Renewal

To create One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Gárcia Márquez wrote every day for eighteen months in a small studio at the back of his house. His wife supplied him with cigarettes and food. He reportedly smoked six packs of cigarettes a day. His smoke filled studio, an envelope of grey, became known as the “Cave of the Mafia”.

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My favourite place to write

In the wilderness with my head stuck outside a tent, a headlamp on, an hour before dawn in a valley surrounded by mountain peaks. In the bathroom late at night with only the scratch of my pen keeping me company. In the garden, wrestling with my great nemesis, the common weed (well that and my unrealistic need for perfection). At my laptop with its bright light guiding me forward, early morning, every morning when I'd rather be asleep like everyone else in the quiet world.

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Facts & Arguments.

This originally appeared in The Globe & Mail, March 31st, 2011.

What I learned about love I learned from my parents. After 56 years of marriage, they woke up each morning and sat side by side, shoulders touching, fingers interlocked.
They would talk about how they slept, what they were going to do today, where they would go for a walk. They'd make their bed together, but my mother was the one in charge. She would tell my father to pull the sheets harder and tuck the blanket in so it wouldn't clump up at the bottom of the bed. You could always bounce a quarter off any bed my mother made.

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Words

I hold my breath, squeeze my eyes and make myself small. I'm under my bed, nose pressed against something hard, muscles still. I hear my grandmother's voice. Beautiful, where are you? You can't hide from your mamma. Her soft voice nudges me into laughter. I hear the bed skirt move. I stare at the bottom side of the bed trying to ignore her. There's my beauty, she says reaching for me. I bump my forehead when I twist and reach for her. She pulls me out then hugs me. Her chest moves up and down under my head. She kisses me, says, You're good and solid. My beauty.

 

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Headlines

Rain fell during the night leaving a turquoise ceiling, sliced by shadowy clouds. She stands on her ninth floor balcony lunging her right leg forward and stretching her left leg back. She takes a yawning breath; changes position. The three loin-clothed Olympians and the word Finisher stamped on her shirt move in unison. The agenda for her eight o'clock meeting, the follow-up reports she will prepare, the phone calls she will make. It's going to be another long day. They all are. Five forty-five. Better do this.

 

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Escape

He'd done it. He'd gotten away from his family. Now he was alone in a coffee shop at the back corner of this mountain village, far from home. Shuffling snowboard boots against concrete floors mixed with the whistling steam belches rising from the cappuccino maker. Young people in oversized and droopy ski pants wandered through. He was away from his kids' prying eyes. They were always watching him, making sure he hadn't done something to himself or died in a puddle of his own grief. He told them he was alright.

 

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10th Anniversary letter

Dear Stella,

You've never been able to understand the one basic rule of life: some things just can't be done.

So, you'll stick an ad in the local paper because, hey, why not? How else do you build a community of writers? Before Facebook and all that tweeting are around, there will be your tiny ad. "Interested in Starting a Writers Group?" You will believe, despite the clutter of all the other ads, the right people will see it and they will come. Against all odds, in a town filled with adrenaline junkies, 26 writers will show up at your door for a first meeting. The Vicious Circle will be born. And it will grow and change and become your community, just as you knew it would.

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Veinakh (our people)

Originally published by the Dalhouise Review, 2006.

Recounts the motivations of a potential female suicide bomber

When I walk downstairs, I will hear my mother say to my father, "Why does she need to be different?" Her voice will be low. She will shake her head and make that familiar tisk sound. My parents will have just returned from work and be sitting over the porridge my father made last night before they left. Milk will dribble on my father's chin. My mother will balance her head on her hand covering an ear to muffle his slurps.

 

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La Straniera

Originally published in The New Orphic Review in 2005.

Office intrigue in a foreign setting

I've got something different for you, he says, early one Thursday morning in May. He's called you to his air-conditioned office where the tinted windows defy the force of the unrelenting Roman sun, drape the outside smog in light grey. You sit in the leather chair in front of his desk, notebook and pen positioned. He paces and eyes you out of hazel slits. You know he's looking for the light fleck in your green eyes. He and others have told you this happens every time you get excited, angry, express emotion. You look at your notebook, scribble the date in the left hand corner. He says, Last week you complained you were bored. Well my dear Raffaela, I think I've found something more challenging for you.

 

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Book Review

By: Stella Leventoyannis-Harvey

The Navigator of New York

By: Wayne Johnston
Alfred A. Knopf Canada

The Navigator of New York by Wayne Johnston is a simple tale of a boy's search for his past and a place to belong. But, the straightforward theme is where the simplicity ends. Detailed historical events of the late 19th century's preoccupation with polar expeditions and lavish lifestyles form the rich textured backdrop and the catalyst for telling Devlin Stead's story, a young boy orphaned by the accidental drowning of his mother and the later disappearance of his father. The images described—in a language reflective of the late 19th century—place the reader back in a time when being poor equaled no options (present or future), secrecy was the only form of communication and honor was something you showed, but not practiced. The book has the look and feel of a historical epic because of Johnston's ability to weave fact with fiction. It is, however, his descriptions of the human condition in its worst and best forms that makes this book difficult to put down.

 

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