Monday, 3 July 2017

I Wonder!

Marian Bantjes is a Canadian Graphic Designer. Actually, she now calls herself a Graphic Artist, having moved on, she says from the creatively limiting sphere of Graphic Design to something that allows her to put more of herself—her ego—into whatever she makes for clients.

In this way, she’s a lot like Irma Boom, another favourite designer of books. 

I Wonder is a beautiful book inside and out. It’s hardcover. The black silk is embossed with gold—and the page edges are gilded. The beautifully lettered title is embossed silver. Every page is gorgeous and rich in its visuals and the various essays and ponderings (mostly blog posts, apparently) are thoughtful and thought provoking.

I learned about this book during my time at NBCCD, studying Graphic Design. It was brought up as an example of successful Canadian designers, or typographical art, or maybe the use of patterns. I can’t remember if my instructor owned a copy that he showed to the class, or if he showed us slides. What happened was that I immediately went out and ordered the book. There was pretty much no way to live without it.

Bantjes’ work is detailed—really detailed, and that’s part of what attracts me to it. The pages are loaded with things to look at all around the text. The patterns she makes are intricate and tight. They don’t just vary, they vary hugely from one end of the book to the other—from one page to the other. And she leaves no page untouched by design.

Never mind reading it (although it is interesting) this book is amazing just to flip through looking at pictures. It’s even good to just hold, with its lovely cover and comforting weight in the hand.

Bantjes waxes poetic on I Wonder here:

She calls it her masterpiece. I guess that may be, but I’m rather hoping she’ll make another stab at striking wonder.

A little note about my copy:

I notice that my copy of this book has a break in her cover pattern at the bottom of the front cover where “The Monacelli Press” name appears. Interesting. 

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

…and speaking of teeny tiny skulls

This one’s made of bone. It’s a miniature skull carved from the bone of a water buffalo by an artist who used to be part of the ivory business. The ban on ivory caused some hardship among these craftspeople, but rather than just condemn them and leave them to their fates, some people stepped in and encouraged a new approach using material that was essentially a by-product of domestication. 

This is clearly bone and not “fake ivory.” It is not intended to fool anybody. It’s instead a way for the members of this fair-trade group to use the skills they had in a way that could be marketed to the West.

I seriously would have bought the skull, regardless. 

It’s not high art, but consider the size and the material (which is unlike ivory in many ways, too) when you look at the features and detail carved into this piece. The workmanship is solid. 

I like that the mandible is carved out, so you get the sense of a jaw bone, rather than just a mass at the bottom of the head.

Also, notice the scalloping around the ears. That’s just whimsy, there. The artist lives in Malaysia. They're not into “day of the dead” stuff—and that shows through the rest of the skull.

I keep this bony little bit in a miniature china cabinet, so it looks massive.

And of course I'll have to now look at the rest of the cabinet's contents.

To be continued…

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Library Museum Gallery

My collection of things and why they're interesting to me:

What you're looking at in this first picture is the photo I used as a basis for a new little bit of art on an instagram post.
This is the Instagram post

This skull is made of resin. It was carved by a forensic artist whose job is to create models of remains for the RCMP, so practices with things like this one.

Here's the thing that's so neat: It's a miniature. I've set a tiny skull on top of three of my miniature books because it gave me giggles to do so. I have a real thing for miniatures and I'm going to photograph more of them later.

These are the elements of that photo laid out. I set a quarter down for scale, but probably should have turned it over (we'll all just have to live with that, since I'm not taking the shot again). The skull was a gift to me from somebody who knew the artist and knew I would be interested. My friends know me well. 
Of the three books, I believe I first acquired the Micro Mini Bible. It has a plastic case to protect it, but has a crease from being opened too enthusiastically. I know it looks like I'm doing the same, but I was being as gentle as I could.
Micro Mini Bibles are a collectable thing. They can be found on eBay and book trade sites, sometimes under "vintage." While they are completely readable, I'm not sure if the point of them is to have a handy holy book in your pocket, or just the novelty. I can't see them being the easiest—or coolest—way to enjoy a list of "begats." 

The book with the flower is an old volume of Emerson writings. Its title is Thought Treasures. It rings all the bells for me. It's got that "old book" feel, has lovely words, has an interesting cover (which frankly looks homemade) and is a miniature that sports at least some full-size detail.I believe I got it as a "thank you" from a friend for helping her with her parents' home. She  knows I love both books and miniatures. Her parents were a librarian and archivist and had been friends with many poets and bibliofiles.While other versions of Thought Treasures can be found through google, I've never come across this one specifically. I try every so often on the assumption that old books are constantly being added to the collections of others. Those collectors/sellers might use an internet catalogue system or a book trading site.
The last is a little translating dictionary that's small (one imagines) for the sake of tourists' pockets. That also explains the dog-earing. Well, maybe it's never seen the other side of the Atlantic, or bounced around with coin and pocket lint through Quebec's old city. Maybe this particular book was purchased by its original owner for the same reason I keep it: little books are neat.

There are other miniatures I want to put up. I'm not going to do them all at once, though. I'd like to photograph the library in a random way, so I don't get bogged down in "theme" entries. There's a lot of lovely full-size books and plenty more skeletons. I latch onto other nifty stuff, too, so my future posts about this won't be limited to any particular kind of item—beyond interesting, of course.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Self-Help Steps, Expectations, and Resolve

So, last week I joined the provincial Writers' Federation, which is a good move both professionally and personally. Writers' unions play an important role. They have resources and hold events that bring the writing community together as well as out into the rest of the world. The act of joining is also a step forward on a personal level: after all, it's writers who join, so that's what I must be, right?

Ah, but I've been darn sure of that for a long while now. So, why didn't I join until last week? This is something I probably need a couch, $125/hour and a nodding doctor to figure out. I'm not going to let it trouble me (thus saving $125). The bottom line is that I'm a union girl now. I'm branded. I'm committed to the cause. I fly the colours.

The act of writing is as basic as breathing for me. What's not natural is all the stuff around it. Even after the book, I still find myself questioning whether I belong in writers' circles:

Do I have enough to say?
Really, I barely shut up. 

Do I have the written goods?
Do the others? Okay, yes. Some. Not everybody, though. 

Will I fit in?
Seriously? They're writers. Nobody fits in. That's why they write.

But the tendencies that have me questioning my right to join the union are exactly why I need to be part of it. I need to do all the stuff around writing that makes it work and that's what unions do. They get writers to connect, network, promote, engage and do the business it takes to keep getting published.

We'll see.


Why do I always choose spiderwebs to represent my writing…?
We know why.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Micro Fiction and the Epic Soul

I really do write long tales. But I do it with fairly succinct composition. That probably is the result of my becoming the thing I hate most: A Hemingway-esque writer.

In my heart of hearts, I'm completely and utterly purple in my prose. I'm glaringly lush and superfluously descriptive…but alas, I learned the hard way that such a style is relegated to the oft-mocked annals of romantic literature history (sigh).

So, despite a revulsion for both the man and his style, I learned to pare down my writing with Hemingway as the model of perfection. Long story short (pun intended): it worked. Well, the man could get a point across, I'll give him that.

I participate in Flash Fiction contests, where any extra bits sticking out of a story get sanded off by a set of reviewers with both keen eyes and a fascination for brevity (and small words, but that's a different gripe). Flash Fiction is 1,000 words or less. I was getting pretty good at those.

Now that same old writing gang of mine is into Micro-Fiction, damn their hairy butts! I have to find even thinner ways to tell stories. I'm not sure I'm up to it, but here is my entry for the current contest:


Heavy Flies the Fleeing Heart
100 words

The bridge shook with the roar of engine strain to lift. Her ship dodged falling pieces of other ships. Planet collapse was mayhem.

“Full throttle!” she ordered.

“Gonna fail!” Systems reported back. Below them, the planet was sucking itself into its core. “Spheres?”

The illegal, alien-tech, anti-grav engines had the power to boost them across the event horizon, but it would triple the crush of everything in their wake, dooming the ships behind them still struggling to rise.

“Push primaries!”

A stomach lurching deceleration accompanied System’s voice. “Engines failed!”

“Spin,” she ordered, shutting her eyes. "Burn everything.”


Wednesday, 15 July 2015

My God is Dead and Now I'm Bored

There's an epic in my file cabinet. It spans generations of characters. It has a meticulously designed universe with specific laws, long history, multiple species, researched (although rather speculative) mechanical devices and biological classifications. At its premise it's about Gods and worshippers and the few outsiders drawn into political intrigue, spiritual awakenings, abuse, and madness. By its end it is rife with cynicism and switched allegiances both internally and for the reader.

I have published bits of this in short stories, flash fiction and my (so far solo) novel. The feedback is usually quite good. People always say they can't wait to read the rest.

I should probably get on that.

But in the meantime, I've finished it. It's done. In all its little drafty bits and pieces. I know how it ends. I know who "wins" who "loses" and all the crap between those points. There is no going back to make alternate endings, middles or anything. The story is complete.

And here I sit. I'm like a moviegoer still in her seat after the credits have rolled and the lights have come up. I know it's done and no sequel will come. But I want MORE!

If I spend the rest of my life getting this stupidly long set of stories polished and published, I'll probably have to live to a hundred. There's a lot of work to do. And don't get me wrong, I love writing, love rewriting and will enjoy this very much…but the story is still done for me and that will always be a little sad.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Nevermore…or at least not today.

I'm not supposed to write today.

Like, at all. Nothing.

Today, I'm supposed to do laundry; buy groceries; set up meetings with people I've made paintings for; see if the repairs are done on my mother's car (and pick it up if they are); call a friend who needs to hear from me; cook some soup. I'm supposed to be a productive non-writer.

Does the blog count? I'm supposed to try to keep up a blog every day (totally against my nature) so that there is some more of "me" available to be seen should anybody want to see me online—which only makes sense, since I don't have a lot of drunken sex videos out there to come to light. Blogging appears to be the only way to get to know me—well, aside from all the broadcasting bits; some silly scandals about my employment (yeah, there were some—kids these days); and some copyright stuff; maybe a CRTC hearing or two.

Anyway. The thing I want to do most is sit at my computer and write down the story that is currently swirling through my consciousness and I can't!

Guess what: If I could; if I suddenly had a block of time where I could sit down and compose what I'm sure is a hell-banger of a tale…there'd be no words typed at all.

Writing is self destruction in typographical form.

Thursday, 9 July 2015


Readers are the cat's meow.

They volunteer to look at your mess while it's still a mess and give you the gold nuggets that will turn it into the masterpiece it needs to be in order to release you (however temporarily) from the certainty that you hold only trite hackwork inside you and will forever be damned as a writer and a person.

Some of them are afraid to hurt your feelings.
Oh, gentle souls, your soft-tipped word arrows cannot wound me. I see you as the wooden swords and rubber bullets of the training fields. You are never my enemy, always the drinking buddies I commiserate with after a long day listening to the "Sarge of submission guidelines whose harsh demands frighten us all.

Some of you are afraid to piss me off.
That's SO funny! Unless you tell me that fracking is the only way to go, or that black people are the "real racists" or that women oppress men, you're not going to piss me off (seriously, just leave that stuff alone).

Critiquing a piece of art (writing or visual art) means telling the artist what works and what doesn't. When you submit a draft for review and critique, you benefit FAR, FAR more from people telling you the bad news than any amount of "It was great!" and "I loved it!" because you are given an opportunity to fix problems before your story hits the public, or the publisher if people dare to tell you where they are. You can't fix anything if you don't know it's there (and it's amazing what you don't notice when you review it yourself).

So, bring it on, readers. Tell me why and how and where my story sucks. Tell me now, not after I've sent it off for hopeful publication. Be straightforward and fear no anger or anxiety from me. I will be grateful for every comma correction, every plot-hole assumption, every word-choice debate.

I promise you, I will either accept or ignore your advice without a single bit of animosity. The ONLY thing that will EVER throw me off, will ever worry or upset me, ever cause me to avoid or grumble about you is if you say nothing at all.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

New!: The Storm Fairy

So, well, another project. I like this one lots. New direction, which is also cool.

This one is nearly finished. It's a children's story—a chapter book—and fairytale. I like fairytales. I used to have a radio show where I read a traditional fairytale every week. I've got a little section of my library that is devoted to fairytale books…of course, I have another section of my library devoted to bathroom renovation books, so it's not like there are any real standards (that's a joke. there are standards…although I do have a bathroom reno section).

What follows is an excerpt from the story. It's really most of the first chapter—which, I guess, is just a tease, because nothing but set-up happens in the first chapter. Oh well.

It's about 860 words. The whole tale is a little over 6,000 words, which is just within the count needed for a chapter book. I could go longer, there are places I might develop some more, but I'm pretty happy with the read right now.

There's also pictures. But that's the bad news. It appears, publishers prefer manuscripts with no illustrations. They like to hire their own. I'm going to send them in regardless, separately clipped and titled as kind of a companion, but I will provide what they're looking for: just the script, typed. They can toss the illustrations in the trash if they want.

I had fun. Let's hope it wasn't just a happy little distraction from what I'm supposed to be doing. Hell, let's hope I get published again, regardless of whether it's words, pics, or words and pics.

Here's the excerpt:


Once upon a time there was a tiny village nestled in a deep green valley surrounded by towering mountains. The people who lived in the village were very happy, and very hard working. Their fields grew wheat and corn and their gardens grew all manner of vegetables. They tended sheep and fished in the nearby river. They kept their village neat and tidy, and everything they built, they built well.
Every grown-up had a job and every child, as soon as they were old enough, had chores. Some children helped plant gardens. Some children helped make chairs and tables. The grown-ups taught them what to do so when the children grew up, they could do those things just as well.
Every family in the village had their own little stone cottage with a thatched roof. Each cottage was the same size and the same shape and had the same furniture inside. They were all very well made, very sturdy and very orderly.
Any time a new house needed to be built, the villagers who were stone masons would gather the best stones and build strong walls; the carpenters would make handsome doors and windows, rugged shutters and sturdy roof beams; the cabinet makers would build wooden shelves and tables and chairs and beds; and the thatchers would bring bundles of straw and tightly weave it into a thick roof. The metalsmith would come with latches for the windows, pots to cook with in the fireplace and a cheery little metal lantern to hang by the door to be lit whenever the family was home, so neighbours would know they were welcome to visit.
With so many talented people in the village, every house was always the best house any house could be. They had to be, because sometimes wild storms blew through the village. 
In the spring there were rain storms when sheets of rain fell from the curling edges of the thatch. In the summer came loud lightning storms when thunder would shake the stone walls. 
In the fall, the wind storms blew all around the cozy cottages, plastering leaves to the doorposts. 
And in the winter, came blizzards. They were loud and wild and full of snow that would pound against the shuttered windows and leave the village buried sometimes right up to the roofs.
Whenever the storms blew down from the mountains all the villagers would run into their cottages and call their children inside.
They would close all the shutters on all their windows.
 And they always made sure to put out their cheery lanterns.
Through the long stormy nights, in every cottage, each family would pull their chairs close to the little fire in the dark and tell stories about the Storm Fairy and her wild, wild storms. 
Little Erin’s father told the best stories of all the parents in the village.
“The Storm Fairy, lives high in the mountains,” he would say.  “She makes all the storms that ever blow. If she would stay in the mountains it would be sunny in our village all the time, but she never stays where she should. 
“She comes down the valley to walk through our little town, looking for a light to tell her she’s welcome. But she brings her storms with her and so she is never welcome here. The winds she creates scatter everything we own all around, the rain soaks through everything and floods the fields.”
“Is the Storm Fairy in the village, tonight, father?” little Erin asked one spring night when the rains pelted against the shutters.
“If you listen very closely,” her father replied, “you can hear her wailing and crying in the winds.”
“Can I see her?”
“You can’t see out the shutters, dear,” her mother said. “And we must keep the shutters closed.”
“For the same reason we put out our lamps and stay inside. We can’t let the Storm Fairy know we are home, or she will want to come in.”
Her father smiled and winked at her. “Come sit with us by the fire and listen to stories, Erin.”
But Erin really wanted to see the fairy. She found a little gap in the shutters on the window by the door. It was big enough to peek through, and she could reach it if she stood on a chair.
So that is exactly what she did. She stood on her toes on a chair by the window, peeking out the crack in the shutters all through the storm.
Erin stood for a very long time, listening to the hard winds blow and the rain pour off the thatch roof, until she finally thought she heard a wailing cry in the wind. 
She looked even harder through the tiny crack and listened even more closely. She squinted her eye and turned her head one way and the other.
“I see her!” she finally announced. For there, out in the terrible storm she could see a strange young woman struggling to walk against the wind. She wore only a simple green dress. Her hair was every colour there ever was, and it whipped around her head in wild wet locks.

“She’s sad,” Erin whispered.

Well, yes, there's more. Some of it is magic. Some of it is learning how to be a good friend.
I talk more about the art side of this in my "oh, so artsy" blog thingy, here. I haven't really paid attention to anchor points thus far on this blogsite. I'll come back when I work it out and better connect the two. Luckily, I don't post lots, so it's not hard to find.

Thursday, 3 January 2013


No, really. It can get worse.

I've never been good with the daily reporting (weekly, monthly, whatever) of things in my life. Oddly, I can talk non-stop about the most inane and minute details of my day with anybody who so much as makes the simple mistake of asking how I am, but to write it out and push the ol' "Publish" button is like sawing off and handing over the very fingers I type with.

So why do I now have two blogs?

Ostensibly, it's because I have two purposes for blogging. One is to talk about writing, the other art. Heck, why don't I have three or eight? I do at least eight things well…if you include dishes. I tried, but could not see putting all the stuff about mushroom charts (even though they were quite darn spiffy) on a bog I intended for stories and writing issues.

Regardless. I now have two blogs to write; two blogs to guilt over; two means of expressing angst. At least on one of them there'll be lots of pictures.

All this is my way of introducing here: Organized Diffusion Which should consistently be about my studies as a graphic designer. We'll see.

Coming up really very shortly: The anthology that rocked the end of the world.