Like many of us, I spent much of yesterday thinking about Gord Downie and his incredible legacy. Very privileged to be asked to write some of those thoughts down here for the Globe. Downie’s loss is a deep wound. https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/…/why-ru…/article36645881/…&
Guess what I finally got to start working on this week? If you’ve been following along (and I forgive you if you haven’t), my concept for an ultra-fun, Vampires vs Flight Attendants movie won the WIFTV From Our Dark Side mentorship competition back in 2016. The movie — Fly Girls — was optioned by Triton Media back in December and with Hysteria put to bed (at least for now), I finally get to write my horror movie!
Well — horror-comedy.
I managed to dip my toes earlier this year, writing a screen adaptation of The Devil You Know for New Metric Media, but Fly Girls will be my first original screenplay. I cleaned out the office this week and started re-working my existing beat sheet… but what I really want to show you here is the amazing art Melissa Lee created to inspire me!
Melissa works with WIFTV on the Dark Side mentorship project, and we had a fun talk back in the fall about what kind of art she could make to help me push the project along. The best thing I could think of was a series of digital postcards that I could pass around here in virtual-world — but they turned out so drop-dead gorgeous that I’m going to print them up as glossy posters, I think, and wallpaper my office with them for the next couple of months while I’m writing.
I wrote up the slogans (with a little help from some pals who batted them around with me at a dinner party last year) and they’ve been pinned up on my cork board ever since. A fun reminder that this project was waiting in queue for my attention —
— and it’s finally here! Of course, Fly Girls is in early stages of development — so there’s no saying whether any of these will make into the movie’s official promo. But that’s no reason not to enjoy them now! I hope you love them as much as I do ❤
During the last few weeks of fevered rewrites on the the final draft of my new novel, I relied heavily on this clip of Kathleen Turner, as romance novelist Joan Wilder in Romancing the Stone, literally crying as she writes the last few words of a book:
I’m thrilled to announce this great news! My next novel, HYSTERIA, will be published in Spring 2018 by Harper Collins in Canada. Right now, I’m working hard to finish the book: a story whose post-war setting in seemingly idyllic 1950s upstate New York strangely parallels a young German woman’s relationship with her controlling husband, an American psychiatrist– until the couple’s small son goes missing. As she struggles to find her child, the mother finds herself torn between the possibility that her husband is involved in the boy’s disappearance and the dark suggestion that something otherworldly has taken him.
Read the deal announcement here.
What we’ve learned is that the rights we hold most precious, the rights we believe define us as a people, are in fact alienable, if we do not protect them with our strong voices and especially our strong actions. Our takeaway as Canadians has to be how we choose here in Canada to react, and how we choose to move forward. Don’t fool yourself: we’re not any better. Our election process last year was threaded through with racist ploys to win votes. I watched with horror as women were attacked on the street for what they chose to wear – because of a campaign promise from the man who’d already been our Prime Minister for years. Across the country we are watching right now as governments of every level ignore the rights of indigenous people to clean water, to their land, and to a real say in its use. Kellie Leitch, hoping to gain the federal leadership of the PC party, has already sent out a campaign letter promising to bring Trump-style politics to Canada.
What I’m saying is: Now is a good time to decide what is important to you. Now and for the next many years is the time to fight more starkly than ever for full and uncontestable equality. For women, People of Colour, indigenous people, LGBTQ people, for people of all religions, for citizens and for refugees.
A few days before this election, my daughter called me from the city where she now attends university, to tell me the details of how she peacefully protested DAPL in solidarity from here in Canada, how she walked into her bank– a major investor in the pipeline– and demanded some accountability. I take heart in that. But we need people of all ages to participate, everyone.
There is no time left for complacency – even with a new Prime Minister, even with a new government in place. There is no time left to take anything for granted, because the wall that is really coming up is the wall of intolerance from the south. It has a fantastic media package. It will be hard to avoid being crushed.
For every one of us expressing these same thoughts, for everyone I can imagine nodding along as I type this, I also know there is another person, someone who is galvanized by this election result. Someone who takes it as permission.
Super pleased to share that The Devil You Know has been shortlisted for the Thomas Raddall Prize at this year’s East Coast Literary Awards, along with superstars Robert Gray, for his book Entropic, and Mark Anthony Jarman for his book Knife Party at the Hotel Europa. (I have probably spent more time with Jarman’s short stories than those of any other Canadian writer, unless that Canadian writer is named Alice Munro, so this feels like stiff competition to me.)
I’ll be in Nova Scotia for a few days next week, around the awards ceremony. In the area? Come say hello!
Thursday, June 2, Raddall Prize reading in Liverpool, event page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/278570965810147/
Saturday, June 4, East Coast Literary Awards, event page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/527183197484352/
December is usually my favourite month. The kids get a long break from school (which means we get a long break from alarm clocks and lunch boxes), I get to break out my skis and snowshoes, and on top of all that, it’s my birthday month! Sagittarians are notorious birthday lovers, dontcha know.
This year, I’ve got three more great reasons-for-the-season:
- I’m home. I did the math last week, and it turns out I’ve been away for at least a week out of every month since June of this year — and some months, I was away three weeks out of four. So I am ready to light the fireplace, bake some cookies, and curl up on the couch in a big way.
- The Devil makes a splash on the year-end lists. I’m thrilled to see The Devil You Know make the cut at three very special year end lists: Lucky #13 at the National Post; Kerry Clare’s Best of 2015 at Pickle Me This; and the Globe 100 list at The Globe and Mail. (With an added mention by my Globe original reviewer, Stacey May Fowles, in her year-end column to boot!)
- The paperback has landed. Here at home and in the States, The Devil You Know is out in a new paperback edition, with a brand new cover. Look for the new edition in stores near you as early as this week.
Wishing you all the best coziness and winter sunshine through December, and the very best in 2016. By the time January rolls around, we’ll be ready to start packing those lunch boxes again… and imagine all the work I’ll be able to tackle once the kids are back in school. Happy New Year!
That’s the question I’ve been asking myself for the past few weeks.
And aside from a steady stream of cheerleader-type Tweets (V! O! T! E! What’s that spell?), I haven’t written a word.
Earlier in the year, I wrote a blog post that started with this line:
As a woman in this country, sometimes I think the real question is: When do we start rioting?
The post was written in response to what I perceive to be a miscarriage of justice – the acquittal of the accused murderer of Cindy Gladue. It was shared more widely than anything else I’ve ever said publicly. A few weeks later, I saw those words again, hand-painted on a stranger’s sign at the demonstration held in St. John’s in Gladue’s memory, part of a National Day of Action demanding an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women. I was standing with co-organizer Jenny Wright, head of the St. John’s Status of Women Council. Wright leaned in. “You know,” she said. “Under C-51, we could all be arrested for that sign.”
Six months on, I recognize that not only could I be arrested for the implied threat my words carried, but as a dual citizen, under C-24, I could also be deported. (While I’m not a member of an international terrorist association, feminists do seem to scare the pants off this government.) Ironically, in the country to which I would be exiled – Romania – I am also a second-class citizen, an ethnic Hungarian.
What’s that? You think I’m being hyperbolic? Not so. The Harper government has shown, at best, disregard and at worst, true contempt for our rights and freedoms. C-51 was drafted in defiance of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and has attracted stern criticism from the UN. Yes yes yes, you say. But as a Canadian-born white lady, these laws are not aimed at you, Elisabeth.
Right you are: They are part of the new Canada. Harper’s legacy here is his anti-Muslim racist agenda. But I think that may be only the beginning.
In a shameful attempt to sway voters and divide the country, Harper hired Australian campaign maestro Lynton Crosby, known for cheap, racist ploys – and suddenly the election issue became, not the economy, social services, the environment, or infrastructure – but the niqab, a religious head covering that only two women have ever declined to remove during their citizenship ceremony. (To be perfectly clear, all potential citizens go through rigorous identity screening. All citizens must be identified by showing their faces in private meetings, prior to the ceremony. The ceremony itself is just that: a ritual, a special day. Like your wedding, or your college graduation.) After running a campaign where PC candidates were actually told not to discuss the issues with the press, Harper used the niqab debate to deflect attention from his government’s poor record and to fight lousy performance at the polls. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather talk about jobs and child care than someone’s hat.
The tactic did its work. In the past three weeks, we’ve seen Muslim women attacked in the street – one of them pregnant – and now these angry slurs sprayed on Liberal candidate Khalil Ramal’s election signs. We should all be embarrassed. Not only are Canadians knee-jerk racists, we will literally nod our heads along to whatever song the government is singing. Shame on us. I say, US. I say, WE. Because these are not strangers, perpetrating hate crimes. They are our neighbours and fellow citizens, our schoolmates and, maybe, our family.
There’s a clever meme out there, showing how Canadians are far more likely to be killed by a moose than by a terrorist plot. The hypocrisy of a Prime Minister who is low enough to make anti-Muslim racism an election ploy, yet had no trouble selling the Canadian Wheat Board to Saudi Arabian interests, does not escape me. Nor should it escape you. That’s because the niqab debate isn’t about simple racism. It’s about controlling the population. And when I say population, I mean you.
I can tell you that things are so bad, the whole world is now watching. Consistent problems with fraud in previous elections – including the robocall scandal—mean that an international human rights and democracy group has been sent in to observe and monitor our election proceedings. They arrived in Ottawa on October 5th. Media in the UK and the US have been sitting up and taking notice for months. What will it take for Canadians to follow suit?
About eighteen months ago, I lost my great-uncle Charlie. He was 102. Although he’d been living in New York for more than sixty years, like most of my family, he was born in Transylvania. During the Second World War, he spent two months in Budapest, detained at 60 Andrássy – then the headquarters of the Hungarian secret police. Today, 60 Andrássy stands as a museum of torture. We never talked about what happened to him there. But it’s what I think about, when I think about this government and the path Harper is choosing for us.
Earlier this month, the Conservatives announced their plan for a new RCMP tip line that Canadians could use to report on the behavior of their friends and neighbours. Tell me again how that makes us different from a fascist regime?
I grew up in the post-Trudeau era, firm in my reliance on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I’m a member of PEN, the international group that protects writers and freedom of expression. This is why I’m writing about my own fear today – instead of any of the many other important ways that the Harper government has damaged Canada: they have trashed the economy, irrevocably destroyed our national libraries, gagged our scientists, abandoned veterans, decimated our protection of the environment, sent the CRA after charities, defrauded our elections, and systematically eroded women’s rights and gender equality.
But here’s why I am afraid to write about the election:
Because if Harper is reelected, I believe things will get much worse. I believe the Harper government is inches away from taking away my right to free expression. My right, in fact, to say any of the things I’ve said here in this post. I wonder what will happen to writers and journalists on October 20th, if the Canadian people fall for him again.
I cast my own vote over a week ago, at one of the brand new pop-up polls that Elections Canada installed on university campuses this year. Advance polls are closed now, but by the end of the day on Sunday, October 11th, some 2.4 million Canadians had already voted. That’s a massive increase over previous years, and I think it’s cause for serious hope. But optimism is not enough.
If you haven’t voted yet, you’ve got one day only to do so: Monday, October 19th. Not registered yet? You have until 6pm today, October 13, to fix that. Register now.
You will be able to register at the poll on election day — but be warned, there may be long lines. Don’t let anything stand in the way of your right to vote.
Go vote. Don’t let Stephen Harper take our country away.
Just back and resettled after the fabulous whirlwind that is always the Writers at Woody Point literary festival.
Nestled on the shores of Bonne Bay, within Gros Morne National Park — a UNESCO World Heritage Site, no less — Woody Point is a charming village 360 days of the year. But for five days, every August, it turns into an absolute fulcrum for writers, readers, and musicians from across the country.
I’ve been twice-blessed with an invitation to read at WaWP, and this year I shared the bill with a roster that included Miriam Toews, Steven Galloway, Lawrence Hill, Elizabeth Hay, Bruce Cockburn, and John K. Samson — plus my own husband, the poet George Murray (!!) Most nerve-inducing for fan-girl me: I got to share the stage with Margaret Atwood. (Pictured here: the opening act.)
Events are hosted by Canada’s First Lady of Books, Shelagh Rogers, CBC’s Angela Antle, and this year, special guest Ron MacLean stepped up to the podium to give an all-star intro to Toews and Murray. The Hockey Night in Canada host was so sold on poetry that he bought the merch — here he is later that night, wearing one of Murray’s DIVERSION t-shirts.
Taking a break from the Saturday night party with Montrealer Shane Murphy and his band, official event photographer Tom Cochrane strolled down the road from the Legion to snag this photo of the northern lights (so dazzling that you might not notice the Perseids were also putting on a show.)
In that case, the northern lights just kinda can’t compete.
Heads up: I’ll be hitting the road with The Devil You Know off and on this summer and fall, making appearances at festivals in Woody Point, Winnipeg, Whistler, and Vancouver, among other places. Trying to keep track of me? Keep an eye on the Events page here for updates.