Thursday, June 30, 2011


I got a great e-mail yesterday from Dave in Alberta, telling me how much he liked Cinco de Mayo. Just a nice note, out of the blue, to compliment the work. It’s so incredibly rewarding to receive compliments without any strings attached. They’re pure. He liked the book, wanted me to know, end of story. It made me feel great.

Then I felt bad. I never send authors notes about how much I like their stuff. I know how they salve away in the dark, wondering if that last line worked. Too much, too little? Is this making any kind of connection at all? I know what it’s like to wander through a manuscript, a maze you created, and still don’t fully comprehend, unsure of any more, knowing you can’t stand still. When somebody, who wants nothing else from you, says they liked it, the whole struggle is suddenly worth it. It’s a prize. Most times, praise is the only prize. I should be handing out more.

It’s not hard to do, either. Authors have Web site, blogs, Twitter accounts. As of today, I’m going to start sending compliments to writers I’ve enjoyed. Knocking on a door to give someone something. Unsoliciting. I’m starting with Time O’Brian, whose “The Things They Carried” is remarkable. He shouldn’t be too hard to find.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Robert Kroetsch

Author and poet Robert Kroetsch died in a car crash yesterday. I had the double honor of meeting him in Red Deer last month and having my book sit along side his in the same contest. The local library - and the mayor and his wife - held a dinner for the writers and I got to sit next to him. Funny, engaging, charming - I had a ball. He taught English at Binghamton for a spell, but his heart and his kindliness were rooted in Western Canada. Born in 1927, he was an Officer of the Order of Canada, authored nine novels and 13 poetry collections.

And his poetry captured the spirit of his up-bringing and let slip all the wisdom he wanted. I will remember him quite fondly for that.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Vanishing Point

I got one of those wonderfully frustrating rejections today. The story made it to a second round, then got kicked, with a very apologetic note. The editor “had questions” and didn’t care for the ending. She said she loved the premise, the writing and would like to see more.

Which always leaves me wondering: Did she just not care for the ending – the way I simply don’t care for cottage cheese or Ralph Fiennes – or was the ending wrong. I don’t like the endings ‘Of Mice and Men’ or ‘Crime and Punishment’. Doesn’t matter. They ended they way they must.

There is probably a point at which an editor trusts that the writer’s right, whether from the power of the writer’s voice or stature. (There’s a point beyond this where the editor trusts too much. Different problem, different day.) I’m certainly not at that point. In fact, I can’t see it at all. But I’ll keep looking.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Wide Right

I didn’t win the Alberta Reader’s Choice Award. Helen Waldstein Wilkes’ Holocaust memoir Letters from the Lost has been picked as the book everyone in Alberta should read. I want to thank all those who voted. Especially those who voted, and voted again. It was a valiant – or obsessive compulsive – effort.

Cinco de Mayo always had the long odds. Not just because I’m American and not writing about a cause, but because more people read non-fiction than fiction. I have no idea why. Good fiction frequently represents the truth much more clearly.

It was exciting to be nominated. I loved hearing all sorts of nice things about the novel. The people who enjoyed the book despite not usually liking this kind of fiction, or even fiction at all, made me smile. I never expected to win, though I always held hope. The fiction between the two was not pleasant. It wasn’t ‘nice’ being nominated. It was rewarding and challenging, but never nice, like volunteers at a bloodbank or cupcakes.

Not that I wouldn’t do it all again. Nope, I would. Only better next time.

Monday, June 6, 2011


The Horizons anthology just came out. I mean just, it's not even at Amazon yet. But I'm excited because I've got not one but two stories in it. "World Without Boats" and "Elements of a Champion" both of which I like because they're fun and odd and the kind of story you don't see a whole Hell of a lot in the monthly print magazines anymore, with all their brooding and blood. I was quite happy when these two were accpeted not just because I wrote them and I always want my stories to find a home, but because it was so nice to discover that some editors somewhere still appreciate stories with a little quirk