Now that I think of it, even the stories started when I was thirteen.
“This is going to be the last piece of fiction you’re going to write in your school career,” our teacher said. It was Grade 7; creative writing classes did not exist in the academic type of school that I attended where we were trained for university. So this one last piece of narrative writing we got to do was an assignment to first create a “narrative core” – a fake newspaper account – and then turn it into a 2-page story.
I wrote a tale of a raccoon stolen from a circus who escapes his captors by sheer raccoonish cleverness (he chews his way out of the cage). That piece, too, I still have, in an extremely tattered blue binder. My teacher’s comment on the bottom of the second page says that it “flawlessly fulfils the requirements”. Not a single red mark on the whole two pages other than that comment.
The binder holds a number of other stories, some handwritten in my schoolgirl’s script and some typed on my mother’s typewriter, more or less hunt-and-peck style. On my own time, of course; the “writing for grades in school” train had, as mentioned, left the station.
I quit writing partway into a tale about a fifteen-year-old cowboy in the American West whose horse steps into a prairie dog hole and throws him; he gets picked up by a young man of twenty (which seemed quite old and grown-up at the time) whose fifteen-year-old sister nurses our hero back to health. The story fizzles out after some ten pages on account of lack of direction; I only had a vague idea of where I was going with it and nobody to tell me how to take that idea and turn it into a novel.
Life, the Universe, and the Beginnings of the Stories.
I was thirteen when I first fell in love – with pottery, that is. I can still visualize the pottery studio in my high school where I learned to handbuild a wide, shallow bowl. This bowl:
Yes, I still have it. My first pottery piece – or maybe it was my second? Regardless, it’s been my regular, everyday fruit bowl for the last forty years.
Life, the Universe, and Beginnings. This was where the pottery started.
It’s a bit of a cliché, that. New Year’s Day, time for new beginnings! New goals, good intentions! If the calendar wasn’t already telling me that it’s that time of the year, a dead giveaway would be my social media feed, which is once again bristling with ads for exercise or weight loss programs (I ususally mark those ads as “inappropriate” or “offensive”). A friend of mine once stated that her goal for the new year was to stay fat and enjoy herself doing so – I can go with that, that sounds like an obtainable goal. (In other words, it’s a way of saying “My goal for the new year is to stop beating up on myself.” Alas, as with pretty much every other goal, it’s hard to stick to.)
However, having said that, I do have a liking for calendar markers. There’s something satisfying in having things happen at a specific day in the calendar. My nice DSLR camera decided yesterday, on New Year’s Eve, that its SD card had about as much as it could take – four years’ worth of photos filled it to the brim – and it quit just as I was trying to film a panorama shot of the last sun rays of 2021. So the next SD card and round of photos will start right at the beginning of 2022, and there’s something about it that tickles my fancy.
So all that to say, here we are, making a new start on the blog. I don’t think I need to say much about 2021 as a whole – it’s been pretty crazy all around the globe. Personally, I’d had all kinds of grand plans for what I was going to do during this year without blogging – finish books, publish books, build a big body of artwork for exhibitions, etc. Haha. Much like everything else during this year, that didn’t go according to plan.
But then, other things happened. I did a lot of knitting (aka thumb-twiddling with a purpose). I read a lot of books (most of them re-reads of old favourites – I’m almost finished with Ngaio Marsh’s Inspector Alleyn series, and it’s been interesting reading them in order, front to back. I have things to say about them… but that’s a topic for another day). I took a lot of pottery classes and workshops, a not inconsiderable number of them online. In fact, that’s one of the advantages that Covid has brought to the world, the proliferation of online offerings. Clouds and silver linings and all that jazz.
But I’ll stop boring you with the non-saga of our lives. I didn’t actually have all that much to say for this first post back in the saddle, so I’ll stop saying it. Just this for now:
This is Life, the Universe, and a Rebooted Blog. See you again soon!
Yes, we’re still here, even though we’ve been quiet in cyberspace for nearly a year. This isn’t the startup of the blog again quite yet, but just a quick notice that we’re doing some very inexpert internet magic in the background, specifically moving the blog to a self-hosted site (I think that’s what it’s called). I’m hoping to port the email subscriptions as well, so hopefully you won’t notice anything at all, and when the blog bursts back onto the scene in its full and renewed glory you’ll never know anything ever happened. But just in case something goes weird, you’ve been warned.
Meanwhile, this is Life, the Universe and an Ongoing Construction Project, and we’ll see you all again soon!
I’ve been thinking about this for a while. And I’ve finally come to the conclusion that it’s time: I need to go dark for a while. No, it doesn’t mean I’m going to The Dark Side (even though they have cookies). It means I’m going to turn off the light switch on this blog.
Closed for renovations, remodelling, rethinking.
In the words of Tara Leaver, a lovely artist I’ve been following and taking inspiration from for some time: “I need to go dark. To be in the dark with my work – the winter dark, the dark of not knowing, the dark of not showing.” (Tara Leaver’s ArtNote newsletter, 16/11/2020)
So that’s what I’m going to do. You’re not going to see me around here for a while. Don’t worry, all the current posts will stay up, so you can re-read them at your leisure, and I’ll still be available via email if you want to talk to me. Also, Steve says that any bears or other stuffed animals who want to come by our house for a chat are more than welcome (it’s been established that they’re immune to Covid-19; social distancing is not an issue for them).
So I’ll sign off for now. Thank you, everyone, for being along for the ride with us, and Steve and I wish you a wonderful Christmas and New Year 2021!
That’s Life, the Universe, and Turning Off the Light Switch. Merry Christmas to All, and to All a Good Night!
Drumroll please: Another Christmas short story is now available for your delectation from Yours Truly!
THE FORTY-DOLLAR CHRISTMAS: A CANADIAN HOLIDAY STORY
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… unless you don’t have the cash to make it happen.
When Liz is stuck at home over the holidays, she finds out that her downstairs neighbour is too broke to celebrate Christmas with his little girl. Can she bring her ingenuity to bear to show Jonathan that it’s not the content of his wallet that counts?
And here’s a little taste test:
Liz leaned back against the kitchen counter.
“Look, what do you mean you can’t afford Christmas? You can’t be that broke!”
“Yes, I’m that broke! I mean, just look around at this place—do I look like I’m made of money? Why do you think I’m looking for work? I don’t have the kind of cash to throw a Christmas shindig, or the room on my credit card, either. I can’t just pull a grand out of my back pocket!”
“A grand?!? Are you kidding me?”
“Why, you think that’s not enough? After all, she’s just a little girl, but… Yeah, I suppose; I think the last time Morgan and I had Christmas together it came to over two, and that was a few years ago. Prices have gone up since.”
“Over two thousand dollars?” Liz said. “That’s nuts! What did you spend all that on?”
Jonathan frowned. “Well, the usual stuff—Christmas trees, decorations, food, presents…”
“Wow, those must have been some kind of presents! What did you get? Diamonds and rubies and fancy new cars?”
“Yes, pretty much. Well, not the cars, but some jewellery, and I think there was an iPhone involved somewhere, or an iPad, or another i-something. I just can’t do that this year.”
“No, of course not! That’s crazy anyway. But that doesn’t mean you have to scrap Christmas altogether! Just keep it simple,” Liz said.
Jonathan reached into the refrigerator and pulled out a handful of carrots.
“Look,” he said gruffly, “can we please just drop it? I can’t even afford a simple Christmas. God knows I’d let Katie have a Christmas, but I just haven’t got the money.”
“Okay, I know this is totally intrusive—sorry—but are you so totally broke you can’t even afford groceries?”
He gave her a look. “No,” he said, “but just about. There’s barely anything extra.” He reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. “Okay, here, that’s as far as it goes. I can spare a twenty.” He took out a green bill and tossed it on the counter, Queen Elizabeth landing upmost.
“Hah!” cried Liz. “See, that’s not nothing!”
Jonathan scoffed. “Oh, sure, you can make a Christmas on twenty dollars!”
“Well, maybe not on just twenty. You know what, I think I can toss in a twenty, as well. And that we can do something with.”
“Forty dollars? That’ll get you, what, one branch of a Christmas tree! Or maybe one turkey drumstick. Come off it, lady.”
Liz’s eyes sparkled. “What’ll you bet?” she said.
“Bet on what?”
“That we can have Christmas, with tree and trimmings and turkey and presents, on forty dollars or less.”
Happy reading, and happy Winter Solstice 2020!
Remember “The Twelve Days of Christmas“? The serialized Christmas story I posted last year, starting Christmas Day?
“It all started with a partridge in a pear tree…
Mac’s boyfried goes missing on Christmas Eve, right around the time some unearthly beautiful people turn up in town. Will she be able to find Tom in time before the Twelve Days of Christmas are up?“
Well, good news: it’s now available in book form! That’s right, you can get the ebook on Amazon (Kindle) or Smashwords (in whatever ebook format you like) for the princely sum of US$0.99 or equivalent, and pretty soon it’ll be available at other ebook vendors such as ibooks and Kobo. The print copy is available on Amazon, as well.
So what are you waiting for? Get your very own copy of The Twelve Days of Christmas: A Tale of Christmastide. With Elves. to read on your phone, ebook reader, tablet, computer, or good old paper, whenever you darn well please. If you get it and start reading today, one chapter per day, you’ll get done on Christmas Eve, and can start all over again on Christmas Day, in time for the actual events of the story!
Go ahead – you know you want to…
An excellent post by the excellent E. L. Bates on why book reviews matter. Bonus: easy templates to help you write that review.