Quick observation

The most frustrating thing about completing any task, including a painting, is that immediately after finishing it you can see everything that could have been done better had you only just changed a little bit here and a little bit there.

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It’s just art

Just more paintings and drawings. Keeping to the idea of producing regularly.

James at the bat - watercolour pencil on Stillman & Birn Gamma.

James at the bat – watercolour pencil on Stillman & Birn Gamma.

Blue Rocks, N.S. - Watercolour on Stillman & Birn Zeta

Blue Rocks, N.S. – Watercolour on Stillman & Birn Gamma

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Hopewell Rocks, Watercolour on Stillman & Birn Zeta

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Fire Hydrant – NAIT Edmonton – Watercolour on Stillman & Birn Zeta

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Tax Cab – Wash Pencil on Stillman & Birn Gamma

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McAvity Hydrant, Wash Pencil on Stillman & Birn Gamma

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Dorval Hydrant, Watercolour on Stillman & Birn Zeta

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Shot down over Britain

The Fiction Desk got back to me this morning with a sparse but no less effective rejection of Concrete Memories.

Dear Denis,

Thank you for taking the time to submit your work to us, and for your patience while we read it.

Unfortunately, we aren’t able to accept this story for publication. Don’t let this get you down, though. There are many possible reasons for turning down a story, and we regularly turn down great work just because it isn’t quite right for us. (Due to time constraints, we’re unable to discuss reasons for rejecting specific stories.)

We’re committed to publishing a variety of fiction from both new and established writers, so please do submit to us again.

The Fiction Desk submissions team.

On the one hand I’m not surprised it is very long in comparison to the stories they usually publish. On the other hand having read what they usually publish I was confident that my prose was up to snuff. I was wrong. I would take heart in the final encouragement to please submit again were it not for the $6.00 submission fee. Oh well. Might do it anyway with How I Brought Down The Government. In the meantime there must be somewhere else that accepts long form short stories.

Update: I went ahead and submitted How I Brought Down The Government to The Fiction Desk. I figured I’ve blown six bucks on worse stuff than trying to get a story looked at so what the heck. This one, which is a light piece, coming in on the heals of a much more dramatic slow moving piece might give them an idea of what my range as a writer is. Can’t hurt much anyway.

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Didn’t see that coming

While listening to The Jealous Curator interview with Andrea D’Aquino it came to me: my first idea for a series of paintings. Not exercises or studies or sketches but a series of paintings with a specific theme in mind. Like my poems and short stories the idea is small and commonplace but let’s face it, I cannot escape who I am. It was something Andrea D’Aquino said about ignoring the inner critic. Everyone has an inner critic – the voice that tells you that you shouldn’t try something unless it is grand or that someone else has probably already done it. That voice or the voices of others who have told me over the years that project ideas I had were not worthy or had probably already been done. I had the idea to collect photographs of old advertising wall art that still exists on older Montreal buildings. Everyone I’ve mentioned the idea to is certain that someone else has already done it and I’d be wasting my time. A similar reaction to photographing graffiti – a waste of time taking pictures of someone else’s art, where’s the creativity in that?

Enough with the inner and outer critics. I’ve tried to ban them from my writing and will now try to ban them from my visual art efforts. It could be they are all right which is fine but at least I will be doing what I want to be doing.

2016-04-16 - Under highway 20 Montreal

2016-04-16 – Under highway 20 Montreal

Old Montreal Shipping Co. painted sign

Old Montreal Shipping Co. painted sign

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Postal

Yesterday I received an email from Nikki who had received back the original artwork for Donna’s Bear. The package was marked “Moved/Unknown” but the address was correct.

I blame Canada Post for two failures. The first: failure to deliver to the correct address. The second: failure to verify that they had delivered to the correct address when a package/letter are returned to them as “Moved/Unknown”.

Canada Post Knows How

Canada Post Knows How

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The Fiction Desk and waiting.

I finished the final edit of Concrete Memories today and immediately sent it off to The Fiction Desk in the UK. It’s all over but the waiting now. The two agents in the US haven’t gotten back to me about Donna’s Bear yet and it will be a little while before I hear back from The Fiction Desk – I will probably have the sample copy I bought in hand before I hear back from them which is fine because I really do need to work on The Last Faena….though I still have How I Brought Down The Government and The Best Goalie on Prince Arthur uncirculated. No, no, I really must get back to writing.

In the meantime here’s my most recent watercolour

Chez Ma Grosse Truie Cherie

Chez Ma Grosse Truie Cherie

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Hurdles ahead

Concrete Memories falls squarely into the category referred to as “literary fiction” which is another way of saying I’m going to have a hard time finding an agent for it. The rewrite is going well and has added a couple of words to the 17500 mark it sits at but not enough for some people to call a novella: Writer’s Digest says it has to be a minimum of 20000 words to qualify as a novella. This means I have a very long short story on my hands unless I can hammer in another 2500 words but ideally I should be aiming for another 62500 words to make it into a novel so someone would be interested in reading it. Readers, it seems, judge a book by the cost per word – the lower the cost per word the better the fiction.

So there may be no traditional publishing path ahead for the story – too long for magazines, too short for a book. The Last Faena has the potential to be a novel as does a new story I’m working on entitled Street Sweeper.

There is an odd connection between the way I like to write – small stories of few words – and the way I like to paint – small pictures of every day things – in both cases people wonder why I don’t do things bigger. Everyone seems to want everything bigger. Why is that? Why isn’t the size something is the appropriate size it should be?

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Blues by Elizabeth Alexander

My favourite contemporary poet is Derek Walcott and my favourite poem of his is Oddjob, A Bull Terrier. Poetry is one of those things which almost no one reads anymore but I do. It’s not a planned reading I just go down the Internet rabbit hole and happen upon stuff which strikes my fancy.

I ran across this poem – Blues – and thought it the most delicious poem I’d seen in a very long time the languid, perfect flow just seduced me. Well worth the thirty seconds it will take to read it.

Blues
Elizabeth Alexander, 1962

I am lazy, the laziest
girl in the world. I sleep during
the day when I want to, ‘til
my face is creased and swollen,
‘til my lips are dry and hot. I
eat as I please: cookies and milk
after lunch, butter and sour cream
on my baked potato, foods that
slothful people eat, that turn
yellow and opaque beneath the skin.
Sometimes come dinnertime Sunday
I am still in my nightgown, the one
with the lace trim listing because
I have not mended it. Many days
I do not exercise, only
consider it, then rub my curdy
belly and lie down. Even
my poems are lazy. I use
syllabics instead of iambs,
prefer slant to the gong of full rhyme,
write briefly while others go
for pages. And yesterday,
for example, I did not work at all!
I got in my car and I drove
to factory outlet stores, purchased
stockings and panties and socks
with my father’s money.

To think, in childhood I missed only
one day of school per year. I went
to ballet class four days a week
at four-forty-five and on
Saturdays, beginning always
with plie, ending with curtsy.
To think, I knew only industry,
the industry of my race
and of immigrants, the radio
tuned always to the station
that said, Line up your summer
job months in advance. Work hard
and do not shame your family,
who worked hard to give you what you have.
There is no sin but sloth. Burn
to a wick and keep moving.

I avoided sleep for years,
up at night replaying
evening news stories about
nearby jailbreaks, fat people
who ate fried chicken and woke up
dead. In sleep I am looking
for poems in the shape of open
V’s of birds flying in formation,
or open arms saying, I forgive you, all.

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The final rewrite?

It’s not likely that my current rewrite of Concrete Memories is the final one but I can hope. Closing in on seventeen thousand five hundred words it’s too long to be a short story and for some it is too short to be a novella. To “officially” qualify as a novella it would need another 2500 words which would be 2500 words too many. To qualify as a short story it would need about 11000 less words which would be 11000 too few. I’d like to think that I have written just the right amount of words to tell the story, but that leaves me without a box to fit into.

Meanwhile I gave Concrete Memories to someone who is not a friend, is an English teacher, reads a lot and was willing to read with a pen. They had it for three weeks and marked it up a bit but the good news is they liked it a lot. I preferred hearing “I liked it a lot” to “I loved it”. He did say it was an amazingly well structured story and enough of what happens in the subtext is seemingly unrelated to the main text that he actively wondered if I knew what I had done. Now I have to page through all the notes and look at what he had issues with. No page is note free which is a good thing as far as I am concerned. A close reading with notes and suggestions is hard to come by so this will make the story better.

I’m left with a problem though: who do you send a novella length YA story to these days? I mean really, does anyone even read long form short fiction anymore?

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The wait is on

Around this time last year I was doing two things. I was getting ready to move out to Alberta for six weeks of Power Engineering, steam time, classes at NAIT, and I was waiting on a response from my slush pile submission to Tin House. Emotionally there was a lot of me tied up in that Tin House submission even though I knew it was like trying to climb Everest before knowing what a mountain is. When Tin House finally rejected The Ultimate Great Basin Relay it didn’t come as a surprise but I was still disappointed. The story has done well in iTunes and on Amazon (though Amazon readers don’t seem to review as much as iPad readers). The experience did allow me to understand that acceptance or rejection can take a long time.

This morning I submitted Donna’s Bear to The Bent Agency agent Susan Hawk. I read through all the agent profiles and she seemed like the best fit and I liked her face. The reason I chose The Bent Agency to begin with was equally mercurial – I liked the name, it seemed like an appropriately irreverent name for a children’s literary agency. Of course it turned out to be someone’s name but the decision had been made.

The PDF mock up that I made for myself to show around to teachers and parents is what I submitted. The art work is still in route from Oregon. I’m going to go ahead with the lettering when it gets here because there is a long wait between an agent getting something and hearing back from them. In Power Engineering we learn that there is a limit to the amount of steam that can be pushed through a pipe and it seem to me that a literary agent can only read so many submissions in a day and still represent their authors to publishers and the myriad of other tasks that no one outside of that world even knows exist. No harm in moving forward with the project as a do it yourself thing. If it gets picked up then I have some ideas, if it doesn’t then I can finish it myself in a more timely manner. No down side.

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