How Life Seeds the Stories

How Life Seeds the Stories

That stories are informed by life is hardly late-breaking news. But it seems that every time I find a week or two to step away from writing and writing-related activities, I should pull a little red wagon along behind—a Radio Flyer—so that I have a repository for the bits and pieces that fly up out of everything I do. Remember this. Take note of that. There’s the turn of phrase you’ve been looking for. Pile it in, sort it later.
Since the beginning of August, I’ve been gardening; mostly pruning, culling, marking plants to be moved in the fall or next spring, marvelling over what must be the lushest and yet the most dishearteningly cold and wet summer in my gardening memory. Last week, wandering through a garden centre, I impulsively grabbed up an Austrian Copper Rose. Why? My garden is crammed with roses, and the wishlist I keep on hand in case of winterkill has never included this bronze-blooming plant with a climbing habit. I’ve always wanted one of these, I told myself. And the self that answers said, since when? Since I fought my way through the weeds and garbage in that corner and found one in full bloom. Which corner? What garbage? I know from experience that it will be a while before memory retrieves the scene, and I know too that an Austrian Copper rose will make its way into story. Probably early next summer when this new acquisition is in full bloom.
All of this is a seque to The Boy, my new book, which is scheduled for spring 2011. The Boy grew out of a memory seed planted 50 years ago when a family was murdered in a small town about an hour from where my family lived. This fall, I will be talking a lot about how the “short story” that sprouted from the memory became a many-headed monster that I have spent four years wrestling into a strange hybrid of a book. Although I declared August my month of vacation, I am caught up in planning. So far:

September 2: Pages in Kensington 7:30 PM reading with Flywheel (a reading series coordinated by the wickedly smart people at filling Station magazine)

September 17 Alberta Arts Days, Backstage with a Novelist at Sheep River Library, Black Diamond:

October 6 U of C Cont Ed: Creative Writing I begins again:

October 23 U of C Cont Ed: I’m teaching a one day workshop with my colleague, Barb Howard: WRI 212 Getting Published (Fiction):

November 4: Tofield Public Library: Where Story is Born; readings from previous books and a bit of The Boy

Meanwhile, this has been a fine summer for Delivery, published last fall by Oolichan. Delivery has been one of the “B.C. Books on Ferries”, featured in the gift shops on the ferries.

In the midst of all this, I’ll spend the latter part of September in the Leighton Colony at the Banff Centre where I will be writing. Which, I must remind myself regularly, is what this is all about.