27 March 2013

lesson from the universe

The universe was telling me something on Sunday, and I'm still not sure what the message was.

As I had mentioned, I was to be interviewed on Speaking of Poets. I had a fair bit of juggling to do to make it happen. My middle child was to be at a birthday party from 12-2, my interview was from 1:30-2. I had to do the interview at my husband's office because he has a landline that isn't a portable which was requested by the interviewer. My husband was doing auditions all day at the university for a show he'll be directing there next year, but luckily, had lunch from 12:45-2:15. The plan was I was going to drop A2 off at the party, hang out with the other two for a bit, then bring them to the uni for 1:00. Kevin was going to set me up in his office then take the kids to get lunch and then pick up A2 a little bit early from the party.

I had stayed up late the night before hand sewing (because I'm terrified of my sewing machine) a superhero cape for the themed party and tried not to get too nervous about the interview. Sunday morning, I made the kids blueberry pancakes (the last of last season's frozen berries--so sad!), got everyone dressed, and then pulled out the invitation to check the address.

My stomach dropped. The party was the day before. I ran upstairs, apologetic to my son. He told me that I had to call his friend's mom and I told him I would. I expected tears, but he shrugged it off. His only concern was making sure his friend received his present.

I called the mom, and she was very gracious. She invited my son over to have a second party. Everyone was happy.

I brought the other kids up to the university, got set up, warmed up my voice and waited anxiously for the phone to ring. After 'hello' the first thing he said was 'I owe you an apology.' Turns out he had a mixup of his own. At first I thought he was going to say that he decided he didn't want to interview me at all, but luckily we just needed to reschedule. (This Sunday, if you want to listen as it airs.)

There's definitely a lesson there to be learned--flexibility, forgiveness, graciousness? I'm not sure. But I am thankful that it all worked out, or will eventually work out.

22 March 2013

out in the world

Way back in 2007 when my first book All Things Said & Done was launched into the world, publishing and the internet were very different than their current state. I know it's only six years, but that's a lifetime in the digital world. Sure there were blogs, but not like now. Twitter didn't exist and FB was not the behemoth it has become. And with space for discussion about books shrivelling up in traditional print media, I believe lit-blogs have now mostly taken their place of influence and power. That said, I wish places like the Globe and Mail would review more poetry. Sure, I'd love mine to be mentioned on their pages, but I'd really like to read about other poets and poetry where my fellow citizens--poetry lovers or not--could do the same.

What has been alarming to me is how quickly a review can be published online. I know this shouldn't be a surprise as it's what the internet does best (next to cute animals and the other thing that I'm not going to write out because I don't want to attract those searches or bots) but it is, at least when it comes to my own book. There was the Book Riot mention even before the book was officially published, and now two more.

rob mclennan wrote "Dachsel manages to bring a life to the material, a fine and sparkling energy" amongst other things that you can read here.

Nina Berkhout at Canadian Poetries wrote "Avoiding sentimentality Dachsel gives us a haunting collection that illuminates lives that were behind-the-scenes until now. This book is a jewel-like union of unique voices. Together they create a stunning stained glass piece soldered together into a choir of glass and light." Isn't that beautiful? You can read the whole review here.

I know the point of having a book is for people to read it, but it still surprises me when they do. Saleema Nawaz wrote yesterday on her blog metaphysical conceit "Any time I meet somebody I don't already know who has read my short-story collection, it feels like nothing short of a miracle. And I'm grateful." Miracle, indeed.

I know at least one other person I have not yet met has read my book, as I'm scheduled to chat with him this weekend about it. I'll be speaking with John Herbert Cunningham on his program Speaking of Poets this Sunday. It airs on CKUW 4:30 Winnipeg time (Central Time Zone). If you aren't in Winnipeg, you can listen online live, or download it as a podcast for later. Once it's aired, I'll post a link.

I'm so incredibly thankful for those who have taken the time so far to pick up the book, read it, think about it, and want to discuss it in some way. It's exciting and terrifying.

20 March 2013


Who doesn't love a giveaway? Fools, I tell you!

Quite quietly a couple weeks ago I started a giveaway for Glossolalia over at GoodReads. My publisher, Anvil, generously has offered three copies of the book to be given away. I believe this is the first time they've done a giveaway through GoodReads, so my wives are the Guinea pigs. I haven't mentioned the giveaway on social media yet and there are already 105 people entered to win. This is crazy to me. (I hope they realize it's poetry....)

Are you on GoodReads? If so, please be my friend. I love looking through other people's bookshelves and comparing them. I've added many books to my queue this way.

Are you not on GoodReads, but still want a chance to win a copy of Glossolalia? Comment on this post with a way for me to reach you (a link to your blog, you email address, your twitter handle, anything!) and tell me the last great book you've read and I'll put your name in the hat.

Both giveaways end on April 30. You can enter both, too, if you'd like to increase your chances. No extra ballots if you tweet or FB this, but I wouldn't dissuade you from doing so either.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Glossolalia by Marita Dachsel


by Marita Dachsel

Giveaway ends April 30, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

17 March 2013

on fear of confrontation

On Thursday night, I had my first official reading from Glossolalia. I read in Vernon with Hannah Calder (who didn't have any books to sell as her publisher didn't get them to her on time. I was so disappointed as her reading was fantastic and I'm very intrigued by More House) and the always excellent Laisha Rosnau was our host.

I've read from the collection before, but as I mentioned previously this was the first time I'd read from the actual book. At first I wasn't nervous. I'd had a glass of wine and we decided that Hannah should go first as she had a friend in the audience who had to take off early in the night. I'd chosen five poems to read and I had read them all before and knew I could do them well. I felt confident and happy.

Then I stepped behind the podium and began to read.

There were a few friendly faces in the audience--Laisha, her husband Aaron, Hannah, and Lainna (a friend from my Edmonton days who has now relocated to Kelowna)--and most of the people I didn't know were attentive and generous.

But there were two men in the audience who stood out to me. The first man was an older gentleman who, I was later told, came right into the space, asked for my book, bought it, and then sat in the corner waiting for the reading to begin. He was attentive, even closed his eyes as I read. He disappeared as soon as the reading was done and I wish I had the gumption to approach him before he left. He seemed connected to the poetry and I had assumed he was a regular attendee at this reading series, but no one had seen him before.

The second man who stood out was younger, possibly early thirties. He seemed, well, intense. I also wish I had been brave enough to approach him afterwards, but he made me nervous. While I was reading, I kept looking at him as he stared at me, and it split my focus, made me wonder if this man was Mormon or polygamous, or perhaps even both. The latter two are unlikely, but the LDS have a large population in both BC and Alberta.

I know eventually it's going to happen, most likely at a reading. My fear is that I will offend people of this faith despite taking much care not to in the writing of the book. Although I've taken the lives of the polygamous wives of Joseph Smith as inspiration for this book, it's not meant to be read as biography or history. It's fiction. It's poetry. It's much more about my own experiences/insecurities/fears about motherhood and marriage than it is about Mormonism.

After the reading, there was a Q&A and I was certain that the man was going to stand up and accuse me of appropriation or blasphemy or...something. I'm not completely sure. And then there was a very tiny part of me that worried he was some sort of fundamental fringe Mormon who believed in and was planning on practising blood atonement. But the man was silent and he also left soon after the reading ended.

When I arrived home from our trip into the interior, there was a large envelope in our mailbox. The return address was from Utah. Kevin handed it to me and said, "And so it begins." My heart leaped to my throat before I remembered that I had ordered this from the brilliant Trent Nelson.

I'm dreading the first confrontation, but part of me hopes it happens sooner rather than later, just so that I can deal with it, learn from it, and move on. Am I being pessimistic? Or even egotistical? It's poetry for goodness sake, does it even show up on the radar? Ultimately, I hope that Glossolalia will find readers, and in that crowd (oh, please let it be a crowd and not just a handful), there will be people who are connected to the Mormon faith. Will I ever even know? I hope so, but time will tell.

12 March 2013

on juries

When I lived in Edmonton, I had the privilege of sitting on two granting juries. They were for different organizations, had different scopes, and were very different experiences--one was pleasurable and one was, let's just say, much less so. I learned a lot about the granting process and I really believe that every professional writer should sit on a jury of some sort during their career. It opened my eyes to how they work (and how they don't), how difficult the process can be, and what makes a strong application.

I was reminded of these experiences today as my FB and Twitter feed were full of writers bemoaning not getting a grant yet again along with links to Madeleine Thien's fantastic piece in the National Post On Transparency. In it, she calls for a greater transparency with prize juries, but I believe that the case can be made for granting juries, too.

Thien writes: For the Giller Prize, it’s a carefully guarded secret as to which books are even being considered. That has got to be the dumbest secret ever conceived. The jurors, celebrated as leading practitioners of their art, are apparently so fragile we can’t even know what they read, let alone how they measured (or, perhaps, didn’t). And now, apparently, it is acceptable to shortlist five books without having read a single one.

Transparency, they say, would hurt the writers’ feelings. Clearly, these people are not writers. Writers have their feelings hurt everyday.

A big, empty, silent nothing sits at the centre of our literary discourse. A lot of people might say it doesn’t matter. Five books are being recognized, a worthy book will be chosen, a few people will make some money. What difference does it make? Nobody cares about you. I think it matters. I want to be able to look all my fellow writers in the eye. I didn’t choose a life in writing in order to contribute to a fictional conversation. I truly believe that the best way to support emerging and groundbreaking work is to engage with the work, to be transparent, honest and willing to take criticism for my decisions. I don’t want to be ashamed to say that reading books does, in fact, matter. To say that the books that surprise us and haunt us do, in fact, change us.

I'm not allowed to talk about what happened in my juries, so I can't go into specifics, but in the jury that worked well, there was a lot of discussion and we took our jobs very seriously. We were passionate, thoughtful, and determined. I was heartbroken when there simply was not enough money to give to all the projects we wanted to support, but I was proud of our list. And on that list was a project I didn't understand. To be honest, I thought it sounded terrible, but the other two jurors were so committed and supportive of the idea, I conceded. They saw something I could not, and I am glad it was supported. The days we spent on the applications were tiring and inspiring at the same time.

Was it biased? Of course it was. Everyone has their biases and our group of jurors created their own. Would a different jury given the same applications have arrived at the same results? Maybe, but probably not. Their fifteenth rank may have been our nineteenth. Who knows?

Unless the systems change, the writers who are currently learning of the fate of their grants will never know exactly why they didn't get one (or did). The only advice I can give is to spend a day feeling sorry for yourself (get that microbrew, open that bottle of wine, buy that fancy chocolate, whatever makes you happy), then dust yourself off, ask for feedback, and write a stronger grant next time. We've been rejected hundreds of times and we'll be rejected hundreds more. And if you're up for it, contact a granting agency and let them know you'd be interested in sitting on a jury. Seriously. But in the meantime, treat yo' self:

8 March 2013

upcoming readings

While I've been doing readings from the Glossolalia manuscript since working on it way back in 2009 when I was part of the Writers Studio in Banff and red nettle press published my chapbook Eliza Roxcy Snow, I'm terribly excited to be reading from the actual book of Glossolalia soon.

Details of the official launch are still be worked out, but in the meantime, if you are so inclined, you can hear me reading with some other fantastic writers in Vernon, Vancouver, and Victoria soon.

Vernon - Thursday, March 14, 7:30PM
Vertigo Voices with Hannah Calder
Gallery Vertigo
3001 - 31st Street

Vancouver - Thursday, April 18, 7:30PM
Reading with Brad Cran, Susan Gillis, Rob Taylor
People's Co-op Bookstore
1391 Commercial Drive

Victoria - Friday, April 19, 7:30PM
Reading with Susan Gillis and Rob Taylor
Planet Earth Poetry
The Moka House
#103-1633 Hillside Avenue

If you come to any of these, please say hello!

6 March 2013

inspire and influence

When the always lovely Kerry Clare asked me to come up with a list of poetry books by Canadian women in honour of International Women's Day for 49th Shelf, I was thrilled. I love poetry by Canadian women! So I went to my shelf and pulled off about twenty titles, started to leaf through them and began to panic.

I panicked because I knew I wasn't allowed to have a list that long and I had to find a way to bring the number down to a manageable eight to ten.

I panicked because I had many books written by friends in that stack, knew I couldn't include them all, and worried over hurt feelings.

I panicked because I saw all the other poetry books on my shelf that I hadn't read yet.

I panicked because I thought of all the other poetry books that I don't even own that I haven't read yet, though I know I should.

I panicked because I thought I'm not nearly well-read enough to come up with a list that holds any authority.

And then I told myself to shut up, buck up, and get it done.

So instead of coming up with a list of poetry books by Canadian women that I proclaim to be the best or most important or about ________ (insert subject here), I decided to come up with a list of books that I keep returning to. I reread most of them again while writing the list (though not Elizabeth Bachinsky's God of Missed Connections--my copy went missing during the rehearsals for Initiation Trilogy. I need to get a new copy!) and while I was going through them, there were a few times when I would freeze on a poem. I could see how specific poems influenced Glossolalia and newer unpublished work.

I'll tell you a secret, dear reader. I'm a little nervous that these poets will pick up my book, read the poem(s) that their work influenced, be outraged, and call me a thief. I believe the connections are subtle and they were definitely unintentional, just great poetry doing what it often does: inspire and influence.

Not every collection has a clear line to a specific poem and I am curious to whether others will see the influence or not. I'm not going to be any clearer than this as I'm already feeling a little vulnerable mentioning it in this somewhat public space.

If you are so inclined, go read the list here and then come back and tell me which books by Canadian women you keep returning to.

3 March 2013

a very direct correlation between reading and the development of empathy

"It seems to be that there is a very direct correlation between reading and the development of empathy. So while as parents we could view reading as akin to learning piano or being able to perform algebraic equations, it is also key to helping our children develop one of the most important attributes. My boys are beautiful, bright, and gifted but I don’t feel I can really claim to be proud of that fact because as I see it they pretty much arrived on this planet that way. But they are also both profoundly empathetic boys — they are kind and thoughtful human beings — and I think this is partly because reading has enabled them to see the world from the perspective of others. And I am inordinately, absurdly, and shamelessly proud about that."

Sara O'Leary in her guest post Books, Boys, and a Present For You over at my new favourite blog Blog of Green Gables.