Jane Eaton Hamilton

“They’re quite lovely, most batterers. Lovely at home, too. Until they’re not.” Jane Eaton Hamilton

Two Men and a Library

 

Natasha Frost tells us the bizarre (and entertaining) story of playwright Joe Orton, and his partner, Kenneth Halliwell, during the time in the 1960s when they stole, altered and returned books to a London library. The story did not end well, but rather with heartbreak and murder.

The Strange, Sad Story of Joe Orton, His Lover, and 72 Stolen Library Books

Skinning the Rabbit: the essay at The Sun

My second piece (after a piece of fiction called “Hearts”) with The Sun appeared in July, but there was only a preview online. Now they’ve put the entire essay up, but the best news, the absolutely best news, is that they’ve opened their archives. How wonderful for all of us. I can see what we’ll be reading for the unforeseeable future. If you are a subscriber, you can see it all; if you’re not, you can read two pieces a month. Huzzah!

Skinning the Rabbit

The Blodwyn Prize

I didn’t win this new prize for emerging writers–I am far from an emerging writer–but I am glad thinking so caused someone to read and enjoy my latest poetry book Love Will Burst Into a Thousand Shapes and All Lit Up to report on it.

Must-Follow-Canadian-Book-Instagrams-for-World-Photo-Day

Love Letters–of a sort

Will You Ossuary Me?

 Jane Eaton Hamilton

She wanted to kiss me in bones. Death, much? Spiraling down 19 meters. She pulled the ends of my scarf and I moved closer because hers were Parisian lips, the top lip thin, the bottom lip full, and I felt her deeply inside where my nerves snapped and I was decomposible. There were tibias all around us in the damp light, and scapulas from the plague, phalanges and fibulas and metatarsals. Infant bones. People dead of polio. People collapsed of childbirth and famine. Of war. Cries and tears and screams. The bones of six million Parisians dug up from cemeteries to make room, shovels of bones, wagon-loads of bones pulled by sway-backed nags for a full two years—carted down into these old mine tunnels, then arranged. We stood in puddles. The air was heavy with the motes of people’s lives—more broken dreams, I guessed, than dreams come true. It was quiet, but the past echoed. Ghost-din. Someone had written, Pour moi, mort est un gain. Pour moi, pour moi, pour moi, she whispered, rumbling her voice. Exhumations and exhalations all around us, the breath of death, bone-stacks, bone-crosses, bone-chips in heaps, my mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mother, maybe, resting in pieces. My lips were swollen and sore, cut and scabbed over from all that had already happened. Skulls placed in the shape of a heart, eye sockets staring, and behind those eye sockets more eye sockets. Shadows moved across us; her nipples hardened. She pressed me up against a white cross against a black tombstone. I will leave you, she said as she bit my throat, but not yet.

Caroline Leavitt, folks, on the discouragement of writing and how to overcome it

This terrific essay by Caroline Leavitt on Susan Henderson’s LitPark: The Sticky Subject of Success

“I wasn’t successful. I knew it. My friends were getting prizes and important reviews and bookstores so filled that people had to wait outside. When people asked me what I did, I said, “I’m a writer?” with a questioning lilt to my voice because I wasn’t so sure, since success seemed so scarce.

I roamed the bookstores and looked at books and I couldn’t figure out, why was this bestseller better than my book? Why did friends of mine get the things I yearned for—and get them so easily? Was I doing something wrong?” -Caroline Leavitt

Sweet criminy, Warsan.

Just read it.

The House, by Warsan Shire

Writing and Disability: She used to be a writer, but then she got sick

At the wonderful Lit Hub, Emma Smith-Stevens writes about the shock of illness, and how losing physical capacity threw everything else in her life into question.

I Used To Be a Writer

Literary spaces for just women? Or not?

Should we publish at women-only presses? “…female literary magazines and collectives are organizations and communities that have been born out of a need, they are voices that deserve to be heard, a necessary force in an ongoing resistance, but also a symbol of how much more work has yet to be done for the literary world to ever solve its gender problem. These women are not only challenging the literary canon with all-female spaces; they’re rewriting it.”–Thea Hawlin

The Rise of Women-Only Literary Spaces, UK Edition

Post-publication blues

photo: Jane Eaton Hamilton

I always look at publishing a book as throwing it down a well. Maybe you will hear echoes, and maybe they will be strong enough to hurt your eardrums, or perhaps as faint as whispers. Maybe, eventually, you will hear a splash when that book hits hard (bellyflops?). But mostly you will just peer down a very dark hole and watch your book careening through the air before drowning. You will see this even with reasonably successful books; even those have their season, and attention moves on. The pages become waterlogged, and sink, and tear. The glue loosens. Things sinking can be very beautiful. Things disintegrating can be magical. Think of fabric waving in water, of seaweed, of things barely glimpsed under surfaces. Of underwater dance. Of the grace and flow that you’ve been given back now the project is done. All that beauty of the finished book–sinking out of sight. This is exactly what leaves you alive and full and tarnished and battered and happy and excited for what’s coming next: the pause, the making.

Here is a piece I once wrote about failing to write a novel and giving it another try:

Congrats-Its-a-6-Pound by Jane Eaton Hamilton

Lidia Yuknavitch’s Survival Guide for Writers

A while back, the electrifying Lidia Yuknavitch talked to Anna March at Bustle. Two more recent of her books (The Small Backs of Children, The Book of Joan) weren’t published when this interview took place, but the article remains a wonderful piece to guide the working writer back to sanity, and I recommend it.

Bustle

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Here’s an excerpt, too: Anna Maxymiw And also,

“Matthew Klam’s New Book Is Only 17 Years Overdue” and other tales of failure

 

the new book

Over at Vulture, Taffy Brodesser-Akner has a terrific feature about Matthew Klam’s career and his new book. Every writer should read this. We all deal with self doubt and castigation, I think. The article is a really a good look at Klam’s early fortune; about how just as he was deciding he’d quit writing, he got a yes from Dan Menaker, editor at the New Yorker, for one of his stories. (My stories got lots of comments from Menaker in my time, and once we even moved into editorial, but I never quite got the yes. The story that came closest was published in the Alaska Review.)

The world opened for Matthew Klam, and his list of early awards and honours was daunting. He had it all except for a second book. As the years passed, he still didn’t have a second book. He wrote continually, he tossed continually, he taught instead for its anonymity.

For me, the world never opened, and my talent, which was substantial but wanting, withered from lack of support. I didn’t have an MFA program to weed out weaknesses. I learned slowly. Sometimes folks went mad for one story or essay, but when they wanted more, the more was always so different they didn’t like it. This is a problem with range and writing across genres (and letting my heart have its way).

I needed an imprimatur I didn’t have. A Menaker imprimatur, maybe. Once Ellen Seligman at M+S spent six months telling me yes, telling me no, telling me I don’t know, I go one way, I flop the other way, and I wonder what would have happened if she had said yes eventually, whether that profound novel about child rape in the world of wild mustangs I was then working on would have come to fruition. All these years later, I’m still curious about what would have broken out of me if by chance I had just been valued and nurtured, and really had to work to an editor’s expectations. I would have risen, I know, because I am like that, but in what way, to what end?

What literature did I not produce because I:

a) wasn’t quite good enough?

b) wasn’t repetitive enough?

c) there was discrimination (even inborne and unacknowledged) against certain categories of writers (disabled/queer/feminist)?

d)  wasn’t from the US?

What would those stories and books have been?

I was low-income and a sole-support parent a lot of those years. And of course I asked the same questions Matthew Klam asked himself: What does this matter? Who needs another story? Another novel? To what purpose? To win a prize and still be unable to pay the bills? I certainly never cared about a postmortem reputation–that and $5 I’d get a plastic glass of latte at Starbucks to set on my gravestone.

I won the CBC contest a couple times. I published in the NY Times, the Sun and other strong periodicals (back then and again this year). But no successes ever built, no one ever tucked me under her mentor wing. I still write in my self-propelled bubble without much response. I certainly write now without any hopes at all for the marketplace–really, only to please myself.

I had my perfect form and lost it. I quit writing stories and nobody noticed. I quit writing stories and only a friable piece of my heart noticed. I struggle to write novels, but I am no novelist. I am no novelist.

Maybe Matthew Klam is. I look forward to reading Who Is Rich?

The Vulture

 

 

Hunger–my story collection (not Roxane Gay’s memoir I’m reading now)

When I was sorting through my archives, I discovered two reviews of my 2003 short story collection Hunger, one from Event Magazine and one from The Fiddlehead. I thought folks might like to read them. I’d forgotten they existed, and I so loathed the cover the publisher gave that book that I immediately orphaned it. Don’t get me wrong. I am a sizable fan of the artist Egon Shiele, but I didn’t think the chosen image evinced hunger, and the book design was, frankly, pug ugly. I was stunned by the back cover, or lack of back cover, which wasn’t even designed. I know I could have checked the typical stylistic quirks out when the press asked me to publish with them, but I didn’t. At the time, I was on a Gulf Island, and there were none of that press’s books I could find in the library, and it was before the internet was really going. I didn’t see the mess of that book until the press had gone to print (probably on purpose … some presses respect their writers and some don’t) and when I got my author copies, a signature fell out of the first one I picked up, proving that the production values sucked. I felt embarrassed and humiliated. After that, I just–refused it. I always knew it contained great stories, since most of them had won pretty major awards, and it went on to be shortlisted for the Ferro-Grumley, earning it a lovely quote from Emma Donoghue, but I hated its look, so I orphaned it.

Anyway, what a difference 14 years makes–and doesn’t make. I still loathe that cover and the production values (you’ll note the cover is not included in this blog post, and it doesn’t appear on Amazon either) but I now imagine I might like the book if I read it again, because in tearing apart litmags and anthologies to make tear sheets for the archives, I found these:

Event review of Hunger

Painting the Babys Room Green review of Hunger

The Summer Book

Jane Eaton Hamilton, photo: Martin Krzywinski

Here is a lovely review for Mother Tongue Press’s new anthology The Summer Book, from BC Bookworld (Howard Stewart):

“Fertig’s stable of remarkably talented B.C. writers has wrought many exquisite portraits of this complex subject.

Otters on Savary Island dock. Linocut by Gary Sim.

Together, they comprise a delightfully diverse drawer full of explanations about why these long bright days and short warm nights affect us like no others.” -Howard Stewart

 

Poignant Ruminations of Summer

Mandy Len Catron recommends “Weekend” for love

If Mandy Len Catron recommended my novel “Weekend” and Khloé Kardashian recommended Mandy’s “How To Fall In Love With Anyone,” does that mean I should figure out who Kholé Kardashian is? Or does that just mean you should read Mandy’s book?

This week How To Fall In Love With Anyone” has been released. Mandy is the author who set the NY Times’ Modern Love column on fire with her essay about “36 Questions” to make a couple fall in love with each other, a column viewed millions of times. And now there’s a whole book of her writing!

CBC wanted to know what revs Mandy’s romance engine, and “Weekend” made the cut, with a nod to its dealing with disability issues.

Hopefully Mandy will be here on the blog with a Q+A soon!

Mandy Len Catron on offbeat love stories, and the one secret to relationships that last

Skinning the Rabbit, The Sun Magazine

I got home from a trip, picked up my mail and found my contributor copies of the July 2017 issue of The Sun Magazine (along with the welcome cheque). A couple of weeks ago, I went to add The Sun to my list of places I’ve published, and it was already there. I was puzzled; I didn’t remember having already added it. But then I explored a little further, realized I’d published there a long time ago, and sought out the issue, the cover of which is above. I was bemused to find that the subject matter was quite similar to the recent essay since I haven’t written about my childhood in ages.

Here’s that original and second-person story, which was still on my desktop: Hearts

My piece this time around is called Skinning the Rabbit. I explored my relationship with my father through our collision about animal welfare, and through the bullying I experienced when I got alopecia totalis at six. I hope you like it. Tell me if you do, k? It’s not online, but you can find The Sun almost anywhere that carries literate magazines, even in Canada.

I am proud to have had essays in the NY Times and The Sun this year.

The Sun November 1993

 

 

 

 

Huff Po Loves “Weekend”

 

Lesbian Communities: Looking Backward, Looking Forward

1. Weekend by Jane Eaton Hamilton. Do you remember what it feels like to read a novel that has lesbian lives, lesbian bodies, lesbian minds thoughtfully and carefully rendered by a writer of extraordinary talent? If you feel like it has been a long time since you read a novel like that, pick up Jane Eaton Hamilton’s Weekend (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2016). Examining two lesbian couples, their romances, their conflicts, and their lives, Weekend reminds me how lesbian writers render lesbian characters with extraordinary grace, humanity, and insight.

 

 

The Best Reading Ever

Jane Eaton Hamilton and Naiya Hamilton, June, 2017

I am fond of Salt Spring Island, where I used to live and raise my kiddos, and where my eldest and granchildren currently reside. I read at the beautiful Duthie Gallery on Saturday night from the Mother Tongue anthology The Summer Book. Mona Fertig, editor, had to kick me more than once to get me to put pen to paper, but I finally did for the piece I called “Bull Shark Summer.” Any reading my kids attend is a fond one for me, but this reading was my favourite of my life because Naiya, the two-year-old, saw me at the front and shouted, “Nana! Nana!” Oh-oh, I thought, imagining her parents carrying her out yowling because she wasn’t allowed. I scooped her up and sat her atop the podium and continued the reading apace, if distracted. The essay, after all, is in part about teaching her to swim. In the photo above, she is pointing at scored text I removed for timing’s sake, saying, “Nana, you did this!” Yes, child, I did scrawl all over printed text, just the way we always tell you not to. Later she asked what I had read, and I had to admit it had no pictures. At one point, she asked to be set down and opened my change holder so my change spilled out over the floor. I ignored it, but Naiya carefully picked it up, shouting, “Monies, Nana!” She slid it carefully back up onto the podium.

It was wonderful listening to the talented readers who came after me and I know the audience enjoyed themselves.

Here is Mother Tongue’s press release for the book:

THE SUMMER BOOK

A new collection of creative non-fiction

In this satisfying collection of new personal essays, humour and meditations on nature, 24 BC writers capture the joys, memories and spirit of summer. Dip in and relax in the warmth of The Summer Book, anytime of year. It’s perfect for backpack, bus, boat, beach or bed. A small positive treasure in this complex crazy century.

Authors: Luanne Armstrong, Kate Braid, Brian Brett, Anne Cameron, Trevor Carolan, Claudia Cornwall, Sarah de Leeuw, Daniela Elza, Carla Funk, Jane Eaton Hamilton, Eve Joseph, Des Kennedy, Theresa Kishkan, Chelene Knight, Fiona Tinwei Lam, Grant Lawrence, JJ Lee, Peter Levitt, Christine Lowther, Pearl Luke, Susan McCaslin, Briony Penn, DC Reid, Harold Rhenisch.

232 pages, includes drawings, linocuts, watercolours, etchings by Gary Sim, Briony Penn and Peter Haase

978-1-896949-61-1 | paperback | $24.95

The Summer Book

 

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Kai Cheng Thom wins the 2017 Dayne Ogilvie prize for best emerging LGBTQ writer

 

Kai Cheng Thom, right, with Amber Dawn (ed. of A Place Called No Homeland).

The three shortlisted authors, l-r: Carellin Brooks standing in for Eva Crocker, Kai Cheng Thom and Ali Blythe

Leah Horlick, host

Ali Blythe

Kai Cheng Thom

Carellin Brooks standing in for Eva Crocker

Big congrats to the shortlisted authors for the 2017 Dayne Ogilvie Award: Ali Blythe, Eva Crocker and Kai Cheng Thom. Reading your books was an honour and a pleasure, and awarding this year’s prize to Kai Cheng Thom on behalf of prize founder Robin Pacific, the Writer’s Trust, and my co-jurors Elio Iannacci and Trish Salah, was a wonderful celebration of queer writing.

Here is the jury citation:

“Kai Cheng Thom’s Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars is a delicious and fabulist refashioning of a trans memoir as fiction. It is a cacophonous coming-of-age story and a genre-breaking refusal of the idea that the only stories trans people have to tell are their autobiographies. Her poems in A Place Called No Homeland are jelly-tender, tough as knives. They ride the borderland into and through trauma, relationships, love, and power, and carry us out deepened and changed over to the other side. Her work is sheer joyful exuberance, creativity, and talent.”

Congratulations, Kai!

 

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