Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Featured at

Novelist Chad Pelley keeps a cool new blog on Atlantic Canadian writing called Salty Ink. He's introducd a new feature on individual writers, 'Shedding Some Ink,' and he starts with me.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Clarification -- Sutter Cain, 'Doesn't Really Matter'

Okay, to clarify: the music is by Sutter Caine. The animation comes from a completely different project, from a short called The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello, directed by Anthony Lucas. I completely missed -- and still can't find -- acknowlegement of Lucas' work at this entry on Youtube. Apologies to Lucas and the Morello team.

Sutter Cain, 'Doesn't Really Matter.'

Found this treasure on YouTube. Trust me.

Friday, December 4, 2009

"I'm madder than a hatter, and it fires my might" -- Elemental, "Cup of Brown Joy."

Tea rocks. Enough said.


I am spice, I am stutter, I am crutches, I am pain; I will eat; I will listen; I will struggle; I will sing.

Ankylosing spondylitis

... a form of arthritis primarily affecting the sacroiliac joints and spine. Can cause ossification and joint fusion. Hurts. Affects mobility. Hurts. Did I mention it hurts?

I use forearm crutches to get around. Passers-by generally glance at the crutches with fear and loathing. I did not see the same reactions when I used the more common underarm crutches -- which are bloody useless, I might add. Underarm crutches require much more energy to use, and the uppermost part likes to get tangled in the side of your bra, should you be wearing one. But back to the forearm crutches, the ones you lean forward on slightly ... why the fear and loathing? Do they seem more medicinal somehow? Do they make me look contagious? Do they remind people of polio? Maybe I'll start asking ...

Time to change the sheets, b'ys: The Bad Sex in Fiction Prize

Q: Michelle, why do you never write sex scenes?
A: Because I'm afraid I might win this prize.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Saltyink -- new Atlantic Canadian writing blog

Novelist Chad Pelley has just launched a new blog about and for Atlantic Canadian writing:

Friday, September 4, 2009

And speaking of human rights ...

The Baha'i International Community issues a statement on the deplorable situation of the Baha'is in Iran.

"CIA Doctors Face Human Experimentation Claims" -- The Guardian

Do no harm / Just following orders: doublethink ...

I wrote about this sort of moral dirt in Double-blind. I wanted Dr. Bozeman's psychiatric experiments and research for a Cold War agenda to come off utterly plausible but safely historical. As in, left behind. In the past. Never again, ya know?

Silly me.

More here from Physicians for Human Rights.

Underwood No 5 -- yes, I think this is extremely cool

This photo from Richard Polt's The Classic Typewriter Page is not of my Underwood No 5 -- my digital camera is toast -- but it's very similar to mine, except mine has black keys. These gorgeous machines would survive Armageddon and ask for more. Cleaned and oiled, they can work just fine. My Underwood No 5 -- affectionately, The Sook -- stutters and jams on spacing, which fits.

You want truly delicious? View this Thesteampunkhome blog.

Possibilities, possibilities ..

Yes, I think this is cool

The feature article today at Wikipedia: Star Trek character Khan Noonien Singh.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

--Where do you get your ideas?

I dislike that question, because I can never respond intelligently. It's right up there with --Why are there so many good writers coming out of Newfoundland? To that one I can at least throw a saucy and sincere answer: --Why are you so surprised?

But this morning, I got an idea the old-fashioned way. I looked around. Saw a guy on the bus. Felt afraid of him as he stared right through me with glazed blue eyes, as his jaw twitched and his hands flopped on his open notebook, but no way would he drop his pen. Demons, I thought. Something gnaws at him, and gnaws violently this morning. Rips flesh from his back, spits it out, digs for more. Sudden pleading - blink - agitation, fear, and that hot, hot glaze, almost a glisten now: no, not tears. I look out the window at dried-up trees, leaves brittle from desperate sucking wasps. Count to twenty-mississippi before glancing his way again; he's still staring, like he knows something terrible about me, like he's desperate not to tell me. Another woman gets off the bus -- she's much younger than me, a kholed sylph in size two jeans; he stares at her bust and butt, starved, stares back at me, writes something down.

I miss my stop.

Story title, theme, protag and antag arcs spark. Yay for me, woohoo, ain't that grand.

But something gnaws at him.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

New grab bag stuff

Hey. Been working hard on the next book, a novel called Dead Reckoning -- oral traditions. I've tried to write this book many times and had given up; I buried it in the basement while digging the Suez Canal. Worked its way back up through the floor. Seems I had to write Sky Waves first -- who knew? I didn't.

Draft. In progress. Subject to wild change. Or none at all.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wish I could cook like SuperMom

The smart, wicked, beautiful and amazing Andreae Prozesky's got a new blog. Food. Motherhood. Writing. Food. Did I mention food?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

"Bottle Pit" -- interview with Joel Thomas Hynes in The Antigonish Review

Litmag The Antigonish Review #157, just out, includes my in-depth interview of writer and actor Joel Thomas Hynes. The interview focuses on craft, personality, fusions and history.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

"Does Big Brother exist?"

Trailer for the 1984 film of Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. This movie is a brilliant and extremely loyal adaptation of the novel ... and very hard to watch.

I admire Orwell's work greatly, and, while I acknowledge his fame, I still think he's grossly underrated as a writer and a thinker.

I wish Orwell and Nineteen Eighty-Four were no longer relevant. I wish we all could look at this in complete dumbfounded shock and recognize none of it.

Cold War angst

Duran Duran's video for "New Moon on Monday." A bit silly in places, sure, but if you're too young to remember how the world felt before the Berlin Wall came down, this might give you a taste. Not that anyone behind the Iron Curtain had clothes or hair like that. Or glowy-sticks.

New Romantic sensiblities

Duran Duran, "Union of the Snake." Just plain theatrical fun. Fun, imagine that in the coldest Siberia winter of the Cold War.

Audioslave -- "Doesn't Remind Me"

Yes, more Cornell ... with the band Audioslave this time. Video for "Doesn't Remind Me." The song's already brilliant. The video: it's a short film.

More on Cornell

He writes honestly and powerfully about clinical depression, how it numbs you, alienates you from others -- and he does it with some comedy and much skill. He expands his own suffering into empathy for others and then creates art out of it. I admire this.

Chris Cornell's "Scream"

Love this record. Cornell's brave -- tries new stuff. The video for "Scream" rocks.

Why I post rough drafts in the Grab Bag

Because my rough drafts suck. Because I need to keep giving myself permission to write shite. Because I love the creative process. Because writing is like walking naked in front of the world. Because I need to wrestle with the black dog of depression, and posting rough drafts is a weapon.

Monday, May 11, 2009

New Grab Bag content at

Cleaned out the Grab Bag at my site and put up the opening of a short screenplay and the first two scenes of a stageplay -- rough as rocks.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Bookshelf -- new blog by Kerri Cull

So the smart and saucy Kerri Cull has started a books blog: The Bookshelf. Ms Cull's a diverse reader and hilariously blunt. Find her here.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Skeletal birdsong

Anxiety, me? I don't think of myself as an anxious person. Keep busy during the day and keep pushing the anxiety away 'til it wakes me up in a sweat, yeah okay, that makes sense, but if I let the anxiety out -- screaming, scratching at the cage which is my own body -- if I let the anxiety out -- dark stabs of fear, like being grabbed from behind -- if I let the anxiety out -- lift weights, walk hard, harder harder harder back bent head low -- damned dull light today, clouds pulpy black and grey, trees skeletal -- birdsong, no, not the defiance I take it for, but simply birdsong, existing long before and long after me, birdsong for no other reason than birds sing -- comforting -- walk hard but head up -- grace?


Yes, I'm on Twitter. First signed up to keep in touch with an old friend and his rancid gut; now I really like reading little bits of info and perspective. Jann Arden, Chris Cornell and Doonesbury character Roland Hedley are truly funny. You can find me there as MButlerHallett.

Desperate for connection, all of us.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Reading: Wednesday April 15

I'll be reading Wednesday evening with Mike Heffernan as part of the Writers' Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador Monthly Reading Series. We'll be at the Railway Coastal Museum, downtown St. John's. Free admission, books for sale -- mine are all a flat $20 each -- and it starts at 7. But wait! There's more! The Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council will also announce this year's winner of the Lawrence Jackson Award. Heffernan will be reading from Rig: An Oral History of the Ocean Ranger Disaster. I'll be heaving some of Sky Waves out of me, and some new stuff that quivers under that useful label "work in progress." (All this, and I can still slice a tomato paper thin.)

Asking myself tonight as I rehearse: go for funny? sad? manic? or all at once and utterly fucked up?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Simple, hard

I'm working on a scene in a new novel, scene with a World War Two Royal Navy veteran flashing back to battle at sea while a thunderstorm crashes. The character, Dick Harnum, is based on my maternal grandfather, Harold Francis, a Newfoundlander who served with the Newfoundland Overseas Forestry Unit and then the Royal Navy in WW2. My grandfather hated thunderstorms; I never knew why until about a few weeks ago.

Thunder dragged him back to the guns.

My father found him one day, hunched in his chair, gripping his head, pale and terrified when he finally looked up: -- Oh God, b'y, the thunder.

The low storm that day made everyone's ears vibrate.

Being at sea makes my ears hum and slush, and occasionally vibrate.

My grandfather's head, reinforced by a metal plate after injuries in a blitz -- did that also vibrate with each bang of thunder?

Bent at the waist, gripping his head ...

Try sitting in a chair, bent forward at the waist, holding your head. Either bit of flesh on your belly, and your breathing's cut. So, head pain, ear pain, fear, memory, shallow breathing, ears sloshing -- body memory of being at sea -- ship up, down, port, starboard BOOM up, down, port, starboard, smoke and screams and alarms and BANG dark mystery Where the fuck are we silence silence silence mouths just dark holes ears unblock BOOM ...

A half hour listening to RN footage on Youtube, bang of the naval guns. Five minutes hunched in a chair, elbows stabbing my knees, hands caging my head and those cut short breaths --

Trivial bit of method acting. Pathetic, really. And the comic-book diction of "boom?" Failure of words. And imagination.

Imagination here not just a gift but a duty.

So. Head pain, ear pain, fear, memory ...

Friday, January 23, 2009


The Order of the Dusty Owl's mic. Loved reading into this one -- not invasive, like those phallic ones.

Photo (c) Copyright 2009 Michelle Butler Hallett.

Bytown -- Joy, by Bruce Garner

One of my favourite sculptures: Joy, by Bruce Garner, on Sparks Street in Ottawa. Taken Sun Jan 19, 2009, after dark. Photo (c) Copyright 2009 Michelle Butler Hallett.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sky Waves -- errata

Chapter 37, "On the package" should have the dateline "February 17, 1999" and not "February 17, 1979."

I fucked up a bit on the Sputnik program in chaper 65, "Ohm 2," implying that Laika the dog has gone up Sputnik 1. Laika blasted into orbit in Sputnik 2 and died shortly after leaving Earth.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Baha'i Question -- Cultural Cleansing in Iran

A site that explores the outrages committed against the Baha'is in Iran.

Dusty Owl notes

Best time I've ever had at a reading, guaranteed.Also the best mic I've ever used -- pic to come later. The Order of the Dusty Owl is packed with sweet and generous people.

I met two photographers, Charles Earl and John W. Macdonald. They each took shots of me -- me, who normally coagulates into mud before a camera -- and put me at ease. I;m flattered to be part of their work.

Charles Earl:

John W. Macdonald:

Reasons I am proud of my daughter

My older daughter turns eleven today. Here's a short list of why I'm proud of her.

1) She's eager to take the Red Cross Babysitting course so she can help others.

2) She wanted very badly to watch Barack Obama's inaguration speech because she sensed the historical importance.

3) After watching the speech, she asked intelligent questions about segregation, "expediency" and Guantanamo Bay.

4) She informs her class at school of the continuing abuses and harassment of the Baha'is in Iran. Not only is she aware of issues -- she cares.

She cares. The start-point for change.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dusty Owl Reading venue -- correction

Swizzles is NOT in the Byward Market. Yep, I'm embarrassed.

Swizzles Bar and Grill, 246B Queen:

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Upcoming Dusty Owl Reading -- thoughts

Bytown or Ottawa? Michelle or Nichole?

I never wanted an alter ego, a character who might be identified with me, who had enough in common with me for a reader to think Look! Autobiographical stuff. But Nichole Wright in my novel Sky Waves kinda came out that way ... Nichole worked in radio, studied at Carleton University in 1989 and the early 1990s – majored in English, too, the copycat – even took a job in a downtown Ottawa mall, just like me. Okay, I get silly at that point, having Nichole work at an office supply store called Bigge and Wiggles, whereas I worked for Grand and Toy, but still, Nichole's course arcs close to mine. Until we get to her destructive coke habit and unplanned pregnancy and connected breakdown – fiction, right? So beyond asking the question of why we tend to privilege art that we think we know it autobiographical, I feel almost queasy about travelling to Ottawa to give a reading as part of the Dusty Owl Series. Excited, too -- Ottawa's a second home, a city where I lived for nearly ten years and put down taproots. My first daughter was born in Ottawa. A puntload of friends live in Ottawa. And that winter cold, that dry smack upside the face with microscopic ice – I'll be striding off that plane with arms open wide ... well, metaphorically ... craving the familiar and strange, old and new, and not minding how Nichole hovers along for the ride.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Sleep a fog that settles and dissipates on unseen whims. Dreams elusive and troubling -- two nights ago, an enormous brown crow attacked my head -- talons -- and then my back where the neuralgia registers, tearing out chunks. My jaw: trap-tight. Someone watches.

NLAC Featured Project

The Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council now aims extra spotlight on "Featured Projects" they have funded.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council recently awarded me a travel grant of $630.00 for my upcoming trip to Ottawa to read at the Dusty Owl Reading Series.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

"Be sure and make note of your sensations."

Post-herpetic neuralgia continues.

Today, despite increased doses of Lyrica, my sides burn ... char ... blister ... the skin looks normal. Barbed wire crammed against scalds. Tears.

Upcoming reading -- Dusty Owl series, Ottawa

Sunday, January 18th at 2pm, Swizzles Bar and Grill in the Byward Market ... the Order of the Dusty Owl honours Michelle Butler Hallett by shoving her -- she'll stumble -- towards the mic to read from her latest novel, Sky Waves, plus some older stuff and some in-progress stuff. Yeah, stuff, yeah.

Official dirt follows:

Butler Hallett's work, at once striking, memorable and difficult to categorize, has been praised by Books in Canada for "economy and power," while The Globe and Mail notes that "demons are at work - the kind that lurk in the subconscious and surface, depending on the individual, as either despairing visions or acts of outright brutality. ... Butler Hallett seems often to be creating from a subliminal place, riding on intuition, unencumbered by the counsel of editors." Speaking of Butler Hallett's first novel, Double-blind, the 2008 Sunburst Award Jury said: "Sanity, madness, torture in the name of science -- Double-blind is wonderfully original while chillingly based in history. ... The writing is incredibly layered, with metaphor and symbol perfectly balanced against the hard neutrality of scientific language."

With Sky Waves, her latest novel, Butler Hallett draws on her radio background and her troubled relationship with history to create her most ambitious work yet. Described by the author as "a demented 'aural' culture novel," Sky Waves is told as a drew, that is, as the ninety-eight meshes in a row of a fishing net. Throughout ninety-eight non-linear but interconnected chapters and several different narrators, characters and storylines are networked together, almost as a mural against a timeline of 1901 to 2008. Sky Waves explores the often funny and often sad human need for - and fear of - meaningful communication.

Asked recently to describe her work, Butler Hallett replied: "a blistering fusion of history, New Romantic sensibilities, stubborn Cold War angst, steampunk and hope. Categorize that."

Friday, January 2, 2009

Grab bag at

From time to time I'll be adding (and taking away) draft bits, new stuff and God knows what to the Grab Bag section of my site. Drop by for a gawk.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Support Wikipedia

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

A cool site -- incredibly useful -- and free of advertisements. Also free. As in, you don't pay to use it. As in, access ... and with that, freedom.

Spark-gap transmission / Michelle Butler Hallett

Spark-gap transmission / Michelle Butler Hallett
in progress

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