Forces of Nature 2: Around Banff

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is FORCE OF NATURE. Since arriving in Calgary several weeks ago, self has been truly awed by, to borrow a phrase from The Daily Post prompt, “the sheer scale and power” of the physical surroundings. And even more since getting to Banff, which is in the Canadian Rockies.

Self had signed up for a one-day tour to Lake Louise, today. But she got the meeting place wrong, and by the time she found the Eric Harvie Theatre, the tour was long gone. Anyhoo, self was all right with that, because she ended up doing more work on her novel-in-progress (Working Title: That Wilderness).

Apologies for her photographs being smaller in scale than she was expecting to post today. But the human imprint is also a “force of nature,” isn’t it?

A path leading to the Eric Harvie Theatre

A path leading to the Eric Harvie Theatre in The Banff Centre. Well-traveled. Clearly.

Bridge Over a Gully -- Stumbled Across During A Walk This Morning

Bridge Over a Gully — Stumbled Across During A Walk This Morning. Puts new meaning into the phrase “river of stones.”

And this was the view yesterday, from the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. One of the other writers, Sheila Stevenson, asked if she’d like to go there for a fancy drink. We were joined by writer Jill Frayn. And self had her first Canadian beer. The three of us shared a huge appetizer of Nachos with Flatiron Steak. The beef here in Alberta is really good.

from the Rundle Lounge of the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

from the Rundle Lounge of the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

The hotel was crowded yesterday: full of families and wedding parties. There was live music. And many Asian tourists.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

What Is Story?

Maple, 1989: A Painting in Lloyd Hall, The Banff Centre

Wendy Allen, “Maple, 1989″: Collage, Mixed Media, Lloyd Hall, The Banff Centre

A few thoughts self scribbled down after yesterday’s symposium/discussion between mentors and participants here in the Banff Writing Studio:

  • The end of a novel is not the end of a STORY.
  • The writer is not responsible for hope.
  • Sample story: Someone comes. They make someone miserable. And then they leave. (Or maybe they don’t leave. Thereby extending the misery? Wouldn’t it be so Deus ex machina for the cause of misery to just pick up and go?)

Self this afternoon finished reading the first story in the Bluestem Spring 2015 issue:  Meagan Cass’s “ActivAmerica.” Oh, it is a good one. Here are a few of the gorgeous sentences:

Out on the track, the cold settled over our bodies like wet cement.

*          *          *

“No weather exceptions for non-management,” the monitor told us, his face shining with Vaseline, heavy lines around his mouth, dark shadows under his eyes . . . “You’d have to check the binder . . . I think there’s a liability clause.” I didn’t want to know his story, what they were paying him and who was sick in his family and why he needed the money. I only wanted to kick him in the shins.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

WIP: Fan Fiction and a Novel

Self has two fan fiction WIPs at the moment, and thankfully she now has a beta (Pseud: Cielo).

But she is seriously behind with her updates. Ever since she got to Canada, she’s had very little time.

Nevertheless, she refuses to abandon her fan fiction writing. She decides to consult her beta Cielo, who tells self: “Katniss must avoid small talk because that may ignite emotions she simply cannot handle.” Moreover: “Katniss must refuse all offers of help from Peeta and his wife.” (Yes, Peeta is married to someone else. Angst is self’s particular specialty) WOW! You see how brilliant self’s beta is???

She’s also working on a novel-in-progress, a historical novel set in 18th century Spain (From dystopian worlds of the future to 18th century Spain is not really such a big leap. Self finds she can write/switch easily from one to the other. Because, let’s face it, nothing is more speculative to a modern reader than the 18th century. Or the 17th century. Or the 16th century. Or, or . . .  well, you get the picture, dear blog reader.)

Because she wants her historical novel to have tons of verisimilitude, she’s reading up on fantastic historical voyages. Luckily, The Banff Centre has a very helpful library only a five-minute walk from her room.

Finally, she’s reading Mark Twain, which is helping her keep her sense of humor well oiled.

One thing she’s observed about Twain in Explorations to the Equator is that he is an indefatigable people person. He never holes up in his cabin during his cruise. Never. Self so admires Twain’s energy and gregariousness.

Because he is always up and about, Twain collects a number of interesting tidbits about his fellow passengers. Yes indeed, he is as addicted to gossip as the next person.

One night, Twain and his fellow cruise-mates play a game. Someone will relate a story, but leave out the ending. The other players devise possible endings, the best one is chosen by vote, and then the person whose story is being told reveals what the real ending is.

One particular story trumps all because, it turns out, the story was never finished. Before he could get to the end of the tale, the story-teller was interrupted.

Everyone tries to come up with a plausible ending, but no one succeeds. Twain decides that it’s because “the story’s strength is in its middle, and . . . there is apparently no way to transfer it to the close, where of course it ought to be.”

Twain ends up re-telling the story for the reader, and it is so, so long that self cannot figure out the point. Plus the anecdote is told in text that is half the size of the main narrative, and self can hardly read it. Honestly, she doesn’t know how Twain remembered so much of this particular story. As far as she can tell, it’s about a man named John Brown, who is 31 and “good, gentle, bashful, etc.” He is “made entirely out of good impulses and bashfulness” (Digression: Two nights ago, self and the other writers were sitting in a circle in the Writers Lounge. One writer was late, and self pulled a chair out for her so she could join the circle. And the woman said: “Oh, thank you! Thank you for being so kind and thoughtful! Not that it’s going to do you any good.” At which statement self nearly bust a gut from laughing) Anyhoo, Brown is on his way to visit his lady love, when his hat gets blown off his head and lands in the river. And he determines he simply cannot show up at his sweetheart’s without his hat. So he decides to doff all his clothes and jump into the river to retrieve the hat. In the meantime, his horse runs off with his clothes, so the man is stranded naked on a riverbank. And —

Darn! How much of this small print can she decipher! It’s madness! Sheer madness!

Stay tuned.

WIP: The Wilderness

Sometimes you just have to quit trying, and DO.

And then DO SOME MORE.

Self is writing like crazes here in Banff.

Below, an excerpt from a novel-in-progress, Wilderness. It’s about Spain in the 18th century:

Winters were bitter cold, summers an agony of heat. Matias learned to use this to his advantage, remaining closeted in his room. A headache, he told his parents. Dizzy spells.

He read books. His father made sneering remarks about Matias’s laziness. As soon as the shadows lengthened, Matias would gather up his books and leave the house. At night the town’s labyrinth of streets could be dangerous, swarms of beggar children turning aggressive under cover of darkness, finding innocent marks and beating them with heavy wooden staves.

Matias was born into a landscape of suffering. The countryside surrounding the town was reeling from a severe drought that had dragged on many years, and from a pestilence that killed off half the population.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

WIP: “Problems With Sleep”

Sunday was when I met Heather.

I felt I should think of something Ellis and I could do together on Saturday. The Aquarius was having a Monty Python festival. I looked up the Saturday schedule and saw that Life of Brian and A Fish Called Wanda were showing. “Ok,” Ellis said. “When are you meeting your friend again?”

Been working on this story for a long while. Maybe self will finally be able to finish it here in Banff.

Stay tuned.

“Emptiness of Air”

Wrote this piece after Typhoon Haiyan/ Yolanda devastated Tacloban City in the central Philippines. Read other pieces on the disaster on the Vela Magazine website.

Pericles lost his wife to a great emptiness of air, and water, and sound.  One moment, she was alive in the house with him. In the next, she had shifted somewhat. She still had the same form, the same face, but something had changed. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but he knew what had happened had happened. He also knew there was no going back. Whatever had happened to his wife had stolen her from him as surely as if she’d been abducted and lost to him forever.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Matthew Park’s Illustration for “The Freeze”

Lately, self has been writing science fiction in the apocalyptic vein.

She wrote a story called “The Freeze” which imagined a woman as the only survivor of a drastic temperature drop, who decides to abandon her home city of San Francisco and head south. Along the way, she encounters a band of teen-agers; they all somehow find each other while stumbling around in the dark. She joins their group. Keeping the Pacific Ocean to their right, the group heads for Mexico (What? You expected them to come up with a better plan? They’re all starving, freezing, and in semi-shock. Sorry, this was the best anyone could come up with)

The story’s been published on Bluestem (Spring 2015) but here’s the illustration Matthew Park did for self.

Awesome. Awesome. Awesome.


Poetry Tuesday: Two Excerpts from Tomas Transtromer

Thank you to poet Angela Narciso Torres, who introduced self to Tomas Transtromer last November in Venice Beach, California.

She has a copy of The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems, translated from the Swedish by Robin Fulton.

Here’s an excerpt from his poem “Morning Birds”:

It grows, it takes my place,
It pushes me aside.
It throws me out of the nest.
The poem is ready.

And here’s an excerpt from his poem “Song”:

The gathering of white birds grew: gulls
dressed in canvas from the sails of foundered ships
but stained by vapors from forbidden shores.

Transtromer was born in Stockholm in 1931. He spent many years working as a psychologist in Vasterlas, which has established a Transtromer Prize in his honor.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Witness: The Trans/lation Issue (Spring 2015)

Where is self? She is here, right here:

Witness: The Trans/lation Issue, Launched at the AWP Book Fair in Minneapolis, April 2015

Witness: The Trans/lation Issue, Launched at the AWP Book Fair in Minneapolis, April 2015

This issue of Witness features writing from around the world. And self is more than proud to be in the same issue as:

  • Dario Belleza (translated from the Italian by Peter Covino)
  • Arthur Rimbaud (translated from the French by Donald Revell)
  • Hossein M. Abkenar (translated from the Persian by Sara Khalili)
  • Christos Chartomatsidis (translated from the Bulgarian by Velina Minkoff, Rayna Rossenova, and Borislava Velkova)
  • Moniru Ravanipour (translated from the Persian by Shirindokht Nourmanesh and Moniru Ravanipour)
  • Karl Ove Knausgaard (translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett)
YAY! Self made it! She is here!

YAY! Self made it! She is here!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Two of Self’s Flash Were Published This Month (April 2015)

“The Ark” is in the Spring 2015 of Local Nomad, an e-zine edited by poet Jean Gier.

“I Am Cyclops” is in the inaugural issue of Nimbus Cat, edited by novelist (and writing group member) Lillian Howan.

Both are speculative fiction.

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