Friday, May 13, 2022

A Story With a Moral But I Don’t Know What It Is

Last summer, Sully tried to get an old lady to pay him 25 cents so he could push her off a tree stump. He called to her as she walked past our house. 

“Hey! Do you want to come to our carnival?”

If you know Sully at all, you know how utterly astounding this is, even before the part where he wanted to push a brittle stranger off a tree stump. Because you know that Sully doesn’t talk to strangers. He barely talks to people he knows or likes. He’s a thinker, an observer. He’s shy. 

So just imagine my complete, total, straight-up, over-the-top SHOCK when I looked out my living room window and saw him speaking to someone he didn’t know. 

“Oh wow,” she was saying, beaming from ear to ear, “this sounds so fun! What kinds of rides do you have at your carnival?”

And I was thinking, this is cute! This is great! He’s being so brave and outgoing. I’ve never seen this side of him before.

And then he was saying, “You have to give me 25 cents to ride this one. You climb up onto this stump and I’ll try knock you off with this stick—“

And then I was saying, “Nope nope nope nope…” as I raced out the door to put an end to it. 

Sully was miffed, like I’d smashed his piggy bank and stolen the 25 cents from him directly. “She wanted to, Mom!”

That was the beginning of a series of money making schemes that didn’t quite pan out. A garage sale (but he had nothing he was willing to part with). A concert (but tickets were $600 a pop and no one could afford to go). Doing chores (but Mom and Dad are cheap and have this wacky idea that everyone who lives in a house should have to take care of it without being paid). I kept telling him, Sully, money doesn’t come that easy. You can’t just push people off tree stumps and expect them to pay you. It doesn’t work like that. 

And he just kept shrugging his tiny shoulders and brainstorming. I could not stop the brainstorming.

But oh well, right? This is how kids learn that money doesn’t grow on trees. That you have to have a skill or a great product, a marketing plan. You have to work for it, and you have to keep your expectations low. Brainstorm all you want, little buddy. You’re going to be broke forever.

So anyway, He came inside from playing with the neighbour kids a couple of weeks ago and asked if he could have some string. Like, a lot of string, as much string as I could find. And maybe some beads, if I had any.

If I had any

I was a 90s preteen. I hoarded that stuff. I used to wear ten necklaces at a time, and ten bracelets and ten anklets, all homemade except the one precious hemp choker my best friend gave me for my birthday with the glow bead and the dangly dolphin charm which I am pretty sure she got at Rings n Things in Swift Current. 

(Rings n Things was where the cool people worked and shopped. I was not cool but when I went in there, 12 years old and heart-wrenchingly geeky, I felt just the tiniest bit less uncool. And when I wore that hemp choker with the glow bead and the dangly dolphin charm, oh man. Top. Of. The. World.)

Anyway.

I presented my son with my Caboodle makeup case, which had never, ever stored makeup (I never did become cool, not in my entire high school career). It contained roughly one hundred thousand beads. He was pumped.

“What are you doing with these?” I asked.

“We’re going to make friendship bracelets,” he said. “Me and my friends. We’re going to sell them to the neighbours.”

“Do you know how to make bracelets?” I asked, frowning, thinking of the complicated knots I used to tie, the hemp hooked around my pinky toe. 

“No,” he said. “Just gonna cut these up and put beads on ‘em.”

“Okay.”

So he took off with all my beads and all my string and spent the next week ‘making bracelets.’ 
On Saturday, he informed me that it was time. They had made a sales table. They had taped all of the bracelets to it. They were going to sit on the lawn until someone came by, and they were going to sell these bracelets for $5 a piece. I bit my tongue, wondering if I should encourage them to lower the price, to remind them that we live on a quiet street, that they might not make any money, that I was so proud of them anyway, even if no one bought their bracelets. I even went down there and spent $5 of my hard-earned cash on a bracelet that Scarlett made, three strands of pink and purple and white, threaded with beads that spelled out, ykshtleknd. 

They stayed out there all morning, and some of the afternoon. By about 1 o’clock, they were wandering away from their sales table, occasionally returning to it to see if anyone was lined up waiting to buy a bracelet. They went back the next day, too, for a couple of hours, but mostly lost interest in standing around.

It felt like a quiet couple of days, and I prepared myself to comfort Sully and Scarlett when they came in at the end of it, lamenting all of that time and effort for such little pay-off. I was so proud of them, I was going to say, for all the hard work they’d put in. Maybe I’d even take them for ice cream. And hey! I knew, for sure, that they’d gotten $5 from my sale. That’s a lot of money to little kids! Maybe that would be enough. I hoped so.

Well. 

They didn’t seem all that upset when they came in. Their faces were flushed, they were talking loud and fast, yelling over each other. 

They had fistfuls, literal fistfuls, I am not kidding, of money. 

These kids made $200 selling string to strangers on my neighbor’s front lawn.

The moral of the story is…

Something. I don’t know. What is it? You tell me. 


Tuesday, April 19, 2022

The First Person in the World To Get Covid and Play Wordle

I finally got that virus everyone's been raving about. It got to a point in my community where I knew it was inevitable, but it's still weird to finally have it after two years of hearing about it, seeing it in the news, watching the people around me get it. It's like a new iPhone or a Netflix series everyone's talking about on Twitter. I'm always a couple of years behind, but when I finally get around to jumping on the bandwagon I tend to sort of act as though I'm pioneering the thing.
Which I am definitely doing now, if only in my own head. 
We've been holed up at home for almost two weeks (as of tomorrow) in an attempt to keep it to ourselves, and it's been fine. Isolation just doesn't feel like the big deal it once did. The weather helps, a bit. Nothing like a little cluster of April blizzards to make staying inside feel like less of a punishment for being sick and more like a punishment for living in Saskatchewan. Hooray? I guess?
Ohhhhh well. Maybe this will end someday (am I talking about blizzards or body aches? Nobody knows...). Until then we have the Worldle and the Wordle and the Quordle and the Octordle and the Sedecordle and the Heardle and the Movli and the Bookli to keep us occupied and if this sentence made no sense to you, text me and I'll hook you up. Although, chances are it made perfect sense to you because, as per usual, I was one of the last to jump on the Wordle bandwagon and am now acting as though I pioneered the thing.
Hey. At least I'm aware of it.

Tuesday, February 08, 2022

Remember The Dress?

Do you guys remember The Dress? The one that was either white and gold or blue and brown or whatever and whatever and the whole internet lost their minds because everyone was looking at the exact same picture but it seemed impossible to get everyone on the same page about what they were seeing?

I had to know the science behind it, because it was driving me up the wall, and when I looked into it I learned that the differences in the ways people perceived the color of the dress had a lot to do with...assumptions. Which I was not expecting.

A neuroscientist named Bevil Conway (what a great name, Bevil) believes that the phenomenon had to do with assumptions the brain made about the lighting of the dress. People who thought the dress was white and gold subconsciously assumed it was lit by daylight in the picture, so their brains ignored shorter, bluer wavelengths. People who saw it as blue and black thought it was lit by artificial, warm light, and their brains ignored longer, redder wavelengths. If you saw it as blue and brown, your brain probably assumed neutral lighting. And to make it even more interesting, older people and women were more likely to see the dress as white and gold, and the researchers speculated that this could've had to do with the fact that older people and women were more likely to be active during the day and spend more time in natural lighting(!).

I've been thinking about that dress this week. That dress, ultimately, helped me understand color better—because it kind of dismantled my idea of color as a thing that was universally experienced in one certain way that almost everyone could agree on. It also helped me understand people better. It made me realize how much of our 'objective reality' is not objective at all, but based in perception and assumptions. That our brains are literally designed to work that way. They're designed, for the sake of survival, to map the things about reality that will keep us alive—they make assumptions, fill in blanks, and actually *disregard* a lot of information. They are both adding and subtracting, all the time.

Take peripheral vision. Your peripheral vision is really bad for seeing color accurately—unless you already know what the thing in your periphery is. For example, there's a blue book sitting on the table beside me right now. I can see it out of the corner of my eye, and I can see that it's blue. But I BET if I take a pack of Phase 10 cards, shuffle it up, draw one randomly (yes, I'm doing this right now) and hold it about where the book is, my brain can't tell what color of card I've drawn. Yup. The card looks black, while the book still looks blue. That's because my brain knows the book is blue and it's filling in the blanks for me, making an assumption while framing it as perceivable reality, but it doesn't know what color the card is so it's just phoning it in there. I wonder—if you held a blue banana in my periphery, would my brain tell me it was yellow because it knows bananas should be yellow? I wish I had a blue banana on hand to test this...

Anyway, if I understand this correctly, the color that I perceive in the room at the edges of my field of vision is not my eye measuring wavelengths; it's my brain making assumptions based on memory and what color it thinks things should be and telling me that I'm seeing the colors beside me just as well as the ones in front of my face. And because I 'see' it, it is VERY HARD to believe that it's not objective reality. I have read the articles and mostly understand what's going on here, I think...but I still see this blue book out of the corner of my eye even though science tells me that my eyes can't measure those wavelengths at that angle. 

I was listening to a podcast this morning (one that was recorded in 2015 and has nothing to do with this current moment in time) and a scientist on there was talking about massive social movements that polarize people—I can't remember; he may have been talking about BLM—and the science behind why someone can deliver a passionate speech and half of the crowd can feel moved and convicted and inspired to action, and the other half can feel even more set in their ways, offended, and upset. I'm just going to quote him (his name is Mike McHargue and I can't paraphrase him because he just always words things so perfectly):

"Because it's essential to human cognition that human beings self-identify basically as good people, they unconsciously filter any information that undermines their self-identification as a good person. So, if you're inside a power structure...and someone raises evidence that your way of life oppresses another people group, not only is it likely to make you defensive in one case; it's actually more likely [to make] you tune out and forget [that evidence] later." 

Brains disregard facts, on purpose, without us knowing. That is a fact. And it's weird and unsettling. 

If you're Canadian, you probably know where I'm going with this. We have a thing going on up here where we're all looking at a different kind of The Dress and we just cannot get on the same page. I've been having conversations that go in circles with people who are seeing the same videos and reading the same articles as I have but we can't agree on what's right and wrong in them. Last night I watched the emergency debate about the protests going on in our capital and after a while it felt as fruitless as arguing about color. Each MP stood and defended their perception of the situation, passionately and certainly, only to be challenged by another. They used phrases like, "I have spoken to my constituents personally, and they have said..." or, "I have seen this myself, with my own eyes..." And maybe none of them, or us, or anyone, is conscious of the fact that our brains are actively filtering, amplifying, and disregarding—just the way they've been designed to. That we can't actually trust our own eyes. Our eyes were designed to have blind spots, and that's why we need...ears. And other people to listen to. (There's a rabbit trail to be had here about how people have developed a massive distrust of experts over these past couple of years, and how this makes this whole mess even more convoluted. I don't even know what to do about this! I do trust experts—medical professionals, especially, right now—and I know that this has drastically affected the way that I see this 'dress.' I don't know what to do with that except acknowledge it as one particular facet of this discussion.)

Another interesting thing about that dress, though: A group of researchers in Germany showed it to a group of people and had them adjust the color of a disc on a screen so it matched the dress. This group, rather than describing the dress as white or blue, reported seeing a spectrum of shades. I wonder if this is because they realized, when forced to look closely, that they couldn't rely completely on a glance, a first impression. 

Which makes me wonder: what if we started looking at this current situation from a place of understanding our limitations as humans to see objective reality? What if we knew going in that our brains are going to filter things to get rid of stuff that makes us feel badly about ourselves, and fill in blanks based on assumptions we have and hold maybe a bit too closely? If we learned to rely on other people to help us see what's going on in our blind spots instead of insisting that we already can do that on our own? 

I have my opinions about what's going down right now. I think that there are things we can objectively point to as true, false, good, bad, etc., and I'm still open to having these conversations because I think they're important. But I also think it's important that as we talk we, you know, remember the dress. 

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

The ABCs of 2021

Let's all say it together and get it over with:

That was not how I expected 2021 to go.

I don't know what I did expect. More live music and in-person events? Maybe...I dunno...a trip? On an airplane? Maybe just a simple, straightforward, gradual decline of COVID cases? More parties. Less missed school. 

Wishful thinking, all of it. And I'm usually SO GOOD at being pessimistic! I've learned a valuable lesson here: pessimism is great, and will protect you from the disappointment of going into a year like, "LIVE MUSIC IS BACK" when live music is, in fact, not super back. 

Oh well. Here's what 2021 actually looked like:

A - A lot of evenings at home with Barclay. Which I really, really enjoyed. HOWEVER, I have realized that maybe I'm enjoying them a bit toooo much and am losing the desire to leave my house after 7 pm (or ever)? Which, yikes, 24-year-old me would be ANGRY with 34-year-old me for what I've become (even if she understood that it began out of a heart to contribute to the greater good and continued out of a heart of I really like my husband and just want to hang out with him all the time). If you are my real life friend, can you kick me in the butt on this a little [when omicron is less omnipresent]? I don't even know who wants to hang out with me anymore but if you do, let me know. Drag me out of my cozy blue robe and away from my books, puzzles, video games, and Netflix, even if you're just dragging me to YOUR books, puzzles, vids, and Netflix. Hey! Maybe I can wear my cozy blue robe at YOUR house! Depending on how close we are. 

B - Baked less bread than usual. Just not a year for bread baking, I guess. Bought a lot of those croissants that you have to throw in the oven for five minutes and pretended I baked them from scratch. It was a year for that.

C - Changed my mind on a number of things.

D - Deck hangs. This was our first year with a functional deck in our back yard. We bought real patio furniture and we LIVED out there. We ate out there, laid out there when we were sick, sat out there with friends and family, drew pictures and played games out there... It was so great. I'm a very outdoorsy person now.

E - Estonia! Sorry I Missed You was published in Estonia in October (my very first translation and massively exciting for me. I even got an email from a reader who told me she'd found my book in an Estonian library and I had one of those rare, fleeting moments of feeling like a real author) (I think most authors will tell you this: none of us feel like real authors and most of us are chasing that feeling constantly and when it shows up we're always very surprised about it). 

F - Firsts. 2021 had a few 'pandemic firsts' for me. I don't think anyone reading this who knows me IRL will be super shocked by this, but I am definitely in the more cautious camp as far as pandemic living—no indoor dining, no plane trips or major road trips. Haven't slept in a hotel or enjoyed live music indoors since before Covid hit. No judgement on anyone who's done those things, it's just what we decided early on and it's not been a huge deal for us to keep on keeping on. If anything, I've just been excited to enjoy those things again when it doesn't feel at all iffy for me personally—and anyway, what is life without creatively entertaining yourself and your kids while also giving everyone something to look forward to and a renewed appreciation for the small stuff, right? Still, 2021 held a few golden baby steps back into normalcy (between major waves in our city)—my first time eating [outside] at a restaurant with my friend Becky, the kids' first time back at their favorite museum down the street, my first haircut, my first and only indoor coffee date with Karlie, our first time back at the Science Centre down the street...and my first cold since March of 2020. 

G - Grade Two, for Sully! 

H - Had a very nice time getting to know my neighbors better. There are so many good people living on my block and I honestly don't think I would've really gotten to know most of them very well if it hadn't been for Covid. My kids love all their kids and they're all around the same age and it's one of those things that just feels so lucky.

I - I decreed every Wednesday and Saturday Noodle Night in my house. It alleviated the pressure of having to think of a thing to make on those nights that everyone would eat, and since I do most of the cooking around here I figured it was okay if I had my favorite meal twice a week. Right? Or am I just a selfish mom?

J - Joined Barclay's snow clearing crew—and quite loved it. (Except the one week where the snowblowers broke and it blizzarded. I had an actual moment of honestly believing I was having a very vivid nightmare. It was -50ish and it was blowing and snowing as we were shoveling and the homeowner opened his door and visibly recoiled when he saw me and the literal icicles hanging from my eyelashes. I pulled my mask down (worn for warmth, not covid reasons) and my eyelashes stuck to it and some of them ripped out. "S...s...stay...warm..." he croaked and, if I'm being honest, the fact that someone felt so sorry for me made me feel a little bit better.)

K - Kindergarten, for Scarlett!

L - Live music: Marissa Burwell (at the RFF outdoor stage in the Conexus parking lot), some 70s cover band on a beach stage at Moose Mountain, and MxPx (online). This is the shortest list of live shows I have had literally ever (I am prettttty sure I saw more shows than this as a one year old baby). Just the other day someone was telling me that there would be live music at the book thing I was planning on attending and they said, "It's just a guy with a guitar." I said to them, "I would sit and listen to a guy with a FLUTE right now. I am desperate." 2022 better deliver to me MORE LIVE MUSIC. Pleaseohpleaseohplease.

M - Made some progress on Books 3, 4, and 5, but finished none of them. Feeling hopeful that 2022 will be the year I finish ALL THREE (and if I can sell even one of the three to a publisher, I'll be thrilled).

N - Number of books read: 18. A mix of audiobooks, ARCs and "regular" books. I went through long stretches of time this year where I couldn't read (or write) because life felt stranger than fiction and fiction couldn't hold my attention. It was frustrating. But ohhhh well. 

O - Ordered in a lot more than past years—Vic's, Cathedral Social Hall, & Fat Badger were probably our top three places.

P - Planted more things this year than all the other years of my life combined. Hostas and dazzleberries and sweet peas and dogwoods and carrots and hot peppers and tomatoes (those died) and strawberries and rhubarb and basil and hollyhocks and a cranberry bush and chives and assorted lettuces and even a couple of apple trees. Other things too! Barclay kept bringing home extra plants from landscaping jobs and, for a while there, every time I had Feelings of any kind (I am a lady of many Feelings) I went out and planted something from the extra plants pile. He'd come home from work and be like, "Ah, I see you've been having Feelings today." And I'd be like, "Yes, and in four years my Feelings will produce actual apples."

Q - Quite a lot of work accomplished on the basement. It's not done, but it's looking spiffy. Barclay is, in fact, down there right now hanging ceilings. I can feel things getting done beneath my feet. 

R - Russia! Sorry I Missed You came out in Russia in December. (This link here will take you to the publisher's website where there's a write-up on the book and a recipe for sweet little Ghost cookies! Awww.)

S - Said goodbye to Grandpa Glen in the fall. 

T - Twelfth wedding anniversary. A dozen years! That's bizarre. 

U - Updated my website once, a tiny bit. Completely forgot to send a single newsletter. (I'm not great at these things.)

V - Vaxxes; we gots our shots. 

W - Worked out four times per week, every single week, for the entire year. This is the first year in my entire life I have been able to say that.

X - XXXIV (I turned 34 this year. It's weird, because I remember 28 feeling 'old.' 29 felt 'young.' 30 felt UTTERLY TERRIFYING. 31, 32, 33, and 34 have all felt 'young' again. I'm dreading 35, but Barclay is 36 and that seems okay. Does anyone else feel this way about specific ages? Or do you all think in decades, or what?)

Y - Yay! The kids learned to ride their bikes this summer and we spent so much time at the BMX track and the Conexus parking lot and the neighbors' back alley with their kids.

Z - Zoom, again. Less Zoom than last year, but still. I did a presentation through the library over Zoom, helped a friend launch her book over Zoom, chatted with some book clubs over Zoom, and hung out with my family over Zoom. 

And now, here we are in 2022. I'm going to be intentionally pessimistic, so as not to repeat the mistakes of last New Year's Day, and I'm recording it here: 

This year will probably suck. I'm expecting an asteroid or an alien invasion. 

(Okay, I'll allow for a glimmer of optimism, for those of you who need that sort of thing: maybe the aliens will play some live music for us.)

Monday, November 15, 2021

The Woman in the Backseat



Okay, so it's Saturday. It's snowing softly and the kids are playing in the yard across the street with the neighbor. I'm getting into my car to go meet a friend. I'm about to drive away when I notice some snow that needs clearing on the corner of the windshield. Just enough to make a left turn slightly unsafe.

Ah! The joys of winter in Saskatchewan. 

I get out, clear the thing, get back in. Good to go—but when I try to run the windshield wipers, nothing happens. They're stuck in the ice on the bottom of the windshield.

This problem's a little harder to solve. The ice is thick and I'm not wearing mittens. How does winter catch me so off-guard, every single year, bare-fingered and bare-toed? Snow in mid-November isn't exactly a strange concept, even if it is a crappy one. I hack at the ice for a few minutes with my bare hands and the wipers pop loose. Good. 

But when I get in and try them again, they only go halfway up. Progress, I guess, but there are small flakes of snow collecting just out of reach of the wiper blades. Ugh, I'm going to be late. 

I sheepishly climb out of the car, yet again. Barclay's inside the house; I'd left him in the living room on the couch in front of the bay window, reading a book. I have a fleeting, self-conscious thought about how I hope he's not in there watching me get in and out of the car, like I've lived in California my whole life and don't know how to properly clean snow and ice off a windshield. 

Here's a wonderful thing though: when I finally free the blade and get back in the car for the fourth time, I check the clock and see that, though it felt like I was clawing at that ice for three hours, it's only been five minutes—I'm no longer going to be five minutes early, but I'm not going to be late either. I smile at the win and rummage in my purse for my phone.

At this point, out of the corner of my eye, I notice a woman walking down the sidewalk toward me. I don't pay much attention to her though; Regina has been known to contain a woman or two—yes, even in my quiet little neighborhood. There are dozens of us.

I set my phone in the cup holder and press play on a podcast and that's when the back passenger side door of my car opens and the woman—the one from the sidewalk, the one I've been paying very little attention to—climbs in. 

I push pause on the podcast. We look at each other. 

"Hi," I say automatically. "How may I help you?"

That's really what I say. As though my car is a customer service kiosk and it's a very normal thing for me to wait on people in it. I cannot, for the life of me, tell you what she says in response. I just don't know. My brain is making a whooshing noise; it's doing the same helpful thing it always does where it shuts everything down so it can use all the power to compute the worst possible outcome for any given scenario and make strange suggestions in response. Stranger in the back of your car? Probably wants your car. Probably has a weapon. Did you smile at her? Don't be rude. She probably has an accomplice hiding behind a tree. You're definitely going to die. What are you going to do about it? Meh. Why would you do anything? Just sit there. Raise your heart rate a BPM or two. Make a sweat droplet. Smile at the stranger! Say hello! Be hospitable; she's in your car! Did you push pause on that podcast? Wouldn't want to miss something interesting.

We look at each other some more. She says another thing, and it doesn't make sense to me why she's saying it. Something very casual, something about the weather.

"You know what," I say, finding the override switch for my overwhelmed, inefficient brain. "I'm going to come over there and talk to you. Give me a second." 

I get out of my car and walk around to her side. 

She opens her door and we size each other up, her sitting in my car, me standing beside it on the sidewalk. I'm wondering, again, if Barclay's watching this from inside the house. She's looking at me expectantly and I have the strangest feeling, like I'm the one who has walked up to her car and tapped on the window and she's sitting there, bewildered, like, what do you want? Why are you bothering me in my car? I'm on my way somewhere!

There's another brief pause. I guess I feel like she should be the one to lead the conversation, but she's not doing that, so here I go. I try to think of something less pointed than, oh, I don't know, Why are you in my car? "How's it going?" is what I come up with. It's better than the stiff formality of how may I help you, for sure. Right?

"Good," she says. She's really calm and sweet. I don't think she wants to steal my car. I think she's just more than a little drunk. An afterthought: "...but I've hurt my leg."

"Oh!" I'm so relieved. A hurt leg is a very physical problem with a very tangible solution. A somewhat reasonable explanation for a person to crawl into the back of a stranger's car. I live for physical problems and reasonable explanations. "Can I call someone for you? A friend? An ambulance? Do you need to go to the hospital?"

She snorts at me. "No." 

"Okay."

We talk for a bit about the weather, again, for some reason, and then she tells me that her kid is in my kid's class at school—which, I find later, is verifiably false but it endears her to me in that moment anyway so whatever—and I ask, again, what I can do for her and this time she points down the street. "I live right there," she says. "Just around that corner. Actually, can I get a ride? My leg just hurts so much."

Reader, she does not live right around that corner. We drive down the street, we drive around the corner, she shakes her head. "Not it," she says, surprised, as though her house has moved. "Maybe over...there?" We drive down more streets and around more corners, on the hunt for the hiding house. "Just one more block," she keeps saying. "I'm pretty sure it's just one more block." Frowning in consternation at unfamiliar streets. Smiling apologetically in my direction but never quite making eye contact. Shaking her head in disappointment at all of the houses in which she doesn't live—until she sees one in which she does. 

"That's it," she says.

I pull over. She puts her hand on the door handle, but before she gets out of the car she looks hard at me and says, "It just sucks, you know?"

I nod. I don't know. 

"It just really sucks. It hurts so much."

I nod. I think she's talking about her leg. I'm not sure.

I ask her if she needs anything else and she laughs. She gets out of the car and goes into the house and I watch to make sure she makes it. She's limping a little. I feel simultaneously like I haven't done nearly enough for her and like I shouldn't be driving strangers around the city. I wonder, suddenly, if Barclay saw me drive off with the woman in my back seat and is worrying about me.

I text my friend to say I'll be late. I text Barclay to say that if he happened to look out the window and see an injured woman climb into my car, not to worry, everything's okay.

He texts back. He knows my track record and he thinks the injured woman must be me. "You wipe out pretty hard?"

So at least, I guess, he didn't see me get out of my car three times to clear the windshield? 

Monday, October 25, 2021

Sorry I Missed You Goes to Russia!

 Last week, my Russian publisher sent me the proposed cover and promo text for their translation of Sorry I Missed You—or, as it'll be titled over there, Sorry, But I Miss You


This might be one of my favorite parts of publishing. It's super fun to see your work described in another language, what elements of the book they pull out to put on the back cover, how they translate the title—your own name made of symbols you don't understand. 

I posted the cover on Instagram and some friends wanted to know about the behind-the-scenes process of book translations and foreign rights from the author's perspective. It's very long and complicated and involved, so I thought it deserved a whole blog post. Are you ready? Here it is:

So first of all, you sit there and wait for an email from either your agent or your publisher (depending on who holds your world rights) to say that someone wants to buy your book and translate it into another language. And then you sit there and wait for a contract to sign. And then you sit there and wait for the foreign publisher to send you the cover and promo text. And then you sit there and wait for your pub date, which will likely be a surprise (they might tell you which month they're considering, maybe). And then, someday, you'll see your book on Instagram or someplace and go, Oh, hey, it must be out there now! and you'll get some physical copies in the mail, if that's in your contract, and you won't be able to read them but you'll put them on your shelf and say to yourself, "Neat!" 

Phew. Lots of work. Very grueling. 

Are you interested in seeing the promo text? Sure you are! 

“Three women. Each has an intimate question.

One letter - it contains all the answers. Who will get it?

Larry inherited a mansion, but in order to live in it, you need to follow a bunch of strange rules. For example, not listening to modern music or planting flowers nearby. Since Larry is already full of problems, he decides to rent the house. 

It is occupied by three women, Maud, Sunnah and Mackenzie. It soon turns out that each of them had a person in their life who disappeared without explanation.

 

Therefore, when they find a tattered letter in the mailbox, where only one thing is clear - they want to meet with someone in a coffee shop - everyone hopes to see a "ghost" from their former life. 

 

But Larry is not interested in this, he has a lot of other concerns, and he is also convinced that ghosts, and real ones, have settled in the attic. Anyway, in their usually quiet city, something amiss is going on. Someone threatens to smash the gallery where he works. There is certainly no time for mysticism!"

 

Is this a good time to mention that, with Halloween just days away, Sorry I Missed You has ghosts in it but is not too scary for wimps like me who don't love being toooooo too scared? Because, contrary to the Russians' promo text, there is certainly time for mysticism, and the time is certainly now. So if you or someone you love wants a Halloween-appropriate read that won't keep you up at night, you know, I'm just going to drop some buy links here. (I don't really hustle much, so please bear with me when I get the urge...)

BOOKSHOP / BARNES & NOBLE / CHAPTERS / AMAZON.COM / INDIEBOUND / TARGET / PENNY UNIVERSITY (local to Regina) / FOUND (local to Cochrane, AB) / 

Thursday, October 07, 2021

Out of Gas—But Also, Some News!

The kids' bus was a half hour late this morning, and for a minute there I thought it wasn't coming at all. Which would be fine if it were Monday or Wednesday or even Friday, but not today. 

Not. Today.

Today is one of two days I have, every week, where both kids go to school, where I have a glorious seven and a half hours of alone time. Where my house is silent, except for the occasional sound of me talking to...well. The appliances, mostly. (Don't pretend like you've never told your coffee grinder to hurry up or accidentally apologized to the fridge when you banged your toe into it on your way past.) 

If you're a mom who works from home, you know how valuable seven and a half hours can be. You know how much time that is and also how little time that is, how helpful it is and how greedy it makes you, how it's never enough, no matter how much it is—like a serving of lasagne. Yes. Seven and a half hours is exactly like a serving of lasagne.

Anyway, the bus came, much to my utter relief, and I put my kids on it and I waved at them through the window as they disappeared down the street, and I went into my house and I yelled, "HALLELUJAH" because that is now part of my daily routine on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I made coffee and baked one of those pre-baked-but-not-all-the-way croissants and I sat at the kitchen table and smiled at the wall. Alone with my appliances and thoughts. At last.

Oh no! My thoughts!

That's the problem lately. My thoughts. 

I used to really enjoy being alone with my thoughts. Even when they weren't particularly positive, I still enjoyed the room to hear them out, move them around, write them down. Often, that would lead to little bursts of creativity, and I could take the things I was thinking about and put them into fictional characters' heads and build stories around them. 

But one day I stuck the key into the ignition of my brain and it made a sad little trying noise but wouldn't turn over. No sparks. No interesting thoughts, nothing inspiring, nothing creative.

It's probably a combination of a lot of things, and I've been troubleshooting in my head—is it the pandemic? Is it the lack of quiet time? Did I grow out of creativity? (Is that a thing?)

I think I've figured it out though: the thing it boils down to, mostly, is that I am more creative when I believe in myself, cheesy as that sounds. I'm more creative when I take myself seriously, as counterintuitive as that sounds. I am more creative when I think of myself as being creative—which, come on, brain. How do you manufacture a feeling about the way you are when you're not that way? 

The thing is, I have never felt less sure of myself, less confident in my writing ability than I have since publishing that first novel. That was when the brain ignition thing happened. I don't know if this is a super common writer thing or what [feel free to weigh in if this applies to you] but it's not something I anticipated. I always thought that getting an agent would make me feel like a 'real' writer, and then I would never struggle with self-doubt again. And then I got an agent and struggled with self-doubt even harder and thought that getting a book deal would be the thing that legitimized me in my own brain. Then it was actually holding a physical copy of the book, and then it was selling another one (because maybe the first book was a fluke?). The goal posts move so fast it's like they're on wheels, and I am realizing that I'm probably just going to feel, always, like I'm not a real writer, unless I can figure out a way to make myself less dependent on my feelings about myself. 

Which...help.

ANYWAY. That's a problem I'm having. And I have to confront it every time the kids leave me alone in my house to go to school. Which is probably not a bad thing? And until such a time as my thoughts become friendly and creativity-sparking again and I learn to rely less on external validation, I am trying very hard to celebrate the milestones that give me even a temporary feeling of being "a real author." The proverbial equivalent of taking a taxi since my car is out of gas. This week, it's this:


Sorry I Missed You was translated into Estonian and is now on sale there! And if you click on the screen shot above, it'll take you to an article or announcement or something of the sort which I can't read because it's not in English. Hopefully it doesn't say, "Suzy Krause is a big phony and not a real author."

...

...hopefully.