Jane Eaton Hamilton

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

Tag: novels

Surrey International Writers’ Conference

photo: Jane Eaton Hamilton

Out presenting at Surrey International Writer’s Festival this past weekend, I popped into a workshop held by Meg Tilly to help improve writers’ reading skills. Here she is sitting on a participant’s feet. There’s probably a great story behind that, but I’m not whispering it.

photo: Jane Eaton Hamilton

At the Whistler Writer’s Fest…

I’m delighted to be reading with Lenore, Jim and Joan at the Whistler Writer’s Fest! I wrote about the risk in writing my novel ‘Weekend’ for the festival, here.

Writers of Fiction

October 14, 2017 | 10 – 11:30 a.m.| Fairmont Chateau Whistler | $15

Lenore Rowntree, Jane Eaton Hamilton, Jim Nason, Joan B. Flood and the fiction winner of the Whistler Independent Book Prize. Author Claudia Casper explores the essential elements of fiction through our guest authors’ stories. They involve an only child struggling to emerge from his mother’s bipolar disorder; the complexities of contemporary queer love; how a veterinarian’s life choices, at times, contradict her alleged love of children and animals; and a family drama set in Ireland in which decisions and mistakes echo through generations.

 Moderator: Claudia Casper

Finish your goddamned book

Yonder at Terrible Minds, here’s the not-so-terrible truth about finishing your novel, by Chuck Wendig.

Here’s How To Finish That Fucking Book, You Monster

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

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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Pixar pretty much sums it up: how to give good story

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Emma Coats from the Pixare team has summed up what makes a great story. You don’t have to telling stories for kids to realize the value in this advice.

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Book review: Agony and ecstasy apparent in new novel Weekend

Tom Sandburn’s review of WEEKEND in the Vancouver Sun. From June 2016.

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“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” Tolstoy tells his readers at the beginning of Anna Karenina.  Like most successful epigrams, this line is pungent, compelling and memorable. Also, like many such quips, it could work just as well turned inside out, as a declaration that all unhappy families have broad stroke elements in common.

While award-winning Vancouver poet, short story writer and novelist Jane Eaton Hamilton’s new book, Weekend is, by, the author’s own account, inspired by Raymond Carver’s grim 1981 meditation on love among the ruins “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” it can also be read as a reflection on Tolstoy’s formulation about happy and unhappy families. But however the erudite reader wants to compare it to earlier fiction, Weekend itself is a tour de force, an account of two same-sex couples in crisis, a tender meditation on the nature of love, desire, betrayal, mortality and reconciliation.

2016 Handout: Book cover of Weekend by Jane Eaton Hamilton. To go with review on Tracy Sherlock books pages. [PNG Merlin Archive]
Book cover of Weekend by Jane Eaton Hamilton

It also is notably successful in rendering the complex realities of sex, a challenge that defeats most writers who attempt it. Not many readers these days will be shocked or offended by the book’s sexual frankness, but some will wince at the way Hamilton breaks another taboo. Her enthusiastically sexual characters are in mid life (one is turning 50 as the weekend occurs) and come to their erotic experiences with all the baggage that status implies. In a culture that disdains the old, particularly older women, as sexless, these moments of powerful erotic realism are genuinely transgressive and wonderfully done.

While I describe the main characters as same sex-couples, the reality is somewhat more complex, as one of the characters is considering a gender transition. The fact that this character prefers the de-gendered singular pronouns “they” and “their” will take a bit of getting used to for some readers, but the calm, matter of fact way in which Hamilton portrays trans issues and the new verbal etiquette they imply is one of the book’s many strengths.

Unlike the gay novels of my youth, which tended to focus univocally on the coming out narrative, this book takes all that for granted and turns its attention to what happens after one has come out, won the right to marry and moved into what the public intellectual Stan Persky calls a “post gay” reality. Often enough, Hamilton suggests, this post liberation reality, while obviously a huge improvement on the fever swamps of homophobia and oppression that preceded it, is full of ordinary human heartbreak and betrayal, sorrow, tedium and flawed, triumphant love.

That recognition, and the lapidary prose Hamilton uses to embody and dramatize it make Weekend a remarkable, intricate and mature work of art. And Hamilton can reflect on these matters from the perspective of one of liberation’s veteran warriors. According to the University of Toronto’s Poetry Online, Hamilton “came out in 1982. She was a litigant in Canada’s same-sex marriage case from 2000-2003, and then maintained an website called queermarriage for the next several years to aid couples coming to B.C. from other countries with queer-friendly resources.”

Most of the novel’s action takes place over a weekend at two lake island homes in Ontario cottage country, giving the book a tight temporal and geographic focus, almost Aristotelian in its unity, a unity that is only partly diffused by the book’s coda, which takes the four lovers past the weekend, back to the city and on into new domestic and medical complications.

The couples are Elliot and Joe, two women who are celebrating the recent birth of their daughter Scout, and Ajax and Logan, who have come to the lake for Logan to propose marriage to Ajax. In the course of the weekend the couples are both disrupted, one by abandonment, one by a health crisis.

While in summary this may sound like the stuff of queer soap opera, in Hamilton’s deft, spare treatment, there is no melodrama. Sex is portrayed in a compelling, original fashion, and the trials and rigours of dealing with a new baby are portrayed with sensual detail and emotional depth. Hamilton’s rendering of her character’s heart crisis and of the years of impaired functioning, pain and body shame that preceded it benefits from the same sensual precision and closely observed detail that illuminate her sex scenes. All her characters are nuanced, complex and believable creations. This is the real world of imperfect adults, captured and rendered with compassion, wit and intelligence.

Much of this is accomplished by Hamilton’s exemplary use of free indirect discourse, that challenging but supple device that allows a third person account to reflect the first person inner life of the character. This approach, pioneered by Jane Austen, is a powerful one, allowing layers of double perspective and irony to be rendered in careful, minimalist fashion.

This is a remarkable book. Little wonder that Hamilton has been recognized so often for her narrative skills- by the Guardian’s Best Book of the Year List, the BC Book Prizes, the VanCity Award, CBC Literary Awards and many other prizes. If you have not yet discovered this important Canadian voice, Weekend is your opportunity.

Tom Sandborn lives and writes in Vancouver. He welcomes your feedback and story tips at tos65@telus.net.

 

 

50 books by Canadian women of colour

What a celebration! The good folks at Room Magazine have put out a wonderful list of books for all tastes and styles. Much better fare than last night’s debate! Full of energy and humanity and hope. Full of talent and skill. Full of familiar names and books, and new-to-you names and books. Happy reading!

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Room Magazine

WEEKEND

#Weekend #eatonhamilton
More reader reviews!
really liked it
Jesus Christ, what a gorgeous prose!
And all the queerness! My god. The boi dykes, the kinksters, the dis-identifiers, the non-normatives, the sweet dreamers, the loose-talkers, the sweet lovers, the broken hearted. Gotta love ’em all. –Penny, Goodreads
JEH acrylic on paper 2015
sketch: Jane Eaton Hamilton
Modern romance! Exactly like something you may have read before, but also completely different. What Hamilton has done here is take the type of relationship story we have all read a million times and somehow re-invent it. Some of the elements seem a little forced (the island), but the story opens up into the world when the characters return to the city.
Funny, fierce, tender and revelatory.
–George Ilsley, Goodreads

WEEKEND on Amazon.ca

Format: Paperback

Jane Eaton Hamilton’s ‘Weekend’ is a searing, thought-provoking, funny, touching, steamy, and heart-wrenching look at one weekend in the life of two couples; a weekend that functions as an allegory for all in their lives that led them there, and all that will follow. Its depiction of love and sex in the queer context is uncommon, and uncommonly well written. Most writers struggle to show readers what life is like for their characters; Eaton Hamilton puts it all on display with what seems like ease and certainly with grace. The book offered me new ways of perceiving the world and new ways of wondering how my queer family and friends may experience life, and I am so grateful for that. The dialogue is constantly on fire (and the air, the summer air is so hot, and that heat just permeates the book so that I always wanted to read it by water); Eaton Hamilton seems always to find the right word and to know, intuitively, the cadence of a conversation. The strength of that dialogue was also my emotional undoing — I was so caught up that each secret or betrayal or kindness hit me with as much emotional force as it did the characters. Pick up a copy and get ready for a wonderful ride.


The Adequate Writer

The Adequate Writer: The non-advice of how I write

by Jane Eaton Hamilton

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 sketch: Jane Eaton Hamilton 2014

How I write?  (Do not do what I do unless it’s fruitful for you.  This is non-advice gleaned over years of living with my idiosyncratic brain, and will not apply to everyone.)

I start with set but limited intentions.  A story, I say to self, 3000 words, go.  An essay, I say to self, longread, go.

I write scattershot.  I slam a metaphorical hammer into a metaphorical mirror-brain for all those pretty glittering silvers, that  debris-field.  I’ve got 26 letters: slurpy, corkscrewed, percussive, hot-bladed, shivery.  My job is to shape “bs” and “q”s and “es” and “rrrrrs” into sensical passages.  Get letters to tinkle out, fall into nothing sharp at first, messes of lines like snortable black coke, every edge ruffled and bleeding into the next.  Use them to compose some uneven, sloppy sentences and paragraphs while my eyes pretty much roll back in my head waiting to see if there’s a topic there, any topic there, a sentence, a phrase with energy, a sliver of glass that could cut someone, cut me, something to begin with.  If I sit in one place long enough–an hour, two hours–it’ll arrive.

I see my brain as something that keeps language recycling, always good for a new burst.  It just needs the cue, and the cue seems to be that one good phrase or sentence.

Like Hemingway said in answer to what is the hardest thing about writing: Getting the words right.

I get rid of the pre-writing, the casting about, the baloney.  Those couple of hours’ work.  Snap.  Gone.  New writers think they need to recycle these.  I might be able to use this in a poem, they say.  Or writing teachers tell them to.  Thinking that way makes you small and hoarding, in my opinion, where writing needs to be expansive to make itself known.  What I know after many years of doing this is that, barring my incapacity, there are always new words; if I accessed them to write one piece, they’ll be there for the next.  So I toss those bad paragraphs out.

At this point, I don’t have a clue what’s going to happen next.  Really.  Story, 1500 words, has to be done today.  I’d kinda like to write about weaver birds and the plight of songbirds in the Mediterranean.  So this was the line I kept:  My mama a woolly mammoth, hairy-legged, 100 feet tall and broad as a shack.  What I had there I liked.  I knew my character was s a kid and that her mom was scary, so that gave me context.  I could even see that woman’s legs.

So I said, Surprise me, little line.  Take me along.  Tell me where you wanna go. After that, it was like grabbing someone’s hand.  Where to?

More pre-writing and as I went, I tossed, I honed, I worked hard with each sentence and paragraph–is this one pulling its weight here? Any extra words? I ask all those questions writing teachers are forever telling you not to ask, all the editorial questions:  am I repeating words other than for affect, what motifs am I running, here, does this make sense, what does it sound like, feel like, look like, taste like around the protagonist? That editing that’s supposed to come second draft, third draft, fourth, I do it as I go, rewrite sometimes 7 times, sometimes 20 times. Over and over till it sounds ok and suggests the next thing.  I think that’s how I learn the story. Getting the words right drags me forward to where the story is heading.

When I was writing my short story “Smiley” I was thinking, Why the hell is that character collecting bird nests?

I trust my noggin. I really trust my noggin, so I just try to get out of its way.

And also I was thinking, because that particular story felt so transgressive and dangerous to me, You can’t write that.  Oh, for god’s sake, you really can’t write that. When I found out what that kid was going to do with that nest he found, I was as shocked as anyone else has described being.

Also, I do a lot of chasing down obscure research questions like What is an owl’s favourite tree to perch in, go.  I could not write my stories without google because the anwers I get to the questions I ask shape where that story goes, change the plot, define what the story will become.

It is chaotic and messy, my head, and in it, not a thing is linear.  It’s looping and tangential and writes itself in curves. Yours is probably different. It’s true what they say. You have a unique voice inside you, unique stories but also your own style. The best writing advice is probably, always, Discover your idiosyncracies and work them. 

Best LGBT Books of 2016

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The Vore’s Best LGBT books of 2016

“Which modern authors can compete with James Baldwin, Edmund White & Patricia Highsmith in the LGBT genre?” The Vore

Seen reading…

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In Ontario colour coordinated with toenails…

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In Toronto…

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And wherever this is…

Penny on Goodreads says, “Jesus Christ, what a gorgeous prose!
And all the queerness! My god. The boi dykes, the kinksters, the dis-identifiers, the non-normatives, the sweet dreamers, the loose-talkers, the sweet lovers, the broken hearted. Gotta love ’em all.”

Pride: the must-reads for 2016

Jane and Susan Safyan June 2016

Pride 8 Must-Read LBGT Books Summer 2016

“Jade Colbert rounds-up the best from Canadian independent publishers.”

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Don’t know if this is exactly a *good* review or not, but it’s the Globe, so what the heck? Happy to be here with Myrna Kostash and Susan Perly.

Globe and Mail review

The WEEKEND Curve

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Julie R Enszer generously reviews WEEKEND for Curve Magazine:

‘Weekend’ By Jane Eaton Hamilton

“Stunningly beautiful.”

“This is a book I have been waiting to read. It is a book I enjoyed every single minute of reading. It is a book I want to share with everyone. I commend Weekend. This is a story of how we live our queer lesbian lives now. Do not miss it.”

Best One-Sentence Advice You’ve Ever Gotten on Writing?

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Over at Lit Reactor, Christopher Schultz has compiled some great one-liners of advice from well-known authors in this article here.

Sometimes, all it takes is a WEEKEND…

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In stores May 6th.

Weekend trailer

The folks at Big Creature Media do it again! Thanks, Big Creature with magic fingertips!

 

 

 

 

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