A few days after returning to Montreal from Cape Breton, Andrew and I hopped in the car (with our cat in the backseat because it turns out that this Siamese really enjoys roadtrips), and drove down to Toronto. The purpose of the trip was to attend the Writers’ Union of Canada dinner/dance on Saturday night where they would also be presenting the Danuta Gleed award, but I managed to fit in a few other events over the course of 48 hours: a viewing of Bridesmaids, some patio drinks, a visit to a charming café. I’ve never been to a more formal writerly event, and gladly took the opportunity to dress up a little. It was held at a hotel near our friends Soraya and Chris, so we got ready at their place, took a few photos and went on our way.
Back from the loveliest sejour out East. We ate a lot of lobster, which we purchased directly from the lobster fishermen minutes after they puttered their boat into the harbour.
There was lots of driving along country roads and some walking up wind-whipped hills to look out at the ocean.
Some days it was grey and the ocean was frothy and cold, but there was some sun too.
I’m in Cape Breton right now doing things like looking at the ocean and driving along country roads and playing with a sweet, but overly excitable doggy, but here are a few quick things:
- I’m over at Bookmadam reading M.F.K. Fisher’s recipe for Aunt Gwen’s Fried Egg Sandwiches. Julie Wilson has been collecting mp3s of writers reading their favourite recipes. Last week kicked off with folks such as Darcie Friesen Hossack and Iain Reid. Ms. Fisher is one of my favourite writers in the world, and her particular blend of memoir food writing has been an inspiration for years, so it was a no brainer picking something of hers. If you’re not familiar with her, Ms. Mary Francis wrote elegantly about everything from oysters to fried egg sandwiches, translated Brillat-Savarin’s The Physiology of Taste and is basically the definition of someone who lived and wrote like a motherfucker. This recipe is from An Alphabet for Gourmets (which contains one of my most favourite essays, A is for Dining Alone), but I would also highly recommend The Gastronomical Me, which was the first book I read of hers and the one I still love the most.
- If you’re in Montreal on Monday May 30th, come hear me and 6 others read writing we’ve been working on over the past few months with our lovely QWF mentors. You can get an idea of the novel I’ve been alluding to on this site. I’ve been carrying the thick stack of paper around with me because I’m just kind of pleased with the heft of it, proof that it exists and that I’ve really been working on something tangible. It’s a nice feeling.
- Also, for Montrealers, if you’re in town this weekend don’t miss A St-Henri le 26 aout, a documentary that follows various people in St. Henri as they go about their day on August 26, 2010. It’s a charming movie, the kind that really captures the neighbourhoody vibe that exists in Montreal. A good friend, Danielle, is one of the people featured in the movie and she brings the filmmakers to the top of a silo and then through a drain underground. It’s playing at Cinema Parallele all weekend.
I have a new favourite notebook. It’s not very fancy, but it’s perfect.
Writers have a thing for notebooks, right? There’s so much romance and intrigue hidden within them: secrets, quasi-brilliant ideas, dreamy thoughts, first sentences, character names, grocery lists, glorious quotidian banality! And promise too, all those blank pages bound together, ready and waiting for your words. I have a shelf of beautiful notebooks – some presents, some purchased on a whim – and they’re pretty or handsome, but they’re also depressingly empty. It took me awhile to figure out that even blank notebooks shouldn’t be judged by their covers.
Over time I’ve developed specific criteria for the kind of notebooks I prefer. First, they have to be softcover. Hard cardboard means the book will be heavy, and therefore the first thing I take out of my bag when I’m feeling lazy (i.e. frequently.) They have to be lined because while in theory I like the idea of having white space to doodle, in practice my writing goes slanty and uneven and, who am I kidding, I don’t draw. The books can’t be too thick either because I like giving myself the chance to switch them up without leaving them unfinished. Also, the thinner it is, the likelier I am to carry it around with me (see: laziness.) I average one notebook per season.
For awhile I was using these Moleskines that are sold in packs of three and have a nice pocket in the back for stuffing random bits of paper, but these days I have a 2 notebook system, which sounds complicated, but I swear it’s not.
First there’s the small notebook I have for day to day journal purposes, which I use for whatever minor joy or drama I feel is worthy of recording. It’s mostly a brain dump, and I rarely go back and reread an entry – I’m just comforted having it there, exisiting. For reference, this is how big the notebook is compared to my cat. Also note the polka dots. I like polkadots:
And then there’s my new favourite notebook, which I bought for $2.99 from Muji at the JFK Airport back in December when I wanted to use up my excess US change (ETA: Just realized that the link isn’t for the type of notebook I have, but it’s close. Mine is lined, naturally.) It was either the notebook or a bottle of Coke. The size of the notebook was appealing and I liked the spiral binding to bend it back – it looked like a winner. Muji excels at perfectly simple aesthetics. (You’d think it would be hard to fuck up a black notebook, but you’d be surprised.) I use this notebook for all writing related things: ideas, quotations, snippets of first drafts, a place to keep miscellaneous post-it’s. It’s bigger than my other notebook, but both of them are so light that I don’t mind carrying both around with me.
There aren’t any Muji stores in Canada, and I’m afraid that when I’m finished with it, I’ll have to go back to New York City. I don’t think I’m being too unreasonable.
To be honest, most of the news coming from this part of the world on Monday was pretty glum (for my vision of Canada, anyway – apparently the “majority” of Canada thinks otherwise), but between all of the emotional election chatter, I found out something unarguably awesome: Bats or Swallows was short listed for the 2011 Danuta Gleed Literary Award! The award is for best first collection of short fiction, and I was nominated with some pretty fantastic folks, the most fantastic (in my opinion) being Darcie Friesen Hossack, who by now you’ve realized is a good friend of mine. I’m excited and honoured to have been nominated for this award, and I also think it’s a great nod to my publishers at Invisible. Also: it’s a good excuse to buy a new dress and go to a fancy party in Toronto at the end of the month.
Here are some links about the award:
Here’s a new review of the book from the latest issue of Broken Pencil, too. Broken Pencil know my zine roots well (possibly too well if you read the reviews of my zines hidden in their archives, which I considered linking to and then decided against), and so it was nice for them to acknowledge the transition:
It’s easy to see how Vlassopoulos has evolved from years of zine making and why she has come to fiction so seamlessly…Like zines, Vlassopoulos strings together a variety of images and narratives, cutting them rough around the edges but leaving a patchwork of characters with dark corners. It’s another one of Invisible Publishing’s emerging authors who so strongly capture the trends and hopes of unconventional fiction.
So, yes, bubbly all around!