January 8th, 2017

1000 Things We Like: Cold Sunday Night Edition

Thanks so much for continuing to like things, you guys. The cold, coupled with having to go back to work tomorrow morning, when it will no doubt still be cold, is hell on my morale. So these really cheered me up. Enjoy these likes!

From Frederique Delapree

112. Star Trek: The Next Generation
113. OWL magazine
114. A diverse and well-organised sticker album
115. Calligraphy
116. People with red hair
117. Blue nail polish

From AMT

118. winter clementines
119. dogs snoring
120. the fact that little staplers have appeared multiple times on multiple of these lists
121. sparing amounts of eggnog
123. recycling my christmas tree
124. buying many plane tickets all at once
125. good reviews
126. when people you’ve always liked turn out to also be really successful
127. almond butter
128. right after you’ve vacuumed
129. zipping up very long boots
130. ice skating outside in a new american town and guessing who the other canadian-born skaters are
131. atomic fireball cinnamon candies
132. extra lip balm
133. finding toonies in my american purse(s)
134. very warm socks
135. very warm leg warmers
136. lindy hop
137. watching the dog run in her sleep
138. flavoured coffee (i know.)
139. hugging

From Alison Foster
140. watching people eat ice cream (extra bonus if the person is over 80 years old).
141. The print from my baby’s ear that gets left on my arm from breast-feeding).
142. Ear hair on babies.
143. Listening to a really good song really loudly on repeat for an entire car ride or road trip.
144. Opening up a suitcase that still smells like the last trip you took.
145. Fat cats.
146. Beer.
147. Butter tarts made by my parents.
148. Nice people.
149. Laughing with people.
150. Swimming/floating.
151. Long, hot showers.
152. Sleeping outside in the sun.
153. Learning how to do something.
154. The smell of new clothes.
155. Segue (both in language and the ride-y kind).
156. Segues.
157. Segways.
158. Sleeping.
159. Puns.
160. Online shopping.
161. In-store shopping.
162. Singing/playing music with others.
163. Singing/playing music by myself.
164. Listening to my daughter sing.
165. Sewing.
166. Falling asleep during yoga class.
167. When someone farts during yoga class.
168. Farting during yoga class.
169. Farting in general.
170. Going out for breakfast.
171. Stars.
172. The moon.
173. Science.
174. Math.
175. Art.
176. The relationship between math and art.
177. Making art.
178. Finding things that you’ve lost.
179. Making faces in the mirror.
180. Heated seats.
181. Watching TV with my husband at the end of the day when the kids are asleep.
182. Knowing that there are many more things that I like and that it may take the rest of my life to make a complete list.

January 6th, 2017

1000 Things We Like: into triple digits

Colette Maitland says

78. Chickadees at the bird feeder
79. Multi-coloured Christmas lights
80. Quilts
81. The perfect butter tart

Mark Sampson says

82. My wife
83. New Year’s Eve parties
84. Star Wars nostalgia
85. Donairs
86. The West Wing Weekly Podcast Series
87. Fancy hotel rooms
88. Cask ale
89. Netflix
90. The New Yorker
91. Snow days
92. P.G. Wodehouse novels
93. Homemade biscuits with homemade jam on them.
94. Wine tours
95. Taking a break once I’ve earned it
96. Tweed coats
97. Preprandial cocktails
98. Working with smart people
99. Travelling to new cities and figuring out how to get around

And from me again, just to get us into the triple digits
100. Round numbers
101. The smell of sparklers
102. The smell of babies’ heads
103. Falling asleep on the subway and waking up just at my stop
104. licorice spice tea
105. expensive moisturizers that promise to make me live forever
106. the charity coin collectors where the coin spins around and around
107. seeing I have a new text
108. Gruyere
109. chewing on pens
110. lip balm
111. Weekends

January 5th, 2017

1000 Things We Like 2017: More to like

This is making me so happy–thanks for playing along, Fred, Jill, Kyrielea! And keep the likes coming, everyone!

Frederique Delapree says

34. The struggle required to eat a pomegranate.
35. The song “You can call me Al”
36. Barack Obama
37. Turkey sandwiches
38. Old-fashion glazed Timbits
39. Glitter
40. Tic-tacs
41. Cutting out Snowflakes
42. Fried chicken
43. Paintings by George Bellows
44. Paintings by Edward Hopper
45. The People vs. OJ Simpson miniseries
46. Scrapbooks
47. Magnets
48. Attending a Major League Baseball game on a breezy but sunny May afternoon.
49. Washington, D.C.
50. Bumper stickers
51. Blanket scarves
52. North Face polar fleece jackets
53. Pencil cases
54. Someone else doing the dishes
55. Shoveling snow (when you are dressed for it)
56. The Complete Works of Fifth Harmony
57. White Teeth, the book
58. White Teeth, the enamel-y things in your mouth
59. The TV show Unsolved Mysteries

Jill Hefley says
60. Corn in the summer
61. Weekend crossword puzzles
62. Funny animal videos
63. 90s Rom-Coms
64. Canada
65. House Hunters
66. Robertson Davies

Kyrielea says
67. The smell of someone making you dinner
68. Watching snowfall from a warm home
69. Hot showers
70. When your car can’t make it up an icy hill, until you try driving it in reverse
71. Snow covered forest
72. The level of quiet in a snow covered forest
73. Evening power outages (when you’re ready for it)
74. Pre-making 10 awesome lunches at a time so your work-lunch game is on point, all week
75. Freshly cleaned sheets
76. Happy dogs
77. 0 unopened emails left at the end of the work day

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!

January 2nd, 2017

1000 Things We Like: the fourth thousand

Fred reminded me recently that 2017 marks the 15th year since we did our first 1000 things we like, a list we made in 2002, and then again in 2007, and again in 2012 of things that we like. I can’t find the post that explains the original ethos, so here it is again: I once read a novel, title and author now lost to the mist, that was about adult characters but had two teenage girls in the background. The girls were making a list of 1000 things they liked, and this was thought to be silly and dismissible by the adult characters. But I thought it was great–what a revolutionary act it would be, to work that hard at simply being pleased. And I liked the “we” too–the collaborative act. Fred and I were the spearheads of all three lists so far, but anyone we knew could and did contribute, and we got a lot of great and varied ideas about what is likeable. The exercise itself, as well as the specific liked things, brought a lot of joy, at least to me!

As I’ve mentioned, I wasn’t crazy about 2016 and I’m feeling a lot of trepidation about 2017 as well, so let’s dive right into the good stuff–won’t you play 1000 things we like with us? Here’s how it works–the rules are pretty simple and more for clarity than anything:

a. Send me some things you like–in the comments of this post or subsequent ones, as an email to rebeccabooksATexciteDOTcom, or any of the varied social media I am on. I’ll number the items appropriately and run them on the main blog, and credit you however you like (let me know!)
b. No sneaky negatives–no “when other people DON’T step on my feet” or that sort of thing. It has to be an extant thing that you genuinely enjoy.
c. Don’t worry about going through old lists unless you want to–some things will repeat and that’s fine (we have had “little staplers” several times on multiple lists). And don’t worry about contradicting other likes, either–if someone else has already liked “eating the frosting first” you can still have “saving the frosting for last” as well. Both are likeable, and “we” is a multitudinous thing.

And just to get things kicked off, here’s a few likes from me, which taken together form a summary of how my holidays were, or at least, the highlights:

1. Better news than expected
2. Merengue
3. How driveway salt works, every time
4. Tom Stoppard
5. Record players
6. The tiny brush you use to clean the needle on a record player
7. Billy Galecki
8. Spooning a cat and he actually stays
9. My parents
10. My brother
11. My cats
12. Thai food
13. Waiting patiently at the airport gate with a good book
14. Being picked up at the airport
15. Pink squares (a very sugary type of bake-sale treat, I can’t really explain them)
16. Scrabble
17. Hugs
18. Overheard song
19. When children are pleased I’m paying attention
20. Christmas tree lights
21. Spice racks
22. Balloon animals
23. Dirty jokes (when I get them, anyway)
24. The game “Things”
25. Having zillions of in-laws
26. Olive Garden
27. That Seventies Show
28. Marriage
29. the TTC
30. Holiday cards
31. Old friends
32. The playground next to my building
33. Being home

December 12th, 2016

Application portfolio advice for creative writing masters

A reader named Nedda recently commented on my most popular post ever, Should I Get a Masters in Creative Writing? to ask me about seeing my application portfolio. Sadly, I put that thing together and sent it off in fall 2004, 12 years and 3 computers ago, so I no longer have it–and Nedda actually didn’t leave me any contact info anyways. But since I’m thinking about it…

The advice I’ve generally gotten is that porfolios should contain a variety of work. Even if you have a single piece that is the full page count required by the portfolio and that piece is REALLY GOOD, you should still consider sending only an excerpt of that, and some other stuff too. You want to show range and breadth of interest, because the worst thing in a classroom where everyone is supposed to be learning and exploring and growing as writers is someone who just cares about this one kind of thing and doesn’t really want to explore or grow. I believe UBC actually requires multiple genres in their portfolio (I keep thinking it’s portfolii, though I know it isn’t) and that’s kind of a good idea even if not required, if you can swing it.

Portfolios should also be existing polished pieces that you maybe tweak or fine-tune for the submission of your portfolio. This one is going to have exceptions, people who thrive under pressure or like to create artificial deadlines for themselves, but in general writing new pieces for the portfolio is an additional challenge you don’t need. You want to have made the piece as good as you can, with feedback from friends and mentors. Yes, workshops thrive on messy, half-finished writing, but the application process is about showing the best you can do–so the assessors know where you’re starting from and in which direction you are going. Submitting portfolio pieces with flaws you could have fixed–or even typos–does not present as accurate a portrait of your skills as you would want.

Think about what you want the grad program to do for you when selecting pieces for the portfolio. This is less about the portfolio itself and more about why people actually want to go to grad school. I have been asked multiple times if fan-fiction is ok to include in a portfolio, and while I guess it’s possible to include it, I wonder why. If what you honestly want is to get better at writing fan-fiction, which has a specific goal of matching in tone, content, and characters something your mentors and classmates might have never seen, is grad school a good fit? Ditto submitting text version of spoken word to a program that doesn’t emphasize spoken word, or multimedia pieces ditto. Basically, look at the program and see what it can offer you and if your portfolio addresses that. If not, it might not be a question of changing the portfolio but changing where–or to what–you send it.

Anyway, this is just advice from one person’s standpoint–I’ll bet there’s quite a few successful folks out there who did the opposite of all of the above. But this is how I’ve found things, anyway. And at least one piece from my portfolio got published, in edited format, so I offer it here to read if you care to.

December 11th, 2016

In translation

This site was down for a few days and no one complained outside of my immediate family–not a great sign. So I’m going to work towards a revamp early in 2017 and also try to step up the posting a bit. I’m not sure if that’s akin to offering bigger portions on nicer plates of a food no one is eating, but it’s actually what I want to do, so let’s just see how it goes.

In other, better news, my wonderful agent Samantha Haywood and her co-agent Agata Żabowska have sold Polish rights to my forthcoming novel So Much Love to PRÓSZYŃSKI, and you’ll be able to read the Polish translation in a year or two (I’ll update you). Here’s the deal announcement. I’m so delighted!

If this isn’t immediate enough–or you don’t read Polish–how about a story in French. My short story How to Keep Your Day Job was translated by Miguelina Kroeh from English into French and published online at K1N Litra. If you’d like to read it, it’s here.

I’m feeling quite jazzed–and quite cosmopolitan–about all this!

November 10th, 2016

Rose-coloured Reviews This Lousy Week

So, I usually watch and report on the Giller Prize broadcast and here we are again at that time of year. I didn’t do a live-blog, taking notes in the moment this year, because I had had a brief choking incident about half an hour before and spent the show lying in Mark’s lap. I did pay pretty good attention to it though, and had a bunch of cheerful, gently snarky things to say about it that I was saving for this space, but then Tuesday happened with all of its apocalyptic strangeness, and it no longer seemed worthwhile to comment on weird musical segways or lovely evening gowns.

Nor, however, am I able to comment on the election, except to say that I am unsurprisingly unhappy and that we  terrified our cats by getting up repeatedly in the night to check returns, never a good sign. Kerry wrote a great post about getting to the work of reacting to this change in global politics, and I really hope to do that very soon.

In the meantime, though, I feel like telling you about my evening last night. Even before the choking and the election, I am having by any standards a pretty terrible autumn, and last night was the first time in a while where I just had a peaceful productive evening and didn’t have anything to freak out or waste time being miserable about. It was great. Here’s what I did:

I had a doctor’s appointment downtown so I got to leave work early, and then the buses actually ran on-time for once so I was able to use my buffer time to run an errand and then read John Metcalf’s book in the waiting room. And then the doctor was running late as the doctors in this office ALWAYS do, but instead of meekly accepting it I said I needed a realistic time when they’d see me. I’m disappointed in the universe that what it took to win this argument was “My husband is picking me up and I need to tell him what time” but as I have been kept waiting up to two hours in this office before, any victory is helpful. And they actually did give me a time that was approximately correct and I was able to meet Mark and walk home with him. And it was a cold but bright evening and all the downtown people were heading home and it was nice to be one of them for once (I work in the burbs).

When we got home I fed the cats and caught up on the work emails I missed while Mark put in the laundry and checked his own emails. Then I got started on a batch of cookies and the sun went down and Mark put the clothes in the drier and made dinner. Dinner was fish-sticks because I have decided that we can have convenience foods once a week because life is exhausting. I haven’t had fish-sticks since I was a child and they weren’t truly good, but they were filled with nostalgia and that was nice. I put hoisin sauce on them though.

And I finished the cookies and did the dishes and Mark brought the laundry up and we chatted and folded it while the cats ran around being nuts, as is their wont. And then we were finally done all the chores and ate a few cookies. Then Mark read for a bit in the living room and I got to work on my essay on Russell Smith that I have been trying to finish forever. I finally had an evening of work that didn’t feel like a failure–I actually felt a little proud of what I wrote.

And then I felt tired and went to bed–an incredible luxury, to just go to bed when you’re tired–and I actually slept well, also rare lately.

Such a nice, normal, useful evening. I am grateful

October 26th, 2016

So Much Love, Mitzi Bytes, March 14, 2017

Guys, I finished my book. I know, I say that every few months–I finished a draft, I finished a later draft, I finished the draft I sent to my agent, I finished the draft my agent sent on submission…long pause…I finished the draft that was sent to copyedit, I finished all the changes the copyedit entailed, I finished all the changes the proofread entailed…and that was last week. And the ARCs are out and cool people have them, and if you look to the right, you’ll see the gorgeous cover by Rachel Cooper, and if you click on that, you’ll be taken to the M&S page where you can preorder your very own copy if you like.

It’ll be out March 14, 2017, amazingly enough the same day my brilliant friend Kerry Clare‘s novel Mitzi Bytes will be released. I read an early draft of MB–as Kerry read an early draft of SML–and Mitzi really is a wonderful novel, finely crafted and funny, a novel that feels utterly real even though I would never have predicted how the plot works out, full of characters I know I’ve met before.

It’s so nice how these things work out, not that I even realized until Kerry wrote this gorgeous post on her blog about our books and our friendship. The post is on how to get over literary envy and it’s all really good advice, but especially this:

Make sure you’re doing what you like, so that even if nobody else likes it, you’re having a good time.

So I love my book and I mainly loved writing it most of the time. Or, ok, sometimes I hated writing it, but I loved the story enough that it was worth the drudgery of getting it written in order to be able to read it, share it with others.

Kerry’s the real deal of writers, and she has built her career around joy and generosity–joy at writing, joy at reading, joy at sharing what she’s read. I am honoured to be the spark that fired that amazing blog post, but really it is all her voice and her wisdom.

October 6th, 2016

Stuff going on

It has been so long since I had multiple things going on, writing life-wise, I can’t even remember. Years, probably. But this is good stuff, guys, so it was worth the wait:

Emily Saso’s fascinating new novel The Weather Inside came out in September, and is blurbed by me (and Bradley Somer). If you click on the book link you can even find me being quoted down near the bottom of the page, calling the novel “heartbreaking and hilarious.” So you should probably buy it!
–my short story “How to Keep Your Day Job” (aka the most successful thing I ever wrote) is being included in Room magazine’s 40th anniversary anthology, which is a lovely honour from a lovely magazine, and a thrill to be included with so many other brilliant women (if you click the link you see a partial list). Maybe you should buy that one too?
–I did a short interview with Danila Botha, author of the For All the Men (and Some of the Women) I’ve Known, which you should buy (there may be a theme here. Anyway, the interview was part of Danila’s tenure as writer in residence at Open Book, and I was thrilled to be included. This also constitutes the first press my book has gotten since its deal announcement back in 2014, and it’s really really really exciting and scary. If you’d like to read the interview, it is posted here.

See, I told you–excitement!

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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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