Last Writing Update for the Blah-est of Years

1-9l744bua1-qlqyf0ypxymq

My short story with Okey-Panky (Electric Literature) is out.

I was excited for exactly one day; now I’m imagining that the editor regretted accepting the story months ago, that reader response to this piece is at a historic low, etc.

Torquere Press has reverted the rights to my story, but hasn’t paid anyone yet. Thankfully B-cat’s family will be feeding me for Christmas, because I’ve misplaced my credit card and, either way, I’ll be broke ’til the reimbursement comes for the car accident.

Speaking of which… The second poem I wrote about B-cat’s nephew Spencer, who passed away this year, apparently got into the Yamadera Basho Museum 2016 haiku contest collection. I had forgotten about the contest completely because, you know, car accident.

yamadera-basho-museum-english-haiku-contest-2016
My poem (grafted onto the cover)

It forms a matching pair with my “Spencer” haiku, which won an award. This poem didn’t win anything, but being published by a museum commemorating Basho — arguably the greatest of haiku poets — is kind of cool.

Isn’t a downer the perfect way to end 2016? Happy Holidays!

PC Nutcracker

15492425_10157935891435083_6283104939560671872_n

S (the best dancer at one of the schools I go to… or went to, before the car accident) took me to Ballet BC & Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s last Nutcracker (on tour) of the season.

There’s lots to like about the production:

  1. RWB is a little different each year. This year’s Nutcracker takes place in 1910s Canada and includes hockey, people falling on icy sidewalks, and polar bears. So Canadian;
  2. Soft colours and fine painted details make lovely, realistic costumes and storybook backdrops;
  3. Makeup & costumes look good on the non-white dancers, too, and the “multicultural” bits are more balletic and less racist than most! (Incidentally, the Arabian costumes should’ve been First Nations);
  4. No more bear baiting or obvious favouritism among the kids. A bear comes into the house for food. So, so Canadian.

Conversely:

  1. S feels the 1930s opening is pointless if the Kingdom of Sweets is just business as usual;
  2. Smallest mice look like clones of Disney’s Goofy (same face and colour and all) while the Mouse King looks like a dog-headed man;
  3. Chinese/tea dancer still has double buns, arms forming permanent Ls, and hands fused in gesturing “1”s. At this point she may as well be using those fingers to push up the corners of her eyes, she’s such a stereotype;
  4. All the angels are blonde!… you want me to say. Actually, the wigs are so metallic gold I don’t give a damn.

No one was spectacularly good or bad, which perhaps makes for better holiday viewing than placing awesome virtuoso dancers alongside people who fall out of jumps. The choreography was too safe, though, wasn’t it?

nutcracker_5
Photo from RWB, since my curtain call photo failed

On a side note, we sat dead centre in the lower balcony (as mentioned before, S has high standards for everything ballet). The view would’ve been perfect if the mother and child in front and two women another row down didn’t lean forward the entire time. Behind them, to S’s left, a man with a wedge-shaped head started playing with his little phone in the middle of Act I. After I asked him to turn it off, he squirmed and rustled wrappers for over an hour. S says she was afraid he was going to attack me, but he merely threw a fit from a safe distance at the end before running away.

If you think not being racist is being too PC, you wouldn’t like this production. Otherwise, you can still catch the RWB Nutcracker in Winnipeg later in December.

Yukon Trail

15219619_10157873629585083_7989795016814047181_n
Near Takhini River

You have died of dysentry.

I’ve just gotten back from the Yukon. My mother took me and my cousin J up to see the Aurora Borealis, and B-cat came along, too, for a distraction from being injured and cooped up with me in a basement.

I enjoyed going north in 2010 and am grateful to revisit the museums, huskies, outdoors, etc., but this has been a terribly stressful trip. The group dynamic is as follows:

  • My mother stops speaking English or eating meals whenever we go on trips (all three of which, excluding childhood ones, took place this year). She tries to dissuade me and J from eating, saying we’re too fat;
  • J is not fat. He is shy? grumpy? and only speaks to my mother when she speaks first and to me when the others aren’t around. He rarely talks to English speakers;
  • B-cat is an English speaker who makes occasional remarks to J and my mother, but mainly wants to chat up strangers;
  • I am the worst travel buddy.

 

15241873_10157868419995083_8096206304514234939_n
J and a Little Free Library by the half-frozen Yukon River

We do end up eating real food, but don’t see much of the Northern Lights through the clouds. During this time I’m still receiving rejection letters, an integral and awful part of writing fiction, and sending demand letters to Torquere Press, a publisher whose owners — Kristi Boulware-Talbot and Joanna Talbot — have now decided neither to pay its authors nor to return the rights to their work.

Then Trump talks to the president of Taiwan, and suddenly both pro-Trump and anti-Trump Americans are spouting strong opinions about Taiwan, whose very name confuses them because they’ve only skimmed through the Wiki:history article.

But I did see two red foxes, a dozen red squirrels, and a lot of nice people, so I guess this is just one of those trips that improve upon ending. If you like small, snowy towns, visit the Yukon — besides the lights, I recommend Mount McIntyre for the vigorous hike to the peak.

31323260966_14653384a5_kl
J, me, and B-cat

Writing Writing Updates

Green Hills Literary Lantern has nominated my story, “Glass Tank“, for the Pushcart Prize. It is the second story I’ve written as an adult and the first I believed in, so much that with each rejection I grew a little more bewildered and desperate.

My favourite part about the whole experience is how, just before submitting it the last couple of times, I had slightly altered the last sentence, and when the editor of GHLL — professor & PhD in English and everything — sent me edits and suggestions, he changed it to the original wording.

And my poem about Spencer, B-cat’s nephew, won a Sakura Award in the VCBF Haiku Invitational.

vcbf-2016

We met Spencer when he was a few days old, just before he went back to the hospital with a heart infection. He passed away four weeks later.

Opera and Hallowe’en

I like chamber music.

I like opera.

Ughn. Apple pen. Chamber opera.

14720395_10157725327435083_7520458676511544556_n

This Hallowe’en (technically Oct. 30) was my first City Opera Vancouver event and first chamber opera, even though I do like both chamber music and opera and it makes sense to like this, too. I guess it’s a little off-putting that they hold their events at churches… But how often do you get the chance to hear Mozart’s “lost” or unfinished operas? I didn’t realise any existed! So B-cat and I headed downtown to the varnish fume-filled Christ Church Cathedral for his month-early birthday.

It’s likely all artists have half-finished work somewhere, but according to the essay [that I just realised was written by my old opera prof!] in the programme, Mozart was fairly happy with the music he had in these fragments — i.e. it wasn’t like sitting down to read someone’s first draft. Like you’re doing now. I’m so sorry. The music is distinctively Mozart, and while the second act’s Zaide (first performed on what would’ve been the composer’s 110th birthday) is the most complete and therefore most absorbing, the story Maria Reva wrote to weave three operas into one is excellent. The company seems to do clever things with a small wardrobe as well, and Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s conductor Bramwell Tovey, whom I thought was there in a cameo, is fun to see in the main non-singing role.

Good music, good voice, good acting. City Opera Vancouver’s next production runs from November 1 to 11, unless you have money to blow on the ferry to Victoria.

14611066_10157737952360714_4983470637703702179_n
Female Riddler (with a free book from the tour)

I figured that was it for Hallowe’en, but on the 31st, B-cat took me on the “Lost Souls of Gastown” walking tour… despite being on double crutches himself. We were lucky it wasn’t raining, because the lovely maple and ginkgo leaves everywhere did make the ground slippery.

Like the COV opera, this tour links a multitude of pieces — here, BC history — with a skillfully written frame story. It is not at all cheesy: the struggles and sorrows of Vancouverites past are what will haunt you.