Lectio

My Banff Centre residency so far (it’s great!).

By Heather Clitheroe - September 19, 2014

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It’s been going beautifully. I arrived at the Banff Centre on Monday afternoon. The room was ready for me, so I picked up my ID card and put my suitcase away, and then went down to town to run my pre-writing errands: lunch at McDonalds (I have no explanation why, but it’s now a ritual), a little bit of a wander to stretch my legs, and then to the grocery store to pick up some things for breakfasts. I have another kitchen suite, so I can make myself toast and putter around in the morning without rushing to make the breakfast buffet. I stopped in at my favourite florist, too, and ordered flowers for my desk.

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And then back up the hill to unpack the suitcase and set up my writing space. There’s a very large desk available, but I prefer to use the dining room table in front of the patio door. I’ve got a view of Tunnel Mountain as I work – I can look up and just see the top of it.

Fred is here, and enjoying his residency, too. We’ve been having meals together and going for walks and rambles around the campus.

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As you do, when you’re a self-directed writer. No structure, us. Unsupervised. We’re having a lot of fun!

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We went to a geology walk and talk lecture given by Jim Olver, and I learned a new way to appreciate Banff and the Banff Centre. Jim talked to us about the geological history of the mountains here (they were all under the sea! The old rock is on the top of the mountains!) and then took us outside to hunt for fossils.

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This is, I think, my fourteenth residency here, and I’m still stunned by the views. It’s hard not to feel inspired when you’ve got this view at meals:

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The writing is going very well.

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I’ve worked out plot, thanks to help from Kirk (who runs our Dungeons and Dragons games, and is even more diabolical than I thought…which is saying something). The novel is taking shape; the characters feel more, well, solid. Scrapping that first draft and starting over seems to be the right path. I thought so at the time, but it feels confirmed this week. I’ve been waffling over structure, but I think I’ve found my balance. And since it is a first draft (maybe second, I guess), I can always go back and change things if I need to.

As much as I enjoyed my sky palace at the Palliser, coming to the Banff Centre feels like coming to a second home. It’s hard to believe that the first week is done; there’s just one more. But then I remember that I’ll be back in just four weeks (!) to start my Leighton residency. I am so immensely grateful to the Banff Centre for the time, the space, and the support.

A wonderful weekend at the Palliser Hotel.

By Heather Clitheroe - September 15, 2014

It’s been a very long summer. The last break I had from work was in February, and I’ve been working steadily since then. And I’ve been waiting for such a long time for this break — for the writing residency, but also because I booked myself a room at the Fairmont Palliser Hotel for the weekend before the actual program begins.

For practical reasons, firstly: the Brewster bus picks up at the Palliser’s front door, and it’s incredibly convenient to stay the night and stroll out the next morning. No hustling to get downtown, fighting traffic…none of that.

It’s also really relaxing. It’s such a lovely old hotel. So I booked a room back in the summer, saved some money by pre-paying, and rolled in on Saturday afternoon. Imagine my surprise when the front desk clerk smiled and said I’d been upgraded to a Heritage Suite.

Holy cow, guys. It’s bigger than my apartment. Full kitchen, a living room, dining room that seats six. A bedroom that is in no way connected to a hallway and a fancy bathroom with one of those raindrop showers. A view of the Calgary Tower from one window, and 1st St out the others. It was so incredible that when I went in, I walked from room to room, giggling.

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Definitely a sky palace. I’ve never seen anything quite so big, or so posh. And because I’m next to the Calgary Tower, I can hear the clock and carillon ringing during the day. I’ve heard people grumbling a bit about the noise from the trains, but it doesn’t bother me. The railway is part of Calgary, the hotel was originally a railway hotel — yes, there are going to be trains.

Fred has arrived from New York, and he was down on the fourth floor, so we were able to have a nice dinner and breakfast in the morning before he left for Banff. I had to take a work meeting on Sunday, and when it was done, came back to the hotel and then went back out again: a quick trip to the Glenbow, since it’s just down the street. They’re between exhibitions, but I always like visiting the Western art gallery (and I collected another of the ‘I’m having a great time at the Glenbow’ stickers and put it on my Chromebook. I picked up a few presents for Baby Banff, wandered around the stores at the Core, and then came back to my sky palace, quite hungry.

You know, I think it’s required: that the night before you start a writing residency, you’re entiteld to a really good dinner. I took myself to the Oak Room in the Palliser and ordered the 8 ounce flat iron steak. With fries. And a side salad. And darned if I didn’t eat the whole thing. The waiter and I had a good laugh about it — “I was rooting for you the whole time,” he said.

It’s been a lovely, relaxing stay — a great way to ease into the intensive writing I’m about to do, and a nice way to mentally shift gears. The hotel staff have been wonderful, and it’s felt like a really restful stay. Very quiet, very comfortable.

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I’ve got about half an hour before the bus leaves. My bag is packed (mercifully, it still closes…) and I walked over to Banker’s Hall to get myself a sandwich for the bus. I’m ready. Banff is waiting. The novel is waiting.

Good start to my vacation.

By Heather Clitheroe - September 13, 2014

Quite pleased that the trees I shook off on Wednesday made it. So many others throughout the city are so badly damaged — lots of old growth poplars and elms. They grow so slowly here that it’s even more a loss. The sound of chainsaws and wood chippers has been pretty constant.

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It’s really something, the damage. We went from this:

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To this:

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Fortunately, there weren’t very many injuries with the storm. Just property damage.

Meanwhile? Pleased to say that I’ve sold another story. ‘Wild Things Got to Be Free,’ a novelette, is going to Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and it marks my third professional sale. I’ll be able to apply for full membership with SFWA!

I’m heading off on another writing residency at the Banff Centre this weekend, too. The story sale is a wonderful way to start it — the writing and my vacation.

To think that this time a year ago, I was still recovering from surgery. What a year it’s been!

Stormy Wednesday.

By Heather Clitheroe - September 10, 2014

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A very snowy day today. It started again sometime last night, and when I woke up this morning, I heard…of all things…a snowplow.

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There were trees down all over the place — as I was standing at my bus stop, a branch fell on a power line. Huge flash, bit of a boom. I called the city’s 311 number, but the directions were to hang up and call 911. So I did. Took a while to get through, but that’s a bit of excitement for the morning, huh?

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These storms aren’t unheard of, but given that we were in the middle of a heat wave this time last year, it’s always a bit surprising. Sadly, the city’s lost a number of trees today, but not much to be done for it.

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Warmer weather on the way, as far as we can tell.

Did it snow? Oh, my, yes.

By Heather Clitheroe - September 9, 2014

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We had our first snow yesterday – it started first as rain, around four in the morning. A real downpour. At about a quarter after eight, as a coworker and I talked and looked out the window, we saw the first flakes. Snow!

It snowed throughout the day. Flurries at first, and then something more steady. When I left work, it had accumulated:

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And it was a very snowy walk home.

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I haven’t had snow under my shoes for a while. It’s quite beautiful, very exciting, and the pavement is just wet. Not cold enough for ice, though it’s building up on the trees; some of the branches are starting to go. I don’t mind this weather at all (though as somebody pointed out, we’ve gone just ninety-three days between snowfalls). And we’re under a snowfall warning this morning!

4:29 AM MDT Tuesday 09 September 2014
Snowfall warning in effect for:

City of Calgary
Snowfall, with total amounts of 10 to 15 cm is expected.

Another round of snow is expected to develop over southwestern Alberta tonight as an upper disturbance moves in from British Columbia. Accumulations of 10 to 15 centimetres of snow are expected with the system, although local amounts over 20 centimetres are possible over higher terrain. The snowfall will taper off Wednesday afternoon as the system moves south out of the province.

Be prepared to adjust your driving with changing road conditions. Visibility may be suddenly reduced at times in heavy snow. There may be a significant impact on rush hour traffic in urban areas. Public Safety Canada encourages everyone to make an emergency plan and get an emergency kit with drinking water, food, medicine, a first-aid kit and a flashlight. For information on emergency plans and kits go to http://www.getprepared.gc.ca/

Environment Canada meteorologists will update alerts as required. Please continue to monitor your local media or Weatheradio for further updates. If you would like to report severe weather, you can call 1-800-239-0484 or send an email to storm@ec.gc.ca or tweet reports to #ABStorm.

It’ll all be gone by the end of the week. The leaves were just starting to turn here — I wonder if this sudden cold will make for brighter colours, or none at all?

Waiting on the first snow.

By Heather Clitheroe - September 7, 2014

This is what we’re waiting on:

3:31 PM MDT Sunday 07 September 2014
Special weather statement in effect for:

City of Calgary
First snowfall of the season possible on Monday.

An unseasonably cold Arctic airmass will combine with an area of rain over Central Alberta and turn to snow over portions of Southwestern Alberta. Current guidance suggests over 5 centimetres of snow is possible for these regions.

The public is advised to monitor future forecasts and warnings as warnings may be required or extended.

Please monitor the latest forecasts and warnings from Environment Canada at www.weatheroffice.gc.ca.

Quite a warm day today — about 24 at the height of the afternoon — but there’s an unsettled look to the sky. I think this forecast might be onto something.

It’s been a quiet weekend here. I’ve been fighting off a cold, these last few days. The term starts tomorrow, and with the students trickling back last week to take care of errands and requests, the first wave of colds among the staff will be starting. I think I’ve managed to fight it all off, though, which is a relief…I go on vacation at the end of the week!

So very little writing done, the last few days. Lots of determined reading: State of the Art, a book of short stories by Iain M. Banks, which I’ve been working on for the last week. I liked some of the stories better than others; the novella was wonderful and the story ‘Descendants’ was beautifully devastating. Also finished Parasite by Mira Grant — didn’t care for it as much as I had hoped to, but it was an interesting story. The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki is a book of translated Icelandic folk tales, which are good when you finally give up trying to keep everybody straight. And then I moved over to Laura Ingalls Wilder: Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, On the Banks of Plum Creek, and By the Shores of Silver Lake. I read these as a child and loved them, and it’s been lovely to return to them after such a long time.

I’m only three books behind on the year’s reading challenge now, too. I have been unaccountably upset by falling as far behind as I did.

Getting ever closer to the Banff Centre.

By Heather Clitheroe - September 3, 2014

How did it get to be September already? The summer roared by, a blur of hot days and windy afternoons, and here we are. Trees turning yellow, cold rain, the first murmurings of frost to be found in heavy morning dew.

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The approach of fall means a few more weeks of allergies (there’s still the leaves to contend with) and then the relative peace of the winter.

Just a week and a half to go until I’m up in the mountains, tucked into my writing. I’ve been reading a collection of Iain M. Banks’ short fiction on the bus, working to set the mood. So to speak. There are some astonishingly good stories (‘Descendant’ is devastatingly good; ‘A Gift from the Culture’ is a perfect piece of world and character development). I think I’ll have to make a point of reading his Culture novels at some point — the writing is just too good not to explore.

Meanwhile? Still working on a short story, getting ready to shift gears and go back to the novel. Taking a few weeks off from it has helped…something about needing the time and the space for the ideas and the characters to percolate, I think. It feels like they’re all waiting for me, planning to meet me at the Banff Centre. Soon.