Saturday, January 18, 2020

Cabbagetown Youth Centre crisis

10.20 a.m. Saturday morning, and it has just started, the snow, as they predicted. We'll get a lot today, so a hunkering down kind of day; it already feels muffled and shrouded out there, with less than an inch on the ground. Tonight a huge treat - my tenant who works at the symphony has given me tickets for Mozart's Requiem at Roy Thomson Hall. Shovelling, and then Mozart.

Yesterday, a P.D. day, Anna came over with her two boys and three siblings she was looking after for the day, including a tiny preemie sixteen-month old. Here is Ben with his best friend and schoolmate Ian. They are about to make a huge mess with Play Doh.
Eli and Ian's savvy, sensible older sister were building a fort upstairs with ensuing chaos. A great thrill, to see Eli carry the baby around with tenderness and care. And to watch the love my daughter puts into all children, not just her own. I truly do not know where that came from; certainly not from me, I've never had that kind of patience. It's miraculous.

I took the older four to the playground and the Farm; what a resource, this quiet place where animals are chewing. We watched the piglets snarling and snapping at each other, as siblings do. There were lots of eggs in the henhouse, and I remembered with nostalgia when I used to be able to buy them, still warm with feathers. Then the city decided it wasn't safe.

Speaking of unsafe: it looks like our Cabbagetown Youth Centre is going to close for lack of funding - private funding dropped off and provincial funding was slashed by the vicious, stupid, short-sighted, mean-spirited Ford government. A vital after-school place for local at-risk kids, it's at the heart of the community. Our GoFund me campaign isn't nearly enough; I've spoken to our MPP and wrote yesterday to Bill Morneau, our MP, pleading with them both to do something. No one cares. If only I could sic Anna on the case. But she is preoccupied with the school strikes, which will hit her local school Monday. She has offered free child care to anyone who needs to go to work.

As Krugman wrote yesterday in the NYTimes, Why does America hate its children?
Multiple studies have found that safety-net programs for children have big long-term consequences. Children who receive adequate nutrition and health care grow up to become healthier, more productive adults. And in addition to the humanitarian side of these benefits, there’s a monetary payoff: Healthier adults are less likely to need public aid and are likely to pay more in taxes.
It’s probably too much to claim that helping children pays for itself. But it surely comes a lot closer to doing so than tax cuts for the rich.


Speaking of Americans: Bill Maher was back last night after a long break, and his interview guest was Nancy Pelosi. Now that is an admirable woman. "When you enter the arena, as I do," she said, ladylike, in an elegant pant suit and very high heels, "you have to be able to take the blows and also deliver them." And she does. She pointed out with great relish, "Trump is impeached forever. No matter what the Senate decides, he will always be impeached." YES!

And finally, my own two cents: Hooray for Meghan and Harry. It will not be easy to figure out how to break free of centuries of tradition, and for Harry to leave everything he has ever known, to find a new way to live. I salute your courage for trying. Let's leave them alone to make their way, shall we?

If only.

And now perhaps a good idea to get dressed.

PS From across town: snow is falling, Dad and boys playing board game, cat keeping an eye on things. Luckily, there are lots of places where children are loved.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

advanced class Life Stories II, and dancing

My advanced class, Life Stories II, starts next Thursday at 12.30 at U of T, and there is still room. It's for students who've taken my class at least once and would like to suffer all over again. Please get in touch if you have questions.

And ... I produced a dance party last year, with Gina's help. This year, she is doing it on her own with a little shove from me. We hope if it works, these will be a regular event. It's specifically so anyone can come and dance with or without partner. All that's needed is a desire to move the body to music, and $10.

here comes the sun, and I say, it's all right

The sun is shining, in more ways than one. Yes, it's beaming hot through the window right now, as I sit at my south-facing desk. Barely winter, today.

I just sent the manuscript to another publisher who expressed interest in seeing it and has promised to get back to me by the end of February. I'd already contacted someone who assists with self-publishing, will put that off for a couple of months.

So - onward. I expect nothing; this time, no unrealistic fantasies. But I'll wait.

Yesterday, I sent an essay to an editor I work with - it's time for feedback. I read a fantastic piece of reporting in the Guardian, about the swallowing of affordable housing in Parkdale, in western Toronto, by huge corporations, evicting lower income residents, tearing down smaller buildings and putting up expensive condos. Sent it to Mayor Tory. Today the Mayor's office wrote me back with a long list of what the city is doing to promote affordable housing. Amazing - one day later! Write letters, folks. Sometimes it really works.

However, the Mayor's office wrote that the city had developed a ten-year plan for more affordable housing. I sent it to Anna. She wrote back, in her inimitable way, "Fuck that.  More housing in 10 years? They tore down a tent city a few weeks ago, knowing shelters were at capacity. Shameful."

It's sad this piece appeared in the Guardian, not a Canadian paper. I used to subscribe to the superb Guardian, had let that lapse, re-subscribed yesterday. We must support good journalism, more vital than ever now.

Got a book out of the library recommended by the wonderful Kerry Clare, whose blog Pickle Me This is at left. She usually writes about novels and memoirs, but this book is On Boards by a Canadian food blogger, and it's about how to arrange cheese and meat and veggies on a platter or board to make them look delectable. Life-changing; as I wrote to Kerry, no more sad little piles on a plate, now I will be scattering nuts and spices and making it all look gorgeous.
Penny sent me a belated Xmas present - a calendar of Liverpool, with the statue of the Fab Four on the front. My friends know me well.

Tomorrow is a P.D. day and Anna will come to visit with the boys and three other children she is looking after. Monday elementary school teachers are walking out in Parkdale and she has offered to look after any children whose parents need to go to work, without charge. She and all the kids in her care will go to not one but two demonstrations against school cuts. Atsa my girl.

The sun on my face. Breath in my lungs. About to go down to the kitchen and refill my coffee mug. Impeachment moves ahead. It doesn't get better than this.

P.S. Even better: I just got a royalty payment - $70.17. I'm rich!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

and furthermore ...

Forgive me if I mull over that rejection again. I was awake in the night - well, in fact, I'm awake most nights, this is the time of my January insomnia. I'm never a great sleeper, but for some reason every January, it's much worse - awake at 3 or 4 a.m. for hours. Is it the lack of light? The new year looming? No idea.

I was thinking about what I'd just written here. In some posts, I'm trying to show non-writers and students who come to my blog the life of a writer. We're very lucky in many ways; I spend a lot of time in my pyjamas, for example, as I am right now. But the isolation is also one of the hardest things about my chosen profession. We work alone, sometimes for years, with no idea if what we're working on will appeal to others. A yes from a publisher is in invitation inside, into the warm bright room of acceptance, a acknowledgement that yes, all that solitary effort has been recognized. It's being heard. Being seen.

I know from my own experience and from writer friends that even being published can be a major disappointment, however. We have dreams for our books that most often are not realized. But still, on we go. And we do have the image of J. K. Rowling hanging above our heads - a single mother who worked alone for a long time, spending a grant on babysitting so she could have time to write a novel about a boy wizard, a novel that was rejected many times before it found a publisher. How disheartened she must have been at first. What lunatics we writers be. And yet for her, things panned out rather well.

I say in class - we write for ourselves, because we need to tell our stories. So even if our work never makes it out into the world, we've still done what we needed to do.

And now, to get washed and dressed and to my desk. Because – lunatic writer.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

in which Beth feels briefly sorry for herself - again

Burst into tears earlier tonight, and, this time, not from joy at music or books. An email I'd long awaited finally came in, from an editor at a big publishing house who'd agreed to read the manuscript. Another editor at the same house had already turned it down, but irrationally, very irrationally, I had hope.

The fantasy: the editor says yes, how we love this book! The machine begins to churn - meetings with editors, designers, publicists. Rewrites, plans. The book is launched. It's beautiful. Readers find it moving and truthful.

She said no. She said the publicity department didn't think it'd have a big enough audience.

So I had a cry. I've spent three or four years on this book, though of course while doing many other things. I sent it out to some indie publishers in July - July - and have heard back from one. No.

Ah well. I'm sure you've heard quite enough whining about this, over time. I'll wait a few more weeks for the other publishers, and then do it myself, again. Finally, what matters is to birth the book and move on. I can't do any more for this one.

The weather is amazingly mild for January. Teaching last night - a big and very diverse crowd at Ryerson will be a challenge and a lot of fun. Tomorrow, a student is coming to rehearse a piece she'll be reading at an event for women who've survived terrible things. Which she has - the sudden heart attack death of her young husband when their first son was two and she was six months pregnant with their second - and she has written beautifully about it. I'm proud to have helped her.

I have nothing to complain about. The world is burning. We writers do what we do; we do what we can. That's all.

Maybe a little bit more chocolate right now, however. No, peanut butter. Peanut butter fixes everything.