Jane Eaton Hamilton

"Oh yay, yay, the world is gay."

Tag: JEH

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

“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

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

 

 

 

 

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!

 

Floundering

photo: Jane Eaton Hamilton 2017

Floundering

A friend and I spend the warm, sunny day on Crescent Beach. I once housesat a block from the beach so I could do a concentrated writing stint—a retreat for one. For months, shine or rain, every wintry morning I circled the town, trodding past tossing ocean headed for the mud flats with my binoculars, DSLR camera and my ubiquitous umbrella. Work was not going well. This riparian area beside the Nicomeki River, Mud Bay on Blackie Spit, was balm. Known for birdwatching because it’s on a migratory path called the Pacific Flyway, it’s also the only place nearby where Purple Martins nest. The swallows looped above while I strolled through demarcated paths beside the eelgrass, able to pull from my photography belt lenses of different focal lengths. I discovered seed pod decay was as beautiful through a macro as a blooming flower. I took photo after photo of rotting pylons, cormorants drying their wings atop. Later, when I became an art student at Emily Carr, I made a painting of one of the bleached white morning pylons. One day I walked late, and rounded the corner to town just as the sky lit up pure radiant orange from top to bottom, north to south; I shot the silhouettes of people as they stood watching. The photos were gaudy, like seventies’ paintings.

Today, I’m older, and for the same stroll I’ve brought a walker. I sit on our blanket, pulling my gear out to photograph great blue herons—I don’t count; are there ten? Fifteen?—fishing along the low tide banks, but I understand it would be chancy for me to hoist this heavy, long-lensed equipment while standing up. We eat our overheated picnic lunch while I feed a crow egg salad from my hand, hoping some nestlings will be the healthier for it. Kayakers paddle past. Behind us, a woman reads in a purple outdoor inflatable. We turn up our pants’ legs and make our way down to the water while mud oozes through our toes. The water pulls the sand from under our feet. It’s hard going indeed for my arthritic body, rife with pain the way uneven surfaces always are, but I love it—my body’s screams of objection at least have the courtesy of silence. A bay has formed a sand shoal and in the intermediate strip of water, as I slosh through it, I notice a creature leaping and flailing. I head for it, but I am slower than everyone, so have lagged behind when a father picks up a flounder to show his kids. I see the milky under-body, which looks like sole in the frying pan. I don’t know my flounders, but I enjoy pointing and saying, “Look there. A flounder is floundering.” It may be a gulf, summer, southern or winter flounder. It may be a sole or (just for the halibut), a halibut. It thrashes. It has two eyes on the top side of its body, jumbled close, which I later learn are ordinarily placed at birth then metamorphose to the top of the fish’s flat head. The child carries it across the spit to the deeper ocean on the other side, but it just lies there looking quite dead, exhausted from its ordeal, far too visible. It’s heron bait, if you ask me.

It’s low tide in my love life too. Epitonium sawinae seashells, dead mollusks picked over by crows, crusty seaweed. Brackish water, poor circulation. The water makes alligator patterns on the surface. My feet keep sinking. My hips keep hurting. My feet are in agony.

Sad, I think of that flounder all evening. I think how it needed a world, a circumstance, it was helpless to create. In the survival of the fittest game, it lost. It’s a bird eat fish world out there.

I am not strong, either, after multitudes of surgeries. I think of sanctuary, where to find it, what it means to the various creatures of the world. I’m lucky that for me, sometimes, sanctuary is as simple as the arms of a beloved wrapped tightly around me, the simplest of homes.

 

 

Mud Bay, Crescent Beach, Jane Eaton Hamilton, acrylic on loose canvas 2013

The Dayne Ogilve Prize 2017

I’m pleased to say that our three finalists for the 2017 Dayne Ogilvie Prize, a $4000 award to an emerging LGBTQ author admininstered by the Writer’s Trust, were announced this week. I was pleased and honoured to have spent the last three months engrossed in our longlist reads with Elio Iannacci and Trish Salah. We have such a prolific and talented community, and you all to a one make me so proud. It was a great honour to read you. The ceremony announcing the winner will take place in concert with the Writer’s Union of Canada AGM and is open to the public, 5 pm Sat June 3 at SFU Harbourfront, with last year’s winner Leah Horlick presenting the award.

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Writing Advice from the Winnipeg Review

 

A piece of mine about writing appeared in longer form at the Winnipeg Review.

Show Me Your Worm

Nietzsche: the why of art

Jane Eaton Hamilton

“We have art so that we shall not die of reality.” –Nietzsche

The 2017 CBC Short Story Prize longlist

I’m thrilled to say that I join 27 talented writers on the CBC Short Story Prize longlist! Woo hoo! Special kudos to Alix Hawley who has two longlisted entries this year! Congrats, everyone, and thanks to the judges.

CBC Short Story Prize Longlist 2017

Smiley, my 2014 winning story

Interview with CBC about Smiley

Lady Liberty Lit

I used to skate when I was a kid, and over the winter, I wrote a piece about skating and resistance, which Gayle Brandeis has been kind enough to publish at the new Lady Liberty Lit. Thanks, Gayle!

P.S. Gayle’s first novel ‘The Book of Dead Birds’ thrilled me. If you too are pelican-crazy, and want to understand more about the mother/child bond, and just admire great stylists, you should read it.

Lady Liberty Lit

Making Room: Room Magazine’s celebration of 40 years!

I’m reading at the Saturday BFFF, and the Sunday Insert Innuendo Here and the poetry bash. Please consult the website for change of venue.

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Help me celebrate Room Magazine’s 40th annniversary anthology, Making Room! If you are looking for a comprehensive cross-section of feminist literature in Canada, you’ve come to the right place. The Growing Room: A Feminist Literary Festival comes to life in early March.

“Making Room: Forty Years of Room Magazine celebrates the history and evolution of Canadian literature and feminism with some of the most exciting and thought-provoking fiction, poetry, and essays the magazine has published since it was founded in 1975 as Room of One’s Own. This collection includes poems about men not to be fallen in love with, trans womanhood, the morning-after pill, the “mind fuck” of being raped by a romantic partner, and a tribute to the women who were murdered in the Montreal Massacre. In one story, a group of sexual assault survivors meet weekly and come up with an unique way to help police capture their assailant, while in another a dinner party turns to witty talk of racism, sexism, pornography, and time travel. One author recounts how she learned multiple languages in order to connect with her father, another reluctantly walks down the aisle in order to stay in Canada with the man she loves.” -from the website

Growing Room: A Feminist Literary Festival

MAKING ROOM: Forty Years of ROOM Magazine

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CBC Books: Weekend

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CBC Books

8 Lesbian BDSM Novels to Curl Your Toes (and Maybe Melt Your Heart)

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Weekend made this fun list by Casey Stepaniuk over at Autostraddle! Catch what Casey has to say about them here.

The Collectors by Lesley Gowan

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At Her Feet by Rebekah Weatherspoon

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Owning Regina: Diary of My Unexpected Passion for Another Woman by Lorelei Elstrom

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Savor Her by Zee Giovanni

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The Night Off by Meghan O’Brien

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Scissor Link by Georgette Kaplan

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Tell Me What You Like by Kate Allen

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Am I Too Embarrassed to Save My Life? My essay in the NY Times

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Am I Too Embarrassed to Save My Life?

NY Times

I’m told it had over a hundred thousand hits. I hope to have a few things to say here that answer some people’s questions. If you would like to leave additional questions or remarks here, I will try to include them.

Standing Against Hate

I despise what’s going on. I stand against it without reservation. I support the LGBTQIA, disabled, women’s and POC communities, and call for y/our lives to be made safer by the continuation of legal protections, Planned Parenthood and the ACA, and the de-militarization of police. So much has gone wrong in a week’s time, but most of it was well seeded earlier.

We feel anxious, frightened and uncertain about what’s coming next. On Friday, immigrants and refugees from seven targeted countries were banned from entering the US, throwing individual lives and entire communities into crisis and destabilizing the planet. My Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has spoken of Canada’s open shores, and I trust that he and his ministers will work tirelessly to ensure refugees and immigrants already in detention in Canada are released into community, and new refugees and immigrants are welcomed immediatey.

Tonight terrorists opened fire at a mosque in Québec City, killing five. I send condolences to the victims’ families and friends and to their religious community, and continue to stand against violence and hatred. Muslims are important and welcome members of my community.

I am buoyed by the push-back of citizens. Protesters are marching, lawyers and protesters are occupying airports, airlines are reversing ticket charges, companies are taking stands to hire refugee workers, and thousands of people on social media are decrying these regressive, dangerous acts and thinking up new ways to make global citizens safe. Each one of us will play a part in de-activating the virus spreading through N America.

We are stronger together, just as Hillary said. Join hands, my friends, and join solutions.

The Heart-Work: Writing About Trauma as a Subversive Act by Melissa Febos

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sketch: Jane Eaton Hamilton after Shiele unknown date

The terrific Melissa Febos asks the question: If writing about trauma happens to be therapeutic, does that make it worthless? Or particularly valuable?

A great essay at Poets and Writers.

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