Meanwhile?

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It’s been decidedly strange to watch these Banff Centre posts rolling out after the fact. The first week back to work went well; my cubicle rose up to meet me as I settled into it, and routine has firmly asserted itself. That’s how it goes.

Though I had an early taste of it in Banff, I haven’t missed fall in Calgary – it’s also asserting itself, and with a great deal of glory.

Fall has arrived.

Some end of season heat has made for some glorious days, and the leaves are wonderfully crunchy and dry. So is the grass.

Sigh.

I don’t know why they even bother to mow it at this time of the year.

I’m back to my lunchtime study parties, too – reading up on young adult literature and trying to work out what my research question (I do eventually need to make one) is. The research is going well. Now that I’ve broadened my database queries to include children’s literature, I’m managing to find more resources and more scholarly articles. There’s still some judicious filtering going on to sort out the ‘true’ children’s lit from what I’m searching for, but that’s just fine by me. I finished reading Alexei Panshin‘s Rite of Passage yesterday (it was a great book – wish I’d read it when I was a child)

I also finished reading through Zohar Shavit’s Poetics of Children’s Research earlier this week – an interesting book on the treatment of YA and children’s fiction. Shavit argues that YA (I’ll use the term YA broadly here, since she does include books for younger readers) suffers from an inferior status in the literary system – that it’s seen as having a status that is not equivalent to adult literature (ix). This is because, she says, YA tends to be regarded as “an important vehicle for achieving certain aims in the education of children” (ix). She argues that research on YA tends to ask what is a good book for a young reader, what the influence is on the young reader, and how it can contribute to that child’s development (x). Rather, she says, we should assume that YA is already a part of the “literary polysystem,” a stratified system “in which the position of each member is determined by socioliterary constraints” (x), and that any inquiry into the nature of YA should exclude normative and ideological questions about the so-called ‘educational’ aims of the text.

What should replace these normative and ideological questions, she argues, is the question of how childhood is perceived by society, “for it is society’s perceptions that determine to a large extent what actually lies between the covers” (31). This, I think, is something that can have interesting implications for my research on YA dystopias – Shavit notes that we should be asking who is culturally responsible for the literary production of YA, and how we understand the behaviour of YA lit as “an integral part of culture,” taking into account the notion that it is regarded as part of the educational system as well as part of a larger literary polysystem (177). To what extent, she asks, do notions of childhood determine the normative character of a text?

Take, for example, the frequent absence of adults in YA texts – it is a stereotypical presentation that removes adults or forces them to be absent in the child’s world – the “portrayal of a children’s world in which adults hardly exist at all” (95). This is certainly a theme that I’ve observed; The Hunger Games – one of the texts I’m reading for this course – makes the absence of adults conspicuous in the playing of the games – they are an external threat. Shavit suggests that YA lit tends to both ignore adults and to create deictic opposition, “suggesting an uncompromising boundary between children and adults” (95):

“The text offers a world that excludes adults; even if adults are present, they are subject to negative evaluation. Of course, the portrayal of a children’s world in which adults do not take part is also typical of canonized children’s literature. There are quite a few canonized texts for children where not only ‘orphaning’ of children occurs, but a complete separation between children and adults takes place” (95).

This is something that is a theme in Panshin’s Rite of Passage, too – the ship children, living aboard massive colony spacecraft, are often raised in dormitories with a series of house mothers rotating through. In Feintuch’s Seafort Saga (which could be loosely defined as YA), two young children speak of being raised in a community crèche (Midshipman’s Hope); the protagonist, Nick Seafort, speaks of his own isolation at the hands of his didactic and rigid father, and the separation from an adult world during his cadet and midshipman’s years in the navy, where adults do not intervene despite hazing and brutality in the barracks and, later, the wardroom. A similar absence of adults – a sharp criticism of those present in the narrative – is seen in Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, where adults dispassionately observe Ender’s breakdown in order to create their ultimate military leader. In Life As We Knew It, adults are frequently seen to be unable to act (Miranda’s mother becomes a virtual shut-in by the middle of the series; the wider ‘adult’ world is unable to cope with natural disaster) and The Hunger Games describes a system of brutality which requires the sacrifice of children in order to maintain political and economic control.

Fall has arrived.

So while I haven’t worked out my research question, I’m intrigued by Shavit’s suggestion that YA literature might be a reflection of how childhood and children are viewed, culturally – especially since I’m looking at depictions of dystopia. There should be some interesting reading ahead…and at the very least, there will be a lot of reading ahead. I’ve been plumbing the depths of the journal databases, downloading articles, and I’ve got a good sixty-seven of them to read over the next couple of months.

Fall has arrived.

So things have returned to normal: lots of reading, lots of note-taking, and lots of wistful looks at vacation pictures. And lots of crunching through leaves on the way home from work.


Arturo’s toaster is confiscated.

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The continuing saga of a writing residency. Toasters are confiscated, a luncheon with friends, and plans for a ping pong tournament.

Coming down the mountain.

Hello, gondola!

Some pictures from the gondola trip – my pictures are a little jumbled up, and I’m plunking them into blog posts as I go.

Hello, magpie.

Poor Arturo. He’s in the boat studio a few studios down, and he has a liking for toast in the afternoon. Unfortunately for Arturo, the fire alarm in his studio is situated rather close to the toaster, and he managed to set it off again today. He’s lost his toaster privileges, it seems – the toaster was confiscated and escorted off the Leighton Colony land. His hotplate, too.

Upon on Sulphur mountain.

The writing? Going very well. I think I might be about three chapters away from finishing the book. Possibly four or five. It’s getting very close, though, and I’m in the final stages. Or, at least, entering the final stages. I popped down to the library this morning to pick up some cds (a five cd limit is in effect, so you’ve got to choose carefully), and I think I’ll do the same tomorrow. I ended up switching over to my iPod this afternoon, and I think I’m going to set up a playlist for the writing of the last chapter…selecting songs I want to have playing while I’m writing the ending.

Sulphur mountain.

I haven’t actually scripted the ending yet. I’ve got an outline that lays out the story, but I left the last page of the outline blank. I’m going to wait, to see what occurs to me as I’m working and go from there. I want it to be organic and fluid, which is an artsy way of saying that I haven’t decided how it’s going to end or who is going to die.

Saturday morning.

Today I had lunch with @furtivecode and @papersnacks this afternoon (sadly, @babybanff was not in attendance) and we had a really nice time. After lunch, I scurried back to the studio and settled back down to work. It was a hugely productive day – more than five thousand words written by the time dinner rolled around. And during dinner, we Leighton Colonists hatched a plot to organize a ping pong tournament.

Ping pong throwdown.

Hello, deer.

I am having such a good time. Five full days left, and then home on the afternoon of the sixth day. This residency is just flying by.

Hello, magpie.

The Meals:
Breakfast: waffles (yay!), fruit, and a lot of coffee
Lunch: ham sandwich, cottage cheese, blueberry crumble
Dinner: ham glazed with apricot sauce, shell macaroni and cheese sauce, broccoli, orange mousse, water and club soda mixed with cranberry juice.


Breakthrough/breakdance.

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The continuing saga of a writing residency in the mountains. The writer admits to insecurities surrounding her novel and is caught dancing by security officers.

Evening.

I’ve been feeling a bit nervous about the prospect of finishing the novel – the book – before I leave the Banff Centre, and wondering if I was going to be able to wrap the story up in a way that makes sense. With this being a first novel, it should, in theory, be able to stand on its own. Fantasy novels are frequently presented in series or trilogies, but I want this book to be something that can be read as a self-contained story.

Wednesday morning.

I was slogging along, this afternoon, trying to work out just what it was that I wanted to do. I had a mini-epiphany mid-afternoon, and decided to crank up the music…switching from sedate classical to something a lot bouncier. And, you know…I may have been dancing in my chair as I worked. Just a little bit.

Misty morning.

Maybe a lot.

Sunset.

Wouldn’t you know it? Dancing away, arms in the air, and all of the sudden, BANG BANG, BANG. Three security officers on my porch. I was caught in the act…unauthorized dancing on a non-dance residency.

Rundle.

As it turns out, there was a fire alarm in the colony – somebody in a studio nearby had burned some toast, badly, and his studio is a lot smaller than mine, so he was able to trip the smoke alarm with it. They come around and check all of the studios to be sure, I guess. Or they saw my unauthorized dancing and felt that they had to intervene.

Upon on Sulphur mountain.

So, at any rate – I’m working at a faster pace than I have been. More of a sustained, concentrated effort. Will I manage to finish the book in time? I really hope so. I’m going to give it my best.

Birch trees.

Of course, that may require some more unauthorized chair dancing. Breakthrough = breakdance? Possibly. Probably.

Deer.

The meals:
Breakfast: yogurt, eggs, English muffin, coffee, grapefruit
Lunch: egg salad sandwich, cottage cheese, Swiss cheese, club soda mixed with cranberry juice, cookies and cream ice cream
Dinner: Korean BBQ beef, sautéed zucchini, pasta with cream sauce, bun, lemon cheesecake and strawberry tart


Giant spider in my studio.

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The continuing saga of a writing residency. The writer professes her love of a bookbag. Other writers disclose troubles with flies and ants. The writer confesses to a giant spider in her studio.

Rundle.

Upon on Sulphur mountain.

Lots more writing today. The temperature has been dropping – warmish this morning and afternoon, with the sun, but the wind is picking up and the forecast is calling for cloudy days and some rain. There’s a community canoe trip planned on Thursday for the artists (me! that includes me!) but I’m not sure if I’ll go….will have to wait a little while to see how the weather turns out.

Rundle.

There was a Blue Rodeo concert last night, and I came back to my room just as the concert – in an outdoor amphitheater – was wrapping up. Strains of ‘Lost Together‘ floating towards me as I unpacked my ‘go’ bag from the studio – it’s my Melville House Press bookbag, which is quickly becoming my beloved bookbag. I fill it with a notebook, slippers, ebook, and iPod and speaker before I leave my room in the morning, and pack it back up and schlep everything back in the evenings. Not that I mind in the slightest.

Saturday morning.

With the cooler weather approaching – and with me forgetting a down vest at home – I nipped down to the town to buy a vest I’d seen in the western store. It’s doing the trick nicely.

Saturday morning.

Also interesting – almost overnight, the stand of birch trees just outside the studio have started to turn for fall. Now I have splashes of yellow just out the corner of my eye. Very pretty. No sign of the pine marten today. Too windy for him, I suppose. There’s been a warning sent out about aggressive elk, though nobody has seen one yet. When Fred and I were out horseback riding last week, he was a teensy bit disappointed not to have seen any wildlife. I didn’t have the heart to say that I was quite glad that we didn’t!

Cascade.

The timbre of our dinners has changed with Fred and Hugh (mathematician and poet) have left. Gabe and I have met Arturo Vallejo, who is also here in the Leighton Colony. He’s a writer from Mexico, working on a new collection of short stories. We’ve been talking about our studios. Arturo’s seems to have a lot of flies. Gabe has carpenter ants. I have an enormous spider – which, truth be told, I haven’t seen for several days. But trust me when I tell you that it was huge. It really was. I think it’s still in here, and I’m not going to go looking for it.

The sunset.

Out for a walk.

Hard to believe that I’m entering my second week at the Leighton Colony. It’s so surreal: this incredibly beautiful cabin studio, a little round house that reminds me of something you’d find in Hobbiton (it’s even built very close to the side of a hill, though not quite in it). The privacy and the space to work, the strange feeling as I walk by a sign that says ‘Leigton Colony – visitors by appointment only,’ cross a small wooden bridge, and then step out onto a gravel path that winds through the pine trees.

Sunset.

Morning.

It is the perfect place to be writing a fantasy novel. It is. I feel incredibly lucky to be here, in this studio.

Mountain.

Even if there is an enormous spider somewhere in here with me.

Such a view.

The meals:
Breakfast: bowl of cereal and yogurt.
Lunch: Lemon cous-cous, ham with peach (not a combination I’d have tried, but it was nice), cooked carrots.
Dinner: an enormous hamburger (and fries) at the Maclab Bistro (it was good to escape the communal dining room for an evening).


Pine marten…now with more tail-washing!

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The continuing saga of a writing residency, which is beginning to resemble a pine marten safari to the mountains.

Saturday morning.

A busy, productive day of writing, though the action halted mid-morning when the pine marten rolled up and started washing his tail.

Weasel-y.

I’m a sucker for the pine marten. He washed, took a five minute nap (seriously!) and then took off in search of voles and mice and peppermints.

Tail-washing.

The writing is going very well today; four thousand words by dinner, and I’m looking to get another thousand down before the evening is through. The temperature is dropping and the wind is picking up and it’s hard not to stop and watch the trees moving back and forth. It’s hypnotic.

Tail-washing interruptis.

More Banff.

Trees-y.

The meals:
Breakfast: coddled egg, toast, grapefruit
Lunch: haddock, french fries, spinach salad, macaroni salad
Dinner: salmon with tomato something on it, potato salad, macaroni salad, some fancy mushrooms, a fancy pear torte thing for dinner.


Pine marten!

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The continuing saga of a writing residency, in which the writer rhapsodizes about pine martens.

Cloudy.

So Fred’s gone home to New York, and his absence at dinner was conspicuous. I’m now halfway through my residency, which, frankly, is astonishing. One the one hand, I can’t believe the halfway mark is already here.On the other…I can’t believe I still have nine days of work on the novel ahead of me. Will I manage to finish? I hope so.

Evening.

I’m still making steady progress on the novel. I walked down to the townsite in the morning for a little wander. There was a triathlon going on in, and the roads were blocked off for part of the course – a very different feel from the way the town usually looks, but not in a bad way.

View from the studio.

I wandered back and got back to work. The story is inching closer and closer to the 75,000 words I’m aiming for – minimum – though I’m beginning to suspect that it’ll be longer. The plot? Slowly moving along, keeping time with the outline I’ve written.

The weather is supposed to cool off over the next few days, so there’s a better chance that I’ll actually be able to wear the sweater I knit for this residency!

Pine marten!

Also? Finally managed to get a picture of the pine marten. I was sitting at my desk in the studio when I saw the movement out of the corner of my eye…grabbed the camera, and started shooting.

Pine marten!

Turns out it’s must easier to take a picture of a pine marten if it curls up under a tree to take a nap. I watched it for a while – pine martens yawn and wash just like cats – and then it settled down to sleep. After a while, it woke up, had a little wash, and then went gamboling off.

Pine marten!

Pine marten!

I must agree with the poet in the studio down the path from me. They do seem jolly.

Pine marten!

The meals:
Breakfast: English muffin, eggs, grapefruit
Lunch: egg salad sandwich and milk
Dinner: roast chicken, carrots in a honey glaze, couscous, macaroni salad, coffee cheesecake and a banana pastry.


Fred leaves; I keep writing.

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The continuing saga of a writing residency. Today: the writer bids farewell to a friend, and obtains a clipboard through the generosity of another.

Upon on Sulphur mountain.

I feel as though my writing practice is on the cusp of some sort of change. I don’t know quite what the new practice will be like – is it really possible to know? – but there has been an invigoration taking place in my little cabin in the woods. It might be that the creak of the door, first opened in the morning, has enlivened a part of me that was half-asleep. It might be that the lack of responsibilities, save one – be inspired – has left me open to the possibilities I had turned my face from. Perhaps the pine marten has something to do with it; it’s hard not to feel like you should be working when one galumphs by on its quest for sparrows and mice (they look so very busy and determined when they’re doing it).

Upon on Sulphur mountain.

Up on Sulphur mountain.

Maybe it’s because I’ve finally started to believe that this novel will be something that gets finished and is good? I don’t know. Perhaps.

Upon on Sulphur mountain.

Fred takes in the view from the gondola.

Fred packed up and headed home today. Sigh. It was so nice to meet him – and so neat to see him exploring and discovering the Banff Centre and the 3-Day Novel Contest. He’s a neat guy. We’ve known each other online for years, but this was the first time meeting in person, and he’s just as nice in ‘real life’ as he is online. It’s nice when that works out like that.

And Jocelyn came up to visit – she brought me some markers and a clipboard, upon request, and I’m putting them to very good use. We had dinner down in Banff, and then she drove me back to the Banff Centre and told me sternly to get back to work.

Hello, squirrel.

The meals:
Breakfast: scrambled eggs, grapefruit, English muffin
Lunch: cob salad (meh)
Dinner: fish and chips down in Banff with Jocelyn!