passing the cake…

June 15, 2011 § 1 Comment

I’m swanning about the place in a tiara today. Also a sash. Just missing a mitre—and, what, an ermine robe is asking too much??  All this thanks to Allyson Latta  who bestowed on me the most wonderful surprise of naming Matilda one of her picks for the (brace yourself) Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award—whose logo is a strawberry shortcake, which makes it probably the best award I’ve ever heard of.

The protocol, I’ve been advised, on receiving the ISBA, is to a) thank the person who nominated you, b) share seven things about yourself, and c) pass along the award to other irresistibly sweet bloggers.

Well, first things first then: thank you so very much, Ms. Allyson, for thinking of my little corner of cyberspace and for the kind things you said about it—the phrase “sometimes wacky” notwithstanding; surely a typo… :D  (me, wacky??)

As for sharing seven things about myself—this should be relatively simple given that there happen to be exactly seven things about myself.

They are these:

1.   My backyard is home to several giant ant hills (by which I mean three or four), none of which I intend to do anything about. One of them has been there fifteen years. We call it the Ant Hotel. When visiting kids were small we had a sign for it. Very reasonable rates and efficient, speedy room service (albeit small portions) were its hallmarks.

2.   I’ve been toying with the idea of trying to like coffee but I keep buying tea.

3.   Corn makes my stomach ache. Annoying because I like polenta and Mexican food and Fritos, not to mention buttery cobs on summer days, which when I was a kid I used to eat like a typewriter. (Link provided for those who just said a what??)

4.   My heroes tend to be animals, children and very old people.

5.   I’m happiest when the fridge is on the empty side. I find this inspires creativity in my cooking. Some wonderful things have been invented under the most spartan conditions. Or maybe I’m happiest when I’m outside, up to my wrists in dirt (pardon me, soil), or on a lounge chair in the company of words. On the other hand, swimming, plunging my nose into laundry fresh from a sunny line, a morning spent walking or writing at the beach…all leave me smiling pretty solidly too. As does rain and snow and the kind of breeze you could fall asleep in and then you do and that feeling when you wake up and the world is just there, waiting for you, making no demands. And you remember there’s just enough ice cream left for a small bowl and because there’s only a bit, it tastes that much better. And then you find a jar of cherries.

6.   I saw Leonard Cohen in concert in 2009. I still haven’t completely recovered.

7.   I would like to learn Spanish and Sign Language. Spanish, so that I can go back to Chile and discuss bread and wine and life. Sign Language for its beauty and elegance.

Finally, a few bloggers to whom I’d like to pass along the shortcake. Not for sweetness but for enhancing the interweb with their wise words, gentle spirits and contagious sense of joy.

Alone on a Boreal Stage—Home of poet and visual artist Brenda Schmidt’s photo/video poems and other bird/nature/book related pleasures.

We Drank Cachaca and Smoked the Green Cheroot—I’ve become addicted to this site because of stolen rhubarb, orange knickers, lady bikes, Jean Talon Market and sentences like this:

“I was not expecting the skies of England to be all painterly, to perform for me as they have apparently done since William and Dorothy Wordsworth pottered about the countryside with their pockets full of mutton pies, but the skies did perform, and I am still thinking about them, because they billowed alive over the built-up bricks and statuary and pomp and palaces that caused the subtitle BYGONE DAYS to float across my mind the whole time I was there.” (From the post: Whence and Whilst and Those Constable Skies, 6/14/11)

What Looks In—This is Darcie Friesen Hossack’s sometimes food sometimes writer’s journey blog. She and I attended Humber the same year. Her book got published first. [making face; now smiling again, just kidding, hahahaha... sure I am] Am giving her the award for the honesty of posts like this one. And an excellent pea soup recipe.

Pickle Me This—I’m always happily surprised whenever I check into this site. Kerry Clare has exactly the right mix of book smart and life whimsy.

Carol Bruneau’s Blog—This is where I go to remind myself how to think about writing.

Four Rooms—Exploring the power of words in various forms.

Island Editions—Publishing, books, beachy vistas and occasionally food.

Crib Chronicles—Not just about kids.

Manna from Brooklyn—Life: it’s all in the details.

ode to the power and pleasure of ‘retreat’

July 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’m depressed.

Okay, I’m not depressed, I’m glum. Or do I mean gloomy? Or is it just that I’m pissed off that I can’t go to Charlottetown next month to attend what I believe may be one of the best-kept-secret writing retreats in the whole blinking country (and why am I even telling you this ‘secret’??).

Two years ago I went to the first ever ‘Seawords’ on lovely red-earthed, bucolic, gorgeously peaceful and truly inspiring Prince Edward Island. A province we don’t think nearly enough about, and probably the islanders like it that way.

The retreat that year was held at Shaw’s Hotel on Brackley Beach where my days began with a short walk from hotel to ocean—an ocean which I was the only person visiting at that time of day. I mean, I had a whole ocean to myself. Sort of.

If the waves were big and the surf noisy, I simply sat and stared, took pictures, wrote I-like-it-even-if-no-one-else-ever-will poetry, made notes on the novel, collected flat red stones in geometric shapes.

If the waves were small, or non-existent, I swam and marvelled at the buoyancy of salt water vs the lake brine I’m used to.

After that it was breakfast in a sunny, large-windowed dining room, sometimes with other ‘retreaters’, sometimes alone with a copy of Geist, or TNQ and a large pot of tea.

The workshop facilitators were two writers I didn’t know: Anne Simpson and Carol Bruneau. What an idiot I must have been for not having known them. Anne is a poet who also writes extraordinary fiction and has won or been shortlisted for too many prizes to mention here. Carol (also of the multiple awards) writes extraordinary fiction, as well as a fabulous blog (in the most poetic of ways). Apart from all that, they are lovely lovely people — something you can’t pretend for a whole week in fairly close quarters. That’s the thing about retreats: if you’re not lovely, everyone soon knows it.

Also present was Jackie Kaiser. Yes, that Jackie Kaiser. From Westwood Creative Artists. (It’s like everyone was screened for loveliness and only the genuinely lovely were allowed.) So generous was she with her industry info and her time, whether in a session or when bumping into one another over dinner, readings, on the way back from the beach. Casual conversations, questions, everything simple and easy. No pressure. No scary stuff.

Ann-Marie MacDonald was also there. As was Lynn Henry (at the time, still with Anansi).

It rained once, maybe twice. Who cares? It was perfect. The beach, the hotel, the workshops, the seminars, the one-on-one time with Anne and Carol. The time alone to think and write in my tiny flowery-papered room; my makeshift desk set up in front of a tiny window overlooking the lawns, where I wrote and re-wrote whole chapters I’d been stuck on for ages, and then later, spending time with some terrific people who’d spent their time thinking and writing and re-writing too.

So, yeah. I’m a little cranky that I can’t go this year. Obligations at home prevent hopping a plane or, even better, a car, and heading east for what I know will be one grand week.

I haven’t even mentioned the oysters. 

Fortunately, I do know someone who’ll be attending– so I have at least the vicarious thing to look forward to.

Are you listening, Steve? 

Please take notes.

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