Reading as an integral part of writing

For many years, while my daughters were young, and even when in their early teens, we’d dedicate some time almost every day to reading out loud. It was a habit we had developed as part of their bedtime ritual, and that we kept up as a way to bond over something that had nothing to do with homework or chores or fights with their friends. It grounded my daughters in the three languages we spoke at home, and in stories, and I missed it when they started preferring to read on their own.

This summer, my youngest was home from university, and we rediscovered the joy of reading to each other. Though she didn’t finish the reading of War and Piece to us, the hours we sat around and listened and laughed about Tolstoy’s descriptions were some of the best we had all summer.

In the past few years, I’ve rediscovered how reading my own work helps me relate to the rhythm and pace of my writing, and how feeling the words in my body helps me edit and polish a piece. I have also started going to public literary readings, which sometimes feel like the adult substitute of reading to each other at bedtime. This fall I too am becoming part of the “reading” literary scene in Toronto.

I started out during Toronto International Film Festival, with a reading of my environmental haiku and tanka at a demonstration organized by Extinction Rebellion.

Next, in a little more than a week, an anthology with writing from members of the Lit Mag Love collective will launch. I’m so proud of my community of writers from the Lit Mag Love Course! We’re launching our first anthology, featuring 25 writers with work they published in journals—and the tales of how they published.

You can sign up for your FREE copy and find tickets to our (online) launch readings here: , and there will be public online readings so people can listen to our pieces, wherever they happen to be.

I’m both excited and terrified about this.

Later in the fall, I’ll be part of the Emerging Writers Reading series at Glad Day Bookshop, but that is something I’ll talk more about in a later blog post.

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In order to shape your writing to your experience, sometimes you need to break out of the mould

Most writing courses centre on learning the structures of writing: What is a narrative arc? What does it mean to show instead of tell? What is effective use of metaphor? For years, my writing practice was all about getting those rules to work for and in my writing.

I still use a traditional narrative arc in most of my work, and I generally stay within a single genre. Lately, though, as conventions are breaking down around me (some of it for good, some of it not), I’ve found that experimental, genre-defying writing sometimes manages to capture the sense of this time better.

From my haiku practice, I’ve ventured into the haibun, a classical Japanese style mixing nonfiction prose and poetry (haiku). My short stories are no longer only in the realist tradition; I’ve ventured into magic realism and science fiction and I’ve even worked on circular narrative structures. In my nonfiction work, I’ve started testing out visual and patchwork essays.

Two such experimental pieces are out this month–the short story ‘Fabric’ is up in Gone Lawn–and my “flow chart essay” is in Journal of Compressed Creative Arts

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Writing the end the world

The past few months much of my writing has been dedicated to writing that is different ways touches upon climate change, climate emergencies and being at a tipping point. Even when i start out with other themes, at some point my climate worries start seeping in.

Though this may seem monotonous, the writing has taken so many new and unexpected forms, that I don’t feel like I’ve reached the end of this path. I’ve written dozens of haiku, a couple of poems, two essays and a couple of short stories with climate as a main or at least prominent theme.

The work I have that is due to appear in print or online these days doesn’t reflect this yet. My other obsessions, relationships, women’s lives and language, are at the centre of the two short stories and three essays that will be published over the next 6 weeks. For three of the pieces, the road to publication has been long and tortuous. It gives me a sense of closure to know they will finally be out in the world, even when I worry constantly about the future of the same world.

This is one of my climate haiku:

Well past ‘climate scare’
she peddles words and water
to climate mourners

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National Poetry Month

It’s been a month of lots of translation work and not enough of my own writing. I’ve been neglecting my novel, my short stories in different stages of completion–and my mind has been too scattered to comb the kinks out of my essays.

The only practice I’ve managed to stay loyal to, is poetry, especially haiku. No matter what kind of day I’ve had, I’ve set aside 15-20 minutes for that. Much of what I’ve written doesn’t have value beyond helping me practice my craft, but once in a while an image or a series of syllables will come out with that extra zing that may actually turn out to be “something.”

April is National Poetry Month. My twitter feed reminds me of that daily. As a couple of big translation projects come to and end, I look forward to reading more poetry. I also have two poems and one lyrical essay that will be published this month–a good month for that to happen.

I’ll especially try to read more poetry translation – starting with Wislawa Szymborska:

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1-2-3 testing- testing

Welcome to my brand new website – fruit of my urge to share my work and love of language.

It was love of language brought me here, and I’m hoping to share some of that love with you. I’ll add new content every time I have a new piece published and will occasionally add a haiku that comes out of my daily haiku practice.

One Word

One word
— one stone
in a cold river.
One more stone—
I’ll need many stones
if I’m going to get over.

Norwegian poet Olav H. Hauge – translated by Robert Bly

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