Jane Eaton Hamilton

"At the bottom of the box is hope." – Ellis Avery.

Tag: writers

YOSS: Year of the Short Story

2018: The Year of the Short Story!

Okay, okay, we who practice this form declare that every year is year of the short story because of their singular pleasures, and today is the last day to submit to CBC’s yearly contest for them, so it’s a good day to declare a YOSS. We who write in this stunning form want editors, marketing board and publishers to welcome them and not to demand they link and not to say, like broken records, they don’t sell. If they don’t sell, help us change that. Buy them, read them, re-read them, love them. You won’t be sorry. I can tell you that at my house, my short fiction collections get pride of place and take up the most space on my shelves. And are my first and strongest love. I write novels because I think I have to (that great rah-rah), and poetry when it makes me, but I LOVE SHORT FICTION. I have two collections and enough stories here to shape two more– with a lot of rewriting.

Here’s Ayelet Tsabari waxing enthusiastic.

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

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

 

 

 

 

“Never Call Yourself a Writer, and Other Rules for Writing”

 

Really, this is all you need to know to get started and keep going, by Shawna Kenney, from Brevity:

Never Call Yourself a Writer

 

 

“George Saunders: What writers really do when they write.”

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If George Saunders is a word, I am a letter. Here, he waxes enthused about Lincoln in the Bardo, his new and first novel.

What Writers Really Do

Chronic pain and disability: Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s So Much Time Spent in Bed

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Sketch: Jane Eaton Hamilton

This wonderful article by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha on coping and dreaming with disability as a writer of colour. Coincidentally, when this article came to me, I had just started reading Dirty River: A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home.

So Much Time Spent in Bed

What Being an Editor Taught Anna Pitoniak About Writing

Anna Pitoniak on the Inside Tricks of the Trade

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“I’m an editor at Random House, but for the last several years I’ve been writing around the edges of my day job: mornings, nights, weekends, wherever I can grab the free time. I began my first novel (which is publishing today) while I was working as an editor, and I credit my job with giving me the courage, and the tools, to tackle writing a book. The truth is that spending one’s life reading good writing—not just reading it, but thinking about what makes it so good—is the best way to teach one’s self how to do it. For some people, this might mean enrolling in an MFA program. For me, I was lucky enough to learn by observing the other editors around me, and working on manuscripts as they went from rough drafts to finished books. It was the best writing education I could have received.”

LitHub

Master Class with Jill Soloway

nude1_oct_2016art: Jane Eaton Hamilton 2016

“Protagonism is propaganda that protects and perpetuates privilege.”

This is about story, kids. This is about the poems we write. The short fiction. The novels. The plays. The TV shows. The films.

What work we support and why we do it.

Check her out. The Female Gaze. The Feminist Gaze. Gazing on. Empathy generator. Fucking yes, finally. Bringing it into literature.

You get the idea that the world might be okay after all.

TIFF

Junot Díaz in conversation

I urge you to read this conversation VOX has with Junot Díaz:

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“We’re in a period of rabid privatization, and a period where it seems that people believe all specific and social functions, and all specific and social spaces and institutes, should be run like corporations, and that there are no such things as common goods; everything is a site of profit extraction. Given that context, for me, that’s where we’ve got to begin these questions: by sketching out the forces — political, economic, and social — which are distorting our ability to have a reasonable conversation.

“In a universe where everything is governed by the logic of market, that’s not a conversation about the importance of the humanities. It’s already so prejudiced that you can’t even have a fair hearing. That’s primarily what’s happening when we attempt to think in a future-looking way about the humanities, is that the idiom of the culture is so prejudiced against life-specific values, like social and common good. And without those, the appeal that we make about the humanities — it’s not that they don’t even land; there’s no space, in a society that’s entirely market-driven, to have a reasonable creative discussion about where the humanities are.”

VOX

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Making Little Sense, In All the Good Ways

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Matthew Schuler’s look at the ways creative minds differ from run-of-the-mill minds is interesting and useful.

Why Creative People Sometimes Make No Sense

Levity at the Airport Bar

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Men in Airport Bars Ask: “What Do You Do?” by Diana Spechler at Lenny Letter. You will chuckle.

Author Jane Smiley addresses her beloved future

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Jane Smiley is one of my cherished writers. The brilliant author of such titles as ‘A Thousand Acres’ and ‘Moo.’ Here she wisely is, writing to her great great grandchild, about climate change, from Huffington Post.

Letters to the Future

Mary Gaitskill and the Life Unseen

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‘Mary Gaitskill and the Life Unseen’ is an article in the New York Times Magazine, by Parul Seghal. She

The New York Times

Here is another interview on The Rumpus (from 2013) by Suzanne Rivecca, called ‘What Men Talk About When They Talk About Mary Gaitskill.’

The Rumpus

The Atlantic

Contemporary Verse II: The Poetics of Queer

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CVII had never brought out an all-LGBTQIA2 issue, but now they have! Featuring the work of these Canadian writers:

John Barton, Tamiko Beyer, Nicole Brossard, Randy Lee Cutler, Amber Dawn, Andrew Eastman, CE Gatchalian, Patrick Grace, Jane Eaton Hamilton, Maureen Hynes, Kyle Kushnir, Alex Leslie, Chandra Mayor, JJ Kegan McFadden, Doug Melnyk, Robin Metcalfe, Erin Mouré, Jim Nason, Billeh Nickerson, James B Nicola, Tomy “Teebs” Pico, Marika Prokosh, Rachel Rose, Andrea Routley, Marina Roy, jes sachse, Trish Salah, Kevin Shaw, Colin Smith, Bowen Smyth, Matthew Walsh, Betsy Warland, Daniel Zomparelli

My poem is Wish You Were Here

Interview: Rene Denfeld, author of The Enchanted

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I am so lucky today to be joined in conversation with Rene Denfeld, the Portland, OR, author of the acclaimed novel The Enchanted.

Here is an excerpt:

“This is an enchanted place. Others don’t see it but I do.

I see every cinder block, every hallway and doorway.

I see the doorways that lead to the secret stairs and the stairs that take you into stone towers and the towers that take you to windows and the windows that open to wide, clean air. I see the chamber where the cloudy medical vines snake across the floor, empty and waiting for the warden’s finger to press the red buttons. I see the secret basement warrens where rusted cans hide the urns of the dead and the urns spill their ashes across the floor until the floods come off the river to wash the ashes outside to feed the soil under the grasses, which wave to the sky. I see the soft-tufted night birds as they drop from the heavens. I see the golden horses as they run deep under the earth, heat flowing like molten metal from their backs. I see where the small men hide with their tiny hammers, and how the flibber-gibbets dance while the oven slowly ticks.

The most wonderful enchanted things happen here – the most enchanted things you can imagine. I want to tell you while I still have time, before they close the black curtain and I take my final bow.”

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Rene Denfeld is the author of The Enchanted (Harper), a novel which has generated much acclaim, including winning a prestigious French Prix award, an ALA Medal for Excellence in Fiction, and a Texas Lariat Award. It was a finalist for the Flaherty-Dunnan prize and longlisted for a Carnegie Medal. Rene’s previous work includes four nonfiction books and numerous articles and essays, including work for the New York Times. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her three children, all adopted from foster care. By day she works with men and women facing execution—the inspiration behind The Enchanted.

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Your book answers the question, “What does it mean to be human?” Do you find a different answer to that when you are dealing with your neighbourhood grocer, your teenaged son, an inmate on death row?

That’s a great question. We find out is to open ourselves to others, to let them tell us what being human means to them—to see them and hear them and honor their truth. I believe people worry that to recognize the humanity in people like death row inmates would somehow minimize their crimes. Nothing could be further from the truth. Seeing the humanity in others allows us to fully grasp the horror of their acts, the terrible things they have done, to other human souls.

 

How did you come to be a death penalty investigator?

I met death penalty investigators while researching my third non-fiction book, which was about a street youth murder. I became fascinated with their work, because it seemed like a chance to really learn the truth of a crime. The truth of why people do terrible things to each other. For all our focus on crime, we seldom stop to ask why. But how can we prevent crime if we do not understand it?

 

I come from a country without a death penalty, and where its absence is not a controversy. Have your thoughts about crime and punishment changed/deepened as a result of your work?

Yes, absolutely. I’ve worked around a lot of victims and their families. Such unimaginable grief—I completely respect why people want revenge. It’s a normal human emotion. We need to start from a place of honouring each other’s feelings before we can dig deeper into why crime happens, and what our response should be to it. Are we trying to punish? Are we trying to keep people safe? What are we doing to prevent such awful things from happening again?

 

Have you found friendship with any of the inmates? Have we lost men or women you became close with?

I am not their friend. My job is to learn the truth of them, and what they did—sometimes, in fact, to find out if they actually did it. There have been 251 innocent people exonerated off death rows, and it is usually due to the work of investigators like myself. I wouldn’t be able to do the work if I saw myself as a friend. However, that doesn’t mean that I do not feel and hear and see them, in all their guilt or pain or remorse. Or horror. My heart is big enough to hold their truths, as awful as those truths might be. I have not lost a client. So far, I have been successful in preventing an execution in all my cases, along with other team members.

 

I once wrote a long poem from the perspective of Ted Bundy’s mother as he was on execution row (“allergy” from Body Rain). I thought how awful it would be to have a son convicted of such heinous crimes. You work with families of men (women?) on death row. What can you tell us about their lives and sorrows?

Most my work is actually with the families, neighbours, friends and others who knew the client. I visit them just as I visit the client, and learn about his life. How he grew up. Most the people I have worked with come from backgrounds of horrific abuse. In my experience, mothers of the accused carry terrible burdens of guilt, shame and remorse. They might be victims themselves, of rape, trafficking, and starvation-level poverty. In The Enchanted, the investigator discovers a background of awful abuse in the client. That is very much like my work.

 

Tell us about the book you wrote before The Enchanted.

The last non-fiction book I wrote was a book called Ask Me Why I Hurt, and co-authored with Randy Christensen. It is Randy’s story. He is this amazing doctor who took an old blue Winnebago and turned it into a mobile hospital on wheels, and drives around Arizona taking free health care to the homeless.

 

Was there a propelling event that made you know you could go in the direction of fiction after publishing books of non-fiction? That began The Enchanted?

I believe you can tell a deeper, more complex truth in fiction. You can tell multiple truths, from multiple perspectives. People read newspapers for the facts. They read fiction for the truth.

I’ve told this story before, but I was leaving the death row prison one day. It was a bright, sunny day, and I happened to look over my shoulder. I saw the stone walls, the towers. And I heard this very quiet, distinctive voice. He told me, “This is an enchanted place.” I followed that voice into the novel. I had no idea what he would say, but I listened. For me, writing that novel was the same as my work. I became very quiet, very open, and I just listened for his truth. That was when the poetry came rushing out.

 

Can you tell us a little about your writing schedule and habits?

I work full time, and have three kids. I write when I can. When I have a story to tell, I am very motivated, and will find time. I often take my laptop with me when I am driving places, or going to an event. It’s amazing how much you can get done in an hour.

 

York The Lady, the priest. Any one of them might seem the logical choice for a protagonist. Why did you choose differently? How did you find your central character, and did you know he would be omnipotent?

I have no idea. It was always the narrator’s story. I didn’t realize it as I wrote, but it is a very unique approach: a first person present tense omniscient narrator who doesn’t play a lead role in the story. I have no idea how I pulled it off. I think he did it for me.

 

Can you tell us about how horses became an image motif through the text?

They flowed out of the story, out of the narrator’s mind. They came rushing into the book, all golden and hard and beautiful. And there they were. To me, they capture his ability to find joy and magic and hope in life, no matter how despairing. Part of his heart races with them—out of the prison, out of his enchanted place.

 

I read The Enchanted soon after it came out and was grateful to have formed my opinions of it before it began to win awards and garner widespread acclaim. What is it like to ride the wave of this praise?

You know, I didn’t tell anyone I was writing it. Not even my kids. I didn’t think about anyone ever reading it. It truly was an act of pure expression, an outburst of everything in my heart and soul. To have to get published felt like a surprise, and then to get the acclaim. Well—it’s bowled me over. I know I am very lucky. There are so many incredible books that don’t get the attention they deserve.

 

Have your children read The Enchanted? What do they think of having a mama who is a well-known writer?

They haven’t read it. I’d feel funny asking them to. They are very proud of me, though, just as I am immensely proud of them. I adopted my kids from foster care, and they have given me far more than I have given them. They truly were the best decision I ever made. I love them to pieces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best of the Year Lists etc

 

JEHstatueThere have been some crotchety writers this week, one complaining about an ungenerous review, another complaining that she was left off an end-of-the-year Best Books list.

The emotional lives of writers are complicated things–most of us are crazily under-compensated (the Access Copyright cheques were down by over 20% this year because now universities aren’t paying when they copy our books), the average Canadian writer probably not managing to scrape up even 10 cents per hour worked.  Imagine that … toiling for nothing all year long, hoping for an eventual pay-out.

No one asked us to do it, for sure, but everyone benefits from it, from readers to publishers to distributors to book store clerks.

Being on the lists, getting good reviews, these things are more relevant to us than an outsider would guess.  These are what have domino effects on our long-term well-being–that let editors know they should invite us onto their lists, granting agencies understand that they should say yes to our proposals, festival organizers realize that they’d like to have us read next year.  These things become, in years hence, bankable.

And yet, and yet.  I’m in the enviable position of no longer particularly caring.  Yes, it’s gratifying when good things happen, and yes, I urgently need to earn a living, but, even so, there’s something to having left writing for 8 years that has loosened these visceral ties to ambition.  I wish I’d had the freedom I feel now when I was a young writer and everything was tooth and claw, because it’s good to be untethered, so so amazing to be untethered, to just write for the sheer enjoyment and satisfaction of the task.  I know I’ll be dead soon-as will we all in just 10 or 30 or 50 or 70 years, trifles all–but for the moment, even with the bills mounting, the financial future uncertain, I’m so gloriously alive, and so deliciously able to wield 26 letters.

It’s so much more than enough.

 

 

 

 

 

Jonathan Franzen on shame

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/oct/30/corrections-jonathan-franzen-guardian-bookclub

from my non-fiction piece “Salt”

This is solely my baby’s clock, clock of my little lost one, my tiny underappreciated one, my evermore gone one, little warm wet egg, miniature planet which used to reside inside me all my seventeen years and even before, in its own grandmother, in my mother during the eight months when I resided inside her, little eggy peggy, eggy peggy pudding and pie, kissed the boys and made them cry. My egg of red bundled oh so soft and sweet and safe inside my oriole’s nest with her sisters like so many pomegranate seeds, waiting, drowsing, waiting, sleeping, waiting, waking in the instant of monthly explosion, pop! flung out into the unknown, alone, single celled, spinning, egg of wild waving filaments, tumbling through the void to land in the drinking straw of the fallopian tube, woah, nelly, hang on nelly! Somersaulting, vertiginous in slo-mo, down the ropey rabbit hole, brim full of her genetic self—great great Gramma Ilene’s eyes, great uncle Edward’s bum kneecap, great great Grampa’s long black eyelashes, Gramma’s sweet disposition and great aunt Emmaline’s intelligence. Sucked along the red river like flotsam and jetsam, evolution and instinctive lifeforce, somersaulting and picking up speed before skidding to a stop. Yowsers, it’s a plethora of swain, ten thousand tiny wavering arrows on a wet war field. One sperm hits her head on, plonk! he’s in halfway up to his neck. And then the moment of genetic answer down through his X and Y, Yippee! yippee-yi-o, life! My gal has a stitch in her side, and woah, woah nelly what is that? Some leaping in her cellular gut, some binging and banging, caterwauling, thudding, rattling, thumping, slipping, sliding, toboganning through flesh, burrowing, turning around to thumb his nose at the wanna-be’s, the coulda’s and woulda’s! Little ingratiator, minute courtier, full of his own genetic dice toss plus a pollywogal tail, Daddio Steve’s great gramma’s sense of humour and Auntie Simone’s swanlike neck and great great Uncle Pierre’s bad kidneys. Hunka, hunka burning love that can change history just.like.that, that has just made a new person. Ovum, sperm: they join and become the proceeds of conception, hidey ho and drum roll. They tumble fallopian, roll off one-celled towards my womb, headlong into my gummy, treacly, syrupy, icky, gloppy, mucilaginous uterine wall.

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