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timeliness

March 3, 2018

i saw kim’s tweet the other day and i was like OH YUP DIS ME. i. keep telling people lately that book edits feel like i’m with an imaginary friend. like, people will ask me to go out or share my time with them or do some sort of emotional labour, and basically my answer is “sorry i can’t i have to spend time with this imaginary friend [aka edit this book that isn’t a tangible thing yet and is still in the weird, amorphous stages of being between states.]”

i know people who can write a book in a year. it’s entirely possible to do this, which is heartening. people also do nanowrimo (*shivers*) and ostensibly pound out a book in a month. is the book good because you got to focus only on it for a month and pour all your creative energies into just this one thing? or is the book bad because it was slapped together in a month and there wasn’t any time or space to sit and reflect on it? i don’t have an answer to that question, but it’s a pertinent one.

i know i’ve talked about my publishing timeline, and why it takes so long for a book to come out, from querying an agent to seeing it on the shelves, but seeing this tweet from kim reminded me that i haven’t talked about my writing timeline. in truth, by the time this book is published, in 2019, i’ll have been writing this for nine years.

i went up north to fish at the lodge in 2009 and didn’t make any notes or write anything about that experience, really. i came back to work at the lodge the next year, in 2010, and brought my computer up to “make notes,” but really i was too exhausted to do so because we were just working so much. after the summer was over, i wrote some (admittedly pretty bad) poems about the experience, because early poems are always kind of crappy. still, i worked at it, and workshopped those poems in my creative writing poetry class, and three of them – the pin bones (hart house review); cabin 4, kesagami lodge (event magazine); and naiads (room magazine) – were all decent enough to be published between 2011-12. barrow, another poem, came later in 2013 (cutthroat magazine). the strike was written around 2013, but it took till 2017 to get published (inscape literary magazine).

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here’s one of the first notes i made for what is now, officially, The Lodge. the weirdest part is that this bit is now at the end of the book, but it was one of my prelim pieces. also, yes, the sentence just cuts out in my original notes too.

i started writing notes for non-fiction, a genre i had never written before and never took classes for in school, around 2012. that’s when i realized that i might have had something on my hands, because right away, maisonneuve published the boat pull with very little substantive editing. the shipping platform (malahat review) came a year later. the girls on shit duty (hazlitt) was a hit in 2015, and that’s what i won my national magazine award for (silver). timberwolf was written long ago, probably mainly in 2013, but didn’t find a home until 2016, in prairie fire magazine. (note that not all of these pieces are in the final form that they will take in the book – in fact, some of them like the boat pull and timber wolf have changed radically, been stretched out and woven into other chapters, but at the time, i was thinking about the book in terms of chunks, instead of one big interwoven piece. in fact, i wasn’t even sure i had a book at all. in 2013, i got an ontario writer’s works in progress grant for 40 pages of the non-fic stuff i was writing about the lodge, but i was still like “ennnnnhhh not sure, what if this is all some big joke and i’m secretly writing garbage?”)

this isn’t to toot my own horn (not like “look at the pub credits i got!”) but it’s more like.. yeah, i’ve been thinking about this one big project in different forms (poetry and nonfic) for eight years so far, and by the time it’s published etc., i reckon it’ll be 10 years. that’s a third of my life, on this book (which i love, but that’s a lot of time!). so yes, when you get exasperated with me because i’m “obsessing” over this, or you think i’m dedicating too much of my time to editing and meeting deadlines, it’s because a few extra weeks of writing my brains out really is a drop in the bucket compared with the amount of time i’ve already spent on this.

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