Friday, March 31, 2006

Paper Fetish, Autobiography

I think I have a paper fetish. I freak out over fancy paper, I really do. It might seem ridiculous but a visit to The Paper Place (formerly known as The Japanese Paper Place) is a thrilling event for me. Check out some of the gorgeous tidbits I got on Thursday:

I like to buy the bags of assorted leftover papers – I never know what treasures will be buried in the masses of scraps, and the small sizes are perfect to use for the collage covers of dig. Mmmmm.

I’m really enjoying making the covers for the upcoming issue: a combination of acetate overlays, sentence fragments from a 1961 Canadian Woman’s Guide to Hygiene, astronomical and anatomical diagrams, and various colourful Japanese papers. Here are some samples:

The contents of the eleventh issue are strong and I'm pleased with how it's going. Poems by Kevin Connolly, Gary Barwin, Sandra Alland, Jon Paul Fiorentino, David McGimpsey, derek beaulieu, among others, and fiction by Salvatore Difalco. I'm just sorting out the launch details (who, when, where) and should finalize that over the next week or so.

Last night I attended Marnie Woodrow’s “StoryTalk” at This Ain’t the Rosedale Library. This one was about the concept of “event” in fiction - action as narrative drive. I got some ideas and some tips, and most importantly, got writing again, after a bit of a lull. I am looking forward to her second instalment of the three-part series, called “You’re boring!”, presumably about why one shouldn’t necessarily write autobiographically in fiction. For a poet – for me, anyway – I think this will be useful.

Not that the fiction I’m working on is autobiographical; it’s not. While I’m familiar with the context in which my story is set (small town, Jehovah’s Witnesses), the events are not autobiographical and the characters are not based on people I know or have ever known. The exception is a high school conversation about The Misfits. Though by writing it into a scene, I changed the ending, to make the character triumph in a way that, just maybe, I didn’t. But isn’t that what fiction is for?

Meanwhile, we won our league hockey game on Monday night, despite having many of our better players join the other team, since most of their players didn't show up. I left feeling crappy though, as I was the only forward on my line who didn't score a goal. Since the other team was short, I don't think the game "counted" anyway, but that did not make me feel better about my skills. Not that I'm a competitive sort...! Hopefully tonight's co-ed game will be better. At least I know there will be pints afterward.

I recently bought M.I.A.’s cd, which is a lot of fun. I read somewhere that her father was a leader in the Tamil Tigers – I wonder how much of that is truth and how much is music-industry hype?

Today's song is


Sunday, March 26, 2006

Learning curves, waiting for the frogs to fall...

Over the past few weeks, I've been adjusting to the process of writing fiction - in the form of a novel-in-progress - which, as obvious as this sounds, is very different from writing poetry. What I've found so far to be the hardest, other than the painfully quiet stretches of solitude punctuated by the yowls of Oskar and howls of Parkdale sirens, is spending time and effort writing pages that I know will not "be anything", that will not make it into the book - like character sketches, practise exercises, background, etc. I know it is necessary, part of the process and all that, but for someone always obsessed with time, it has been tough for me to accept that there will be stacks of pages I will not "do anything" with. I know writing should in some ways be like playing an instrument, practising every day, but until recently I haven't had the luxury of the time (or willpower) to devote to daily practise.

But I think I've overcome this mental hurdle, finally; over recent weeks I've written reams of non-publishable pages in order to sharpen certain skills, deepen characters in the novel, get to know the backgrounds of these characters, and so on. Some bits may even be future short stories, but I'm trying not distract myself and fragment my attention span, what little attention span I have; the stories, for now, can wait.

I am considering enrolling the Victoria School of Writing's 5 day workshop in July, but none of the segments are geared toward novel-writing, and that is what I need the most help with these days. I will be visiting my pal Terri in Victoria at some point this summer, and I think the timing would be good. I did their program when it was new, about ten years ago, and enjoyed it, but I was writing poems then. One or two poems in Dagger actually began as exercises from the Victoria workshops, which is good, but I'm not convinced it is the best plan for this year - I don't want to waste my time and money if it won't be of value to my particular project. Hmmm. Not sure yet.

Now onto my other obsession, hockey. Lately I've unfortunately felt like I've gotten as good as I'm going to get, and that isn't exactly saying much! After 2+ years of practise, skills classes, power skating, co-ed pickup games, and women's leagues, I feel like I'm no longer improving, like I've hit a frustrating plateau. I said in the locker room on Friday night that I didn't think I was ever going to get any better, but Guilia assured me that there are lots of plateaus in the learning curve, that after a while I'll master a few more things, then plateau again, and so on. Guilia, disarmingly optimistic, said hockey is full of plateaus. She's the most hockey-obsessed gal I've ever met, and she has acquired lots of skill as both a goalie and a player, so I trust her judgement (I think she plays about ten games a day or something). Anyway, I scored a rather nice goal on Fred on Friday night, so I feel a little better. Fred, however, did not seem to feel better about that...

Hopefully I can replicate that goal tonight at my league game.

Meanwhile, I'm halfway through Lisa Moore's novel Alligator which I'm quite enjoying, though I don't yet know how all of these characters will come together - I assume they will, otherwise it's an interesting batch of moments in their lives...

I recently read Eden Robinson's new novel Blood Sports which is a lot of fun. There are several sections to the non-linear narrative - some written in third person subjective prose, some in screenplay form, and some epistolary. It's quite gripping, dark, and vicious, and while I wasn't always clear on what was reality and what was not, I think it's really well-written, and that the blurring of reality and timelines is intentional, indicative of the main character's state of mind. Blood Sports is the first book of hers I've read, so I'm going to have to check out Monkey Beach and Traplines soon.

Not working full time is great - I am finally catching up my reading.

I also read a new book of poetry last week, a first book, called The Sleep of Four Cities by Jen Currin (Anvil Press). The strange cover got my attention first, and the blurb by John Ashbery sold me on it. It's a really strong debut, weird and inventive, though not so strange as to seem random or opaque. I won't say too much about here because I'm interviewing her about it for the upcoming new issue of dig.

That's about it for now. Low-key weekend, in which I played and won two games of Scrabble and one of Boggle. I wanted to go to the Fictitious Reading Series last night, where Elyse Friedman and Clint Burnham read, but I was still coughing too much from this damn cold, and that would probably have been disruptive.

I finally managed to score some Flaming Lips tickets on ebay, for the April show at the Phoenix. It sold out before I even knew of the gig, and while I hate to have paid higher than the original price, they're undeniably worth seeing live - I once saw them play a brilliant show at the Opera House for $5! Ok that was about ten years ago, and I don't even remember if it was in fact at the Opera House, but...

I guess that makes this post's song
FROGS by The Flaming Lips.


Friday, March 24, 2006

Resistance is futile...

Ok, so I resisted for as long as I could, convincing myself that a blog would serve as just another time-waster - as though I don't have enough of those - or that it is too indulgent, clearly something I should avoid. Willpower not being my strongest attribute, this is my blog.

Currently I'm on a leave of absence from my day job, focussing on my writing, and this is the first time since I was about fourteen that I haven't been working (I mean, working for someone else). At times I find this self-imposed isolation difficult to deal with, and crave contact with the world outside my Parkdale apartment, so my hope is that elbowing into the blogosphere will alleviate some of my alienation, without reducing the time I allot to working on my "real" writing.

This blog will also be a forum for me to discuss the writing process, books I read, plays and films I see, as well as to relay adventures in beginners' hockey, promote events I am involved with or interested in, and generally ramble about whatever I deem blog-worthy.

I know that when I read, for example, Bloggamooga, I feel like I've just had a chat with Stuart. I realize it's not quite the same thing as sitting down in "real time" with a real pint with my real friend, but I do feel like we're more in touch. Similarly, I hope that starting the wayward armadillo blog will help me keep in contact with my friends, particularly those who live elsewhere, like Terri in Victoria, Kimberly in Manchester, Jacqui in ... um, where exactly ARE you in the Arctic, anyway, Jaqstar?

I make no promises about frequency of posts, authenticity of content, or consistency of my opinions, but I will make one guarantee: I will always include a song with every post. I will tell you whatever pleasure, guilty or not, that I am listening to.

Tune of the day: RESPECT by Pantera.
(Thanks to my brother-in-law Joe, who insisted it be played at his wedding to my sister. Ever moshed in a bridesmaid dress and heels? "Mosh" is a verb, right? I recently added this song to my current mp3-player rotation. Great pre-game hockey song, too.)