How lucky I am to be waking up with Peter to this view again this summer.
Fun to get these new editions of The Man with the Violin. Korean and Portuguese editions coming soon too. But that’s not all that’s been happening with this book lately.
The National Arts Centre has big plans. The multi-talented composer Anne Dudley has been laying the groundwork for a musical treatment of the book — for orchestra, solo violin, and narrator. Normal – an animation/video design company from Montreal (who worked with the NAC on the beautiful and moving “Life Reflected”) will design a single-screen treatment of Dusan Petricic’s artwork as part of the show.
The Manager of Artistic Planning for the NAC Orchestra says, “It is our hope that the piece will be easily produced by other orchestras. I expect that it will have a robust life on children’s concerts for some time!”
The world premiere will be in February 2017 at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., the city where the true story of what happened when a world-class violinist (Joshua Bell) performed in a subway station and almost no one listened. (Joshua himself will be the solo violinist for the world premiere.)
The date for the Canadian premiere, which will also feature Joshua Bell, is yet to be announced. You can be sure to find out the details here, as soon as I have them.
Many of the kids in this pic took home their first ever “mine for keeps” books yesterday thanks to First Book Canada. Owning a book is a new concept for some of them. When I handed one boy his copy of The Man with the Violin he asked me, “Do I bring it back tomorrow?” When I told him he got to take it home and keep it – along with another book of his choosing from the table at the back of the room – he could hardly believe it!
Who are those folks in blue the kids are being introduced to? BMO volunteers who came to the school to read the new books with the kids in cozy groups of two or three, after their visit with me. A great pleasure to be part of this event, which began with all the kids singing a beautifully sung song about changing the world.
Thank you First Book Canada, BMO, and the great staff and students at Corliss PS.
Thanks to FBC’s Kate Burgess for this photo of two happy book recipients.
Sure, I wrote Red Is Best – first published in 1982 and still going strong. Those Green Things – first published in 1985 and again in 1995 with new illustrations when sales began to flag – has now been officially declared out of print.
Don’t tell anyone, but I actually like green more than red, especially in May when my corner of the world seems to explode with it. As Those Green Things begins to fade from bookshelves, here is a selection of my spring 2016 photos that celebrate the colour green.
Ever wonder why only some of the people in The Man with the Violin (now available in paperback) are in colour? Nan Forler, a writer-friend who happens to also be a Kindergarten teacher, wrote me recently and passed along some of her students’ thoughts on the subject. She didn’t pose the question herself, but once one of the kids wondered about it, they all got talking. . .
“I think they are like that because they are statues and the ones in colour are people.”
“I think the person who did the picture stopped colouring because he got a little bit tired.”
“I think some of them are coloured and some of them are not because the girl or the boy who made the pictures, his markers dried up so he just did the rest with pencil.”
“No, the ones with no colour don’t talk and the ones with the colour are the ones that talk.”
“A witch came along and got her turned into a statue.” Giggling. “That’s weird.”
And about Joshua Bell on the last page (of biographical info) —
“When he got very older, he turned into a picture.”
So, Dušan Petricic, were you tired? Did your markers dry up? Or what were you thinking?
Did you know that Paul McCartney was 16 years old when he and John Lennon wrote “When I’m Sixty Four”? Paul and Ringo are the only two Beatles who lived to see 64. John was murdered at 40 and George died from lung cancer at 58.
When the song was released in 1967, I was 15 years old, and I have made it to 64. It seems somehow not to be quite the advanced age I thought it was then!
Here are 10 things I didn’t even begin, at 15, to conceive of about myself at 64 . . .
What has surprised you about being however old you are now?
Writing for more hours of my days at Fool’s Paradise than I imagined possible left little time for reading and for those intense four weeks I had little interest in any fiction beyond my own. I did, however read three books:
Doris McCarthy: Ninety Years Wise made me feel as if I too could go from strength to strength as the years go on, despite the physical diminishment that’s bound to accompany them. Celebrating Life: The Art of Doris McCarthy inspired in me to apply some of her ideas about painting to my photography. Treasured Legacies encouraged me to think more positively about what it means to be old and to embrace the years ahead instead of dreading them.
Reading these books while enjoying the privilege of living and working in Doris’s former home, now the Doris McCarthy Artist-in-Residence Centre, may have heightened my appreciation of them, but I recommend them to anyone with an interest in art or aging.
What about the writing I did at Fool’s Paradise? I added a lot of words to my manuscript, I took out a lot of words too, and my brain is still buzzing with ideas for the project’s ongoing development.
How do you find the time and psychic space you need for your creative pursuits while still being an active participant in the other important parts of your life?
Today would have been Keisha’s tenth birthday but five weeks ago we learned she had cancer and four weeks ago she visited the vet for the last time. For a week Peter and I together mourned her loss, at home, received condolences from family, friends, and dog-walking acquaintances, and poured over hundreds of photos in search of the best one to hang on the wall between our offices. We felt keenly both her absence and her presence. We cherished encounters with dogs who knew us and sensed, as we’d seen Keisha do with others, our need for their brand of comfort, and it wasn’t long before we knew that there would have to be another canine companion in our lives before summer came.
During my first days at Fool’s Paradise, while Peter was in Halifax, we arranged to meet a pup. We liked her. We would bring her home from Misty Pines soon after my term here is over. We named her Georgia. I returned here to immerse myself in my work-in-progress and Peter left the too-quiet house once again to visit friends.
It has been easier here. Tears have all but stopped flowing. When I think of dogs at all, I think about a new pup I don’t even know, as much and possibly more than the senior dog I loved for almost ten years. I tell myself that’s okay, it’s good to look ahead, to move forward; and Keisha was never a jealous dog, she wouldn’t mind at all that we’re ready to lavish attention on another member of her tribe. But I wonder if the timing of this writing retreat has denied me the opportunity to fully grieve, and to cherish memories of the dog who enriched our lives so deeply. And so, instead of leaping immediately into the lives of my characters this morning as I usually do, I’m turning my attention to Keisha.
As I write this, I long to wrap my arms around her (and smile at how she leans away); to stroke her lovely coat and her soft, expressive ears; the see and hear her bounding into the water and come swimming gracefully back with the ball or stick we’ve thrown. I long to say her name and see her dark eyes look at me full of expectation for what wonderful thing might be about to happen — or she might just twitch her eyebrows, not even lifting her head. How is it possible to so adore a dog’s eyebrows?
But I’m also looking forward to getting to know another pup, to find out what her quirks will be, endearing and otherwise, what brand of joy she will bring into our lives, and . . . Another puppy? What have we done? Bringing home a puppy, someone has said, is a recipe for heartache.
It has been a hard season for a number of dog people we know. Gone in recent weeks: Lesley’s Murdo, John’s Rupert, Trudee’s Dudley; in recent months: Jennie’s Mosa, Anne’s Keira, and Corrie’s golden retriever whose name escapes me. Going back not much farther, countless other dog’s we’ve known whose passing their people have deeply mourned. I suppose we would all like to believe there’s a great dog party happening somewhere, with all our dearly departed canine companions in attendance, romping and sniffing butts.
Some of the condolences from friends, on hearing that Keisha was gone, assured us that dogs leave us and yet remain with us. Keisha will certainly be with me today, perhaps sitting with her back to me waiting to be patted, perhaps reminding me that rain is not a reason to stay inside, almost certainly appearing suddenly from wherever she would sleep here, when I start peeling the carrot that will be part of my lunch. She might leap to ‘catch’ it in her mouth, or she might take it ‘gentle’ from my fingers. I may have to give an extra chunk or two. It is, after all, her birthday.
Happy birthday, Keisha.
Following the death of landscape painter Doris McCarthy in 2010, the Ontario Heritage Trust established the Doris McCarthy Artist-in-Residence Centre, at her request, on the property where she had lived for over 60 years. Her mother did not approve of her purchase of the land in 1939 and referred to the property as “that fool’s paradise of yours.”
Last fall I applied to take advantage of the opportunity to focus intensely on my writing at Fool’s Paradise, a setting imbued with the spirit of this fine artist, overlooking the Scarborough Bluffs. I’d heard about the possibility of doing so from Jan Coates, who went last year.
Next week I’ll begin a month-long stay there, armed with feedback I received recently from the wonderful women I can count on to give me insightful responses to my works-in-progress (and from my in-house (literally) editor) of the project I’m taking with me – my first full-length novel for adults.
I imagine I won’t be writing every minute of every day I’m there. I’ll do my morning yoga, take walks, and read as well. And I imagine I’ll take more than a few photographs of my surroundings as a memento of my time there. Hopefully, come mid-April, I’ll be bringing home a manuscript that’s a whole lot closer to being ready to submit to an agent.
Where have you done your best work? Is there another residency/retreat I should think about applying to, for next year?
Sometimes a sentence flows to paper or screen on a writer’s first approach. Other times it takes editing to get the tone and intended impact just right. During online photography classes with Joy Sussman, I’ve been learning that this can also be true of photographs.
Here is an early version and final version of the last sentence of my coming-in-March picture book, Harry and Walter.
— Harry took Walter’s hand and off they went.
–Harry took Walter’s hand because some things don’t change.
And off they went — the best of friends.
And here’s a photography class assignment, before and after editing.
Which do I like editing more? Text or photos? Hard to say, they can both feel like magic sometimes, but for sure I’ll be doing plenty of text editing in March. (More on that next week.)