The Rules of the Kingdom

My third baby, and my first poetry collection, The Rules of the Kingdom, was officially launched at Munro’s Books in Victoria on February 28th. What a beautiful evening it was. My sincere gratitude to all who attended, or sent their good wishes my way.

 

It’s on the shelves of other bookstores, too. And oh, the neighbours! (Bolen Books, below)

Wild Writer(s)

It’s been a crazy-in-a-good-way kind of autumn for me, in both my writing world and my day-job world. I moved my massage therapy practice into a beautiful little space in Fernwood, a part of Victoria I love. Did I mention that it’s all mine? The independent side of me is jumping with joy–I can use it whenever I like, decorate it however I want, AND, I can go there and write at my 100 year-old desk when I’m not massaging. Win/win! I’ve just added a huge map of the world on one wall, so now my patients and I can dream of fantastic voyages and reminisce about past ones. I LOVE MAPS!

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Speaking of voyages, and writing, I went on a fast and fun trip east in early November, to the Wild Writers Festival in Waterloo, ON. This is an amazing little writers’ festival, hosted by the equally amazing magazine, The New Quarterly. I had never met anyone from the magazine, in person, but I was greeted on the first evening there as if I were an old friend. As the winner of one of their annual writing contests, the Edna Staebler Personal Essay award, I was honoured to read at the opening event, alongside fiction winner Lisa Alward and Kim Jernigan, who read the winning poem by Ruth Daniell. Here’s the link to an interview with CNF editor Susan Scott, who asked me some questions about writing the essay, and more: https://tnq.ca/not-rises-shines-interview-julie-paul/

I highly recommend this festival! And The New Quarterly… The next day was rich and full, and I was lucky enough to take a poetry workshop with Isabel Huggan and attend two panels and an evening event, before heading to my brother’s home nearby to get in a sweet visit with his family and my Dad and Nana, 90, who made the trip from Lanark Village.

 

Yet another wild thing: the cover of my forthcoming book of poetry with MQUP. How did they know that I love foxes, and saw at least five while in Ontario this past summer? Here’s a preview (the second capital T will be changed to lower case, for those who care about such things!) Needless to say, I am rather excited for the April 1st release of this little creature. The catalogue description will give you some more info, if you’re a curious fox.

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Now, back to the wilderness of writing? There’s a novel waiting to be finished, along with some personal essays, poems, and story edits towards my third collection, which hopefully will make its journey toward publication one day. “The Expansion,” a longer story, recently won The Rusty Toque chapbook competition, and you can read the first part of it here.

Oh, right, there’s holiday madness first… Maybe in January. In the meantime, another wild thing: I actually beat my husband at tennis last month (and got to play outside in November).

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Namaste.

March: On

This month I’ve had the pleasure of reading in two different venues, for very different audiences. The first was at the Salt Spring Library, alongside two lovely women, Kathy Page and Kathleen Winter, for their Women Write event, the day after International Women’s Day. In torrential rains I made my way via ferry from this island to that one, and took shelter in a coffee shop for the best vanilla latte I’ve had in years at JJ Beans, then supped on soup and red wine at ShipStones before the reading, all the while believing that we three writers might be reading to each other and the librarian who so kindly asked us to read. I was happily proven wrong, when over forty people of various ages filled the room and listened attentively as we all read our work, and then, answered audience questions about the writing process, research, truth and ritual. (I read the beginning of my story “Squirrel People,” which generally goes over well in a mixed crowd, i.e. it’s not too risqué). And, wonder of wonders, many people lined up to buy books! In a library! This is always a pleasant surprise. More wine and conversation followed at the librarian’s home, and then, I made my bleary-eyed way home the next morning in even more rain, just before the power went out.

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A week later, I read at The Rabbit Hole reading series, sponsored by The Warren Review, an undergrad publication out of The University of Victoria. This reading took place at the mostly candlelit Copper Owl in Victoria, a former karaoke bar with a copper roof, cool paneling and carpeting soaked with decades of beer. Again, I was one of three women featured, this time following an open mic. The readers who signed up were funny, smart and bold, and the two young women who read before me, Zoe Duhaime and Kathleen O’Reilly, rocked the room with their words–poetry and a play, respectively. Then this old girl (really, I was the oldest person in the room until the DJ arrived near the end to set up for the music that would follow) got up and read the beginning of the story “Flip” from The Pull of the Moon, this time, because many readers had brought up sexy things, deciding to not skip the section where the character reflects on her first “oral” encounter with a young man. The audience laughed when they were supposed to, and were otherwise quiet and engaged, and the special drink of the night, BC Bramble, a smooth blend of cassis, gin and something citrusy, was good for a toast or two with the friends (also old-timers in their 40s) who’d come to hear me read for the first time.

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All in all, a great month thus far revisiting my stories, including a spotting of my book in Mermaid Tales bookshop in the village of Tofino, where my family enjoyed a short holiday near the sea—and since I am not a surfer, I was able to begin a new story, warm and dry by the fire.

Now, onto poetry, as I’ve got new poems forthcoming in three publications this spring. And spring! Welcome, new growth, light and warmth, and hopefully a little less rain…

Chesterman's Beach, Tofino

Chesterman’s Beach, Tofino

 

Seven Days of Riches

 

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Recently, when I’ve been out for events other than work, people have been saying, Oh, haven’t seen you for awhile. I claim hibernation, which feels true. When the blossoms begin to burst, I come out of my den… and they’re here, in full force! But I haven’t exactly been hibernating, which implies sleeping. No, I’ve just been tucked away inside, writing poetry, short fiction and personal essays; applying for residencies; baking; etc.

A topic that comes up at times is how writers manage to write in different genres at the same time. Sometimes, it does make my attention feel a little scattershot, but I like the variety. This week I took the risk of it becoming even more diffuse, in a full-blown literary smorgasbord. I am so grateful to live in a town where this is possible. (Never mind all the other arts events here, including the film fest the week before, where I got to see Connor Gaston’s poignant, award-winning feature film The Devout, and a six-pack of short films, and attend PEP to hear Arleen Pare and Carolyn Smart read their sharp poetry, and hear the Vic High R & B Band perform at Pearson College of the Pacific to the most amazing audience ever—students from around the world who danced and cheered for nearly three hours straight). God, I’m lucky to have had the week below.

Sunday: met with my Fiction Bitches writing group, where we brought our full attention to every line, every comma, every space. Because it was Valentine’s Day, we ate chocolate-covered strawberries and spoke of love and sex. (although V Day is not necessary for these things to happen).

Monday: Master class via Open Space with Guy Vanderhaeghe on short fiction, in which we talked of a sense of play being essential when writing (my sentiments, exactly) and the importance of endings, and how short stories are closer to poetry than they are to novels. All of which prompted me to decide to say F&*#!  the novel I’ve been working on for eight years and fully claim my identity as a short story writer (and poet—but I’m still working on feeling fully comfortable with that one). I may try again, but for now, no.

Tuesday: Master class via Open Space with Sylvia Legris on poetry and research, in which I tried to shake my narrative tendencies off their comfortable perch and was reminded that mining the memory is a form of research as much as looking at a Field Guide to Seashore Creatures. Also, Sylvia encouraged us to try editing a poem as more of a distillation than a revision, until it can be recognized as coming from the deepest place within.

Wednesday: after work, a reading at the Copper Owl, for the Warren Review, a UVic lit mag, in which Patrick Grace shared poetry of Vancouver transit and the architecture of grief, L’Amour Lisik got real about race and sexuality in CNF, and Leah Callen’s play about a glass woman and a man who could only see in blue made me revisit some sad corners of my imagination. But all the while, thinking of my new nephew, born today in Ontario!!

Thursday: another day job day, on which I began to write a new short story about a woman named Deb.

Friday: on which I finished Toni Morrison’s latest novel, God Help the Child, and reaffirmed my dedication to short fiction’s muscular intensity, and collapsed at home after a full work day, unable to go to a party for writers I was really hoping to attend. My energy was revived a little by the mail: my annual PLR cheque arrived from the Canada Council. Always thankful for the work the Writers Union of Canada has done to advocate for these author royalties for books in libraries.

Saturday: From Poetry to Memoir workshop with Jenna Butler, in which we wrote from poems into prose and vice versa, and I agreed with the metaphor of poetry as bird of prey. I ended up writing a new section of my CNF project on being a white mother to a black daughter and sat in the sun at lunch, outside. In February.

Sunday: on which I sat in my favourite local café and recollected it all beside my growler full of coffee beans. Buy nine, get one free—and this one was free. Time to start punching the card all over again, and heading into another week of creating. Starting with today…

Monday: meeting with my second writing group…

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(image from a card by Sacred Bee )

Blue Monday, a day late

 

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Blue Monday

Multiple browsers open: ozone depletion, Rio summit, Zika virus,painkiller trials causing death in France, Ella Fitzgerald singing Angel Eyes on Martin Luther King day. My daughter’s brain, full-size and firing on all cylinders, is processing the earth’s demise en français, while a mosquito somewhere south of us draws blood from a mother and gives her a virus that will make her baby’s head come out all wrong. Not just the little infant head, the brain inside it, too. Brazil’s got it bad, thousands of infants with microcephaly, desperately advising women not to get pregnant in the rainy season. Here, Eat Magazine’s telling me that it’s a New Year, to enjoy a New Breakfast Bowl, and that sausages are all good again, and a Barry Lopez quote I found on Facebook addresses the biggest question I ask in my work, the gap between the horrors of the world and its absolute wonders; he says that “One must live in the middle of contradiction, because if all contradiction were eliminated at once life would collapse.” On my walk today I took a photo of dark bars of shadow in the sky and thought they were the result of The Rumbles, electronic-warfare aircraft being tested in the American Gulf Islands, but instead, found out they were anticrepuscular rays, an atmospheric optical wonder 180 degrees from the setting sun. Faithfully I take my Vitamin D after years of believing the sun was enough, worry where to store my earthquake kit, because, although we attempt to translate the planet’s translations, all we can do is guess, and go on, and lean into the corners, holding on. “There are simply no answers to some of the great pressing questions. You continue to live them out, making your life a worthy expression of leaning into the light.”


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