Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Summer in Purses

We splurged our Airmiles this summer on a quick trip to Vancouver to see Vermeer's Love Letter etc at the VAG. Divine! All those years of being gouged at Safeway paid off. We also took in Granville Island and this cool shop where I found the purse above.

The next two are from another 3 day trip to Jasper. We go every year and always manage to pop into this store. A couple of great finds this time!
So yes, a brilliant summer, all in all, but also an exhausting one. Winter is more suitable for hermit-souls, perhaps. The only way I could squeeze in writing most weeks was to get up at 6am and write before going to work. Lots of delicious late evenings in the backyard with wine, G & T, books, not complaining, but by now am in a pretty zombified state and counting the hours to that first day of school...

Anthologies de Sacs

From the Project: Anthologies de Sacs by Nathalie LeCroc. LeCroc is painting the contents of 1001 handbags which will then be published in book form. I like what she says about cheating in this article. I would definitely be a cheater. You?

A few more samples here.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Blogging and the Creative Process - A Short Interview with Kimmy Beach

Kimmy Beach's fourth collection, in Cars, was published by Turnstone Press in 2007. She has read across Canada and in the UK. Kimmy was the 2005 International Guest Poet for the Dead Good Poets Society in Liverpool, UK, where she launched her third book, fake Paul, onstage at the Cavern Club in Mathew Street. Her second book, Alarum Within: theatre poems has twice been adapted as a full-length stage play. In 2008, Kimmy served as the first Writer-In-Residence for the Parkland Regional Library. She's working on two collections: Band Box at the Last Chance Saloon and The Last Temptation of Bond. Kimmy lives in Red Deer with her husband, Stu.

SL: Your blog Hora Sfakion: Returning to Crete is relatively new though you've blogged before. Can you tell me how this latest blog came into being, your thought processes that led to its inception? What are your present goals for this blog?

KB: I'm not sure that I have a goal in mind for it at this point, other than giving myself a way to think about this place as a real, grown-up adult. My travel journal from the time (1983), though very detailed, is an immature teenage venture into another world, with all the black-and-white, judgemental observations that characterize adolescence. I decided that if I began an online journal before I left (and maintained it while I'm there), it would focus my thoughts and mixed emotions about returning to a place I've not been for nearly thirty years. I thought for most of my adult life that I would never return there, and now that I am, I'm faced with the absolute certainty that things will not be as I remember: an eighteen-year-old sitting in tavernas all day and night, drinking Ouzo, eating raw chickpeas, not sightseeing, playing Backgammon, and flirting with the local boys. Some of those boys are still there and are as middle-aged as I am. There is certainly going to be a new dynamic this time around as my husband is traveling with me and it thrills me to be able to show him this village that meant (and means) so much to me and in which I truly grew up and figured out what I was capable of doing.

In terms of possible goals, I suppose I could say that I need to find out what not to write about when it comes time to complete the book I'm returning there to finish. Part of my reason for keeping this sort of "looking back" journal now is that I know that I don't want to write a "looking back" type of book in the end. I learned from the brilliant nonfiction writer, Kirsten Koza, that work that takes place in a certain era (or in a certain year) should stay there. No lessons, no nostalgia, but only passionate adherence to the time frame in which the book is set. That worked well for me with in Cars, and part of what I think I'm doing with the blog is getting all the "I remember when" stuff out of my system, so that I'm not tempted into it in the later writing.

SL: Though maybe it's early to be asking this question, I'm interested to know what avenues have been suggested that you might not otherwise have pursued because of the creation of this blog? Has your blog already evolved from what you originally envisioned for it?

KB: In a way, it's evolved from what I envisioned at the beginning, as I really had no idea where I was going with the first couple of posts. Things begin to suggest themselves, however, and a comment would trigger me; I've found I'm just going with them. My photos from that time - which I've just finished painstakingly transferring from slides to scanned images - have been a great help to me. I'm planning a new entry on a 5-year-old girl my girlfriend and I hung around with quite a bit. I've seen pictures of her online and she is now a woman in her early 30s. I have several pictures of the two of us playing together that I'm eager to show her. I'm certain she won't remember me, but I could be surprised.

Since I didn't start with an overall vision of it in the first place, I'm giving myself permission to go all over the place within the confines and boundaries I've set for myself: the stuff I'm working out as I plan to return. Once I'm there, I'm hoping that the blog will continue as a journal of my time there as I'm living it, with (I suspect) liberal sprinklings of "Man, Stavros sure has aged!" as if I, magically, haven't.

SL: How has your previous blogging experience come into play in the design of Hora Sfakion?

KB: My other blog is a fun one called "The Wine and the Are" in which I dissect the truly terrible fashions on The Young and the Restless (which I've been watching as brain candy for thirty years), and advise all three of my readers what wines to enjoy with which terrible fashions. Though I still like it, all of my Wine and Are friends have since moved away, so it's a bit of a lonely enterprise. I may let it go the way of all flesh, though I've really enjoyed reading over the old posts.

What that silly blog taught me is that I had the ability to sustain a fun, interesting blog with a specific topic. I think that's the trap a lot of bloggers fall into: what now? So they become mish-moshes of anything and everything, or at the very least, completely stray from what they set out to be. I set out with Hora Sfakion deliberately making sure I didn't do that.

As to the design, my Mac account includes a built-in blogger program with templates already designed for me. The research into what looks appealing, what should go where, and so on has already been done. I don't have to know anything about it or design anything myself. I drag and drop my pictures, type in my text, and hit "Publish." Nothing could be simpler. I prefer it to the designs at eblogger, frankly, and I have all the same capabilities as I would have there. Technology frustrates me. Hence, the Mac stuff was (clearly) designed with me in mind.

SL: You often hear how necessary it is for writers to have a blog to promote their work and there are likely dissertations being written as we speak about how writers create identity via their blogs. How important are these things for you or other writers do you think?

KB: I know people who think that blogging is a waste of time which could be better spent on one's own "real" writing. I disagree, and I see the Crete blog as writing. Having a not-very-well-defined idea exactly what form the finished book I'm returning to Hora Sfakion to write will take, I'm open to anything, and at this stage, writing about the upcoming return seems to make the most sense to me. If anyone is interested in reading it, that's a bonus, but really, I'm doing it for myself. I debated even going public with it, but in the end, I reasoned that there may be a few people in my world who might really enjoy the regular posts I'll make from the town itself. In all my nearly forty-five years, of the hundreds of people I've met, only two others (not including my travel companion or the people I met while there) have been to this town. It's a unique, exotic place, and I decided to publicize it with that in mind. I know that I would enjoy a friend's blog about an exotic locale to which I would likely never travel. I loved Ryan Land's Africa blog (which I'll mention in depth a bit later) for that reason.

As to promoting my work, the most I do on the Crete blog is add an unobtrusive link to my main page where readers can, if they like, find my books and more stuff about me. Since I assume that the people looking at my blog are primarily my friends and fellow writers, I would suppose that most of them know I'm a writer. If others stumble onto my blog, they can click the link to my main site. I'm not really interested in promoting my books on this particular page of my site. When a book comes as a result of my trip to Crete, I will of course promote it here, however. That only makes sense. Occasionally, I'll see something like "Pullman, Washington" on my site metre and wonder who that might be. So I suppose a person could sell a few books this way, but that, truly, is not my aim.

SL: What blogs do you follow? Do you see any trends on the CanLit blog scene (if there is such a thing)? Where do you situate your blog in your mind's eye in this virtual landscape?

KB: The idea for this blog was initially planted by our mutual friend Ryan Land's excellent Africa blog which he maintained while he and his family were spending a year in Ghana. I liked the focus of the blog: "Here's what we're doing, and here are the pictures to prove it." Not too personal, certainly not confessional, but a well-written account of his family's life in an unfamiliar place. I want to be like Ryan when I grow up. I followed that blog with great interest.

Aside from that, my blog tastes are broad and varied, and I don't read CanLit blogs more regularly than anything else. I check in on yourself, Brenda Schmidt, Heather Zwicker, Tracy Hamon, Heidi Greco, and certainly others for the CanLit angle, but there are many non-literary and local blogs I really enjoy as well. I spend a lot of time at The Atheist Experience, as well as the total mind candy of and Sexy People. What sets these blogs apart from the vast and truly mediocre wasteland of the blogosphere (a word I really don't like) is that they're about something. Heidi claims over at her blog that it's about anything and everything and goes all over the place. I would disagree and say that there are three main themes on her blog: conservation, art (in all its forms) and berry picking (in all its forms). The blog claims to be random, but it's clearly not.

If there is a "CanLit blog scene" as you suggest, I don't spend a lot of time exploring it. Often blogs will pop into my field of vision from a link at your or (say) Brenda's site and off I go. If I like it, I follow it. If it turns out to be a "what I ate for breakfast" or a TMI (Too Much Information) blog, I stop going there. Content, interest, and quality writing are what keep me. Bore me, or talk to me about nothing but breakfast, and I'm gone.

As to where I situate myself among the bloggers, I'm not sure at this point. I try not to pigeon-hole myself in my published work, and perhaps I'm going for the same thing in my online work as well.