Unlocking the door

Word count: 275                         Reading time: 2 mins

I didn’t need to take the Jung Typology Test* to find out I was an innie. But I did and it confirmed that I am squarely in the introvert camp. All of my life I’ve known that my energy strengthens when I am alone. I happily spend long hours walking and looking at solitary sunsets, lost in private thoughts.

Sometimes I wish it were otherwise, just as I occasionally wish my brown eyes were blue or grey or hazel. While being an introvert is an advantage for the isolated work of writing, it is a distinct disadvantage for gathering fodder for the story. So this year I’ve pushed myself out of the grotto more than ever. I’ve gone to fund-raisers and parties. I’ve seen the Kodo Drummers and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. I’ve had interesting conversations with complete strangers. It’s been a new me. Okay, a less reserved me.

Last week was one of the best tickets of the year: the Vancouver International Writers’ Festival. I went to the session, Culture in a Petri Dish. When David Gilmour talked about the bruising apprenticeship that comes with being a writer, it resonated strongly. Even without meeting him or the other panel members, Abdou, Lynn Coady, and Timothy Taylor, their ideas and experiences inspired me.  

In November I have tickets to David Sedaris. In spite of all indications above, I’m looking forward to the crowds, the noise, and the buzz of downtown on a Saturday night. Are my spots changing? When I wake one morning will my eyes have turned green?

What is your strongest trait? Is it also your weakest?

Photo: Alan Bolitho

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* Take the personality test here: http://www.humanmetrics.com/ 

 

Curiouser and Curiouser

 Word count: 222                                     Reading time: 1 min.

For fifteen years my husband and I shared our lives with beagles. We started with a brother and sister, Casalbeau Cotter and Casalbeau Camikaze (Cami). For the last years of his life a senior dog, Dandangadale Sunrise Tim (Bud), swelled the pack. Walk three beagles and you are pulled in three different directions. Their curiosity is boundless and their noses are inexhaustible.

This breed was a good match for me because curiosity is both my strength and my weakness. When I hike through a forest I try to identify the flora and fauna around me. That makes for slow walking and a large library of reference books.

When I go to and from familiar places, I take different routes all the time. I want to know what this part of the city or country is like. How do people live here? Are there businesses I don’t know? Is there a hidden park or beach I’ve never seen?

Social situations offer enticing opportunities. I want to know more about the people I meet, their stories, their struggles. There’s a problem: some people don’t care to talk – about anything – and the hardest part about being curious, for me, is finding the off switch.

Do writers have off switches for their curiosity? Or should they be like beagles, always chasing a new scent?

I Walk the Line

Word count: 227                                                                                                      Reading time: 1 min.

Research is the backbone of writing. Its presence instils a story with authenticity and its absence breaks the magic spell.

When I need to work with even the smallest of details I go in search of Knowledge. It’s easy, isn’t it? Type a question into the search engine and no matter how rudimentary the wording, an answer appears. It’s as though a mind-reader sits waiting to satisfy my curiosity.

Then I’m off – down the rabbit hole as Lynn Crymble puts it. There are so many interesting things to learn! Who knew that Norway won the most medals (15) in the 1936 Olympic Games, or that Canada, France, and Hungary took the least (1 each)?

Is my life richer for knowing this? Or have I just been sidetracked to the land of Too Much Information? On a bad day I emerge from a research expedition to find that my small spark of inspiration lies palpitating on the floor and I am 500 words behind my daily goal. On a good day I find a nugget that lights the way of the narrative.

I always struggle with the balance between being an information aggregator and a content creator. Unrealistic characterizations of time, place or protagonists create lifeless fiction. On the other hand, anyone can google the 1936 Olympics.

What rabbit holes have you been down lately?

Unreal Fiction

Word count: 304                                                                                                          Reading time: 2 mins

Some books aren’t meant to depict reality. Yet the characters that populate fantasy, sci fi or futuristic worlds are often compelling to the point where everyday dramas pale in comparison.

In Cory Doctorow’s book Little Brother Marcus Yarrow is swept up in a Department of Homeland Security dragnet and taken to Treasure Island for interrogation. When teenaged Marcus is released from prison he discovers that in a mania of paranoia and electronic surveillance every citizen is now a terrorism suspect. His dangerous response to this threat propels the reader on a heart-racing chase through the streets of San Francisco. At every point of the way the characters are three-dimensional and completely persuasive.   

I burned through book two (Catching Fire) of the Hunger Games trilogy in three days. What a buzz! Reading it was like white water rafting, one breathless turn after another. Suzanne Collins’s alternate world feels allegorical even if it wasn’t intended that way. The Capitol of Panem has ruthlessly destroyed the middle class and now uses its hapless citizens as fodder to be violently murdered for mass entertainment. Is there a parallel universe where capital markets destroy jobs, ruin futures, and threaten to further erode the shrinking middle class? Both worlds – Panem and ours – have ruling classes that show little mercy to those unlucky enough not to shelter behind their golden gates. 

The next book in my stack is Tender Morsels by Australian writer Margo Lanagan. I have her collection of short stores Black Juice and I know the different worlds she creates and the riveting characters she delivers. Tender Morsels is a YA fantasy. I will start reading it tonight. It’s likely to give me nightmares though, because she is that convincing.

What books have haunted you? What images linger years after you've closed the covers?