Tuesday September 18th of 2018 was a traveling day for us. That was the day we made our way by bus from Jaipur to Agra in India.
We had a surprise stop along the way at a beautiful stepwell in Abhaneri. It was called Chand Baori Stepwell.
While there, we visited a ‘holy man’ who was at a small temple off to the side. He tied red and yellow pratisara protection threads on our wrists and offered us a blessing. I’m writing about it today, on Tuesday May 14th, 2019, because my threads finally broke free of my wrist this morning.
It was bound to happen. It was just some threads tied together around my wrist. I’m actually surprised it lasted almost 8 months. Michael’s is still intact. Not only that, his looks way better than mine looked when it snapped. I’m guessing he’ll get a full year out of his. We shall see.
They say you should place your pratisara protection threads into a flowing waterway after they come off your wrist. I now have an offering for Rio Sarria, the river that runs through Samos, Spain, along the Camino. The river runs alongside the monastery there and I love the idea of leaving my protection threads in the river there.
There are places in the world where one enters and they immediately know they’ve discovered one of their heart-homes. Samos is definitely one of those places for me. From the moment I saw the monastery from afar as we entered the town, I knew it was a special place. I knew I would have to return.
Now, I get to Samos added meaning by leaving something behind when I go back in September. (-:
“If a writer stops observing he is finished. Experience is communicated by small details intimately observed.”~ Ernest Hemingway
I think a LOT about Ernest Hemingway. To be honest, I am not a fan of quite a bit of his work. I should probably give some of it another glance, seeing how much I love and adore both The Old Man and the Sea and A Moveable Feast.
What I do often think about are Hemingway’s many quotable nuggets of writerly wisdom and knowledge. I don’t always agree with his advice, and I often think, ‘Whoa there, Ernest! Who died and made you lord god king of everything and everyone. Chillax!’ I feel a my-way-or-the-highway vibe from him sometimes. But I love those two books SO MUCH that I at least stop and think about everything he has to say in regards to writerly advice. He was good at it.
The quote above is one of my favourites. I see it bandied about now and again and it stops me in my tracks, simply because it’s so very delightful. It falls into line with my belief that we writers should get out into the world and explore…even if it’s only the world of our own little micro-neighbourhoods. We should always observe—others, smells, textures, colours, tastes, light, EVERYTHING. We are, after all, the final funnels through which the world flows prior to splattering down on the page. We should at least make that splat fall onto the page in a way that makes sense for the reader. We must never stop observing. We must never stop cataloguing the small details. We must remain intimate with them. We must, we must, we must. The writer must be vigilant with the details of the world around them. It is necessary. It is the playground in which we live and love and play and grow. The only way for a writer to celebrate the universe properly is to GET IT RIGHT when we reflect it back to our readers.
I think I have Franny (AKA Franny Frannerton of the Frannington Frannies), my golden retriever with a golden light inside her, to thank for my return to WANDERLUST, for my return to my observations of the universe about me…both in the macro and the minutiae. She’s gone now, bless her. But she was a wonderful companion who brought me back to nature and gave me back my deep desire to explore. She definitely made me a better writer. She brought me into focus enough to examine the small details. She made me slow down. We all need reminders to slow down, to breathe in the universe around us. Not just writers, but everyone. We need to experience it, not just walk through it.
A writer friend of mine had some great news recently. I first met Jennifer Turney at the Muskoka Novel Marathon. She’s been a constant inspiration to my writing life over the past couple of years now. She’s on fire in her creativity and it’s so inspiring to see. Jennifer is observing the small details. She recently discovered that her short story Spot, Sun, or Otherwise took 2nd Place in the recent BLANK SPACES writing contest. Writers are asked to write a short story based on a photo prompt. I want to share a link to the story here, because when I read it I saw an entire world unfold. In just under 1,000 words, Jennifer created an entire world. She really locked into Hemingway’s vibe on this one. She is nowhere near finished. Jennifer Turney’s just getting started!
Today marks what would have been the 80th birthday of my mother, Davida Cecilia (nee Creamer) Craig. Everyone called her Dee. She liked milestone birthdays and she would have loved this one. 80. I always thought there was something magical about her birth year because it was 1939. The same year as The Wizard of Oz. I always remembered that odd fact, for some reason.
A couple of weeks ago, I took out the recipe box my mother used to keep. To be honest, there was a time when we kept it together. We once began a project together of organizing that box and re-writing all the recipes on index cards. We bought the alphabetical dividers and everything. It was going to be a perfectly appointed collection to pass down. As I scrolled through the chaos of cards, pamphlets, magazines, magazine clippings and scrap pieces of paper with faded recipes scrawled on them, it became obvious that the project was a complete failure. We hadn’t even made it halfway through the reorganization process, and it seems to have declined back to chaos in the ensuing years. This recipe box is the Miss Havisham of recipe boxes. Hope lost.
But perhaps this is the way recipe collections should be, no? Fully loved and used and faded and worn and torn and in shambles. Maybe that’s the sign of a good recipe collection. Maybe our little project was where we went wrong. It was, come to think of it, my idea. Sure, Mom always said, “One day I should sit down and sort this mess out.” But I wonder now if everyone who loves to bake and cook says that occasionally when they open up their fragile elastic-reinforced recipe collections to get to work.
What I also realized as I flipped through all the beloved baking recipes from my childhood is that we must have began that project when I was no more than 10 years old. All the rewritten recipes on index cards were in my childhood eerily perfect and meticulous left-handed scrawl. I remember sitting at the kitchen table with her and going through the recipes and being cautious to the point of insanity while I carefully wrote them out. All the 1/2s and 1/4s and 1/3s had to be 100% correct. Not a single word could be omitted. Baking is, after all, an exact science.
Our most baked recipe had to be peanut butter cookies (molasses cookies would take a quick second place…but they were harder to make and took more time). That’s the recipe I looked for while I took my nostalgic dip back into the recipe box. It was only after 3 thorough trips down memory lane that I finally found the recipe in a spiral notebook. I never did find the index card. And almost nothing was filed in alphabetical order in the filing system.
The peanut butter cookie recipe that I did finally find, after much panic, was in my mother’s gorgeous swirling curlicue handwriting. I always thought she had the most magical handwriting of them all. I remember watching her make words come to life on the page, knowing I’d never be able to come close to that kind of fancy. But I followed each and every swirl when I made my first post-Mom batch of peanut butter cookies.
In retrospect, maybe the bomb that went off inside the recipe box that we never quite got a handle on is an allegory for the bomb that went off between us. No matter. Things happened. They won’t take away the time we spent together, though. We had a few things together. One was definitely baking. One was photo albums. The two of us were the official curators of our family photo albums. A third was puzzles. I can’t even begin to count the hours we spent together working on puzzles at the dining room table. One picture appeared after the other, seemingly out of nowhere. We never seemed to tire of that one.
Rest in peace, Mom. I’m glad that all the good memories eventually came bubbling back up to the surface. They never go away, do they? Not really. I just have to close my eyes and I remember being elbows deep in batter, helping you make your own birthday cake and trying DESPERATELY not to ask you for any help…because nobody should have to make their own birthday cake. Not now, not ever. Happy Birthday.
I have a book out on submission right now and I’d probably trade all my other publications combined to see it to market. I just finished a reread. This is something I sometimes do when a book is out in the hands of publishers. It’s on my list of thing I do to second guess myself and question my abilities as a writer. I still love this book, though. I still hope it finds a home. It’s not often that I feel this good about something I wrote. So, fingers crossed. I’m kind of at a standstill at the moment, because I’m thinking so much about this novel finding a home that it stops me from diving into the next and the next. I’m sure it won’t be an excuse forever. It will either happen or it won’t.
The countdown to the beginning of Our Camino Adventure is now 181 days. As much as I love spring and summer, I have never wished them to speed by as much as I am wishing them to do so now. On September 10th we are boarding a plane that will take us to Madrid, by way of Lisbon, and I cannot wait. The Camino de Santiago is constantly percolating in the back of my mind. I daydream about the day my feet will once again touchdown on its sacred path. Like Frank N. Furter realizing he’s about to get the opportunity to return to his home planet of Transsexual in the galaxy of Transylvania, I am beside myself with excitement.
On the day I went away, goodbye Was all I had to say, now I I want to come again and stay, oh my my Smile, and that will mean I may
Cause I’ve seen oh, blue skies through the tears In my eyes And I realize, I’m going home
Unlike Frank N. Furter, I’m not going to find out at the last second that I’ll be lasered to death just before take-off. At least I hope that’s not in the cards for me.
We now have our entire itinerary mapped out. We managed, through trial and error, to come up with it all by ourselves. We’re hoping we aced the journey and gave ourselves enough but not too much time for each day’s trek. It’s such a fine balance when figuring out in advance how far you’re going to walk each day. And with the throngs growing each and every year on the Camino**, we didn’t want to take our chances with not booking our nightly stays in advance. So, it’s all locked and loaded…even though we still have 181 days to go.
**In 2017 the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago de Compostela received 301,006 pilgrims, up from 237,882 in 2014…which is the year I first walked the Camino. Last year, there was an even greater amount of pilgrims. More are expected to walk in 2019.
I will be attempting a BAREFOOT walk this coming Camino. I went barefoot for a few portions of my last Camino. Hopefully, I can do it all the way…only slipping into footwear to enter places that won’t allow bare feet. That’s the goal, anyway. We shall see.
THE SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION FOR THE TOPICS OF THIS POST
Not really six degrees.
Mom’s Birthday – The Book I have on Submission Takes Place on the Camino de Santiago – I’m walking the Camino. I’m dedicating this pilgrimage to the memory of my mother. Full circle.
Anyway…a lot on my mind today. I find getting it out helps. Happy Birthday, Mom…wherever you happen to be in the universe. Imagine me baking you a cake and I’ll imagine you being impressed by my cake decorating abilities.
Two things. The first, I’m thrilled to announce the release of an anthology in which I have a short story! Love_Is_Love released yesterday (Jan 24/19):
Love_Is_Love: An Anthology for LGBTQIA+ Teens
All proceeds from the sale of the anthology go to THE TREVOR PROJECT (The leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ+ youth. The Trevor Lifeline: 866.488.7386.)
My story is called THIS IS ME IN GRADE NINE and it follows a trans girl in the moments leading up to her first day of high school.
Here’s some cover love for you! The strength of the Rainbow Fist in the Air is divine:
…and if so, which do you prefer—the hard or soft option?
I have a novel–HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN–in the hands of my agent, who has it sent out on submission at the moment. The waiting is the hardest part. When you’re waiting to hear back from agents/publishers—whether it’s for a novel, a poem, an article, an essay or a grocery list—what kind of response do you prefer? Are you one of those people who would rather have an immediate rejection, or are you willing to wait for months on end for a possibly-maybe? Another one of my novels has been with a publisher for about 6 months now. There are days that go by where I forget it even exists… and other days where I want to send an email to remind them of my existence (something one does not do). I suppose we are all like Bambi’s mother. “Don’t go into the meadow!” and then that inexplicable need to go into the meadow…
I’d rather not get shot by the hunter, but I still feel the need to know if the hunter can see me or not. “I’m over here! I’m over here!” –waving frantically, waiting to be shot. “Hello!”
How do you like to be served? Rejection is a medicine best served quickly, is it not?
(Originally appeared as PART THREE in a THREE PART SERIES in the WORDWEAVER.)
As our plane landed at the Manda Island airstrip, I was crazy with anticipation. Out the window, I had glimpses of the Indian Ocean and the tiny Arabic/Swahili island of Lamu!
Our first dhow (a traditional Arab sailing vessel) ride took us to Lamu Island. I didn’t know then that I would spend much of the upcoming week aboard these beautiful boats. We climbed from the dhow onto cement stairs that ascended right up out of the water. Lamu Town!
We arrived on a very special day: Islamic New Year, 1430—a day of festivities: donkey races, dhow races, dancing in the streets and vibrant reverent prayer. I was enamoured with everything I saw. Fellow traveller Venus Thrash was
offered a donkey ride upon our arrival. We followed her through the narrow streets of Lamu Town as she was escorted, like visiting royalty, to Lamu Fort and the town square. We were swept up and fully embraced in their celebration!
I woke the next morning at 4 a.m. to the gorgeous sound of Muslim prayer. It was so beautiful, I didn’t care about the early hour. I had too much to take in to waste time sleeping. The weekend was free time and only half of our group had arrived in Lamu. Eight of us had arranged for a special day trip with one of the dhow captains.
The dhow crew took us to Manda Beach, where we swam in the ocean while they made us a meal of fresh fish, coconut rice and tantalizing curry. After the meal, which was served under the shade of an acacia tree on beach sand-raked smooth by the crew, we lazed around while the crew cleaned up. Later, we piled into the dhow and made our way through an intricate mangrove forest waterway. As the path narrowed, we had to step out into the black waters and walk among the ancient mangroves to the entrance of the 15th-century Swahili trading town of Takwa. We walked the ruins with mouths agape. Crumbling walls of an ancient mosque, dinosaur baobab trees, wells, homes, a withering school and the burial site of a revered Imam…it all fascinated us. The air of Takwa was alive, abuzz—either with the voices of long dead ghosts or a mass of unseen insects. We didn’t know which. We only knew the peace of being there…the sacredness of the island.
Unfortunately, we only had half an hour in Takwa. Any longer and the waterway leading to the island would vanish. We’d be forced to spend the night within the island’s sacred hum. As much as we loved the ruins, we didn’t have to be told twice when it was time to leave.
One last surprise for the day… we emerged from the mangrove forest at the precise moment the sun touched the horizon and melted into the Indian Ocean. Perfect timing! We watched the sun melt into the ocean as we ate freshly cut fruit served to us by the crew.
That was just the first full day on Lamu. Every day was the same: perfection. We had our writing classes on the rooftop terrace of a hotel in the centre of town—a terrace with a 360 degree view of Lamu Town and the ocean surrounding it. We had sun, donkeys, dhows, sharks, weddings, Masai dancers, poetry readings on the beach, Imams, absolute joy in the face of abject poverty, a dancing/singing festive Kiswahili Christmas Eve mass in a tiny Catholic church, Rastafarians, children playing soccer, hennaed hands and so much more.
What a perfect place to end our Kenyan trip. I will never forget the people of Lamu. Their joy has changed me. Their remarkable radiance is something we could all aspire to. And writing. Ah, yes. I was there for the love of writing. My passion for words has never been stronger. The beauty of the world classroom…what a perfect place to dance with one’s muse!
What is SPARK? I’m so glad you asked. You can click on the Spark 10 participant badge above to visit the Spark site.
SPARK is a participatory creativity event that takes place four times a year. The rules are simple: Writers send their artist partners a story or a poem; artists send an image of their painting, photograph or sculpture. Musicians and video artists send either a link or a file of their work. Once all the creations have changed hands, the participants have 10 days to use their designated partner’s piece as a jumping off point for new work of their own.
The SPARK site will post the inspiration pieces, along with the response pieces, once the 10 day project draws to a close. It’s a collaborative art project! And SPARK site readers get to see how art begets art in such a unique and interesting way.
Keep a link to the SPARK site so you can discover the inspiration and response pieces, once the project wraps up. There are participants from all over the world taking part. It’s bound to be an exciting exhibit, once unveiled!
(I received a painting from a fellow participant, and I sent her a poem. Now, we are both leaping away from these pieces to create two new ones! Can’t wait to see what she comes up with.)
I don’t remember a September that wasn’t action-packed. Historically, it just seems like one of those months where everything happens at once. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! This September is no exception. Things started to roll today, and it’s looking like yet another exciting September for me.
September 1st – My poem WHEN VENUS TAKES A RIDE was posted on the website of the Parliamentary Poet Laureate. It was chosen as the Poem of the Month by the Parliamentary Poet Laureate, Pierre DesRuisseaux. It will be featured for the month of September, and archived on the site for two years. I wrote this poem after my first day on the island of Lamu, off the coast of Kenya. I went there this past December with the Summer Literary Seminars, as part of their Kenya writing program. We took a plane to Manda Island from Nairobi and then hopped a dhow over to the island of Lamu. Once there, the group was given a walking tour of Lamu Town. During this tour, one of the poets in the group, Venus Thrash, was given a ride on a donkey (there are no cars on Lamu, but there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of donkeys). The poem is about that experience.
September 11 – Just like the second Saturday of every month (except for August), the Writers’ Community of Durham Region (WCDR) hosts it’s monthly Breakfast Meeting. If you’re a writer in OR NEAR the Durham Region, these are NOT to be missed. The September Breakfast Meeting speaker is Neil Crone. Personally, I think he’s one of the funniest people in Canada. It’s a DON’T-MISS month! Neil will be talking about writing humour.
September 24-25 – Uxbridge Celebration of the Arts. It’s a 25-year anniversary celebration of the vibrant artistic community of Uxbridge, Ontario. And when I say vibrant, I mean electrifying. I’m constantly amazed by the artistic community in this small town just west of Port Perry, Ontario. I’ve been drawn there on several occasions for BIG TIME artistic endeavors. This time, I’m partaking in the fun. I’ve been chosen to be the playwright for the 25-year anniversary celebration. On the 24th of September I will be given a prompt and I will have 25 hours not only to write a one-act play, but to send it off to my director, Jessica Outram, have her run through rehearsals with the actors AND have it performed live on stage at the Uxbridge Music Hall at the 25th hour. So I’m giving myself about 5-6 of those 25 hours to actually pen the script…as I think they’ll need the bulk of the hours to rehearse. This is the kind of thing I absolutely love! I was fortunate enough to do this type of playwriting on two other occasions, for Driftwood Theatre, as one of the playwrights for their 2009 and 2010 Trafalgar24 Play Creation Festival. I can’t wait to find out what I will be writing about! AND…the best part…watching it come to life just a few hours after it’s written. I am constantly amazed by the talent of the directors and actors that I am fortunate enough to work with!
September 26th– I will be MUSKOKA BOUND! It’s the wrap party for the 2010 Muskoka Novel Marathon. This event, held every July, has quickly become one of my favourite writing related activities! You sit in a building with approximately 30 other writers and you write a novel—in either 48 or 72 hours. How amazing is that! It was a great group this year (as it is every year). We had a lot of fun, and it’s hard to believe at the end of the weekend that there was actually time to put together a manuscript between the fun. I wrote a Young Adult novel this year – HALF DEAD AND FULLY BROKEN. I’ve been editing it since July. The wrap party is on the 26th…all the writers regroup and award trophies for various different things–BIC AWARD for Bum in Chair, Most Prolific Writer, Spirit Award, Rookie of the Year Award and the Remy Award for most money raised. Most money raised, you ask? The marathon is a double-edged sword. It is a huge benefit to those writers brave enough to participate, but it’s also a marathon of hope. Each writer raises funs for the Muskoka Literacy Council…it’s writers helping readers. The marathon raises funds and awareness for the council—it helps them to spread the joy of literacy. Another prize awarded at the wrap party is the BEST NOVEL AWARD—awarded, actually, in different categories—Best Adult Novel, Best Young Adult Novel and Best Children’s Novel. The manuscripts are sent to 6 industry judges immediately following the marathon…and they read and judge them over the summer. The winning novels get sent to participating publishers for consideration. The benefits of this event are just neverending! I have my eye on the hands on favourite for Best YA this year—I’m not going to name names (she will not be mentioned here!), but I had the opportunity to read one of the manuscripts and I found it STELLAR. We will see what the Wrap Party brings us. I consider this wrap party the official end of summer, even though Huntsville is already quite in bloom with turned foilage by the time it rolls around.
Month End – Museitup Publishing is preparing to launch! My Young Adult novel SUMMER ON FIRE will be published by Muse in July, 2011…but the publisher is launching in October. We’ve been talking excitedly about this launch behind the scenes. September is bound to thrive with chatter between publisher and cover artists and editors and writers. It’s a great family to be a part of! I’m really excited about the launch…and can feel the tsunami of its approach! September is THE month to be a Museitup member!
Not to mention! September is another month of busy planning for the 2011 ONTARIO WRITERS’ CONFERENCE. This is an ongoing labour of love that factors into every month on the calendar. We want to organize the best conference every year. To do this, we must be dedicated to putting in a lot of volunteer hours. It’s worth it, though…so rewarding to see the happy faces of writers on the day of the conference!
And I’m certain there will be more excitement along the way. Like maybe a reading from author friend Karen Cole somewhere in Uxbridge, maybe! Or maybe some poetry read by friend Barbara Hunt! (-;
The 2011 Summer Literary Seminars Unified Literary Contest is now open!
What’s in it for you?
FIRST PLACE WINNERS from each category – FICTION or POETRY – will have their work featured online in Canada’s premiere literary magazine, THE WALRUS…as well as published in print in a TBA American Literary Journal.
They will also have the choice of attending (airfare, tuition, and housing included) any one of the SLS 2011 programs – in Montreal, Quebec (June 12 – 25); Vilnius, Lithuania (August); or Nairobi-Lamu, Kenya (December).
This is a HUGE prize! And a huge opportunity.
SECOND PLACE WINNERS will receive a full tuition waiver for the program of their choice.
THIRD PLACE WINNERS will receive a 50% tuition waiver for the program of their choice.
ALSO – A number of select contest participants, based on the overall strength of their work, will be offered tuition scholarships applicable to the SLS 2011 programs.