Monday, May 30, 2016

So True recap - we done good

Well, to paraphrase Sally Fields, they liked it, they really liked it - our eighth So True reading event yesterday afternoon. People are so kind! Many nice things were said by audience members, and then emails flew back and forth. The students who read were universally articulate and pleased. Here's one:

It was truly a thrill. Thank you for creating the environment that enabled us to realize our potential as writers in such an enjoyable and fulfilling way. Sitting there in the dark  experiencing with great pleasure the work of our classmates and friends, I felt tremendously privileged to be a part of such a talented and committed group. So I thank you for your passion, leadership and hard work in creating this wonderful event, and for inviting me to be part of it. We’re all clearly totally ‘buzzed’ from tonight, and feeling enthused and inspired, thanks to you, Beth. 

So glad it works! I realized yesterday why I am always exhausted afterwards, though. The process starts months beforehand, choosing stories, asking people to submit, editing back and forth. Checking in with the venue. The rehearsal, working with the writers as performers, and putting their stories into the best order to showcase them all. Arriving on the day with a backpack full of equipment. Setting everything up, making sure each reader is comfortable with the mike, greeting guests as they come, often former students who want to talk. Checking in with the extremely reliable and wonderful Jason, our M.C.

And then it begins, I sit there like mother bird watching as each reader triumphs. Yesterday, each one was marvellous, surprising themselves, I think, with the ease and skill of their performances and the rapturous reception to their writing work. It's a joy.

But then it's my turn. I stand up to finish the evening, say something wise and witty, and then either tell a story of my own or read one. And that's the really exhausting thing, because I may be full of self-confidence as a teacher and editor but I am not as a performer. Despite my years on the stage, I am full of self-doubt as a reader and speaker.

And then it's over, and everyone says how much they loved it, and I finally believe them. Several audience members said they were going to take my course, and former students said they are anxious to submit for the next event. Which will take place October 30. Topic, in honour of Hallowe'en: DISGUISE.

It's way too hot for May. Today I bought a big purple elephant wading pool that caused much delight. I carried it home from Home Hardware on my head.
And then, after a visit to the Farm and supper, we settled for a second or two. Two little boys is a lot, really really a lot, of work.
David Sedaris protested once about friends visiting with "their wrecking crew of three." Anna visits with her wrecking crew of two, and I love every minute. (Incidentally, that little boy above was born with a club foot, and thanks to Sick Kids and the dedication of his mother, look at those perfect little footies.)

Paul Krugman writes in the NYT today that Donald Trump will not win. I'm going with that.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Bernie maybe and Storycorps

Beautiful beautiful weather - though not really, because it's May and it feels like July. So what July will be like ... Fort McMurray, anyone? Though of course July may be snow, too, who knows these days? Speaking of global warming, I watched Bernie Sanders on Bill Maher last night, and you know, I may make the shift from Hillary, not that I can vote or anything - but he's amazing, full of energy and speaking such incredible sense. I know, he's a bit one note and it's very hard to imagine him as a president, so it's frightening. I'm still with Hillary. But - imagine if it's Bernie versus the giant orange blowhole - what a matchup!

The So True reading event tomorrow - exciting as always. We had a rehearsal last week, a chance for the eight readers, especially those who haven't done this before, to stand up and read their most private stories aloud, get a final edit on the writing and tips on the performance. It gives me such joy to hear their efforts come to fruition - even more so tomorrow, when they'll go public. Thrilling work. And this time, I'm not going to tell a story, I'm going to read one too, an excerpt from the memoir. Nerve-wracking. I'd much rather not put myself on the line, preferring to watch my students go through that torment. But it's important that I do.

Happy beautiful too-hot May 28th to you all.
P.S. My students Michelle and Christie sent me a link to something I'd never heard of, and should have, called Storycorps. Fascinating - kind of like what we do, collecting stories, except that these are oral stories and not sculpted in any way. We sculpt.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

check your passport!

OMG! My tenant and friend Carol, who lives on my top floor part of the year, makes her permanent home in Banos, Ecuador. Her mother, aged 103, is in a nursing home here and Carol and her sister, who lives in Toronto, share caregiving duties. Now Carol's sister is back from travels, so Carol left this morning to go home to Ecuador - a very long journey, many hours of travel including a long stopover in Miami before flying on to Quito, with three heavy suitcases which have required days of preparation to pack, as she brings back gifts of shoes and clothing from Doubletake for the families of friends there.

She left early this morning after many goodbyes, and a few hours later, she was back. It turned out that her passport will expire in five months. She was going to get it renewed in Ecuador, where there's no lineup, but apparently, she is not allowed into the United States, even for a stopover, with a passport that will expire in less than six months.

Poor Carol! She'll expedite matters and try to be off again within a few days. But in the meantime, I rushed upstairs to look at my passport. It expires in November. I fly to NYC in July. The same thing would have happened to me - I would have arrived at the airport ready for my trip and been sent home.

Be warned, my friends. I am printing the renewal forms as we speak.

Monday, May 23, 2016

the perfect holiday

Much popping and banging - it's 10 p.m. and the Victoria Day fireworks are going off. There used to be a lovely neighbourhood ritual - many families would gather in the Sprucecourt schoolyard, we'd pool all our fireworks, the dads would let them off in the centre of the field and we'd sit and ooh and aah for at least half an hour - our own personal fireworks extravaganza, perfect for small people who were excited to be up so late. I don't know if it continues to this day. The small people in my life were camping this weekend at a friend's place in the country with not even a toilet, brave Anna with two little kids - and apparently it was wonderful.
And I - on this holiday, quiet except for the chatter of my neighbours, so incessant that I put in earplugs - I did nothing but work. I went out once for a brief walk, and the rest of the day, I sat on the deck, editing a piece for So True, sending it back and forth 3 or 4 times, and two pieces by students. But more importantly, I wrote a new chapter, rewrote it twelve times, and edited bits of the rest. My bottom is asleep because I have hardly moved from this chair all day. Unhealthy. But wonderful, a writer's idea of heaven - a stock of food and wine, a stunning warm day, a quiet garden (once the earplugs were in) and nothing to do except fiddle with words. And fiddle I did.

Right now I love this book, I love moving the words around, I love the stories and the voice. I know, how vain. But it's good to love it sometimes, because other times, I think it's a big stinking pile of hooey.

P.S. Here's a beautiful article in the NYT about "Call the Midwife," one of the best shows on television, the only program I've ever watched that unfailingly brings a tear to my eye, in the best way, with its warmth and truth. This article heaps praise, says it's better, in some ways, than "Downton." And I agree.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Bryan Cranston as LBJ - brilliant

That's it - yesterday was spring, today is summer. It's hot, the garden is exploding into green before my eyes, where's the sunscreen? At 8 a.m. this morning, before the crowds, I bought $80 worth of vegetables from Jay's garden centre down the road - a bit of lettuce, a few peppers and cukes, strawberries, parsley, lavender, eggplant, cherry tomatoes and two kinds of basil. Planted some, will wait to plant the rest till I've made a garden plan. Then I cleaned out the garden shed, getting out spades, fertilizer, chair cushions. Summer!

Two hours this afternoon doing the season switch - moving the wool to cupboards and drawers, getting out tank tops and sandals. (And getting rid of stuff that's too small - finally accepting that those pants, those shorts, now that I have no waistline, will never fit me again. OUT!)

Now I'm in paradise - the quiet city, the lush garden, baby sparrows learning to fly perched on the lilac or the fence under the worried eyes of their parents. Just gardened while listening to Eleanor Wachtel interview one of my favourite writers in all the world - Alan Bennett - and laughed out loud. It is a fine world.

Last night, JM and Richard came over to watch "All the Way" about LBJ's first months, the extraordinary backstage machinations it took to pass the Civil Rights Act - convincing both Martin Luther King and the impatient leaders of the black community, and the racist old boys of the white Democratic south, to toe the line. The show paid warm tribute to Lady Bird, who was a political force herself as well as a loving wife and mother. A fascinating drama beautifully produced, particularly the phenomenal performance of Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston as LBJ - the actor vanishes into the role, a tour de force.

And then we watched the last hour of the Peggy Guggenheim documentary - TV at its best and an evening with two of my dearest friends. I got HBO because Jon Stewart announced he'd do shows there - which have yet to appear. My son watches Game of Thrones when he comes over; I can't, it's too gruesome. But last night was wonderful.

Grow, little basil, grow.

P.S. I hate to even mention it but feel I must because everyone else has. Justin Trudeau - understandably, in my eyes - grew impatient with the slowness of proceedings in the House of Commons and tried to move things along. I would have done the same. But unfortunately for the most visible man in the country, things did not go as planned, and now every pundit, including, predictably, the gloating Margaret Wente, feels the need to weigh in. Look, I'm a bit worried too about the many photo ops, wondering who's running the shop while Justin does - yes - important things like hug Syrian immigrants and beam at Obama. It's all eye candy for us Canadians after the nuclear winter we endured with the Man with the Frozen Eyes and Helmet Hair. There are certainly things to worry about. But the fuss about this event is ludicrous.

And speaking of worrying - there's a piece in the Washington Post about Trump signalling the rise of fascism in the U.S. Now that's worth writing about.

And now, back to focussing on my tomatoes.