A couple of years ago, while my lonely literary novel was still soaking in publishers’ slush piles, I adapted one of its chapters into a short story and submitted it to a cool, experimental literary magazine based in Calgary. (Yes, there’s actually a very fine literary scene in Alberta.)
I called my novel-chapter-posing-as-a-short-story “Pterodactyl Egg” (I still have to spell check “pterodactyl” every time I type it). The title is a pregnancy reference, obviously. I don’t like pregnancy but I love this story. It’s almost completely autobiographical — which means, of course, that I had to tone it down or it would have seemed too far-fetched.
Reality seems so contrived sometimes. Like the time I went to visit my old lady friend in the hospital where she was trying not to die of some ridiculous infection and I found her unraveling a hand-knit sweater — that was way too real.
And no, that’s not my face on the cover of the mag.
I had just barely signed my publishing contract this fall when my favourite radio station (it’s CBC Radio One — got a problem with that?) played this song for me. Even though the announcer didn’t introduce it by saying, “This is song is going out to Jennifer Quist. It’s the perfect accompaniment for her novel Love Letters of the Angels of Death,” I knew that was what he meant anyways.
The song is called “Angels” — and it made my skin prick when I finally found out its title was also one of the words from my title. It’s the work of the UK band, the XX. So thanks, The XX, for blurting out in less than three minutes with one vocal track, sparse guitars, and some eclectic percussion what took me an entire novel to say.
Hey, guess what? Sleigh rides — like the ones in “Jingle Bells” — they’re real. We fell in with some awesome, hospitable cowboys and ended up invited on our own, private sleigh ride earlier this month. I’m the cold blonde chick. The horses are “Zeus” and “Okra.” Why the heck not? The awesome cowboy-people are Darcy and Renee. And that dog is the laziest non-human mammal I have ever met.
I don’t think I’ve ever got an acceptance letter as long and thoughtful as the one I got this week from Jason Lee Norman’s “40 Below Project.” Jason is putting together an anthology of stories and art about life in the city of Edmonton, Alberta during the winters.
Don’t know Edmonton? Well, I’m confident in saying it’s the only metropolitan area with a population of over a million people at this latitude or higher anywhere in the western hemisphere of this planet. Sounds like a blast, eh? A big, icy blast…
The project accepted my submission, a short bit of creative non-fiction called “Bleeders.” There was some talk on Twitter about the vampire story someone submitted. The title notwithstanding, mine was not the vampire story.
The 40 Below anthology is going to be produced in book form and it’s scheduled for release in November 2013. Don’t worry, Edmonton should be well into winter by then.
Here’s a link to a blog post from my publisher, Linda Leith, explaining the role and the need for small publishing houses like hers. I’m stopping short of gushing about how impressed I am with Linda. Not only would gushing be kind of socially awkward but it’s also unnecessary. Just look at her website.