Self, applied

A blog post! That must mean something worth sharing has happened, or that I have some time on my hands (laugh, please).  It’s a happening, and more momentous than any M. Night Shyamalan flop. Sixteen months ago I wrote a blog post – Apply Yourself, Young Man – chronicling a new project and my hopeful grant application. I had a good feeling. Well, that was all a bit rushed, my application was a mess and no surprise it was not successful. But. Yes, there’s a but.

And you know, I thought I would have finished the project by now, but in those 16 months I’ve written only three of the stories (nearly 30,000 words, mind you). A writer friend with a day job asked, “But does money really help you write?”  Oh yes, it does. For one, you can relax. For two, you can relax the next day, and the day after. And by relax I mean not worry, because for me, at least, worry is what gnaws through the cord that lights any stick of creative dynamite.

So yes, this time the Canada Council came through. I resisted opening the envelope for five days. Please don’t ask for an explanation of my behaviour, though if you do want to psychoanalyze me I suggest you buy my book of dreams.  But please don’t judge me. Anyway, a friend, a fine, fine writer friend with an amazing book of short fiction coming out this spring, a friend who was also grant-positive, said, when I explained the virgin envelope, the size, shape, colour and smell of it, “Open the goddamn envelope!”

Thank you, jury. I shall write, and write well.

Montreal and Back

You don’t expect water to suddenly go streaming up to the ceiling, a perfect rope of it. You don’t expect to see that two seats ahead of you on a plane. But it happens: the water jets up, blurps back down, the woman can’t believe what’s happened, the ceiling drips. The flight attendant catches it out the corner of his eye. His eye says hmm. My mind say uh huh, that’s not right. But it’s wiped and we fly on. Shouldn’t we be higher? What’s going on? No one notices. This isn’t 25,000 feet.  This is 5,000, maybe 7,000. And then we fall, dive down and the plane banks sharply to the right, turns, turns, turns into the sun we were leaving. A few passengers furrow their brows but most keep on chatting, reading, sleeping. I’d say something to the guy sitting next to me but he’s a ghost. I take my headphones off seconds before the announcement comes that unfortunately we are returning to Montreal due an issue with the aircraft’s ventilation system, i.e. cabin pressure. But we don’t drop from the sky, at least not in an unplanned (planed?) weigh.  We land. We board another. We get free drinks all the way home.

This was post-Forum. Post Montreal, McGill. The Canada Council had herded us, corralled us, milked us of ideas (no coming through slaughter) for two days. We obliged because free plane/food/hotel and we only feel whole around others like us unless they’re overly successful. But that rarely applies. They kept us together in tables and mine was Quill and Quire, Ricepaper, Canada Council, Cherie, LPG, Fetherling, ECW, Bernice, Theytus.  The pixelated head of  Richard Nash bobbed and weaved from a departure lounge in NYC. Outside the Forum was kindly Miss W., bringer of poetry and sustenance (and cute in a beret), and rude Asha on Valentine’s where a heart fell from the wall just missing the pakoras.

And it was cold. And I ate no bagels.