Enveloped 5: New Leaves and Smiles at The Banff Centre, Alberta

There’s a huge tree just outside self’s window that was just a skeleton of twiggy branches. Until three days ago, when leaves started to appear. Now, just look at it:

Spring arrives in Banff!

Spring arrives in Banff!

There’s a Writing Studio reading every Wednesday night. Last night’s reading was held at Wild Flour Artisan Bakery in downtown Banff. Greg Hollingshead, Director of the Writing Studio, was one of the readers.

A little about Greg: His collection, The Roaring Girl, won the Governor General’s Award for Fiction. His novel Bedlam was a Globe and Mail 100 Best Books of the Year and a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice.

Greg Hollingshead, Director of the Banff Writing Studio, at Last Night's Reading in Wild Flour Artisan Bakery, Banff

Greg Hollingshead, Director of the Banff Writing Studio, at Last Night’s Reading in Wild Flour Artisan Bakery, Banff

It is truly amazing that everyone read so well, even though self calculated about a third of the readers, and probably half of the audience, were sick. Sick like self: stuffy nose, cough, no appetite, etc.

Self actually saw an in-house doctor at Lloyd Hall on Tuesday, who told self that she was suffering from a run-of-the-mill cold virus and didn’t need any prescription medication. The only good thing about having this cold is that everyone around her at the reading (including Greg Hollingshead) seemed to be suffering from the same thing. She could hear people trying to quell coughs all over the place. Dear blog readers, there is nothing worse than knowing you’re going to have to hawk a big one, something so explosive it will be heard all over the room, and despite your best efforts, it still comes. I kept chewing zinc lozenges but what can you do.

Freelance writer and editor Julia Phillips, who read excerpts from two of her short stories last night.

Freelance writer and editor Julia Phillips, who read excerpts from two of her short stories last night.

Anyhoo, the reading last night went on as planned. All the readers were fantastic. Julia Phillips (pictured above) has had work in the Crab Orchard Review (Woot Hoot! So has self!), Drunken Boat, The Rumpus, The Week, and The Moscow Times. She was a Pushcart Prize nominee and a finalist for the Glimmer Train Short Story Award for New Writers.

Self also began chatting with a woman sitting near her, who turned out to be author J. Jill Robinson. Here’s a link to a review of one of her books, More in Anger, in The Globe and Mail.

Canadian Fiction Writer J. Jill Robinson, at the Banff Writing Studio reading last night

Canadian Fiction Writer J. Jill Robinson, at the Banff Writing Studio reading last night

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Bentley Chamber Music Studio, Banff Centre, Last Night

Last night, during the Writing Studio readings in Bentley Hall, poet and novelist John Burnside quoted Shakespeare:

The world must be peopled.

The quote is from Much Ado About Nothing.

Self did a little internet exploration and found an article by John D. Cox in Shakespeare Quarterly (Volume 55.1, 2004) that lists Much Ado About Nothing as one of four “Comedies of Forgiveness,” the other three being Two Gentlemen of Verona, All’s Well That Ends Well, and Measure for Measure.

It was another stellar night. Bentley Hall was packed. Self wanted to link the “peopled” quote to this week’s WordPress Daily Post Photo Challenge, FORCE OF NATURE. Stretching things a little bit, because self has just not been on that many hikes. Mostly, she’s been holed up in her room, writing.

Monday was switchover time: our mentors for the first two weeks of the Writing Studio went home, and new mentors came in. Burnside flew in from Berlin, late Sunday night.

Bentley Chamber Music Studio, Just Before Last Night's Writing Studio reading

Bentley Chamber Music Studio, Just Before Last Night’s Writing Studio Reading. Self reads on May 27.

Jeff Millar, Writing Studio Program Coordinator, at the Book Table at the Back of Bentley Chamber Music Studio,

Jeff Millar, Writing Studio Program Coordinator, at the Book Table at the Back of Bentley Chamber Music Studio.

One of the readers last night was Benjamin C. Dugdale, whose bio describes him as “oral storyteller, poet, and experimental filmmaker . . . He is interested in freckles, tea, silent film, and growing his hair out long.” Canadians have such dry humor. Honestly, it takes self at least five seconds before she realizes the person she is speaking to has actually made a joke. What? She’s thick, what else can she say?

She really liked Ben’s T-shirt:

Benjamin C. Dugdale After his Reading Last Night at the Bentley Chamber Music Studio

Benjamin C. Dugdale After his Reading Last Night at the Bentley Chamber Music Studio

Ben’s work is recently published or forthcoming in Free Fall, The Steel Chisel, Sulphur, and Numero Cinq.

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.

Coming Up 2015!

  • Being in Mendocino as Writer-in-Residence, starting January. Giving a whole bunch of readings and teaching a workshop on travel writing (offered through the Mendocino Art Center). Reading at the invitation of the California Writers Club, Feb. 18!
  • Visiting Valerie Miner’s Stanford class, early February!
  • Having Drew Hemenger’s “Marife Suite” (based on self’s novella Marife) performed by Hampshire Symphony on March 14, 2015. Seeing friends in New York afterwards!
  • Having a piece come out in Witness’s Translation issue (March 2015)!
  • Attending AWP in Minneapolis and seeing ex-Assumption classmates!
  • Reading with fellow Stanford Creative Writing Program Alum at Redwood City Public Library (Downtown Branch) in May!
  • Self also intends to start her New Year’s reading with a bang: reading George Eliot’s Silas Marner and Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn. Right now, she’s about halfway through William Maxwell’s short novel (or novella) So Long, See You Tomorrow; she is loving it so much.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Achievement: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Stories of Achievement:

1st, Nutschell Ann Windsor, Filipina American, writer, brown-belter in the Philippine martial art of arnis

Nutschell Ann Windsor is a graduate of the University of the Philippines, a UCLA Extension Program Administrator, and co-editor of an anthology called SPROUTS.

Nutschell Ann Windsor is a graduate of the University of the Philippines, a UCLA Extension Program Administrator, and co-editor of an anthology called SPROUTS.

2nd, Angela Narciso Torres, whose poetry collection Blood Orange won the Willow Book Prize in 2013:

Angela Narciso Torres, poet, reading from her poetry collection, BLOOD ORANGE, at Beyond Baroque Literary Center in Venice Beach, CA, Nov. 2

Angela Narciso Torres reading from her poetry collection, BLOOD ORANGE, at Beyond Baroque Literary Center in Venice Beach, CA, Nov. 2

3rd, Matthew Torres, son of Angela, a visual artist and a junior at USC. He painted this in honor of his mother’s poetry collection, Blood Orange.  Took the shot in the lobby of Beyond Baroque Literary Center, just before Angela’s reading.

Matthew, son of Angela Narciso Torres, is a junior in USC. He painted this for his mother, to illustrate her collection BLOOD ORANGE.

Matthew, son of Angela Narciso Torres, is a junior in USC. He painted this for his mother, to illustrate her collection BLOOD ORANGE.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Still Processing, Self Discovers a New Poet

Self had a grand time in southern California, the past week and a half.

She is home now, but still trying to process everything.

The day after she got to Venice Beach, she attended Angela Narciso Torres’s reading at Beyond Baroque Literary Center and got to meet her son Matthew (whose room in Chicago self was just in, the week prior). Angela and self do have such great adventures together!

That evening, Angela was reading with a poet self had never listened to before, Shadab Zeest Hashmi. Shadab’s voice was simply entrancing.

Here’s a poem from her collection, Kohl & Chalk. Self had to look up what a ghazal is. According to the Poetry Foundation website, “The ghazal is an Arabic verse form dealing with loss and romantic love.” It consists of a series of couplets, each couplet ending “on the same word or phrase.”

*     *     *     *

Ghazal for the Ninth Month

Your August birth, my taking oath as an American, were only weeks apart.
The most I can remember is your rocking to a dull ache before we were apart.

Our hill was plush, the whole place soaked up the scent of raisin pulao. On
the last day of July the umbilical cord was cut, yet still we were barely apart.

I had sworn to bear arms for this country. A cat prowled between the young
apple tree and dry lobelia; camouflaged, I couldn’t tell her parts apart.

I acted mother first when I frantically covered you, half-dreaming you were
the tender bird of prey and a feline form was the country of which I was a part.

Bear arms? Kill like a predator? In other dreams I bore you through the odd months,
through snow in Julian, rain in Sedona. Not for a single minute were we apart.

*     *     *     *

Beautiful. Just. Beatiful.

Stay tuned.

Oh Chicago

Self is just back from Chicago. Weather was positively balmy, and self saw four plays:  “Apat” at Circa Pintig, “Animal Farm” at Steppenwolf, “Strandline” at A Red Orchid Theatre, and “Smokefall” at the Goodman.  BLISS.

Here she is with poet Angela Narciso Torres (Angela’s first book, Blood Orange, won the Willow Book Prize.  Angela is an editor of Rhino Magazine). We’re on the train headed downtown from Angela’s place in the suburbs.

BFFs with, by sheeir coincidence, almost the same shade of red lipstick!

BFFs with, by sheeir coincidence, almost the same shade of red lipstick!

Seeing Angela again in a few.  She’s giving a reading at Beyond Baroque in Venice Beach, this Sunday, Nov. 2. Can hardly wait.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

The Mission: Lit Crawl 2014

Tonight was Lit Crawl in San Francisco’s Mission. Self attended a reading of Saint Mary’s College alumna, one of whom was the fabulous Rashaan Alexis Meneses.

Rashaan read the story that was recently in New Letters, a story that happened to be set in Bonnyrigg, near Hawthornden!  (Rashaan should send a copy to Hamish).

But, before the reading, we met up at local fave Puerto Allegre (546 Valencia St) for some yummy sopes and guacamole, where self met poet Raina J. Leon and got her to sign a copy of her book, Boogeyman Dawn:

Raina J. Leon signing a copy of her book, Boogeyman Dawn, at Puerto Alegre on Valencia St.

Raina J. Leon signing a copy of her book, Boogeyman Dawn, at Puerto Alegre on Valencia St.

This picture of Rashaan reading was unfortunately a little blurred, but you can still get a sense of her energy:

The Fabulous Rashaan, reading at Bay Blend Coffee & Tea, 1905 Mission Street, San Francisco

The Fabulous Rashaan, reading at Bay Blend Coffee & Tea, 1905 Mission Street, San Francisco

She happened to take a seat facing the sidewalk, so that as the reading progressed, she found herself watching a building directly across the street. There was a FOR LEASE sign on the front. The ground floor had this rather fabulous home furnishings store (with real-looking white sheep), very “chi-chi” for the Mission.

As it grew dark, the rooms of each floor of the building lighted up. And self has always, always been fascinated by windows.

She remembers staring out the kitchen window of her brother-in-law’s apartment in New York City, just staring at parallel rows of windows, and seeing people doing different things: talking on the phone, reading the newspaper. Each little square a story.

Mission Street, Across from Bay Coffee & Tea

Mission Street, Across from Bay Blend Coffee & Tea

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

“The Seeker of Buried Treasure” : A Piece About General Yamashita

This piece appeared in the Fall 2011 issue of Our Own Voice,  a magazine of the Filipino diaspora.

There’s a legend about General Yamashita, who the U.S. held accountable for war crimes in the World War II occupation of the Philippines.  Yamashita was executed shortly after the war, after a brief trial.

They say he stashed away bars of gold bullion, and treasure hunters have been trying to find the riches ever since.

Self suddenly recalled this piece after listening to Joanne Diaz, a poet, whose reading in Moe’s Books self attended last night, along with Jay D and Lillian H, who belong to her fabulous writing group.

Joanne Diaz is an AWESOME reader. Self bought the two collections that were on sale last night:  My Favorite Tyrants (which won the 2014 Brittingham Prize in Poetry), and The Lessons.

“The Seeker of Buried Treasure”

He was a shaman. Oh, something very old.

Like the turtle you forgot about that grew to 10 times its size in your mother’s garden.

My uncle looked for the gold bars, you know.

Under the old fort.

Why would they be there?  Why would General Yamashita leave them behind? Underneath an old fort in Manila?

Tell me where I can find it, the treasure that the Tiger of Malaya stole, the gold Buddha, the bullion.

You remember.

The necklaces of diamonds and jade . . .

The rest of self’s piece can be found here.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

 

Busy Bee

Self is extremely, extremely happy this morning. She was able to wheedle a reading date from her local library for Manila Noir, an anthology that Akashic published last year, and for which she has never given a reading.

She’s only one of — ehem — 15 Filipino writers in the book, it was edited by Superstar Jessica Hagedorn, she loves the pieces in it to bits. Why has she never read for it in her own neck of the woods?  OMG, why?

She wrote a brand new story, just for the anthology. Yup, one winter holiday, almost three years ago, La Hagedorn requested a story from self, and after wringing her hands for nearly a month, and subjecting herself to all sorts of angsty emo feelings, self ended the pity party, grit her teeth, addressed the problem (which had been hovering over her head, a veritable Sword of Damocles, making her incapable of performing even the simplest holiday tasks, such as setting up the Christmas tree) and that very same day, she came up with a story. Turned it in. Got quick thumbs up from Hagedorn. Became pride-ful and slothful. Told the world of her inclusion in said anthology. Crowed about her triumph in her little corner of the world, and then waited for — NOTHING. Everyone in the Philippines and Asia and even the continental U.S. of A. read the anthology, but her story was sandwiched between such greats that no one seemed to have time to comment on it. Nevertheless, nevertheless . . .

She did manage to get Lysley Tenorio (a fellow alum from Stanford’s Creative Writing Program, he teaches at Saint Mary’s in Moraga) to agree to read with her. Quite a feat, as the guy’s got a big agent, a big publisher, and he agreed to make the trek to REDWOOD CITY. And besides, self isn’t sure whether she still can read, it’s been a while. So it is good if Lysley reads with her, for he is an excellent reader. And not only that, he is affable and very used to signing author copies.

Now, since self is so energized, she is thinking of contacting other places, such as Books, Inc. in Town & Country. Hello, they already carry it; she’s seen it there, in their Mystery section. So, what’s the problem, self? What’s taking you so long? Get off your couch and who says you can’t? Get yourself over to Book Passage, while you’re at it.

Johanna Ingalls, Managing Editor of Akashic Books.  She's holding up MANILA NOIR: Self is one of the contributors.

Johanna Ingalls, Managing Editor of Akashic Books, at the 2013 Miami International Book Festival, holding up MANILA NOIR: Self is one of the contributors.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

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