I am off to a writing conference later this week, focusing on how to write a query letter. I have had many versions of this, including a fictional news story as a central element, but I have settled on the following, for the moment at least:
my bad side, a work of literary fiction, is a story of one who has nowhere to turn but against herself. Two sisters, tragically orphaned in their infancy, have felt betrayed throughout their lives. Crystal, now 27, knows that she was borne of trauma and surrenders to alcoholism along with her boyfriend, Derek, a fire fighter who lost his company in 9/11. The younger sister, Deirdre, studying to be a veterinarian, arrives in New York and attempts to reach out to Crystal but drifts off into isolation, her beauty and eroticism leading toward a world immured in sex. A hapless shooting forces Deirdre to leave the city and embark on a harrowing journey to the majestically barren landscape of the north where she confronts the terror and loneliness in herself.
Set in contemporary New York and Newfoundland, a tone of thoughtful desperation pervades the narrative; the characters are real, the dialogue and themes vital. Deirdre tells her story with trenchant intelligence, contrasting her childhood against a present-day spectacle of carnality. Her life, like her sister’s, is revealed as a series of moments not in search of contact and understanding, but in how to build a barrier against what might be next.
My writing focuses on thought process, capturing characters’ words and actions in a moment while also giving the reader the latitude to bring their own perception to the work. This book in particular reflects upon my own distance from the world at large, developing my personal empathy for those who have been isolated and objectified in modern-day society.
I must admit to feeling pain and distress in regards to my Toronto Maple Leafs. They didn’t just lose; they had a collapse. Ahead by two goals with 90 seconds left, the Leafs surrendered twice and another in overtime…all of this after I had received congratulatory texts with minutes to go – why was I receiving congratulatory texts? – after the Leafs were on the verge of their own great comeback. I watched the customary end-of-game handshakes with bitterness and resentment. I had to counter the vitriol from hyper-active friends, impaired supporters of the Canucks, Canadiens and Bruins. I had nightmares. I couldn’t sleep.A dreadful malaise descended. I couldn’t write anything. The only idea I had was a lengthy story on the ennui of a Leafs fan. I was lost in those final minutes, reviewing each mistake, thinking how it might have – should have – been. I knew I had to focus on the things that mattered, the real problems of the world. And yet it persisted. After being out of the playoffs for nine years – not winning the cup since 1967 – the Leafs should have won. It was as simple as that. It hung like a cloud, threatening and oppressive. The sports headlines milked the angst. The players were interviewed as they cleaned out their lockers. The reporters poked and prodded: “How does it feel to fail?” The players stared back and gave their answers. They acknowledged the pain, the despair. They said that they had learned and wanted to make it right. I watched a few highlights after that. And Canadian superstar-astronaut Chris Hadfield. Then I reflected on an answer from James van Reimsdyk: “We were picked to finish 14th (at the) start of the season. We made the playoffs and pushed a really good team right to the brink. Obviously it’s a step in the right direction.” “But now we got to come back and do it all again next year.”
I was good with that. I thought about writing a treatment for a documentary on the upcoming season, from every point of view, minute to minute, cinema verite of the magnificent climb back. Yes, that was something. I even had a title Go Leafs. That really could work.
The Hamptons is often portrayed as a place of affluent delight.
Portraits hanging in a Hamptons diner
However you only have to dig for a moment to find something else lurking beneath.
Deer carcass half buried at a Hamptons beach
Along with ourselves, there are seven planets in this solar system: Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus and Mercury.
The latest composite image of Mercury
As well, there are dwarf planets – like Pluto – asteroids, comets and moons.
Europa, Jupiter’s ice-bound moon
We have a rough idea of what these worlds are composed of and are quite certain that none of them can sustain us. Exoplanets are the planets outside our solar system, all of which invisible by telescope and instead detected by the disruption in light from distant stars. Kepler 22b, 600 light years away, is an exciting find because it is similar to earth in size and orbiting distance from its sun.
It is estimated that there are some 100 billion planets in our galaxy alone and a septillion – a thousand billion billion – planets in the universe. As Carl Sagan says, that’s more than all of grains of sand in all of the beaches on Earth. There is little doubt that many of the planets out there have life on them; the question is in their level of intelligence and what kind of shenanigans might occur when we finally meet.
Okay, I must admit that my Toronto Maple Leafs obsession might have gotten the best of me as of late. Game Four was not a game but a maniacal phantasmagoria in double time that extended for an eternity and then vanished in a haze. Phanuef’s missed hit, the shot under Reimer’s arm, the shot off the post, just wide, the 5-3 power play, the Kadri high stick, the giveaways – oh the giveaways!…it all went around in a rotor until I started to descend into an abyss. What could they have done for a better result? How do they make the puck bounce to the right and not the left? Damn Bruins. Damn undeserving, plodding, bumbling Bruins! I sat mute, inert, unable to think. Nothing.
I couldn’t write the next day. I couldn’t focus on anything and so took my axe and straightened out my pile of wood, split log after log – take that Krejci and Chara! – restructured every piece of the 2,000 into an indomitable wall.Ready for Game Five.