Saturday, March 31, 2018

Chris's domain

CLo's backyard
His street
 Checking out the passersby, of whom there are almost none
 Whipping up a simple cake
Still life with said cake

slowing down

I'm in Brigadoon - a magical place drifting in the mists. The air is so fresh, I'm always sleepy, my brain not used to all that oxygen. And then there's this house, a luxury log cabin with high speed wifi and high end kitchen equipment, fllled with exotic objets d'art from around the world and 4 high energy beasties, one of them two-legged.

He gets up at 4, sits at his computer for many hours, goes non-stop around his domain - cleaning, baking, doing. By the time other people would have begun to figure something out, Chris has done it and moved on. He has always been this way, with the energy of a teenager and the focus and drive of a genius, despite significant health issues and, now, being 70.

We've both had moments of wondering whether this pairing will work. He can be cranky and critical, and I - well, I am perfection itself, as you know, not neurotic at all. Here I'm dependent and stuck, with no car and little autonomy, especially in the rain, and he busy with his life and not inclined to waste time. However, so far so good, so very good, even on a day as miserable as Thursday, dark and glowering with incessant rain. We pottered in the morning, went to the village for supplies and lunch, and then home to read and compute and play with animals and watch an episode of Grantchester that we'd both seen. That was it, and it was heaven.

Yesterday, the sun came out and stayed out for most of the day. What a difference - a whole new playground opens up, the great outdoors, Chris's yard and the island itself. We took a tour in the Fiat, stopping at a couple of beaches, noting the mix of hippy longterm residents and wealthy weekenders whose homes line the shore. I took Sheba for a reluctant walk and chased her around the yard, her silken curls streaming behind as she races ecstatically with an old slipper in her mouth. I fashioned both lunch and dinner - one of the chores I can help my host with, and he made an incredible chocolate cake with fanciful piped-on icing. We watched birds and deer and a wild turkey, and in the evening, we watched a superb film: God's Own Country, a beautiful British film about the power of tenderness and kindness to transform lives. Also about gay love. Highly recommended.

No time to post pictures - Chris has posted some of mine in any case - time to get ready for an exciting day. Patsy is coming to get me to take me to the ferry, and we're going to Nanaimo. The big city. To look for an electric piano for me to rent while I'm here. Too much stimulation for this country lass.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

island life

A heavy grey morning, cold and wet. I am in Chris's studio, working - well, right now, writing to you. He's in his house, 20 paces away, at his computer. At noon we'll go to the village for groceries and out for lunch, come back for another quiet afternoon, maybe a hot tub, then he'll go to his puppy training class while I cook dinner. Darby and Joan, my parents would have called us - like an old married couple.

Yesterday's excitement for me was going to the village for the first time, a ten minute drive from Chris's. We met Patsy for lunch at a small café, where we sat next to two RCMP officers in full uniform with sidearms, having a tranquil burger with a female friend. One of them writes a funny column in the local newspaper about what the RCMP deal with on the island - one item, Patsy told us, was, "A rowboat has disappeared. Perhaps it ran away to join the navy."

After lunch Patsy and I went to the grocery store, which turned out to be huge and full of everything anyone could need - I wasn't sure how much would be available here, but it turns out just about everything. I bought my necessities, including, most importantly, peanut butter, cheese, and coffee; she took me to the liquor store, two of the local thrift stores, and the good deli, and on the way back, to the place that sells pies by the side of the road - you leave the money in a jar - and then to the egg man, ditto.

Chris gave us a tour of his studio outbuilding, a lovely space lined in pine where he can work on his dresses - nine fantastic creations that took him all last year to fashion, and now he has written a play around them that he hopes to get produced.
For someone with OCD, the studio is heaven - rows of shelves storing rows of bottles filled with the craft items he needs. And now, this is a warm silent place I can come when he's working in the house, and vice versa.

He and I sat again in the hot tub, though without champagne this time; then he watched his favourite TV show Escape to the Country, a British program about urban people looking for country properties - wonder why he likes that one? - and cooked dinner. And finally, the pets slept, and so did we.

This morning he called me over to his worktable window, first to see two white-tailed deer in the woods just outside his fence, and then the large pileated woodpecker with the bright red topknot who dines at his feeder. He has set up bird feeders with suet right outside his office window so he can watch the birds all day - juncoes and towhees, thrushes, many sizes of woodpecker.

I feel the city falling away from my shoulders, chased away by the smell of woodsmoke and wet trees, the profound silence, the feeling of being far away from the pressure, speed, and terrifying madness of our current world. And yet everyone and everything is nearby, I FaceTimed with my daughter last night and again this morning, am still dealing with the conference, with students and editing clients, tenants, the house - but from a place of intense stillness in fir- and smoke-scented air.

For which I am very grateful.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018


And now for something completely different: Gabriola Island, off Vancouver Island near Nanaimo, population about 4000, at least in winter, many more in summer. As those of you who follow his blog know, my friend Chris, about six months ago, abruptly decided to sell his tiny perfect apartment in the heart of downtown Vancouver, buy a log cabin on a half acre of wooded land here, and adopt two kittens and a puppy. Some people effect change slowly. Not Chris.

And of course, it's glorious.

But first, yesterday morning in Vancouver, the sun actually came out and Bruce and I went for a walk in Stanley Park. (Click to enlarge.)

 Heron's nests
We took the Skytrain to meet Chris, who had flown in to town early that morning for his last appointment with his beloved psychiatrist. The three of us are friends since the Seventies and have travelled to India and spent time in France together. A merry reunion. And then Chris and I set off for the float plane airport, to take the tiny plane to the island.

I sat in the co-pilot's seat - thrilling. I wanted Eli and Ben to be there too, as we skimmed over the water, floated through the sky, and 20 minutes later sailed back down to the water again. As we came ashore, Patsy was waiting for us. One of my oldest and dearest friends, she threw my 20th birthday party when we were both working at Neptune Theatre and housemates in Halifax in 1970. Patsy came to Gabriola almost 30 years ago and has been involved in many initiatives here, including the sponsoring of a Syrian family - can you imagine, they fled from Syria to a refugee camp in Lebanon and from there to Gabriola Island! - and now a tool library, a place where people can come and borrow tools. Always busy.

We drove Chris's cherry red Fiat, surely the only one on the island, to his home. It could not be more perfect for him - a bright warm spacious 3-bedroom house full of beautiful things with an outbuilding studio for his art projects and three gorgeous animals, Sheba the half Bernese Mountain Dog and half ivory coloured poodle with sheep's curls, and two elegant Bengal cats with perfect stripes and spots.

He opened a bottle of Veuve Clicquot and we got into
the hot tub. Paradise.

And then Patsy arrived with supper hot in her basket - a Thai curry with rice - and Chris's new friend Paula arrived with salad, and we drank champagne and ate and talked with the smell of wood smoke drifting past.

This morning, a walk on a nearby trail with a happy man and a very happy dog. And a happy woman from Toronto.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

the shape of water, the sequel

Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows I'm a sunoholic. I will locate the sun beside windows in restaurants and busses and planes, in my house, and follow it around, like a sundial.

Right now, I'm lying in Bruce's sofa bed in his living room with no desire to get up. The sky is thick grey, the day is dark grey, the rain is teeming down, just as yesterday, when it poured all day without stopping once. Today will be the same.

However. I am with loving friends, I am warm and dry, at least for now, so move right along sister, nothing to do about the weather. Or the hideous political landscape. When I grow up, I want to be Emma Gonzales.

Sunday morning, Margaret and I went to Jane Ellison's dance/movement class BoingBoing, which she has been running for years out of the Western Front, an artist's cooperative on the east side. Jane is a force of nature - slender and vital in her seventies, she leads her group through yoga stretches and then, be still my beating heart, she puts on fabulous music and we dance - just any way, anywhere, dance dance dance. Three songs at least, different kinds of music, Afrobeat, jazz, rock, modern - all with a beat. And then a cool down. It's the best exercise class I've ever been to. I'd fly out to this godforsaken wet zone just for Jane.

The sun actually emerged briefly and Margie and I walked to Commercial Drive to shop for supper - such a great street, like Roncesvalles, very busy and local and hip. At home, it was actually possible to see the view from Margie's kitchen window - the looming mass.
Can you see them? Above the trees - not cloud, but snow-topped mountains stretching across the horizon. Just after we got home, it started not to rain, but to hail, pellets bouncing off the windows.

We watched much of the Juno awards, taking place not far away in Vancouver this year, and a terrific production it was too. How Canadian, the moving tribute to Gord Downie, the self-deprecating humour of Michael Buble, the reunion of the terrific Barenaked Ladies. And all those young singers in weird clothes - one in a white one-piece like long underwear, another with long fuschia hair - making us feel old and staid. Which is of course the point.

Then the two-hour season opener of Call the Midwife, one of my favourite shows, and then a few horrifying minutes watching Stormy Daniels tell about having sex with the President of the United States, too disgusting to stay with.

Monday, Margie drove me to Bruce's tiny apartment in the West End, right on the water, where I used to stay while he was in Italy. Just after our time together in Nice last year, my dear friend had a stroke, luckily while he was staying with an Italian friend near Ravenna. His friend got him to hospital quickly, where he stayed for weeks; his sister and brother-in-law came to look after him, and eventually another brother and a Vancouver doctor came to bring him home. He was in hospital here for weeks, then in a rehab hospital, and is now home and looking terrific. You wouldn't know anything had happened to him, though he has little movement on the right side of his face, still has blurry vision in that eye, and can't feel his mouth at all. But he is trim and cheerful, and - miracles for a thrifty man - has bought a new chair and a sofa bed, upon which I am ensconced. He made me go out three times in the downpour, for lunch, to shop, and again for dinner. Because he is from Vancouver, and thus covered with scales. They should have shot The Shape of Water here rather than in Toronto; here, everyone is a fish.
Lunch with Brucie at the Cactus Club, right on the beach ...
The beach. Through the restaurant window. Fifty shades of grey. This is what my computer said to me last night:
Good evening Beth!
Rain is in the forecast tomorrow for Vancouver. Stay dry!

Brucie and I watched a documentary on Netflix about - yes - the Beatles. Is there anything I didn't know? Yes, always more to learn. We both fiddled on our computers while we watched and are doing so again today, fingers tapping, checking websites, gossiping and laughing. In the early afternoon, we're going to meet Chris. The three of us went to India together in 2007. Now that's a story.

As Chris has written on HIS blog: Can Miss I-Have-Fifteen-Things-To-Do-Today from Toronto find a few weeks of happiness with a crotchety old homosexual with C-PTSD who’s used following his muse independently? Stay tuned. I told her we’ll be living a Reality Show: "Two anxious neurotics lock themselves in a cabin. See what happens next.”

Saturday, March 24, 2018


A thrilling day on our battered planet: Americans are rallying, and the world with them. Those kids are incredible! Could this possibly be a turning point in the benighted politics of our neighbours? Of our world?

If only they were marching for an end to war, to hunger, to terrorism, to homelessness. Instead they're marching not to get shot at school. But Jesus Christ, are they marching!

rain rain go the @#$#@$ away

Please allow me to bitch a little, will you? It's SUNNY in Toronto. In this godforsaken town, they have not heard of sun. Bright heat does not exist. What exists are cloud, rain clouds, and cold rain. There is bright green moss on everything, including the people. Somewhere out there, through the heavy grey mist, are mountains. Invisible.

Okay, thanks, got that off my chest.

We are having a lovely if quiet time. Yesterday, Margaret took me via Skytrain to the Vancouver Art Gallery, to see the exhibit of the quirky Japanese artist Murakami. Very strange stuff, some of which did not appeal - influence of manga comics, he says, Walt Disney, Star Wars - all over the place. Fun for kids, and some lovely things, especially his flowers. We watched a video of him at work in a huge factory with a staff of scores of young people, filling in his vast computer-generated images with colour. Matisse would have been bewildered but intrigued.

Margaret in a field of Murakami flowers - dear friend since the Seventies.
Love this.

After our lunch in one of the nicest art gallery restaurants anywhere, the sun actually appeared and we sat on the VAG steps and felt that bizarre warmth on our faces for at least eight minutes, before it vanished again and we went home before the rain started.

I took my hosts out for dinner last night - Friday night on Commercial Drive, such a great lively street, at a terrific restaurant called Havana. A long walk there and back past the pretty little houses of east Vancouver, now worth well over a million dollars each, if not two. Margaret and Roy's children, like mine, will never own a house in their home town.

And then, great fun, we binge-watched Season 3 of the British TV series Broadchurch - four episodes. We'd watched the first two the night before and thought there were only six, that at 12.30 a.m., when we finished episode 6, we'd know who, out of the possible 19 suspects, the serial rapist is - but no! Two more episodes to watch tomorrow. Can't wait. This time, unlike the first season, the plot was ponderous, but still, great acting, interesting situations, linking adult sexual violence with what teenagers go through with porn on their phones and the pressures of social media. Well done.

It's a busy weekend here - the Juno awards have shut the downtown, plus there's a soccer game and two huge protests - against gun violence, along with millions protesting in the U.S. including Macca in NYC, and against the Kinder Morgan oil giant. My friend Patsy marched up Burnaby Mountain last week with chiefs from all over the country and a woman warrior from Standing Rock. "Now that you're here on the West Coast," she wrote, "you'd better catch the spirit."

But I'm not protesting anything today except the rain. I am meeting my friend Judy and her husband at a theatre downtown for a matinee, then back here to cook supper for my hosts and our mutual friends Allison and Monty. An hour ago, I uttered the plaintive cry of the traveller - what the hell am I doing here, far from home? But I know. I'm out of my shell on the raincoast, and this is part of the experience. Learning patience. Enjoying what's possible to enjoy. And somewhere out there - are mountains.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

made it

Yes! Yes yes yes yes yes. I'm here. It's dark and raining in Vancouver, of course, but the fruit trees are in bloom. I'm in St. Augustine's, a pub on Commercial Drive, drinking a rather sour craft beer - it's called Jerkface, how could I resist? My friend Margaret with whom I will be staying is at a class and will meet me here in about half an hour. I assumed I'd be late, that it would take me a long time to get here, but a more seamless journey I have never had.

I'd even made my cappuccino the night before, so up at 7.30, heat up coffee, eat cereal, last minute things to do, out the door by 8.10, walk to Parliament Street and the bus came a few minutes later. Bus to the subway, and the subway came a minute later. Subway to Dundas West station, get out, walk a few minutes along Bloor, onto the UP express to the airport, a 7 minute wait. A beautiful swift train, and here we are at Pearson. No lineup, get through security, drink a flat white, eat a breakfast sandwich, board. Plane takes off on time. Watch "The Shape of Water," which I loved - we just flow into this world of imagination, leave our sceptical modern selves behind. We need to do that more often.

I watch some National Film Board shorts which are brilliant and funny, and then listen to Bach and Beethoven while reading "Lincoln in the Bardo," George Saunders's Man Booker-winning novel which I bought at the airport.

Can I tell you the pleasure of this - soaring through the air in a clunky tin bird while reading a magnificently imaginative and moving novel - about the death of President Lincoln's son, narrated by the ghosts around him in the cemetery, if you can believe that - and listening to the greatest music ever written? And then, one more bit of pleasure - I got out my sandwich and ate that. Leftover roast pork with tons of mayonnaise and endive. I know how to make a sandwich.

We land, my bag arrives, the Canada Line train arrives just as I get to at the station, and the Compass card I bought the last time I was here has lots of money left. Tap, get on, get off at Broadway/City Hall, it's raining but my umbrella is right there in one of the outside pockets, and anyway, it's only a few minutes till the 99B arrives. I take it to the end of the line and walk across the street to St. Augustine's pub.

Does it get easier than that? Not a single moment of heart-stopping panic, as is usual during my travels. And all this with - I must confess - a rather large suitcase. Well, I'm gone for a month! And there are gifts.

I am so so relieved to be outside my house, I the most turtle-like of creatures, unwilling to leave the warm protective space I have built for myself and huddled inside for 32 years. It's good to be naked out in the world once in a while. Maybe I'll meet a fishman, like Sally Hawkins did. So here goes.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

nearly on her way

Dear God, this is the usual state I'm in before leaving for an extended trip - beyond exhausted, drained like an overcooked noodle. This time my left eye is bright red with a burst blood vessel; as I rode my bike yesterday, I kept that eye closed against the cold, so there was a one-eyed lunatic weaving about. There is sun, but it's cold.

Whereas in Vancouver, where I will land tomorrow, 90% chance of rain Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Hooray.

So - packing the rain boots.

The last Ryerson class on Monday, all of them reading spectacular work, the room infused with a feeling of trust and courage. A new editing client on Tuesday - he read my article in Zoomer and was determined to begin work on his memoir before my departure, so insisted we meet asap. An interesting man with a very interesting life - this will be fun. Today, more tramping about the house with John and Tatiana contemplating the renovation, how to rebuild the staircase, where will the door go, after 15 minutes, I'm ready to give up. I did NOT do Carole's class at the Y, could not even contemplate putting out that much energy - I just went in to say goodbye to everyone and then to have a long hot shower. And then to the dermatologist to learn that the brown patch behind my ear is not ear cancer, it's an age spot. Good news all round.

And then across town to be with my boys - Ben bouncing off the walls - everything he says and does is with enormous gusto. "STEEETCAR!" he screams, his face alight with excitement as if it's the first one he has ever seen, every time one goes by his bedroom window. Eli meanwhile was playing Risk with his dad. He's five. I have never played Risk. He won.

And now - the last minute things, trying not to aggravate my eye; the bag is nearly packed, and out the door I go first thing tomorrow. It is good to get away. It is good to get away. I know that, but each time, at this point, I swear I will never do this again.

Don't listen to her. She'll have forgotten all about it by tomorrow night.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

basement suite to rent May 1

Beautiful furnished basement suite to rent in tranquil, historic Cabbagetown in the heart of Toronto. One big bright room with kitchen, living room, bedroom combined; a dressing room area, and a bathroom with big shower. Reasonably priced, available May 1.

Please get in touch with me if you're interested or know someone who might be.

"If the rocks could talk"

An honour and a blessing: another editing client and former student, Rollande Ruston, has come out with the memoir we worked on together. I blushed to read her dedication: "Special thanks for Beth Kaplan, my creative writing teacher and hero... From the very beginning she was appreciative of my efforts and always had something positive to say about my stories... Without her encouragement and support, this book wouldn't be."

It's called "If the rocks could talk." Rollande has traced her family back to the mid-1600s in France and writes with humour and elegance about her childhood in the Gaspesie. A beautiful book; brava, Rollande, all that hard work was worth it. Take a look.

I'm sitting in the hot sun in the kitchen; it's still chilly outside, but we all feel spring coming. On Saturday I took Eli to the farm where we watched the farmhand grooming a horse with the lovely name Ringo. His horsehair was flying off; he doesn't need that thick protective pelt any more. And then we saw green shoots of daffodils and croci everywhere.

But because I'm an impatient person, I'm leaving on Thursday for a month on the west coast, where spring is far more advanced. Chris writes from Gabriola Island that he is outside in shorts. Of course, he is a crazy person, but still, I am attempting to imagine warm weather as I pack. Or, in fact, as I don't pack, because I haven't started yet, still immersed in Toronto life.

On Friday, my upstairs tenant and friend Carol arrived back from her permanent home in Ecuador to her temporary home in my attic; she's moving out for good mid-June, but will be here while I'm away. There was much talking about her last six months and mine. Then, a sleepover with Eli on Friday night. We spent a great deal of time playing hockey in the kitchen, he with a small puffy hockey stick I'd found - no-one could be hurt with this stick - and I with a broom. Needless to say, the score was 22 to 2 for the youth of today. Wayson came, and the three of us had dinner with Carol. I can tell you that the young man dislikes a lot of foodstuffs, but he really really likes salmon.

This visit, for the first time, he was immersed in Lego, spending hours putting together a boat-like creation and then filling the sink to the brim to see if it would float. It did, and so he took it into the bathtub with him. The night was a bit rough - he missed his mother at 3 a.m. so I got into bed with him for a bit, and then he came into my bed at about 5.30. But I forgive him everything. The best moment, lying side by side on the sofa with me starting to read "Charlotte's Web," a favourite book by my favourite writer, to him.

He told me he can count to a million by tens. "Really?!" I asked. "Sure," he said. "10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 a million. Easy peasy."

He has his grandmother's math skills. Mind you, she's 67, and he's 5.

His family came to get him; now that his mother can drive, she rents cars and zips all over town, and for March Break, brilliantly, she had rented a room in a hotel with a big pool and play area for a one night staycation. A good time was had by all.

Now I am cooking a last winter Sunday night roast for Carol, Wayson, and our friend Judy Steed. Next week, the last Ry class, a conference committee meeting which I'm chairing, a visit to the dermatologist to be sure I don't have ear cancer. It'll be spring on Tuesday, but I'm not waiting around to see if she decides to come. I know she takes her time getting to Toronto. So I'm going to look for her.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

celebrating Diana

The astounding adventure of life continues. Last term, I was privileged to meet a lively new student, Diana, who as a child came to Canada as a refugee from Vietnam. Diana grew up as Jimm, a boy who secretly enjoyed putting on women's clothes, finally came out, and found a beloved partner with whom he lived for 14 years. But underneath, Jimm had another secret, a female self longing to emerge - Diana. He wanted to transition, and a few years ago, the journey to Diana began.

Diana is open, vivacious, and the most feminine woman I know. She read at So True dressed in skintight leather pants, a low-cut blouse, diamantĂ© earrings, and at one dramatic point, pulled the clips out of her hair so it tumbled down to her waist. As we worked on the piece beforehand, Diana spoke of being "a career girl", and I asked what career. She said, laughing, "Insurance!" Just about the last kind of employment I would have imagined. Her company has fully supported her through her transition, she said. I noted that her insurance company is also mine.

And this week, I needed advice on insurance. I'm someone who went through a fire, thought my life was over, and instead got close to a brand new house, so I understand the vital importance of insurance, but I'm not happy with my agent, my premiums are high, and there are complications with the possibility of a renovation. I needed a seminar in insurance, and who to give it but Diana? She came over last night and we drank wine and went through my policy line by line as she explained what the confusing terms meant. She pointed out, with another great laugh, that I get the "Mature Market Discount" because old people don't wreck things as often as young ones.

And then, more importantly, we discovered that our feet are exactly the same size and I was able to give her a pair of high-heeled pointy-toed suede boots from my own former life, when I wore such things. Win/win. Thank you, Diana! (Incidentally, she has given me permission to write this.)

On Friday, my upstairs tenant Carol comes back from her home in Ecuador to spend her last three months here, and next Thursday, I fly out west for a month in Vancouver and on Gabriola Island. So there is much rushing right now - to try to get the reno at least comprehensible and possible, the downstairs apartment rented again, income tax underway, goodbyes said - Eli coming for a sleepover Friday night - the Beatles talk in May organized, the house fixed and ready for Carol - John came over yesterday, fixed the always-broken doorbell and replaced the innards of the downstairs toilet, my hero, that man. The last Ryerson class Monday, the last non-fiction conference meeting Tuesday, Wednesday seeing the dermatologist about the brown patch above my ear.

Thursday, get the hell out of here.

Monday, March 12, 2018

the man who knew too little, the woman who knows too much

Slow mo snow - big flakes tumbling and whirling in slow motion, mesmerizing. Not spring yet. But I did see a big robin at the bird feeder.

Well, my surprise hours Saturday and yesterday, when I was supposed to be in Ottawa and was not, vanished. My handyman John came, fixed things, and gave me some valuable advice about the renovation. I cooked dinner, Wayson came, and we watched some of the Canadian Screen Awards, so much more snappy and fun than the Oscars though sadly I'd never even heard of most of the films, and then a documentary about Harry Potter featuring one of my great heroes, the fine person and writer J.K. Rowling.

But what else happened? Not much. A great deal of time was spent sitting here with the computer, on Facebook and other sites, keeping up with the news. And then I read the article below about a man who has gone completely off the news grid, and I thought, Hmm.
It has happened so gradually, this subservience to the devices, it's hard to notice just how very much time goes into checking email and various websites, how automatic it is - first thing in the morning, last thing at night, and many times in between, and that's just email and news feeds on the computer, I'm not a phone junkie like some. Of course, the current state of the world leads us to a fraught desire to know the latest: What has he done NOW?

But is that healthy? I think not. How to cut back? I have no idea. But perhaps spending three weeks on a small gulf island will be a start.

And I promise not to mention Doug Ford.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Zoomer expert c'est moi

Dazed. It's noon on Saturday; I'm supposed to be at the island airport to get a 12.30 flight to Ottawa, to take my aunt shopping and to dinner with her friend Una tonight, spend Sunday morning and lunch with her and depart tomorrow afternoon. I was just shutting down my computer to leave for the airport when I got an email from Porter - my flight had been cancelled and I was rebooked on one at 6 p.m.

Infuriating! I wouldn't get to my aunt - who, as you know, will be 98 next month - until 8 p.m., by which time she's usually nodding off on her bed as she watches TV. Pointless to make the trip, which incidentally costs over $300 plus car rental and my night at the Airbnb. I had to call Do and Una while I was on hold for half an hour with Porter; apparently the delay has to do with poor weather down east yesterday causing flights to be backed up.

Still infuriating. I had to cancel. Not sure when I can get there as I leave for Vancouver March 22. I am packed with gifts; I'd had a huge meal to eat the last of the food in my fridge which now is empty - as is the whole day. My aunt is hugely disappointed and so am I.


Okay, nothing to be done. I am sorry, my beloved aunt. But at least it was not an urgent trip to see her in hospital, as it was so often with my mother; I just wanted to see her. So now, to look on the time as a gift and use it well. I'd better get some groceries. Some wine. Do some work. God knows, there are a million things to be done. Started income tax last night.

On the bright side, I was checking True to Life on Amazon because of the Zoomer plug, below, when I found a few nice new reviews by unknown readers, including this one. "Fun to read - very tasty tips" - mmm, I can dine out on that.

a fun read and extremely useful for creative non-fiction writing
Playfully written, this book is fun to read with bite-sized chapters full of very tasty tips that really do help with non-fiction writing.

The very short article I wrote for Zoomer, in conjunction with our creative non-fiction conference, is getting lots of airplay - they've not only posted it on the Zoomer website, they've highlighted it in the email they send out to their subscribers. How I love being "an expert" - there's a first for everything! Ha.
6 Ideas for a Lazy Brunch, How to Write Your Memoir … and MORE!
Ask an Expert: 7 Tips on How to Write Your Memoir
Led an interesting life? Want to leave the unvarnished details to your heirs apparent
long after you’ve left the building? We say write it down now!  READ MORE

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

So True readers triumph, again

So True! It was wonderful. I'm so proud of the writers. Here's what one first time reader emailed afterwards:
Still feeling "full" after a night of feasting on everyone's authentic, bold, well read writing. So grateful to have shared the stage and mic (not so scary after all!) with all of you. Thanks Beth for creating the space and for all the support to get us up there. Amazing.
And another first timer:
I had a wonderful evening, just thrilled to have been in the company of such a fine group of people. Your stories are all touching. 
It was an honour and absolute pleasure to be a part of So True. Thank you Beth for this unique opportunity to share my story.

This time, we were nearly at capacity - maybe 70 people plus our 8 readers. If we get any bigger, we'll have to find another space, and we really like this one.
The next So True isn't until October; this particular May and June are too busy for me to be able to devote the time to our usual late spring session. Our autumn topic: Kith and Kin. I just love the word 'kith,' and those two words make for the best stories. So - stay tuned.

And then Wayson and I came back here, and Sam's lovely Amy came over too; Sam had cooked chili for our Oscar watching party. I can't believe we watched the whole @#$# thing, but we did. People have been dissing the show, but I thought it was better than most - less crass, more heartfelt, with some great moments. However, I used to sit and watch acting award shows like the Oscars and feel like Cinderella, at home in my rags while important glittering people celebrated each other. And now, I look at those women, working so very hard in extremely uncomfortable clothes in front of 200 million people, and am so profoundly grateful to be in my sweatpants in my living room. Speaking and reading an essay in a room of 70 or 80 friendly souls is stress enough for me.

Friday I had a checkup. There's a little cyst on my left eyelid, a brown mole-like patch above my right ear, both of which need to be seen, and I still have osteoporosis though my bones are holding steady. Aging, as they say, is not for sissies. Though in fact, I've never felt better. So there.

Today, across town to see Anna and the boys - it's been weeks. We got Eli after school and went to his floor hockey class again. I was there for the first class some weeks ago, and this was the last of the term - they've come a long way, those hooligan five-year old boys with their ceaseless energy. It was wonderful to see them screaming with laughter playing dodgeball as a warmup, and Ben allowed to join in at the end. But I was exhausted just watching them - non-stop noise and motion. My poor daughter.
Speaking of kith and kin...

I am seeing contractors on the chance that this renovation will actually happen, and this morning a possible tenant for the basement suite since my current tenant is moving to New York. Seeing editing clients, bank manager, teaching, trying to keep up with life - it never stops. Have not written a word for weeks. How do writers do it? I forget.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

blocking spam

Dear readers, I have been getting lots and lots of mail on this blog - from spammers in Nigeria, offering me ways to get my husband or lover back through the casting of spells. I checked the site that lists where my readers are, and sure enough, my third highest readership is in Lagos. Since I'd rather not read incoherent messages about conjuring my husband back, my tech genius Grace has engineered a way to stop them. From now on, a reply to one of my posts will go first to my email for approval and then be posted. It'll just take a bit longer to reply.

And now Grace is reporting them all as spam. Take that, you horrible creatures.

A very short article I wrote for "Zoomer" magazine has just appeared in their March issue with Oprah on the cover. There's a longer piece first listing different ways professional writers can help people get their stories on paper, and then, at the end, a short piece from me on how to write your own memoir. Very concise - in fact, considerably cut even from the short version I sent them - but already someone has contacted me to ask if I'd speak on this subject to their group. Not sure it'll work out, but it's nice these things are read.

On my blog, under "Magazines."

Or here:

Just finished Rachel Cusk's "Transit." What a very odd book. There's no question she's a good writer, but I won't read another book by her - too cold, too irritatingly unsettling. You never know where you are, as people suddenly take off into long philosophical discussions.

It's cold outside but the sun in this office is hot. I'm trying to dig my way out of the mess after clearing out the storage room for the renovation which is now on hold. My left arm is a bit sore - had the vaccine shot against shingles yesterday. On Thursday we held the rehearsals for So True - wonderful, as always. Yesterday, dear friend Stella Walker came for dinner; today, my oldest friend Ron. Tomorrow, after So True, Sam and Amy and Sam's best high school friend and his wife come for chili and Oscars, which will be wasted on me as I've hardly seen any of the movies. How did I get so behind?

Let's get together. It's still cold, and it's March.