Just when I thought the chance for any attention around my book was over and done with, there was this lovely post written by Kerry Clare on her esteemed blog, Pickle Me This. So that was a lovely way to end 2018.
The week after I launched The Flower Can Always Be Changing, it made it onto the Audreys Books bestseller list. Number one for non fiction. Extra gratifying was that Rumi and the Red Handbag made it to number four, and Asking made it to number ten, on the fiction list. Which goes to show one should always pleasantly ask the bookstore where your launch is happening to order in some of your backlist.
In other news, The Flower Can Always Be Changing made it onto a list by Kerry Clare on 49th Shelf, titled, "11 Life Stories To Read This Spring.” I loved this because I’ve been thinking a lot about genre in relation to this book of mine. In fact the epigraph to the book is by Clarice Lispector where she says, “Genre no longer interests me. What interests me is mystery.”
While I’m calling the contents of the book “brief essays” I think they fit into some trickier space. I’m not alone in exploring this space, and at some point I’ll write about it more at length. But for now, the idea of my book being categorized as “life stories” is pleasing to me.
People have been instagramming my book amid flowers and on desks. This is also very pleasing and lovely.
And there have been more, too! I’m so grateful to everyone for being part of the excitement of my new small book.
It's been almost a year since Rumi and the Red Handbag came out and it's had its day in the sun, in all sorts of lovely ways. You can scroll through the highlights on the page here for the mentions and reviews.
Though I've nothing much else planned for the book, one never knows what might crop up. But for now, I feel I can put my reading copy away on the shelf and concentrate on other projects, other writings.
I thought I'd just say a few last words about the book, partly because this past week I came across something that I had read and which had lodged in my brain when I was writing the book, and which became one of Ingrid-Simone's mannerisms, or habits. It's from a conversation with the marvellous poet Li-Young Lee. He says, "the whole universe is humming, is vibrating. It's that hum that I want to hear. That's the subject of my poems." He goes on: "Humming supports the chair; humming supports mountains; humming supports this body. To be a poet is to reveal the hum, which is 'logos.' It's pure mantra, that's what it is."
It's interesting to go back to a book you've written years ago and try to remember what you were reading and thinking during that time. Some of it comes out directly in the book, and is referred to right there in the text. But other stuff is below the surface. When I was writing RRH I was reading about the grail (via Joseph Campbell) and I was thinking and reading about quests, spurred on by a memory of an untraceable quotation that I picked up somewhere in my time at university as an undergrad. Some male literary critic said, "men quest, women run errands." And I began to wonder about women's quests. You likely know the story of the grail quest, which in its many permutations goes something like: the hero on his quest to find the grail comes to a castle and inside the castle is a silent, wounded king. The hero doesn't know what to say, what to ask, he misses his chance, and therefore misses out on the grail.
So what happens if (in another loose rendition of the story) we have instead of a grail, a handbag. Instead of a castle, a secondhand store? Instead of a wounded king, we have a wounded young woman. etc. As I said, it's all very loose.
I was also reading Simone Weil, who talks about the grail quest in Waiting for God. I quote from the book on page 53 - the question we could ask someone who is suffering: What are you going through? For me, that question is the centre of the book.
I wanted Ingrid-Simone to be pure mantra. I wanted the reader to realize the whole universe is humming, including that small, odd person who checks through your groceries, or is walking alone downtown late at night, or working at a secondhand clothing store, and know that her hum is also your hum. And it's the same hum that holds up mountains and chairs.
That's what I was trying for anyway.
First up is an author panel hosted by Marty Chan on Tuesday, August 2nd at the Strathcona Branch of Edmonton Public Library at 7pm. Please see EPL's website for more information.
The library is also hosting book clubs for all of the Alberta Readers Choice finalists. I've been invited to facilitate the pop-up book club on Thursday, August 25th, at Steeps Tea Lounge. To learn more, visit EPL's site.
Lastly, I'm going to end with a bit of a brag. Wayne Arthurson, EPL's writer in residence for 2016, has included Rumi and the Red Handbag on a list titled, "Top Picks with Edmonton Settings." Having your book called 'a small and wonderful work of art' is a really lovely thing. Also, the book continues to have oodles of holds on it! Cool, yes? One doesn't become a millionaire with such a book as mine, but these are the moments that make sense of the writing life for me, and I'm grateful for them.
Voting for the Alberta Readers' Choice Award opened yesterday and goes all this summer. If you've read Rumi and the Red Handbag and enjoyed it, I'd really appreciate a vote. Only a day in and already a pretty huge underdog, as predicted. That said, this is an amazing list to be on, and I'm so pleased to be part of this fun award. Anyone from anywhere can cast a vote! Thanks for your click.
Rumi and the Red Handbag has made the list of finalists for the Alberta Readers' Choice Award. Voting begins on July 4.
It's amazing company to be in. Couldn't be happier to see this odd little book of mine on the list.
And would you just look at who made the long list for ARCA 2016? How lovely is that? I'm in some pretty amazing company. Read more about the award and how it works here.
As my writing friends and I have often discussed, just having a book published is like winning a prize. So anything after that is just gravy.