Sunday, May 30, 2010

road trip

Every now and then I think I should take a workshop. Sometimes this is a good idea, and sometimes it's not. And sometimes, it's a mixed result. This weekend has been a mixed result.

I hit the road on Friday morning, for Salmon Arm, to take part in the International Writers Festival there. (This is a somewhat grandiose title, as I don't think there were any internationals in attendance, but then, the organizers are thinking ahead.) Sometimes you need a road trip, and it's good to have a destination, and this seemed a good one. I was drawn to Salmon Arm because I had lived there, briefly, before memory. My first birthday would have been celebrated there. No one is left from that group; father, mother, older brother, gone. (I have a younger brother, as well as a step- and a half-sister, not to mention children, so don't feel too sorry for me.) I obviously don't remember living there, but I have pictures that prove it, and remember where the house was, vaguely, because my Dad pointed it out once, on a camping trip. It was more a cabin in the woods, and there may be a Macdonald's where it used to sit, but there's no one left to ask. Anyway, after this weekend I feel less drawn to Salmon Arm. Been there, kind of thing.

The festival was the same idea as the Surrey Writers Conference, if you know about that, but in miniature: designed for newbies. I sort of figured that, but was lulled a bit by the status of a couple of the names. I hoped to pick up some useful information, even though I've kind of graduated from this level of workshop. Encouragement. Or a reminder that what I should be doing, rather than sitting around listening to people talk, is get to the writing. That's what I got. Maybe the best thing I heard was from Brian Brett, who gave the 'keynote' speech. He talked about how writing and publishing are two different things. I wrestle with this identification as writer, because I don't have books published, and in fact I don't even have much writing finished. But I write, and I think about writing. All the time. And I read. Both: write, read. Ergo, writer.

Publishing is a different issue, and getting murkier all the time. I mean, really, this is a form of publishing. Any less valid because I set it up myself? Probably, in most of our heads, but maybe occasionally I'm brilliant, and this way I get to share it. I like to think so (that I'm brilliant). Anyway, all these workshops about getting published are getting ahead of myself, because the writing needs to be done first. I think that may be true for a lot of the attendees, but what do I know?

In a fit of that feeling of brilliance, I signed up for a Blue Pencil session, which is where you show something you've written to someone else, who doesn't know you, so they can give you some feedback. I picked a writer/poet I admire, and showed him some poems. This is akin to stripping off your clothes in front of someone you like, before he (or she) has said he's interested. It turned out well, though some flabbiness in my writing was apparent. But I was encouraged that, with some work, there is something there. My blue penciler was late, as he was knocking back some wine with another alpha male, if I'm not mistaken, and so my session was a bit short. It happens. Bad form (a bit of flabbiness in his behaviour) even if you do find yourself in a little town far from the metropolis. I was feeling it myself.

But I know what to do, and really, I already knew it. Write, rewrite, and keep working on these poems, and all the other stuff too, because it needs to be written. I need to write it. I get good enough, maybe I'll get 'published', ie chosen by a publisher, and then maybe my blue penciler'll invite me along for the booze, next time. And maybe I'll decline. Meow.

It's a very beautiful place, Salmon Arm, but unfortunately this weekend was also all about clouds and rain. I get enough of that at home, and finally this morning, after some bad coffee and pastries for breakfast (bleah) I lost interest in listening to someone talk and talk about things I either know or could google. So I checked out early and started home. I had intended to stay an extra day in Salmon Arm, to do some writing, away from the distractions of home. But the clouds were pulling my mood down, so I hopped in the car instead. My car has a way of following different roads, so I took longer to get to Merritt than I might have. I find I have aging joints which object to sitting in one position for hours at a time. I don't think I would have been able to get out of the car, had I continued home today. But, the sun is shining here, and I can hear birds. I can hear traffic too, but I'm off the highway, I have a bit of a view, and the air is warm. I'll finish my trip home tomorrow. But tonight, I'm going to pull out those poems, and have another look.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

curious days

Yesterday and today I turned myself inside out to accommodate possible buyers, and then they made an 'offer' that was oddly insulting. The offer was missing pages, it had many significant errors (my address was wrong) it told me my place was crap and I better run fast now, and take this offer which was extremely low, because we're aiming for a crash and it won't be worth anything soon. It was pretty unfunny at first but then my realtor and I cracked up, it was so ridiculous. Imagine trying to bully someone into selling to you, by telling you the place you are selling is junk, although they didn't put in subject to an inspection. Huh? They were trying to panic me, but I happen to think my place is very fine. I'm not selling it because it's a bad place. I'm selling it because I want to make a change in my life. But there's no urgency. So I said no.

I didn't counter, because it was nonsense. They asked both too much and too little.

Anyway, it reminded me, in it's curiouser and curiouser way, of an open house my partner and I went to in Victoria last weekend. We were just poking around, snooping at opens, and then found ourselves in Esquimalt following the signs to a house we hadn't planned on seeing. Turns out it was a for-sale-by-owner. There were hammers banging as a couple of guys worked to rebuild the basement stairs (though it looked more like they were dismantling it) and the grinding sound of a power saw intermittently blasting our eardrums. She was cooking up a storm in the kitchen, and it didn't smell particularly appetizing. There were people all over the house, no lights on. Some rooms empty, some furnished. The basement was a rabbit warren of rooms, not particularly inviting, and all of this alone would have been enough to send me running away from this seller, the way I ran from today's buyer.

But then the most peculiar thing. She knocked on a door in the basement, said the tenant was in, opened the door a crack, and said "here's his room." It was a shambles, and dark, and I stuck my head in. Around the corner was a mattress on the floor, and there lay the tenant, tucked into bed with a young woman nestled into his arms. He looked quite pleased with the state of affairs. Alas, my partner didn't see, and somehow I didn't feel I could say, "hey, have a look at this." As we stepped away, the owner said, "he's in love." And I said "yeah, I can see that."

We aren't ready to make an offer and anyway, she was asking too much for too little. It was such a shame, really. The house could be lovely, without the slapdash reno.

clarity, maybe

I like to think that I'm a pretty good writer, but sometimes what I write turns out to be something different from what I think I'm writing.

So what am I talking about now? This:

There is the possibility, just maybe, perhaps, that someone just might make an offer on my place. Before making the offer they needed me to clear it with my strata council, that should they buy (if they offer me enough and there are no other objections) they would be able to rent out the place for a year or so, until they are able to move in. So I asked. Unfortunately, I had previously asked whether it would be okay if I were to rent back, should that be an option, and that clouded the responses to this question, as to whether someone could rent to a...stranger.

So, turns out everybody likes me fine, and I can stay if I want, but no one directly answered my question about renting to ...strangers... because, really, I'm not going to commit to staying here forever, to save them from the riffraff of tenants (mostly thinking about whether I might need a month or so to find my next place).

In all the flurry of emails I got some clarification. One voice said, "well, the bylaws," and then I thought, hmmm, right, when all else fails, read the manual. So I dug out the by-laws, which are clear enough. I could have saved myself a lot of email traffic if I'd just done my homework. I know, I know, it's like reading the manual for your new phone but sometimes sitting down and reading the by-laws (or the manual) can be quite edifying. Unfortunately it's much easier to have an opinion if you don't check first.

But I had a second question--Are we at maximum rentals?--which you'd think would be easy to answer too, but no, even that question turned out to be greyish. When I suggested we might not be at maximum (we allow two) I got one vehement statement that we were at max, case closed. However, while one unit is definitely rented, another only sometimes rents out her place when she's away, and she's away now; is it rented? No. ("It's empty, does that still count as a rental?" asked one. In fairness I think she was joking.) And another unit has the children of the owners living in it, and it was hazy whether they were renting, but, no, they're not, and anyway, family is not tenantry. So my maybe buyers are free to put together a proposal. Fingers crossed they will.

People very much read with their emotions. I should know that, but this just illustrated it again. I've now emailed everyone the clause from the by-laws, which everyone should have, but might not know where it is

And here's why I blame myself in this one, for muddying the water with my unclear writing. I think that even though I thought my questions were clear, what I really wanted to know and didn't ask, was, would these people who are my neighbours (for now) still think I was a nice person if I sold my place to someone who then turned around and rented it out. (Will you still like me if I actually accept an offer that is good for me [and legal!] but might be inconvenient for you?)

I mean, what a person I'm turning out to be. I am just waiting for people to put their doormats on me. But it's fine, as long as they think I'm nice. (And they do!) Very female of me, probably.

It's all still hypothetical too. I am hopeful, but no one has showed up with an offer yet.