Tuesday, August 30, 2016

My new website is up and running!

Hi everyone!

I wanted to let you know that my new website is up. Please visit for up-to-date information about Seeking the Center, including some blogging on relevant topics. See you there!

P.S. We finally have an official release date, October 17!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Seeking the Center cover art!

You've been there, I know you have. You find the perfect one only to have your hopes dashed: it's not available. How could you have such horrible luck?

And then it happens again. Utter despair!

But finally, amazingly, you stumble across something that's even better than those earlier ones, the ones you loved before, the ones that broke your heart...

I'm thrilled to report that we've found the perfect cover for Seeking the Center! It's a photograph by Mike Wilkinson, of Wilkinson Visual.

We're still working on the design, but for now, suffice it to say that it's got it all: stick, puck, ice, clouds, and sky. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Seeking the Center will be published by Cuidono Press

Seeking the Center is my second novel, but the first one to be finished. I started thinking about it all the way back in 2008 or so. It tells the story of Agnes Demers, a young Métis woman growing up in Saskatchewan in the 1980s and '90s. Here's what it's about:

Agnes Demers grew up playing hockey, skating with the neighborhood kids on the frozen ponds of her hometown, St. Cyp, through the long, cold Saskatchewan winters. For Agnes, hockey is the measure of all things - the ultimate test of passion and power, spirit and skill. But now hockey has betrayed her, left her watching from the bleachers - all because she's had the miserable luck to be born female.

Agnes moves to Wapahaska to work at the Indian Jewel Box with her friend Jo. She intends to ignore the town's minor-league hockey team, the Prairie Wolves, not to mention her childhood teammate Owen MacKenzie, the Wolves' star center. In fact, she intends to ignore the whole smug, self-congratulatory scene, but it isn't long before she becomes re-entangled with the game she loves, with Owen, and with the team's new enforcer, Claude Doucette, an older player who shares her Native heritage and aspires to live by its warrior creed.

Locked in a three-way tilt at the convergence of history and desire, Agnes must seek the center: the balance to stay on her skates, the opening to make a play, and the vision to reclaim her game.

No release date yet, but you'll be the first to know!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Dear Reader,

Welcome to my new home!
Moves can be stressful and disorganized and this one is no exception! Please forgive the mess, the dining table mistakenly left in the bedroom, and the boxes emptied before the shelves are ready to hold their contents. It's going to take me a while to get it all together, so be patient. But don't hesitate to stop by and look around.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Meditations on 'The Monsters and the Critics' by J. R. R. Tolkien

I've just read Tolkien's famous lecture/essay on Beowulf, "The Monsters and the Critics." In it he takes certain literary critics to task for their assertions that Beowulf's author eschewed the lofty in favor of the trivial by placing the monsters – Grendel, Grendel's mother, and the dragon – at the center of the poem.

It is a beautiful, beautiful essay that, apart from scoring an absolute bull's eye (and applying the zinger: I have, of course read The Beowulf, as have most [but not all] of those who have criticized it), also weighs in on the power of myth and the importance of looking at art as art. It also demonstrates how we can gain perspective through a thoughtful examination of historical context.

Near and dear to my heart, and at the heart of his argument, Tolkien staunchly defends the northern mythological imagination. This is a balm to my soul! I show great restraint by not simply retyping the whole thing right here!

Though scarcely a child of the internet age, I wanted so much, as I read the essay, to send Dr. Tolkien an email, or tweet to him in sincere appreciation and in solidarity; but Tolkien, of course, was, as he himself said of Beowulf, a man, and that…is sufficient tragedy: man falls prey to death and then he is lost…! How fortunate that his words may live on, so that one may meditate upon them, as below.

A person alive and a person dead exist at the same time 

Like Tolkien, I believe strongly in the significance of myth.

Myth does not unfold in an "historical" time, but rather in an imagined time. However, as Tolkien says, it is at its best when it is presented…as incarnate in the world of history and geography…

I would add that, in myth, meanings bleed to the surface of the ordinary, so that this bloodiness, this contact with the juice that (normally) flows invisibly within, becomes ordinary.

In my novel The Bear Wife, bones - skeletal remains emptied of a person's soul - are inhabited, pregnant, in a sense, with significance. (He who in those days said and who heard…[the kenning] ban-hus 'bone-house'…thought of the soul shut in the body, as the frail body itself is trammelled in armour, or as a bird in a narrow cage, or steam pent in a cauldron. There it seethed and struggled in the wylmas, the boiling surges beloved of the old poets, until its passion was released and it fled away on ellor-si∂, a journey to other places 'which none can report with truth, not lords in their halls nor mighty men beneath the sky.')

In this mythological way of thinking, a thing is both what it is, and what it is not. Or maybe what it is, and what it once was, both at the same imagined time.

In this way of thinking, a person alive and a person dead exist at the same time, in balance, as Tolkien describes the two halves of the Anglo-Saxon line of verse, halves that balance and build upon each other, "more like masonry than music."

In this way of thinking there is the sense of a building, a structure, "a tough builder's work of true stone," rather than a sense of moving forward, or of narrative. But I don't think – and I don't think Tolkien thought either – that this 'structure' represented a state of repose. Far from it; the balance, in fact, was an uneasy one.

In The Well and the Tree Paul Bauschatz discusses the lack of a future tense in Germanic languages. There are only the past and the present, two conditions, and the future is called necessity.

Some say the future is now. Perhaps, essentially, necessity is the now, the only weapon we may wield against the monster, a stonemason's tool in the delicate balance between life and death.

Quotes are from "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics" and "On Translating Beowulf", both from The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays, by J. R. R. Tolkien. Edited by Christopher Tolkien. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1984.

I also refer to The Well and the Tree: World and Time in Early Germanic Culture by Paul C.
Bauschatz. Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1982.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Please, gex youz acx xogexhez, Bew Yozk Ximes!

What if I wrote an article about The New York Times and decided to leave out the letters n, r and t and substitute some other letters in their places? It might become the Few Yolk Limes. Or the Bew Yozk Ximes. Ix would be absuzd, righx?

I just read "Pommes de Terroir," a short article about the specialty potato industry in Sweden, in Sunday's New York Times travel magazine. And would you believe it? The writer and editors completely disregarded three letters of the Swedish alphabet!

They just weren't there at all.

It's Spelled That Way for a Reason

The travel writer, Abby Aguirre, went to Skåne, one of Sweden's southern provinces, and visited the municipality of Båstad. Båstad, because of the å in the first syllable, is pronounced almost like BOO-stah." It's not spelled Bastad, as the Times would have it; Bastad sounds more like a snooty British rendering of bastard.

According to Båstad's website, there are different theories for how the town got its name. Like many place names, it could derive from an early resident's name. Båstad could be a shortened version bootho's-sted (the place where Bootho lives). Or perhaps Bodo's-sted. Both are regional names going back at least to the ninth century; we know of them because they appeared in a French chronicle identifying Norman/Viking men with origins in Skåne. Another possibility is that the name is a shortened version of båtställe (båt being the word for boat), probably meaning some sort of boat passage or landing.

But in either case you can see how keeping the å rather than an a in the first syllable of Båstad is absolutely key; spelled with an a it has a completely different pronunciation, one that would not link it to either of its possible origins. Thus, one could say that changing the å to a not only sounds like a nasty insult, but also robs the town of a bit of its meaning and history.

A rose by any other name...would be something else entirely

Continuing on through the Times piece, the sjö in Rammsjö is a word that means sea or lake. Sjo is meaningless and I'm pretty sure it's unpronounceable as well.

Also, a trädgård is a garden. It is composed of the elements träd (tree) and gård (yard).  Tradgard means nothing in Swedish. (In English it might be the name of some product advertised on late-night television, designed to protect your trad, whatever that is.)

Väderö is an island, indicated by the final element ö, the word for island. The first element, väder, means weather. Vader means nothing (unless we're talking about Darth).

Moreover, the name of the Cape on which the potatoes in question grow is, as it says on the sign pictured on page 107 of the magazine, Bjäre, not Bjare. Also, I believe the vodka is named after Börje Karlsson, not Borje, and the potato dealer's name is Göran not Goran. (Not only does ö sound completely different than o, but it also renders the g soft and thus is essential for intelligibility. I ask you: would Jennifer want you to call her Gonnifer?)

Finally, there's no such thing as farsk potatoes. They are färsk: fresh.

A language resonates with the history, the logic and the character of its people

I mention all of this not to be picky, and not to try to seem cooler-than-thou because I
know a little Swedish. I bring it up because I think it really matters.

I mean, come on! Man up, people!

They may inconvenience your typesetter, but the three letters å, ä and ö comprise nearly 10% of the Swedish alphabet. Ignoring them demonstrates a profound lack of respect for the Swedish language and for language in general. I mean, did the folks who standardized Swedish just go on a drinking binge one day and randomly decide to place dots over some of their vowels just for the heck of it? Well...maybe.

But seriously, however it happened, the fact is that Swedish has 29 letters. They are all necessary to differentiate the sounds of the language. A is different than å or ä. is different than ö.  They look different, they sound different and they have different effects on the consonants that surround them.
And the spelling of a word speaks to the word's composition, its meaning and its origin.

What is a travel magazine for, anyway?

Is it ignorance, laziness, or does the New York Times just not care about getting it right? Maybe it's just taking advantage of the good-naturedness of Swedes, of their willingness to extend themselves to understand us, even when we don't reciprocate. But in this global age, no one – certainly not a publication that considers itself to be relevant to people traveling overseas - can afford to display this sort of ignorance and disrespect. Getting the names right is an important part of showing respect and highlighting the beauty and uniqueness of a place and a people. That, after all, is what a travel magazine should be for.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

What this fan wants to see...

I want to see smiles from these guys!

What does this fan want to see from her dear but beleaguered team, the Washington Capitals? Well, of course, I'd like to see them bring the Stanley Cup home to DC. (Yes, HOME!)

But the Cup is, for all its mystical pull, one of those rewards that we work for but whose actual meaning is in the hurdles we must clear to win it: we must constantly hone our skills, practice, prepare, and endure physical and mental sacrifice and hardship. The Cup is what it is because of what it demands: dogged, persistent play on every shift, tons of courage and spirit, plus a grand dose of favor from the hockey gods. You can strive your entire life for a reward such as this, and never win it. Many never do. But they can hold their heads high because of the striving. 

I want to see the Caps play hard, give up nothing easy, and, if they do, come back immediately, with a vengeance.

Last spring, swept by Tampa Bay, they looked like deer in the headlights. This season, it seems, they have been in the process of transitioning into the kind of team that won't go down easily. Who knows whether they've accomplished the full transition? No one. But the playoffs - a heightened version of hockey reality - will surely hold the answer. Maybe, just maybe, the playoffs will be the anvil on which the new Caps are finally, fully, forged. 

That's what this fan wants to see.