This morning there’s a dusting of new snow on the mountain, winter’s tentative nudge. And on the railing of the porch outside my study window, a wren perched for a few minutes, then investigated the little bird house hanging from the eaves. No one nests in it but in the depths of winter I’ve seen as many as 6 wrens enter at dusk to gather together for warmth. I confess I still call them winter wrens. I knew them before it was decided that there are actually two distinct species in North America and that the ones I’ve loved all my life are more properly Troglodytes pacificus or Pacific wrens. It doesn’t matter. They’re wrens. They are always around in winter, singing in the salal, the woodshed, their song as lovely as anything I’ve ever heard. In my novella Winter Wren, the main character Grace hears them singing near the cabin she’s bought above Sandcut Beach, west of Sooke. She hears them and then she listens to Bach’s Flute Partita in A Minor, the Bourrée anglaise, and realizes that there are intricate convergences.

She was on the porch, wringing the mop over the edge when her favourite movement of the Bach Partita in A Minor, the last, the Bourée Anglaise, began. Leaning on the railing, she loved how the passage floated out in the wintry air, a counterpoint to waves and wind. She hummed a little of it from memory. She’d heard Jean-Pierre Rampal play this in Paris, the amazing backward rhythm of the bourrée balancing the rapid run of sixteenth notes, and ever after thought of it as music she would choose before all else.

It wasn’t until the movement was almost complete that she realized she was hearing another sound, another melody answering the bourrée, ascending as the flute descended. Startled, she looked around, fearful. Was it someone whistling on her property? No, it was a bird. It must be a bird because there wasn’t anyone or anything else in sight. And it came from within the salal on the trail down to the waterfall. Peering into the undergrowth, she came face to face with a tiny dark bird, very pert, bobbing and bending on the stem it had claimed. From its open beak came a long undulating series of notes as melodic as anthing Bach had put to paper.

It was this time of year that my friend Anik See stopped in to visit us on her way back to the Netherlands from a residency at the Berton House in Dawson City. We’d both recently completed novellas and we’d both received many rejections from publishers, who all said something like, Oh, this is lovely work but we can’t publish a novella. Anik and I looked at one another after about the 6th story of rejection and we laughed. You know what this means, one of us said, and in that moment, our little imprint fishgottaswimeditions.com  was born. We decided to start with one of our novellas because then, if the whole enterprise didn’t work, there’d be fewer people to disappoint. We decided on Winter Wren (and I’m hoping Anik will consider including her Cabin Fever on our list too). We’ve published 4 novellas thus far: Winter Wren was followed by Frances Boyle’s Tower which in turn was followed by Barbara Lambert’s Wanda and our most recent title was Jennifer Falkner’s Susanna Hall, Her Book. You can visit our website (linked above) for more information.

Because I’ve been visited by the wren and because I just washed the bowl that was used for the cover of Winter Wren and I’m reminded all over again of these birds in the low brush, their song, I’m offering copies of my novella for $10 plus postage (currently $3.50 in Canada, $5.50 to the US, and I don’t know how much to other places right now but I’d simply charge the cost).

rural publishing

just arrived

The small literary novella imprint that Anik See and I run, Fish Gotta Swim Editions, is a continuing source of delight. Our fourth title, pictured above, arrived from the printer last evening. I’d been expecting the shipment all week, either by finding a card in my mailbox saying there were boxes to pick up at the post office or by hearing a courier van come up the driveway. When deliveries are via the latter, there’s usually a phone call first, someone parked in the lower driveway, wondering how to find me. Our neighbours use our lower drive to access their properties on Sakinaw Lake and when they’re not there, they have a locked gate at the point that our property becomes theirs. Because of complicated zoning, we share a street number, although technically ours is the actual number and their addresses have an A, B, or C suffix. Couriers never understand this subtlety and so once they arrive at the post with our number on it, they call. And we tell them how to find us. Last evening I heard a vehicle spinning its wheels on the turn in our actual driveway, the area with coarse gravel — we know to accelerate at just the right time to make the turn. I watched from the window as the headlights at the turn disappeared back down the driveway and then I heard the vehicle try again, faster this time. It was our neighbour. They’d come up to their house from another house they own elsewhere, just for a night or two, and the gate was open for an hour while they did some errands. When they returned, they found two heavy boxes by their front door. One of them was bringing the boxes to me, to whom they were clearly addressed, with my telephone number right on the label. This is rural publishing. In the past couriers have left parcels for us at the hardware store in Madeira Park, at the gas station 15 minutes away, and a couple of times they left packages for us at Harbour Publishing. Go figure. Luckily the Harbour Publishing owners are our friends and they called us with some amusement to let us know where we could find our delivery.

Anyway, the fourth title, the beautiful Susanna Hall, Her Book, by Jennifer Falkner, arrived unexpectedly via the neighbour last night. It was a funny moment, except it almost wasn’t. If the neighbours hadn’t used the door where the boxes were left — and they have a big house, with several entrances — and returned to their other home, then who knows when we might have put 2 and 2 together to possibly make 4: the 4th title. I received the printer proof about a month ago and Anik and I had a Zoom meeting, her in Dordrecht and me in the kitchen here, to go over the fine details of the production to make sure that everything was as it should be. Some tiny adjustments had to be made and they were and now the books are ready to go out into the world, some to the patient author, and some to people who ordered after receiving our newsletter in early April. You can subscribe to it if you’re interested. Go to our website — fishgottaswimeditions.com — and just fill out the form at the ordering/contact page. Read about Susanna Hall, Her Book at the Books page and by all means order one. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

It’s a lovely spring evening here after a day of clouds and rain. A hummingbird keeps hovering at my window. A pileated woodpecker is hammering down towards the lake. I’m going to take a copy of this wonderful novella up to my bed to read. I’ve read it several times, as an initial submission to our press, as a document sent back and forth to Jen for edits and small changes, as a designed book block, and then as a printer proof. But tonight it will be the book itself, with its elegant French flaps and the beautiful cover (designed by Anik, using an illustration from Elizabeth Blackwell’s Curious Herbal, an 18th century gathering of botanical cuts of plants used in the practice of physick) and Jen’s excellent writing. I know I will enjoy it immensely and I think others will too.