Tag Archives: blogging

Whatcha been up to?

Wow, I’ve really missed everyone in the past week or so. How are you all? How come you never call any more?

I am super stoked to have some things to report on. After my last post I got a lot of exceptionally thoughtful responses to the trip and the blog. Many of them were of the “so, when’s the book coming out?” variety which was very pleasing to my ego (and also, stop pressuring me!). I have been spending a great deal of time since then dissecting what I have published here, what I have still in the private reserves, and what it all adds up to. I’ve also been researching publishers, agents, and editors (and if anyone out there has useful input for this, please get in touch). In other words, yes, I am on it.

Most nights I’ve been up into the witching hours slogging my way through some pretty dry how-tos about writing book proposals. As well, on the authors’ advisement I’ve been reading “the competition”, an exceedingly strange exercise. I recommend that everybody take a moment to think about who, in their field, they would consider to be their own competition. I’ve decided that I am the queer, female bastard child of Bill Bryson, Pete McCarthy, and Robert Sedlack (I know, I know, you don’t know who he is – but you will!). Yes, I am totally aware that there are no women on my list but that’s because I have not yet discovered that rare female travel writer whose work is not consumed with discussing how she juggles the twin imperatives of family and adventure. I’m not saying she’s not out there but I haven’t yet met her. So let’s just say that Joan Jett and Margaret Cho were at the conception and leave it at that. Or something. Really – it’s hard not to feel like a complete lunatic egomaniac even committing this to the page but according to you all, my “willingness to expose myself as a real, flawed human being” (read: blatant disregard for my own dignity) is one of the reasons you read.

I must confess that all this being writerly has had an impact on my appearance. Like a consumptive takes to her bed, so I have taken to my sweatpants and cardigan. (I knew it was serious when I looked down and saw words on the tissue into which I’d just hawked.) The picture would be complete if I could only grow a beard! I am, however, allowing my hair to grow into  an unruly thatch that kicks out over the tops of my ears in a fetching way that proclaims (ever-so-casually), “I am an artist…”. I guess you’d call that “making ‘do”. Ha ha.

For such a fine writerly specimen, you may be saying to yourselves, you sure haven’t been doing much writing. And to that I would say this: No need to be snippy. Also, I had to “regroup”, as they say. It became obvious that when the wild Kennaway affair came to an end, so did the main storyline of this blog. Losing the backdrop of warthogs, puff adders, and the thrumming threat of violence also took some of the wind out of my story-telling sails. After all, posts entitled “Rearranged Apartment: Domesticity Edition” or “Noodle won’t stop looking at me” weren’t likely to delight the readers, eh?

Nonetheless, I do have news! I have continued to be in touch with many of the people I met in Africa, and to work on projects begun while I was there. Most pressingly, I will be collecting gently used soccer equipment over the next few weeks to get to Philly in time for Craig’s Christmas trip home. He will pack the stuff back and redistribute it there, thus bypassing the interminable Customs delays and mysterious disappearances of goods. So, would all you Toronto-based soccer-loving folks take a peek into your closets (just brush the skeletons aside) and check for extra kits and equipment? More to follow on drop-off times and locations, or you can always contact me directly to make arrangements. Non-local people wanting to contribute should also contact me directly and we’ll see what we can make happen.

I hope to hear from you all soon, whether it’s to hook me up with some gently-used jerseys or to tell me that my writing is less like Michael Palin’s and more like, well… Sarah Palin’s.

Must dash now – the kettle is whistling.

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Aaaaaand scene…

…sort of.

Part of the challenge of this project was that I tried to write it in real time. While I was away, this meant that I took every second or third day to report on recent events, to catch you all up. And since I got back I have been writing “from Africa”, until the most recent post which closed the narrative part of the story.

Because of the way I took on the project, certain elements never found their way into the writing. My self-imposed deadlines required brevity and clarity, and some themes take their own sweet time to mellow into something understandable or interesting. So now I am back in Toronto, both in real- and blog-time, and I want to tease out some of those ideas. I hope you enjoy the autopsy, and I also hope that you will take the time to give me some input.

Yeah, you heard that right: I want input from you. Don’t think I didn’t obsess over my readership stats every single day – I know you’re out there: hundreds and hundreds of readers hitting my blog thousands of times. And though I heard from many of you both in the post comments and through direct email, I want more. What do you want to read more about? You can tell me. After all, I did take you to Africa.

And I was glad to have you there. No matter what the day held (usually puff adders, but sometimes more nebulous terrors like loneliness or self-doubt), coming back to my laptop to read your comments became a source of comfort… mostly. This kind of writing – so immediate, so personal – feels like running around naked. Online. With your parents watching. When one or more of you would take the time to respond I would feel light, the elation carrying me from room to room of the Kennaway. But there were times when I would post… and nothing would happen. These times were stormier.

After a while I began to pay attention to what kinds of posts elicited responses and which were swallowed by the void. You guys sure do like pictures! I could post about nothing at all (Ghost Pops) but you’d still visit for the pictures. And I noticed something else: the posts on race and class were widely read, but not widely commented on. At first I was irritated by this. Here I was tackling a terrifically complex and charged topic (and I must be honest – every time I would post on race I would be assaulted by anxiety), and you all just sat back and listened. But you didn’t, not really. I realized that these posts drew private responses. When I wrote about race I received many thoughtful, complex, and touching direct mails, so thank you.

Thank you, in fact, for all your input: the critical, the encouraging, and the downright odd. It was always appreciated. It helped me come to a very basic realization about myself: I am a writer, and like all writers I crave an audience.

I have a quote taped to my bathroom mirror. It was torn from a book of essays, author unknown, and it reads, “Writers are like those screamers who yell at you in the street, shouting the same phrases, the same words again and again and again, convinced that someone will stop and reply if they can only just get it right.” That you took the time to stop and reply made me feel like finally, I’d got it right.

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Guess where I’m posting from

I remember reading a travel book when I was a kid that outlined instructions for travelling to Spain. The authors prepped the reader for their journey with friendly tips like “pre-stamp postcards so you will never be out of touch”. They suggested appropriate denominations of traveller’s cheques, and offered slightly condescending advice on what to do if the cheques were lost or stolen (“If you have neglected to keep a record of the cheque numbers…”). Travel seemed to me to be terribly complicated, really only suitable for the smartest, most organized and worldly folks.

This post was sent from my celly! Things have gotten so easy, so integrated. Think it (Hmmmm I wonder if I could blog from my BlackBerry) and somebody’s already built a widget for that. Now any eedjit can travel all the way across the world (just watch me) without having to worry about whether they licked the stamp or left a copy of their traveller’s cheque numbers with their friends.

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