So I read everything the internet said about whether my eardrum was going to burst, which was surprisingly inconclusive. Basically they said, don’t fly if you can avoid it, which was unhelpful–who flies for no reason? The tickets you can change cost twice as much!! But they didn’t say what is the difference between the people who have a sinus infection and fly and go deaf in one ear, and the people who have a sinus infection and fly and are fine. I got the feeling that maybe some people are just more organized and prepared, and also perhaps luckier?? Anyway, in an attempt to put myself in the lucky category, here’s what I did:

1) Keep on the decongestants all day and all night before the flight, and take the max dose half an hour before the flight. I thought these pills just made me feel better superficially by numbing the pain but apparently they actually shrink swollen tissue, making it easier for horrible fluids to escape from the appropriate holes and not have to create new ones.
2) Spend the previous day in a room with a humidifier, plus regular use of nasal mister. This is to thin said horrible fluids, also in aid of their easy and painless escape from my face.
3) Stay super-hydrated before the flight, again with a fluid-thinning agenda. There are also actual mucus-thinning drugs, but I was scared to put yet another unfamiliar chemical into my body right before the flight.
4) Nasal irrigation–only at home and in the hotel of course, because that’s a big project and there are limits to what even I will do in an airport bathroom. This is to evacuate horrible fluids before they attempt to escape on their own.
5) A shot of Dristan right before the flight. The doctor told me I might need to take this *after* the flight, if my ears were plugged but not exploded, but an American website told me to take a different nose-drug before the flight, and that drug doesn’t seem to exist in Canada, so I just took the Dristan. I also forget what this is for. I think it’s another tissue-shrinker.
6) Chew gum on the plane for takeoff and landing but also have two bottles of water, one for each, because gum cannot generate enough spit for all the swallows all the time. Swallow constantly. It feels odd (and probably looks odd) but does help.
7) Earplanes are a pressure-regulating earplug and I half-wonder if I could have just used these and not gotten up to all the other shenanigans above. You put them on while still at normal pressure (on the ground, ideally before the plane door has shut) and you can take them out when you are at full altitude and put them back for descent, or if you are paranoid like me leave them in for the whole flight, taking them out again, after the doors have opened. They worked really well for me, adjusting pressure more slowly and gently than it would have otherwise, though it still hurt.

So basically I had a mildly painful and highly anxious flight to Fredericton, but emerged from the plane feeling like I had WON THE LOTTERY. The great thing about assuming the worst is that everything else feels like the best! The fact that no eardrums burst and I could resume normal functioning as soon as I hit the ground, and go do all the nice things I had planned around the festival was solid gold. I hope these tips might help other people have as glorious an experience of non-eardrum-bursting as I did!

January 22nd, 2017

Now in book news

So Much Love is still 7 weeks and 2 days from being available, but little things are happening and it is all very exciting/unnerving. Like
–if you would like to win a copy, you can enter to do so on Goodreads. There’s 50 (!) copies available and the contest closes on February 16. Good luck!
–if you would like to know more about the writing process/me writing in general, you could read my interview with Koom Kankesan at Open Book. Koom and I went to school together in 1999 (!) and have stayed in touch since, and both published books. It’s been a wild ride!
–if you want to read a list of amazing upcoming books that includes mine, you could read 49th Shelf’s Spring Fiction Preview. There is so much goodness upcoming (my husband Mark Sampson also has a book on the list called The Slip. It is very good!)

Onwards!

January 3rd, 2017

A tiny bit of buzz!

While I wait patiently for the 1000 things to come rolling in (hint!) I can tell you about the tiny bits of buzz that are floating around regarding So Much Love, a novel that will be out and available in actual stores to actual readers in just over two months. Terrifying.

I mean great, very exciting, it is just that I am a little nervous. Anyway! There is a print review in the most recent issue (winter) of Maisonneuve, which I subscribe to and was reading on the treadmill when all of the sudden, there was my book cover! I was NOT expecting that three months before publication. It’s just a couple hundred words and mainly summary–I’ve squinted at it for a long time and can’t be certain if the reviewer liked it or not but it is still very nice to be mentioned! The review isn’t online, but if you read it in print, please let me know what you think.

Also! I did a short interview with the wondrous Kerry Clare, with whom I’d be happy to chat for no reason, but this was actually for a little piece in University of Toronto Magazine, which is lovely.

And that, at two months and 11 days to publication, is what’s going on. Kind of lovely, really!

February 3rd, 2016

Name games

I have very strong feelings about names, but they are hard to quickly and easily define to people. It’s not that I don’t have rules, it’s just that those rules are not often comprehensible to others. Also, what does it matter? It matters that I am writing a novel with a lot of names in it, so how much sense the names make could potentially drive a reader nuts.

You get a name at birth and that is always your name–unless you change your name, but that strikes me as incredibly mind-boggling. I mean do it if that’s your jam, I don’t think it’s wrong or bad to change your name, I just don’t understand how anyone copes with, for a certain number of years being one name, and then later another.

This bafflement on my part is in turn baffling to others who know me well, because for the first 27 years of my life I went by “Becky” and then switched over to “Rebecca” after that. To me it makes sense because my name was actually always Rebecca, Becky just being a nickname for Rebecca. It was just that no one called me that–parents, other family, high-school, university friends, teachers, everyone called me Becky but I knew myself to be Becky or Rebecca interchangably and I did not find it a major switch to start introducing myself formally as Rebecca. I felt I was old enough to carry the three syllables, and I wanted less dissonance between my written and spoken worlds (I have almost always written under Rebecca). Many people could. not. deal with this change, and that also makes sense to me–see below–so I stopped asking family and friends who had known me prior to age 27 to call me Rebecca. So now all those folks know me as Becky, and everyone I’ve met since–grad-school friends, work friends, people in the writing community, and notably my husband and everyone he’s introduced me to–call me Rebecca. This makes perfect sense to me, no confusion at all, the way you wouldn’t be confused if someone pointed at a piece of furniture you call the couch and said, “Want to sit on the sofa?” Rebecca and Becky are synonyms, synonyms for me.

I am extremely respectful about given names and nicknames, and I am always careful to call someone exactly what they introduce themselves as. I would never presume the privilege of using a nickname, even though I love nicknames, unless I were invited to do so. This also causes some confusion, as the various Jennifers I work with are all occasionally referred to as Jen. I never did that, because I wasn’t invited to–I wouldn’t be happy if someone went rogue and called me, say, Bek–and they all thought it was weird. The Jennifers actually got together and asked me to start using Jen, which is also weird but I feel more comfortable doing so now. Basically, I guess I think, one’s name is one’s own–nicknames are at the owner’s discretion.

Although if you ask me to call you by a nickname, or ask me to GIVE you a nickname, I will be very happy to oblige. Something that makes me happy is that way back in the 90s, my friend Karen complained that she didn’t like any of the nicknames available to Karens, and I thought for a while and suggested “(W)ren”–the second half of her name, and also she is small and birdlike. She still uses it! I got the same complaint from an old workmate named Taylor and suggested Lori, which she liked but I don’t know if she still uses.

So, I’m down with nicknames. HOWEVER, it blows my mind when someone changes their name to a completely other thing that has no relationship to the original name. How I see these two categories of change as so different I have no idea, but there you have it! Seriously, when people change their names at marriage (the reason most of those I know who have changed it did so) it takes me YEARS to get it straight. There are people who have been married over a decade that I refer to occasionally by their maiden names (is sexist terminology? I feel like yes.) I mean no disrespect, I’m onboard with the idea of the name-change, it’s just that I can’t process it properly.

One of the great things about being a writer of fiction is that I have access to and control over tonnes of names–which is good, because my husband would never let me have enough cats to use all the names I like. I don’t have a science to how I name characters, though if you read a bunch of my work you can notice certain preference areas. I once got a baby name book with the idea that I would read through it and find new kinds of names for my characters but that did not pan out at all. Usually I just think about a character until a good name pops into my head and that’s that. I almost never change a character’s name once I’ve decided on it, which is why in my last book there’s a not-so-great fellow with the same name as my husband. Sorry, Mark-the-husband, Mark-the-character showed up first and I just couldn’t unname him.

And while I’m listing my naming oddities, I should mention that I can’t use generic terms of endearment–my husband and I call each other by the names on our birth certificates. I can’t explain this anymore than I can the rest of it–maybe it has something to do with how if anyone can be “baby” or “sweetie” than perhaps no one is? And this rule does not extend to the cats, to whom I regularly refer as “sugar plums.”

I also do weird things with nicknames in fiction–many’s the editor who has come back to me with a “correction” that a character is flipflopping between or among names. In truth, it’s that someone could be referred to by different nicknames by different people, but that’s a pretty hollow truth if no one understands and just thinks the story is sloppy. So I wind up changing it–in my forthcoming book, Julianna is almost exclusively called that, and I took out most of the use of Juli and Jules. This is sad to me, but it is important not to baffle the reader with my personal quirks.

Similarly, my editor pointed out that two characters have very similar names and readers might get confused–could one change? My instinct was “absolutely not.” It’s one thing to use a nickname or not and it’s another to give someone a name he never had before!!! Despite the fact that it’s an easy change to a minor character, I am a fragile point with the manuscript and I honestly didn’t think I could look at it with the wrong name in there.

I was being, as you’ve no doubt been thinking, an asshole, so instead of stating the above, I said I was going to leave the old (right!) name in place until the last minute before I hand off the manuscript–then I’ll do a global search-and-replace with a new, yet-to-be-determined name, and send off the ms without looking at it again. Which is clearly a batshit thing to do, but shouldn’t inconvenience anyone but possibly me, which is fine.

Next time you think an artistic type person is being eccentric just for the sake of it, please rest assure, I’m annoyed by me as anyone else. But I’ve had this quirk all my life and at the end of an exhausting edit is just not the time to rehabilitate it. So on we go–

Love,
Rebecca (Becky)

December 27th, 2015

For 2016

I hope everyone had a very merry everything this holiday season, and continues to do so. Mine has been and hopefully will continue being wonderful, but I’m not sure a recap of the nice things I’ve been doing, seeing, and eating would be that interesting. Instead, I’m in the mood to look forward to 2016. 2015 was a pleasant year in many ways, and certainly nothing really bad happened to me personally, but I found it to be a challenging 365 days in large and small ways. So I’m anxious to get on to the new one, which, like an unwritten book, has not had anything go wrong in it yet. Here are some things I resolve to do to keep making 2016 a good year even once it has gotten started.

  1. Finish novel–really finish, not like the other times I’ve resolved this when it was “finish a draft” or “finish submission draft.” This time it is “finish and submit to copyedit” finish–world without end finish. Not included in 2016 goals only because it’ll be happening in January 2017 is “publish novel.”
  2. Clean out spice cupboard. Find a way to store spices that is not a giant mess for first time in life. Cannot be that hard.
  3. Wear every piece of jewellery I own at least once, out in public. This is an adapted version of KonMari, I guess. I got a new jewellery box for Christmas and in transferring everything over from the old one, found I had a tonne of stuff I never wear and indeed have forgotten about. I’m inclined to keep it all because most of it was gifts, but if I find I can’t even get through a single public appearance with the item due to physical discomfort or embarrassment at the item’s inappropriateness for my look, I think I’ll have an easier time parting with it.
  4. No eating after dinner is over.
  5. Stop being so fussed about what people I might never see again think of me. Focus on being a better friend to people who are genuine friends.
  6. Start new novel. Have clearer structure and better plan than first novel from the get-go, so this one does not turn into another six-year ordeal.
  7. Experiment with only one social outing per week for month of January. See if it makes me more productive and happier, or insane.
  8. Use migraine tracker properly, or else find better migraine tracker.
  9. Complete marathon critical essay and edit into something publishable. Essay is currently less than a third finished, 10 000 words long, and largely about my personal issues.
  10. Train cat to ring bell on command.

June 2nd, 2015

Things I feel awkward about

Oh, they are many and legion, the things I feel awkward about. In this case, I am not referring to social awkwardness, although those things are many and legion, too. Today I want to talk about experiences that weren’t awesome or terrible and that maybe I still haven’t fully processed–I just don’t feel exactly one thing about them and that is…awkward. These were all going to be separate blog posts and then I realized a) I won’t write that many blog posts in the next few weeks, and after a few weeks these topics will all feel irrelevant and b) they fit together this tidy theme. And so…things that made me feel awkward lately…

Career Day I usually agree to do just about whatever I’m asked if it gets me an opportunity to speak to young people. I’m at an age where teenagers and early twentysomethings won’t speak to me voluntarily at a party or even at work, but all my friends still have only little kids, so they can’t help me much with the zeitgeist (though they do help me get to swing on swings without anyone giving me weird looks). So I did a career day at UofT and it was definitely an awkward experience. I was on a panel on working in education, which was a bit weird as everyone else taught in some format. Youth today is much for savvy than I was in my uni years, and much more goal oriented. In part, they have to be–the job market it is tougher now than in 2001 when I graduated, and it was plenty tough then. I saw a lot of fear in the eyes of the people at the seminar, and I wanted to help them but I wasn’t sure how. One way they very much were like me in my youth is that they couldn’t really process the idea of jobs they hadn’t heard of before–teachers made sense to them, along with firemen and doctors and crossing guards, I’m sure. For those not playing along at home, I am a production project manager and that most definitely did not make sense to anyone there–I thought I explained pretty succinctly (and my job isn’t rocket surgery, as they say, though it’s pretty interesting/challenging) but most of the young folk were looking right through me. Hell, maybe they knew exactly what i was talking about, but just didn’t want any part of it. I did get a sense of the zeitgist (panic!) but other than that the day was kind of sad.

Klout Scores I had the opportunity to go to a seminar on how to land a book contract, and even thought I actually already have a book contract (and I can’t say enough hoorays about that) I went–it’s always good to know more about the business, and I wasn’t doing anything else. It turns out I learned a tonne, because the author who was speaking has an American agent and submitted her book to only American houses. It is VERY different over there. (Also, I should point out that the speaker, Rachel McMillan was so incredibly charming and well-spoken that it was worth the hour just to listen to her, and I will defo buy her book when it comes out!)

Anyway, to publish in the States is a very different thing, it seems, than publishing in Canada, and one of the differences is how many things other than an author you need to be. Skilled marketer and respected influencer are two; the presentation touched on Klout scores, which are a measure of how known/respected/influential we are on the inter webs. All of us, even if you don’t register for Klout or look into it, you are still out there, with our certain amount of influence in the world.

I’m really into quantifying stuff so even though I’d like to pretend I don’t care about Klout scores, of course I set off immediately to find mine out. It was a 10/100, which I felt sort of bad about but resigned to, but it turned out it took a few days for the data to feed into the system–now I’m a 52. On the one hand, that’s a bare pass; on the other, Rachel said influence begins at 35. I don’t even know if telling you this is appropriate in polite company–is this like revealing my weight?

Christina Kelly Has a Blog It’s called Fallen Princess and I love it even though it makes me squirm. If you’re not familiar with this writer, she was one of my heroes back in the early 1990s when she wrote for Sassy. When Sassy, the best and weirdest teen-girl magazine I’d encountered crashed and burned, I was already 16 and basically ready to leave the teen-girl mag world behind and actually, gendered magazines full stop, so I missed out on the rest of Kelly’s career there–she went on to Jane, YM, Elle Girl…and apparently did good work at all. For some reason, even though the Sassy writers put a lot of their personalities into their writing and I loved them all, I didn’t attempt to find out where they went or what they did next. Actually, I do know why that is, if I’m honest–I read them as fictional characters, and when Sassy ended, the novel I was reading about these people ended.

At that point in my life, the first person was verboten in anything but novels–everything for school or even the student paper or the yearbook was supposed to be this weird unbiased unreferenced speaker. The first glimpse I got of self-referential journalism and criticism–the world that would become the blogosphere–is via Sassy. And Rose-coloured is actually where you can hear the greatest influence of that kind of writing; if you follow the link above to Fallen Princess, you’ll hear a voice that echos distinctly around here.

Christina Kelly was the tougher, scarier one at Sassy–known for her sarcasm and being in a rock band. I thought she was an amazing super-adult, and I dreamed of having her life while simultaneously knowing I’m not cut out for a rock-and-roll lifestyle and I don’t understand sarcasm. And honestly, I’ve done a lot of amazing things in my failed attempt to become the person I imagined CK to be in 1994 (that’s a tough sentence to get right, but I think I got it), so the result was excellent.

But now, having stumbled upon this blog, I’m startled to discover that the target has shifted and Kelly, while still a charmingly brusque and funny writer, is also a suburban full-time mom, Girl Guide leader and yoga-doer. She still sounds like an excellent person to meet for dinner, but I no longer wish to be her. Maybe I’m just older and no longer wish to be anyone other than myself (which is true) but also I think this is a good lesson that people change and life changes and you’re not always on the road you think you are on. Or something.

I don’t really have an issue with the suburbs or the yoga or the Girl Guides, but I’m distinctly uncomfortable with the regularly-bubbling-to-the-surface subtext of the blog, which is that it is f–king hard to be a writer. I found this Non writer post kind of heartbreaking, because it is such a well written (right until it trails off onto another topic, but such is the license of blogs) meditation on not writing. But the post I Am Actually an Actual Feminist Housewife is probably the best post on the blog (and yes, when I found out Fallen Princess existed, I did go back to the first post and read it straight through like a novel–I often do that. Maybe I sort of wish everything was a novel.) It’s so complicated and honest and when you finish reading it, there’s no designated response, no obvious, “right on!” or “what you should have done” or anything–you just need to think about it.

So the awkward thing is that I’d like CK to write more for publication so I could read it, but I also think I’m happy for her that she’s comfortable making the choice not to…for now.

February 27th, 2015

Why Life Is Hard for Extroverts Too

This started out as a joke post, parodying those insufferable articles about how introverts are actually must smarter, deeper, kinder, and more sensitive than extroverts. In trying to equalize our perceptions of intros and extros, the articles nearly always go too far and suggest that there’s really only worthwhile kind of human.

I don’t honestly even believe that there’s some kind of binary among humans into these two types. We all have tendencies in both directions and it’s a spectrum. And I don’t think the introverts get all that squashed in society, though maybe because I’m in the writing and editing field my perceptions are skewed–there’s a lot of quiet types here. And that’s also why I sometimes stand out as a bit more talky than some of my colleagues. In many context, I don’t think I’d qualify as an extrovert, but in the word mines, I do. Of course, I also have friends who are much much more social than I am. As I say, a spectrum.

My extroverted feelings get hurt by those stupid articles above–I’m not callous, superficial, or inane, as they always seem to suggest. At least, I don’t think I am. So I started writing this rebuttal in fun, but I think it’s kind of true, too…

Why life is hard for extroverts too…

1) I’m often lonely. I know, I know–introverted people often feel overwhelmed by being with people and need time alone. I actually feel that way pretty often myself. But the thing about wanting to be alone is, it’s relatively easy to achieve. You can go home or take a walk or go stand in the broom closet if you have to. It’s much harder when you’re by yourself and wish you weren’t. Sometimes none of your friends are available to hang out. Sometimes your husband is sleeping and has told you to quit waking him up. Sometimes no one’s online. And there’s nothing you can do about it.

2) I get rejected a lot. One of my nicer qualities, so I’m told, is I see everyone I meet as a potential new friend. The downside of this is that many people do not want to be my friend. That’s fair, but I can’t help taking it personally. If I compliment a cashier on her nail polish or blouse and she ignores me, I feel bad even though I know intellectually that this relationship is not important to my well being. Worse, people in my actual social circle sometimes don’t really want to spend a lot of time with me. When I first moved to Toronto, I did not understand that “We should get a coffee/drinks/lunch sometime” was a phrase of general approbation, and did not actually mean anything. I was forever pulling out my date book and trying to make plans. Some of those interactions actually blossomed beautifully, but some were very very awkward. I’m always the friend who is still inviting you to parties long after you’ve given up authentic-sounding excuses and started saying things like, “I think I’m going to be really tired that night.”

3) My career path does not really suit extroversion. I write books, as I may have mentioned here, and that is a task that it’s very hard to make collaborative. I’ve tried, with writing groups, reading groups, uber-involved editors, and a husband who takes an interest in my work, but sometimes I do have to sit and my office and work and there’s no one else there… All alone! I also work on books during the day, and though there’s some more interaction to that now that I’m a project manager, I’m still just at my desk a lot of hours of the day. And yet these are the things I want to do–I wouldn’t have my career any other way! I just wish a bunch of people could come hang out at my desk with me, maybe occasionally make an interesting comment about something. I’ve actually started shunning my lovely office to work in the living room with my husband and cats. Bad use of real estate, but much more comforting.

4) It’s really easy to hurt my feelings. It’s interesting that the stereotype of an extrovert is someone who is shallow and callous and not really interested in what you have to say. Since I’m so invested in other people, doesn’t it make sense that I’m invested in what they think about me? Workplace sniping, subway grumbling, arguments with close friends–they all sting, although of course to different degrees. And I’m actually paying really close attention. I used to work with someone who took great care to thank everyone for their contributions to the project at every meeting, except me. I don’t really know why she disliked me enough that she couldn’t bear to thank me for anything, but I guess expected I wouldn’t notice. I noticed.

5) Socializing is time-consuming. Introverts can get their solo-recharge time while they scrub toilets or do their taxes, but none of my friends want to come over for that (do you?) If I want to see people at least a couple nights a week–and I do–I need to make plans, send an invitation, organize a time and place and then actually get myself there, even if it’s snowing and I’m sleepy. It’s worth doing, but it means putting off taxes and scrubbing and other things I should really get done.

Wow, what a sad sack list! I was trying to ape to woe-is-me tone in the introvert articles but now I just feel really bad about myself. But actually–I’m fine! I get to spend lots of time with people and lots of time alone, just as my personality prefers. I enjoy my own company and that of others, big parties and long walks, and blah blah blah, all that other stuff introverts supposedly are the only appreciators of.

I probably shouldn’t things I read on BuzzFeed so seriously…

 

January 29th, 2015

Cutting, cutting

So I am editing my book now, and as you probably knew but I didn’t, it’s very stressful and challenging, and sometimes sad. I’m chopping up a story that never really worked anyway. On the one hand, I’m glad to be rid of it because there’s probably 10 versions in my folders and none really cohere properly. I’m going to be able to repurpose some of the more informational bits elsewhere (I hope!) but all the connective tissue, especially the mood- and character-building bits, are essentially being surplussed. Which issued, because some of them are good…or at least I think so. Then I remembered that is why I have a blog, to give voice to all my useless bits.

Thus, I give you the opening of the story “The First Day of School”, which no longer exists…

The walk to school is lemon-yellow and green—still summer, only now I’m wearing slacks and teaching loafers, carrying files, and up so very early. Early September is marketed in back-to-school Walmart fliers as orange leaves and sweaters, but the past few years it’s been just more heat and popsicles with the sunlight slightly slanted. I feel like this is a recent phenomenon, maybe the result of climate change, but it’s hard to remember. Back in the nineties, was there crisp air on Labour Day? Do I Instagram my memories? I’m old enough to be permanently suffused with nostalgia—the constant onslaught of bright-hued youth that is my profession doesn’t help. I miss the politically relaxed atmosphere that allowed me to at least use the term Indian summer.

The streets near campus are lifeless except for breezes and cats. There’s always a lull between the start of classes and when students feel up to attending. Even on Centre Green, where workers are trying to collapse the massive frosh-week beer tent, there’s a dreamy quiet. In a few weeks, the green will be trampled and strewn with lithe bodies, but for now it feels like I have the campus to myself.

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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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