Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Quotes from the Past

More than ten years ago a friend sent me an email that said, among other things:

"You then and your whirlwind existence, always doing a balancing act between fame and a life leading to fame. A retreat then, into the fog, until you clear that large brain and discover who you are to yourself more than to everyone else.

What nonsense I write in your praise, when you know every bit as much as myself that you are only absorbing for now until the "Big Bang" as it were - your discovery to the rest, the benefit of the others, the general populace!"

Although the friendship faded, as they sometimes do, I taped this email into my journal and never forgot it. The friend who wrote me this note was a frenzied artist himself, and endeared himself to me with his singleminded focus - as well as his own large brain, which was often spinning many revolutions faster than everyone else's. Years later, I often think of his reference to the "Big Bang" and the power of suggestion.

I always believed in my friend, and secretly believed (hoped) he was right about me and what I knew he was referring to: my writing. For one of his birthdays I wrote him a book we both starred in and after he read it, we had an uncharacteristically serious talk. "It will be a huge waste if you don't do something with your gift, you know."

We talked again a year or so later after I wrote a second book in which he had a starring role. I remember him sitting cross-legged on the floor of my apartment, reading it start to finish, even though he kept saying he had to go. He only stopped, God bless him, to tell me at the very end that my book was great. He couldn't stop reading because it gave him shivers.


Several years ago my friend asked me one day in the university where we worked, "So when are you going to earn what you deserve?" I knew the answer wasn't in the halls of the university, but I didn't know how to answer the question. Would I ever be paid what I deserved? What did I deserve? I still hadn't figured out what I wanted to do (but knew the answer didn't lie in a job title of "Secretary"). The clue didn't seem to be in my inspiration for a book of poems subtly titled, "Death of a Secretary", either...though maybe it was.


This week I met up with a friend I have known since I was eleven. We actually met through his cousin, although the friendship with her didn't stick. My friend and I talked about business and as always I talked at length about my many ideas. Ideas beget new ideas and then my ideas tend to crowd around each other and obscure the way forward...because there are so many possibilities, all of them good! So many paths I could take, even when I finally focus everything down to this: I want to write. I want to write all day long. I want to play with words and edit other people's writing, too. This would make me happy.

After sharing some of my ideas for a time my friend asked, "Have you done enough research yet?" I laughed. "You love research!" I said. And it's true, he does. I should know because I have been editing his well-researched books for six years. "I do, but research is a form of procrastination!" I know, I know. I've always read a lot more about things than made firm decisions and stuck with them.

But that is changing...and today I take the above quotes from the men who spoke them. Take them with me as I make some firm decisions, and move forward.

There is other news in my writing life. Lots of it. But for today, meditation on friendship, support, belief, encouragement, and alignment with who we are and where we are going. Amen.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Seeing the Future

At the end of every year I shuffle my tarot cards and pull one card for each month of the new year. My card for February was Transition; in the Rider-Waite deck, which many refer to as the traditional deck, Transition is the Death card. Not a card to be feared, so much as heeded: transformation is coming. Change is near.

I write this post a mere week into February and everything has changed drastically since my last post. Unforeseen circumstances have resulted in me taking some time off for the next few months. At first this sudden change felt like disaster, but it was a crisis that, once given a little time to settle in, I began to see as an opportunity. I've been looking for ways to change something in my life for months. I've been, in fact, asking for change. Inviting it. I've been telling friends that I felt like 2012 was going to be the "game changer" year. I felt like everything had to change because the way life was proceeding wasn't sustainable. It was way too out of balance. All told, I am welcoming the shift and hope it will make room for more opportunities - the kind I've been trying to call toward me, like little birds, for the past several months.


On Friday I had the pleasure of attending a local Nisga'a New Year celebration at the PNE Agridome. The costumes and performances were beautiful. The dances reminded me of this place I am from, from familiar calls that sounded like the coyotes in the trails behind my home, to the dance of the wind and the rattle-rain sounds. I was touched by the stories of ancestors, which were told as songs and dances were introduced. When I saw my friend, Ellen, sing and dance with her teenage daughter and young son, I had tears in my eyes. I kept thinking about how First Nations culture has historically been stifled, and kept wondering, "Who would want to destroy this?" My deepest inner urge was to let myself be pulled into the rhythm and the song's melodies, and dance. Who wouldn't want to? Who wouldn't feel the power and want to be a part of it? Of course in all cultures it is exactly its most powerful aspects that are most feared and for this reason, stifled. The injustice of this set deeply into my heart (again). And I tried not to feel melancholy, but to enjoy the beauty, the energy, the hope and to make the most of what I could learn from the experience.

I learned that the symbol of the Hobiyee celebration is the crescent moon with a star hanging over it. Hobiyee takes place on the second new moon of a New Year. Each year Venus shines brightly somewhere near the moon, but once every few years, the star sits atop the crescent. Those years are said to be abundant years, and this year is one of them. Yes, I thought, this is the energy of change I have been feeling. In January I felt excited by the prospect of the change each new year can bring. When I talked about this excitement, that I could feel change being near, my friend reminded me that it is the year of the dragon. Yes, of course. But the Hobiyee crescent moon seemed to encapsulate it all for me, the imagery so akin to everything I've been feeling. I was a guest, an outsider, but inside I was dancing, too.


On the eve of February 1st, I had the pleasure of meeting with the multi-talented Ginger Deverell of Red Pear Creative. Ginger is designing the cover of my poetry collection, I Can Make Life, which I hope will be launched early this spring. I have known Ginger for many years, and am so happy to be working together on the final stages of my book. We first met as work colleagues at Simon Fraser University, and later began to socialize together with a set of friends we also knew through SFU. From early days I knew Ginger to be an inspired and talented painter, and a gentle, kind, like-minded person with similar values (not to mention a shared interest in simple, green living). Our two hour meeting was fruitful and inspiring, and I left knowing that many of my hunches about what is ahead for me are to be trusted. That Ginger and her ilk are the kinds of people I'm supposed to be collaborating with, and working with on a regular basis. Now I am Ginger's not-so-secret admirer for having found a way to do what she loves, running her own business and working with her talents (much preferrred to the alternative of languishing in an artifical work environment that would stifle her).

Our meeting was a process of communicating through visual images and prompts to get to the heart of what I wanted the book cover to look like. Ginger had prepared numerous slides for me to look at with her, to get my impressions on everything from colour and hue, to crispness of image, to symbols and imagery we'd previously discussed incorporating into the design. There was even a black and white photo of Agatha Christie at her typewriter that, coincidentally, looked a lot like my mother in profile, but 15 or 20 years older. This unique method of digging up information and communicating in visual terms what the end product might look like was useful and a lot of fun. Now I feel like we have a solid plan to go forward, and I'm confident that the book cover is in the right hands.

Rounding out the week, I also received my ISBN number (which I'd applied for in order to self-publish the book, as well as any other books I'd like to self-publish in future). Once more I am grateful to be Canadian, as this process is free and as simple as filling out an online form. Within a week someone from Library and Archives Canada responds to your request and just like that, you are a self-publisher. After some thought, I decided to name my company Tristan August Press. The name was certainly inspired by Deanna Roy's Casey Shay Press. And if you know me well, you know why those names are important to me.

Now that the book is becoming a reality and the path forward is clear, I'm hoping the book will be available in the early spring. The first incarnation will be a free download on my website, with an eBook available on Amazon, Smashwords and other eBook retailers shortly thereafter. My goal is to raise between $500 and $1000 via by mid-year to finance a small print run. Fall readings, book reviews, interviews and other promotion to follow...