More talks with Darcie

I’m glad everyone has been enjoying this series of uninterviews. As someone who has devoted an embarrassing amount of hours to online chatting (hello former IRC users!), it’s nice to put those chatty skills to good use. I have more coming up in the pipeline too.

Recently Darcie edited another chat we did a few weeks ago and posted it to her site. Read it to find out how I deal with people asking me what my stories “mean”. Thanks, Darcie!

Of course, this evening after coming home from work and finding a copy of the latest Paris Review in my mailbox, I started reading the interview with Ann Beattie, a writer I’ve admired for a long time. She says it a little better than me:

It took me years and years to realize a very simple thing, which is that when you write fiction you’re raising questions, and a lot of people think you’re playing a little game with them and that actually you know the answers to the questions. They read your question. They don’t know how to answer correctly. And they think that if they could only meet you personally and look into your eyes, you could give them answers.

Music & Writing

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I’m over at the CBC Books blog talking about music that has influenced my writing, along with a bunch of other writers I like a lot. It’s a short piece, but there’s something very satisfying about getting the chance to talk about my love for Eric’s Trip in a public forum. They were were instrumental in helping me realize that I didn’t have to be some kind of ultra-professional sleek artist to create things that people might respond to, and I’ll always be grateful for that.

As much as I’ve become lazy with music as I’ve gotten older, it’s still so important to me – I never leave the house without earphones, I still make endless playlists (even if they’re different configurations of the same old songs I’ve been listening to forever), I know that the best way to cure a bad mood is to play a song really loudly and sing along. And I love writing about music, about memories associated with songs and records; it’s one of my favourite things. I should do it more often.

Chronicle Herald article

Woke up to a fresh, fluffy layer of snow on the ground and a profile in the Chronicle Herald about Invisible Publishing, Rememberer and Bats or Swallows. Good things to wake up to, no? This followed up by brunch at the always bright and delicious Boite Gourmande have made for a pretty bang-up morning.

The article also reminded me of how much I’ve loved getting the chance to work with Invisible, who know how to do things right. Thanks to Megan Power for writing a comprehensive and generous article and for saying that Alice Munro, the Queen of Canadian literature, would be proud of my stories <3

Montreal Gazette review

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FYI, on this snowy Saturday, there’s a nice review of Bats or Swallows in the Montreal Gazette. Also, check out the recent good reviews/articles about Invisible. Visionaries!

(The above is a Diana photo taken on the day of my Toronto book launch back in November. It was gloriously fall and I was in the park behind OCAD right before I shared a bowl of pho with Andrew. I got around to developing a few rolls this past week, and I’ll share some of them with you shortly.)

Things I've Made

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In this first week of 2011 I’ve been cooking a lot. I forget that cooking, like so many other activities, is a habit. Once you get the ball rolling, it doesn’t feel like so much of a momentous task. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen when I was in Toronto over Christmas, and it’s carried over into the new year. (There was a lot of cooking in our household in Greece as well, but it was different – more assembling than cooking, not as much time spent by the stove because it was 35 degrees out already.) I’ve been trying to make new things, and have recently started cooking some of the Filipino recipes my mom made while I was growing up, things that were so every day that it never occurred to me to learn to make myself, like chicken adobo, which is chicken simmered in vinegar, soy sauce, oyster sauce and broth with some bay leaves, ginger, whole peppercorns and garlic cloves tossed in for good measure. My mom told me to add a bit of sugar too, and I did. It cuts down on the saltiness.

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I made a loaf of magic no-knead bread at the beginning of the week, which was enough for most of my breakfasts when I went back to work (all whole wheat flour because I’m trying to be a bit more virtuous with my baking, at least for the first week of 2011, anyway.) It’s always a good way to start the day by eating something you’ve made with a little flour and water. Finally, this morning, after forgetting how potent a few garlic scapes can be when stirred with scrambled eggs, tried to counteract the lingering pungent smell with a lemon yogurt cake. As you can guess, our little home has been very, um, fragrant recently.

Speaking of things I’ve made, another review of Bats or Swallows was published recently, this time in the magazine Women’s Post. Have a look; it’s a nice review. Another reminder that I should get back to work on things that aren’t necessarily edible.

A Resolution & A Review

I am totally the kind of person who not only makes New Year’s Resolutions, but looooves making New Year’s Resolutions. In the past few years I’ve tried to keep them simple, to do that thing where you set “intentions” rather than specific resolutions. It sounds hokier, but at the end of the year when you review your list, you don’t feel like as much of a failure.

Here’s one of my main resolutions for 2011:

Reminder.

This, of course, comes from the best writing advice of 2010, Dear Sugar’s August 19, 2010 advice column. I posted this photo on Facebook (and frankly, every other online social network I’m on), and my friend Nel replied with the following comment, “Yeah! Read and explore and live like a Mother F! Yes Yes Yes!” Nel is one of the most enthusiastic, supportive, live like a motherfucker people I know, and yes, she’s right. Let’s apply this motto to everything.

I was buoyed to really stick to this resolution by a review of Bats or Swallows that appeared in the latest issue of Quill & Quire. I’ll be honest: reviews freak me out. I wanna be cool about them, but they’re scary and I usually read them with my eyes half closed, first to myself without telling anyone I’m reading the review, and then after I’ve processed it a little, I’ll casually say, “Oh hey, yeah, there’s like, this review. It’s cool.”  I’m really pleased with the review, and happy that it’s reviewed in Q&Q, period. Robbie sent me a jpg of it – click to read.

Anyway, it’s my last evening of Christmas holidays and I have some writing/living like a motherfucker to do. See you in a few days.

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:

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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!

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.

Back to work, back to NYC

Expozine table

After the book launches died down, I spent a long day at Expozine in Montreal, where I shared a table with Molly, who I’ve known through zines since we were both in high school. We used to write letters to each other because neither of us had an email address – that’s how far back we go. I picked up some beautiful zines, which I should tell you about one of these days. There’s been a revival of sorts among zinesters I used to know, and there’s something very comforting about it.

Recent books

I’ve also picked up these books at various readings or zine fairs, and I’m slowly working my way through the pile. (So far I have very good things to say about Sheila Heti’s newest, “Three Deaths” by Josip Novakovitch and the poems in “The Lateral” by Jake Kennedy.)

And finally, for the first time since I left Greece in September, I pulled out a copy of my novel draft and read all 70,000+ words, after which I realized how much work I had to do, got tired, and baked a batch of Madeleines, and then some weirdly flat whole wheat chocolate chip cookies and then a big pot of boeuf bourguignon instead of tackling edits. And then I got really full over the shock and went back to work. I’m feeling stubborn about this particular project.

Actually, there’s one thing I can do to get away from fretting about a book that no one really cares about: skip town and head to New York City. Naturally, right? So, this Saturday, Andrew and I are flying to NYC where we’re looking forward to hanging out with Soraya, eating as much amazing food as possible, visiting the Stieglitz/Strand exhibit happening at the Met, etc. But the real reason for the trip is this:

Elevator Alley
60 pages, 20 color photographs, published by Furnace Press, NY
A photo documentation and critical analysis of the largely derelict Childs Street grain elevators in Buffalo’s First Ward, Elevator Alley tackles the history, present and future of the giant structures that played a central role in Buffalo’sindustrial development and subsequent decline.

Andrew took all the photographs and Michael Cook wrote all the text. (For those keeping score, Andrew and Michael have collaborated once before on um, criminal charges.) The book is being launched, along with 2 others, on Tuesday November 30th at 3rd Ward in Brooklyn. If you’re in the area, please come – it will be fun, there will be booze, Andrew and Michael will present their work, and you can get a copy of a truly gorgeous book.

More info about Elevator Alley:

These past few months have been an excellent period for book publishing in the Emond-Vlassopoulos household, and we hope to the trend continues far into the future.

Recap: Toronto pt. 2

Rememberer launch!

I can’t believe that these Toronto book launches were only a little more than a week ago – it feels like it’s been ages since then. But, before it slips away, let’s get it down on paper.

Rememberer launch!Jenner addresses the crowd

So, Katie and Jenner organized a separate Rememberer launch the next day, which was a fantastic idea – double the parties! It was held at 107 Shaw, a gallery space at the corner of Queen and Shaw. It’s a perfect spot for a reading/party: a DJ set up at the front, the room was a good size, and the sweet gallery owners had enough PBR on hand for the crowd. There was even a resident cat.

Rememberer launch!Katie reads

It was nice to get the chance to read my Rememberer story and the group of people assembled were good listeners. But it was even better getting the chance to really concentrate on Jenner and Katie’s readings. I’d been a bundle of nerves at the previous two readings and found it hard to concentrate, but on Tuesday evening I was relaxed enough to really pay attention. Their stories are beautiful, as are the rest in Rememberer, so please buy a copy if you haven’t already.

The rest of my trip to Toronto was filled with things like brunch at tried and true places like Aunties & Uncles and The Rosedale Diner, some pizza from Pizzeria Libretto, hanging out with my parents, book buying at Book City, etc. I sometimes miss Toronto more than other times, and this was one of those instances when it hurt my heart a little to leave.