Sunday, September 8, 2013

Dreams need to be chased

Here's a pic of my son in Yellowknife earlier this week, a middle-of-the-night timed selfie as he captured a blast of aurora unfolding.

It was a trip he'd been planning and saving for for the better part of a year. Like others from all over the world, a photography group from our city was going because the aurora in NWT was projected to be the best its been in 25 years, an unprecedented opportunity. It was all set, then a few months ago my son learned that he had to be eighteen to go with the group. He was devastated.

Fast forward to last week and there he stood, taking that shot while his dad slept nearby in a tent. My husband had taken a few days off work (which was tough to do given his crazy fall schedule), they'd packed camping gear, got up at 4 a.m., drove to Edmonton, flew to Yellowknife, rented a car and a canoe, then paddled out to a remote island not far away from where all of the professional photographers were camped. They stayed three nights and when they got home my sixteen year old had over 400 pictures of aurora.

I liked this one best. I told him it looked fake, like someone had taken a glow stick, cracked it open, and lobbed it at the sky. He grinned and said, "I know what you mean. The whole trip kind of felt like that. It was all real, but it felt unreal."

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Good-bye Sully

Twelve years ago, we packed our kids (then 3 and 5) into our SUV and drove across the country through a terrible storm to pick up a Newfoundland puppy we named Sullivan (aka Sully). He grew to become a huge suck who slept on our bed each night and was rarely without his favorite Eeyore stuffy. He was also my writing muse and he spent countless hours at my feet in my office. Yesterday, after a long, healthy life, we found ourselves in the position where we had to have Sully put to sleep. Today, our hearts are broken and will remain forever changed because he was in our lives... Rest in peace, baby boy.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The birth of a story

There are so many writers I admire, writers with the ability to tell incredible stories I wish I'd written, stories that grab you from the first page. Here's the thing I'm most grateful for, though. Reading a book like that always heats up my own creative process. Like last fall, after reading one that wouldn't let me go, I was driving somewhere and happened to spot a clawfoot bathtub sitting in the middle of a field. No one around. Nothing in sight but that old tub and the mountains in the distance.

Why would someone put a tub there? I wondered.

Days later, I attended a wedding. The church was full, everyone fidgeting. Then, just as the ceremony was about to begin, a young woman slipped inside and took a seat across the aisle from me. She looked sick, tired and harried, her hair limp, her dress rumpled -- and she was carrying a baby. After taking her seat, the baby began to fuss with that distinctive tinny 'newborn wail' many people easily recognize.

I was fascinated. Who brings a newborn to a wedding?

The young woman was far less rattled than everyone else. With a stony expression on her face, she locked her eyes on the groom and his groomsmen and rocked her baby to settle it down. And for the most part it worked, the child quit wailing. Seemingly oblivious, the bride came up the center aisle, took the groom's arm, and they said their vows. It was only when the minister pronounced them 'man and wife' that the strange young woman seemed to have seen enough.

As quietly as she came, I watched her leave, face burrowed against her baby, breathing him in.

Who are you? Why did you come? I wondered.

Weeks later, after I'd had time to fully 'imagine' what her story might be, I began writing the first draft of the novel I'm currently working on called The Iron Angel, a story about a woman who was abandoned at birth in an old bathtub in a meadow and spent much of her life searching for answers. Now twenty-eight and a mother herself, she's made the reckless decision to drive across the country with her newborn daughter to crash a wedding so she can tell the groom that he is the child's father. The situation is made worse by the fact that the woman is sick, but even though she's scared and uncertain about her own future, she's determined to make things right for her daughter.

Seemed like a story I could build on, the past and present colliding in a shocking climax, a story with some pull. At least, I hope so. Wish me luck.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

So...what are you reading?

This is a question I'm often asked by book clubs and although I'm never NOT reading (my nightstand hosts a teetering tower of books) I do read many different genres. For example, I enjoy short stories and typically read 3-4 collections a year. Most recently these include Bobcat and Other Stories by Rebecca Lee, This Cake is for the Party by Sarah Selecky and Blueprints for Building Better Girls by Elissa Schappell.
Beyond that, I sometimes reread books that just won't leave me. I have a long list of these including The Help by Kathryn Stockett, Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, Good Grief by Lolly Winston, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green... and on and on. 

Last month, I read Caroline Leavitt's Pictures of You (a wonderful story/great book club pick), Liane Moriarty's The Hypnotist's Love Story (grabs you and will not let go), and Room by Emma Donoghue (a beautifully written, deeply upsetting and unputdownable novel).

Friday, February 8, 2013

February, month of the heart

This is Sullivan (aka Sully). He's a pure bred Newfoundland, 180 lbs, 11.5 years old, and very much an indoor dog. He sleeps on our bed, has a basket full of stuffies, and gets an ice cream cup each night after dinner. He's also been my constant writing companion for more than a decade.

Now and then I'll read him a few pages of something I've written and he'll listen, attentive, head cocked appreciatively to one side. He gave his heart to our family a long time ago and we gave him ours, and this month, aptly so, I'm giving him his own blog post for everything he's given us.

Friday, January 4, 2013

A brand new year

We were at the Delta in Kananaskis for a few days after Christmas. It's a family tradition. We go every year and when we do we like to take Grandpa Jim with us.

He usually flies in from Winnipeg and spends a week or so here, but it's the time we share at Kananaskis he loves best -- the mountains, the lodge we stay at, the time he gets to spend with our boys.
While everyone else skis, Jim and I go for walks or sit in front of the lodge fireplace and talk. He's 91 years old and still going strong, up for conversations about anything, still well read and (this is what I admire most) truly interested in the kids and what they're doing. The three of them talk a lot and they banter and joke -- it's the nicest way I can think to start each new year. 
Happy 2013 everyone.