Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

aireland's blog

Editing Other People's Work

It’s been an intense week of editing other people's manuscripts. I feel their voices slosh around my brain. I can’t do my own writing at the same time as I edit other people's. Can’t find that corner of mind that contains my own voice.
Head out for a hike once the last critique has been written. Sing as I go. It’s the passage from outer to inner worlds.

When a new manuscript arrives, I tell myself that I’ll work on a bit at a time, say, an hour a day. This never happens. I’m too damn curious, so I pounce on it and read it right through before I start editing. It pulses on my desk. It glows in the dark. I have to lift the cover and see what’s there, what’s brewing. It fascinates. I can’t wait to get back to it.


Was My Face Red

Do you ever feel waves of retroactive embarrassment? I’m more embarrassed now by events that happened decades ago than I was at the time. Given a prod, I’ll replay those situations in my mind and I can feel my toes curl.

My favorite column in Calling All Girls, a pre-teen magazine back in the 60’s, was called: Was My Face Red. Readers would write in with their stories of humiliation.
Sarah and I would collapse in merriment on the sidewalk, reading these letters aloud. We were 9 years old.

Practice, Practice, Practice

6. Practice, Practice, Practice
When I pick up my classical guitar these days, I’m aware that whatever ground I covered a dozen years ago while taking lessons has been lost. The left wrist is fried, ditto for the thumb. Too much typing. Playing music goes back to childhood and the years of being a teenager when I was obsessed with classical music, sneaking into rehearsals of the opera company, the symphony, chamber music groups, hacking around on an array of instruments: oboe, classical guitar, cello, piano...there was even a double bass one summer. It’s how I got through high school, how I made sense of those years. I loved closing the door to my bedroom and tackling something hard, playing the same bar or phrase over and over until I’d nailed it. Not a wasted effort, despite a mediocre talent. It trained me up for novel writing, an enterprise that entails tenacity to the umpteenth degree, and many hours alone in a room. I got used to working alone, to the idea of a ‘project’ that felt interior and intimate, and full of frustration as well as giddy joy and satisfaction.

You Can Draw

People are always saying they can’t draw. They confess this with a certain shame, like not being able to carry a tune. It’s hard to fake carrying a tune, but if you look at something for a long time, a door, or the facade of a building, or a picnic bench– and you put the nub of your pencil on the paper and draw what you see, then you are drawing.

Reading as a Writer

Reading As A Writer

You remember how as a kid you’d check a book out of the library– a hardcover with residues of ketchup stuck to the pages – and curl up on the sofa and soon you were lost. Maybe you set off on an ice floe with your harpoon; launched a Viking ship– or went spelunking in a cave. You slipped the novel under your plate with the grilled cheese sandwich and ate without tasting, letting crumbs fill the spine of the open book, as others had done before you.

Getting Mindful


It’s everywhere these days, mindful this and mindful that. This is what happens to so many useful concepts– they get appropriated and become corny as hell. Mindful cooking/sewing/parenting/gardening/trumpet playing.
And yet. The concept of mindfulness is real and it is helpful.


I follow the directions offered up by the sleep doctor in today’s newspaper. Don’t work in the evening. Don’t watch TV close to bedtime. Don’t read in bed; bed is only for sleep and sex. No vigorous exercise after 6. No spicy foods or large meals in the evening. Stay away from the News. Take a hot bath with aromatherapy oils. Make sure the bedroom is dark. Turn off phones and LED lights and electronic devices.

Check. Check. Done.

So how come I’m lying here in bed, basted with fragrant oils, pell-mell thoughts and re-creations of the day swarming in. Head squashed into the memory-foam pillow, I’m raring to go. Someone didn’t tell the sleep area of brain that it is time to call it quits.

Mowry Baden art opening

Mowry Baden in Town:

It was a gathering of the clan last evening at Diaz Contemporary Gallery.

First thing you see when you walk into the light-filled space on Niagara Street in downtown Toronto (across the street from the old abattoir– bye bye piggies) is a piece involving mirrors and handles that the viewer uses to move the sculpture. As you roll the piece along the floor and peer down into the mirrors, it feels like you are walking along the ceiling.

Musicians and Authors

If you think it’s rough publishing a book, waiting for critical response, hoping for the best – then you haven’t entered a music competition. Weird concept, the idea of competing for a music prize, but this is how careers are launched in the classical music world. You can go from zero to ten overnight if you pull off a win.

I just got back from participating (as an author, not a musician) in the Montreal International Guitar Festival and Competition organized by the amazing Patrick Kearney and his team. What a riot - for me. Jangled nerves, sweeps of excitement, inspiration, and yes, disappointment, for the other participants who were guitarists entering the competition and taking master classes.

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