Sunday, December 16, 2012

12-21-12: The End is Nigh

First, let's just get this out of the way: I don't believe the world will end on December 21. I don't know what the Mayans supposedly predicted or why. Furthermore, I don't really care. Believing in the end of the world is a lot like believing in God, or unicorns, or the infallibility of the pope, or that Jesus raised the dead, that the NHL strike will end by Christmas, or that a friend of mine is sleeping with her best friend's husband. Perhaps, in good time, I will know the answer to all these burning issues.

But right now--and this might shock you--I freely admit that I JUST DON'T KNOW!

There, I said it.

Now, I'm not so arrogant as to think we're indestructible. And by "we" I mean you. I might well be indestructible. I just don't know. See the quandary I'm in?

You, however, I'm willing to leave dangling for experimental purposes. Since your indestructibility has not been proven to me--and yet, I admit, since you're still alive, neither has your destructibility (ten points for Gryffindor!)--I am going to assume, for the sake of rhetoric, that you are expendable and soluble.

But here's my point: The world might not end on Dec. 21, 2012. Or it might. You don't get to choose.

You can choose which to believe, or not to believe, or what have you. But you don't actually get to decide what happens on that day.

I think the world as we know it will end some day. I don't know if the earth is indestructible. It might be, but I doubt it. There's always some bigger planet with which it might collide, or some asteroid that might bump into us in a few billion years or less and send us careening off our axis, flinging us into the sun and screaming for our lives.

Most likely, the earth will remain intact. We, on the other hand (by which I mean you), might well be shrugged off the planet's back like nothing but the ticks and lice we so often resemble in our behaviour.

Odd thing is, despite the sarcastic tone of this post thus far, I mean it in exactly the opposite way. I would give my life for this planet because, let's face it, without this planet I am nothing.

Meanwhile, we are here now and surely that counts for something.

A friend of mine said the other day that her child came home from school asking if he had to go to school on the day of the supposed apocalypse because, really, if the world ended, he didn't want to spend it in school.

What a wise lad.

My response was that we should all take that day off, use it as a day to celebrate life and the miracle that is our existence on this planet. Far better than spending the day in mourning, no matter how it turns out.

December 21 (or Dec. 20, whichever) should be an unofficial holiday. I mean, what's the worst that can happen? You wake up that morning, you throw caution to the chilly breeze and say, "I'm not going to work/school/basket weaving/license plate making or pottery class today. I'm spending the next 24 hours doing everything I want to do--not stuff I have to do." So maybe you call a few people and tell them you love them. It could even be people you know.

Personally, I wouldn't do that. I hate telephones. I might email a few people I've been meaning to respond to for a while now--but only if I seriously care about whether they hear from me. I mean, I'm not going to waste my time talking to people who don't mean that much to me. I'd have to check my Facebook page, though, and maybe scan Twitter for Cecil Haire's Road Report (if there were zombies on the highway, Cecil would be the first to know because he's always in Long Harbour before breakfast and on his way back into town by the time the sun comes up).

The thing is to act like it was your last day on earth. You could get drunk. But I don't see the point in that unless it's getting drunk/stoned with friends with whom you love spending time with, maybe singing some songs like "The Night Pat Murphy Died" or "Molly Bawn." I'm not sure what people sing when all they listen to is rap. I guess you could spend the last few minutes of your life trying to remember the words to "Love in this Club, Part II" or "Nothin' But a 'G' Thing." Not that there's anything wrong with that. I'm sure there are more appropriate tunes, but I don't know any.

If it was my last day on earth, I would probably want to spend two solid hours sitting at the seashore, feeling the wind on my face. Or perhaps just an hour there and another hour in the woods. Really, just feeling. I mean, that's always been the thing with me. Whatever I do, I try to feel it. Sometimes I manage; sometimes I don't. Nothing worse than doing something when your heart's not in it.

I'd go home then and spend an hour reading a few poems from my favourite poets. Maybe something from Dylan Thomas or Walt Whitman, and definitely some Yeats, maybe a chapter from a favourite novel. Not even sure what that would be. But it would have to be something appropriate, maybe from Alas, Babylon or The Road. Or maybe something from the first novel I ever read, Little Women, for the sake of nostalgia. I wouldn't read from Revelations at that point, though, because that would just piss me off.

Mind you, I'd probably be drinking the occasional bit too--but not so much that I couldn't feel. That would be stupid. I've often said that if the end of the world were to come, I'd want to be here to see it because, I mean, if it's only going to happen once, why would I want to miss that? Sure, it would be horrible. The carnage would be unimaginable. The stock markets would plummet. The "Hot Topics" on The View would be too emotional to take. CNN would be just rolling clips of people running around the Wal-mart with shopping carts full of water, batteries and hygiene products, with a wild look in their eyes like we were getting a major snowstorm or it was Black Friday. I'm not sure my heart could take it really. But I'm no coward. Well, not when it comes to apocalypses. Apocalypsi. Whichever. But every time we have one, I plan to be there. It's a testament to my masculinity, a test of courage.

Seriously, though, I'm not planning for the end of the world. I mean, what kind of stupid arse does that? If it comes, it comes and there's nothing you can do about it. You just kind of go with it. If the end of days comes, I don't think I'd be too content with a few jugs of water, a cupboard full of potato chips, and a shotgun. If that's what you've got standing between you and the cannibalistic hordes beating on your door, I'd say your pretty much done for anyways. Might as well do all your living right now.

Oh, back to the list of things. Okay, so there's the time on the beach and in the woods. Check. Good reading. Check. Some good beer. But no drugs because they dull the senses.

I'd actually like to have lunch with all the people I like in the world. But that's not likely because they don't necessarily all like me enough to spend even a part of their last day on earth with me. I get it. No biggie. Maybe I should've answered that last email. But I'd have a small gathering in my home, a few songs, as I said, tell them all how lucky they are to have me in their lives. No, wait, I mean, tell them how lucky I am to be in their lives, how I wish we could spend the rest of our lives together.

Then wait for the eerie silence, followed by nervous laughter and a sense of relief before the music breaks out (assuming the eerie silence wasn't followed by a loud bang, or someone breathing heavy and having sex in another room. That would just be awkward).

As evening comes on, I want my wife and I to say goodbye to our guests and shut the door on the world.

Fade to black. You don't need to know what we do after we shut the door.

Okay, then, fade to light and colour again. We'd sit together and talk. Maybe light a few candles. Hold hands. Reminisce. Talk about how good it was to see everyone that day, even the one who kept bawling into his beer and making inappropriate comments to the women, telling them all how much he wished he'd slept with each of them ('cause that would totally happen). We'd try not to mention how, even at pre-apocalypse gatherings, family can drive you nuts sometimes. And secretly you wish for an apocalypse so you don't have to do it all over again over Christmas.But mostly, my wife and I would just watch each other's faces in the glow of the candle light, bask in the shadows and say "I love you" a few times, then wait for the evening to end.

Then I'd put "Love You Till the End" by the Pogues on repeat on my iPod, just loud enough to hear it, then fade off to sleep.

That would be a good day.

I think I'll do that, or something akin to it.

Peace and love, everybody.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Kicking and screaming at the darkness

Forgive me while I rant and roar.

We're all sick of the shooting, the killing, the cruelty.

I don't know why some people feel the need to kill other people. Sitting in a mall food court. Going to a summer movie. Starting a kindergarten class for the day.

Even writing that last one makes me want to give in to the urge to curse and cry and hit and scream that there are some people who should not be allowed to live with the rest of us.

I feel no forgiveness for these people who do these things. They are monsters. I don't care how "sick" they are, if they're off their meds, if someone bullied someone, if someone's mother is a bad parent. I don't know the situation, don't know the reasons and don't really want to know.

I've seen it said on Facebook in the last few hours that people should not leap to conclusions. That we should seek answers instead of shouting at the devil.

Fine. Let's seek answers. But if someone is insane, I feel sympathy for them only up until they start shooting people. Then I hate them. Show me the switch and I'll pull it. If you kill a child who has done nothing to deserve such abominable treatment, you deserve to have horrible things happen to you.

Nonsense being spewed about how so many people die of starvation or get killed in far-off wars, or executed or persecuted at the callused hands of despotism. Hundreds and thousands, every day. And yet we don't care about them? So why should we care about these twenty children and six adults? I don't care about the shooter. He can rot in a hell of his own creation. I'm done with him.

It's a cynical age, and it's circular rationalizing like this that confuses and hardens us more and more. Don't try to deprive anyone of their right to mourn, to feel something. We live in times when it's almost a miracle to get people to care about anyone else at all, so when something so tragic happens, there's always someone saying, "Yeah, well, you didn't cry over the ones who died doing such-and-such last week, did you? So what gives you the right to cry now?"

Fair enough logic. But logic has nothing to do with it. It's not hypocritical to feel and to express that feeling. It's human and natural. We are not just thinking beings. We also have feelings.

I would like to feel something for people in faroff lands. And I actually do. But they don't touch me quite the same. See, now I'm being forced to qualify and quantify my varying levels of mourning and emotions. I won't do it. I'm not saying it all on Facebook. In fact, I turned my profile photo black today because I lacked the words to express the level of frustration and anger I feel. See, it's not just grief. It's not just that I feel bad for those kids, their parents and grandparents and other family members. I feel angry.

I always feel betrayed when one of our own species gives in to the darkness, feeds the darkness and becomes one with it.

There is good in the world. Much, much good in the world that often borders on greatness.

I spent the morning downtown today, talking to people who were enjoying the sunshine, glad to be in somewhere out of the cold, chattering happily to one another and smiling. What a great, shining moment it was, and I came home feeling that the world is good. People are wonderful.

And then I turn on the computer and find... this. This hideous thing. This monkey in an Ikea shop. This monster with a gun (several, in fact) shows what awful things we are capable of. He wasn't strong enough, so he tried to prove how strong he was. Wasn't important enough, so he tried to grab power.

But he's not important. If I could, I would erase his existence from the history books, from school records and church records, and I would burn his body and send his ashes flying to the wind without a single witness. I would train his parents and friends to never utter his name again.

But I can't do that. And I know it would be wrong. Because history, both micro and macro, is filled with atrocities whose name must be spoken so that they are not repeated. The Holocaust. Pearl Harbour. Hiroshima. 9-11. And many, many before those and since, both newsmaking and unknown.

But here's the kicker: such darkness will be repeated, time and time again, over and over again.

See, the rest of us get the message. There are hundreds of millions of us. Good people who just want to go about our lives, striving to be happy, working our jobs, making our way through a world that is, many times, inhospitable to us. But there are always a few idiots with guns who want to take away our peace of mind--and they do. They are terrorists of a sort, keeping us on edge, fearful of sending our children to school, afraid of walking the street alone at night, looking over our shoulders when we would rather be care-free.

It's not an either-or kind of issue : Get rid of as many guns as is reasonably possible. Without them, fewer people would die. You can't save everyone, so let's save as many as possible. The argument will arise, as it did last summer when that maniac bolted into a movie theatre and killed all those people: if someone in there had possessed a gun, he wouldn't have gotten away with it. But I stand by my own argument at the time: the problem wasn't that there weren't enough guns in the room but that there were too many.

Yes, we need to take more precautions to prevent and treat mental illness. No question about it.

We also need to pay more attention to each other.

And one final thing: while, until this moment, I haven't been splattering Facebook and Twitter with my dark thoughts, I wish people would stop trying to take a strip out of those who do. We live in an age where people take immediately to FB and its lesser cousin to let people know what they're feeling. It's a way of making your thoughts count, or simply working your stuff out in a way so that you don't feel quite so alone. You like to know there are like-minded souls out there. The beauty of Facebook is that it connects us. So when tragedy occurs, let's not verbally abuse people who want to feel connected at a time when it seems the very fabric of our world is ripping apart at the seams.

Melodramatic? Not really. I know the world will go on just the same after this, once the days start to pass and the healing begins. The world will keep on spinning, and lives will continue just the same. But there is something about this gunman--about every whack job with a loaded weapon who decides to take some lives--that reminds us of how fragile it all is.

And we all react according to who we are, who we've always been.

There is good in the world. Hang on to that as if it were your god. Because there are days like this when you are going to need it, no matter what your religion, no matter your level of empathy or cynicism, no matter what.

There are days when, for one terrible moment, you don't even feel like kicking at the darkness anymore. Because the darkness is strong and threatens to overwhelm you.

But that's when you need to take time and reflect. Get it all out. Scream at the walls. Hug your child. Shed your tears.

Or, if it's your wont, give a helpless shrug.

Either way, you've got to rise up and take back the world, or continue to create something that you never had but always wanted. The world has always been dark because of a proverbial handful of (mostly) men who hold the rest of us for ransom, stealing, raping and plundering their way to some sort of dark reward.

But I don't think the answer is to start shooting back. The answer is to take away their ability to shoot.

You will never take away their reasons for shooting since, as someone quoted someone earlier today on FB, insanity doesn't have a reason.

There are some people who are affronted by kindness, by happiness, and even by innocence.

Some people are just that way--either born that way or made that way.

And, while I'm tempted to leave my diatribe on that negative note, I can't--simply because kicking at the darkness is not just a stolen line from a Bruce Cockburn song.

It's what we do, what we have to do. Because the alternative is just too awful to bear.

Hug your children. Be kind to one another. Light a candle or sit by a warm fire with your best friend beside you. Say the words that make everything feel good.

Pray, if it makes you feel better. But pray without expectations for others.

And most of all, tomorrow, pay a little more attention--not just to those who harm, but to those who could simply use a little more care.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Drawing for Moonlight Sketches

I'm drawing for a free copy of Moonlight Sketches in 15 minutes from now.

Hop on over to :!/pages/Gerard-Collins-Author/176696569065790 to enter.

Drawing takes place at 6 p.m. Newfoundland time Saturday evening, December 1.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Last chance book signing

Me in my natural habitat.
I'll be doing my last book signing tomorrow before the apocalypse tomorrow (Sunday) at Coles bookstore, Avalon Mall in St. John's (12:30 to 2:30 p.m.)

If the world is going to end on Dec. 21 (debate amongst yourselves) you might need something to read. Pessimists will buy the short story collection, Moonlight Sketches, while optimists will likely go for the novel, Finton Moon.

The sweetly oblivious will possibly buy both.

Both books have gotten excellent reviews, and both have won major literary awards. So it's a can't miss proposition. I mean, if you read it and don't like it, it's not like it's the end of the world.

Oh, and if by chance the world doesn't come crashing down on Dec. 21, I'll likely do another signing sometime in 2013.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Drawing for signed 'Finton Moon'

On Friday, November 16 (tomorrow night!) I'm drawing a name from my hemp fedora to see who will win a free, signed copy of Finton Moon. If you want your name put into the hat, just go to my FaceBook author page and click "like" on the contest announcement.

Feel free to "like" the page, if you like. That's where all the announcements about public appearances, book signings, give-aways and book-related news happens. It's also a good way to stay in touch if you'd rather not take on the commitment and responsiblity of being an actual FB friend.

So, drawing tomorrow night.

Sign up if you want in.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Words Fall, Spirits Soar

Just under three weeks ago I found myself in Woodstock, New Brunswick as guest reader and panelist for WordsFall, the semi-annual literary festival of the Writers' Federation of New Brunswick.

I should have written about it before now, but, honestly, by the time I got back I was pretty knackered and launched myself into the teaching work that had begun to pile up. Even now it sort of feels like one of the best dreams I've ever had.

It wasn't just the readings, but the readings were great. Joan Clark was the other invited author, and she was eloquent, elegant and entrancing all at once. She read the beginnings of three of her novels, prefacing each one with a brief tale about the origins of each. After she spoke, I didn't have much chance to speak with her, but she approached me and graciously said she wanted to buy one of my books, but, to her chagrin and mine, they were all sold out. I mean, I don't mind selling every book, but I would have liked to have given one to Joan Clark, to sign it "Dear Joan--you are a national literary treasure. From a fellow creative soul, Gerard." That would have been a pretty cool honour, to have signed a book for Joan Clark. I mean, she's won numerous national awards for her writing and has received the prestigious Order of Canada. The very idea that she would even want my book in her home means a lot to me. Then again, the idea that anyone would want one of my books on their bookshelf means a lot to me. But she was so kind and approachable. She doesn't have to be. She just is, and was.

When my turn came (I actually went before Joan), I read two short excerpts from Finton Moon. Funny, if you had asked me a couple of years ago how I would feel about travelling to another province as an invited guest to read in front of a roomful of interested strangers, most of whom seemed to be writers themselves, I would have said I'd be pretty nervous. But after doing this kind of thing a few times, I can say I was totally calm, except for the good kind of nerves, the type that comes from adrenaline and doesn't debilitate, but kicks the brain and body into a whole new gear that you barely know resides within you most of time.

I really needed it that day, too. The day before the event, after not sleeping the night before, I left campus around 1 p.m. and was at the airport less than a couple of hours later. Just before 8 p.m. Lee Thompson of the WFNB picked me up at the airport in Fredericton and whisked me into Woodstock under cover of night. I glanced at his speedometer once and realized that we were travelling just under the speed of light. I wouldn't have been at all surprised if, when we finally stopped in front of the Best Western hotel, if he'd told me we'd gone back to the future. We chatted the whole way with nary a pause in the conversation as if we were old friends, catching up on each other's lives. Lee is a musician, and a very good one at that, with a new CD called "Till Light". He's also a very good writer, with a book called S., A Novel In [XXX]Dreams.

Turns out I was in capable hands and riding into an experience unlike anything I've ever known. I should have known when Janie Gillies dashed from the lounge, towards the registration desk and greeted me like a longlost friend, that I was very welcome in Woodstock that weekend. It took but a few minutes to throw my knapsack (aka The Black Hole of Calcutta) onto my bed, glance into the bathroom mirror at my airplane hair and head back downstairs where a whole crowd was waiting, already talking excitedly among themselves. But I made sure to talk to each one of them, if only briefly because they were all there for the same reason I was: to be among kinfolk: writers and creative types. The reason I felt I was among friends, quite simply, is because I really was. In our own way, I guess we were all a little nervous, although perhaps I shouldn't assume that. I won't mention everyone by name, but there was one chap named Roger Moore who kept us entralled with stories of Wales and poetry from his newest collection. And I've got to say that a beer never tasted so fine as that which I drank that evening and all weekend long.

A bunch of us ended up back in my room playing songs, reading poetry, drinking beer, and telling tales until four in the morning. It was my kind of crowd. See, I don't do it very often, but I live for these kinds of things--I could happily spend the rest of my life with a people who do nothing but write, sing songs, and drink good beer. It was like spending the weekend with Hobbits at The Prancing Pony.

Okay, maybe not. But if it did, that would make Cynthia Good a wizard, for she kept us enthralled the next day with a two-hour presentation on social media. I was amazed at her stamina, as well as how much she knew. Cynthia's a total professional and a font of useful information and suggestions about how to navigate the cyberway with ease.

Getting ahead of myself there, though. The next morning... okay that SAME morning... after not sleeping more than an hour and a half, I lay awake for a couple of hours before convincing myself I would not be getting any reasonable amount of shut-eye. The clincher was a huge bang out side my window (or perhaps inside my room). See, I never did figure it out. Janie had enthusiastically informed me at the bar the previous night, within minutes of my arrival, that most murders in hotels happen in the rooms closest to the stairwell. Well, guess where my room was? And that hallway had a certain "Red Rum" sort of feel to it, if you know what I mean. It was a long, long walk down there, and I had joked to the crowd about feeling as if I would make better time on a little red tricycle (a la Danny Torrance in The Shining). Janie seemed only slightly sorry for having told me about those "statistics" that, for all I knew, she made up just to frighten the shit out of the only CFA in the group. I mean, we all had hotel rooms of our own, but I was the only one dumb enough to accept the one by the stairs. I even considered changing rooms, but drunk with excitement and only a couple of beers, I decided, "What the hell? If a murderer breaks into my room, I'll have a story to tell, and isn't that what life is all about?"

Maybe that's why I didn't sleep much. Either way, the next day (Saturday) I had to get up, shower, make my way down to the dining room--a nice little one too, with a lovely breakfast laid out, of which I had toast and coffee. My intention had been to get out and see the town, maybe dine at some little local establishment, but I took three steps outside and realize that the pouring rain would have me drenched and shivering in the same clothes I was supposed to be wearing all day. So breakfast at the hotel it was.

I sat and wrote some notes in my sleepless stupor, listening to the chatter all around me, suddenly realizing I was going to be talking to people, addressing a crowded room, and even singing later that night--all on less than two hours sleep--not even counting the sleeplessness of the night before.

Anyway, it all went well. I have images from that day that, for whatever reason, have stayed with me. Me wandering around the kitchen of the civic centre (where the event was held) looking to fill a tiny glass with water to solve my parched throat. Cynthia Good answering question-after-question from a very appreciative crowd. My mad driver, Janie, having to pull over several times on a two-mile stretch of straight road to check her map for where the civic centre was, finally asking a kindly old couple, who pointed to an innocuous-looking building at the top of a hill. "There ya go," the kindly old feller said. There it was, within twenty seconds' drive. Other lingering images I really shouldn't mention in public, but there are many, I assure you.

Joan Clark and I took part in a panel discussion, moderated by Cynthia and that, to me, was the blurriest part of the day. I answered some questions, too tired, really, to try to sound wise and that was perhaps for the best. I was relaxed. I spoke my truth. I came out okay. They were an extaordinarily appreciative crowd, most of whom I spoke with indiviually afterwards and many of whom bought books of mine to have signed.

There were also many readings and a few book launches following the invited guests, but too many for me to mention--although I was particularly fortunate to hear Corey Redekop read from his new zombie novel, Husk. It was a great performance that whet my appetite for the book.

At night, the musicians came out and, man, were they plentiful and talented. One singer or band after another left me amazed and, really, I felt privileged to be there. The highlights, of course, were Lee Thompson singing his original songs and the incredible Babette Hayward, who is bound for great things on the national scene, I'm sure. She just had us all enthralled with her voice and words, including a great rendition of a Dylan song.

That undertaking of Dylan gave me the inspiration and courage to sing one of my own. I mean, as I said that night, "If you're gonna play Woodstock, you's got to play some Dylan." So, playing on stage for the first time in over fifteen years, I belted out 'The Times They Are a-Changing,' along with "Richard Corey" and my own original song, "Just Get Away." Nobody seemed to mind too much that I missed a few chords and probably a few notes. I didn't feel like I embarrassed myself, although it's highly likely that I was simply too high on life at that moment to pay much notice to what anyone thought. The moment of grace, for me, however, came when Janie brought her immense singing talents to the stage and sang "Caledonia," a song I admit I'd never heard before but managed to strum along with. An indelible moment among many indelible moments.

Do I even need to mention that a crowd of us went back to the room after that and sang songs and chattered like monkeys in a chinaberry tree till well into the morning hours? Didn't think so. I believe I slept for three hours or so that night. Good times are sleepless times.

Next day, after a heartwarming breakfast, a few more introductions and a lot more goodbyes, my patient and generous driver made sure I caught my flight, and just like that--as if not a single moment had passed--I was back on that little plane, gazing out at the suddenly sunny New Brunswick autumn landscape, with calls of "Come back soon" still ringing in my ears.

And those calls still ring. I'm not sure how, but I will go back.

Where I come from--a province rich in creative talent--we often like to say we have the best "scene" in Atlantic Canada, perhaps even in the country. But after that weekend in Woodstock, I have to say, there's more to Atlantic Canada than our little neck of the woods. As one fellow said at breakfast, "I've been to a lot of these things, and this one was the best." Aye, and that's how I felt too. But it's not about comparisons and superlatives. Suffice to say that New Brunswick has riches of its own, and I can't wait to tell the people in my world all about it.

The day after my return, I wandered up the corridor towards my class on campus, and a colleague, appraising my sluggish demeanour with an apt grin, asked, "So how was New Brunswick?"

I looked at her and grinned. "I think I'm still there."

"That says it all," she said with a laugh.

 "Yep," I said. "That says it all."

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Fridge is Open: That's How the Light Gets Out.

One of our very best book bloggers is back and branching out to YouTube. In espisode #1 she takes on Dave Grohl, Patrick DeWitt, Emma Donnaghue, E.L. James (!) and my very own Finton Moon. I'm a little taken aback by her appraisal, but you can decide for yourself whether or not you agree with her:

Regardless, if you love books of all genres, you might consider following The Book Fridge with poet Kerri Cull. Very entertaining and often surprising in her choices. Not your usual book blog, as there is nothing that is predictable and it's totally honest, and it feels like she's your friend just chatting with you.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Book signing news

I'm doing a rare Friday afternoon bookstore appearance tomorrow, Friday, October 12 when I'll be signing purchased copies of Finton Moon and Moonlight Sketches from 1-3 p.m at Chapters on Kenmount Road. This is my first signing since midsummer and and so far the only one scheduled for St. John's this fall. So if you've been meaning to get a signed copy for yourself or someone else, now's the time.

My section of the bookstore.
Moonlight Sketches was my first book, a short story collection that won the 2012 Ches Crosbie Barristers/NL Book Award for Fiction. My new novel, Finton Moon is garnering rave reviews and has won the Percy Janes First Novel Award.

Drop by for a chat or to get a book for the weekend.


(P.S. In Woodstock, New Brunswick next Saturday, October 20, I'll be one of two featured guest authors at WordsFall, the autumn literary event for the Writers' Federation of New Brunswick. Books will be available for purchase and signing. More details to come.)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Twin Peaks

Exactly six years ago this week, I defended my Ph.D. thesis and, while tattooing the title "Dr." to my buttocks and simultaneously cementing my henceforth inescapable place in the hallowed, hollowed halls of academia, my personal quest for fire had only just begun. Like Frodo Baggins upon dropping the ring into the fires of Mount Doom, no sooner had I defended the dissertation (that really needed no defending at all, in my humble opinion-- entitled "The Postmodern Spirit: The Postmodernization of the Ghost Figure in Twentieth-Century North American Fictions") than the future lay bare before my red-tinged, sorrowful eyes. I still somehow had to make my way home along a treacherous path, nursing a grievous wound.

On Thanksgiving Monday, I had met my venerable thesis supervisor at a downtown coffee shop and discussed the what-might-be and the how-to-be sorts of questions, then I went home to ponder the defensible that was to occur the next day at 1 p.m. As far as inquisitions go, it wasn't bad. Everyone assured me they all wanted the best for me. There were plenty of pep talks, hugs and handshakes. Then I sat before the jury, gave my statement about how ghosts in literature have changed in 100 years of literary representation, and then, after a secret meeting, they each shook my hand and welcomed me to the club. There was a beer afterwards, with a few people, including a couple of friends, and then I was set free. Two days later, in a rush unlike many they've ever seen in the office of graduate studies, I had an ill-fitting cap and gown of the doctoral variety shoved into my arms and shunted off to the arts and culture centre where I walked across the stage, genuflected in front of John Crosbie, took my diploma and virtually ran out the door (after the ceremony, of course).

Minutes later, my wife and I were scurrying across the leaf-laden, concrete landscape of Memorial University, giddy as children, anxious to celebrate, but even more anxious to be moving on.

Still clad in my red gown and clutching my degree in my left hand, I made one proclamation as if to the soothing, warm wind: "That's one big mountain climbed. But there's a bigger one ahead." She knew what I meant: if I didn't publish a novel, after years of working towards that goal, none of the other achievements would amount to anything for me. We'd always known it. After six long years of courses and dissertation writing, not to mention constant stress while teaching nearly every semester and writing besides, suddenly all I wanted was to write fiction and publish. Nothing else mattered.

The very next day, my writing career began again in earnest. After six years of being deferred -- although I did take one semester off in 2005 to write a so-far-unpublished novel called 'Maelstrom,' about a Poe-ish sort of character who finds himself in a 20th C American grad school (no publisher has ever seen it) -- the elusive dream of becoming a published author took hold of my soul once more. I swore on the steps of the Science Building that day, October 8, 2006, that the next mountain I conquered would be to publish a book.

I could never have guessed that within six years -- the exact number of years it took to do a Ph.D. -- I would have two books (a short story collection and a novel) published, with a near novella-length story also contracted for publication next March. Even if I had, by some chance, dreamed of that reality, I definitely could not have foreseen the rest of it, including winning an award this year that has opened up any number of doors for me. More important, I felt a little bit more like I, perhaps, belonged in the pantheon of writers currently published and maybe could afford to glance with a more justified longing at those who have come before me.

Even now I perpetually feel like the underdog, constantly with the hunger to prove myself to no one else BUT myself. No matter how many more lines I fill in on my writing CV, I suspect that feeling will always persist. And perhaps, that's a necesary feeling for me, to keep the creative fires burning.

Mountain high
But just for fun this morning, on this auspicious anniversary, I took a picture at the local Chapters where I happen to be scheduled to do a book signing this coming Friday afternoon. My wife calls it "The Gerard Collins section." I call it a tangible reminder that I'm about as stubborn as they come.

The next mountain has already been laid out before me. And while some may scoff, I swear that even being nominated for the richest literary prizes in the land do not appear nearly so daunting as the twin peaks that lay before me on October 6th, 2006, the day before I won the battle that allowed me to stop being at war with myself.

Happy Thanksgiving weekend! May you all have as much to be thankful for as I do.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Now available!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Facebook Fan Page

For anyone who's interested, I've added a Facebook author page

To click "like" on the page will keep you up to date on any news or info related to my writing career, including book signings, reviews, public appearances, and, in the event of a natural disaster, awards.

I've come to realize, and acknowledge, that sometimes a person just wants the news without the responsibility of being a Facebook friend. This might particularly apply to readers, colleagues, acquaintances and both former and present students.

Of course, you're always welcome to join my Facebook friends list as well where I post a lot more often and am a lot more chatty and exuberant.

On my FB author page, expect the occasional update.

I wasn't certain, of course, how well this new venture would work out, but within twenty seconds of going live, the page already had its first dozen members. Thanks, everyone -- both Facebook friends and others, who have signed on.

So come on over, if it be your will. And feel free to share this link to anyone you wish.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Pitch and Plug: It's not just the Blue Jays' bullpen quandary

Salty Ink

The young and saucy Salty Ink book blog (curated by the young and saucy Chad Pelley, author of the critically acclaimed novel Away From Everywhere) posted this feature a few days ago in which I manage to articulate something half insane about my first novel Finton Moon, and something totally sane about Riel Nason's novel The Town That Drowned.

Have a look by clicking here.


Friday, September 28, 2012

"The best and most huggable"


By: Harold N. Walters

The Clarenville Packet

Finton Moon

Gerard Collins has written a novel. I always knew he could—would?  And what a stupendous novel it is.

          Finton Moon [Killick Press] is the best, the most huggable novel I’ve read all summer—truly.


          Yes, huggable.

          Surely you’ve felt the urge to wrap your arms around a book, especially after its pages are all puffed up and swollen from reading, embrace its characters and clutch its content to your bosom as if clinging to stirring moments that you know are certain to fade…

          …or something.

          No surprise, there is darkness in the human heart. Gerard Collins tickles that darkness almost making it merry. Or is that just my imperfect thinking?

          Example. Finton has been to confession and has revealed his dark ol’ sins to the priest. Back outside the confessional, Finton feels better about himself as if God has cleansed him “like taking a toilet scrubber to his soul and scouring it clean.”

          Go on. Grin.

          Remember that Frank O’Connor story—“First Confession”—in one of the school books in which Jackie climbs atop the wicket to unload his burdensome sins?

Beaucoup yucks in that yarn…

          …but none any funnier that Finton vomiting on the priest.

          In times before electricity reached Newfoundland outports, before the lights came, many houses—especially those dark and dank grandmother homesteads—had shadowy corners beyond the range of lamplight, shadowy corners in which—who knows?—black-hearted [as opposed to sweet and cuddly] demons dwelt.

          Gerard Collins knows what lurked in those corners.

          Next door to Finton’s home is the Battenhatch house, candlelit and delightfully gloomy with oodles of shadowy corners: “There was something delicious in the dark, musty air of the Battenhatch house that held him [Finton] captive.”

          Speaking of the Battenhatch house…

          …Battenhatch…idden that a name that would lure Old Charlie D. from his grave and have him scravelling for his pen?

          Bridie and Morgan Battenhatch are women who worm their way into your brain and coil up in serpentine curls. Like seductive red fruit dangling from limbs in Eden, Bridie and Morgan are—each in her own way—characters you acknowledge only in the “delicious dark.”

          As does Finton: “Miss Bridie pursued him to the darkest corners of his mind,”…to say nothing about where Morgan takes Finton as you’ll see when you read this book. “I just want to corrupt you,” she says, fruit of sinful knowledge in hand—kinda.

          Finton’s mother Elsie constantly cleans. She scrubs dishes and swings her broom more industriously than the Dutch Cleanser missus dusts her doorstep. It seems as if Elsie’s life is a continuous effort to sweep away ugly dark stuff: “Elsie was almost religious in her ritualistic gathering of dust, hair, furballs, and bits of lostness to her dustpan.”

          …bits of lostness…

          I’ve probably mentioned before that my favourite dead English novelist is Thomas Hardy. Reading Gerard Collins’ stories reminds me of less-than-sunny Tom.

          Hardy’s novel The Woodlanders features a giant tree that might be, disregarding metaphor, just a tree.

          Forgive me, Gerard. I can’t help thinking of Hardy when Finton considers that Bridie Battenhatch—Battenhatch, jim dandy!—“looked a lot better from the distance of a high tree branch.”

          I know. My imperfect slant again.

          As do John in “Treed” [Cuffer Anthology II], and Finton Moon, I do understand the succour to be found up beyond where birdies nest.

          Sometimes, however, danger hangs among the boughs of a too flimsy fir.

          Once upon a time in a different bay, a callow bay-boy watched a movie in which some lumberjacks bobbed the tops off several of those humongous trees that grow out in British Columbia.

          Next day, said impressionable bay-boy dragged a bucksaw up a fir with a mere three inch butt, intending to imitate the movie lumberjacks.

          The bay-boy set the saw and made a stroke. The tree jerked. The saw jumped and ripped its teeth across frail human flesh.

          Look, the scar is still visible in the meat of my left hand.

          Thank you for reading.




Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thanks to a generous invitation from the Writers' Federation of New Brunswick, I'll be in Woodstock on October 20, reading from my published work and particpating in a panel discussion with the talented Joan Clark, author of Eriksdottir and An Audience of Chairs, among other acclaimed novels. Besides all the great literary stuff, there's an open mic (might I sing in public for the first time in over a decade, having recently turned down literally dozens of dollars to do exactly that somewhere else?) and music by young, accomplished singer-songwriter Babette Hayward.

This will be my first-ever visit to the great province of New Brunswick, and hopefully not my last. I'm truly looking forward to the opportunity to meet up with many of my friends who are from there and/or live there. An autumnal n the bordertown of Woodstock, just a few days before Halloween, reading from my decidedly dark works, Finton Moon and Moonlight Sketches, sounds like balm for my soul.

 Hope you can be there!


P.S. Check out the very cool poster from the talented graphic artist, Colleen Maguire. I'll be looking to abscond a copy of this for myself.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Lassoing the Moon: Buy it or win it!

The cooler autumn air has put me in a generous mood, so I'm running a brief contest to give away a copy of Finton Moon. The drawing will take place Monday evening (Sept. 10) at 7 p.m. Once again, I'll be putting the names into a hat (my artsy hemp fedora) and pulling out a name. If you want your name in the drawing, either drop me a line at or join me on Facebook, go to my post about the drawing, and click "like."

Meanwhile, I've received countless emails and Facebook comments from people wondering where they can buy either Finton Moon or Moonlight Sketches, and, though I've posted this information before, here it is once again, for your convenience.

Finton Moon is available Coles, Chapters, and Indigo stores throughout Atlantic Canada and at some of them across the rest of Canada. If your local bookstore doesn't carry it, you can just order it at the checkout, and they'll bring it in for you. It's also available from ( or have my books listed, but I'm not sure what their situation is n reality.) There are other outlets as well. Downhome stores (and their outlets) throughout Atlantic Canada will have it. That includes some airports, drugstores, and the occasional independent retail space. Moonlight Sketches was (and is) available in every province of Canada, and I assume the same will eventually be true of Finton Moon.

For those who don't live in St. John's (the hub of the literary world), however, one of the easiest, safest, and quickest routes is by ordering directly from my publisher. The publisher's assistant, Pamela, tells me that it takes only 1-2 days to process and order and ship it out to whoever orders it. How long it takes after that depends on the mail system both in Canada and wherever you are. Could be rural Newfoundland, Atlantic Canada, Nunavut, or another country altogether. They've even been known to ship books to the U.S. as well as Europe and as far away as Australia. The costs will vary of course, as it often costs substantially more to ship to foreign countries or even to other provinces.

Of course, if you want a signed copy, you can come to book signing. There should be one in October in St. John's, details to be announced, and I'll definitely be in Woodstock, New Brunswick for the WordsFall event on October 20. There might be more signings, perhaps even a reading or two. I'll announce them as soon as I know what's happening.

Hope this info helps in your search for quality, award-winning fiction about which Jean Graham of the Northeast Avalon Times says is "a razor-sharp portrait of much of what is worst and some of what is best) about small towns."


Friday, August 10, 2012

Some of you may have seen this already: "Going underground to get some writing done. Won't be answering emails, reading manuscripts or attending events of any kind for the next four weeks unless I've already agreed to it. Summer's almost gone and my opportunity for finshing some projects is rapidly fading. Figure if I say this out loud I might be able to stick to it. Sincerely, a friend." That was my status update a week ago. I haven't been on Facebook since then, just trying to sort through some things, but mostly trying to finish the first draft of my new novel.
In Person. (Sort of.)

It's been such a fantastic and busy summer--nicer weather than we've seen in years--and two book launches for Finton Moon, in St. John's in June and Halifax in July. Before that, there was the Atlantic Book Awards, which was extremely busy and distracting week. Before that, I was working on revisions for that novel pretty much since Christmas Day. Of course, that doesn't count the judging for writing competitions, mentoring, reading manuscripts, book signings, and various other writing-related activities.

So I decided, reluctantly, that I needed some time away from FB to just get some work done before the fall semester begins and I'm back teaching, which takes up nearly all my time when I'm doing it. I've been contracted to write stories and articles, and I do want to finish that novel (I've got around 300 pages written, but I've been at that stage for over a year now).

I don't miss Facebook. But I do miss my Facebook friends. Some of you, in particular, I miss the almost daily updates and bantering. I never realized how much a part of my life it had become.

Okay, well I did, actually. That's why I had to step away for a while: I knew exactly how much a part of my life it had become. And it will be again.

The thing is with Facebook--it's not about Facebook. It's about the people on there. It's easy to forget that sometimes. We tend to make the distinction between our "real" friends and our "Facebook friends," but I'm not so sure there's a difference. I see lots of conversations and support and arguments on there that I'm not sure would ever have occurred in real life.

Sure, it's nice to hold a baby in your arms, feel its squishy, soft little fingers in your own larger hands. It's good to give a hug or get -- nothing really replaces that. And it's great to have a beer with your buddies, have an all-night gab fest with an old friend in the soft light of your living room.

But that doesn't diminish the friendships we make with people we've never met in person. They touch our lives, our hearts, our souls and they challenge and engage our minds. If you don't believe me, try telling someone on your friends list that you don't want them around anymore. Just see if you don't hurt their feelings. Just try walking away from that with a clear conscience. Fact is, you risk the same emotional connection -- if not sometimes a little more -- with your on-line friends. You risk the same kind of falling out (believe me, I've had those) and you risk the out-loud laughter (not the fake LOL thing that I can't stand--but the real stuff).

Anyway, I could go on and on, but I won't.

I'm not making much progress on the novel -- not yet anyways. But I will. Working on some stories and articles first. I'll bet some of you were silly enough to think, "Oh good for Gerard--taking a break from Facebook must mean he's taking a break, enjoying life." I wish that were true. I mean, yes, I'm enjoying life--but that wouldn't be true if I didn't enjoy work because these days, it's all work.

Not complaining. Just speaking the truth.

So back to work I go. This blog is part of that, I suppose. But I mostly just wanted to check in. Blogging is easier. I can control my time. I don't get involved in conversations and need only spend the 15 minutes or so it took to write this.

Just wanted to say "Hi!" and I'll be around again soon. Oh, and I'll likely be blogging again over the coming days and weeks. Keeps me in the game.

I miss the daily triumphs and tribulations, the wry witticisms and the useless talk about what's wrong with CanLit. I say that knowing I've engaged in such useless talk quite often myself and will do so again. It's all useless in a way. But then it's all good.

It really is.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

First Review for 'Finton Moon'

My editor emailed me just before the Halifax launch of Finton Moon, asking if I'd seen this review. It took me a couple of weeks, but I was finally able to read it yesterday morning. It's nice to see a review that's thoughtful and critical, not just plot summary.


Gothic novels set in Newfoundland

by Jean Graham, The Northeast Avalon Times, July 2012

I always wonder why there aren't more horror and/or fantasy novels set in Newfoundland and Labrador. Surely we have the weather, the landscape, the old graveyards, and the human characters to inspire more than our share of the gothic.

Look what Stephen King has done for Maine -- I've never been to that state, but I know if I ever drive through, my skin will crawl whether I'm in a rural area or Bangor/Derry.

This is not a complaint about what most of our authors do write about -- don't be writing to the editor to complain that I don't like your favourite artist-downtown or coming-of-age-in-the-bay or historical fiction tale. I probably do. I just would also, greedy soul that I am, like to see our genre fiction expand.

Every so often, someone here makes at stab at it, however, and for this month's column I have two books -- one outright horror, the other described on the jacket as a "gothic, adult fairytale." Each has been a decade in development, according to the author notes. Both maybe be perfect additions for your summer reading pile, depending on your literary tastes.

Finton Moon
By Gerard Collins
Killick Press
330 Pages; $19.95

Finton Moon actually first emerged on the local literary scene as the 2001 winner of the Percy Janes First Novel Award. Eleven years later, it's here as an extraordinary addition to the scene.

It's a coming of age book, but one such as we've never seen here. Or perhaps anywhere -- books about children and adolesecents with unusual powers not being the norm these days. (And yes, I do remember the '70s -- but most of those kids were evil, possessed by demons, or both.)

The title character is a misfit in his family and his small bay town, Darwin. His father is called Tom, but I do not think that is an allusion to Stephen King's character Tom Moon in The Stand.

Finton has always healed quickly from injuries. Astonishing quickly, I mean -- minutes instead of weeks. Eventually, as a child, he discovers he can heal other people, which brings him instant notoriety in his town. The power disappears right after his first sexual experience, but show signs of re-emerging, if never quite as strong as it was originally.

A distant cousin is found dead. Tom is the suspect. there is secrecy and there are whispers. There is gossip and nastiness, both overt and covert.

Collins has created a town of characters that is both believable and memorable. You will recognize many of them -- Finton's hard-ticket best friend, his religious grandmother, supportive teachers and priests among them.

There is an unnattainable girl, and a girl who is a soulmate, but not recognized as such by Finton -- at least partly because she is from a family even lower on the town's social totem pole than his own.

The dialect never rings false, and the people Collins has created are not caricatures.

The book spans several years, and many of the central characters are children when it starts. The character development is clever -- they grow and develop and change, but none of them change in such a way as to become unrecognizable.

Eventually, the various strands of plot form a satisfying tapestry of a story. Every plot line has a conclusion -- many of them not exactly the ones you might expect, but none of them jarring with the story.

I read most of this book in one sitting of several hours, and would happily do so again. Collins has produced a razor-sharp portrait of much of what is worst and some of what is best) about small towns, thrown in a splash of fantasy and created a story that is well worth the decade or so we've been waiting for a finished product.

(Jean Graham goes on from here to review Charles O'Keefe's new novel, The Newfoundland Vampire.)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Home in Halifax

I'm going back to Halifax soon.

This coming Monday night, July 23, with the help and inspiration of some friends -- particularly Creative Publishing and Halifax arts maven* Bobbi Zahra -- we'll be celebrating the Maritime launch of my newest book and first novel, Finton Moon. At the fabulous Uncommon Grounds coffee shop at 1030 South Park Street, friends, acquaintances, literati, passersby, media members and interested onlookers will gather in the name of literature and fine coffee to mark the occasion. The inimitable Peggy Walt will be doing the author introduction, while the esteemed Don Sedgwick will represent the publisher by playing host to the event. Finton Moon has just made its way into bookstores across the Maritimes within the past few days, and so the timing is perfect.

I'm as baffled as anyone as to how this whole thing came to be. I've always loved Halifax, have always considered it  a place where I feel very much at home. So when the opportunity arose during a discussion with the afore-mentioned and generous Bobbi -- about the same time I was launching my new novel in St. John's in late June -- I immediately said I would love to do it. Halifax is one of the places where I grew up as a writer, where I plotted my stories and schemed my literary aspirations -- all in the coffee shops of the downtown. There's much more to the story than that, which I'll save for my ramblings to the gathering on Monday night. Suffice to say, I'm very happy to be returning to a city and province that are very dear to my heart and inspire my writing at nearly every turn.

My time there will be brief, but I'm trying to fit in as much as possible. Monday afternoon, July 23, I'll be doing a booksigning at Bayers Lake Chapters at 188 Chain Lake Drive from 1-3 p.m. I'm very much looking forward to meeting some readers from the area. It'll be easy to spot me: I'll be the scruffy looking one who looks like he hasn't changed his clothes in a day or so.

The launch event is at 7 p.m. Monday night. I'll be talking about my connections with Halifax and Nova Scotia, about the gestation period for Finton Moon, which took many years to complete, and offering a couple of short readings from the novel. After that, I'll be able to sign some books, chat with people and unwind. I'll have some drinks with friends and new acquaintances, let loose a little, get 3 or 4 hours of sleep before an early rise the next day.
Heidi Petracek, CTV host

Tuesday morning at about 7:15 a.m. (Halifax time) I'll be on CTV's Breakfast Television show talking with the talented and vivacious Heidi Petracek. I last spoke to Heidi nearly a decade ago when she was a fill-in host on CBC Radio's On the Go. I don't even know if she remembers me, but I had a lot of fun then, and I'm sure it'll be even more fun this time--yet another part of my life coming full circle.

Shortly after, I'll be back on a plane and headed home to St. John's, no doubt wondering if it all really happened.
Uncommon Grounds, 1030 South Park St.

If you're in the Halifax area, I hope you can join us for the celebration at the aptly named Uncommon Grounds.

Also, this Saturday--before I even leave for Halifax--I'm having a booksigning at Chapters in St. John's on Kenmount Road (Saturday, 1-3 p.m.). I'll be signing copies of Finton Moon and Moonlight Sketches. If you're in the St. John's area, again, I'll be happy to see you.

And, finally, yesterday, the dynamic duo that runs Fierce Ink Press (coincidentally based out of Halifax) made an announcement about a new project that I'm proud to be a part of. Here's the link, if you're interested ( I'll be talking more about this fantastic publication event, as well the press itself (a YA publishing house owned and operated by Kimberly Walsh and Colleen Mckie) in the coming days and weeks. For now, just lettin' you know.

So yeah, there's that.


*maven: from the Hebrew or Yiddish, meaning "an expert or connoisseur" or a person of "understanding."

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Happy, Indeed.

July 1, 1995.

I wondered if there would be fireworks on the ferry.

We were going to Canada and would be travelling by boat to North Sydney, Nova Scotia--an overnight crossing from darkness to daylight.

It wasn't the first time my wife and I had left our home in St. John's to seek a place in the world. In 1989, we had sold off everything we owned--which, by any standard, wasn't much--and flew to Ontario to live in Oakville. In terms of finding employment and prospects, Oakville wasn't a kind place, and yet I had loved every moment of being there. But that's a story for another day.

On Canada Day in '95 we boarded the ferry in Argentia and a couple of hours later, we stood in stunned silence as the rocky, barren shores of our homeland receded into the fog. Fireworks were no longer a part of my thoughts.

I wondered how long it would take to get there. I wondered if we would like it, if Nova Scotia was a place we could ever call home. Looking back, I never expected it would feel like home. After all, I've lived in St. John's for most of my adult life and never really felt it was home. I've always--give or take a few years--lived in Newfoundland and, again, that feeling of "home" has never been mine, except fleetingly.

N. and I talked about it over breakfast this morning--what exactly is "home," and why has it been so elusive? I said that even now I get the occasional moment--whether lying on the couch next to her and reading, or watching a movie, sometimes late at night when we're settling into bed, and once in a while when we're walking the trails, or I'm out for a jog, or even when I meet someone I know and have a great conversation in a parking lot or a shop--I feel something like homefulness. It's a sense of connection to your surroundings, feeling like the place around you is a reflection of who and what you are, what you've become. The place might even hold some history for you, but I don't think that's essential.

I know of Newfoundlanders who travel the world and settle in places like Ireland, England and even Australia and feel that immediate connection with a place and they stay there for the rest of their lives, presumably content most of the time, rarely wishing they could be any place else.

But that hasn't been my story. On Canada Day, I always find myself--as a sort of subconscious, reflexive activity--thinking about my connection to this country, whether I feel part of it, whether I don't. It's a dangerous thing to say you don't feel connected to your country, but there it is: I don't. But it's not the country nor its people: rather, it's all countries and all people.

But that doesn't stop me from trying. Like I said, I catch precious moments of being "at home," although I crave it most of the time, a low-murmuring, perpetual thrumming that reflects my yearning for a place to lay my head, not just physically but also spiritually and emotionally. For a writer, too much contentment is not a good thing. I have always craved adventure. I have never wanted to stay in one place for too long. I feared atrophy. I still do, to some extent. But ever since I can remember, I just wanted to keep moving--sipping the wine, nibbling the food, observing the people, their habits, tasting the culture, the lay of their land, a sense of how they feel about themselves and their own place in Canada. In the Fraser Valley, where I lived for a while, I didn't meet many people from British Columbia. Most were from other places. For instance, the young woman who often cut my hair was from Switzerland, and I couldn't help thinking that--with her vivaciousness--Switzerland must be a sadder place for having lost her. The middle-aged woman who served my coffee at Tim Horton's in Chilliwack was from Newfoundland. I met people all over town from Nova Scotia, Alberta, England, and France. I can't ever remember meeting a British Columbian there.

But a year before the B.C. experience, we were en route to Nova Scotia. I was going to do a Masters degree in English at Acadia University in Wolfville. My first impression was that it was small but beautiful. My wife, who had entertained prospects of finding meaningful employment there, was quickly disspelled of that notion. Before we ever landed in Wolfville, though, we stayed with relatives in Lower Sackville, essentially a suburb of Halifax, and that city is where we spent a lot of our time for the next two months. We saw movies at Park Lane, spent the occasional afternoon at the Public Gardens, went to a lot of coffee shops. I particularly remember the 10-mile walk on Sunday mornings for breakfast at Harvey's before heading off to the gigantic flea market just up the road. We never bought anything heavy, always mindful of the long trek homeward. The weather in Nova Scotia was warmer, brighter, and gentler than anything we'd known on The Rock. Perhaps, I thought, we can live here.

Wolfville was idyllic, although I had the sense of a dark underbelly, especially late at night. The decaying manses and massive willows wreaked of Southern Gothic and set my imagination astir. But I could never have lived there forever. It was too small. My wife--because she'd left everything she knew behind in St. John's--wasn't happy with the experience at first. She tried for my sake, but there was nothing there for her. We got lucky in January when a professor of mine and his professor wife moved away to conduct research at Princetion and asked if we would look after their house. A house meant a home, and while it wasn't ours, it could be. We imagined it was ours, but it was awfully big.

The next year, we moved back to Lower Sackville so I could finish my thesis--mostly in the bowels of Dalhousie University and the coffee shops of Spring Garden Road. N. found work for the summer at The Body Shop where she fared well, but they paid very little and expected too much. I'm not sure it was ever a good fit for her. As for me, while I finished my studies, I worked as a tutor, which left me plent of time for haunting the coffee shops in search of a writing career. I wrote voraciously and, up until recently, it was the most creative--perhaps even the happiest--time of my life. Everything  I wrote--including some Darwin stories that never exactly made it to print, but were the origins for Finton Moon and Moonlight Sketches--had that spark of something special, feeling like something I'd never written before. In Halifax, I felt I could be anything and write anything, that my imagination and creative powers were limitless.

And then we came home. It was an abrupt end to a lengthy, hot summer that included forty straight days of blistering, hot weather. I've blended our three separate sojourns in Halifax into one--not consciously, but subconsciously. But the truth is, after I finished my MA, we went to BC for a while, then came back to Nova Scotia, and during the first year and a half in Nova Scotia, we lived in the Halifax area on two separate occasions. Constantly moving. Ebbing and flowing as regularly and dramatically as the Fundy Tide.

I still have a fondness for Halifax and Nova Scotia in general. But, as a friend reminded me a couple days ago, wherever you live for a while, you always miss it when you leave. And that's the way it is with Nova Scotia. Except I know in my heart it wasn't a fabrication, and certainly not a product of nostalgia. Even when I was there, I knew I was in love with the life. To paraphrase Joni Mitchell, I was a free man in Halifax. I was free to write in the coffee shops of Spring Garden, Barrington, and Coburg. I was free to be a student. Free to wander the just-burgeoning Harbour Front and listen to buskers. Free to sit at Second Cup, the windows wide open in the evening and listen to the lonesome sound of a busker's saxophone or, across the street, the breezy, cool sounds of the Jazz festival. But, above all, I wrote. Letters to friends. Short stories. Poems. Essays. Articles. Huge chunks of never-to-be published novels. All of it--the experiences, as well as the writing--have contributed to what I am now, whatever I am. Homelessness, it would seem, brings out the best in me.

And while a permanent sense of "home" has eluded me, I know that I have felt at home many, many perfect times in my imperfect, perfect life.

Here in St. John's, I feel that same urge for going on a daily basis now. I don't know if it means we'll be leaving again soon or not. I no longer feel the need to prove myself in the world or to the world. In many ways, St. John's has been extremely good to us. Traveling is no longer some sort of internal competition wherein you feel you're nobody until you've done it, and done it enough. Now, it's a matter of necessity, just as it once was. But the necessity has shifted. I need to write. I require inspiration. But mostly, I need to be happy and for that I need adventures and the occasional something new.

I'm not sure where this is leading. I feel a shift in my personal universe. There are times I think Newfoundland is the best place to be. For all the reasons of restlessnes I've mentioned above, we've never bought a house in St. John's and, although we've been looking for a while now, sometimes I wonder if it's really a coincidence at all. You might say I've looked at St. John's from both sides now, and I really don't know it at all. Maybe, subconsciously, we've never been ready to settle here or anywhere.

Or maybe we're ready to settle but are simply feeling that old familiar necessity for one last big adventure.

Of maybe just a new series of original happenings.

Either way, I'm intrigued. And that means I'm writing more. But I don't wish to write from memory. I get so easily bored by nostalgia or by books that write only about the (yawn) "nature of memory."

I crave newness. Originality. If you turn on the oldies station, the radio might end up in the harbour with all the other raw sewage.

I want something I've never heard before, but with enough connection to the past that I feel at home when I hear it. You can use the same instrument to play an original song.

Just in saying that, maybe I've just found the answer I've been seeking.

Happy Canada Day?

Happiness is fleeting, but at least comes occasionally and often. Canada isn't home, but it's an incredible simulation and a fine holding ground. But every day is Canada Day, isn't it, really? You sort of have to celebrate it every day, even in the face of such a brazen attack as the current right wing prime minister is waging on its ideals, as well as its citizens, even the very people who voted for him.

Happy, indeed.

Where's my black armband? The one I used to wear on March 31 to commemorate the surrender of Newfoundland independence without a single shot being fired because our own future premier had hidden away the key to the munitions cabinet.

Even if I could have voted in 1949, I would not have voted for this. In fact, I can say with absolute certainty, that in 1995, I would not have sailed into it.

I now reach the point where I'm not exactly sure what this blog post is about. although when the journey began... oh, who am I kidding? I've never really known where any journey was going to end up. That's why I take them.

I'm not nostalgic for that day we sailed wide-eyed and yet blindly into the North Sydney Harbour, and I'm certainly not misty-eyed about the day we returned to St. John's. Maybe I'm just reconsidering what it means to be me, what it means if I continue to live here, what it would mean if I left it.

All I can say, with any certainty, is that there were no fireworks on the ferry that night. And I think they missed an opportunty for glory.