David Zieroth

How it's Going... now

The Reason for Time delivered, officially released by Allium Press today.

Friends and family who know of it have been very kind in their acknowledgements, the first review is favorable, three launches arranged in Canada - Gibsons, Vancouver, Toronto - as yet indefinite plans for a launch in Chicago, near the time of the Printer's Row literary fest. Interacting with other writers, and a few actors, as I plan to present the book with readings in different voices, including mine. Excited to see how that works with two poets (David Zieroth and Paddy McCallum) and an actor (Earl Pastko) reading the opening Carl Sandburg poem; two young actresses (Pippa Johnson and Chala Hunter) and a generous fellow writer, poet/novelist Karen Connelly, reading the main character, Maeve. Hoping for an audience, especially in Toronto, where I have few personal contacts. Searching my memory for potentially friendly faces there, I thought of the man who published my first book, Suburbs of the Arctic Circle, thirty years ago. We have never met in person. With literary presses, especially those a long distance away, communication was primarily by letter and the rare phone call. John Flood and I did not use email then, but I used it today to reconnect. While there is not a lot of traffic on the title, it is still listed in Penumbra Press's catalogue.

Busy head, hard to concentrate on other things. Thinking of words, punctuation I would change in the book. It never ends. Discovering ideas I subconsciously developed in the text. Love that part. And there are parts to the process... from the idea generation, to the struggle to give it form, to the ventures out to the world. Does anybody want to publish it?  Acceptance. Then work,  many emails back and forth between publisher and writer. Finally the finished product arrives. Beautiful. Making a book, the process itself, another reason for time.

"For us there is only the trying. The rest is not our business. "  T.S. Eliot, East Coker

Reading anything good this summer?

I am. In fact some days I feel like I did in the years of my most constant reading, when a pile of books and magazines that had yet to be cracked produced the pleasurable satisfaction of knowing I had something good in the fridge for dinner. The opposite also applied.

The book I just finished, Seven Types of Ambiguity, by the Australian writer Elliot Perlman, was the perfect fix for my book addiction. I have always been a reader, but something about the spread out days of summer gives me permission to spend hours in my reading chair between two windows, one of them open, or on an outside chair, beneath a big straw hat, losing myself in a story someone has invented. I don't find light reading a necessity. Not for me. I have a good appetite and Perlman satisfied it with his ambitious and insightful novel about  seven characters who come together in what Kurt Vonnegut, in Cat's Cradle, called a karass. The story progresses through the points of view of seven different characters. Very skilled handling of structure, and I like the way he deals with important social issues through individual lives. It's something I aim to do in my own stories. The plot revolves around a big misunderstanding which snakes out to other misunderstandings. A satisfying end. A few reservations about the trueness of point of view in a couple of sections, but overall a Bravo! for this novel that held me through a week or so.

My books often come to me by way of friends, unless I am really drifting and looking for a title to attract me, or a review, or something on one of the many prize lists. Other times I am on a mission. When I was writing Presto! I re-read books by Dreiser, James Farrell, Sinclair Lewis and, most importantly to me, John Dos Passos as a way of immersing myself in the historical period I wanted to recreate. Lately my curiosity has been focussed on Quebec and so the first books of summer were the later novels of Anne Hébert, like A Suit of Light and Am I Disturbing You?, and then a re-read of her popular Kamouraska, which I first read decades ago. I had forgotten what a cutting edge stylist she is. There is a breathless, driven quality to her work, which isn't at all what I expected.

But the same friend who gave me Seven Types of Ambiguity, David Zieroth, a poet and longtime friend, with whom it has always been a great pleasure to talk about books, also gave me a handsome compact volume, Spain, Body and Soul by H.M. van den Brink. This Dutch novelist writes about the time he spent in Spain, alone and with his family, and recreates a lot of experiences through food. He even includes recipes. It's thoughtful, evocative and a mouth-watering read, but books that include recipes and yet declare that they are not cook books... I wonder. The recipes seem like padding. I didn't need the recipes as much as the writer seemed to. I have two more books from David and last night started Anne Enright's The Gathering, which promises to be another winner. I love the way my friend chooses books. He haunts used bookstores, browses for long periods of time, and when a title attracts him, he opens the book and reads page 32 to check out the writing. Readers like David are an obscure writer's hope: as long as you have a compelling title, and the writing on page 32 impresses him (and so probably also me), you've snagged a couple of readers, no matter the season.

Any recommendations?

Oh no!

Today, the 2013 summer solstice, was to be P or publishing day. We were ready. Text complete, edited, formatted according to Kindle guidelines. Steve's cover design approved and appreciated all round. Only thing remaining, to upload it all onto the Kindle Select site.

Steve (Stephen (p0ps) Harlow) and I connected by Skype at 9 to begin the process. Skype's screen sharing feature made it possible for us to discuss the various options on the My Book page. First problem was uploading the cover in Tiff. Not only did it take 20 minutes, but when it appeared, the colours were inverted. The lovely red came out turquoise and the off-white background of the drawing appeared in black. Steve soon figured out that the Jpeg would work better than Tiff, although Kindle declares that both are acceptable.

The big, yet-to-be-fixed problem was when we previewed contents. The indents were too long, also inconsistent. I had followed instructions for "Building" my book. The text appeared as it should have on David Zieroth's Kindle and on my computer. Hmm. Steve is going to follow a tutorial he found, by a guy who had similar problems with Kindle and so used a different method. We will see what comes next.

And so today is not P day after all. But it is still the first day of summer, and I will celebrate by taking my first swim in the sea this year.

Status Report

Dark Saturday. The Coast teases with days when it is the most beautiful place on earth, and then some, like today, when only a slight change from black to grey and the calls of birds announce morning. I turn on lamps and light candles.

Idling between projects feels odd to me. The Shinny's Girls Trilogy will soon be back from copy editing, ISBN's applied for, a general plan, with Steve, who will soon supply the cover art. Still aiming to have it available on-line by June 21. Print on demand too? Hmm. The Trilogy amounts to 210, 000 words, which may work out to 600 plus pages. According to Lulu's calculator, I would have to charge about 35.00 retail for the book, to cover costs and fees. Worth it? I do love paper books, flipping pages, the feel of various textures, the look of various print-styles. The sense of progression.
      Meantime, David Zieroth is reading Presto! while travelling in Europe. He downloaded my latest draft to his e-reader. First reports positive, enthusiastic. He called from Grosz to say,  "I am quite enjoying it!" But he has not finished it yet, and on the e-reader he doesn't know how far he has to go. Not like reading a paper book when there would be more pages on the left than on the right,  making it hard to read at lunch because of the imbalance, looking around for something - maybe a salt shaker - to anchor the right side while you hold your sandwich.
     Idling between projects, the rain is light enough I can go for a walk.

Avant Noel

11 decembre. Moins 15.
Ce soir, un souper bilingue avec mes amis: l'entrée de Québec et le dessert de Colombie-Brittanique, et, Fricot, pomme des terres et truite arc-ciel pour le plat principal.

Yesterday afternoon was perfect: kouign-aman et café au lait chez Croquembouche. Un marche le longue Grand Allée vers vieux Québec, parmi toutes les lumieres de noel, l'air froid sur les joues, une pleine lune monte le ciel au-dessous du fleuve. C'est une ville vraiment formidable.

The carillon at St. Dominics now, on the quarter hour, plays Christmas carols. In our classroom, the old heating system sounds like a carillon when it begins to activate. In September, there were 13 students, five from Columbia. Now, if six students make the class, it is a success. Only one Colombienne. La professeure continues to talk souvent de Québec and one can always count on the question, q'est-ce que tu as fait à la fin de semaine?

Earlier in the month, in a high wind, gusts to 40 kmh, squirrels capered along the wires, leapt from tree limbs, playing.

But it was sunny the day Mary de S drove us le longue de fleuve, parcours Chemin du Roy, through the villages between long narrow fields first laid out in the time of the seignuries. I loved the serveuse at Yoan Bistro in Deschambeault, her pride as she told us that nearly everything was homemade. Smoked salmon, tarte au chocolat, soupe des legumes. More pride at the fromagerie des Grondines, where we sampled cow, goat and sheep cheeses.

The week before, I had accompanied Guy and Mireille to the Christmas fair at one of the villages along this route, Cap-Santé with its huge church, circa 1755. It was begun before the guerre with the English, but not finished until after. That is why, Mireille said, that the church was not burned like everything else in the villages when the English came through in 1757. A display of creches in the church, accordion music, vin chaud, many craftsman in the little huts around the church square.La maison des tartes, with irresistible sugar pies et sucre à la creme. A cemetery near the church, as I would see the following week in Déschambeaults et les autres villages le longue Chemin du Roy.

So much more comfortable with the language now. I actually answer questions posed to me aux arrêts d'autobus. Yet, there are times I experience the sensation David Zieroth described from his dream, of feeling that there was a box around him, isolating him from other people. He wrote also: last night I had a dream that I was travelling in Europe (some unspecified place), and I couldn't remember why I was there, why I was alone, everything that usually worked had just fallen away, and I was a suddenly without will or energy and so far from home or anything meaningful. I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep. It seemed impossibly far from daylight.

Mes amis anglophones say that they will always be on the outside here, and if it is the case, it is not a bad thing for a writer, despite occasional tristesse. I felt that at the last yoga class, the leaving, separation, yet walked back up Cartier avec deux autre élevès, and the sadness lifted a bit as they wished me beaux fêtes, and called, à le prochain! Yet fell into that isolated feeling again when the vendeuse au poissonnerie, after hearing my accent, asked en anglais, if I wanted her to remove the skin from the trout.
In a way it is a kindness, Marie reminded me, when people are not sure of the customer's ability, to make it easier for them. And, au Provisions, le boucher a continué en francçais quand j'ai dit, je veux essayer parler le français.

L'exploration continue.