Mid-Summer

“Swift as a shadow, short as any dream;
Brief as the lightning in the collied night.”

- William Shakespeare (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 1:1)

It’s time to pause and reflect on the riches this summer has presented. I’ve enjoyed time spent in the country, in a posh club, in the woods, and by the sea, all of it related to literary endeavours:

1. It all started with my writing retreat at the Elizabeth Bishop House in Great Village. ‘Nuff said about that in recent blogs.

2. I was delighted to be included in a panel of three authors at the Halifax Club’sLiterary Lunch. What a thrill to have Sheree Fitch seated on one side of me and Shandi Mitchell on the other! I was completely mesmerized by their readings, and managed a little reading of my own before we launched into a spirited panel discussion on such matters as our writing spaces (Sheree and Shandi: nice little offices; me: a desk crammed into a corner of the bedroom), and how we get along in the world while we’re writing: Shandi had a good observation about how the actual world is really more of a shadow world, as her characters are with her 24 hours a day. Sheree and I nodded vigorously, and I was reminded of the time, years ago, when the Resident Teenager (RT) was the Resident Little Boy (RLB): In answer to the question put to him by the Business Guy, “What’s wrong with Mummy?”, the RLB answered, “One of her invisible friends just died.”

3. I spent a few heavenly hours with a writer friend hidden in the woods sitting on lawn chairs sunk in the moss while a breeze off the lake cooled us. We talked about all manner of things, including books, writing, and writers’ residencies and colonies, something I’ve been thinking about doing.

4. I returned to Great Village en route to River John for Read by the Sea, where, following a side-trip to Five Islands that took my breath away, I spent an inspiring morning in a workshop led by Helen Humphreys, whose work I have raved about inpast blogs. I am now devouring my own copy of her beautiful book, The Frozen Thames, which sits at the top of the list of Binnie’s Favourite Canadian Books (in good company with a handful of others). Later in the day, four guest authors read to an attentive audience. We were spread about the beautiful garden at the River John Legion on a stunning July afternoon, a perfect setting to listen to Helen Humphreys, Catherine Banks, Kenneth J. Harvey, and Austin Clarke. After the readings there was an old-fashioned country supper of smoked pork chops, potato salad, and the last of the season’s strawberries heaped on biscuits dolloped with unseemly amounts of whipped cream. We’d all worked up quite an appetite sitting in the sun on lawn chairs, you see.

5. What followed the supper deserves its own segment: There was an open mic reading from anyone who cared to step up. I shared the stage with Bards on Bikes, a couple of biker guys in leather chaps who recited poetry, their own and that of others (Yeats, Dylan Thomas, etc). Well, the Bards brought down the house, and deservedly so. They were a hard act to follow, but I was pleased to read an excerpt from Harbour View, which was nicely received as well (people clapped and smiled, and no-one had their eyes closed with their mouths hanging open, which is always a good sign).

6. Last, but not least: Writing and re-writing. How could I not be inspired by all of the above? I’ve been hard at it on revisions to a short story I’ve been working on since last November. For several months I’ve been wondering if it was nearly finished or barely started; my time at the Elizabeth Bishop House gave me the focus to zero in and revise it without mercy. Imposing the story on my beloved writers’ group gave me further impetus. Thanks to their keen eyes, which forced me back to it for a final round of rewrites, now I think I’m just about there. Next week I’ll start sending it around to literary journals and see if the wider world agrees.

And that’s the story of July. Whew!

 

Categories: General.