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Archive for the ‘On the Road’

Thunder Bay, June 13 & 14, 2016

June 11, 2016 By: Hiromi Category: Blog, Events, News & Reviews, On the Road

#ThunderPride

June 13, 6 – 9pm – Invisible Ink, Writing Workshop

June 14, 7pm – Prideful Night at Thunder Bay Art Gallery

Spring/Summer 2014 Recap

October 01, 2014 By: Hiromi Category: Events, On the Road, Thoughts on Writing

So much I haven’t updated– I’m an inconsistent blogger. But unrepentant!

Life is busy with living….

May was WisCon 38 and I was a guest of honour alongside N.K. Jemisin. Enroute to the convention my partner and I arranged to stay a few days in Chicago, and what a beautiful city! Not usually the type to remark on the beauty of modern buildings, but Chicago is an architectural treat!

ChicagoDT2014

D and I caught a live jazz performance, saw the Edward Gorey exhibit, and a Vivian Maier photo exhibit. We didn’t manage to have piece of deep dish pizza.

I love to take photographs. I’ve no training, but my eye is pulled to the contrast of dark and light, repetitive patterns, the shapes of things, both empty and solid. To develop an appreciation of this can serve writers well. For stories are just as much about what is absent from the page (or obscured) as what is revealed. What is being compared as like or unlike? And how do we frame a story? What is the focus? Where is the focus? What are the parameters of the story? What is included inside the frame? I.e. narrative POV.

LightShadowChicago

From Chicago to Madison, WI. It was my first time ever as a GoH at a Con. A different kind of scene compared to the many academic conferences I’ve been invited to as a guest speaker, it was the largest audience I’ve spoken to and delivering the GoH speech was a combination of frightening and exhilarating.

WisConGohSpeechaudience

 

N. K. Jemisin’s GoH speech was a call to arms in the fight against systemic racism and sexism entrenched within many organizations in SF culture. The applause and cheers resounded.

N.K. Jemisin & me.

GoHwithDessertTix38

The hotel lounge had an array of spec fic-infused drinks. Delightful!

KappaDrinklounge

A blur of panels, readings, parties, meals with friends old and new. We had a lovely time and returned home with much to mulch into our long-term knowledge.

Unbeknownst to me at the time while we moved through and around the convention there had been ongoing issues regarding the handling of safety issues for attendees, particularly around sexual harassment. It appears that WisCon is working on making the space safer and ensuring that the same mistakes won’t happen again.  I trust that this is so. Or I trust that even if mistakes are made in the future, for no organization is free from making them, that there will be a historical knowledge that will allow for swift and practical moves to address the lapses.

Summer saw a whirlwind of activity…

Tanabata Festival (July 7). I didn’t have any bamboo this year, but I read that some people write their wishes on paper boats. So my friends and I gathered at the beach to pen our messages and we sent them out across the great watery way.

Tanabata2014boats

Clarion West. I was totally enriched, bemused and inspired by my Clarion West experience. The students journeyed through an intensive endurance run of 6 weeks of learning, creating, integrating & output! I was only there for 1 week as one of the instructors and I was pretty exhausted by the end of it, but the attendees had 2 more weeks remaining. I can’t imagine how they did it! They not only learned together and created together (writing a new story every week) but they also lived together for the duration of the workshop in a sorority house (awesome trippy group photos on the walls, especially for this Canadian). Meals were cooked by a chef. Their days were filled with reading, critiquing, writing new stories, playing games (and, apparently, significant consumption of assorted beverages). For writers of speculative fiction who are ready for an extreme learning-by-doing experience I whole-heartedly recommend applying to Clarion West.

 ClarionWest2014

Afterward I was ready to settle into my home. The rest of the summer saw me reading a lot of children’s books, visiting the beach, feeding my yashi. ~___~



Innsbruck, Austria EACLALS conference

April 17, 2014 By: Hiromi Category: Blog, Events, On the Road

Firstly, thank you to my hosts, the University of Innsbruck, for inviting me here. It is a privilege to visit this beautiful city in the Alps, and meet with the many scholars and writers from many lands!

Flight from Vancouver arrived in Munich, the first shop I encountered outside the airport was a Starbucks. The air, however, was distinct– flavoured with unfamiliar cigarette smoke, the hoarse cry of a crow speaking Austrian. The Japanese crows caw in Japanese. All over the world crows speak in their native tongue.

The awe of Autobahn…. our shuttle *bus* was hitting upwards of 150 km/hr when a motorcycle whipped past us. “Holy shit,” I muttered. I sat in the front, seat belt buckled, feeling mildly frumpy and somewhat alarmed.

The freeway moved quickly to countryside. The Alps soft behind the grey of rain. Fields of green and the rounded humps of trees. Brilliant patches of early canola.

farmlands

Innsbruck a small mountain city, yesterday morning snow. Staying in the Goldener Adler, a hotel since 1390. Now owned by Best Western there’s a little sign on the front desk exclaiming Mozart would have joined as a member too…. The collapse of the historical into a material commercial. I wonder at the medieval arches in the dining room, imagine it filled with smoke of fire, the rich smell of fat and scorch bittering the air. The stench of seldom-washed winter bodies, the persistent coughs of sickly lungs. A figure-ground interplay of time.

Easter holidays and the complicated signal of bells. A taxidermy culture’s not a surprise in the mountains. But a strange interaction when icons become mixed metaphors.

DSC01198

 

There’re a lot of tourists about– both local and international. When I went to the outdoor market I wandered from stall to stall. One wagon sold lovely table runners, tablecloths, cross stitched with details of flowers and leaves. How charming, I thought.

“Where were these made?” I asked the tall blond middle-aged attendant.

“In Singapore…,” she said, and moved away from me although there were no other customers to attend to. The awkward little experience of the simulated tourist interaction collapsed between us, made even more ironic by my Asian body in the face of my desire for an authentic Austrian memento.

Three days of conferencing! I’ve ducked in and out of panels and every evening readings from international writers. When I return home I’ll be looking up the writings of Kei Miller, particularly, The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion, Carpentaria, by Alexis Wright, and That Deadman Dance, by Kim Scott.

Two more days of conference remain. I read tonight, and tomorrow a round table. Thinking a lot about representation….

The seen and unseen. The unseemly. Theory. Praxis.

I am a daughter of mushroom farmers, far from her ancestral home.

 

Prairie Road Trip circa Early 21st C

August 22, 2013 By: Hiromi Category: Blog, On the Road

DSC00704

How a person chooses to travel is not free from considerations about environmental impact. The effects of global warming caused by human actions cannot be ignored. I am far from leading a low-impact life in terms of my carbon footprint. Very few of us are in car culture North America. It is difficult to reconcile…. Most of us live within a cushion of rationalized dissonance in order to have the things we desire.

Have I offset my levels of pollutive actions by composting organic waste products? If I never buy bottled water and hand-make cards and use recycled paper shopping bags to wrap gifts am I balancing my carbon debt to future generations?

I own a car. Some of my friends have stopped owning cars and cycle, are members of car-sharing co-ops, and take public transit. I think about doing the same, but have not committed to this yet. To live a more environmentally responsible life I think the time is nearing when I make this transition.

Perhaps this summer’s road trip is the last time I will be driving my own car. (Does this apologia allow me to recount my road trip without imploding within the storm of rationalization, guilt and dissonance?)

(My hands are slick with oil….)

My girlfriend and I had been wanting to go on a road trip for a long time. It was on our bucket list of things to do together. There is a sense of freedom as you drive away from daily routine and cares. The heart expands and the eyes sweep the horizon. The air is sweet in the mountains. The rivers run icy with the kind of blue that catches the breath in the throat.

DSC00868

We had packed the vehicle full with Useful Items including a small portable stove, a rice cooker, an electric kettle, bedding, a large cooler, Healthy Vegetable Snacks With Miso Dip, Emergency Instant Ramen, and other sundries. We are both mothers and with the kind of pragmatism that many mothers develop we’d organized our trip to be both economical and comfortable with an eye toward avoiding dreaded Toad Belly (caused by high-fat roadside fast food and long periods of time sitting in a single position >__<).

We’d decided to not to burn headlong to our destination (Saskatoon), but to stop along the way. To duck into locations that tickled the fancy, bemused, or aroused curiousity. I’d always whipped through the Rockies between Calgary and Vancouver on my annual family visits. One of the strange locations I’d never explored was 3 Valley Gap. I’d always had the oddest feelings when passing this area. The misplaced faux Swiss rendering of the resort located so near the highway looking all REDRUM resplendent…. Daughter never allowed me to stop there because she deemed it excessively creepy.

It was late afternoon, curving toward dusk when we pulled up in the parking lot. The man selling tickets to the ghost town was closing shop, but he kindly shared with us a chit that we could use to get through the gates.

GhostTown3ValleyGap

The “ghost town” was a reconstruction: the houses were trucked in from various other locations and rebuilt at 3 Valley Gap as a recreation of a “pioneer town”. Shops, houses, church, school and hotel, all the buildings that could be found in a community were collected and displayed. The mannequins were made by a homey hand… the results rather monstrous.

Mannequin3Valley

The ghosts of children felt as heavy as the dust that covered the floors. We were voyeurs of a simulated past and the photographs we took were the tokens that bound us to our perceived timeline.

Schoolhouse3Valley

We stopped in Lake Louise and Banff and stood appallingly close to elk eating saplings by the side of the road. Clearly I have not learned my lesson from my sea lion days…. Stopover in Revelstoke.

One of my favourite moments is when the mountains transition to foothills and the prairie spread. We drove through the dusk as the skies began dotting with stars. Stopover in Calgary.

From Calgary we journeyed to Drumheller. I thought it important that D saw the Tyrrell Museum. The fossils of a greater past and an uncertain future. All that has ever lived and all that lives share the same water and air, our cells made of the same matter.

The long line of highway 9 heading ever east the fields of wheat and smack of insects against the windshield. Listening to Be Good Tanyas and k.d. lang. We stopped to watch the sunset over vast spaces clicking with the wings of grasshoppers.

Wheat Sask

The agricultural vista is beautiful but the appearance of things are not the complete story. Is this a field of genetically modified wheat patented by Monsanto? Was this farmland once owned by a family that could no longer compete with big business and sold below value to a corporation? When was the last time a herd of wild bison migrated across this land? Which Indigenous Nation called this area home before they were forcibly removed? There are layers and layers histories all enfolded with the present.

A stop for fuel and sustenance converged with a sign, perhaps a portent, of the ills that plague this land.

Petroleum and Agro in Sask 2013

We arrived, late, in Rosetown and stayed in a motel that resembled hastily constructed barracks for itinerant workers. Not the most comfortable night we eagerly hit the road to Saskatoon where D wanted to search for info at the Saskatoon archives at the university. The afternoon had us stopping in several small towns and then heading south west toward Medicine Hat then Brooks.

If you ever need a stopover in Brooks the Plains Motel is lovely. Clean, affordable and extremely comfortable I’ve never had a bad stay. I also had the best baked potato, ever, at Gus’ Steak & Pizza House.

Brooks is an interesting and troubling city– in the past 15 years there’s been a significant change in demographics because of hiring and employment practices of the XL Lakeside Packers meat processing plant. On the surface what can be viewed as snapshot of “multicultural” Canada hides a far more complicated reality. The machinations of corporations are global and the victims are always the disenfranchised.

Dinosaur Provincial Park is a wonder. I never tire of visiting (although the mosquitos this year were especially bad). The endless stretch of prairies suddenly drop into a canyon river valley, the subterranean a weird garden of hoodoos, gullies, sand and stone. Lichen. Not only the fossils, old spirits linger. The rock formations dream long throughout the scorch of day.

Hoodoos

 

SandstoneForms

 

LichenDPP

The marvel of plant life growing under such extreme conditions.

Cactus

A few snapshots of a summer journey…. Two middle-aged women travelling to the Canadian Prairies (un)easily by automobile in the early 21st C. Appreciating the present, making connections to the past, and moving toward an ever-expanding future.

Dana and Hiromi Sask 2013

 

Three Months, Ten Days and a trip to PEI

May 30, 2013 By: Hiromi Category: Blog, Events, On the Road

Sounds like a torrid affair! But it’s only that I’ve been so very busy…. I’m hoping to get back to more regular blogging. We shall see!

Much has happened in the past three months. I’ve conducted a webinar for the WIR at Athabasca University as well as critiquing submissions and working with my mentees. Attended a conference (which involved writing a presentation), conducted readings, sat on  a panel, ongoing mentoring through SFU’s The Writer’s Studio, presented the keynote at The Trudeau Foundation Summer Institute, while, of course, being involved with family, lover, friends and community…. Whew! It’s been a very busy spring!

When I was invited to deliver the keynote for the Trudeau scholars I knew very little about the Foundation. Of course I looked it up online. I must confess to feeling uncomfortable in highly academic spaces. Although many of my books are taught in academia, I am not an academic. I have interest in aspects of feminist theory, or post colonial theory, or queer theory, etc. But I’m not a practicing scholar and my interest is that of a generalist. I suspect that a great many writers of fiction are generalists. We are curious about many things. We like to figure things out. And then we like to make something brought together of many different component parts.

I was required to write a speech that would, in some way, inspire scholars who are among the best in their field. Really, I thought. What do you know that would be intellectual enough as well as inspire??? (This is a form of “bad voice”, the voice of impostor syndrome, etc. And, yes, counselling does help!) I was plagued by the ever-nearing date of delivery, and the writing of it troubled me over many months. I had numerous false starts, bouts of painful procrastination and bad dreams. Finally, instead of writing what I thought might be important to the audience, what I thought I ought to write, I focussed on what was core and important to me. I linked my creative and political process through familial and historical interactions, how they all converge…. As an individual, a writer, and as a part of a broader community, I am influenced upon, by the social  and cultural that exists around me. Simultaneously, I play my small part, through action and writing, in influencing the social and cultural that enfold me. A great unending spiral of effect and response, taking in and producing, perpetually breathing in and out….

(I was also very lucky to have the support of my girlfriend and friends who provided feedback and moral support, otherwise the entire process would have been exponentially more challenging.)

The speech was delivered. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Positive feedback received. Phew! After the pressures of the presentation had fallen away I could enter into conversations with the most interesting people! A chance, also, to catch up with old friends made in Edmonton when I was at U of A. So lovely to share meals and conversations with Libe and Lisa. Make new friends like Danielle, Kyle and Laura. The entire conference impeccably orchestrated by Jennifer and Josee! Interesting panels and challenging talks. A range of voices and ideologies. I wrote pages of notes on little tabs of paper and even had a go at my first live-tweeting!

The Summer Institute was held in PEI! I’d never been to the island province and so I tagged on extra days to have a holiday with my girlfriend. (This is one of the perks of being a writer– invitations to places you wouldn’t have been able to afford out of pocket. At the risk of sounding greedy I’m hoping that one day I’ll be invited to Iceland, Peru, Mexico, Turkey and Nunavut! 6__6)

Before leaving for PEI, my Mi’kmaq friend, M, stated in a dry voice, “It’s flat.” Indeed, it was! The spread of field and sky reminded me of Alberta. I don’t mind me flatlands! Only in PEI the edge of red earth/sand met the blue of the ocean converging with the sky at the horizon. So beautiful!

PEIbeach2013

The trees are smaller than out west. Mixed deciduous and coniferous. And much farmland, the red soil producing 25% of Canada’s potatoes! Girlfriend and I spent some time arguing about whether or not the word, “bucolic” was patronizing or not. I voted, no. She, yes. I had called her on, “quaint”, before, you see…. >__<

And holy EPIC LAWNS! Why sooo lawn when it could just be a FIELD? D: There were massive lawns everywhere in the countryside. Families could have their own football fields. Forget putting green. They were driving range size! All that time mowing the lawn when it could be hay. Or why not a goat? A couple of goats?

Epic PEI Lawn 2013

(I don’t know if you can see tiny white dot to the left of the house but it’s dude on riding lawn mower who was mowing for over 1.5 hours as Girlfriend and I had lunch in Georgetown. When we drove past dude was still mowing…. This was, by far, the biggest lawn I’ve ever seen in Canada.)

Of course a trip to PEI meant that some kind of nod to Anne of Green Gables was required. We went to Anne of Green Gables Recreation (as in, re-created, although it does dovetail with play and leisure…) Land (this is not the official name of the place, fyi…). Unfortunately it was closed for the season…. (Early May was a nice time to be in PEI. Tourist season hadn’t started yet. The roads clear. But this also meant some places weren’t open or hours were reduced. Note: couldn’t find a car rental place open in Charlottetown on the Sunday. Not sure if it was because it was a Sunday, or because it was low-season. Happily, Girlfriend had the brilliant idea to inquire at the airport rental. Voila!). Happily, the park area was not gated so we slipped in and viewed the main re-creation “house” of Anne!

FakeAnneofGreenGablesHouse

“I don’t think her house was this big in the book,” I said. We peered through the windows, catching the threads of the liminal between fiction and material replication. How a story starts out as fiction, and ends up as a house, in a park, on the north shore of PEI….

But before the fiction was a writer. And before the writer came the child. Lucy Maud Montgomery’s mother died when she was still very young and she went to live at her maternal grandparent’s home, much like Anne went to live with the Cuthberts….

While Girlfriend and I perused tourist maps and brochures, we discovered, to our great joy, that the foundation to L.M. Montgomery’s grandparent’s home was just .6 km away from the fake Anne House! This was the house where Lucy’s imagination began to bloom. Where she wrote Anne of Green Gables! This was the place where story began. We drove to the site (whilst getting slightly lost despite it being so nearby) and discovered it wasn’t yet open for the tourist season. How awful to come so far and be so near and not get to tread upon the very place where Lucy Maud Montgomery had trod…. Happily it wasn’t fenced off either so we dropped money into the suggestion box and we entered the grounds.

The foundations of the house, tucked inside stands of trees, seemed modest. How small it looks, I thought.

Foundations of L.M. Montgomery's childhood home 6 copy

How the branches of the trees must have brushed against the glass of the windows. A hush in the air, inside my chest. I read Anne of Green Gables as a child, and I was so taken with the exuberant red-headed orphan, her mishaps with her heart on her sleeve, always. Uncynical, believer of good and fanciful imagination.  A world and several generations away from my childhood in Langley, BC in the 1970s…. Yet I was there, an avid child reader who grew up to be a writer. L.M. Montgomery and I have little in common. <grin>. Histories, cultures, timelines, so many things which cast us at farthest points of a spectrum. But stories…. Stories can bridge some of that gap. And imagination. If you agree to walk with them down that lane.

The Lane behind L.M. Montgomery's home. copy

 

PEI, apparently, is a province full of foxes! You can see them all over Charlottetown, our first cabbie told us. When I asked him if the coywolves had come over to the island as well, he said, “Oh, yah! They’re here alright.” He went on to tell a bunch of stories that began to roll into yarn…. And so GF and I began disbelieving him about the foxes. When we caught another cab and asked about foxes again, the 2nd cabbie explained there were two kinds: the red fox, and the ones that were originally imported from Russia, but were set free after to collapse of the fur industry. “I know where they are,” he said. “I can show you.” GF and I started to wonder if he was yarning us as well, but they he called out, “There’s one.” And there it was! On the outskirts of Charlottetown. A grey-black fox, skittishly trotting behind a house. After that, GF and I were on a constant look-out for more foxes. They are magical creatures– so clever and rather ghostly.

We drove out to the Cavendish area and through the national park. When out of the trees sauntered a fox, as if on cue. Unfortunately the cue was the sound of our car. Some assholes have been feeding this fox (my sea lion story notwithstanding, coff, coff, Quick! Look over there——>!) and it was completely habituated. I did not feed the fox!!! But I was able to snap several photographs.

PEI Fox copy

 

Despite being such a small island (tho relative, scale, etc!), we had to leave so much of it unseen. Three days is nothing– I would love to go back for a longer stay. I would love to ride a bicycle along Confederation Trail. But so grateful for the opportunity to have visited “The Gentle Island”. Thank you to the Trudeau Foundation for making it possible, Pierre-Gerlier Forest for inviting me to the Summer Institute.

Finally, yes, it’s the food porn moment. Yes, there be plenty of seafood out east! My last lunch at Clamdiggers in Georgetown. Free wifi! ^__^

LastLunchGeorgetown copy

 

And she smiled

August 01, 2011 By: Hiromi Category: Blog, On the Road

Everyone I had spoken to on the matter had told me that the Louvre could not be viewed in one day, but I had no idea how enormous the museum was until I approached it from outside and saw the long wings of the former royal palace…. Holy crow, I thought. Lookit the size of it! And it’s crammed with stunning pieces of art– as if all of the photos of my Western Art History book were taken there! The scale! I know the dimensions of the paintings are noted in the textbooks but it is completely something else to stand before The Raft of the Medusa and feel the high drama of the tragic scene so stylized and so freaking enormous– I was imagining that people in the early 1800s might have experienced this painting as we currently experience films on the big screen. Larger than life, dramatic, and intense.

We made the pragmatic choice to see certain paintings that were “the most famous” because we would not have enough time to see everything well (perhaps if we had one week to spend inside the museum?), and, the space was very crowded with high-peak tourists (of which we were an additional five….). So off we went to see the Mona Lisa.

I had also been warned that there would be a queue in front of painting… I was totally unprepared for what I found. I had imagined that there would be those velvet ropes that folded the line-up back and forth into an organized and compact repeating U-shaped order, much like we line up at banks and airline wickets, etc. But there was no order. It was an outright scrum. On top of that most members of the scrum had one arm held vertically in the air with their camera or cellphone, as if they were mobbing a film star instead of viewing a piece of art. They were not trying to view a piece of art. They were trying to capture a piece of it to take home as trophy…. It was an art mob….

I was appalled, fascinated, curious, frustrated, disheartened, surprised, and alarmed. Holy smokes, I thought. What have we come to? Look how the ease with which digital photography has altered our behaviour and relationship!

We had requested a wheelchair for my mum because she couldn’t walk through the entire Louvre for so many hours without a great deal of pain. Bravely we joined the scrum and inched our way forward. It was terribly unorganized. People in the front who had finished viewing were trying to move to the back while the people in the back were trying to get closer. Truly it’s a trampling death waiting to happen. People were pushing and shoving and cutting in front of my mum’s wheelchair. It was a true mob with no sense of individual relationship to others. Daughter grew so disgusted by the entire thing that she left the scrum. Grimly, I pressed forward. The scrum would not stop me from viewing the Mona Lisa (thereby, I was part of the scrum. Oh, the tangled webs!). My sister was pushing my mum’s wheelchair. My mum’s friend was a little to my right. As we neared the front velvet rope that kept the crowd about ten feet away from the Mona Lisa, the pushing and shoving grew greater. There were two gallery minders standing inside the rope and one of them, with a slightly disgusted look on his face,  unclipped it and held it open so my sister could push my mum to the front and away from the awful, awful crowd. They got to view the Mona Lisa from close up, away from the maddening horde!!!! Awesome! I finally got to the front and had 30 seconds to gaze upon portrait. A forest of arms behind me, raised high, the digital clicks of cameras crowding paparazzi buzz and the press of bodies, unsettled longings for things they cannot say–

How quiet she is… how cool her smile. Cool as a deep shadow-dappled pool in a leafy forest…. A pocket of calm. A pocket of still. How remarkable, I thought. How utterly lovely.

We went on to see more paintings and sculptures. The third floor was far less crowded and I was so grateful. I can’t wait to return during the off-season….

It wasn’t only with the Mona Lisa– in front of all the other “famous” paintings people stood beside the artwork so that they could be photographed with it. As if the artwork is a tourist location/moment. Perhaps a little like having a photo taken with Goofy at Disneyland? The engagement was not between art and the viewer, but as site-documentation with placement of self within the frame. I’m not even certain many people actually looked at the painting. Interesting, as Spock would say. I have to confess it made me feel sad. But contexts shift with time and what was is not now, and will be something else in the future. As Octavia E. Butler wrote, “Life is Change.” The paintings are static. Our human culture(s) are not.

I am glad for some things that do not change….

Oh, Chateau!

July 15, 2011 By: Hiromi Category: Blog, On the Road

How lovely, how odd, how complicated and delightful…. How do we find ourselves in this time and space, a tourist, a holiday-maker, in a enormous chateau in Dordogne, France? First of all the chateau is enormous– built in 1840 for the Duke “who won Algeria and Morocco for France”…!!!! Class, race, colonialism, imperialism all converge upon the site where we rest our bodies, 21rst C. tourists from so many different countries, races and cultures. Those of us who have the income to afford travel for leisure are truly privileged. I don’t want to forget this; I still want a good time….

I am having a good time! I’m tripped out by the lodgings! So very grand, but also a little worn at the edges. A posh chateau converted into accomodations will wear. But the grand high ceilings, the large massive rooms, the four-poster beds and the tall windows– we are in a time slip and what shall we say when the Duke and Duchess return! I stare at the portraits of the original owners who look down upon us when we dine at the great long table and wonder what they would think. How they would never have imagined such a gathering in their home. The flow of time, the changing of demographics and privilege and today we breakfast upon sweet canteloupe wrapped with prosciutto. Slices of tangy juicy nectarines, savoury fatty fig sausage procured at the market in Martel.

We drove to Rocamadour yesterday. First off I must say that my misgivings about the use of GPS devices have grown since being here. I don’t have one at home and my sister and brother-in-law have been using theirs in the rental cars. They’ve both chosen female voices. You cannot moderate the volume so “The Lady in the Car” (this is what I call the voice) shouts her information at odd intervals startling me greatly. But this is the least of it. Now I understand why there are stories in the news about people driving into lakes and drowning! “The Lady in the Car” (I really mean the program) is limited to what was orginally input. So new roads that were constructed afterward are not accounted for. Following the directions can lead you astray, in oddly circuitous routes, extraordinarily long scenic side trips along back country single-lane farm roads (pretty!!!) and take a very long time even after you’ve inputted “fastest route”! Hahahahahahahhaaaaa! I do see how it would be useful for a single driver who was travelling alone– it’s so dangerous to look at a paper map and drive at the same time.

I loved viewing Rocamadour from the ramparts of the L’Hospitalet perched atop the cliff. The perspective was so intense– the 3-D effect seemed hyper-accentuated, I don’t know why. The valley and river so far below and the tourists milling down the main roadway, going up and down the stairs like Escher people…. And still higher above us vultures soared and spiralled in great sweeping arcs like silent angels.

Enroute we stopped at Martel. It was a smaller medieval town without the bustle and clamour of the more well-trod tourist sites. It was so lovely. We had a most beautiful dejeuner outside under umbrellas. We feasted upon canard and the most delicious sliced and garlicked potatoes! Daughter adored this town.

The vegetables and fruit are so much fresher and tastier than what we buy in supermarkets in British Columbia. What sad things have we done to our produce? They are grown in bulk with fertilizers, picked too early, and shipped from afar to arrive upon our shores tasteless and devoid of goodness.

I hope Son is watering my garden while I’m gone! I have high hopes for my potatoes and carrots. The cold weather things are doing well this year. I think there is time to plant late rows of lettuce and kale upon my return. All good.

I haven’t had a proper walk around the grounds. We have been busy with sightseeing. There is a skylight in our bedroom. The natural shift in light wakes me gently at 6 a.m. It’s such a slow waking I can’t even be resentful. It is calm and quiet this early. The chateau is so full of peoples, children, movement and sound. The morning quiet is a pleasing way to start the day’s movements. Tomorrow or the day after I shall walk around the entire estate. The morning birds.

Speaking of movement, the chateau is so very large (three floors of rooms plus a basement) that people are always looking for each other. One will glide into the dining room, ask for someone, and no, we have not seen her. The seeker moves on and continues searching. Perhaps up the marble staircase. Perhaps up the cramped spiral servants’ passage. The sought enters the dining room five minutes later. So the seeker and sought flow through the chateau, always in another room, one floor away.

 

 

Je me regrette!

July 10, 2011 By: Hiromi Category: Blog, Business of Writing, On the Road, Thoughts on Writing

I have been so busy I have not posted on my Sundays. But, je ne me regrette pas, because tomorrow– well, today, in fact, daughter and I leave for France! We are “picking up” my mum along the way (via airplane/airport) and will be spending the next two weeks on the road! Tres bien! It is one of my sister’s birthday and she’s arranged for a large gathering of friends and family in order to celebrate. It’s going to be loud, exciting, fractious, hilarious, dramatic…. We are not a quiet family. Nope.

I hope to post On-the-road updates now and then. I’m not entirely sure that our accomodations have internet connection. This detail wasn’t included on their websites. Lordy. I’m kinda addicted to email. I guess time off-line is a Good Thing. But it will take me a little while to acclimatize! I guess I could always write the entries on laptop and then post on a later date.

The past few weeks I`ve been catching up on writing, rewriting, editing and correspondence. Also had the most fabulous “shop talk” meeting with my agent. “Shop talk” is, for me, discussions of the business side of writing. My agent knows a lot about this of course and it’s good to touch base to hear where she’s at, where I’m at, and what kind of goals can be placed upon the horizon in the most potentially fruitful of ways. I find it so very important to me to work with an agent I can talk with– an agent who has the time to sit down and answer questions, ask questions, and share information. Not all agents do this. I suppose not all writers want this kind of author/agent relationship? Some agents don’t like to be asked questions…. They want to be left alone with your manuscript, the author to go back to being creative, and the agent will be happy to hear from you once the next manuscript is completed. The important thing is to find an agent with whom you can work compatibly.

I`ll be meeting my French editor of Baam! in Paris! Half World was translated and released in 2010 as Entremonde. It`s so neat and odd to have one`s book translated into a language one does not know. The translation is a book near to what you wrote, but the translator (in this case, Marie de Premonville!) is the one who literally wrote this French version! I can`t read it to comprehend it. I can sound out the more simple words, and spot a noun here, a verb there, but there is no comprehension other than what I know already of my own English version. A translation is a variation of the original, because there is never an equal and exact translation from one language into another. I love variations… (except in my morning coffee!). Very excited to  meet book people from France! Yay!

Not much time left for sleeps. So adieu mes amis! (Daughter hates my French accent. Or, my English accent atop my atrocious French. It is likely I will embarrass her a Great Deal. Just as my mother will embarrass me. Oh, the legacies! I tell you!)

I’ll try to post while on the road!

The Artful Business of Writing

June 05, 2011 By: Hiromi Category: Blog, Business of Writing, On the Road, Thoughts on Writing

It’s difficult to comprehend fully, but I’ve been a writer for over twenty years. Unbelievable! Weird! By hook and by crook I’ve somehow managed to live off my writerly income, but this has been only just manageable because my ex-husband and I share our resources to raise the children and maintain family. I know I could not have stuck to my writer’s life as I have lived it as the primary care-giver single mom.

I don’t like to think of my writing as business and don’t do it naturally— this is partly a result of the idea of separating art (i.e. “high art”) from the commercial. Braid into this strand the political and it’s even more difficult to frame writing as business. Every profession will have members who think of themselves as the best, or the most “pure” (?), the most evolved, etc. In the great wash of life what people think of you and what you do does not truly matter. However, sometimes we can’t help feeling doubts and question what we do, how we do it. We can’t help these feelings and thoughts, because we are, aside from V.S. Naipaul <rolling eyes>, feeling and thinking social creatures.

If writing is the sole means of your income to not think of the business side of things is selectively naive and counter-productive. To think and plan on how to increase your income with your art so you can continue to do the art you love to do is not an evil thing. I have heard people in the literary arts and visual arts talk to each other about how so-and-so has “sold out” or “went commercial” and wasn’t “truly an artist anymore”. My first question I ask is who is it that deems this so? Are they coming from a place where income is a less pressing concern? I.e. do they have family money to fall back upon so they needn’t fear aging in poverty with no medical plan? And, finally, why must we cling to the weird Romantic idea(l) that artists must suffer for their art?I want to live and eat well. It is everyone’s right.

Art is also labour. I think of the writing I do as art but also as a serious (and joyous) labour. And as a worker I expect to be paid. I’ve been working hard at writing for many years. As I become better at this labour and art form I want a raise! Hahahahahahahahaaaa!

Meeting with my agent’s partners in Toronto has shifted something for me in how I think of my writing. I had been always placing the ideals (subjective) of art and politics in the foreground, but I think I need to balance the field with an equal amount of thinking and energy around elements of business.

One of the agents said that the average reading level was Grade 10. My friend said, That high? Instead of feeling like the writer must come down from her esteemed standards of excellence which involves a large vocabulary, and woeing and wailing that literacy has fallen so low, it can be seen as an opportunity to reexamine the author’s expectations of audience. There are also issues of class. Does your choice of vocabulary, construction and narrative only speak to a smaller specific audience or does it have the capacity to reach a wider and diverse audience? Who do you want to reach? Who do you want to have read your book? Do you want to make more money? To want to make more money is not, in itself, a bad thing.

The same agent said that books are luxury items. Most people cannot afford to buy books in the same way they would spend money on apples or bananas. True, I thought. I love libraries and frequent them and borrow books. But as a writer I earn money when people buy my books.

I don’t think it’s one or the other– we’re either true to our political beliefs and artistic ideals or we “go commercial” and write more mainstream. I like to think that it’s possible to combine the best of all wor(l)ds and an artful writer can pull this off! Why not? If you write it into being, you’ve written it into being!

God, I love this work!

 

WisCon 35, Hotel, Cable TV

May 31, 2011 By: Hiromi Category: Blog, Business of Writing, On the Road

WisCon 35 concluded—what a lovely weekend meeting up with friends from previous Cons, making new friends, and talking, laughing! Nisi Shawl gave a lovely GOH speech and I loved how she situated the idea of genius as not something individual and anomalous, but arising from and because of community, and that it is possible for all to shine. The feminist contingency from Japan, including Mari Kotani and Madame Robot had an excellent panel detailing their feminist domination of Tokon 10 last year in Japan. I loved the discussions that were generated by the Magic Realism and Diaspora panel moderated by Mary Anne Moharanj with Nisi Shawl, Sheree Renée Thomas, Ibi Aanu Zoboi, and yours truly. coffeeandink has shared her notes from that panel on her livejournal if you want to take a look. The loveliest conversations are held during lunch and dinner– reestablishing connections and proposing new projects. Building a wider lattice of communities. I’m so lucky to have been able to attend!

Intensive socializing, panels and a reading. Sometimes the introvert side took over, over-riding the professional face, sending me upstairs to pancake flat atop my bed. And what a lovely bed it was!

I must confess— I don’t have cable TV at home so when I’m on work trips and stay in hotels I am mesmerized by what is on there! Particularly paid-for programming/advertising. This time, of particular note, was the special cantaloupe skin cream that that model uses…. Whoa—the complete lack of any kind of scientific info and reliance only upon the model’s own face and then shots of the special French doctor and the story of him “discovering” the magic melons follows such a fairy tale narrative. Holy smokes, I think. Why not magic beans? Why not the Japanese magic pot? It’s brilliant in its simplicity and effectiveness. And frightening. People want to follow the cult of “anti-aging” and “youth” so very much. I love aging faces! I love the distinct lines, the imprint of experience that is etched into skin. I would stare at older people if staring wasn’t considered rude. (The special melon story is fascinating, but I still would opt for the Spanish snail slime cream they were advertising in Leiden….)

I quickly flipped through the numerous “reality” shows figuring young people partying and being unpleasant/drunk because I find them so very painful to behold. Then I was snagged by an “exposé”-type program that combined catching pedophiles with reality TV on hidden camera…. This was sick on multiple levels. I think it’s a good thing, of course, to catch would-be pedophiles who prey on young people online. But to record it on camera and air it on television is another matter altogether. We watch the pedophile enter the house where he’d been directed to go to by the “bait youth/child” and witness him being berated by the “host” of the program. This is truly disturbing as it situates the viewer as a weird voyeur. I think the viewer is meant to feel some kind of moral righteousness as the would-be pedophile is caught and also a sense of justice and power and superiority as we witness the very public humiliation of the man (I didn’t see any women in the program). The different men frequently claimed they had made a mistake. And that they would never do it again, etc. They were very compliant with their guilt, and several of the men mistakenly thought that the “host” of the program was actually the father of the child/youth he had preyed upon online. What the would-be predator doesn’t know is that there are an enormous number of police officers waiting for him outside. He is allowed to leave the house, thinking he has gotten away, when the spotlights are lit and he is roughly made to lie upon his stomach, told he is under arrest and handcuffed and taken away.

What are we when we observe this spectacle? What are we if we gain some kind of satisfaction from it? There is a kind of displaced mob-justice element, here, that should not be encouraged in our species.

Of course I find the idea of pedophiles and predators disgusting and reprehensible, but I don’t think that this means that they ought to be treated the way they are on the television program. I can understand police officers doing this as a part of their work. I suppose some people would say that such shows, if viewed by predators, could serve as deterrent as he may fear being caught is much the same way. And that this is reason enough for this program to continue. But at what cost for those who are not predators—a far larger number of people? That this is televised and can be viewed as a “form of entertainment” troubles me so very much. It can only sicken our spirit…. But I don’t want to end on appalling television programs!

I’ve written about being a writer and mother on this blog and though I’ve been doing these work trips for some time it’s still lovely to get away from the home front, have ROOM SERVICE and lie in bed whilst eating a clubhouse sandwich!!!! Hahahahahaaaa! Because I was getting into that space of being soooo sick of wondering what I’d make for dinner. Holy shit….

Rumours and buzz: Sharyn November, my editor at Viking, told me that the next new thing is supposed to be mermaids…. I can only hope it will be the man-eating variety rather than the wanna-marry-a-man kind. <weak grin> . I won’t be holding my breath. Tomorrow meetings with my agency and publisher. Finish an editorial. Catch up on emails, business, and back into a groove of writing.