Saturday, May 30, 2020

df parizeau : Your (Small Press) Writing Day: Field Notes from an Ailing Body

You wake up. Not to your alarm, but to the power-line thrum of Left-Ankle. You roll over, check your phone: you tentatively have 30 minutes left, before you need to get up. Left-Ankle continues to buzz, Bladder groans. The daily game of chicken with your body begins again. In 15 minutes, you will get up to use the toilet, but not before you contemplate pissing the bed as an act of protest.

The kettle rattles on the burner. You toss 2 tablespoons of Nescafe Gold instant coffee into a mug printed with the Edmonton, AB skyline, then hover over the toaster. You fiddle with the knobs, try to decide which setting will grant your morning a little extra time, without rendering your toast inedible. A bubble wrap pop warns you that the joints are catching up to your state of alertness. Left-Knee creaks a steady yawn. You try to shake it back to sleep but its too late.

“Sooo what’s on tap for today? We working on that one about the time you tore me up at summer camp?”

Left-Arm and Right-Arm cross themselves in response, “No, it’s our turn; he’s been milking the bad knees thing since high school!”

The toast pops up and you spread a healthy coat of peanut butter over its tawny face, smash a banana on top. You pull the kettle off the burner just as it begins to whisper and fill your mug—top it off with a splash of maple flavoured non-dairy creamer.
Right-Knee strains to chime in, “That’s an unholy lie: L-K gets all of the attention. I’m just as, if not more, arthritic, you know.”

You sit at the breakfast table and rub both Temples. The stress from the bickering is climbing the base of Neck, the tremor of another long day swells.

“Actually, I was thinking today I might spend time with Fing…”

A seething crescent flashes in Right-Foot before you finish your thought. You leap from your chair and try to muffle the irritation rocking Right-Foot back and forth like the kinesiologist showed you.


You crouch into a deep lunge and the protest from Right-Foot slackens. You feel bad: both Right-Foot and Left-Foot carry a lot of your day-to-day burden, but neither has the same passion or aptitude for storytelling as the rest of thSe gang.

You reach Arms as high as they will allow and sprawl each joint and muscle out to attention. Left Hip and Spine conspire to limit the depth of this stretch—anchors holding you down. You push through their resistance, the satisfying succession of snaps confirming that you finally have everyone’s full attention.

“I’m spending today with Fingers. That’s that. They spend everyday helping me compile all of your ramblings, the least you could all do is keep quiet for a day and show some respect.”

You fall out of the stretch, waiting for protest. To your surprise, the only sense of disdain is a mild chatter from Right-Knee. You gently massage Fingers. Despite favouring your left side your whole life, you have long considered all Fingers—both left and right—in the same breath; perhaps this is a product your latent desire to be ambidextrous. You take your time, stretch their joints with care. You have always known Fingers as reserved, comfortable in their utilitarian role and not much for making a fuss.


A titter of excitement crackles from Fingers. Long the stenographer of your writing project, it is finally their turn to add to the narrative. You place your plate in the dishwasher and replace your coffee with some tap water before settling in the living room. You ease into the armchair and stretch out over the ottoman.

“Aren’t you going to grab a notepad or your laptop?”

You explain that you want to listen first, to home in on the kernel of their story, before committing any text to paper or screen. You ask them to trust the process. Remind them of all the motion that occurs each day before you set them to work. This includes but is not limited to:

Pacing the circuit between the living room, kitchen, and bedroom multiple times.
Checking the pantry to see if it has restocked itself, once every half hour.
Annoying your youngest cat daughter, twice every hour.

Contemplating trimming Face’s beard.

Trimming Face’s beard.

Screaming at the Twitter void.

Texting your best friend to tell her that you miss trends like ex-libris, Pogs, flannel shirts, and inflatable furniture.

All while you keep keen attention to Fingers, as they spill months worth of pent up anecdotes. Together you recall the texture of the seams on a Rawlings baseball; how they feel as you change your grip from two-seamer to slider, to changeup. You appreciate that they remember how cool it felt to finally get your first Thinsulate half-mittens and you both get a kick from your short-lived attempt at learning the transverse flute.

After confirming the stock in the pantry is still the same—for the eleventh time—you jot down some notes, form a few sentences, careful to kill the adverbs before they take root.

You thank Fingers for being candid, for working double-time, tell them that you have got enough for a few new pieces. Right-Achilles barks that they have never been granted a full day of attention. You dismiss them, promise enough literature exists on the topic of them and find your way over to the couch.

You turn the TV on and decide to reward yourself by ending the by playing a couple of hours of Persona 5, pleased that your body was quiet enough to put in a full day of writing.

df parizeau is a Pushcart nominated multi-disciplinary writer who still has all of his wisdom teeth. You are more likely to find him eavesdropping than working on his craft. Despite his aptitude for procrastination, df’s work has been or will be featured online and in print, by publications such as Funicular Magazine, Chapter House Journal, and Rejection Letters. He is currently the creative nonfiction editor for mineral lit mag. You can find him trying to convince folks he’s funny on Twitter @belowtheeaves.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Justene Dion-Glowa : writing day

I wake in a fugue state - an overwhelming sense of obligation to both my work and writing hobby thrumming a resounding chorus of anxious thoughts, swirling. My brain needs two massive mugs of coffee before any thoughts will reach clarity. My mug is cornflower blue. When tipped back it covers my whole face.

I do not have a typical writing day. I write when there is quiet, calm, excess time, and space. Perhaps also when there is some trauma to process or some inspiration offered by the universe.

I start out by getting my children settled into their new school routine, logging on and being prepped with finished work. Having a pencil for the new work that must be done, or a laptop to log in to a classroom.

I have a calendar that is meant to mark all of the days I write in a row. There are no rows. Seems no amount of discipline offers me any meaningful or decent work. Discipline is even more meaningless in a pandemic during which my whole family must be at home asking for small kindnesses.

Its difficult to find balance, but somehow when inspiration comes, I am always ready. 

Often, it starts with editing poems I thus far have hated. When I was still going to work each day on public transit, I had plenty of time to write mediocre pieces that required a lot of love to grow into something beautiful. It takes a lot to give them any value, but it’s something to get my creativity flowing in the right direction.

I edit mercilessly once I have some detachment from my pieces. If they are fresh they are always beautiful and perfect. The truth is less appealing – they need work, they all need work. And when I let myself, I would edit each piece into utter obscurity.

Usually though, my pieces come from dark spaces in my psyche. It is a difficult place to go, and perhaps that’s why I don’t spend much time there or feel challenged in heading into that space every single day. I have so many poems about dead people. I have some many that are just a means to process the pain, there is no beauty in them, only hurt.  Or if there is beauty, it is in the suffering.

At some point this is interrupted by a necessary online meeting for work – I love my work. It is not a disruption, more like an echo of the type of things I write about.
Surely by now it must be lunch – forcing me to acknowledge the world outside my corner office and the necessity of bodily sustenance.

After lunch there is never time to write. This is when the real nature of my work is most apparent; when the kids I work with start asking when I can help them with the myriad of concerns they must have, and when I need to be prepared to physically attend to things. Mask on, I hop in the van, ravaged by the drives in and out of town day in and day out. The tires are always somehow going flat. I will never know why. My day will “end” in a few hours, but the calls and texts and emails don’t have a time they turn off. And honestly, that’s ok.

These days still bring inspiration, perhaps even panic, sadness and hope. Everything is in balance, as one would expect. The stories of the day stay secret, but their impact is pure and unbridled.

The evening is for family, and when I am feeling particularly in tune with my focus I can maybe throw some stanzas around. Perhaps instead I spend it reading poetry for review. Rarely, I’ll be smacked between the eyes with some choice lines while showering or relaxing before my head hits the pillow.

There really is no right or wrong way to find the time to write. I hope I continue to do so, regardless of how my days play out as a result.

Justene Dion-Glowa is a bi, Métis poet from BC, Canada. She works with Indigenous youth. She writes poetry and creative non-fiction in her spare time. She is Editor-in Chief of 3 Moon Magazine. She also reviews poetry for The Poetry Question. Her work can be found in Petrichor, Burning House Press, Ice Floe, Ayaskala, and other journals, with more due out in the Body issue of Mineral Lit Mag. Her microchap, TEETH, is coming out July 28, 2020 from Ghost City Press. Her chapbook, Trailer Park Shakes, is due out in the winter of 2020 from Rattle, having won their 2020 chapbook contest. She tweets at @gee_justy.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Susan Smith-Josephy : My Writing Day

My writing day is both the same and quite different each day.

I get up with the light. So, these days, that is about 5:30 am.

There are several things to deal with right away, take care of pets, get the house started for the day with laundry on and coffee going. I go for a walk and when I get back, the coffee is ready.

I do some reading in the morning, usually non-fiction. Right now, I am reading Bill Bryson’s At Home: A Short History of Private Life which is a library book I got out the week before our library closed due to COVID-19. It is not due back until July and at the rate I am reading it, I will not be finished it before then. As I am reading the book, I must stop myself from rushing off and researching every time Bryson says, ‘we don’t know much about so and so’s early life.” I love going off on tangents, and that is why I have so many things on the go at once.

By the time my morning obligations are over, I can get to my computer where I check news and social media and open up a new document for my Daily Diary entry. I started writing a diary back in late January as part of an assignment for David Sedaris’s Masterclass. I am glad I did because otherwise I would not have a record of this historic time. Sedaris says that ‘everything is funny eventually’ so I guess we will see if that is true when I re-read the diary in a few years time. Another thing I like about doing the diary is it helps pull out memories and make connections between the present and the past. I do not have any plans to write a memoir, but it’s still a useful exercise. And it does get me writing every day, it sets a good habit.

My writing day is different depending on what projects I am working on. If I am in the writing or editing phase of a book, then that is what I’ll be agonizing and focusing on. However, at present I am working on promoting my newest book that was just published by Caitlin Press. The book Cataline: The Life of BC’s Legendary Packer was a long time in the making, and I’m pleased to have it in print. Due to COVID-19, in-promotions, readings, launches and signings have been put off, most likely all of them until next year. But that’s not stopping me from doing quite a few things online and that’s keeping me busy. Jean ‘Cataline’ Caux was a splendid fellow, and I am glad the book is finally out. I am looking forward to getting my copies and doing some video readings, as well.

I am also working on another book, about the 1914 Union Bank robbery in New Hazelton. It is a fascinating, unique, and tragic true crime story that I have really been enthralled with. The research has taken me places I never thought I would go—from Ossetia in Caucasus region to mental hospitals in British Columbia. The first draft is together now, so the painstaking process of going through it has begun. I urge anyone who’s interested to have a look at my blog post here which gives an overview of the project.

Most days I spend time corresponding with other writers, friends, organizations, museums, and archives. And lately I have been doing some grant applications. All these things take time but are valuable parts of the whole.

As the day winds down, I complete my diary (usually frantically) by about 11 pm. I try not to just focus on my activities or feelings, but try and get some solid observations written down and attempt to capture any interesting conversations I’ve either overheard or participated in.

I finish of my writing day by reading.

I write non-fiction and read a lot of non-fiction, also. If I read fiction, it is inevitably mystery novels. I prefer those set in Britain, or genealogical mystery novels. Sometimes they overlap! I have loaded up my Kindle lately with all sorts of mystery novels. The first one I chose to read is A Siege of Bitterns which is the first book in the Birder Murder series by Steve Burrows. I just started it and it is good   , an unusual sort of a book.

Susan Smith-Josephy is a writer, researcher and genealogist. She trained as a journalist at Langara College and has worked for a number of small town newspapers in BC. She has a degree in History from SFU, and is passionate about BC History. She lives in Quesnel, British Columbia.