City WHOA-ter Hotel

When I first saw it, I loved the City Motor Hotel. The 1950s sign was massive and spectacular and I looked for excuses to drive east so I could stare at it.

IMG_1439 (Large)

The property was a little run-down. I didn’t realize just how much – not when I was new to Hamilton – but the phrase most commonly tossed around was “hotbed for drugs and prostitution.”

The city expropriated it last year and Molly Hayes wrote an ONA-winning story about it.

Yesterday they finally took possession and I spent the last two days at the hotel.

You can read about it here and here. Be sure to click through all the photos in each link because they’re great.

Read more →

Project Bookmark

From the “ideas-so-good-I-wish-I’d-thought-of-it” section, let me introduce you to Project Bookmark – a charitable organization that places plaques featuring poems and excerpts from Canadian stories in the exact physical locations where they appear in said poems and passages.

I’ve been quite obsessed with the idea since I found out about it a few months ago because it speaks to my love of literature and geography in a way that also basically lets me be a character in a novel. If this appeals to you too, you’re in luck! Even though Project Bookmark is Hamilton-based (local writer Miranda Hill started it in 2007), it’s in no way Hamilton-centric – this is a truly national initiative that aims to make its mark in a cross-country kind of way.


Photo of Wayson Choy and Miranda Hill by Monica Miller

If you want to be part of it, you’re in luck! While you can make donations any time of year, April is the month of the Page Turner campaign.

Each day, a prominent Canadian reader will encourage the rest of us to become Page Turners by donating $20 to Project Bookmark. At the end of every day, a name will be drawn from those who donated that day and one freshly-minted Page Turner will win a prize associated with that day’s prominent reader. Make sense?

Today’s reader is Shelagh Rogers. Yes, of The Next Chapter.


Today’s grand prize is an interview with her. Whaaaaaaaaaaaat? You heard me. You get to interview Shelagh Rogers. Who’s her own favourite interview been? Least favourite? What would she choose as a Project Bookmark site? Does she know that Joel Plaskett loves her speaking voice so much he wrote it into a song? The interview is your oyster. Ask her whatever you want. But first? Donate.

Think about it – a cross-country trail of CanLit. A winding passageway of words you can follow from coast to coast to coast. If your heart is not breaking and swooning all over your keyboard, you might not have one. In which case, I guess my own chances of winning one of these daily contests is better…but I’d rather we were excited about this together.

Check in here daily to find out who’s championing the cause.

Read more →

Gray days

Geez that’s a downer of a headline isn’t it? I mean, it is gray outside today, but it was only supposed to be a segue for this ring I made the other day…

Cumulus Ring 1 (Large)

It started out as a backplate for a laguna agate I was going to set, but it turns out I don’t have all the correct tools to make a bezel right now. Of course, I couldn’t just sit around and wait for the tools to arrive in the mail (patience would be ridiculous) so I thought for a minute and decided the plate-that-was-meant-to-be-a-bush-because-the-agate-looks-like-treetops could just as easily be a cloud.

Cumulus Ring 2 (Large)

It also serves an experimental purpose – checking to see if a brass ring will turn fingers green. If so, I guess I’ll have to turn to making ring shanks out of silver, which is way more expensive, which means I probably won’t make a ton, but we’ll see how it goes.

Cumulus Ring 3 (Large)

I have to say I’m pretty excited. The metal is probably too thin a gauge to make rings out of regularly, but otherwise this little cloud turned out nicely. I was amazed that I made the shank and soldered it on with minimal mental freak-outs.

In other news, I just found out yesterday that I was nominated for an Ontario Newspaper Award for arts and entertainment writing. So I’m double-psyched today. When I was applying, I tried to calculate which stories would be the strongest using an invented semi-mathematical equation, but it was turning my brain inside out because I stink at math (even half-math I made up myself) so I went with the three pieces that were my faves to work on last year – a review of Niagara Comic Con, an interview with Salman Rushdie and my opening essay from the State of the Arts series. Big thanks to the Hamilton arts community for being prolific and newsworthy and willing to share its stories!

Read more →

Eggheads unite

I feel like I’ve forgotten to flip out over some lit-related stuff. First off – Canada Reads. I’m so so so psyched for the picks this year. I’m not a huge fan of biographies and memoirs unless I have a pre-existing interest in the subject (a la Dance on the Earth) and even though I tried to get fired up about last year’s roster, it was to no avail. I didn’t read any of the books for the first time in years. This year though, I’m already knee-deep in Indian Horse and looking forward to the rest of the reads.

Speaking of which, I have a poem in current issue of The Antigonish Review. It’s about cycling and regional cuisine and the way that you only remember where you’ve been on a bike trip in relation to what you ate in any given place. Truly. Any touring cyclist will admit this. The wide beautiful country is just like a series of dinner plates when you’re on a bike because you are always starving.

Finally, I was nominated for a Hamilton Literary Award this year for a short story I had in Room in 2011. The ceremony happened while I was away hunting and I was quite bummed about that, but very excited to hear that I’d won and that Colette Kendall gave an amazing reading on my behalf.

So thanks to the Hamilton Arts Council, Collette, Epic Books (who sponsored my award) and fellow writers including Jean Rae Baxter who was my running mate for the Hamilton Arts Awards.

Finally, on a non-book-related note, I made some new earrings from the antlers I brought home this year. Check them out.

Studly, yes? Like pearls. But wilder and tougher.

I should mention that while I’ve made earrings from antlers in the past, I got the idea for these particular studs from Lorna Woods, whose place I hunted at this fall. She gave me a pair of tiny delicate studs she’d made and I thought “hot damn, this is what I’ll do with my spikes.”

Hopefully, when I know a little more fancy silver footwork, I’ll be able to set these as studs and rings.

Read more →

Reading, writing, screw arithmetic

This is the price of a poem:

You can read $10 worth of writing in an upcoming issue of The Antigonish Review.

Also, I’m nominated for “fiction – short story” at this year’s Hamilton Literary Awards. Super sadly, I’m not going to be able to attend the awards evening (I already bought a dress for it too), but super happily, it’s because I’ll be up in Dryden hunting.

I’m pretty psyched about this year’s hide haul. There are already four in my freezer (donated by others) and I’m going to have them tanned by local pros this year which means they’ll be supple and floppy and I should be able to make more varied pieces this winter.

Now. How can I incorporate a sparkly 60’s shift into my hunting uniform…? Or should I save it for New Year’s?

Read more →