Sunday, November 18, 2012

Trees pressed thin together in the dark

Got out of the city proper this weekend and went to stay with a friend in Creemore. A crow cawed in a tree outside her place early in the morning and filtered into my dreams; even asleep, I recognize the sound and I can place it as familiar and part of what still makes up home. Magpies and crows and ravens are mountain birds, but they're also the birds of where I grew up. I miss seeing them in the city, as strange and morbid as that might be, because they make up the background of what is supposed to be there. Toronto has gulls, of course, but these pigeons do not really substitute for oil-sheen and white or cawing black. (Even Japan had crows.)

But it was good to leave the city—to get out to trees pressed thin together and dark, dark, dark stretched across the sky. Hills and woods and all that space. Don't get me wrong, I love this city, but there are weeks when I feel it pressed up against my sides and too close to my back. And I get restless in November, it's an old hold-over habit from knowing things go quiet in December. News comes in November or it doesn't come until January. I've got that muscle-memory of waiting—of watching the holiday radio silence getting closer.

I miss traveling. I miss feeling like I could pack it up and go off somewhere, and I know it's just being restless and it's not how things actually are. But I miss the clarity of travel, the perspective shift, and the collecting of experiences.

I was just on a plane in October to go to Edmonton, so I shouldn't be counting down to when I can get on another one and go home to B.C. for the holidays. I should not be thrilled at the prospect of losing a somewhat functioning transit system and convenience of amenities for a week. But I am. Maybe it's the wanting to remind myself what it feels like to breathe in mountains and forests and that lingering wildness that never quite left B.C.

Many of the farmhouses I saw in between Creemore and Toronto were made of brick (or at least had brick facades.) There isn't a lot of brick in Alberta and B.C. Not for farmhouses. Brick is a strangely permanent thing to see in a field. It's like the structure got lost and is waiting for someone to come return it to the rest of the city.

There was also a moment this weekend where the world got really small. Canadians, we are not doing well at disproving this belief that we all know each other. The degrees of separation between us are often less than six.

But this knowing people, it feels good. I don't believe I knew people a year ago, and now I do. To pack up and leave wouldn't be the easy thing it might've been a year ago. If I stay here long enough, will that magnetic pull back to the forests and the mountains and magpies fade? Will brick become commonplace, a detail barely worth the time its takes to recognize? It's not an aversion to things becoming familiar, but more of a query as to how long that it might take.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Chasing Shadows

First of all, I have an interview on Elizabeth M Thurmond's blog as part of her Woman Writer Wednesday series. It also re-shares a reading that we recorded in Montreal at the end of Anticipation (WorldCon) in 2009. Good times. The glow of hope was on everything that weekend. And I met Neil Gaiman.

Yesterday I met Libba Bray. Libba Bray is one of the voices that hooked me and kept in YA Fiction back when I had no idea what modern YA Fiction even meant. She is one of the most interesting people I've ever met, and getting to sit and listen to her speak about just people things was possibly the best thing that's happened to me all year. (Yes, even moreso than Maggie Stiefvater—I love love The Raven Boys, but I have a history with Libba Bray's books that I don't have with Stiefvater's backlist.)

Libba Bray wrote a book called Going Bovine, which was one of the best books I read in 2009. It was the book that said to me to put no limitation on concept or plot or fear writing about something that maybe not everyone is going to understand. She also wrote Beauty Queens, which was the best book I read in 2011. Beauty Queens changed the way I watch TV/films and how I read books; Beauty Queens, and Sarah Rees Brennan taught me how to be a feminist in today's world and how to write about feminism in a way that is accessible.

I decided early in this whole interacting with authors at events thing that I would not tell someone their book changed my life—that's why I have Twitter or a blog for. I decided when I met people, I would treat them like people. Sometimes I wonder if that's the right decision—if it maybe disguises how much things mean to me more than I want it to. But I do it because I have seen the glimmer of admiration, and it scares the fuck out of me. One of the most terrifying things I've seen at events or cons is when authors cease to be people and become—I don't know—what's the word for someone burdened with the weight of having all of the answers?

I mean, I want people to respect what I do and enjoy what I write and get from it what they need. But I don't want the burden of being expected to be right all the time. What do I know? Just what I do—and my answers are very much a result of my life and my experiences, which I feel serves more as a cautionary folktale than a howto-wiki.

Also, I meet people and often lose the ability to vocalize. It's very difficult for me to speak to people I don't know or haven't met in person before, which I can hide to a certain extent beneath my job. But get me out of that element and I'm very quiet because I'm shy and because... when I meet someone like Libba Bray, who is so damn interesting, I don't really want to talk—I want to listen. It's not because I think she has all the answers or that I'd even consider asking for any of them, I just like interesting people. I know about me—me and my internal monologue are BFFs like Oliver Queen and his internal monologue—so I'd rather hear about someone else. I have plenty of opportunity to talk about myself because I, too, have a blog.

Hmm... I've completely lost track of what this post was about. Right! Chasing shadows. There's this thing in shounen manga/anime about chasing the back of your sempai or the person you admire—you follow their back and keep your eyes on that point between their shoulder blades because it'll guide you. As I've said before, sometimes you realize that shadow your following has disappeared because you have this moment of getting to stand or sit next to the person.

And it's wonderful and terrifying and awesome. Because they're right there—right. there. You could reach over and poke them to make sure they're there, but maybe don't because that's a little weird. You get to talk and instead of asking for all the answers, maybe you get to offer some—like what a butter tart is or the difference between a Danforth and a Parkdale hipster and these little interesting things you know get added to the conversation with all the little interesting things they know and everyone is just a person.

And it's the coolest thing. If this is repetitive, it's because this keeps happening. It keeps whispering in my ear that this feeling is important, and that I could be doing more to help facilitate it for other people. What do I want to do with the rest of my life? How do I pass these opportunities and graciousness that others have given me? Does it have to take the form that I always thought it would?

I swear this was supposed to be about how amazing it was to have dinner with Libba Bray and how incredibly grateful I am for that, but it seems to have wandered off the path. We are deep in the wood of self-inspection here.  So I'll just stop until I work out what I'm trying to say, but I'm good if anyone is wondering. I'm well. And for the first time in months that is not just a deflection to keep people from worrying, it's truth. I am good and well. And maybe a little lost but very determined I will find my way back.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

State of Grace

I'd say I don't know where October went, but this is becoming a pattern and I do know where it went; I just didn't realize it had gone so quickly.

It went to Thanksgiving, and the Beautiful Reread (rereading The Caster Chronicles in preparation for Beautiful Redemption's release); it went to rediscovering what's important and what stands between importance and action, and it went to being reminded that there is a whole collection of people who want me to be happy.

Also, I listened to a whole lot of Taylor Swift and went to an IOFA event featuring Cory Doctorow and China Mieville. I am now a little in love with China Mieville who presents as an incredibly thoughtful, eloquent man of words.

This first bit of November was spent at World Fantasy and the Blog Ontario Meet Up—and spent being reminded there is a whole world of people who are doing what they love. And feeling like anything is possible again.

World Fantasy last year was tough for me, it was the beginning of the great discontent, and I didn't walk into it open-hearted or handed. Fortunately some of the things that happened last year were too marvelous to be defeated by a little pessimism, but this year was... it was like visiting friends. Obviously my feeling included has to do with the location being Ontario and that I've been meeting more and more of the Ontario SF/F community over the past year.

I got a reading spot. I haven't read since the TNRD library tour (2010), and I haven't read at con level since Montreal (2009.) And I missed it—I really, really missed it. I forgot I'm good at it. (Sort of like how I forgot I'm good at events until I helped out at Chapters Brampton in September.)

When we don't practice, we don't forget how to do something—we forget our confidence in our ability to do it. (These are not the same.) Maybe we don't even forget, maybe we just misplace it. It's like misplacing happiness during a rough patch. You know you had it, and you're relatively certain you'll find it again, you just sometimes feel like you've looked everywhere.

During the autograph session, I met a woman and her husband who come looking for me to tell me how much she had enjoyed my reading. And I really hope I wasn't dismissive to her, because I was a little overwhelmed and really hope that thank you expressed all the things that I couldn't.

In fact, all of WFC was a lot of feeling like the community was saying "oh hey girl, we haven't seen you in a while. Welcome back."

Good conversations at WFC—interesting ones about the purpose of Hummer stretch limos after the apocalypse or metaphysics or how the lake beds in Australia often need to be mowed.

Also, Brian Hades appeared and offered a group of us having a hallway party apple pie around 1:30 am. If you know Brian, you know this is exactly the kind of thing that he would do. I met him probably... oh it must be nearly ten years ago in at the Shuswap Writers Festival; he was one of the first publishing professionals to believe that I might have something.

My point is, this path is twisting and long and most of the traveling we do of it is never seen by the people who will become your readers.

My other point is that sometimes you look around and realize you're surrounded by your people and you didn't notice because you were surrounded.