Meteorites can be as small as dust particles, or large enough to send animals flying into the air; they can dent the earth and leave a substantial mark. The big ones are named, including the one that hit in 2013 in Russia: Chelyabinsk.
To name something, to identify the people and things around us, is most often where we start when we acquire language. Da-Da. Ma-Ma. Doggy. Eye. Poop. As a writer, it’s vital to call things (and not just things) by their names. It’s a way to honour their specificity, to keep items, places, people unique. Not just a red car but a Ford Fiesta. Not just a loaf of bread but a braided challah. Natalie Goldberg was one of my first writing instructors, via her famous book Writing Down the Bones, and she has a chapter simply called “Be Specific.” The habit has stuck.
In two short weeks, my collection of stories, Meteorites, will officially be released into the world. I don’t expect animals to be blasted toward space when it “hits,” but it’s an exciting time to be sure. And on the cover of this book–a delightful cover by the very talented Tree Abraham–there are birds.
I didn’t recognize these beautiful birds, so I conducted a little research. According to Peterson’s Field Guides, they are, left to right: Connecticut Warblers, male and female, then a Yellow-Breasted Chat, followed by the one with the Lone Ranger mask, the Common or Maryland Yellowthroat. I love seeing these bright beauties on the cover–even if they appear to be in a rather hot spot with all that lava below. And it turns out this piece of the collaged cover is taken from an illustration from 1925, when it was published in “Birds of Massachusetts and other New England States” by Edward Howe Forbush. Very cool!
Many stories in the collection contain birds, including “Little Stars,” just published in Dreamers Writing, and “Accidental,” now out in Issue 150 of The New Quarterly. And birds can seem like meteorites, too, in a metaphoric stretch: shooting unexpectedly through the sky, brightening a dark day.
If you’re in Victoria in June, I’d love to see you on June 4th at Munro’s Books for the official launch, or at Bolen Books on June 18th… or in Vancouver on Sunday June 16th. See Events page for all the details.