Saturday, January 13, 2018

Weekend writing posture

After sitting at a desk all week at work, this is often how I get writing done on the weekends. 

Giving birth to a book ain't pretty or comfortable.

But it's still fun.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Kootenay Inspired

My brother Paul wrote a beautiful coffee table book called Kootenay Inspired. It's about how people in British Columbia's Kootenay region live life, stay inspired and inspire everyone around them. Full of stories of adventure, perseverance and community building, it's a very special read. The photos are spectacular, but it's the stories of the lives lived that will really wow you. With deep empathy and insight, Paul zeroed in on what made these incredible people tick. 

My brother funded this project himself. (He's a hydrologist/scientist who does Shiatsu on the side.) Half the proceeds go to two local charities, the rest he's hoping will cover his costs. This was a passion project. He wrote this book because he cares deeply about his community and also has a nose for a good story. Paul is a fascinating guy himself. A skier and hunter and outdoorsman supreme. True story: he once killed two deer with one arrow. If Paul didn't write this book, he would certainly have been in it. 

You can find out more about Kootenay Inspired here. Below are three photos from the book, but there are many more inside its cover, all gorgeous. 


Sunday, December 17, 2017

The best books I read in 2017

Albert Einstein once said, “Physicists believe the separation between past, present and future is only an illusion.” Apparently the bookish media does not side with physics, what with the proliferation of “best books of 2017” lists.

Like most years, my list includes books I read in 2017 but were not published in 2017. Physics aside, I've opted for this sort of list instead of the traditional because I already name-dropped most of my favourites from 2017 right hereSo Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum, The Dark and Other Love Stories by Deborah Willis, A Three-Tiered Pastel Dream by Lesley Trites and Next Year, For Sure by Zoey Leigh Peterson. All Canadian authors, by the way. Yesssir. Do yourself a favour and read those books. They deserve your time and money.

Without further adieu, here's the rest of my favourite books of my reading year.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (2017)
I decided not to like this book before I read it. Mostly, because I normally dislike the Booker prize nominees and especially the winners. And also because I am a tough sell on an unusual format. Not sure why. Because I'm boring, probably. Even though he didn't write like 35% of the content of this book, Saunders's research was fantastic. (You can read about his process here.) And what he did write was spellbinding.

Little Sister by Barbara Gowdy (2017)
Gowdy is one of Canada's most respected authors, which says a lot about Canada because she writes about some twisted, experimental stuff. This book may actually be one of her more mainstream works of fiction, and I loved it. A woman finds herself in the body of another woman. Sort of. Weather is to blame, among other things, and the complicating factors amount to a very entertaining read. Gowdy and I have similar interests and approaches, I think. We both write highly emotional, weird fiction, and we both like to be concrete with our metaphors. So I felt a real connection to this novel. (By the way, Gowdy is fabulous in person. I saw her speak at IFOA this year and she kept the crowd well entertained. I wrote a bit about that event here.)

The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt (2000)
Brilliant and maddening in equal parts. If you like David Foster Wallace, give DeWitt a go.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (1938)
Set by the sea in a grand old British estate, this book drips with atmosphere. It's a classic, so I'm ashamed to say I'd never heard of it until this year. The suspense is expertly paced and the tension high. The cast of characters is vast and well rounded--a young woman in way over her head and her mysterious older husband. Plus a resentful household staff--my favourite kind! The main character, though, is a secret that not even the grave could keep buried.

The Slip by Mark Sampson (2017)
I was laughing out loud one second and marvelling at the structure and the language the next with this novel. Even though The Slip is narrated by such a myopic, self-involved character, he's circling the drain of self-awareness the whole time, and it's such fun to watch him go. He gets it, but he also does not get it. Like, at all.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (2005)
This is my third reading of this book. For me, it’s perfect.

So Much for That Winter by Dorthe Nors (2016)
I stumbled up on this book at a book fair, I think? I don't remember. But I do remember thinking "Hey I would never normally buy something like this." I'm very glad I did! The format of these novellas is unusual, so I was turned off when I flipped through. Especially since it was a translation. If you're going to chop up prose in sort of stanza-things, how good can it be in translation? The answer: it can be very, very good! Also, inspiring. Nors' quickness and nano-scopic attention to life got me excited about writing again.

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang (2002)
Sci-fi short fiction at its best. I couldn't get enough of these. They made me rethink a few things I thought I knew about the rules of writing, and even life. By the way, this is the collection I recommend to all my male friends who insist they “don’t like fiction.”

Made for Love by Alissa Nutting (2017)
The premise is genius and bizarre, the surprises are constant, and all the rules get broken. The main character has run away from her controlling, psycho, tech genius husband. Another character falls in love with a dolphin. If you like the offbeat, wicked smart and wildly original, read read read this book. ** update ** I just realized who Alissa Nutting reminds me of! Douglas Adams! If you like his books, I think it's a slam-dunk that you'll like Nutting. Although she's certainly more R-rated. So you might like her books even more. ;)

Rotten Perfect Mouth by Eva H.D. (2015)
I'd write effusively about this striking book of poetry, but this guy already nailed it. I read it for the second time this year and I got even more out of it.

By the way, in 2018 I'm excited to read For All The Men (and Some of the Women) I've Known by Danila Botha, I am a Truck by Michelle Winters, a book of poetry called Measures of Expatriation by Vahni Capildeo (who I saw speak at IFOA and was brilliant), and Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Last night my husband told me he was worried that this whole "sand" scene I was writing would wind up as some sort of excuse for procrastination. I said of course it wouldn't! 

And then I made these.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

My quest for the Holy Grail of chairs

I sold my beloved Herman Miller Aeron chair last night. I was sad to see it go, but the Aeron could not keep pace with my body's remarkable capacity for deterioration.

I sat on the Aeron at an old job and loved it, so much so that I paid $1300 for one for my home desk. But it never felt quite the same. Maybe the one at work was worn in better, or maybe its supernatural comforts were all in my head, tricking me to stay at a job that was sucking my soul dry. For whatever reason, it didn't work out between the two of us, and now the Aeron is just another carcass in what is becoming a vast chair graveyard.

There's lots of bodies buried in there. Kneeling "chairs." Exercise ball "chairs." Ergonomic fucking super chairs. Amish kitchen-table chairs. Adjustable chairs wrapped in felt for traction. Dining room basic-bitch chairs. (And yes, I've tried standing desks, but those are not chairs.)

Of course, no chair can solve my problems. My chronic pain issues go back to birth, so I'll probably always struggle with disc herniations and hip pain. But the right chair can make a difference. Case in point: the Örfjäll/Sporren. It's from Ikea. Of course it is. Why do I bother shopping anywhere else?

I bought it on the weekend. So far, so good. This chair works okay for me because I can sort of hitch my lower ribs over the back of it, which keeps my spine elongated. (That's a hot tip I got from the Gohkale Method.) Plus I can roll my shoulders back, which is hugely important. All sitting is rough business, though, and no chair will ever be perfect. But I'm hoping the simple, common sense ergonomics of this chair will help me power through the winter writing.

Of course, getting up from a chair is the most important thing. Just stop writing every 25 minutes and stand and stretch, Saso, gawd. I also do this stuff called Foundation Training. It's been a lifesaver, literally. The rehab exercises Eric Goodman has come up with -- plus the brilliance of my rehab trainer Nicole -- have made a huge difference. I'm not normally one to spread the gospel, but I see so many people in the world struggling with back pain, especially writers. This program may be worth checking out.

My advice for back pain sufferers is this: Listen to your body, work on your posture, learn how to breath, get up and move, and don't feel hopeless --- you can get better. Oh! And don't spend on your chair what you should spend on your mortgage.