black, er, pink tie occasion for white shirt

Great news today – just learned that White Shirt made the shortlist for the Lambda Literary Awards in the Lesbian Poetry category:

White Shirt - Lammy finalist

“Finalists for the Lambda Literary Award were announced today by the Lambda Literary Foundation in Los Angeles.  Books from major mainstream publishers and from academic presses, from both long-established and brand new LGBT publishers, and even from emerging publish-on-demand technologies, make up the 114 finalists for the ‘Lammys.’  The finalists were selected from a record number of nominations.

“The awards, now in their 23rd year, celebrate achievement in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) writing for books published in 2010. Winners will be announced at a May 26 ceremony in New York at the School of Visual Arts Theater (333 West 23rd Street).

“Lambda set a record in 2009 for both the number of LGBT books nominated (462) and the number of publishers participating (about 200), reports Lambda Awards Administrator Richard Labonté. But that record has been surpassed this year, with more than 520 titles represented from about 230 publishers.”

The other four lesbian poetry finalists, from 17 titles submitted, are Jen Currin’s The Inquisition Yours; Money For Sunsets, by Elizabeth J. Colen; The Nights Also, by Anna Swanson; and The Sensual World Re-Emerges, by Eleanor Lerman.

Other Canadians who made the Lammys shortlist include Edmonton’s Vivek Shraya for God Loves Hair (LGBT Children’s/YA category); and Zoe Whittall, whose Holding Still For As Long As Possible is a finalist in two categories: Transgendered Fiction and Lesbian Fiction.

Read the full story here. And you can order White Shirt by clicking here.

Q the Arts … and hop on the bus, gus

portrait/self/framed

The last couple of months
have been bittersweet.
My 2010 ended with the sad, sudden death of a dear artist friend. Around the same time,
an injury to my dominant (painting+ writing) hand, followed by four weeks of a tenacious flu, forced me to endure a frustrating period
of creative dormancy — but also allowed me to stay inside and cocoon through more than a month of harsh, cold weather.
(Meh; the universe has its reasons.)

Thankfully, the paint pots
are flowing again; the pen has resumed its infernal messin’ with the integrity
of the blank page. 2011 has been very good to my inner crayon so far.
As the new year dawned, I was selected to be part of Q the Arts, Calgary’s first
queer arts & culture festival, being staged by FairyTales Presentation Society
and Swallow-A-Bicycle Theatre at the Arrata Opera Centre (March 5, 8 p.m.).
I’ll be reading about 15 minutes of poetry, including some of the queerer bits
from my 2010 book, White Shirt.
Other ‘Q’ performers include the Backyard Betties, Chantal Vitalis, Jessica McMann, Lindsay Brandon, Emanuel Ilagan, Travis McEwen, the Orton Sisters, Jamie Tognazzini/James Tea, Brianna Strong, and the electro-soul band Light Fires (a collaboration of Reginald Vermue/Gentleman Reg and James Bunton of Ohbijou).

A few days after all of that sunk in, I learned an exhibition proposal I’d submitted to the jury at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium (henceforth to be referred to as the Jube, for reasons of brevity) was accepted. Which means several of my paintings will hang in the Kaasa Gallery this summer (exact dates TBD, but my show will partly coincide with the Jube’s run of the hit broadway musical Wicked — ‘the untold story of the witches of Oz’ — which seems totally appropriate.)

POETRY IN MOTION: I have just been appointed co-ordinator for the latest round of the Edmonton Poetry Festival’s Take the Poetry Route project, which involves installing panels of poetry fragments inside Edmonton transit vehicles. As a car-less (by choice) poet who’s been bumping around in the ETS barges for more than 10 years, I’m happy to be steering this puppy. We’re throwing everything into high gear to get the first batch of verse circulating well in advance of PoFest 2011, which commences April 25.

KISSES AND KUDOS: In case you missed it, some fabulous writer and musician friends and I teamed up on Gypsy Valentine, an afternoon of steamy verse and jazz-hot/bohemian tunes, at Leva Cafe on Sunday. Mandie, Kelly, Amy, Karen, George and Lindsay deserve huge bouquets of long-stemmed roses and cinnamon hearts for keeping things on a sultry, sexy, slow burn all afternoon.
We’ve already lit the fire on a sequel (stay tuned).
And the days are getting longer.
Life is good.

ONE LAST THING: The lovely and talented Michelle Boudreau is opening for Cris Derksen at the Empress Ale House this Saturday (Feb. 19) afternoon starting at 4 p.m.  What’s not to love about that?

Frontenac/Dektet poets climbin’ the charts

Pages On Kensington’s (Calgary) Bestseller List

(May 2, 2010)

  • Original Edition Fiction and Poetry

1. Beatrice and Virgil – Yann Martel

2. Other Family – Joanna Trollope

3. Love Market – Carol Mason

4. Hypoderm – Weyman Chan

5. Children of Ararat – Keith Garebian

6. Fallacies of Motion – William Nichols

7. (Sic) – Nikki Reimer

8. Confessions of an Empty Purse – S. McDonald

9. White Shirt – Laurie MacFayden

10. Solar – Ian McEwan


when private people go public

many of you are aware that i walked away from a 30-year career in journalism last summer in order to concentrate full-time on my own writing and painting. the latest step in this ongoing creative process is the construction — finally — of lauriemacfayden.com — a website devoted to my visual art.

it’s been a weird evolution for me. ask anyone in my family and they’ll tell you i was a painfully shy girl growing up. shy, and intensely private. i used to hide in my room when company — even relatives — came to our door because i didn’t want to have to talk to anybody. school assignments that involved public speaking almost paralyzed me. piano recitals (ugh) would have me sweating buckets weeks in advance.

it took the better part of three decades, but somewhere along the line i seem to have gotten over most of that. i now feel totally comfortable reading at open-mic stages and poetry festivals, and have almost gotten used to seeing my paintings on view in public spaces (although, oddly, hanging my art up on display, in relative anonymity, has proven to be much more gut-wrenchingly stressful than reading to a room full of strangers potentially armed with insults, tomatoes or, worse, indifference).

nashcan-blog1almost a year ago i started this blog, a step i felt would help me become more comfortable with the idea of exposing my writing and arty bits to a wider audience. the catch-22 there is that the wider audience (which all artists/writers desire, right?) leaves the artist more vulnerable. by inviting more people to pay attention to your work, you are opening the door to more criticism of your work. you may believe you can handle it, only to discover that criticism can be unwelcome, unpleasant, unfair, scary, destructive, demoralizing, and all of the above. obviously the more public you go, the thicker your skin needs to be. that’s a given; otherwise your tender artist’s psyche may collapse under the strain … forcing you to retreat back to the comfort of anonymity (not to mention poverty. thank you, stephen harper.)

i wasn’t sure whether i would stay with the blog after the honeymoon euphoria of the first few posts wore off. but i started getting a few regular readers, a few comments … and now i have had more than 5300 views on this little spatherdab entity. i realize that’s not a lot — there are celebrity bloggers out there who get thousands of hits per day. but for me, a little goes a long way. it is very satisfying to receive a comment from someone i don’t know and will probably never meet, from, say, texas or glasgow, telling me they love a poem they found on my blog, or that they really like a certain painting i’ve shown online. but it can also be disconcerting to get e-responses from people claiming to be fans of poetry who have clearly missed the point and really just want to argue with you; or overly enthusiastic strangers wanting to get a little too chummy; or unsavory entrepreneurs whose ulterior motive is to link your page to their international house of spam.

vulnerability factor aside, i think i’m going to enjoy having my very own dotcom page (thank you very much to the fine folks at MG creative).
do check it out if you have time. feedback is always welcome.
as long as you aren’t trying to sell me auto insurance.

red, white and blue all over

i’m back in e-town after a week in nashville.
i love to travel, so generally any road trip is a good trip … but i’m still trying to sort out my conflicting gut impressions of music city.

some of the high notes:

  • getting to hear john irving (the world according to garp, hotel new hampshire, cider house rules, a prayer for owen meany, etc.) deliver a free lecture to an almost-packed house at the ryman auditorium. irving spoke at length about the state of publishing in america, and the importance of libraries (“there you can still find the classics; most of the books in a bookstore today are crap”).
    he talked about censorship and book-banning in the u.s.a. (“americans love to ban things. there’s no law that says you have to read a book before you can ban it.”) and how that spills over into issues like same-sex marriage and abortion rights: “the instinct to suppress is always there. suppression is very american: if you don’t like something, don’t let ANYONE have it. my own attitude is, if you don’t like abortion, don’t have one. and why should it matter to straight couples if gay couples get married? how insecure can they be? all over the world, i am asked: ‘what is the problem you americans have with gays, with abortion, with sex, with drinking?’ ah, yes, drinking. remember how well prohibition worked.”
    his advice to young aspiring writers: “read every book you can get your hands on, see every play that you can. if you’re fortunate enough to become a (successful) writer, there’ll come a time when you’ll want to write more than you read. and then you won’t read anymore. the time to read everything … is when you’re young. being a widely-read person is the only defence there is from crap, from the junk. you’ve just gotta read as much as you can. read, read, read.”
  • the frist, the rymer gallery, cheekwood museum: there’s a whole lot more to tennessee than country music, jack daniel’s, football and barbecue. there’s a thriving arts scene, for example. but it can be hard to find when the titans are 9-0, and the CMA awards are coming to you live from 5th and broadway, and elvis paraphernalia assaults you from every souvenir shop window.
  • the honky tonks: thumbs up to the concept of rotating bands at live music venues all through the day and long into the night. no cover? even better. nothing but budweiser and pabst on tap? pity.
  • the country music hall of fame/museum: awesome! as you’ve probably guessed, i’m not a huge country fan but it was hard not to be dazzled by this outstanding multi-layered attraction which includes an amazing array of musical instruments, rhinestone jackets, satin shirts, belts, and of course cowboy hats and boots. elvis’s gold piano and cadillac, webb pierce’s “silver dollar” car, and johnny cash’s black shirts are just a few of the gems preserved in Sing Me Back Home, the museum’s permanent exhibit which includes artifacts, photographs, original recordings, archival video, and interactive displays that glorify the history and sounds of country music. . . (did you know there was a song called “dern ya” recorded in feminist response to roger miller’s hit “dang me”?). there are walls and walls of gold & platinum records (anne murray’s on there at least twice), bill monroe’s gibson F5 (“the most famous mandolin in American music history”), and a gift shop that stocks thousands of CD titles, not to mention googoo clusters — a confection item involving chocolate, peanuts and marshmallow that’s apparently been an american tradition since 1912 and is manufactured right there in nashville.
  • the grand ole opry: yes, indeedy, i attended the opry at the ryman. saw vince gill and randy owen and mel tillis (pam’s dad) and diamond rio and marty stuart, and a parade of geezers from the glory days of the ’50s and’ 60s. i had fun … still, couldn’t help but notice that there wasn’t a single person of colour in the entire audience. (the ryman is located two blocks from a boulevard named in honour of rosa l. parks. if you’re missing the connecting thread … google rosa parks.)walkhank1

    … and some sour notes:

  • kevin costner and modern west. kevin, give it up. you are not a singer. you are barely an actor. put an end to this charade right now and let us remember you for bull durham and dances with wolves … not for your feeble attempts at becoming a country crooner.
  • the veterans day parade. in canada, regardless of how you feel about war, november 11 tends to be a day of solemn remembrance, of showing respect for victims of war; a day for honouring those who gave their lives in battle. it’s two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month. for many it’s a day of sadness; of sombre reflection and gratitude.nashclown1
    in the states, if nashville is any indication, november 11 is a day to flex your military muscle by rolling your tanks and jeeps down main street while marching bands play peppy tunes, shriners in garish fake arab costumes (oh, the irony) ride around in ridiculous little miniature cars, and soldiers atop armored tanks spin their turrets at clowns mugging for cheap laughs. (excuse me, i seem to have forgotten… somebody please remind me again what’s funny about war?)
    perhaps most pathetic was the sight of white-haired veterans in their 80s and 90s crowded onto wagons and flatbeds pulled by tractors, smiling and waving feebly at people on the sidewalks. these were clearly soldiers from wars prior to vietnam and desert storm, before iraq and afghanistan. knowing how the current administration treats, er, ignores the broken veterans of its more recent military actions … well, let’s just say it was harder to stomach than the googoo clusters.

the joy of not working

i’m quickly coming up on the one-year anniversary of quitting my job in order to write and paint full-time.
as expected, the bank account is not being fed nearly as frequently, but the soul is thriving.

crow and skya few years ago, inspired
by ernie zelinski, the edmonton-based
author of the joy of not working, i composed a list of things i wanted to do — some realistic, some pure whimsy — if and when i had, er, made the time. here are some of the things from that list:

learn the banjo
write letters to the editor
sleep
meditate
read books / poems / magazines
listen to alternative / public radio
listen to my own music

drum
go to the movies
wander whyte avenue

dance / alone or take lessons
redecorate the house (streamline / simplify)
cull wardrobe
organize photo albums / negatives
write a song

have a garage sale
sing / alone or with others
star gaze / stare at the moon
study zen buddhism
start a writing group
throw a theme dinner party
ride the LRT from end to end
fight pollution
climb a tree
swing on a swing
keep a dream journal
try a new restaurant
recreate a favourite restaurant meal at home

attend live theatre / concerts
go on a retreat (writing / nature / spa)
enter writing contests
send out writing to publishing houses
write a book

make lists (!):

  • the soundtrack of my life
  • songs i want played at my funeral
  • the successes in my life

go birdwatching / hiking
paint
take pictures / make photo cards

swim / cycle
do nothing
have fun

i’m surprised that travel wasn’t on that list, because it’s one of my favourite things. and i’ve definitely done a lot of that since hanging up the cleats. but this particular list was created in 2003. fast-forward five years and … despite having much more time on my paint-spattered hands, many of the things on that quirky wish list remain undone.

i haven’t taken up the banjo — yet — but i have arranged to learn bass guitar from a former beatnik who happens to be the illegitimate son of monk montgomery’s barber.

i’ve written a few letters to the editor, but none of them has appeared in print.
(too scathing? too left wing? too cryptic? can’t handle the truth? cowards!)
i’ve meditated — but not more than twice. which hasn’t gotten me very far.
i’ve been to the movies and wandered whyte avenue.
those ones are easy.
culling the wardrobe, on the other hand, is a constant challenge — even though i can now stay in my pyjamas all day if i choose. three decades’ worth of photo albums & negs are still in disarray. i haven’t exactly written a song, but i wrote one in a dream, does that count? (sadly, all that i can remember is the title … all the more reason to start keeping a dream journal.)

i did have a garage sale … and would prefer to never have one again. they’re bad for the soul. and the feet. and i rode the LRT to both ends of the line one day … man, is e-town’s north-east end spectacularly brutal in its sprawling ugliness.

i’ve tried several new restaurants, and did manage to create a pretty good version of matahari’s mee goreng in my own kitchen. my improv veggie version just keeps getting better, actually, whereas matahari took theirs off the menu. um, maybe they heard how good mine is and surrendered?

achilles tendon problems have prevented me from playing any tennis in the past two years. but the feet are healing, slowly, slowly. (and who knew so much depends on the glorious & notoriously unsung big toe?)
i’ve retreated to the banff centre three times in the past four years, and visited a vancouver spa for massage and a tiny bit of pampering.
haven’t written a book — well, i guess i actually have, the manuscript just hasn’t been published yet. it’s sitting in a tight sweater somewhere on the corner of jasper and 105th, waiting to be discovered.

nola\'s famous muffelata sandwich, veggie versioni’ve watched lots of birds — particularly love to gawk at west-coast eagles and the herons that nest on the fringes of stanley park. i have wandered the beaches near tofino. i sipped the local cider near erdeven on the north-east coast of france, and roamed the gower in south wales. i washed down a veggie muffelata with an abita beer on a humid sunday in new orleans, after being wowed by the tragically hip
at the house of blues the night before.

in the past year of working without a net I’ve sold a few more paintings, and will have two pieces on display in visual arts alberta’s annual diversity exhibit in conjunction with the works art & design festival. (june 19 through july 19, 2008, site # 21, harcourt house, 3rd floor, 10215 – 112 street, edmonton; opening reception thursday, june 19,
6 to 10 p.m.)

i also took a sculpture workshop. i made it to the regional finals of the annual cbc poetry faceoff competition. i helped some very good friends celebrate milestone birthdays and they helped me with one of my own. i kicked up my heels at a wedding or two, and actually saw mingus tourette do the bird dance. (having posted that, i may now have to enter a witness protection program.) in the last few months i’ve thought a lot about mortality as i watched two friends bury their mothers, and witnessed another friend’s amazing journey back — literally — from the brink of death.

i’ve accommodated several sets of house guests, ranging in age from 16 to 70.
i read: novels, poetry, some non-fiction. and i discovered there actually is a book called “the complete idiot’s guide to nascar.” (insert your own redundancy joke here.)

i slept. in fact, i have gained a whole new appreciation for sleep. when i was five i hated having to sleep. it’s taken me decades to realize that sleep is quite a lovely thing, especially if you can master the art of doing it well, and for seven or more hours at a time. (such restorative power. such bliss.)

bonus round:
on sunday night, i got goosebumps hearing k.d. lang sing hallelujah live at the jubilee auditorium.
on monday night, i was privileged to hear gloria sawai read one of her wonderful short stories to an intimate gathering at the faculty club.

life is good. i’m having fun.

hallelujah?

hell, yeah.

when 2 poets collide

for M & K, whose collision is still sparking up the cosmos
sept. 8, 2007

when two poets collide
turbulent skies rejoice
stars sweeten up the cracked hallelujahs
cackling black crows kick up their heels.

when two poets collide
there is chiming up the violets
there is singing down the rain
there is trilling, drumming, chirping, thrumming
there is clanging of pot, slapping of feet,
prattling of ham
there is a clutch, a plethora,
an insignia of iambic pentameter
there are rips and fits and stits and pits and ritz!

there is word / there is beat
there is sonnet / there is heat
when two poets collide
leaping greenly ghazals pull red wagons
through fitful sleep

deep breathy verbs punctuate the blood
a cauldron of metaphor burbles next to the bed.

there is upper-case wool
there is lower-case lingerie
there is subtext in the soup pot
irony in the ink pot, wild ripping beauty in the coffee pot
pathetic fallacy in the chamber pot

there is grammatically incorrect kissing

a hint of patchouli tenderly tenderly
graces the ripe hot doggery of the haiku
when two poets collide