Wednesday, May 25, 2016

My writing day : Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Inspired by this, I decided to write up my own.

7:30am: Awake, to toddler footfalls; the length of hallway. Newborn squeaks.

7:45am: As Christine dresses toddler, newborn assists as I prepare cereal for toddler, put coffee on. Check email. Collect newspaper from the front step.

Send out mass email for the new “Tuesday poem” piece posted on the dusie blog today, a series I’ve been curating for more than one hundred and sixty weeks now. Endi Bogue Hartigan. I post to twitter.

Dress newborn. Collect toddler socks and shoes and convince her to wear them.

Finish reading yesterday’s newspaper. I don’t get into today’s paper at all. I set it aside for tomorrow.

8:15am: Normally I would walk toddler to her twice-a-week ‘school’ at 8:45am, but today I head downtown with newborn for the sake of Staples, to correct a chapbook order. I was ready to fold, staple and mail a new above/ground press item on Sunday night, but only realized upon arriving home that the copies had been messed up, and long weekend throws off timing. A secret project I’ve been working on at the prompting of derek beaulieu.  

Christine does a rare toddler drop-off, which might improve toddler’s recent mood (thrown off the past little bit, for shifted attentions and schedules due to our now five-week-old). Newborn sleeps the entire trip. Lucy at the photocopy counter at Staples is thrilled I brought newborn out for the errand. Copies are quickly made.

9:35am: Arrive home with new copies. Relocate laptop and refilled coffee mug from kitchen island to desk in office. This mug, an official mug gifted a decade or so back from the Guinness factory in Dublin, has long faded. From Guinness-dark to dusty white. I might have to request Jennifer Mulligan return to Ireland for the sake of a new one.

I receive an e-notice that the first of a monthly series I’m curating at Drunken Boat has posted. I forward to Amanda Earl, the author, and feed to Facebook, twitter. Post to Chaudiere Books blog and Chaudiere Books twitter feed.

The past month or so, I’ve been listening to Tycho’s album Dive on permanent repeat. I don’t mind music in the background, but I don’t care for most radio, and don’t want the distraction of having to find new music every hour or so. Pushing ‘replay’ keeps me in my head. Replay, replay, replay. After a few weeks (or more), I might get sick of it and put on something else. Or I might get distracted by something and be sent off in an entirely new direction. If only Grant Lawrence still did the CBC Radio 3 podcasts (which were amazing, but far too infrequent). I don’t want talk; it distracts. Just music.

After completing a very short story yesterday and a number of reviews over the past week, I attempt to return to the short story manuscript I’ve been attempting to complete this year (something I’ve been saying, “this year,” for the past three years, but I actually think that this year might be possible). For The Litter I See Project, I spent the entirety of my prior writing day carving and crafting a very short story that accidentally sets in the space somewhere between my novel missing persons (The Mercury Press, 2009) and one of the short stories in the current manuscript, “On Beauty.” I’d originally composed a story around the main character of the novel after the prompting of Amanda Earl, who had wondered what might have become of her, so I wrote the teenaged “Alberta” some fifteen (or more) years later. Now the manuscript has three stories that include her (and another, unfinished, that attempts to further the story of her mother).

I could attempt to complete the half-completed review of Laura Walker’s story (Apogee Press, 2016), but I can catch up with that later.

I print out three stories-in-progress from the manuscript to scribble upon. I completed a further a week or so back (this makes twenty-four completed stories, of which fourteen have already appeared in journals, both print and online); after a week of working on little else, before a week of working on a series of poetry book reviews. I spend an hour or so scratching out lines, adding new ones, carving and carving and carving. Each of these stories are composed of a sequence of short bursts, akin to pivot-points; each story no longer than three or four pages, but often take months to complete. How does a character, or even an idea, move from one point to another?

Working four-and-a-half years on this particular manuscript: another dozen or so stories in various states of completion. I expect I will eventually finish some, and abandon others; so far, none have been abandoned. Yet. I can only really work on a couple at a time, hence my preference to print three and work on each daily for a week or so, depending on what else is going on. It always takes a day or two to re-enter. It always takes a few days to actually accomplish anything. Small, steady accumulations.

The three stories vary in subject and thread: one focuses on an woman attempting a university creative writing class, another focuses on a recently-married woman who realizes she’s pregnant, a decade beyond giving birth to the child she gave up for adoption (with the mess of emotions that come through such), and the third, part of an extended series of stories around a couple with young children. I seem to have two sets of loosely-grouped (threaded?) stories in this manuscript, from the progression of three stories that centre around the woman named Alberta, to another sequence of three or four, some of which centre around a married woman, and the rest around her husband. Given the first couple of stories in this sequence focus on her, I’m tempted to see how far I can take the story of the husband. The stories each exist at different points in their lives, and I’ve been toying with furthering his story through a novella (an idea that is down the road; I have much to complete first).

In my fiction, I work hard to suggest connections without making them too overt; I want the stories to exist as self-contained units that might broaden once you discover the connections. But I want nothing lost if the connections between stories aren’t made.

This is the first I’ve named the male character, also: Malcolm. Had we a boy instead of a girl this time around, that was the name at the top of our list. Once our girl emerged, I had thought of how to utilize the name, and added it to him. His wife and daughter (and now, new child) have been named in the stories for some time now.

Malcolm: I am curious as to where else he might go. But first, I’ve to complete this one particular story. One idea at a time (he says, working on three short stories at once).

I’ve been seeing a relation to my stories to those of Lorrie Moore (hubris, I admit), especially upon reading Bark (2014); mine might be shorter, and attempt a particular level of density, but I think there is an emotional trajectory that our stories share. Or perhaps I see connections where none lie. I see so little fiction that actually excites me.

10:00am: The notice for Stephanie Bolster’s new above/ground press chapbook, Three Bloody Words, a twentieth anniversary edition, posts. I send out mass email and post to twitter. Now that the announcement for the chapbook has posted, I submit the interview I did with Bolster recently to Queen Mob’s Teahouse. Return to short stories.

10:45am: Christine heads out for an appointment with newborn. I assist by securing newborn in car seat and tucking her in. Check diaper bag. Once they’re out the door, I refill my coffee mug, and return to desk.

11:17am: I leave to collect toddler from school. Worry how this routine ends in a couple of weeks. What might the summer bring? She picks half the dandelions en route for her mother, depositing the mound on the living room floor. “Because I need to.” Once home, I prepare her lunch, and mine also.

Fold and staple throughout. I want to get at least fifty copies in the mail by Wednesday morning, given it needs to be in Calgary by Friday. Sixty copies fit into a box. She slowly ingests peanut butter sandwiches, and fresh strawberries. We sit in the sunroom; a rare luxury. It also means displacing the sleeping cat from his chair; he seems less impressed.

Ask toddler about her morning. Apparently she painted, and played with her two best friends. She played outside. White glue covers her arms; flecks of blue/green paint on her face. Details with a two-and-a-half year old are usually brief and/or sketchy.

Clean toddler, post-lunch.

12:25pm: Christine and newborn return home. Quick sweep and rinse of kitchen floor as Christine answers doorbell (one of her friends appears to borrow baby-wrap).

Prepare lunch for Christine. She takes both children downstairs.

Fold a brief amount of laundry. I am behind on this.

I’m not wearing a clean shirt. Should I put on a clean shirt?

12:41pm: Return to desk. Check email. Hit ‘replay’ on music. Scratch yet again at printed draft of short story. Wonder: should I even be looking at poems? I’ve a file open with a series of poems-in-progress, but a single piece I’ve been working on over the past five weeks. The CBC Poetry Prize deadline is less than a week away. I haven’t given up on such, but I’m not working on that today.

Perhaps a decision made by working on fiction, instead.

The story concerning “Malcolm” is currently two pages long, with six sections. The first section reads:

Soon after they married, he glimpsed an article via his Facebook feed that included a list of realities associated with a long-term marriage. “There will be times when you feel unfulfilled,” the list read: “There will be times when you hate your spouse.” The list was not created to frighten, but to allow for a successful marriage; to prevent married couples from falling prey to the myth of constant magic. The honeymoon, as poet Michael Redhill once wrote, “the time life pays you for in advance.”

Malcolm considered the article a relief. More than he might have guessed. It became important later, as they had a moment that could easily have broken them, deciding instead on fixing instead of allowing the rift to widen. They wished to remain together. They remained together.

1:10pm: Attempt to put the toddler down for nap (with stories). More involved than it sounds.

1:45pm: With toddler out, I return to desk, intermittently checking the mailbox at the front door. Any sudden noise or shift of air is enough to prompt another mailbox check, and, until 1:55pm, there is nothing.

1:56pm: Attempt to re-settle toddler.

2:06pm: Return to desk. Open mail. New titles by Nathaniel G. Moore (Frog Hollow Press) and the late Anselm Hollo (Coffee House Press). Hollo’s The Tortoise of History opens with this “Foreword” by Jane Dalrymple-Hollo:

Could Anselm have possibly foretold
that The Tortoise of History, this particular compilation of old and new
musings, revisitations, letters to past and future, love notes
      to friends—and to me

was an inevitable foreshadowing of this day, when I, his Janey
would stop the endless fuss, unplug the phone, sit quietly
      for 20 minutes,

and then settle into his chair, in our kitchen
and read this book—aloud, in his cadence
and really take in

this “message in a bottle”?

2:18pm: Realize Christine and I still owe annual dues to The League of Canadian Poets, so I call to pay such via credit card. They don’t pick up the phone.

2:28pm: I send interview questions from the “12 or 20 questions” series to Cynthia Arrieu-King. Why hadn’t I asked her prior?

2:31pm: Apparently there is someone in The League of Canadian Poets office now.

3:10pm: Prepare last of package for Calgary. Salvage toddler from nap and prepare newborn for outing. Toddler remains with Christine. Head out for errands with newborn.

4:14pm: Return to desk, with newborn settled downstairs with Christine and toddler, and groceries in fridge. Post Richard Van Camp interview to the blog for Friday. Query some half-dozen outstanding interviews to see where they’re at.

4:30pm: Return to fiction, just as I hear toddler saunter down the hallway. She requests more milk in her sippy-cup, which I collect. She insists I bring it downstairs for her (she does not wish to do such herself). Return to desk to an “On Writing” submission in my email from Bruce Whiteman, which I set aside to read for later. Also, Douglas Piccinnini is concerned about one of his answers in his forthcoming “12 or 20 questions” interview. I respond to an email about a contest I’m judging, named for the late American poet Hillary Gravendyk, and quickly return to fiction.

Wonder: should I do a summer run of poetry workshops? Or should I wait until Autumn? What might that mean for our potential travel, or even, Christine attempting bedtime for two wee girls?

4:45pm: I abandon desk and head downstairs for the sake of organizing the chapbook room. Laptop lands in basement alongside. Christine requests a shower; I collect newborn and distract the toddler.

5:11pm: Christine reappears, and toddler swoons. I return to the dozens of boxes that fill our downstairs spare room, filled with some, if not most, of the eight hundred publications produced by above/ground press over the past twenty-three years. Over the past six or seven weeks, I’ve spent a few hundred hours opening boxes and organizing publications, discovering dozens of above/ground press items I thought long gone, and even further that weren’t completely put together. It means there are nearly two hundred items that I’d long thought out-of-print, some more than twenty years old, that I now have a small handful of copies of. It also means that, over the past month or so, I’ve sorted thousands upon thousands of slips of paper.

I spent three days a week prior, for example, folding and stapling one hundred and fifty copies of a Stan Rogal chapbook I produced back in 1997. I discovered twenty copies of a jwcurry item from 1998 I hadn’t finished stapling. Other items by Gregory Betts, Susanne Dyckman, Max Middle.

5:45pm: Dinner-prep, quick shower. Dinner.

6:21pm: Return to folding/stapling, including the remainder of the chapbooks I sent derek, and a mound of unbound copies of my 4 glengarry poems (2002).

7:00pm: I begin to prepare bath for the toddler. Bathe toddler. Fold another random assortment of laundry.

7:25pm: Return downstairs for further folding/stapling (as we all, also, have ice cream) while watching a bedtime episode or two of her Pajanimals.

Dig some more through the chapbook room: at least a dozen titles that need only one more item to complete a stack of copies. Fifty covers here, one hundred colophons there. Digging further for originals, I collect a couple required pieces, but far from all. There is so much more work to be done. Anne Le Dressay. Jason Le Heup. Marilyn Irwin. Rae Armantrout. Peter Norman. Douglas Barbour.

8:02pm: Collect toddler and attempt to settle her for bedtime: brushing teeth and stories.

8:57pm: Toddler asleep, head downstairs again. DVR of The Flash, etcetera. Son of Batman. Wine.

I post a variety of “12 or 20 questions” interviews for June, including Malcolm Sutton, Rahat Kurd, Douglas Piccinnini and Mia You.

11:04pm: Assist Christine and newborn to bed. Return downstairs to watch recent unseen episodes of The Daily Show on DVR. Crash.

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