Monday, December 30, 2013

I have no one to blame but myself. And the CEO of Netflix.

My Christmas holidays have come and gone, and with them, a little bit of self-respect. I managed to get zero writing done in the time off work I had. Even when it came to Christmas cards I was like "Arggghhhh. Do I have to actually write something here?" Which was followed by a sort of goat sound. 

My standard 2013 Christmas card message. LAZY.

That is not my name, by the way. "Emi____." See what I'm talking about? I couldn't even be bothered to write my whole name!

Most of the time I eschewed Christmas cards altogether, opting instead for those teeny gift tags whose limited real estate make writing more than one's name impossible. Gift tags are absolutely brilliant for this very reason. I don't care how important you are to me or how much I love you -- from this day forward, you will only receive gift tags.

This writing laziness of mine stretched all the way back to my sister's early December baby shower. At the brief message I'd jotted in the card, one guest shouted, in mock horror, "But you're a writer! You should do better!" Which made me want to wrestle her to the ground and hogtie her with pink streamers.

So I feel bad about not writing. But I also feel pretty good. I needed a brain break, yes, but more than that, I needed to feel what I'm feeling right now: I miss writing. I don't feel like myself without it in my life, and the things I thought I could fill my life with if I chose to give it up, well, I don't seem to be doing those things. I mean, I had basically an entire week free, and I didn't do any of them.

Here are the things:
1. Teach myself the ukulele
2. Learn a new language
3. Enjoy winter
4. Something else that I forgot about, because that's how much I was going to follow through with it

So now all I have is a sore thumb from flipping through Netflix and a bruised sense of self-worth. Oh, and a Vitamix! (I got a Vitamix, you guys! Kale smoothies for everyone!)

I did manage to get in some outdoor exercise, though, despite the treacherous weather. For example, Anthony and I went for a walk on the trail near our place. Normally it would be clear of trees and full to the seams with joyful dogs. But post ice storm, it looked like this:

Anthony amidst trees bent and broken by the ice storm that hit
on December 22 and took 20% of Toronto's urban forest with it.

This is the kind of wintery BS that inspired my first novel. Which only served to remind me that I hadn't been working on my second novel. LAZY.

Anyways, that's me. How was your Christmas break, for those lucky enough to get one? Did you get any writing done? You can tell me, really. I promise not to hogtie you.

Friday, December 27, 2013

My Top Ten Books of 2013…

… and some from 2012and even 2008and some that weren't new in 2013 but I read them in 2013 (or 2012) or thought about them fondly in 2013 and so therefore thus hence am including them on this SEO-friendly list. 

Anyhoo, in no particular order, here are some reads that are well worth your time. (If you so happen to have the exact same taste in books that I do, that is.)

1. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
War, love and the reinvention of oneself—all painfully well noticed. Perfection. I gush about this book too much (here and here) so I'll say no more. 

2. The Crooked Maid by Dan Vyleta
A dark, strangely funny, WWII-era page-turner. It’s likely an under-the-radar-novel outside of Canada, so pick this one up, my international friends, and you'll have something "undiscovered" to recommend to that guy you always end up in the sauna with at the gym.

3. Treasure Island!!! by Sara Levine
Oh how I laughed and laughed! You will hate/love the main character and you will marvel at how Levine managed to pull it off.

4. Drunk Mom by Jowita Bydlowska
I normally don’t fall all over myself for non-fiction, but Bydlowska’s memoir left me dumbfounded for weeks after reading it. The tale she tells is brutally honest and scary and illuminating. Plus, the writing knocked my socks off. Say what you will about her actions while in the grip of alcoholism and new motherhoodsome members of the Canadian press certainly didbut Jowita Bydlowska is one of the most exciting up-and-coming writers writing today.

5. How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti
Some have argued that this novel is not really a novel. I think they’re just jealous that Heti came up with the idea first.

6. Orkney by Amy Sackville
A must-read for every writer of literary fiction, in my opinion. It will school you hard. 

7. The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner
I don’t care about motorcycles or the New York art scene in the 1970s, but the writing was so good and the characters so well realized that what I don't care about was quickly made irrelevant. Rachel Kushner is one of my new favorites.

8. The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
I’m half obsessed with North Korea, and the weirdness/horror presented in this brilliant book did not disappoint.

9. Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
Featuring a spy (who didn't set out to be a spy) and a writer (who has doubts about his ability to write), this is a fun, smart romp that explores two of the things I'm most fascinated with: writing/ego and the practicalities of espionage. 

10. City of Thieves by David Benioff
This novel was published back in 2008 but my love for it still burns as white hot as the night we first met. I don't lend it often because I'd feel deeply hurt if the borrower didn't want to marry City and have its babies like I did. It's on my Must Re-Read List for 2014. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas!!! (and an update on my rewrite)

My husband and I put up the Christmas tree on the weekend and it's safe to say it's the smallest tree I've ever had. 

Just to give you an idea of the true scale of the thing…

Other than that, the novel rewrite I started back in April is nearing completion. I've got one more chapter left to read through tonight and then it's off to my agent. I like the book quite a bit now, although I did find myself nodding off in a few chapters that didn't need much revising from the original. Here is the text message exchange between myself and my fabulous writer friend when I was editing those chapters:

How exciting can words be when you've read them 25 times, though, right? You could be writing about exploding dragons in space and you'd still be like "Ugh. Enough with the exploding space dragons already!"