Wednesday, June 21, 2023

new website up

All right, Little Miss Impatient - all things come to pass. My new website is up, I think, or nearly. Check it out. Exciting. Lots more me, what more could you possibly ask for? 

And the final re-copyedited draft went off to the publisher. 

And the cancellation of my U of T course I'll look on as - more writing time! Hooray! 

The air is so perfumed, so sweet, it's glorious, even with the smell from the sewer work. So all's well. More or less. 


My course at the U of T summer school, along with several others, was just cancelled for low enrolment. Our boss thinks students are reluctant to return to in-person classes. But also, I think there's an explosion of online writing courses and seminars and books and podcasts and Substack newsletters about writing ... Every writer and her brother is an expert in how to write and get published, a huge cottage industry. Why venture out to receive the expert guidance of yours truly when information is flooding in? 

Not a great sign for those of us who depend on teaching income.

My website launch has also been delayed, an issue with back issues of the blog that needs to be fixed. 

And the book is delayed because we are checking copyediting issues. 

I hate being stuck like this; I like things to be orderly and done. LISTS. But life is not like that. 

The city is doing something to the sewers in the street outside, there's noise and fuss and we can't use the water today. I'm going to shower at the Y. And I am going to eat carbs. And smell the roses. Frustration!

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

U of T Summer Writing School July 10-14

Exciting — my revamped website launches tomorrow. Inkling Design's Andrea and Kelley have been fantastic to work with, creative, responsive, professional, prompt. I'll have to get used to the shiny new site — as will you! 

A crazy day here — the city is doing sewer work that was supposed to start at 7 a.m. today, and we were asked to let water run down all our drains just before work began, so I was up at 6 to be ready. Just went to talk to the guys, however, with their giant machines roaring outside, and they said they're starting tomorrow instead. Yay.

And the piano tuner is here now; mon dieu, the poor thing was so out of tune. Sounding better already. Too bad it's only me who plays it, and sporadically at that.

A reminder for any of you in or near Toronto: I'm teaching at U of T's Summer Writing School. An amazing week,  July10-14, intense workshopping and contact with fellow writers and writing instructors — readings, panels, discussion. Let me know if you have questions.

My downstairs tenant just brought me up some lentil soup. Blessings. The roses are blooming their peachy heads off. My pants are covered with cat hair. The neighbours to the north have a new puppy; what a pleasure to listen to young Juliet play with her. Life is complicated, but summer is sweet. Onward.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Father's Day

I don't celebrate Father's Day; there are no fathers around here. I did send a text to the fathers of my grandsons and a long email to my ex-husband, father of my children. My son came over to help me, with his very long body and arms, reach things I cannot reach. So it was another Mother's Day, really.

But I will post this in honour of my father, who cared deeply about the planet where we all live, and fought, daily, to make it a better place. How proud I am that he was a "ban-bomb apostle."

His granddaughter Anna is the same.

And Happy Father's Day to another fine father, Sir Paul, loving dad to his children and grandchildren and to John's son Julian. It's his 81st birthday today. So Happy Birthday too, Macca!

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Eleanor Wachtel's last show

Here's a blessing to bestow: May you have interesting friends. It's my great good fortune that I do. And one of the most interesting is Eleanor Wachtel, whom I've known since Vancouver in the seventies. Of all the friends from the past, few have found exactly the right job and done it superbly for over three decades, as Eleanor did. 

Yesterday, the CBC celebrated her 33 years with and retirement from Writers&Company with a live broadcast of her last show, which will be on air in a few weeks. The Glenn Gould Studio was packed with fans to hear Matt Galloway interview the sublime interviewer, for a change, and then to hear Eleanor do what she does so very well, interview writers, this time Gary Shteyngart and Brandon Taylor, both witty Americans who had a great deal of good to say about Canada and Canadian writers Mavis Gallant and Mordecai Richler. But especially about Eleanor herself, as did many taped writers shown through the evening, telling her what she meant to them and to literature. One said she's the best interviewer in the world. He's right.

Every Sunday, when I've listened from 3 to 4, I write to tell her how much I enjoyed the show and what I cooked while listening. She joked, when offering me a ticket for last night, that she wondered if I'd be able to listen without utensils. I told her, after the show goes off the air, I'll go to the website on Sundays at 3, find an interview I haven't heard, listen, and cook. How she will be missed. 

Because El is all about books, here's a shot of my Little Free Library yesterday - sometimes it's empty, and sometimes it's full of fascinating stuff. An eclectic bunch of readers around here.

I'm on the deck; there's a tiny bright green bug circumnavigating the computer that I hope finds a more suitable path soon. It's a heavenly day, and there's a lot of gardening to do, but it's break time. Last week was busy, with several new editing clients, back and forth about the new book, advertising my Write in the Garden workshop on July 23 and the U of T class July 10-14 (lots of room in both!). There was a gathering at Hemingway's bar with the former members of the Nonfiction Collective's conference committee, to exchange tips for surviving as a writer and get caught up. Thursday the last of my home classes until the fall, our potluck dinner and reading, always a huge treat. And tonight, dinner with Ron Singer, who gave me a Best Performance award at the Canadian University Drama League competition in 1969 and directed the tour of Under Milk Wood in 1971, and his wife Yvonne. Ron speaks Yiddish and is a fan of my Jewish Shakespeare book. A lively evening anticipated. A bond going back 54 years. Sheesh. 

Several friends have been having serious health problems. I read the blog of Hanif Kureshi, who had a catastrophic fall in Rome that left him paralyzed. Who knows what's coming? So I am going to go out and smell the roses, literally. And the honeysuckle that's just beginning, and the mint and lavender. As poet Lorna Crozier said, the garden going on without us. 

Or, if we're lucky, with us. For now. 

Monday, June 12, 2023

Midlife Solo at the finish line

Have been rooted to my favourite kitchen chair for days now, or to my office chair upstairs. But at last, I think the manuscript is done. I'm hoping for one last Zoom with my editor Ellie today, to check a few things, but then it goes off to Mosaic Press, and my life can start again. 

It's the strangest relationship, that of a writer with a nearly-ready manuscript, like the bond one has with nearly-adult children — great love, desire to protect and nurture them, and yet also the overwhelming need for them to get the @#$ out of the house and on with their own lives. Of course, both with children and books, the work never ends. The marketing of this book has to start now, my least favourite part of the process, but one of the most necessary.


Luckily, the weather has mostly been terrible, which helps a lot when the work is inside. 

On Friday, neighbour John arranged an event for a bunch of us in his garden to meet Olivia Chow, leading progressive candidate for mayor. I went as an undecided and left 100% sold. She's terrific, extremely canny yet idealistic, knows the game which she has played both municipally and federally for many years. She has my vote. 

Saturday the Crosbies came to visit - Heather who lives locally and her brother Max visiting from Ottawa, who was also in the drama club at Carleton University in the late sixties and whom I've not seen since. I directed him and Peter Blais in Pinter's The Dumbwaiter, which won an award, and later he and I were both in Pinter's The Homecoming. Even very young, Max was skilled at playing crabby old men. We got caught up on more than fifty years.

Last night, the Tony Awards, always a pleasure, and what an incredibly diverse list of winners. Not surprised Leopoldstadt and Tom Stoppard won, or Jodie Comer. It's strange, I was in NYC last fall and did not go to the theatre once. Not like me, and I regret it now, will not make that mistake again.

It's dark and rainy, hooray, because I don't have to go anywhere. Today I will send MIDLIFE SOLO: Writing through chaos to a new place in the world out into the world (though I'm still unsure about the subtitle) and CLEAN OFF MY DESK!

The chaos

Tiggy checks out some peonies. I had to buy them, as my three peony bushes yet again produced nothing. I have a serious case of peony envy as I walk the 'hood. But the suddenly blooming wisteria have shown me — patience is key in gardens. Maybe next year. 

Friday, June 9, 2023

Little Amal comes to visit

It does feel like we're getting close to the apocalypse here, with the smoke warnings. Yesterday was gloomy; today is dark and damp, more like the end of October than the beginning of June. I've turned on the heat! Will this forest fire crisis lead us to take climate change seriously, to understand the destruction and danger on our doorstep? Don't hold your breath. No, on second thought — hold your breath.

But yesterday, in the middle of my editing which continued until midnight, a joyful interlude: Little Amal came to visit Regent Park. What a marvel — some incredible person came up with the idea for this eleven-foot-tall puppet of a girl-child refugee, to travel around the world illuminating the life of the displaced. She was sponsored by the arts festival Luminato and is appearing all over Toronto this week. We gathered to await her and then there she was. You can see the smiling young man inside her chest who controls her face — she can smile and close her eyes — and walks for her, and the two young women who move her arms, yet she is completely human and vulnerable, sensitive and real. A small boy in the crowd had a soccer ball that they kicked back and forth until he picked it up and walked away, and she turned and continued her walk, surrounded of course by a thicket of phones. Her long hair floats in the wind. 

The idea of this particular visit was that she'd learn about residential schools. Accompanied by an Indigenous woman in a jingle dress, she stopped at trees covered with yellow ribbons and touched them thoughtfully, then at a women's drum circle, where she danced. She finished her walk dancing to a children's band and choir. Her visit was brief — three-quarters of an hour or so. Not much happened. She is of course silent. But powerful and very beautiful.

A much needed reminder of our common humanity at this dire time on our planet, with more horror in Kherson, the corruption in our province unchecked, the human heart, it sometimes seems, shrinking. 

Playing soccer
You can see the puppeteers
With the drum circle, behind her.

In 2009 I saw the play War Horse in London before it became famous and was stunned by the sensitivity, skill, and imagination of the puppeteers. Sometimes puppets say what we cannot. Thank you, once again, to artists, who come up with crazy ideas and make them happen and change our hearts and minds. Never more needed than now.

Wiki: The name Amal means "hope" in Arabic. Little Amal represents a nine-year-old Syrian refugee girl who, in The Walk project, travels alone across Europe to find her mother. "Dozens" of designers and craftspeople combined to create the puppet, which is controlled by at least three puppeteers: two to move the hands, and one interior puppeteer who walks on heavily-weighted stilts, and controls the head, eyes and mouth by hand via a mechanism called the harp.

In some areas, Little Amal's reception was mixed, with some racist or even violent responses, but in most towns the performance was a joyful occasion. On the South Bank in London, she walked side by side with Handspring's Joey the War Horse.

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

smoke gets in your eyes, and Matisse gets you in the gut

The funny thing is that though scores of wildfires are burning in northern Ontario and Quebec, the air quality, while not good here, is far worse in the States. My cousin in New York wrote, "It's disgusting down here!" The smoke is floating south. Our city smells like a campfire, but it could be worse. 

Still, horrifying. 

I, unbelievably, have spent two days once more rearranging the essays in my new collection. Yes, like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, perhaps. But my editor Ellie had some good ideas, so I've been ripping the thing apart for the hundredth time, moving stuff around, cutting one piece, jamming two together. Here's another funny thing, as I've said before: the essays in this compilation were already written, so I thought the book would be relatively easy, done in no time. NYET! Harder than the others, in some ways, because smooshing already existing material into some kind of shape turns out to be extremely difficult. As my friend Toronto Lynn said, It's always harder to renovate than to build new. 


The garden and everything else has been neglected as I sit here for hours. As soon as it's done and sent off to the publisher, I'll get my life back. I did notice, today, that the wisteria is having a bumper year. My friend Dorothy, who's in the book, helped me plant the wisteria at least twenty years ago, and this is the first year it has really produced a lot of fat purple blooms. 

I promise, garden, I'll get to you. Luckily I scooted over to the little farmer's market outside the Farm yesterday, and bought pakoras and samosas and all kinds of delicious prepared food so I didn't have to cook for a day or two. 85 messages in my email inbox, when usually I try to keep them to under 30.

But soon it'll be done. Enough is enough; MIDLIFE SOLO has taken a lot of my time. Hope it's worth it. Hope you get to read it and that you like it, that it brings you something. 

Hope it's worth it. 

Here, showing me how much she cares, is my Tig, asleep a foot away, as she always is. No matter where I am in the house, she's nearby, sleeping. 

My friend Margaret posted this gorgeousness on FB and I had to reprint. Matisse, as always, for the win! Why does his work stop my heart? I can't explain it, but he does. Just sheer beauty. 

Monday, June 5, 2023

community and friendship through the years: a celebration

Yesterday, the joy of community and continuity: Bodgefest!

Many years ago, some of the children in this 'hood took pottery lessons with Bodge, who had a kiln in her basement. They sculpted and painted joyously and came home proud of their creations, which, dutifully, all of us kept, though gradually the collection of these heavy pieces diminished considerably. But I kept a few favourites, and so did all the other parents. 

Gina and Paul organized Bodgefest in their home and asked us to bring our Bodgeware to celebrate her. She, finally, was too shy to attend. But there we were with our offerings all over the house, on all shelves and surfaces. The parents there have known each other for decades, have watched each other's children grow up and give birth to the next generation. 

My Sam was the only sculptor to appear in person. I'm especially proud of his plate of spaghetti and meatballs, with two large lumps of green broccoli at the top that he said he put in especially for me. He was nine. Now he's nearly thirty-nine. I also love Anna's three musicians - well, two musicians and someone. 


Today, all day, work on my new website with Patrick my tech helper and by myself — rewriting, re-imagining. It's good, clear, sharp. Tomorrow, work all day on the copy edit of the manuscript. This past Saturday, however, playtime: lunch at Ruthie's with two of her dear friends who knew my parents, and dinner with Toronto Lynn who brought, as usual, a superb bottle of wine. 

As I was going through pictures for the website, this one turned up: Provence Lynn and I at my wedding party in August 1981. Anna was three months old; Edgar and I married in May when she was a week old but celebrated later. We commandeered a wealthy friend's enormous estate near UBC, and our guests spent the day swimming in their pool, playing tennis, dining, and dancing to a hot jazz band. Lynn and Denis came especially, as I'd been there for their wedding in northern France nearly a decade before. Despite the thousands of miles between us, she has been a dear friend for 56 years. 

Another picture, from a few years later — well, nearly forty years later — in a Greek restaurant with our friend Ken.
In this shot, Lynn looks like her mother Theresa and I look like mine, Sylvia. I didn't know Ken's parents so don't know whom he resembles. But someone in his genetic pool, no doubt. 

We are all healthy and alive to honour our bond. There is no greater blessing than that. 

Friday, June 2, 2023

hot but here

I thought I couldn't post here until the new website goes up, maybe next week or in two weeks, and was in a state, twitching — things to say! Stories to tell! But happily I can. 

Sweltering: 31 degrees, feeling like 35. On June 2! But it's going down soon. Too hot too early, but at least no fires here yet. Several friends of friends have lost their homes in Nova Scotia, and the Waegwoltic Club that I took a look at but was barred entry to a few days ago has burned. Can't say I care too much about that. 

We must get used to this. Heat and fires are how it's going to be.

Overwhelmed since getting back from Halifax, trying to get life back in order: a massive amount of pruning and watering, still switching winter for summer clothes and bedding, trying to get some groceries into the empty fridge, with limited success. Today, though, a trip to the LCBO to buy rosé. Yay, rosé.

I received the copyedit from my editor Ellie Barton. With her usual incisive mind and sharp eye, she has targeted a list of inconsistencies, a ton of hyphen mistakes and spelling errors— realiZe, organiZe — and words that have two Ls, like shovelled, and words that have one, tranquility. She also has a suggestion for a complete re-arranging of the manuscript. So we'll see. 

And the first iteration of the new website also arrived today — much brighter and clearer, but is it ... TOO bright and clear? 

So lots of work to be done on this very hot weekend. 

Received a note about Elizabeth Marsh, an older longterm student from some years ago, who died recently. She apparently mentioned me in the foreword of her book, so her granddaughter wrote to ask if I remembered her and could write something about her to the family. I certainly remember her; she wrote beautifully about her childhood on a farm in the Ottawa Valley. Her granddaughter wrote, She was a storyteller through and through, and even just from the citation from her book, I can tell that you were a driving force towards her writing during her golden years.

Very happy to learn she went on writing. Elizabeth was a born writer. 

I'm having a fascinating correspondence with Harriet Walter about the Succession finale, which was, of course, brilliant. Harriet wanted her character Lady Caroline to be more like she was at the beginning of the series, loose and a bit wild, but the writers wouldn't have it, she had to spend the episode trying to contain her three wild and crazy offspring. Johanna Schneller wrote a good article in the Globe about the marginalization of Shiv, the only sister with three brothers, shoved aside because of her sex. Again. Always. Brilliant. 

And today's good news: I went to the dentist, and the dental hygienist told me, "You have beautiful gums." Hooray! As the world burns, I'll take it.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

bloggus interruptus

Lots to tell but no time now, very busy. BUT this is to let you know that two skilled women have been working on an upgrade for my website that involves transferring this blog to a new system. So it may be a few days before I can post again. Stay tuned.