Wednesday, December 31, 2008
And yes, it's green.
(Post title taken from Star Trek: "By Any Other Name.")
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Forgetting the third, perhaps most pivotal character.
Sure, he's meant to be mysterious -- but I can't write him effectively -- or make him properly and usefully mysterious -- if I don't know him.
I never did well with character sketch exercises in school. I can't design puppets. I might be able to give you brown hair, blue eyes, five foot seven, thin and likes to cut wood, but beyond that, my characters need to show me who they are. Must talk to me. And I must be ready to listen.
Time to go listen.
Monday, December 29, 2008
One Breath, with comatose Scully voyaging back after mysterious visits from her dead father and a non-existent nurse -- soothing. (And comical from another point of view, as Gillian Anderson had just given birth; in some takes her breasts are enormous with milk.) But I'm still awake.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Sometimes, for my own good, I wish I were more afraid of a microphone. Gab gab gab ...
Under discussion: questions of the muddy boundaries between history and fiction.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Demented in public. Screaming. Water Street in the freezing rain; wearing only a thin black dress. Desperate for coherence. Cop on either arm. Struggling. Screaming. Thoughts clear, mouth possessed. Dragged to the lockup. Dark.
Locked in a corset -- that one's neuralgia.
Kneeling down to admire a wildflower -- becoming the wildflower -- pinched finger and thumb blocking the sun --
Finding a friend waiting for me in a diner booth -- packets of jam on the table in little piles -- long since fallen alseep because I'm hours late -- delighted he's still there -- reach out to wake him but am dragged away --
Friday, December 12, 2008
What fascinates me most about Page: at what point in her photos is she being exploited, and at what point is she in control?
She had a rough go. Unhappy marriages, divorce stigma that kept her from working as a missionary, something she really wanted to do -- yes, missionary, not missionary position -- diagnosis of schizophrenia and subsequent hospitalizations, cheated out of royalties ... but there's strength in those photos. And beauty. More than just a bad girl. More than just a prop.
your skin has just been scalded ... and someone is slashing that skin with the metal edge of an old wooden ruler.
Shingles complication -- post herpetic neuralgia.
Like something out of Poe. Remember the pedulum?
Chanting: it's all material, I can use this; it's all material, I can use this ...
Not sure if you can call that irony. I do call it wicked. Big toothy grin wicked.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
St. John’s, 1946
Sure it was all gyroscopes, guns and salt.
Never expected to get out intact and dry.
Even a Royal Navy seaman likes to be dry.
Burnt my legs the second wreck.
Oil, flames and water.
Talk about something else.
Married? Yes, little tiny thing from North Shields,
Up past Newcastle. Thought I lost her twice.
First time was a blitz.
Visiting her and her mother,
Two of them just after giving me two boiled eggs,
Me frigging half starved and dying for something
That tasted like home and not a tin bowl.
Found out later, ration cards and that, they
Missed two meals each so I could have eggs and toast.
And didn’t I ask for more?
Can’t forgive that one.
The shelter was under a lemonade factory,
Machines, glass, fizzy gas.
All that fell on top of us.
Daylight before they dug me out,
Shattered glass, dust and sugar in my eyes and throat.
Navy took me, arm broken, deaf in one ear,
Funny in the head for a while.
Months before she found me on a list.
Then she got news my ship went down.
Another two years before I saw her.
Engaged to another fellow. Can’t blame her.
Twice now I was after dying on her.
She all big-eyed and slack-jawed when she saw me,
Even thinner, God, there was nothing to her.
And I said, “You sill love me?”
She dropped the hand of buddy she was with.
I said, “Because by the Jesus, I still love you.”
She’s crossing now with the other brides,
Halifax first, Cunard White Star SS Scythia.
Got the postcard.
But here’s what galls me.
Navy promised us all full time work
When we got home. Even the Newfoundlanders.
Full time work.
And I promised her a house.
Cutting wood, clearing rocks.
When I came back through the Narrows,
All St. John’s was dun black in coalsmoke,
And I could have cried. Me, dry as a rock in the sun
The whole frigging war. Could have cried,
Bringing her to this Newfoundland,
Nothing to shelter her but my tattooed arms.
Originally published in CV2 vol 29 issue no. 4.
(C) Copyright 2007 Michelle Butler Hallett
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
-- William Gaddis, JR.
Every leaf -- even the way a sodden bare tree seems to scrape at the wind -- contains a message. I just don't have the language yet. Or I don't have the ears.
A friend, struggling with sudden health issues, asked me yesterday: --How do people with chronic illness just, you know, get on?
I sighed a bit, as if I'm some weary expert, and muttered. --We learn patience. We have no choice. It's hard.
Various religions teach, or at least suggest, some purpose in pain, that physical suffering is an inescapable facet of being human. Ideas continue here, reaching like branches for a hidden sun: suffering strengthens one's compassion and capacity for empathy, draws one closer to what matters -- God, if you will, or better love --
I hear this. But do I understand it?
So, last night and this morning: gut pain hard enough to make me cry out, make me cry; futile nausea; low fever and chills --
Do I understand it?
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Getting an IV hurts a bit -- that first poke through the skin. I don't have skin so much as hide: thick as leather, I'm told. Audible "pop" when the needle penetrates.
Dreamt last night of IVs. Lots of them. While I was trying to catch up on a neglected university course load. IVs not just syringe and tubing but eyeless snakes, biting biting biting, each pierce enough to make me cry out, each shot of venom firey ...
Healing venom. Blind snakes burrowing into my limbs.
Puzzled dread before sunrise. Trust the snakes? Trust pain?
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Roll over. Sweat. Dream some more.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
--Mom, you don't need to worry about that.
I'm thinking, Cool, does she feel like she had a good first five years? Is this turning into a You're a good Mom moment?
My daughter continues.
--Unless you get pregnant in the next five minutes. Which you won't.
Pleased, she turns back to CBC-Kids.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Cocky, yes. Crazy -- goes without saying.
Three conflicts, when you get down to it. And every story's a quest.
Shred of something original, one feather's worth?
Only way to find out is to write the thing.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
CHILD: Cool bass line.
ME: 80s music is very bass-driven. The good stuff was, at least.
CHILD: Gee, Mom, you dance pretty good. For a grownup.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
MOM: No, darling. I don't keep track of it. Toys and games are your responsibility.
MOM: Have you looked in your room?
CHILD: (exasperated) Mo-om, I checked there two weeks ago.
MOM: Do you think you might check again?
CHILD: No. I checked it two weeks ago.
How do ya argue with logic like that?
Monday, September 29, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
rotten stinkin why the hell did I ever think I could do this of course you can
do this just a matter of getting your arse in gear and where the hell did that
comma splice go line 4 or 14 oh for the love of all that's good and pure
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Seems I woke up some angry nerve endings. Seems I'm painfucked as well as storyfucked today.
Getting a bit frustrated here -- hammer through a wall kind of frustrated.
Like my muse cares. Like any of this actually matters when there's a book to finish.
--Uh, honey, if Robert crashes around noon, but Thomas doesn't get out there 'til dusk on a July day, and the lost girl doesn't come out of the woods 'til after dusk, then what the hell is everyone doing in those six or seven hours?
Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.
I woke up to that question this morning, groggy with meds for shingles and a long, wickedly dreamy sleep -- including dreaming I was struggling to wake up.
It's only the central event of the novel, ya know, the inciting incident, that rock in the water of every character's life ... only a plot-hole you could drive an eighteen-wheeler through ...
Beat head off wall. Rinse. Repeat.
A few sentences will fix this. Five, tops. But that's not the point. The point is I never should have missed such a sloppy lapse. Outlines, charts, timelines, several readings, several readers ... and still, I missed the phantom six hours.
Perhaps this post will feed a bad review later, some clever critic who loathes Sky Waves will Google me and find this and say: -- Yes, her worst fears are true: Butler Hallett's a fraud. Pity she thinks she can write. So much time ...
Time. Time to fix it.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Holy fuck, I can't publish this.
Got to now, girl.
Incompent, meandering, meaningless --
No, not meaningless. Plan at work.
A mess! I have fucked it up, totally fucked it up, and everyone's waiting on me to deliver the corrected proofs --
Fucked it up? Probably. Definition of novel: a prose narrative of some length that has something wrong with it.
What are people going to think?
Got no control over that, girl.
I'm a fraud. Total fucking fraud. I read from it last night, and I lost every scrap of confidence I had in this book.
You felt the same way about Double-blind.
This is worse. Way worse. Questions this time of history, autobiography, blurry lines of fiction --
You're tired. Go lie down.
I can't do this.
Already did. "Kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight" and all the rest of it. Just go lie down. Can't stifle a story about the importance of communication now, can you?
Might keep you honest.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
So it's stoned topless proofreading today at Michelle's house. Sounds like some act as a secret strip joint hidden in the bowels of a university. For added academic exitement, I'll put on my hornrims and call out "Derrida, Foucault, Marx -- you're all pathetic self-blinded wanking losers!" in wails of ecstasy as I smack the air with Beckett in one hand and Marlowe in the other. Yeah. That's it.
Monday, September 8, 2008
I've dreamt about Cthulhu the odd time since, including a particularly wretched dream where I watched a Cthulhu rape me. (I wove this into Sky Waves.)
I ran fevers over the weekend -- or they ran me. That semi-conscious languish that mocks sleep -- no real rest, just lost time, minutes evaporating like sweat. And yeah, Cthulhu dreams. Maggotty with Cthulhu, worse than any other time since I had chickenpox.
Found a rash on my trunk today. Saw a doctor. Shingles -- Return of Chickenpox, in a bent way.
The same virus caused the same dreams?
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Don't eat. And the pain lessens.
Pass the jaysus Kafka now, 'til we flips open to "The Hunger Artist."
Monday, September 1, 2008
Some years ago, I miscarried. Statistically normal. Lots of us do. Early enough, and you mightn't even notice it.
Early. But I noticed. I got pregnant with almost wicked ease.
My Mom smiled. --Hang your drawers on the bedpost, and you're knocked up.
And I knew -- morning-after knew. Not sick -- yet -- but different: second soul tethered to my body.
I conceived that lost child a few months before starting my second daughter. Hung my drawers up, and next morning those suddenly fat veins in my chest pumped indigo. Went up a cup size in a week, just like the first time. Felt a funny almost-tickle on my mind, like a feather -- queasy within a few weeks -- period date passed -- faintest blue line on the preg stick --
Woke up alone.
Alone in my body, I mean.
Checked with my doctor. He ordered bloodwork.
That night, bleeding ... heavier than the late period should be ... futile trip to the Grace ... very young doctor left to stand in the doorway and watch while nurses kept taking away little blue pans from under me to "analyze tissue" ... so many clots ... the doctor's face made me cry harder as he faced his helplessness. No shiny stethoscope, no young doc's stamina for night rounds, no amount of care and gentle manner could stop this.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Suddenly unemployed, because I was too busy writing to go to a job interview. Well done. Only the family breadwinner, only got two youngsters depending on me as my husband struggles with crumb-contract work. Find myself back in radio, but I'm politely escorted out of there, old boss telling me in his deep voice I'm better suited to bureacracy. Heading to the long-delayed interview for the bureacracy job, I end up at a competing radio station, trying to get the GM's attention for just a moment -- except I haven't got a CV with me. And the recent double mastectomy causes trouble as I take my breast forms out and lay the wobbly things on the table for all to see. Meantime the GM reminds me so much of a departed friend that I just want to hug him, welcome him back to the land of the living, but something's wrong, gnawing-spitting-cussing wrong ... another friend wears a knife and details just how and why he's so pissed off with me, all these comments taken out of context, only the worst possible meanings understood. He's quiet, calm, cold as that Jesus knife -- can I possibly get it from him, no he can't want to use that ... recognition that part of me is glad I hurt him -- shame, shame -- and the dead friend laughs in the background, much too far down the hall now to catch ... gnaw spit cuss ... gasp and wake up ... time for a painkiller.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Blunt pain cleaves out my back. Double over - no thought but escape. Teeth grind. Scowl petrifies.
I pray: --Heal me.
Brick? Slate. One of those crumbling rocks, ancient layers, pathetic broken edges comical 'til bloody.
I pray: --Purify me.
Pain steals my knees.
Friday, August 29, 2008
CT scan last month – mercifully clear results. Mysteriously clear, too, as my doctor could palpate some strange little alien in my belly a few months before, but I’ll grab the mercy. I sneezed when injected for a CT scan in 2006 – radioactive contrast dye shoots into your veins, floods your body, cooks you slightly with a piss-warmth in the groin – just a sneeze.
I smile at the needle-nurse. --Now, is this the stuff that makes me warm all over and sneeze?
Timing, right? I ask this while lying on the table.
Concerned faces. Syringe suddenly held away.
We go ahead with the test, with nurse and attendants cautioning me to speak up if I feel the slightest bit strange.
These people worry too much, I figure, watching the nurse pierce my elephant –hide skin and lose the vein. Always a tedious process. Stab hard, dig, dig, pull out. Stab, dig, dig ...
Prick. Shoot. Flood. Heat. Humming wheel of lasers, instructions: --Don’t breathe. Breathe.
Nausea. Guts wants to explode out my nose. Sweat. Sneezing. Lots of sneezing.
Scan’s finished. Sit up, sneeze some more, wheeze a bit, start to explain I think I’m okay – sudden lisp. Tongue wider than it should be. Lips numb? Surely not. Got to be imagining this. Now I’ve got to hang around this little anteroom, sit right in front of a camera ... lips numb. Definitely. Tongue thick. Head foggy. See a doctor – she’s a lovely woman I went to school with. We chat, I wheeze slightly, she listens to my chest, then she goes away, says she’ll check on me shortly. Meantime I should call out or wave at the camera if anything else goes –
Shots of light. Gold and blue. About nine feet in the air. Drawing me towards them. Perhaps I should wave at the camera now, but those lights, don’t want to lose the lights ...
Whack. Sudden shove back into the hard plastic chair. Lips tingle, sensation returning. Tongue shrinks from jamming my teeth. Twenty minutes later, I’m allowed to leave, with a warning: --You shouldn’t have any more CT scans.
I see different lights when stoned on painkillers. Little flames of blue or pink, usually. No desire to follow them.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
It's a bit like looking in the mirror after a shower -- wet hair, saggy tits, stretch marks ... I dunno, hips and waist are all right, not hopeless, tattoos interesting... yeah but that flabby belly, those beady eyes -- workaday nakedness a fleshy equivalent of my sense of exposure. Sky Waves, never really in my control to start with -- the craft, perhaps, but not the guts and scream of it -- feels like a a scabby wound. But I can't wait for you to see it.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
When last I looked it was at 168 pages.
Now it registered just 32 pages.
I almost puked. Yes, I'd backed the file up, but not correctly, as I discovered, using my portable drive earlier in the day. For a few moments I thought I'd replaced the version with the 59 of 98 chapters with an older version of just 16 of 98 chapters.
Sweating now, I hit Ctrl End to see where this document ended.
Okay, all my work was there. But Windows Vista still told me the file measured 32 pages, despite me being on page 168. Finally, Windows read the file length correctly.
At least, I'm quite content to blame Windows Vista for this little bit of confusion. Yeah, that's it, evil Windows Vista, out to get me, out to get us all ...
Not sure what I need first: chocolate, Valium, or a new colour job at the salon.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets
(I found this at http://missingtherock.blogspot.com/. Nadine also has a few words to say on the subject.)
Saturday, June 7, 2008
While you're at it, serial web-movie Wormtooth Nation. I'm holding back from describing it, because the discoveries are too much fun and should not be spoiled.
Friday, May 30, 2008
Contact person: Rebecca Simkin
FINALISTS FOR EIGHTH ANNUAL SUNBURST AWARD ANNOUNCED
TORONTO, ONTARIO (May 26, 2008) - The short-listed works in the adult category for the 2008 Sunburst Award are:
Double-blind- Michelle Butler Hallett
Darkness of the God - Amber Hayward
The New Moon's Arms - Nalo Hopkinson
Wonderfull - William Neil Scott
Axis - Robert Charles Wilson
The short-listed works in the young adult category for the 2008 Sunburst Award are:
Choices- Deborah Lynn Jacobs
Retribution - Carrie Mac
Darkwing - Kenneth Oppel
Anthem of a Reluctant Prophet - Joanne Proulx
The Night Wanderer - Drew Hayden Taylor
The Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic is a prized and juried award that is presented annually. Named after the debut novel by Phyllis Gotlieb, one of the first published authors of contemporary Canadian speculative fiction, the award consists of a cash prize of $1,000 and a hand-crafted medallion, which incorporates the "Sunburst" logo, designed by Marcel Gagné. It is based on excellence of writing; the jury selects five short-listed works and one winner, representing the finest of Canadian fantastic literature published during the 2007 calendar year. The requirements of the young adult award are the same as for the adult award except for the age of the audience to which the work is addressed. The winner of the annual young adult award will also receive a medallion and prize of $1,000.
The jurors for the 2008 award are: Timothy Anderson, Kelley Armstrong, Barbara Haworth-Attard, Dena Bain Taylor, and Robert J. Wiersema.
The Sunburst jury says about:
Double-blind- Michelle Butler Hallett
"Sanity, madness, torture in the name of science--Double-blind is wonderfully original while chillingly based in history. It really shook us up. Through the chronically self-deceived mind of the narrator, the novel delves into profound questions of ethics in a morally ambiguous world, and comes up with tragically ironic answers. The writing is incredibly layered, with metaphor and symbol perfectly balanced against the hard neutrality of scientific language."
Darkness of the God- Amber Hayward
"With Darkness of the God, the second book in the Children of the Panther series, Hayward really finds her footing. Melding old mythology with contemporary society, she creates a different kind of urban fantasy for readers tired of the old supernatural tropes."
The New Moon's Arms- Nalo Hopkinson
"Nalo Hopkinson crafts an engrossing story featuring an unforgettable character. With generous doses of mystery, humour, magical fantasy and insight, The New Moon's Arms is a entrancing read."
Wonderfull- William Neil Scott
"Scott follows the tradition of Canadian magic realism in a first novel brimming with quirky writing that would seem forced in less capable hands. The novel has huge scope--bigger on the inside than it appears on the outside and covering the entire lifecycle of a magical town--without ever sacrificing intimacy or detail. Scott has said he was inspired by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the ghosts conjured by his own family's stories."
Axis- Robert Charles Wilson
"Original and creative, with strikingly lyrical prose, Wilson shows insight into the human need to dominate every landscape he or she sets foot upon, be it the West in 'olden' times or a new planet in the future--and the mistakes and pitfalls that occur while rushing to do so. He also shows the determination and fortitude our ancestors possessed and passed on, and the ability to learn from our errors and go forward."
Choices- Deborah Lynn Jacobs
"Jacobs' second novel is original and fast-paced, with characters we'd love to know. Kathleen, Kay, Kate, Kathy--Jacobs juggles realities with dazzling confidence. The resolution satisfies but keeps you thinking--about love and loss, and the choices we make."
Retribution- Carrie Mac
"A timely novel, given the current rise of child armies in parts of the world. Strong writing pulls the reader through this sequel to The Droughtlanders. The sibling characters Eli, Sabine and Seth continue to grow as an exciting, action-packed yet thoughtful story unwinds."
Darkwing- Kenneth Oppel
"Kenneth Oppel always spins wonderful fantasies about worlds hidden within our own, and in Darkwing he imagines one of those sub-worlds before our own. Darkwing takes the reader back to the earliest evolutionary form of bats and gives them a well-crafted, fast-paced adventure sure to please both grade schoolers and young teens."
Anthem of a Reluctant Prophet - Joanne Proulx
"Proulx doesn't shy away from showing the tumultuous mix of beauty and ugliness at work in the mind of a teen stoner. Her debut novel tackles ESP, drug use, teen sexuality and the mores of small town conservative Michigan all foregrounded against the soundscape of Luke Hunter's life. There is no doubt teens will recognize many of the characters in this uncomfortable novel. The book, like the protagonist, is not without flaws; Proulx's huge accomplishment here is writing a character whose rage, frustration and love are palpable through the disaffected teen voice."
The Night Wanderer- Drew Hayden Taylor
"Taylor crafts a fast-paced tale of old magic meeting the modern world in this coming-of-age novel set in an Ontario reserve. With a spare, effective narrative style, he draws compelling portraits of teenage Tiffany, her struggling father, and a grandmother who carries the old world and the old Anishinabe language in her head. The mysterious Pierre brings a darkly gothic element to the prosaic setting, settling in the Hunters' basement room while he looks for a cure for his cravings. Taylor is an accomplished storyteller tackling themes of alienation and compromise with an accessible and engaging voice."
For further information about the Sunburst Award, including information about past nominees, winners, and jurors, please visit:www.sunburstaward.org
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
I caught some of Michael Pittman's work at the Leyton Gallery in St. John's last November. You must see it. Here's a link to his site:
And to see some of Mary Ann Penashue's vital and striking work, and read an artist's statement, go here:
Sunday, April 20, 2008
"Critically acclaimed novelist Michelle Butler Hallett rolls out her raucous brand of satire in this tender exploration of the human need for communication, communion, and love. Sky Waves is set against the development of radio in Newfoundland and Labrador, and told in 98 non-linear but interconnected chapters. It crackles with comedy, modulates through history, and toys with a new signal-to-noise ratio. Sky Waves is definitely a lively and sometimes demented aural culture novel. Butler Hallett worked in radio for several years and has long been haunted by the story of a cousin who crashed his plane while looking for a lost child."
Thursday, February 21, 2008
So nervous now I’m sweating on the inside.
Three minutes, sure, but can I do three good minutes?
Face-Off details are here:
Deadline: March 31, 2008.
Riddle Fence, a St. John's-based journal of arts and culture, is looking to fill its second issue with nothing short of literary genius – though we'll settle for the merely exemplary. Payment? How mercenary of you to ask. We pay $30 a page for prose and poetry.
We are currently considering submissions of poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction. Send us your best and keep the rest for yourselves. Please send no more than 3-4 poems or one piece of prose, maximum 5,000 words in length.
What are we looking for? What is anyone looking for: brilliance, innovation, that certain je ne sais quoi de sage-like insight that will blow away the doldrums and give our lives greater meaning.
We accept submissions by snail mail (please include a self-addressed stamped envelope): Riddle Fence, P.O. Box 7092, St. John's, NL, A1E 3Y3. Or, send your submission by e-mail (as an attachment in MS Word or Rich Text Format) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You wouldn’t think so to look at me, five foot eight and zaftig, shoulders like a linebacker’s. My BMI threatens “obese” but usually hovers within “overweight.” I’ve hardly wasted away like someone with active Crohn’s, a condition that keeps an old and dear friend housebound.
Pain is harder than you expect. Even when it’s familiar and old. Each time I’d be admitted to hospital, I coddle a little hope that someone will diagnose me, give me an answer. ---Yes, Ms Butler Hallett, your intractable pain and nausea that’s broken through morphine and sometimes presents with elevated liver functions is caused by ...
Demerol is useless. Just makes me lie still.
Two weeks ago, I went to bed on a Saturday night and couldn’t get up on Sunday morning. Lay there till Sunday afternoon, until it was time for bile. Grey, dark green, copious and thick, from all available orifices. Burns. Scalds, really, carves its own paths through the other pain. Sweats and chills and spins. It settled, but another week passed before I felt safe to drive.
Between bouts, the pain feels like a rumour or some fever dream. Between bouts, all I care about the pain is that it’s gone.
Nineteen days of four to ten on the irritating pain scale docs ask you to use.
Familiar and old. Harder than I expect.
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