Thursday, February 26, 2009

On little sleep, less time, and not much going on

I live in Small City, Canada; you may also know it as the one that rhymes with a female body part. One of the awkward about living in a small city is the potential for run-ins everywhere you go.

[Aside: at least my city rhymes with something fun and not poop.]

You know what I hate? When you see someone out of the corner of your eye and they do that thing where they pretend not to see you.

[Another Aside: I'd like to know who coined "corner of your eye" because it makes so little sense.]

Of course, let me stress that this rarely happens to me. Rarely so little it's practicalynon-existent...everyone always wants to see me. That's the old metaphor, as in, "her voice was dripping sarcasm." Ah, metaphors.

I wish there could be a moratorium on awkward moments like this. I hereby add this to my list. If I Ruled the World people would be required to smile and nod if they saw a person they know. None of this duck and run stuff, no eye contact avoidance, and leave off on the looking around at obviously non-interesting stuff. Lame, lame, lame.

I don't propose that we have long, drawn out conversations, no, nothing like that.

[Another Aside: my mother would NOT like the above sentence. On the cover of my manuscript, underneath the fake quote from Maeve Binchy saying that it is a lovely book and I am a great writer, my mother wrote "with way too many commas." Since she read it she has become obsessed with commas, even to the point of cutting articles out of the paper that have what I like to think of as trailing sentences, full to the brim with commas.]

But in the interests of common courtesy, I submit that it is easier to smile and nod than pretend a vapid ignorance of the person two feet to your left. Much less energy.

I'm interested in the comma issue, though.

Let's try that again.

I'm interested in the comma issue though.

This brings me back to those long discussions with Tyler the English teacher and the use of "too."

Are commas a personalized stylistic punctuation choice? How much is dictated by decree of some manual? How much is up to the writer?


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Literary and commercial fiction

I don't typically do this but this particular post called out to me. Readers who don't care about fanciful writing questions should come back tomorrow for the basic slush.

First, one must link to this blog where Lady Glamis of The Innocent Flower asks the question:

Question For the Day: What does the word "literary" mean to you? How much of it do you include in your own work? And if you do, do you feel that you are choosing a smaller target audience?

Ah, good question. It's like you dove into my head.

Literary, to me, means writing the way I wish I could write. Let me try to explain, because this is tricky.

See, I love many authors. Danielle Steele and Maeve Binchy for my lazy afternoons on the beach (these come about once every three years, but I still appreciate them). I also love P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, Yann Martel - etc. etc. etc.

The difference is that I view the commercial fiction as the easy fiction. Easy to write, easy to read. Literary takes time. Each sentence is perfect. It tells a story in a way that is more than like two friends talking over a cuppa. There are layers, perhaps.

I love both kinds. Kind of like I love both my children, even though they are different. However, and this is the crux of it all, while I like to write literary and I know that I can, I tend to write commercial because it is easy. I vision my life as playing out something like this: while I am busybusy with the children and this NEVERENDINGINFERNALEFFINGRENOVATION I will write my easy commercial fiction. To say it's easy means it just flows off the end of the fingers; the stories never stop, and if I had the time and the energy I would probably write all day long.

Once life is....word choice is key here...once life is manageable, easier, simple, oozing time...once that happens I will write where I must take my time. Where I put much effort into it. Where I may write a page or two and that will be exhausting.

Each of these are a whole different creative for me. I love them both, I can only do one at a time.

And that is okay with me.

Monday, February 23, 2009

When I Rule the World

If I can't sleep there are two things I do. First I imagine I've won 24 - 26 million dollars and I go through the steps I would take immediately following. Things like holidays are supplanted by installing healthy breakfast and lunch at all the schools in my community. But being so good can get boring and so then I imagine If I Ruled the World.

If I Ruled the World consists of simply put, me, ruling the world. I know, sign up below. How exciting. Fantastic. Really, though, don't get all jumping for joy on me. It's all just basic common sense.

First, I would make it mandatory that every single person must do yoga every single day. I don't want to hear about how you don't have time and really, you're not flexible, because yes, you do have time and it doesn't matter crap if you're flexible. So rather like the army in Israel you will do yoga in My World.

In order to qualify for medical coverage every single person will visit a naturopath as their primary care physician. For that matter, all health records would be kept centrally and each person would be served by a team of professionals: counsellor, naturopath, general pracitioner, massage therapist, and hair stylist. Listen people, having good hair really will make you a better person.

When I Rule the World there will be no television in the mornings. I find the sound really irritating and I think it should only be turned on after noon. Maybe even two; I'm still deciding.

Stupid holidays like Valentines Day and Halloween will be done away with and replaced with Daycare Worker Appreciation Day and Everyone Go To Work Naked Day.

It will be illegal to not use all vacation time and vacation time will be allotted at the rate of four weeks per year.

Children will have gym class

Parents will be required to have a Meaningful Date every Saturday night and grandparents (or the appropriate stand-ins) will provide free care because everyone knows happy parents are better for the world.

Dale Carnegie training will become part of school curriculum and anyone who is already through the school system will have to provide proof of attending and completing the course in order to qualify for running water.

Daycare centres, old folks homes, and schools will be amalgamated. Those old people know lots and we don't take near enough care to learn it.

Everyone will be given junk food credits and once you've used up your allotment, tough luck.

I've got more. I'm just getting started. But I'm being beckoned by my PVR and a date with the unlucky ladies of the Bachelor. Don't you feel comfort that you're potentially being looked after by someone so...cosmopolitan?

Friday, February 20, 2009

A compliment

Dear Ms. Mccracken,

Normally I would write this on notepaper or perhaps a card but I type faster than I write and when I have something important to say I say it better when I type. Normally sounds like I do this all the time but it’s been only four times or so and so really there isn’t a normally yet. What I mean is that I don’t make it a habit of writing to authors but occasionally I am compelled.

This started when I read Nick Hornby’s book, ABOUT A BOY, before Christmas. I had read him before, and loved his work, but really enjoyed ABOUT A BOY and thought I would write to him and tell him. He wrote back and suggested I would enjoy your books so I ordered AN EXACT REPLICA off Amazon. Two things: I don’t know why I ordered that one instead of one of your novels. If I think about it, I think it’s because of the title. Lovely, lovely title, reminds me of A HEARTBREAKING WORK OF STAGGERING GENIUS, which I also think is just a lovely way of arranging some words. Second thing: I wasn’t sure why I waited until last weekend to read it; I wanted to read it right off. Perhaps it was the subject matter; I have a tough time with anything to do with babies and mothering. I think your skin grows thinner in some places and thicker in others after you have babies, and mine is quite thin in most.

I took the book with me to Banff for the weekend (my husband was going for work and I go with, leaving the kids behind with Nana) as I had that rarity, Uninterrupted Reading Time. From the first page I was swept into your story and enmeshed. I know that sounds like too much, maybe, but you write with a style that I love and your words were words that I could feel.

This is so disorganized, forgive, but let me try to explain. [I’m trying again, I tried to write down the story of why I loved your book so much but I erased it and have come back here. I imagined you becoming the receiving end of hundreds of stories of heartbreak and sadness, and even though the story I would tell has a happy ending I wonder if perhaps you get story after story and that is enough for you.]

You write so beautifully and you told your story perfectly. You write the way I would love to write….just simple perfect telling.

I started the book in the lounge of the resort but I was crying right off so I had to go back to the room. I read to nearly halfway in one gulp and then put the book down. I had to take a break. You convey feelings so well that I was immersed; it was as though you are a close friend and you were telling me something of the utmost importance and because we are friends it was as though it was happening to me. If that makes any sense at all.

I didn’t read again until we were driving back to Calgary to catch our flight. I read until I was sick (I always imagine that reading in a moving vehicle won’t make me nauseous and it always does. Annoying.) I hung my head out the window in the fresh air and the air felt good on my face; I had been crying as I read and the air dried the tears.

My husband hates being the first on a plane and normally so do I; we typically hang back and wait to be nearly last to board. But on Sunday I marched us up so that I could read on the plane. I had to finish before we got home and reading would be interrupted by two children and Life.

Of course, sandwiched in between my husband and some guy, I read with tears pouring down my face. Sometimes when I read something that moves me I well up, or a single tear, or a tight chest is there. Only once before have I read something that moved me as much as your book and that was long ago. I cried and cried and sometimes would snap the book shut, thinking that I could not finish.

But I did, of course I did. And I knew that I would have to tell you how much your book means to me. How it comes to me, throughout the day, and I think of you and your family and your life, and I know that I will think of you often. I read a lot, and very few books stay with me like I know yours well.

I hate to compliment you on your writing in a way, because it’s the story that is important here, but your writing told the story so perfectly. I can hardly wait to read your other books.

I could go on and on and that is usually a good indicator to stop.

With sympathy and tears on your loss, and warmth and happiness on your good fortune (I think I saw on a website that you have 2 children now),



Interviews (and top 25 lists) seem to be all the rage, even the Globe did a piece on it last week. To get back into the swing of things I sat down with the Internet last week and answered a few questions.


We've missed you - where have you been?

Spin Regina:

Immersed in the world of work. Planning, facilitating, meetings, going for lunch. That sort of thing. I missed you too.


I noticed you didn't put a comma after "you" in that sentence. You over that?

Spin Regina:

No, not at all. Still a huge pet peeve. But, like not drinking milk, I'm trying to do things that are good for me. I'd hate not to be published because I can't learn a new skill.


Last you were here you were ranting about childcare, Gwynneth, and some sobbing book you read.

Spin Regina:

Yeah, not much has changed here. Childcare, or the lack thereof, is still annoying the bejesus out of me and I am considering starting some sort of campaign but I would have to give up either sleep or eating to find the time and as I went to bed at 9:00 last night and I ate an entire container of 8% fat yogurt last week I can't see either happening.

It's a good thing I went to bed at 9; the baby was up from 10 till god knows so at least I got an hour in.

Gwynneth hasn't been bugging me as much because along with work comes a marked decrease in the amount of thinking about frivolous and useless things like GOOP. Seriously. Who thinks GOOP is a good name? I suggest that anything that rhymes with POOP be removed immediately from consideration just based on simple marketing know-how.


I'm sorry your baby is sick. Have you been doing anything fun lately?

Spin Regina:

I've been eating out for lunch a lot. That's my reward for this working business. I figure if I spend every red cent before I even get home my husband will see the value in painting my office and letting me get a decent desk.

Today I ate at a fabulous one of those combo eateries; part lounge, part food. Bitten. Was delicious but very very cold. Not the food; that was the appropriate temperature. The air was icy. Apparently there is no insulation in the outside wall. This is something to consider, as temperatures in this neck of the woods have been hovering around frigid for months. That reminds me that I was supposed to be on a beach right about now. Budget cuts loomed loud in our house. That reminds me. Someday I'll tell you my Ikea story.


Wow. The life you lead.

Spin Regina:

I know; it's hard. I can barely figure out what to leave out so you're not jealous.


So what's up with the campaign?

Spin Regina:

I got quite far, actually. I Google'd Michael Ignatieff, found his website, opened up a comment window and typed, gosh, I don't know, six words on my disappointment with Steve-o. I had big plans to ask pointed questions about the Liberal childcare plan but was interrupted by a small but powerful subject who let me know in uncertain terms that she was not interested in wearing a diaper.


And the sob inducing book? What are you reading now?

Spin Regina:

My good friend Amazon sent a few more last week so the pile on my nightstand is growing. I refuse to dig in, though, until I finish the bodice-ripping-time-travel-historical-romance that is six hundred pages of tiny words. At the rate I'm going I won't get into the newest Wally Lamb until June. Maybe it isn't even his newest anymore.

I'm glad you brought that up, though. I've thought about that book every day since I finished. Thirty percent of that might be that it's sitting on the console table in the living room but nevermind, I think of it. I wrote the author a note telling her how much it meant and she wrote back. I'll print my note but I'm saving her lovely words in a file called Private. I know, who knew I had one?


Anything else before we close?

Spin Regina:

I'm ripping apart my book. The one I wrote. To shreds, it feels like. Feels pretty good. I remember when this happened with my honours thesis. Thank god I don't have to use a printer with those tiny holes on the sides. I had a special pair of tweezers reserved just for that blasted machine. On the other hand, now I have to hand feed my printer because he is very sensitive to paper weight.

It's good to be back.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


when it's too late to say sorry
are there any other options

when there are no other options
is it done

when it's done
is it over

when it's over
is that it

when that's it
is it lost

when it's lost
can it be found

I think so. I think so.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


We were talking the other day, my naturopath and I. We were talking about how creative people might walk a little closer to the edge. How crazytown might be an actual stop on the road.

How this is okay.

My emotions are very close to the surface. I've spent my entire life trying to find more balance between rational thought and emotional reaction, but even typing those words made me aware of the fact that although I understand the theory of rational thought, I don't understand it. My perception of rational thought is coloured by my emotional take on things.

I don't fear a mental breakdown or anything like that. More like, I know that the yawning abyss of all feeling and no thinking is an abyss that at times I throw myself into; desperately clawing my way out. Maybe one day I won't come out, or it takes a while. Who knows.

I read another great book on the weekend, Anne Tyler's Breathing Lessons. Both books were recommended by Nick Hornby (I wrote him a slobbering fan letter a while back and he wrote back, on gorgeous creamy notepaper, recommending both Anne Tyler and Elizabeth McCracken) and it was strange; both resonated completely although on different levels.

The Anne Tyler was a window to my world. Wife is emotion driven and scattered; lightly on different thoughts and directions like a butterfly. Husband, however, is a straight line of steely determination. My world exactly.

Good read for a different perspective. I read fast through this one, something I do sometimes if I'm uncomfortable with the writing. At first I thought it was that the book was no good. More thought allowed that while I didn't love it, it was terrificly good. Good like good writing, good plotting, good all that. And what I had to figure out is that books don't have to make me happy. They don't have to wind it all up and fix all the problems. God even as I write this I realize that I'm having a terrible time explaining what I mean.

Let me give it one last go. The book is excellent. I didn't love the people, but I couldn't put it down. See what you think.

Monday, February 09, 2009


My blog is broken? Every time I try to post I get a message saying "client has performed a malformed error," which I find incredibly rude. I'm no tech sav, but I'll see what I can do.


the power of Words*

Oh god I read the most

There is nothing to say to describe it. Heartbreaking uplifting such sadness I could barely bare it.

Let me preface this by saying do not, as I did, read this book in public. Weeping in a lounge in Banff, surrounded by apr├Ęs-ski Europeans and gliding wait staff is not how to do it. The hotel room was, but I became overwhelmed by sadness and shut the little blue volume up in my suitcase until the drive to the airport.

As I read in the passenger seat I was first reminded that I can't read in moving vehicles and second why I put the book away in the first place. As I hung my head out the window breathing fresh air and being thankful for warm temperatures I thought again how the book is true. All of its heartbreaking sadness is true. Things happen and things that happen are so close.

I couldn't stop myself from crying. Nearly the whole flight tears poured down my face. I would read a few pages and shut the book up, determined to leave it until another day, another year, when I could take it. There were three of us in the row. Jade by the window, me in the middle, and a stranger reading strange magazines on the aisle. I cared, but only a very little, what he thought of me sniffling and wiping with the ratty tissue I found in my purse.

When we got off the plane my face was swollen. I felt raw on the inside.

That is the power of words. That is the power of words, strung together, telling a story. [There is only one other book that made me feel this way; What Girls Learn. Copies are available for around a penny on Amazon (it's the shipping that gets you)]. I felt weak after I finished, exhausted. Sadness has found me throughout the day today, reminding me that the story was real.

Don't let my maudlin thoughts stop you. The story, heartbreaking as it is (and I don't use that word lightly) is still a story of hope. But it doesn't come out all right at the end, and maybe that is what tore my heart apart. Sometimes things just happen. And that is what it is. And this woman is a writer, and so she did the thing that her kind of writer would do. She wrote it all down. I hope that in the telling she found a little bit of peace.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Red red wine no more?

ah, see, I am censored by whoknows. My red red wine post has been deemed "error" by Google; have never heard nor seen this happen before.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Red red wine

Drunk on red wine and something called a grape smash (freaking ridiculous good, apparently I could drink vodka like this after yoga and it would taste like really amazing water) I sit here and thank god for spell check. And Justus, he catches everything spell check misses.

We had a terrible day yesterday. Trekked over to Ikea where we were stuffed full of plans to finish furnishing our house with random cool pieces and those touches that make a home, a home. You know, like vases and knick-knacks and the like.

Except right before we got there I had an attack of conscience and, acting like the women that the economists fear (smart economists, anyways, the other ones who don't get that women control the spending power of the world) pulled the plug.

Can you imagine? Pulling the plug on an Ikea trip?

I mean, it's not like Ikea is made of anything more than clapboard and veneer. It's not high art, or one of a kind, or anything more than clean lines and practical. And yet, I had to put on the brakes. How do you spell kibosh? That was me, tears in eyes in the Swedish meatball section, talking about responsibility and smart and not putting our family in a precarious position because we want a TV stand for a TV we don't have.

So we went out for dinner, our little splurge of time together. And I drank two drinks and ate almost a whole bacon cheeseburger in a fancy steakhouse and my tummy is round and I feel that groggy sort of red-wine-drunk and I think it's all going to be just fine.

As long as I can find a little pink Pepto Bismal pills and 2 Advil, that is.

ishowyousay, ranting?

Gosh, I've been gone so long my fingers are aching. I've been busy, you know, just incredibly busy. It's been a whirlwind, truly, to have spent the last two weeks sitting down with Jade and making lists:

What is important to us in a childcare provider?
Do we prefer a home or centre?
What kind of snacks do we want our children to eat?

It has been a pleasure, really, it has, to call up several childcare providers (some in homes, others in schools, still more stand alone) that are all licensed and registered, and schedule convenient appointments where we can drop by to talk child-rearing philosophy and nap time procedures.

I know Jade has been impressed with the overall quality; the highly paid and educated staff who have an obvious affinity for children, the superior grade and selection of food, the endless options as to learning methods and development theories.

As for myself, I feel blessed to be a part of a system where when our country realized that we are in the midst of a labor shortage, and since 50% of the population are women, and traditionally women have borne the brunt of childcare....shall we say...sourcing, I'm grateful for a government that shows foresight and planning and ensures that it is easy for these women to work. That no woman is driving all over town, dropping children off helter-skelter at homes and centres because space available is few and far between.

No, here we are fortunate because not only does our government respect the autonomy of women but it respects the future of our country by treating our children as though they are the most important beings we have. As our future, of course I applaud the efforts the government is making to ensure that Canadian children have access to high quality daycares. And the choice - to be a parent and to not have to take whatever option there is, but to have a voice and a say, wow. It just blows my mind.

It just blows my mind.