Thursday, December 23, 2010

What do YOU think about first drafts?

“Only ambitious nonentities and hearty mediocrities exhibit their rough drafts. It is like passing around samples of one’s sputum.”

More Vladimir Nabokov quotes in this post on the

I sometimes get so excited about my first drafts, especially the difficult ones, the troublesome ones, that I am too eager to share them. But only one person in the world is lucky enough to receive my sputum. He is kind enough to always praise me and tell me that "it was great" and then add, "for sputum." Just what I need to start working on the second draft!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hint fiction: 25 words or less that hint at a larger, more complex story

It is my first time joining a blog chain with the fellow bloggers from Absolute Write. This month’s task is to write a piece of hint fiction, a story of 25 words or less that hints at a larger, more complex story.  Here's my attempt:

The helicopter plunged over the jungle. Mathilde chuckled: Daddy allowed only melted ice cream. How drôle.
"She's ninety, but she'll make it,” the nurses said.

One reason for blog chains is to discover other blogs, so here's a list of all the other participants.

Monday, December 20, 2010

CBC flash challenge--congrats to the winners + my malevolent offering

Congrats to the winners of the CBC flash fiction challenge--Carolyn Ciccoritti, Kate Belcher, and E. Craig McKay. Read their stories on the CBC site.  Now I can finally place my glorious, magnificent, unprecedented work of art right here on my blog, as some of you have asked.  Happy Holidays!

By Ania Vesenny (HO! HO! HO!)

The snowman grinned malevolently as Prancer and Dancer jumped off the roof. Taking over Christmas might, after all, be easy. He barely counted to five, and two of them submitted. Animal magnetism at its best! The deer landed on all fours like overgrown kittens and trotted to the bucket of carrots by his side.

Every year he agreed to a ratty scarf, tolerated snowballs with a placid smile. And not an iota of appreciation! Did anyone ever bring him cookies and milk? All he got was the pesky jingle. Frosty! No glory in that name! He fixed his eyes on Rudolph, imagined the red-nosed wonder pulling his sleigh for a change.

Snow started falling, wet and dense. Soon the kids would be out, patting his thighs, smoothing his biceps: twenty minutes of bliss. Then they’d scurry inside, blabbering about Santa and his hoofed beasts. Not the time to get sentimental, the snowman thought. Rudolph, still on the roof, glowed like a zit. “Your hoofs are loose and limp.” The snowman licked his lips. “I’m gonna count up to twenty now.”

Santa’s head popped out of the chimney. “Mitts off my transportation, Frosty!” The snowman felt sharp hooves busting his body open as Prancer and Dancer galloped back to the roof. “Hee, hee, hee!” Santa wagged his finger.

The snowman groaned. He’d need to re-read Hypnosis for Dummies and improve his reaction time. At least not another slow melt this year. What a treat, what splendour, to be buried alive!


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Highway in the snow

I was driving home from a shopping center when it started to snow. A couple of thin flakes, like dandruff, at the red light. The kids told me it was snowing, but I said, naaaaah. Then within seconds, before the light changed, the snow was copious, each snowflake large and fluffy. I could barely see the traffic light. And then I had to turn into the ramp to the highway, so I turned.

I’ve never been on a highway in such a snow, not even as a passenger. My kids screamed ‘Wow, wow, wow!’ And yes, it was that amazing, that beautiful. The snowflakes in the light of the headlights rushed towards me, around me, twirled and jumped in large leaps, then in tiny hops. I was flying in space, amidst stars.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Would you name your child Lenin?

I was reading a similarly titled thread on one of the baby forums, and stumbled on this reply:

"No, I wouldn't. It immediately  makes me think of bed sheets and then I move to thinking about the Beatles. That said, it's not the WORST name I've ever come across and there are far worse associations than bed sheets. :)."

I wasn't sure whether to cry or laugh. I laughed. But it made me a little bit sad too. Even horrific things are easily forgotten, especially in the far away lands.

Now Lenin makes me think of bed bugs, not linens. Word associations can bring up funny ideas.

Other than the bloody dictatorship, what does the name Lenin makes you think of?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Love the ocean, fear the waves

My husband's dream is to go on a cruise. The idea of never needing to cook or do anything for the entire vacation appeals to him. I don't know why not cooking is important to him, as the last time he cooked was 100 years ago.

Ever since the kids and I watched a DVD on rogue waves, we pretty much vetoed a cruise vacation. I'm glad the kids still agree to go to the beach once in a while. In retrospect that very educational DVD might not have been such a great idea.

I just emailed this video to my husband. A cruise ship losing its engine, but still getting to their destination port on time. The waves were pretty big. Like HUGE.

If my husband wants not to cook for a week, he can go on a cruise. Or he can stay home. Though I don't guarantee the same eat till you die selection.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Something that awesome can't be embarrassing

Yesterday I duct taped the right passenger door of our van. Apparently there’s nothing wrong with it, at least according to the mechanics that we just paid close to a thousand bucks to service the van for winter. Despite the fact that there’s nothing wrong with it, it still opens when I drive up hill.
Duct tape is awesome.
My husband of course thinks it is embarrassing to duct tape the door. He also agrees with the mechanic—there’s nothing wrong with the door. Easy to be so level headed, if you never experienced the door opening and my 5 year old holding on for dear life to his seat. (We were just getting out of our driveway, with the speed that my husband calls “is your parking break on?”, but still.)

According to my research, duct tape was originally developed in 1942 as a water resistant sealing tape for ammunition cases. It was also used to repair military equipment, including jeeps, firearms, and aircraft (!). There’s a variety of duct tape that is supposed to hold in up to 160 km/ h winds. I doubt I got that particular variety at Canadian Tire, but I don’t drive that fast anyway.

For the record—this is not my baby. I borrowed it from here. What a patient cutie!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

So you want to write a novel

Super funny and spot on. (by David Kazzie). Those xtranormal videos are a riot!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

How to buy and lose a book by local authors

Last week in Chapters I stumbled on a group of local authors who got together and self published a book of their stories. Whenever I see an author doing a signing, I stop by and at least chat, and mostly often buy their book. In a rather selfish way I imagine myself in the same situation in a couple of years, and I hope that at least 2-3 people would stop and smile. It is disheartening how many people just rush by.

 My toddler was crying in my arms—we were on our way home, I had no right to stop on my way to the car! My older two kids weren’t pleased either, but I persevered. The authors didn’t look too forlorn or miserable. Doing a signing in a group must be not as depressing as doing it alone. But even then, I ended up buying the book, for $12. All the authors signed it really fast for me, I appreciated that.

Now I want to read it. And I can’t find it. Granted, our van is our second house, as there we have a library, three closets, a collections of bags, emergency food supplies, and somewhere there I lost my glasses. And yet I checked every square inch of that car. Not there. Not in the house either. My only guess is that maybe we quickly tossed it together with the not-to-be-seen kids’ Christmas gifts somewhere in the basement. I will find out on Christmas morning, perhaps. For now I can’t even recall the book’s title. Something about chances and choices, I think.

Monday, December 6, 2010

2 days left to submit to the CBC flash fiction challenge!

At first I groaned and moaned. I didn't like the first line. "The snowman grinned malevolently as..."? Pleeeeeeeeeease! But a challenge is a challenge, and I do like to challenge myself. Sure, it isn't a line I would have ever come up with on my own. But the last line, "...buried alive." possessed morbid promise.

I just submitted my 249 word wonder. Go, challenge yourself! The deadline is Wednesday, December 8, 4PM. The rules are here, and here. The second link says that the deadline is Wednesday, December 6... My own assessment is that it is still on the 8th.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

How to walk in the rain

Wear red rubber boots.
Or yellow.
Or orange.
Blue rubber boots don’t make any sense.
Black rubber boots are atrocious.
Don’t walk around puddles.
If there’s mud, make sure you feel it with your left boot, it is closer to your heart.
Come back home when your clothes are soaked.
Drink organic rooibos and think about lions.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

I wish I wrote science fiction and drank arsenic

Who could have imagined arsenic as a building block of life?

When I was a child I was fascinated by arsenic. I must have read a mystery involving arsenic poisoning, and I liked how the word sounded in Russian (myshiak)--vaguely like mice, and like something sinister.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

How to write a poem

Pick a word. Any word. Don’t think about rhyming.
Write it down. Look up at the ceiling or at the sky, whichever is more accessible. Don’t strain.
If you wrote ‘peony’, imagine a heavy pink flower after a rain.
Peonies make me thinks of grandmas. (That’s fairly unique)
Grandmas smell of kitchens and apple pies. (That’s a cliché. This means that most people would think that Grandmas smell of kitchen and apple pies.)
Grandma that rides a horse might be fairly unique.
I don’t know where she’d ride her horse in the middle of the night.
Do you?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Night owls

I love the night, and how everything flows after midnight. I like the idea of getting up early and greeting the sun, and when I manage this fit, I’m mostly happy about it. But nothing compares to the peace of the night.
That’s it. This is all I wanted to say today.
But then I decided to do some research on night owls. And guess what? It turns out that night owls are more creative than those other morning people. Yes! At least according to a couple of studies. But then it also said that night people tend to be more extroverted. I’m definitely closer to introversion than extraversion. But I’m still creative.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The sea port market

I don’t like the new Halifax market at the sea port. Unlike the old brewery, it doesn’t have character, at least not yet. The green roof is an admirable effort, but they really have to figure out their parking situation. The traffic jams are horrendous, and I’m not sure the green roof is able to compensate for all the exhaust.
I love the fresh goat milk that we buy there from an Aylesford farm, eggs, and nitrate free meats, but every time I go there, I regret the trip. How busy and hectic it is! How rushed! The modern building has changed the market’s pace, and its spirit.
Most Saturdays it is my heroic husband who goes there, while the kids and I sleep in. We wake up to fresh croissants and milk…Heaven.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Iqaluit calls me?

When I splashed boiling cooking oil on my fingers more than 3 years ago, when we lived in Iqaluit, I had no idea my scar would become a Harry Potter-like indicator. Though I’m not sure what it is telling me. Surely, there isn’t a cooking oil trying to kill me.
Over the years the scar has faded, and I’ve forgotten about the experience. Yesterday I was telling a friend that I miss Iqaluit. In the process of reviving this blog, I started reading my old favourite Iqaluit blogs, and my feelings about that place became quite intense. I loved the simplicity of life there, the landscapes, the pristine whiteness and the cold. I loved living at the edge of the tundra. I would want to live there again, but it is an irrational and impractical longing. My kids are older, they wouldn’t want to leave their friends, their favourite art class, the wonderful library system, the museums…They miss Iqaluit too, but I think they mostly miss our house and their friends, but the friends are no longer there.
As I was talking about Iqaluit, I glanced at my hands, and noticed the scar growing redder and redder. The skin started to itch. After about half an hour, the scar was back to its invisible self.
I’m notoriously bad at googling for obscure phenomena. Anyone has an explanation?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Hurricane Earl 2010

I like the ocean when it is windy. It’s better when it rains. Nova Scotia is full of people like me. During hurricane Earl, which actually was downgraded to tropical storm by the time it got here, but people still call it a hurricane, there were at least 20 cars parked by the entrance of the closed park. A steady stream of people in rain gear, their heads down because of the wind and flying sand, inched against the wind. To see the ocean.
 I left my kids on the side of the road (with my husband) and continued towards the beach. I couldn’t see a thing—the wind was too strong to keep my eyes open. I doubt the wind was still around 120km/h when we got there, but it was still pretty strong. Someone stopped me and yelled in my ear that if I hid behind the washroom I might be able to see something. People are very friendly here.
I expected to see bigger waves, considering all the wind.  On my way back I couldn't walk, I ran--the wind pushed me that hard. And still people were coming, pushing through the wind, then letting the wind push them. To see the ocean.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

How to bake healthy muffins

You’ll need a recipe.
Unless you’re a risk taker.
If you are,
Grab some whole wheat flower, about a cup,
Add baking powder and salt. This is what
Cook books call
Dry ingredients.
In a separate bowl
Mix together an egg
A cup of buttermilk and some butter
2 ripe bananas
Pumpkin seeds
Sunflower seeds
Poppy seeds
And maybe some nuts.
Now it looks like the muffins will be too healthy, so add chocolate chips.
Sweeten with honey because you like bees.
Turn it on 375 but not higher than 425.
Now you will see smoke
And smell something burning.
Don’t panic.
Open the window. Stir in the healthy stuff with the dry ingredients.
Pour into your silicone muffin baking cups which are shaped like jack-oh-lanterns because Halloween is your favorite holiday and bake for 15 minutes. Don’t rush to wash your bowls and spatulas. While the muffins bake, sing a song.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

November energy

I love the writing energy of the month. So many people all over the world are feverishly writing their novels. I’m sure the has the stats. 
This year I didn’t have a new project slotted for November, but I used the month to really focus on my novel number two. To push it to the finish line. Most wonderful ideas and scenes are born when my brain is in a hurry. I love being surprised with what comes up. My characters delight me.
This is what I love most about writing—the creative frenzy and how my characters shape their stories, bit by bit, like a massive puzzle.
I also love the editing part of it, but this comes later.

Monday, November 22, 2010

How to feed ducks

I buy dry corn for the ducks at Frog Pond. Defrosted peas are good too. So are seeds. When I come to the spot with the bench, the ducks hurry out of water and wait. Within a minute a raven flies over and finds a branch above.
The signs at the far end of the park, where most people who walk the trails won’t ever see them, say that feeding ducks isn’t allowed. When I’m there with my bag of duck food, I worry that someone will scold me for breaking the law. I have a response prepared: the ducks haven’t migrated anyway, and now they need their nutrition now. Most people bring them bread. It fills the ducks, but leaves them nutritionally deficient. I bring them corn.
People feel defensive when told that bread isn’t that great for the ducks. I haven’t corrected anyone, of course, but my kids have. My kids care about the ducks maybe a little bit more than I do, so they warn everyone who approaches—bread is bad for the ducks. The usual response is, but that’s what everybody does.
Year after year, poor nutrition and cold winters notwithstanding, the ducks survive.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

T-rex wasn't a fast runner, doh!

As I always suspected, just by looking at their little plastic shapes, T-rexes couldn't possible run without falling. After watching a DVD with the kids today, I found out that apparently most are found with fractured pelvises. One hypothesis is that they were slow scavengers with an extraordinary sense of olfaction. Just look at their nostrils.

My hunch was confirmed about 10 years ago by John Hutchinson of Stanford.
Nor sure if you find it as fascinating as I do, but you can find more here. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fake tree is better than a dead bonsai

Today I convinced the kids to buy a fake Christmas tree. Last year we tried a live one, the one with the roots. It was a little bonsai. This is when we learned that buying a bonsai in a grocery store wasn’t a good idea. They need to be properly winterised, can’t be kept inside (and will die if kept inside), and they are more like a pet than a plant—those who are serious about the art never leave on vacation.
We also found out that most bonsais sold in grocery stores and even nurseries, are already dead. Scratch the bark with your fingernail—if what you see is brown, the tree is already dead. The healthy color is green.  Ours was also mislabelled, and it meant hours of trying to identify it, posting photos on various bonsai forums, and finding out that the experts were simply unsure.
We ended up giving it away to a friend with an unheated sunroom. Maybe it did survive.
For my daughter a cut Christmas tree is not an option. What most people would call “live” is dead to her, and she doesn’t want a tree to die just for her. So the bonsai was out too, even she understood that after the last year’s desperate attempts to save it. The only logical choice was a fake tree.
It wasn’t easy to find a tree without lights already attached. We finally found one that looked just like a real one, even from up close.
While we were shopping, it started snowing. By the time we drove home, the snow turned into rain.