January 2nd, 2018

Resolving: 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

December 18th, 2017

Nice

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

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

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

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

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

December 10th, 2017

Lists and one more reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 26th, 2017

Books are our friends: classic post

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

Books are our friends!!

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

Correct: Playing Jenga.

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

Correct: Patent-leather clutch.

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

Correct: Befriending the tall.

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

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

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

Sometimes a spine gets broken in the excitement.

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

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

Rebecca

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

October 31st, 2017

Readings this week

Just in case you feel like we don’t spend enough time together, here’s where you can catch me this week…

Wednesday night, 6-8pm, I’ll be an opening reader at Ben McNally Books along with the talented Emily Saso and the also talented Mark Sampson in support of Daniel Griffin‘s exciting new novel Two Roads Home. Can’t wait to hear everyone read and see Daniel’s new book!

Saturday afternoon from 1:30 to 2:50pm Wild Writers Festival in Waterloo as part of their fiction panel hosted by Claire Tacon, along with Lori McNulty, Alicia Elliot and Trevor Corkum. I’ve loved the Wild Writers Festival since it got started, and I’m thrilled to be participating–can’t wait!

October 27th, 2017

Some nice things

I’ve been just maintaining this file of things I keep meaning to mention on the blog but I haven’t had time to write a post about each one and now there’s a bunch, plus some will eventually get out of date, so here they are, unthematically linked and without surrounding prose that’s worthy of them but at least I got to them instead of, like so many drafted posts, just letting them live in the drafts folder forever.

My friend Hilary June Hart started Cackle Productions to better share her wonderful humour with the world. You can watch her first video, the all-too-close-to-home Fertility Nag Bot Informercial and see for yourself.

My friend Kerry Clare wrote this great blog post on how to have a great blog (hint, not like this) and it’s really inspiring!

2017 Short Story Advent Calendars are available for pre-order and they look amazing.

Mark and I did a Pecha Kucha presentation you can now watch online. It’s about our marriage and it’s a bit sweety-sweet, but also funny.

The author Sharon Bala wrote a nice brief review of So Much Love, which I was especially happy about since I just read her lovely story “Butter Tea at Starbucks” (I’m behind!), which is up for the Journey Prize.

Andrew Daley’s new novel Resort is out November 2. I blurbed it so obviously I think it’s good–“Resort is a taut twisty story that starts out being about a life of crime but encompasses so much more: love, literature, and the limits of trust are all seen from new angles. I was enthralled from start to finish,” is what I said. But you should probably read it and see for yourself.

October 16th, 2017

An exciting weekend ahead

I had a month off between exciting book-related travels, and I thought I was going to use that time in part to write exciting non-book-related blog posts, but instead I recovered from the previously mentioned sinus infection, re-started trying to write a new book and slept…a lot. Sleep is really great, I recommend it. And now, here we are again, with me about to get back on the road with #somuchlove2017 No complaints here, but it does seem like a bit of a whirlwind! Anyway, here’s what’s coming up!

Saturday October 21, 4-5 pm, I’ll be on the So Much Forward panel at Bookfest Windsor with Eva Crocker and Heidi Jacobs

Sunday October 22, 2-3 pm, I’ll be on the Writing with Emotion panel at Stratford Writers Festival with Jennifer Robson and Deborah Cooke, moderated by Mark Medley. Here’s a short interview I did with the Stratford Fest folks.

Both festivals sound amazing, with tonnes of great readings, panels and other events–my only sadness is that with the two events being back to back, I can’t attend everything at both fests! On the other hand, I will have lots of train time for reading all the books I acquire, so that is a definite upside! Anyway, hope to see an friends in the area at these lovely festivals–can’t wait!

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!

September 29th, 2017

WordFeast Fredericton

Today is PechaKucha Night at Markham Village Library so I’m already on to other things, but I want to flash back to the glorious 3 days I spent in New Brunswick last weekend for WordFeast Fredericton.

It was so great! I had never been a headliner before, so it was a bit terrifying to have three events scheduled in two days, but it was also amazing and exciting to be meeting readers in such a range of ways–a lecture on unlikeable characters Friday night, a workshop on characters and dialogue on Saturday afternoon, and a reading from So Much Love on Saturday night.

There’s a nice account of the Friday night lecture in The Aquinian, which is the student newspaper at St. Thomas University in Fredericton–there were a few other nice articles but unfortunately most of the newspapers in New Brunswick are behind a paywall so I can’t share them. There’s a great photo of me and Riel Nason enjoying a Q&A with Colleen Kitts-Goguen, and another of festival organizer and Fredericton Cultural Laureate and general mastermind Ian LeTourneau.

Everyone I encountered at the fest–reader, volunteer, director, organizer, writer, or just enjoyer of things literary–was so terribly kind and friendly. And Fredericton itself is the sweetest, prettiest little city–and I had the best weather for wandering around trying to get my bearings, going to the farmer’s market, walking on the walking bridge, being toured around by my cousins-in-law, and just generally enjoying every minute.

Sunday night I took the bus down to Moncton to spend the day with my dear friend Art (he is actually one of my husband’s oldest friends, and officiated at our wedding–Art is one of the bonuses I picked up in the marriage!) and his high-school scholars. In Art’s unique classroom, teenagers are meeting their considerable life challenges with literary theory and granola bars, and it was a truly edifying day for me–and hopefully for them. I did my best to make the world of writing and stories and publishing sound possible and interesting to their ears, and sometimes I think I succeeded. Certainly everyone made me feel welcomed and heard, and I tried to return the favour. It was an amazing experience.

And then a very tired me flew home! I’ve talked with other lit folks about what it takes to feel like a “real writer” and it’s different things on different days for different people, but having others take an interest in my work, getting to talk about it and explore it with other engaged readers, is a huge one for me, and this weekend was a great gift.

September 12th, 2017

So Much Love on the road this fall

I’ve been remiss getting my full fall tour dates up, and I still suspect I’ll add or change one or two of these…but here’s the basics. I would really love to see some friends at these events, or some friends of friends if you happen to know people in these cities. I haven’t been doing many readings this summer so I’m feeling a bit nervous since it all starts soon and intensely…I have a book-club dinner next week, which is exciting but nerve-wracking too, and then onward to…

September 22-24: Word Feast Fredericton I’ll be doing a lecture on one my favourite topics, unlikeable characters in Canadian literature and why we sort of like them (official title: Sorry Not Sorry) on the Friday evening, followed by a workshop on character and dialogue on the Saturday afternoon and a reading on the Saturday evenings. Whoo. Then I have Sunday off to frolic with my cousins-in-law who live in Fredericton and head down to Moncton to do some classroom visits on Monday… An intense but hopefully amazing weekend…

September 29: Pecha Kucha Night at the Markham Village Library will find me and my husband, the lovely and talented Mark Sampson presenting on life and love with another writer. There will be a number of other interesting presentations that evening, plus snacks and a bar! I hear tickets are going fast…

October 21: I’ll be presenting/reading at Bookfest Windsor! They don’t have my event on the website yet, but I’m thrilled to be headed back to Windsor, a bookish and surprisingly beautiful city.

October 22: I’m excited to be on a panel at the Stratford Writers Festival at 2pm with Jennifer Robson and Deborah Cooke, moderated by Mark Medley, entitled “Writing with Emotion.” I think I know something about that…I think…

November 4: I’ve been to the Wild Writers Festival in Waterloo, put on by my beloved New Quarterly a number of times as reader, but this will be my first time on stage. I’ll be on the fiction panel with Alicia Elliott, Trevor Corkum, and Lori McNulty. Yay!

November 23: I’ll be back in Markham for a solo reading at the Markham Village Library

And that’s fall…hope to see you out there!

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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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