Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I know, in theory, that my little books are out in the world, being read, or waiting shyly on shelves somewhere. I know because once in awhile I get a royalty payment or whathaveyou. The cheques are small (though nonetheless welcome!) so I know that sales are drib-drabby at best.  

And I know my books are in libraries because I get a little cheque every year from the Public Lending Right Commission. Payments are based on an annual survey of a handful of libraries across the country; the amount of your payment is based on how many of those libraries have your book in their catalogue. But still, even though I've been cashing those cheques for a couple of years, I didn't ever stop and think: hey, my books are actually IN libraries. Being checked out (hopefully), or thumbed through, or -- gasp -- stolen. And by people I don't know in places I've never been.

Then I heard about, the world's largest library catalogue, and decided to take a look-see for my books. And it kind of blew me away. Both of my books are all over North America, mostly in university libraries. (Including Ivy League ones!) Vs. can be borrowed in Santa Cruz, CA; from the Library of Congress in Washington; Princeton; Harvard; and a whole wodge of Canadian universities. (The Sleeping Life gets even more hits.) Sure, I don't know how often these copies actually circulate, but I'm pretty chuffed at the thought of all places my books get to go, all the people who might be reading it.

So, thanks, libraries, for supporting small press poetry, and offering it up to all of us for free... as long as we return our loans on time...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Running up.

No cigars for me, lately, though I've been close a couple of times. There was the second place in TNQ's Nick Blatchford Occasional Verse contest, honourable mention (IE 4th place) in PF's Bliss Carman, 4th place among the women who took part an 8-week fitness program/contest at my boxing club. Then today, I learned that I'd placed somewhere among the top FIFTY in the Summer Literary Seminar contest. (To keep that in perspective, there were 900-something entries, so the ranking is still sort of encouraging.)

So, you can find me, pretty consistently, just over from the podium, within smelling distance of victory. (Which is especially pungent in the case of the boxing thing.) Not that I mean this as a complaint. It's pretty great just to be in proximity of winners.

But it has me thinking: when did writing -- and everything -- start feeling like a contest to be one or lost? And then I realize: it was when I started entering contests. Duh. Or maybe when I started publishing -- having a lit mag take a poem or a publisher accept a manuscript is exactly the same kind of competition, but your name ends up on a table of contents or better yet, a title page, instead of a shortlist. Prizes seem more prestigious because they come with bigger cheques and because they get more media attention than, say, a new issue of a journal.

But really, it's all completely subjective, we're all beholden to the whims of editors and juries, so why even spend precious writing time thinking about it? Besides, my Mom thinks I'm pretty hot stuff. And so, I hereby celebrate my recent experiences adjacent to glory.