It’s Mashramani and in Georgetown the Guyanese are winin’ in the streets. Mash is a celebration of the Republic’s official birthday, February 23, 1970. These days the colours are all bright bright, costumes flash their feathers and spray glitter on the crowds, while the King and Queen sweat and sway majestic to the jump-up soca beat. But, back in 1975 when the Republic was still fresh, Guyana showed its sprankious spirit with whatever came to hand. Sometimes that meant being a Fat Cat with a dressed up donkey.
Wuzza’s library has no walls, but it does have a roof and a fireplace, a couch that swings from chains, and a magnificent table built for writers or readers the size of Paul Bunyan. It also has a shelf of books (with the ubiquitous Maeve Binchy). There is a creek nearby where platypus live and beside you is a Sulpher Crested Cockatoo that now and then says “hello” in a shy and whispery way.
Posting this from the passenger seat of a four wheel drive winding it’s way through the deep red “bull dust” of the Australian outback. This is a stunningly beautiful and sparse landscape with a sky domed wider and darker (blue or black) than any I have ever seen.
Next up on the tour is my invitee, Elise Moser, whose post I am happy to host right here, right now.
I am honored to have been invited by Shelagh Plunkett to join this Canadian literary blog tour. She is the author of The Water Here Is Never Blue, a beautiful memoir of her unusual childhood in Guyana and West Timor, in which Shelagh achieves a very fine balance between the long-distance perspective, emotional maturity and augmented knowledge of the adult narrator, and the immediacy and vivid passion of childhood and the teenage years.
What am I working on?
I am writing a kids’ book about the woman who invented plastics recycling in the late 1970s. This is NOT what I wanted to write. I don’t normally write nonfiction, I have neither taste nor talent for research, and I never had any desire to write for kids. And let’s face it, plastics recycling doesn’t sound very sexy. But… I was at a community meeting in the Wisconsin town where I spend part of the year with my sweetheart, and someone mentioned that the woman who created the “chasing arrows triangle” (the international symbol for recycling) lived here. My first thought was, “Wait, someone created that?” Duh. My second thought was, “Wait, a woman created that? How come I don’t know about this?” Once I started Googling, it turned out that the story was more wonderful than I could have imagined. It was begging to be a book. I tried to get someone else to take it on, but no one would, and I couldn’t stop talking about it. So I finally gave in. I think kids (and grownups too) ought to know that a middle-aged housewife with a stubborn streak, a commitment to community and the environment, and a powerful work ethic changed our world.
A few weeks ago I was invited to participate in a blog tour. My task: answer four questions about writing and tag two other Canadian authors. Seems straightforward and I will get down to that in a few lines, but, before I begin, I’d like to thank Jane Eaton Hamilton, my newest writer friend, for inviting me to join the tour.
Jane is the author of seven books. Her latest, a book of poetry titled Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes, will launch in September. She has won the CBC Literary Award twice, been shortlisted for it numerous times, and her work has garnered an impressive and long list of awards and accolades. Plus, she’s a very nice person.
Jane’s most recent win was this year’s CBC Literary Award for her short story, Smiley – you can read it here, and you’ll be pleased that you did; it’s masterfully written, beautifully subtle and evocative. Jane and I were introduced at the awards ceremony held in Montreal in March. Now, I don’t make friends very easily, perhaps as a factor of a childhood spent here and there and never long in one place, but Jane and I clicked like nobody’s business. We live at opposite ends of this big country and have met up only once since that introduction, and yet we are becoming good friends and this, for me, is a delight and a revelation.
Jane and I will be seeing each other again in Montreal in November when she tours, Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes. We’ll be reading together, along with Deanna Young and Michael Kenyon, at Drawn & Quarterly Books on November 5. More on that later.
Now for the what, the why, and the how of the blog tour.
What am I working on?
It’s been almost a year since my first book, The Water Here is Never Blue, hit the shelves. Since then I’ve been kept busy writing about that writing and dealing with the sometimes difficult and occasionally delightful journey that a book takes once it’s been launched. I haven’t had the wherewithal to start the writing of a new project, but ideas, images, and narrative threads have been dancing around, pairing up and shattering apart, percolating, and gestating in the background of my mind for months. In one week I will be in Australia, and there, in the Red Centre of that far away place, I will begin, in earnest, something new.
Our telephone su-sued. Click, click, the call ended, but the noises did not stop. Be quiet now, and wait a moment more before replacing that heavy black receiver. I could hear it, a soft, sleepy-sounding breathy air that echoed carefully all down the line. A hollow waiting sound. Somebody’s out there. Someone’s listening.
– from The Water Here is Never Blue
One of the greatest joys in having a book out there in the world is hearing from readers. I’ve had people track down my phone number, search out my mailing address, and find me online.
Today another letter arrived in the mail, this one from a reader who worked with my father on Timor and who remembers me from that time. He confirms suspicions that Dad was “keeping an eye” on things in the many countries to which he travelled and reporting back regularly to embassies and to Ottawa – not, as he writes, “in the James Bond type category” but in a way that was considered pretty normal for the times. Call it what you will, a spy is a spy is a spy.
Let me tell you more. Here is chapter 7 of The Water Here is Never Blue.
Oh my, this land is full of things outsized and over big. Creatures grow much larger than they do in other lands, much larger than they should. Continue reading
Summer has hit and Montreal is hot hot hot. People moving slowly slowly in the steamy air.
Summers like this take me back to Guyana days, and I remember in sharp detail the smells and sounds, the way tropic air lay heavy on the skin, the pace all living things took that was so different from the way they’d move if they were in Vancouver.
Let me take you there. Here is chapter 1 of The Water Here is Never Blue.
In Guyana the night is dark, true dark. In Guyana the night piles thick and velvet, Prussian blue from the ground beneath your feet to high above your head. It is all around you, not confined just to the sky, but laying too along the ground, at the side of the road, in the air above the canal water, and lurking among the grasses and the trees. Thick, so thick is the night that it comes in close and nudges you. It has a pelt that brushes cheeks, a weight that curls in the nape of your neck, and it fills your mouth with black and wet solidity. It is alive. Alive with sounds and smells, something you can almost hold in your palm. Night there is not like anything I had ever felt.