Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

mpaul's blog

Looking for the Miraculous

I haven’t seen an angel in a water spot on my ceiling, or the Virgin Mary in the shape of a potato, or the face of Jesus on a scorch mark on the bottom of my iron, or the Son of God in the lines and wrinkles of a cinnamon bun. Maybe I lack the vision. Maybe I lack the creativity. Maybe I lack the faith. The truth of the matter is - and by that I mean matter literally, concrete existence - I’ve never looked out into the physical world and seen the Holy Family.

Other people have spotted them easily enough, Jesus and Mary and the Archangel Gabriel in the here and now. It’s a story that repeats itself like Christmas, resurfaces in news reports at least once a year, holy sightings in fruit and tree bark and paint chips, in the markings on calves and the forehead of horses.

So Long, Marianne

It’s been a fun gig. OpenBook is a wonderful website, so vibrant and alive. Kudus to the OpenBook staff for keeping the site up and running in such a smooth and seemingly effortlessly way. Anything that appears to be effortless never is - it always comes as the result of careful thought and behind-the-scenes hard work.

I've Been Kicking Butt...

I’m one of those people who claims she doesn't believe in astrology, and then reads her horoscope each day. I’m also one of those people who claims she pays no attention to what the horoscope predicts, but sighs with relief when the planets are aligned in her favour. It all comes down to stories. Everybody loves a story – good or bad - and when you’re the main character of that story, my stars, what could be better than that? Take today’s horoscope: “After all your recent butt-kicking, it’s time for you to do something lovely and relaxing. Get outside and go for a nice walk.”

Out on a Limb

My husband went out on a limb today. Way out on a limb. Climbed the chestnut tree in our backyard with a dexterity that proves once and for all that man (but not necessarily women) evolved from apes. Three stories up, to give you an idea of height, if he were scaling the side of an office building in downtown Toronto. Climbing that tree was a spontaneous act. It’s not like he woke up and rolled over and said, okay, Marianne, this morning before I go to work, after I’ve shaved, and found a clean shirt and pants and matching socks (which isn’t always easy in our house), right when I’m about to leave for a meeting, I’m going to climb the tree in the backyard.

You're So Obama

I love language, the way it is alive, squirms to go its own way like a naughty child, even with the best efforts of purists to keep a firm grip on it. But anybody who has a kid knows the kid usually gets her own way. Breaks free, goes wild, stays out all night, parties, drinks, does drugs, has sex. Okay, okay, not every kid, and for the record, not MY kid. (I’m covering my butt, just in case she drops by OpenBook and reads this post). I’m just sayin…

No matter, the child thing is simply a metaphor. What I’m really thinking about is language, how this lovely balancing act occurs between grammar-perfect “correct” language, and common-usage language. It’s in this balance that the most expressive communication, dare I say the best writing, occurs.

One Book I Won't Be Buying

I spend a lot of money on books. I have no patience with writers who won’t spend money on books, and even less patience with writers who don’t read much. And I’ve come across both over the years.

It’s a tough business, book selling, book publishing, book writing. If writers won’t support it, how can they expect others to do so? When I think about the cost of a large pizza with all the toppings compared to the price of a book… sheesh… buy the book.

I admire people who get into the book publishing business, and stay in the publishing business, especially at a time when there is so much uncertainty, the electronic media changing the face of publishing and communication.

The Breadwinner Trilogy

The story is fictional, I know, yet I cried when I read the YA book, The Breadwinner Trilogy, by Deborah Ellis. Parvana and Shauzia – the Afghan girls who hide their gender, dress and act as boys, risk their lives to venture out of their houses and into the marketplace to earn bits of money so that their families can survive – are not real.

For every tale writers put together, every plot they imagine, there is a person who has experienced something similar, whether an event upon which the book is based, or a theme that is central to it, such as loss. The stories that novels tell are rooted in reality.

What's Going On in Your Writing Headspace?

Do you see the words within your mind when you write, or do you hear them as if spoken aloud? It’s a strange question, I know, and one I would never have thought about if Netty hadn’t asked it in a piece of writing she brought to our writing circle. You might remember her from another post. She’s my poet friend.

I write. I read. To borrow a phrase from Nike, I just do it. Sometimes I think about the mechanical process of writing and reading, how adults acquire literacy skills. I know that new readers often read in a strictly linear way, word by word. If they don’t recognize a word they stop, stumped, and don’t continue. They handle a book the same way, start at the front, and work through page by page to the back.

Blame it on Glenn Gould

Spent yesterday “bagging” writing. Didn’t write a word. It was glorious. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I love to write, but sometimes, I love not to write. To give it all a rest. The pause between actions. Glenn Gould came to mind when I wrote those words, the pause between actions. The process of writing is like that - the most unexpected connections pop up.


Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me. I’d chant that verse with my little girl nose up in the air in a “holier-than-thou” way in response to name-calling or other playground taunts. It’s rather surprising I didn’t suffer a beating, that some smart-ass kid didn’t say, okay, you asked for it, I’ll hurl sticks and stones at you instead of words. The playground can be a war zone.

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