Last post of 2010

photo

Christmas vacation has officially begun, although the past few days have been decidedly festive: a potluck dinner with 10 of us crowding around a table eating 3 types of fowl and more types of wine, roasting marshmallows at the little Christmas village at the nearby park, rolling out cookies, watching Cirque du Soleil performers contort themselves into the most unbelievable positions while hanging from silk ropes or simply off each other, sitting on the floor wrapping presents, the ubiquitous office cocktail party, fa la la la la, you get the picture.

photo

One quick trip to the Atwater market and then we’re heading out to Toronto for the holidays with a car full of presents and a cat (we’ve decided to let Archer accompany us on our Christmas travels). In Toronto I’m hoping to do a lot of baking, read some books and catch a late night Christmas day screening of True Grit.

2010 has been a good and important year for me, and it’s a little bittersweet to let it go, but I’m carrying a few talismans to remember it: photos and posters for our walls, new books in the shelves, a bunch of new words. I feel armed and ready to tackle another year. So, here’s to 2011 and to new words and new photos. Thank you for reading these posts and regardless of what you celebrate I hope it involves some kind of sweet, warm, freshly baked good and a few glasses of wine.

My 2010 in Reading

Shakespeare & Co.

No Reverb10 posts this week, but before 2010 is over I want to write about my year in reading. I used to look forward to writing about my year in music, but as time goes by, what I read is much more interesting than what I listened to. I read a lot this year, and because I was fortunate enough to travel, most of the reading was done in places that weren’t home. The books I remember most vividly are tied to the places I visited; I can’t help it.  This entry is not comprehensive, but it’s what I remember most.

At the beginning of 2010 I didn’t read many books, but I read many short stories. I was looking for tips, reassurance, kicks in the ass. I wrote this entry in December 2009, but it pretty much applies to the first few months of 2010 as well. Related: I read my book so many times during editing/rewriting that it’s hard to look at it anymore. I finally had to crack it open when deciding what to read at launches, and it was a bit painful at first.

I read Gilead by Marilynne Robinson and loved it so much, but I’ve been saving the sequel, Home. She only has 3 books of fiction and I didn’t want to read them too quickly, I guess. I’ll read it in 2011. But I read Housekeeping in the summer, finished it while on vacation in Rome, and waited a bit before moving on to something else because I didn’t want to wreck the feeling of having read a beautiful, devastating book in a beautiful, ancient city. I read Annabel Lyon’s The Golden Mean during my first week in Agistri and felt the same way.

Continue reading

Reverb 10: December 13

Today’s Reverb10 post is an easy one for me in terms of knowing my next step.

Prompt: Action. When it comes to aspirations, its not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step?

write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write

Reverb 10: December 10, 11, 12

Floaty

December 10 – Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?

I know I’ve been a broken record about this on my site, but it took up a lot of space during the year, and was generally a Big, Important Life Event for me. So, yes, obviously the wisest decision made in 2011 was Andrew and I leaving our jobs, renting out our apartment and going to Greece. I don’t know when we’ll be able to do something like that again – it’s going to take awhile to build up those depleted savings accounts! – but the effects will resonate for quite awhile.  If you’ve read even a handful of entries from this site, you can probably figure out how it played out. Continue reading

Reverb10: December 9

Ok! Let’s get back to this thing.

Party Prompt: Party. What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans.

Girls on the dance floor!

Lisa & Alain’s wedding in France! We wore party dresses, drank more champagne than I ever have in my life, ate until midnight and danced. In a small French village. It was perfect.

Montreal launch!

My book launches! I wore the same thing to all my launches, a black and white polka-dot dress. I drank a lot of red wine, was pretty spazzy, but happy, happy, happy.

Rainy

Our last evening in Paris we had a picnic with my cousin, Panayiotis, and his girlfriend Marieme. The Champs de Mars slowly cleared out as rain started to fall, but we just unfolded a couple of umbrellas they’d had the foresight of bringing and stayed put. We bought multiple types of cheese and characuteries from the Grande Epicerie and it was perfect, our little rainy Parisian picnic.

Bats or Swallows as Ebook

When everyone started talking about eBooks, my official position was that I was anti-ebook. Why would I want to read a book on a computer or a reader? I loooove books. I love holding them and looking at them and whenever I read something that really gets to me, I like dog-earring the corner of the page (Actually, some people think that by doing this I actually hate books. Andrew cringes whenever he sees me folding over a page, but I’m not the kind of person who writes in my books and I never have stickies around when I’m reading. So I dog-ear.)

Then a few things happened that changed my mind. First, I got an iPhone, and downloaded the Classics app so that I could read sections from Robinson Crusoe or Alice in Wonderland while stuck on the metro without a book. I liked that. Then I went to Greece, and while I was away a few books came out in North America that I couldn’t find in bookstores in Athens. I wanted to read Emily Gould’s And the Heart Says Whatever and Vendela Vida’s The Lovers. So I downloaded the Kindle app, bought the electronic versions and read them. I wasn’t bothered by the teeny iPhone screen too much and, most importantly, I was able to read the books. The other reason my opinion changed is DUH, I can adapt! And so can you! Things change, especially technology. Roll with it. Since then I buy maybe 1 eBook a month. I like always having something new to read on my phone, especially essay collections (like, Best 2010 Food Writing or some Jonathan Ames). And I still obviously like books; this is the floor by my bed right now:

photo

THIS IS ALL TO SAY. Bats or Swallows is now available as an eBook at the Kobo store for the amazing price of $4.69. The physical book is beautiful and special, but I think the stories work really well in eBook format. They’re the right length and you can read them while you’re delayed on a bus, easy. Also, you don’t need a Kobo reader to get the book. If you have an iPhone or another type of smartphone, you can download the Kobo app for free, and from there you can browse books and purchase them.

When it went live this morning, the first 10 people to buy the book also got limited edition Gelaskin protective skins for their Kobo readers (pictures here). I wanted to tell you about the contest too, but those first 10 copies went fast. If you won, congratulations!

Reverb 10: December 7

After mentioning the Rufus Wainwright concert I attended in June a few days ago, I spent this evening watching him perform in Montreal. It was gorgeous and moving and I walked home in freshly fallen snow, snuggled in my gigantic parka, feeling many Feelings and thinking about how much I love Montreal, my life here. Despite – actually, even because of! – these big, swirly snowstorms. But more than that too.

Today’s prompt is apt then:

Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?

Before leaving for Greece, it occurred to me that it might be strange to live in a place where I didn”t know many people. Andrew and I would be there together, of course, and I did have some friends and family, but would I feel isolated? And even if it was only a few months, would it affect any of my friendships in Canada? I wasn’t too worried about it, though, and as it turned out, I had no reason to be.

It’s not so much that I “discovered” this community in 2010, but I’ve been realizing more and more as I get older how much I treasure and value the solid relationships I have in my life. In Greece, in Canada, my little network of friends. I think of late nights in Athens having those conversations that start off completely innocuously and then suddenly it’s after midnight and you’re talking about the meaning of life and no one knows, but it’s fun to hypothesize. And I think of my life here in Montreal, my girlfriends I can count on for anything from writing support to drinking buddies to the occasional light grey nail polish. I think of points in between and feel warm and fuzzy.

Excuse my sappiness, but it’s after midnight on a work night. Allow me my sentimentality.

In 2011, in addition to nurturing the community of friends I’ve mentioned above (which I hope means more excuses for dinner dates, day trips, long distance phone calls, maybe letters?), I’d like to reconnect more with folks online. I’ve been a little one-sided these days, I think. I’ll work on it.

Reverb10: December 6

Working on a zine

Today’s prompt:

Make. What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?

The last thing I made was my zine, Places & Things. It’s pretty bare bones as far as zines go – mostly text cut up and pasted down. I also printed out a few photos to break up some of the words. The cover is composed of various vintage Greek postal stamps. Andrew bought me a bunch from the Sunday flea market in Monastiraki when we were in Athens and I meant to use them for other crafty projects, but so far they’ve only made it as far as my zine. (Would you like a copy of it? Why not order it?)

Summer 2010 Iphone

As for what I’m going to make next, the truth is that I want to focus my making-things energy on getting my novel draft up to snuff. That and some Christmas cookies. I really want to do some good Christmas baking this year.

P.S. It’s nice to have a non-draining prompt like this on my first day of a new job. My brain feels a little stuffed with cotton, so I’m just going to end this now and go out into the first Montreal snowstorm to hang out with my girlfriends.

Reverb10: December 5

Today’s prompt is from one of my favourite bloggers, Alice Bradley of Finslippy.

December 5 – Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?

A few days ago in NYC, Andrew and I were taking a mid-afternoon break at the Ninth Avenue Vintner (because cheese and alcohol is exactly the kind of pick-me-up you need when you’re walking all over Manhattan, right?). My phone rang, I answered it and it was my cousin calling all the way from Greece to tell me that he’d just finished reading my book! And he was excited! He loved it! And he wanted to talk to me about it! I decided to accept insane roaming charges because it’s always nice to hear someone say nice things about you, even if they’re related to you and contractually obligated to do so. But then he said something strange. He said, “I love how you killed off your father in one of your stories! SO FUNNY!” And then he continued trying to connect parts of my real life to my stories.  I took a big gulp of wine.

This wasn’t the first conversation I’ve had like this. A few weeks ago at dinner, one of my friends asked me, “Hey, so have you made out in a storage warehouse before?”. At work, I was making photocopies and a co-worker came up to me to tell me that she’d finished my book and she wanted to know what “really happened” at the end of “Baby Teeth”. My own mother, on Skype, delightedly told me that she was glad there was a character based on her.

Gah! What? Guys! Discussion about whether or not my stories are based on or stolen from real life make me uncomfortable! I didn’t write the book to kill off my own father or confess to anything I might have done in my past. And hey, if I did? I don’t want to talk about it. It’s funny, really, these questions and curiosities, and I don’t blame them because the book now belongs to the rest of the world, not just me, and it can be scrutinized any way a reader wants. For someone who has kept so much of my fiction writing to myself for years, it’s a vulnerable feeling knowing that my stories are out there, running around and having their own little lives without me. I know most of this defensiveness stems from Bats or Swallows being my first book – I will toughen up eventually – but sometimes I can only shake my head at the weirdness of it all. It’s funny and I’m grateful for it, but man, sometimes it’s just weird.

So, yeah, I let go of my first book. Enjoy it, world.

Reverb 10

Agistri sunset

Have you heard of Reverb 10? From the site,

Reverb 10 is an annual event and online initiative to reflect on your year and manifest what’s next. Use the end of your year as an opportunity to reflect on what’s happened, and to send out reverberations for the year ahead.

Basically, the site gives you prompts, and you write about them. I kept seeing the hashtag on Twitter and then some of the blogs I read started participating, and because one of my blog resolutions is to update more frequently, and there’s nothing I love more than reflecting, I’m going to jump in too. I’m not crazy about the word “manifest”, but I’ll get over it. I’ve missed the first 4 prompts, so I’m going to squish a few together to catch up.

December 1: One Word. Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you? and December 3 – Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

2010, for me, was nothing less than adventure. I launched my first book and Andrew and I lived in Greece for a few months. I’d never done any of these things before.

Continue reading