The Writer’s 2013 NaNoWriMo Workspace
November turns out to be popular for pseudonyming. It goes by Movember, and more related to my book writing efforts, also by NaNoWriMo. The National Novel Writing Month is an international event that encourages and supports writers and would-be-writers to buckle down and …well… write! It adds a social dimension to the solitary activity, by holding write-in sessions at coffee shops, pubs and other creative-inducing venues. I don’t officially sign up to the 50,000-word novel in a month commitment, but I do check out a write-in—partly because it happens to be at the Storm Crow Tavern—a medieval-themed pub in East Vancouver that I have been meaning to drop by. The decor of board games, swards, goblets, and yes, crows, is a feast for the creative senses, as are the menu items—I feast on the chickpea fries and gulp down the mead. The other dozen writers are super friendly and welcoming, and I observe in amazement how they create in an atmosphere slightly too rowdy for me. I plan to return to the Tavern, just perhaps not at peak gathering hour.
Storm Crow Tavern Write-in
The novel, however, is but one means of storytelling. In the last few weeks, I contemplate three others—the poem, the song, and the theatrical play—for telling my own story and for the stories told by others.
I have found throughout my years that when I want to boil something that I need to say down to its essence, I write it as a poem. I turn to this technique for some parts of my story, for which the narrative form would perhaps be simultaneously too confining and too revealing. On another day, inspired by my good friend’s work and our related exchanges, I likewise capture my existential contemplation breakthroughs in a poem, entitled ““Simply Because”. And I marvel at my own accomplishment: how often does one contemplate the meaning of life and come up with an answer?!
One foggy day,
the meaning of life
The purpose of existence
simply because we can.
is an evolutionary bonus.
Taking my contemplations down a few notches, I ruminate on the story being told by those who wrote it as a song and chose it as the National Anthem for my current home country, Canada. More specifically, I consider the exclusivity of two words, “our sons”, in reference intended to invoke Canadian patriotism among its nationals. What about those nationals who are not “sons”? Since recently becoming aware of this as an issue from a national CBC radio program, I reflect on what story these words in the Anthem—as well as the reactions of some people to efforts to make these words more gender-inclusive—tell us about our history, our present, and our future. I am confounded by the resistance and the apathy, alike. Yet history, which I learn in the process, reveals that those lyrics in this song were changed 100 years ago, in 1913, from referring more inclusively, back then, to “us”. It appears that we regressed as a nation of purported equals. Sadly, the story being told by this song is quite telling. More than pondering, I think I do my part by expressing to my politicians my support for restoring the original gender-inclusive wording in this story. Words are very powerful among our kind.
And it is a powerful quote about “always having the power, but just having to learn it for yourself”—which resonates with my own story—that entices me to attend the “Wizard of Oz” musical. Having missed this wise tale during my childhood in the Eastern Block, I only discover its creative genius first in 2010, through the London musical, “Wicked”, then through the 2013 film, “Oz the Great and Powerful”. My childhood memories are better reflected in the moving theatrical performance from Montreal, “Moi, dans les ruines rouges du siècle” (“Me, in the red ruins of the century”), which I see en français avec surtitres anglais au Théâtre la Seizième. This real life tale of Sasha Samar growing up in the 1970s and 80s in the Communist Ukraine jogs my memories of certain small and seemingly insignificant details in my own story, which I promptly capture in my story ideas spreadsheet upon my return home. I also find this performance so affective and clever, because it is written and played out by the very man whose life it tells. Though it is really a story of an ordinary man doing relatively ordinary things while he lives out his life in a setting very familiar to me, nonetheless it captivates me, and encourages me to believe that these stories are worth telling. There is another common theme that weaves through the stories of Oz, Sasha, and my own, and it can be summarized with a quote from “Wicked”: “…where I’m from, we believe all sorts of things that aren’t true. We call it—”history”…” This I, likewise, contemplated earlier, while writing in London during my Book Writing Tour 2013: what really happened?
I augment these various forms of storytelling, which constitute my inspiring Artist Dates, with the practical matters of learning the book production process and industry by attending a panel presentation of professional self-publishers organised at the Vancouver Public Library. I try not to get too discouraged by hearing that in getting a book published and in the hands of readers, writing the book is the easy part—at the moment, I simply cannot imagine it getting any more difficult, but perhaps the speaker was not referring to the writing of memoirs! On the other hand, I find that reading about the book publishing process on the internet is well enhanced by the physicality of local self-publishing entrepreneurs sharing their practical experience in-person. Once again I am heartened by my fortune to be already working with a committed and supportive Developmental Editor.
Zucchini and Black Bean Tagine Dish
On the culinary side of cooking up my life’s adventures, three of my tried and true dishes make their encore presentation one weekend. This version of the Zucchini and Chickpea Tagine features black beans (in place of the chickpeas) and matching fun sprinkling of black sesame seeds. Not much can improve the Fig and Green Peppercorn Soup, so I just follow the recipe shared with me by my friend in Hamburg during my Book Writing Tour 2013. And once again, craving the seasonal fungi, I prepare another Mushroom Risotto with the Asian assortment of wilder looking mushrooms. And for this week’s Special Dish for the Week, I whip up a Split Green Pea Mini Bouillabaisse of my own invention. I wonder how capturing the essence of such culinary delights might read like in a poem…
Zucchini and Black Bean Tagine
Fig and Green Peppercorn Soup