Canadian

It Grew Into Something We Could No Longer Contain – The Tragically Canadian Thing

“I didn’t want this.” ~ The Hip (Pigeon Camera)

This morning-today-we are all saying the same thing. We don’t want this. Canada has just awoken from a weekend dedicated to one of its unofficial poet laureates and his iconically Canadian band. And we are feeling Hip Hangover. And we do not want the party to end.

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Defiant, Humourous, Courageous, Determined, Free – Gord Downie—Doing it his way.

Gord Downie sang his heart out Saturday evening in Kingston, Ontario, at the Tragically Hip’s last performance of their short whirlwind Man Machine Poem summer tour. But then, Gord always gives his all on stage. Perhaps for him, Saturday night in Canada was business as usual…maybe with a nudge and a wink to the huge elephant in the room that we all acknowledged in our tears and turned our backs on in our joy. The elephant being the Glioblastoma–an aggressive form of brain cancer that affects an estimated four to six in every 100,000 Canadians–that is slowly and inevitably taking our icon away from us. Acknowledge it or not, it is there. And Saturday was an opportunity for the nation to embrace our hero. And that is exactly what we did. We held our arms out high and proud and we hugged him like we would never let go.

With every song, we rocked, we sang, we wept, we felt its lastness, we applauded, we screamed, we sighed. And there were a lot of songs. The band treated the nation to 30 songs…and though it ended too soon for all of us, it also had an aura of neverending while we were in it.

Here’s the set-list for the August 20th concert:

“50 Mission Cap”

“Courage”

“Wheat Kings”

“At The Hundredth Meridian”

“In A World Possessed By The Human Mind”

“What Blue”

“Tired As Fuck”

“Machine”

“My Music At Work”

“Lake Fever”

“Toronto #4”

“Putting Down”

“Twist My Arm”

“Three Pistols”

“Fiddler’s Green”

“Little Bones”

“The Last Of The Unplucked Gems”

“Something On”

“Poets”

“Bobcaygeon”

“Fireworks”

Encore 1

“New Orleans Is Sinking”

“Boots Or Hearts”

“Blow At High Dough”

Encore 2

“Nautical Disaster”

“Scared”

“Grace, Too”

Encore 3

“Locked In The Trunk Of A Car”

“Gift Shop”

“Ahead By A Century”

It is fitting that their last show took place in Kingston, where they began their rock and roll journey. Not only did it take place in Kingston, but it took place in a venue said to have been built so the Hip would have a place to play whenever they came home. Not fitting enough for you? The venue’s address is The Tragically Hip Way.

Wherever you were on Saturday, you probably contemplated mortality, life, music, The Hip, and Canada. For me, it was Canada that I kept coming back to. From the perspective of being a Hip fan, though. And I was filled with appreciation. We are a nation that knows nothing of civic pride. We think of it and feel awkward and ashamed and we shy away from it…pride, after all, goeth before the fall. Maybe no other nation heeds those words more than ours. We are apologetically proud whenever we work up the gumption to feel pride.

But Gord and his band opened the door of our nation a crack and beckoned us to enter…every time they wrote a song. Our Canadian Poet wrote songs that were stories…but not just any old stories. They were OUR stories. Our history. He said to all of us—LOOK! THIS IS YOU! THIS IS ME! THIS IS US! He drags our zeitgeist out into the open and screams, “BEHOLD!” By definition, Gord IS our current zeitgeist (the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time). And he does it always with a mischievous wink and a nod. This is us, but don’t take it too seriously. What I love most about the Tragically Hip lyrics–especially those that reek of Canadiana–is that they give us permission to embrace ourselves. That might in fact be Gord’s greatest gift to us all. Sure, the lyrics are beautifully poetic and the music is solid and soulful and lasting…but the feeling we are left with after partaking of the band’s offerings—That is the thing. That bright shining nugget of pride we get in hearing our history sung back to us? It’s golden. “We all squeezed the stick and we all pulled the trigger.”

I’m extremely sad that it has to end this way. I can’t imagine not eagerly anticipating the next Hip album. Gord’s lyrics are so…so…SO! I look forward to unwrapping them with every new song that comes along. It’s a Canadian thing…a thing we will miss more than we know.

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Where did you watch the Hip concert? I joined my brother, sister-in-law, and dozens of others in their backyard party…complete with a large projector screen.

I’ll share my ode to Gord one more time here:

My previously published ode to Gord (Published in Raven Poetry Journal,©2006) :

An Open Letter of Adoration to Gordon Downie

Did you ever see a hypothetical sky, Gordo?
The kind that strips the greys away,
swallows clouds and shivers stars to focus?
Did you ever rest supine, dockside midnight hush,
or did you simply like the way
it fell from your iconic tongue,
beautiful, sublime and free,
filled with nostalgia and tears
of Bobcaygeon love?
Did you ever hypothetical, Gordo?
Twist your words to night
and black and white?
Or did you simply like the way
they fell, iconic from your tongue?
You fill your lungs with melancholy, Gordo,
and send it on its way,
bright the night with shivered sound,
delivering one star at a time.

 

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A shot of Gord I took a few years ago at a previous concert I attended.

“It’s like we burned our boots with no contingency plan.” ~ The Hip (Pigeon Camera)

If I were Gord Downie, I’d be wondering right now if it was enough…if I had arrived close enough to the vision in my head of what I wanted creatively. Creative people are always slagging themselves…I didn’t quite get there, just one more brushstroke would have made it better, just one more pass with the red pen. We are always wondering what we could have done to make it better. Well, Mr. Downie, you did it. “YOU DID WHAT YOU SET OUT TO DO.”

Thank you, Gord Downie. And thank you Tragically Hip…for giving us music, words, laughter, tears, and a sense of who we are as a nation in this world filled with nations. You are Canadian. You are Canada.

TO DONATE TO THE GORD DOWNIE FUND FOR BRAIN CANCER RESEARCH CLICK THIS LINK

Sending love and light to Gord, Gord, Paul, Rob, Johnny & Davis…and all of their families.

Waiting for Godot, Or Something…

I realize now that Godot may not be coming at all. I do. I get the whole ‘if not today, then surely tomorrow‘ ideology, too. I try to remain hopeful.

It’s hard, though…waiting on the slow wheels of the publishing world. What makes it harder is when everyone around you seems to believe in your work. Work you do not believe in yourself. Work that has been out in the market for going on 8 months without results.

When I finished writing my latest young adult novel, Pride Must Be a Place, back in July of 2015, I had the sensation that it might be the best thing I wrote so far. I felt REALLY GOOD about it. And then I had a few people read it. And they all thought it was great…maybe my best work to date. So I sent it to my agent. And she seemed to love it, too. So I waited for the good news.

And it has not yet arrived. I keep coming back to the same point every day where I wait to hear the good news. And every day it doesn’t come. And it doesn’t come. And it doesn’t come.

I seem to be one of those people who cannot write when they are waiting on their most recently completed manuscript to be picked up by a publisher. And believe me, I have a lot of WIPs in which I could be writing. I’m at a standstill. Waiting for Godot…and realizing that he might never come.

As I said, I finished the manuscript in July. Almost a year ago. I’ve never ever been sure about my work…but I felt sure about this one. I thought, ‘maybe it’ll have a home by September!?’ And then I had to edit that thought to, ‘…October!?’ Then I allowed it to leave my train of thought as we took off for Cuba in a last-bit-of-sun-before-the-snow-falls vacation. “Surely tomorrow!” I kept thinking. It would be nice to come home from Cuba to discover a publisher had picked up Pride.

Nope. Didn’t happen. I still hoped. November? December? January? February? NO. No. No. No.

March? April? May? No. No. No. Another holiday in the sun went by as we took off to Barbados in May…as I hoped to hear good news from my agent.

It is now JUNE, a month shy of a year after I finished Pride Must Be a Place. I am wondering how to get back onto the horse and write something new. I know I’ll have an Adrenalin shot next month when I take part in the annual MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON. Nothing says, “Get back into writing” like “you have seventy-two hours to write a novel. Don’t mess it up.”

I’m thinking that I best get off my ass and start contributing to some of my WIPs. I can’t wait forever. I’m beginning to lose faith in the possibility of Pride ever being published…just because, in the beginning, my faith was so entirely strong. Clearly, it didn’t present as the novel I thought it was going to be. My agent is still trying, but it might be an ugly baby. Who knows. Who ever knows?!

I’m boggled by the publishing industry and the reading public. I’m at a place where I think I need to leave behind the young adult market for a while. Even after Burn Baby Burn Baby made the official 2016 IN THE MARGINS BOOK AWARDS LIST put out by the American Library Association’s Library Services for Youth in Custody (LSYC), it did not see sales. Even after many amazing reviews, it did not see sales. My voice in the young adult market is not what readers are interested in. After 3 published young adult novels, and no interest…I have to reevaluate. With the 4th one (Pride) with my agent, I have decided to back off this market and try something new.

I’m pondering what that something new is. And don’t get me wrong, I did not start writing to sell books. But I am discovering that I am losing my motivation to write based on the fact that I am writing for nobody. A writer needs readers. I don’t have many. I’ve been hopeful. But it’s not happening.

So, the market has spoken…and I am listening. Time to move on. I want to get that NEED and CONSTANT DESIRE to write back. I don’t have it when I know my efforts are futile…slipping into a void of nothingness. So, changing gears will be the first step. Was it Einstein who said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? Well…that’s what I’ve been doing in writing young adult novels. Time for change.

In the meantime, July is quickly approaching! The Muskoka Novel Marathon is galloping towards me…and I need help! The writers who take part in this 72 hour novel writing marathon are collecting funds for literacy, to fund the Simcoe/Muskoka County YMCA literacy programs, which are underfunded. All money collected goes directly to helping run these programs. So anything you donate will be helping someone struggling with illiteracy get on their feet. We are writers helping readers. We can only do this if you donate to the cause. ANY amount will help. Please consider sponsoring me on my journey to my next novel. Together, we can eradicate illiteracy. You can make a donation directly to my page by clicking on the image below:

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Now, while I have you…you can check out the reviews for my 5 novels on Amazon. And you can peek inside my novels to read the opening chapters by using the LOOK INSIDE feature. Click on the image below to go to my Amazon Author Page. Somebody has to! (-:

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Please keep your fingers crossed for me. I sort of need PRIDE MUST BE A PLACE to find a home. I can’t have what I believe to be the best novel I have ever written to get passed up. There is no rhyme or reason in this industry. Novels I thought wouldn’t get picked up DID. The one and only one I ever thought was worthy has not been picked up. I still believe…

 

Gord Downie – Canada’s Poet for the People

I love him for his brain. And his agitated exuberance on stage. I can’t even bear to think of a world without him. Not just yet. People who make you feel so good and alive and happy and grateful should just get a free ticket to the end of the ride…to old age and dotage and shiny happy moments in the sunset with the approaching midnight sky softly revealing the constellations to them, and only them, one star at a time. It’s not fair.

I heard the news today. Gord Downie. Terminal. Brain Cancer.

I know I don’t know him. I know, more importantly, probably, that he doesn’t know me. I lay no claim to him. But also, he is all mine. I hold him, like a candle, to the Canadian poetic landscape, and I see that he shines. Oh my god, does he shine. I have long considered him among the greatest living Canadian poets. I don’t want to check that box that moves him to another column. I’m not ready. I’m selfish. I want more. His words are wisdom. His words are love. His words are Canada.

Sending him and his family (and his band family) peace and love and light in this time and always.

 

My previously published ode to Gord (Published in Raven Poetry Journal,©2006) :

 

An Open Letter of Adoration to Gordon Downie

Did you ever see a hypothetical sky, Gordo?
The kind that strips the greys away,
swallows clouds and shivers stars to focus?
Did you ever rest supine, dockside midnight hush,
or did you simply like the way
it fell from your iconic tongue,
beautiful, sublime and free,
filled with nostalgia and tears
of Bobcaygeon love?
Did you ever hypothetical, Gordo?
Twist your words to night
and black and white?
Or did you simply like the way
they fell, iconic from your tongue?
You fill your lungs with melancholy, Gordo,
and send it on its way,
bright the night with shivered sound,
delivering one star at a time.

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Gord Downie – Exudes Life on the Stage in his frenetic brilliance. Canada’s Poet.

Canadian Writers’ Summit! Big Issues in YA Writing…

CWS

The Canadian Writers’ Summit is scheduled to take place this coming June at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto, and it is HUGE! This is being billed as a SUPER-CONFERENCE, as it is hosted by a bevy of Canadian writer organizations. Members of all of the writing organizations hosting the event (and there are many), as well as anyone interested in writing, are encouraged to attend.

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve been added as a last minute replacement to participate in the BIG ISSUES IN YOUNG ADULT WRITING panel discussion on Friday June 17th. This is especially pleasing to me because I dedicate my novel writing life on tackling young adult issues. It’s what I do. I have no idea whether or not I’m good at it, but I am 100% committed and passionate about doing it. Everything I write for the YA market is issue oriented.

From the CWS website, here’s the write-up for the panel discussion:

Jump into the world of young adult literature. The subject matter and story lines of YA literature are typically consistent with the age and experiences of the main character, but YA literature spans the spectrum of literary genres and themes. Hear more about the big issues of today in YA from Canada’s YA literary writers.

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I hope to contribute some helpful wisdom to the conversation and look forward to discussing the importance of tackling issues in YA literature. It’s a delicate thing to do in fiction, especially when writing for today’s intelligent teens—injecting issues into story without preaching or talking down…and without making it obvious that the issue is there. One needs a delicate balance to do this—as, in the end, story and entertainment value are paramount. Issues kinda sorta need to be there without being there. So looking forward to this Super-conference…visit the website today. It’s a super packed conference that most definitely has something for everyone!

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CLICK THIS IMAGE TO VISIT THE CWS WEBSITE – Hope to see you there!

To check out my own issue-centric young adult novels, click on the covers to visit their Amazon pages for details and to read the openings through the LOOK INSIDE feature:

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My other titles, Sebastian’s Poet & The Reasons, are definitely ISSUE stories facing children as well…but they have mature themes and are NOT considered Young Adult.

See you at the CANADIAN WRITERS’ SUMMIT at Harbourfront this June!