“How long could we live before we were found in a place no one expected us to go?” (from a work-in-progress)

At the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts, I had the privilege of talking to a large audience about the novella — my own and others. It was so gratifying to have people come up to me over the next few days to tell me their own favourites and to ask more questions about this most lovely of literary forms (and perhaps least appreciated on the critical and just plain publishing front).

I’ve just spent an hour (one of the small hours) working on my current novella, The Marriage of Rivers. Well, maybe not working on it exactly but re-reading, changing a comma here and there,  moving a sentence to its true place. There are barred owls calling out in the darkness — and the stars! The night is dense with them, the long path of the Milky Way right above our house.

When we drove over the top of Pavilion Mountain that day, I got out to open the gate. James drove through and I hung on the gate for a moment, over the cattle-guard, swinging briefly back in the direction we’d come from, and forward, gently towards Clinton, the wedding, the rest of our lives. And his death. It was the axis of symmetry, a notion I remembered from high-school math, the perpendicular line between a parabola, a two-dimensional, mirror-symmetrical curve: before and after. It was warm, we’d had ice-cream, but I shivered. My world (or his) was about to change. I actually thought this. Carefully closing the gate, I thought we should just stay in the kingdom of grass, find an abandoned cabin, set up housekeeping together. We could grow hay, oats, collect spring beauties to dry for winter, we could gentle a pair of the wild horses that ran through the Chilcotin, train them to carry us even farther away, runaways in the Pantheon Range. I wanted my brother all to myself. Never mind the wedding and confetti, the western band on its low stage at the front of the hall with streamers and balloons rising to the ceiling like lost souls. The couples dancing in their summer finery. How long could we live before we were found in a place no one expected us to go?

(O you gates, you who keep the gates because of Osiris, O you who guard them and who report the affairs of the Two Lands to Osiris every day; I know you and I know your names.)

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the shells of morning

I want to write about the light and cool of this August morning, how I looked just now at the shells John hung above the summer table, how they have something of heaven in them as they shimmer together– their sound echoed in the Adagio of Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez which I am listening to before going out to do the watering, the vegetable gathering (beans! Savoy cabbages like Dutch still-lifes! Cucumber skins opaque with dew!).

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Last night we returned home from the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts to hear something large crashing over on the other side of the garden and this morning we know that it was an elk breaking down a small chestnut, gorging on the leaves, shattering the branches, and then disappearing into the darkness. On Thursday, in the afternoon, we saw a huge bull elk up at the edge of the grass, eating ocean spray. He had the biggest set of antlers I’ve ever seen, six points on each side, and still covered in golden velvet. In the particular light of mid-afternoon, his antlers seemed to be growing out of the copper beech between him and us, the copper beech under which my parents’ ashes are scattered (beech for Bukovina, my paternal grandfather’s place of origin; and for book; the book of my own origins). I could smell the elk from where I watched on the upper deck. The bulls are readying themselves for the autumn rut and in the past I once heard two of them bugling at each other in our woods, vying for harems. And this morning you can smell him again in the cool air, his breath green with chestnut leaves.

 

“I say, ‘Regicide.’ I say, Help!'”

From An Exaltation of Larks, by James Lipton:

An Herde of Wrennys, The Book of St. Albans. Hodgkin says, “The wren was probably allowed the term of ‘herd’…because it was the king of birds.” I say, “Regicide.” I say, “Help!”

It’s been slightly more than a month since the boxes of my novella Winter Wren arrived at my door. Readers of this blog might remember that my friend Anik See and I have begun a small literary imprint, Fish Gotta Swim Editions, to publish novellas for now and perhaps other innovative prose forms in the future. It’s been an interesting process so far. I wrote Winter Wren, Anik designed the cover and text, and the wonderful team at Printorium in Victoria printed the beautiful hand-sized books. People are sending the nicest notes or calling me to tell me their impressions. So far, so good!

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It’s a word-of-mouth endeavor at this point. We don’t have an advertising budget so we’re relying on email newsletters and the kindness of friends and strangers. Anik doesn’t even have copies yet but will receive hers when she’s in Canada next month. After then, she’ll fill orders for European customers and those from other parts of the world. (I’m filling orders for North, Central, and South America. And have mailed books to the UK and a few other places far afield.) But we both believe that readers will be interested in novellas and will somehow find us and our titles. (More are in the planning stages.)

Several reviews are forthcoming and I will post information and links on my News and Events page once I have them. I look forward to reading from Winter Wren when I participate in the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts on Friday, August 12th at 2:30 p.m. (I plan to talk about novellas in general and to also  read from my Patrin, which isn’t even a year old yet!) There will also be a proper launch for Winter Wren, probably in September. (If this sounds a bit vague,it’s because, well, life is busy right now! The Pender Harbour Chamber Music Festival, which I’m involved with, is coming up on the weekend of August 18-21 in Madeira Park; some of my children are coming for a couple of weeks later in summer; and there’s a third grandchild due in late August. But watch my News and Events page for a book launch date and if you’re in our area, come to help celebrate its regicide — without giving too much away, that word has a kind of eerie truth for this tale of wrens and the solstice and the passing of the old year.

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And if you want to support independent publishing not just in Canada but internationally (because Fish Gotta Swim Editions is located here on the west coast as well as in Amsterdam), please consider ordering a copy of Winter Wren. You can order from me. Or Anik. Several bookstores here on the Sechelt Peninsula carry the book and others can order it for you. If you are interested in a review copy, please let me know.