On the Urge to Accessorize and the Security of Elevation

Dear Future Publisher,

Everyone feels safe somewhere.  A lot of people think that art is best when it comes from somewhere unsafe, somewhere on the brink, on the edge, and perhaps that’s true – that risk and trial and experience are all necessary in the life of an artist.  But I think safety is necessary, to some degree, for creativity.  To have a safe place in which to open up and be vulnerable without fear – or with fear, perhaps, but feeling comfortable enough to do it anyway.  Enough safety at least to be able to think in terms of art, rather than merely survival.  And with you, I will have to feel safe for our relationship to work, to be able to share this book I have written and open up and discuss it freely and honestly, to accept criticism of my baby and trust your input as I make changes.  For that to happen, I need to feel comfortable, I need to feel safe.

Ptolemy rarely feels safe, on account of being the most highly strung animal I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  So maybe he can teach us something about creating a safe place in which to work together. Continue reading

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On Fire Safety and Mastication

Dear Future Publisher,

Do you know what it is to ache, to long, to quake with desire for something beyond your reach? To want something so badly, so dearly, that it seems almost a need.  There is a bubbling froth of desire in my gut.  I want so desperately to have this book see the light of day, to share it with people, to share it, first, with you.  I want to find you, need to find you, burn to find you.  I know you’re out there somewhere, under the same sky, the same stars, maybe gazing up at this selfsame bulbous moon.  Are you hoping to find me, too?  To discover a talent you had not known was out there?  To uncover a book that has potential, a book that needs to be read, to be exposed, to be thrust out into the world.  A book that begs to be coaxed into its best form and given a physical shape, a spine and pages to be stroked and loved. An author who begs for her words to be seen, read, heard, enjoyed, tasted, masticated, savoured, devoured. Continue reading

On Scooting and Ceiling-Land

Dear Future Publisher,

As promised, here are some other weird things about my cat:

He loves the ceiling, and is certain if he just gets the right angle on it, and jumps high enough, he could go up there and live on it like an upside down floor, and be the undisputed king of ceiling-land, now and forever. He will stare at it and crane his neck and meow thoughtfully and then try to shimmy up the wall by clapping at it with his paws or launch himself recklessly off high furniture.

He loves olives, which have a kind of catnippy effect on him, that results in him rubbing his face on old shoes and chewing on my fingers.  Continue reading

On Validation and Words that are Snakes in the Night

Dear Future Publisher,

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that writing a novel is itself an accomplishment.  Sometimes it seems like without your stamp of approval, without the validation of publication, it somehow doesn’t count.  As if, as long as the manuscript remains sitting in my desk drawer, it is, to some degree, unreal.  It didn’t really happen.  As if there is no proof of its existence except in my own mind.

I hate that.  I hate that I feel like I’m relying on someone else for validation.  Like my hard work, my proud accomplishment, is not enough just as it is.  I wouldn’t stand for that kind of dependence in my personal life, so why is it such an easy trap to fall into now?

Continue reading

On the Collaborative Creation of Life

Dear Future Publisher,

Thinking about our future together and getting this strange kind of backwards nostalgia.  Can’t wait to bring our baby out into the world.  I know people will love this child of ours, if only they have a chance to meet her.  She’s sitting on the desk, looking up at me so hopefully.  But we need you to do your part to give her life – real life, paper and ink and spine and cover and all.  She’s waiting.  We’re waiting.

Signed,

Author

On Iambic Pentameter and Literary Athletics

Dear Future Publisher,

Today I wrote a short story.

I wrote it because of you.

And here’s the thing: I really struggle with short stories.

I don’t like writing them.  I don’t even like reading them, for the most part.  All of the joy I normally get from writing becomes a mundane chore when I try to write short fiction.  It becomes, “I guess I have to write this thing…or I could not, and take a nap”, instead of “OH BOY I GET TO WRITE, IT’S MY FAVOURITE”.  So, basically, when I write short stories, I’m a cat.  When I write novels, I’m a puppy. Continue reading

On Hygiene and the Proper Avoidance of Falls

Dear Future Publisher,

I have all of my best ideas in the bath.  Just soaking in the warm, sudsy water, and thinking about the book – how to make it better, how to make it please you.  And then, a flash of brilliance, incandescent in the dim lighting of the single bulb in the ceiling above me.  But there I’m lying, prone, naked, with no paper or pen or manuscript or computer or napkin in sight.  That snatch of dialogue, or description, that perfect word or phrase hanging in the air before me, fading even as I examine it, taste it, repeat it lovingly aloud, forming the words carefully with my lips, tasting it on my tongue.  Rushing, racing to wash my body, let the soap slide off each curve – the length of my leg, the slip of my shoulder.  Letting the water lift my hair in a cloud around my head as the conditioner rinses away, leaving me washed, clean, pure.  Hurrying from the tub – but not too fast, because that’s how you die, horribly, in your own home – rushing to another room, looking for paper, still naked and dripping on the floor, still thinking of you.

Sometimes, when I am lucky, the thought stays, I can make it last, intangible as it is, Continue reading

On Pity, Laughter, and the Unwanted Gaze

Dear Future Publisher,

Sending my manuscript to you is like sending naked pictures to a stranger.  Not that I’ve done that.  That’s filed under BAD PLANS next to DO DRUGS and DRIVE DRUNK and HAVE UNPROTECTED SEX in the high school health class folder in my brain.  But think about it for a moment.  Here is this thing, this intimate and revealing part of myself, a depiction of me at my most vulnerable.  Whether that is words on paper or an image of my breasts hardly matters, does it?  I’m exposing myself for you, and sending it out into the ether with no guarantee of your approval.  Maybe you open it up, look it over, and laugh at my flaws.  Maybe you show it to your colleagues or your friends, and you laugh together.  Continue reading

On Birds and Other Terrors of the Wilds

Dear Future Publisher,

Here are some things you should know about me:

I am well on my way to being a crazy cat lady.

I love an Oxford comma.  (And if you try to change this, you should expect foul language, tears, and eternal resentment.)

I would wear dresses all the time, if this weren’t Canada, and it weren’t winter, and I didn’t spill 72% of everything I try to eat or drink. Continue reading