Archive for the 'Personal' Category

What books changed you as a kid?

For me it was A Wrinkle in Time. The 3 women, Meg as smart tomboy protag, the descriptions and settings in other worlds, the science.
Or Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. Ruthie’s awkwardness and loneliness and Aunt Sylvie’s ownership of herself.
There was this book called, Slake’s Limbo–I just recently reread it, and it also changed me. Beautiful story about a boy who lived under the NY subways and made a life for himself selling used newspapers.
I recently interviewed Maggie deVries for Vancouver International Writers’ Festival’s INK, and she talked about her aunt, Jean Little’s books. And The Secret Garden, or Sara Crewe. It’s funny how many writers talk about books that have some sort of isolated character, or special secret place.
How about you? What were your faves as a kid?
What books changed you as a kid?

When I think about Aries…

I think about Jacqui Shannon, a friend I met at Camp Squamish. We’re born on the same day. Then I think about camp and how that summer changed my life–making the best summer possible for kids with physical and mental disabilities. The thing is? Those kids changed my life. They were so filled with joy–we lost our voices singing, I’d go to bed my legs jelly from jumping ‘spilled eggs’ for hours on the trampoline. And the best pudding and oranges food fights ever.

Then I think about Sinoun, also an April 7 girl. Riding the Bangkok skytrain with her and Chantria, getting photo booth pictures and McDonald’s–no McDonald’s in Siem Reap. And Chantria’s face while she watched The Princess Diaries in the big Siam Square movie theatre.

Then I think about my mormor, my mother’s mother, who was born April 8th, and my farmor, my father’s mother, who was also born April 8th. I didn’t have the chance to meet my farmor, she died before i was born. And most times when Mormor visited, or we went to Denmark, it was in the summer, or Jul. So we never celebrated together. But she would send cards, say “Tillykke med fødselsdagen” and draw me pictures of the flowers coming up in her garden.

We Aries are supposed to be impulsive, fiercely loyal, spontaneous, wildly creative, fiery. We start imaginative projects, then get everyone else involved–and when we get bored, we bail and move on to the next exciting thing. For most of my life this was true. I thought that personality got me through tough times, but also to some very interesting places. 2 am Bombay for instance. Annapurna. Penang. Calcutta, even Brackendale, BC. I think Aries have stamina, great staying power. We get things done :)

Sandra Sabatini’s The Dolphins at Sainte-Marie

When working on a novel, I think it’s helpful to read different genres. I love reading poetry–especially new stuff from Grain, Prism, Prairie Fire–or any lit journals. I’m also on this kick of rereading my Journey Prize Anthologies, and picked up Sabatini’s collection, The Dolphins at Sainte-Marie.

The title story is appropriate right now, as I watch young girls sell Girl Guides’ cookies outside the coffee shop. Ok I smuggled in some chocolate mint into the Blenz and munching on them as I speak:) When I was in grade 8, it was chocolate covered almonds–and not for Guides, but for a choir trip to Disneyland. Well, that’s what Mrs. MacDonald told us. What she didn’t tell us was that it would take 3 years–and me at a different school for Senior High–before we…I mean they…actually went. But back when I was an innocent 13 yr old selling my wares, the best place to unload choco-almond boxes? The Condos.

Kids all around knew the fame of the Condos. The best Halloween candy, awesome Easter egg hunts, moms who brought cookies and wore team colours when they came to games at Thomas Kidd: the Condos were notoriously excellent for sales. I didn’t carry around the usual cardboard boxes. I carefully packed several megaboxes into my backpack, and also carried two Safeway bags filled up. The first time around, the Condos kept their promise. Didn’t even have to finish my spiel: “Do you want to buy some…” before people were getting out the money. But by the third go-around (i desperately wanted the first prize= $50), I had to change my tactics. The second they opened the door I leaned eagerly forward, secretly wedging my foot in the door, yelling to the tune of Abba’s, “Take a Chance on Me”: Disneyland, DisneyLAND! Disney-Disney LAND LAND!!!

One woman, who was good for two boxes each time, couldn’t help but laugh at me. She even got me to run through other songs: “Do it to ‘Roxanne’! How about ‘Pass the Dutchie’! Friday Night Videos was brand new, but I knew them all, my voice hoarse to unload more boxes.

I didn’t win. The girl who won had a mom who was a nurse, brought all her boxes and just sat them on the counter with a jar for money beside it. She won the $50. When Mrs. MacDonald gave me a consolation prize–little gold musical note earrings, I whispered to her: “I was gonna give you back the 50 bucks, for the trip.” She said, I know you would’ve. You’re a gusto girl.

I still love to sing. But chocolate covered almonds? Can’t stand them. I’m good for buying them off your kid though:)

Maggie de Vries’ writing workshop

What an incredible workshop this lady put on at Historic Joy Kogawa House last Saturday. If she does it again, don’t miss it.

I learned so much about memoir writing, research, pacing…and went home with thoughts and ideas spinning. I am well into Maggie’s book, Hunger Journeys—awe-inspiring to read after hearing Maggie’s own journey to Almelo, and other parts of Holland. Research in action.

Every time I go to “Joy’s House” I feel inspired. And think about that little girl in the window, the cherry blossom tree out front…