Saturday, March 2, 2024

“Take a Step Back” by Barbara Crompton

 

Image from Canberra Times

“And,” Hazel wrote,” my three brothers are all closet misogynists in liberal clothing.”

Her email hit me like a fist in the face; I froze on the word misogynist.   

We had been in a short email exchange about some news regarding her sister, and buried in the correspondence, she had – almost blithely - tucked in this parting shot about her brothers. Not that I knew two of her brothers all that well, it had been years since I had participated in anything remotely familial with her family. But I’d known one of her brothers very well. He was my ex-husband.

“Jamie is not a misogynist,” I wrote back. “I think I need to take a step back from this conversation.”

Jamie and I had one of those marriages that had just petered out after thirty years as a couple. There had never been a single incident of misogyny – ever. If anything, Jamie had been overly affirming of everyone, including women. Even with our two girls, he couldn’t raise his voice without becoming wracked with guilt.

I closed the lid to my laptop and stared out the window. I felt the flutter of anxiety deep in my chest, like moths bumping up against a porch light. My mind raced in a non-stop loop of scenarios, one no more satisfying than the other. Hazel and I had been in a causal relationship since my divorce, and by casual, I mean Christmas cards, Facebook birthday posts and the odd email update.

Her use of the word misogyny felt as though she had crossed a line. But I had doubts.

Maybe she didn’t mean that word …maybe I should have asked why she said that! Maybe my final line was too snippy. Was there a nicer way I should have ended the email?

But … the word misogyny is a pejorative that describes someone who “despises” women. Other definitions include “hatred of women,” (typically shown by men but not exclusively) or having an “aversion” to women.

I wondered at the casualness as to how some people use the word misogyny, as if it were a close cousin to the word chauvinist. I’d heard it used to describe an opinionated co-worker, an ornery husband or difficult salesclerk. At the very worst, these people were guilty of being disagreeable, not women haters.  

“Your experience, not mine,” Hazel emailed back, not backing down from her accusation of misogyny.

Hazel had been estranged from her siblings for a while now and her grievances had been piling up. The falling out in the family had been triggered by the burial of her mother or rather the re-positioning of her mother, whose ashes had been on Hazel’s property.

The other siblings decided mom needed to be interned, yet again, alongside their father in a non-denominational cemetery. Everyone was in favour of the plan except Hazel who saw this as her hill to die on, and no, I’m not making this stuff up.

Accusations and age-old grievances erupted, and Hazel found herself alone. No one in families are spared in these sorts of falling-outs, except those few who prefer to let sleeping dogs lie and share holidays behind wooden smiles and careful conversations.

Sitting across from me on the couch, holding his thermos of morning coffee, my partner considered my posture.

“Where have you landed in regard to the whole Hazel email?” he asked.

“Unsettled.”

“You’re not used to crazy,” he said.

I considered the comment. It was true. My upbringing was the furthest thing from crazy, my partner’s experience was very different. His mother had all the right instincts but little of the maturity needed to understand herself or her growing children. His father was irresponsible and prone to drink.

The household was more chaotic than calm. My partner’s early years were marked with running feral and unrestrained through his boyhood town, collecting friends for their nighttime prowls. He was fortunate to have a sharp and curious mind along with a healthy dose of self-reliance to weather a more hostile environment. They were “that family.”

“True, I’m not used to crazy,” I said. But I’ve processed this. I’m just unsettled.”

“Then you’re not processed. My take is you’re not seeing the situation clearly.”

“What are you talking about?” I said, now annoyed.

“She was looking to co-opt you into her grievance,” he explained. “I’ve lived this”.

I felt like smacking my forehead. Of course.

I hadn’t been paying attention. My correspondence with Hazel was never an easy back and forth. Her emails inevitably slipped into a slow bleed of discontent that I tried to either ignore or steer in another direction. My stock answer was always “that must have been hard,” a vague response that says, “I’m listening” with a pretense of empathy.

Hazel was looking for a partner to bear witness to the perceived horribleness of her family and I was to be the co-conspirator to her narrative, the confidant to her indignation. Her complaint was deep and twisted. She was telling me that it was all their fault, and her malice was seeping through.

“And my three brothers are all closet misogynists,” she had said.

No, I thought, they weren’t. And it was time for me to step back from my relationship with Hazel.

***

Barbara Crompton is a retired business owner, yoga enthusiast, backcountry explorer and mother of  two beautiful intrepid daughters. Her passion is travelling the wilderness of Canada with her partner Ian and gathering stories from those experiences and the people she meets. Barbara lives in Oakville, Ontario. 

See Brian Henry’s upcoming weekly writing classes, one-day workshops, and weekend retreats here.  

See more essays, short stories, poems, reviews, and so forth by your fellow writers here (and scroll down).

Note: You can now get new postings on Quick Brown Fox delivered straight to your Inbox as I publish them. Subscribe to the new Quick Brown Fox page on Substack here: https://brian999.substack.com/

Thursday, February 29, 2024

New book: The Stones of Burren Bay by Emily De Angelis

Hi, Brian.

Just want to update you about my forthcoming debut YA novel, The Stones of Burren Bay (Latitude 46 Publishing, May 2024). It's now available for pre-order wherever you buy books or at the publisher's website here.

Thanks for all your support. Great workshop on Sunday (How to Get Published, Feb. 25). Always so much to learn.

Emily

The Stones of Burren Bay by Emily De Angelis

In a tragic car accident, 15-year-old Norie loses her father while her distant mother is injured. Her prized possession, an antique artist’s box that traveled from Ireland with her great-great-grandmother, is destroyed along with her deep connection to her art. As Norie grapples with her self-identity, obscured by grief and anger, she and her physically and emotionally fragile mother are forced to relocate.

With no other relatives to rely on, they call on the kindness of her mother’s oldest friend Dahlia and her daughter Wil, who run the Jolly Pot Tearoom and Burren Bay Lighthouse Museum on Manitoulin Island. Dahlia introduces Norie to ancient Irish Celtic spiritualism and opens the thin veil between the past and present where Norie encounters the echo of a century’s old spirit, Oonagh.

Through Oonagh’s own story Norie comes to terms with her father’s betrayal and death and rediscovers her passion for art. As her mother’s emotional wounds reach a crisis, Norie realizes they must face their guilt and grief together in order to heal and become reunited as mother and daughter.

 Praise for The Stones of Burren Bay

The Stones of Burren Bay harkens back to those golden, endless summers when anything was possible: solving a mystery, seeing a ghost, rediscovering yourself… Norie gets to do it all, and transport the reader in the process. A wonderful, compelling, emotional read. Find a hammock immediately.
— Claire Ross Dunn, author At Last Count

Emily De Angelis comes from a long line of visual artists, musicians, and storytellers.  She was born in Sudbury, Ontario where she lived and taught special needs students for 30 years. A graduate of the Humber School of Writing, her western and Japanese-style poems as well as short stories have been published in various anthologies. The Stones of Burren Bay is her first YA novel. Emily now lives in Woodstock, Ontario while spending summers on Manitoulin Island.

For information about submitting to Latitude 46, see here.

See other new books from your fellow authors here (and scroll down)

See Brian Henry’s upcoming weekly writing classes, one-day workshops, and weekend retreats here.  

 

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Still a few spots open in our online "Intensive Creative Writing" courses

Intensive Creative Writing

Offered online at 3 different times:

Tuesday evenings 6:30 – 9:00
March 19 to June 18, 2024 (no class April 23 or June 11). First readings emailed March 12.

Wednesday afternoons, 12:30 – 3:00
March 20 – June 19, 2024 {No class April 10 or June 5}. First readings emailed March 13

Friday mornings 10:00 – 12:30
March 22 – June 21, 2024 (No class April 5 or June 7). First readings emailed March 15

Intensive Creative Writing isn't for beginners; it's for people who  are working on their own writing projects. You’ll be asked to bring in several pieces of your writing for detailed feedback. All your pieces may be from the same work, such as a novel in progress, or they may be stand-alone pieces. You bring whatever you want to work on. 

Besides critiquing pieces, the instructor will give short lectures addressing the needs of the group, and in addition to learning how to critique your own work and receiving constructive suggestions about your writing, you’ll discover that the greatest benefits come from seeing how your classmates approach and critique a piece of writing and how they write and re-write. This is a challenging course, but extremely rewarding.

Instructor Brian Henry has been a book editor and creative writing instructor for more than 25 years. He publishes Quick Brown Fox, Canada's most popular blog for writers, taught creative writing at Ryerson University (now Toronto Metropolitan University) and has led workshops everywhere from Boston to Buffalo and from Sarnia to Saint John.  But his proudest boast is that he has helped many of his students get published.   

Read reviews and pieces about of Brian's various courses and workshops here (and scroll down).

Fee: $292.04 + hst = $330

To reserve your spot, email: brianhenry@sympatico.ca

See all of Brian’s upcoming weekly writing classes, one-day workshops, and weekend retreats here. 

Monday, February 26, 2024

Tidewater Press wants your book-length manuscripts, plus short Xmas pieces for anthology

Nothing in the Truth Can Harm Us
a novel by Colleen Rene
published by Tidewater Press

Tidewater Press

617 Belmont Street
New Westminster, BC

https://www.tidewaterpress.ca/

You can now get new postings on Quick Brown Fox delivered straight to your Inbox as I publish them. Subscribe to the new Quick Brown Fox page on Substack here:  https://brian999.substack.com/

You can also get an email about twice a month about what’s coming up in terms of writing classes, workshops, and retreats, plus providing links to the other material on the Quick Brown Fox blog. For that, add your name and email in the Sign-Up box in the righthand column. ~Brian

Tidewater Press publishes four to five titles per year. Currently, they’re also looking for submissions for an anthology of Christmas epiphanies.

Tidewater was founded in 2017 to produce well-written, engaging titles that give readers a fresh perspective on themselves and their world.  They want to publish adult fiction and nonfiction books that enlighten as they entertain.

Their fiction aims to subvert or play with standard literary tropes and explore topical themes.

Their nonfiction titles are meant to educate and illuminate Canadian stories, historic or contemporary. They should all have strong narratives, told or written from personal perspectives, that explore Canadian society, values and history. The scale may be intimate or international, but the dynamic is always one that explores individual and collective identity.

“Our mandate is to give voice to those whose background and experience don’t yet meet the requirements of larger publishing houses. They may be from minority, marginalized or socially disadvantaged groups, or they may be writers who have not fully developed their craft. We do not, however, restrict our acquisitions to authors who fit this profile, but we are proud of our ability to identify and encourage new voices on an ongoing basis.

“Tidewater Press seeks out stories that matter by writers who struggle to be heard.”

They accept submissions of both literary fiction and nonfiction that meet the following criteria:

  • The story (whether fiction or nonfiction) is fresh, topical and will resonate with at least one defined, special interest constituency.
  • The story (whether fiction or nonfiction) is compelling and is intended to give readers new insight into at least one aspect of contemporary life or Canadian history. Stories falling within a standard genre will be considered only if they transcend the normally recognized conventions of their genre.
  • The author is committed to producing a quality book and is genuinely willing to engage in a rigorous editing process.
  • The author has the ability and intention to actively support and promote the title after publication.

Submit through Tidewater’s submissions page here.

Include a brief synopsis (up to 500 words) in your submission and and the full manuscript or an excerpt.

Call for submissions for a new anthology:

Upon a Midnight Clear – A new anthology of Christmas epiphanies

Better Next Year, published by Tidewater Press in 2023, was a runaway, seasonal publishing success story. Submissions are now open for a second anthology, Upon a Midnight Clear, again edited by JJ Lee.  New and emerging Canadian writers are invited to contribute to this new collection of stories that illuminate the best of worst of Christmas, to be published November, 2024.

JJ Lee, is the author of The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son and a Suit (2011), a finalist for the Governor General’s, Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust and Charles Taylor prizes for nonfiction.

“We are seeking powerful, amusing, moving and heartfelt stories from established and emerging Canadian authors from across the country in an anthology that debunks the popular depiction of Christmas while delivering its messages of hope and renewal.”

Writers of colour, immigrants, Indigenous authors and the other usual suspects are especially invited. 

Submissions of creative nonfiction/memoir should be 3,500 to 5,000 words in length.

Deadline March 31, 2024.

Full submission guidelines, including a helpful video here.

See Brian Henry’s upcoming weekly writing classes, one-day workshops, and weekend retreats here.  

Check out other book publishers accepting unagented submissions here {and scroll down}.  See other places to send your short work here {and scroll down}.

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Gila Green reviews “18 Jewish stories translated from 18 Languages”

18 Jewish stories translated from 18 Languages, edited by Nora Gold, 188 pages published Oct 17, 2024 by Academic Studies Press. Available here.

In a conversation with Nora Gold, I found online, she points out that due to the dispersion of Jews among other nations over two thousand years, Jewish fiction has found expression in the languages of virtually every country. In her new anthology, kudos to Gold for extending beyond the anticipated languages like Yiddish and Hebrew. Instead, she spotlights stories originally published in Croatian, Hungarian, Italian, Turkish, and more.

These 18 stories (some of which are novel excerpts) feature well-known Jewish writers such as Eli Wiesel and Isaac Babel while also introducing readers to lesser-known authors like Gabor T Szanto and Maciej Plaza.

Full disclosure: I received this book a couple of months ago after agreeing to receive a complimentary copy in the mail here in Israel. Given my Yemenite background, I felt a profound responsibility to this anthology, aligning with my belief in elevating lesser-known Jewish voices into the literary discussion. However, by the time I received the book, October 7 had become so deeply embedded in my mind that I could only read the stories through the lens of that barbaric attack.

These three quotations struck me and compelled me to pause and reflect:

What mask shall I put on this year? What will I find when I turn the world upside down, what will I find at the bottom of myself after the second or third glass of liqueur? And can this world be any more weird and crazy than it already is?

– From "Purimspiel" by Jasminka Domas, translated from Croatian by Iskra Pavlovic

Nora Gold, editor of 18

This could have been written for the Purim we have not had yet, the first Purim after October 7.

And then these two quotes:

Uncertainty could prick like a cactus on my windowsill. I had always carried this uncertainty in my body. A word here. A word there. Words that didn't make sense. Words that didn't have anything to do with me. Words that had everything to do with me? Uncertainty became certainty. Nightmare became reality. That had to be why it practically put my mind at ease to learn that Jews across the globe for two thousand years had been blamed for all the evilness that happened in the world.

–From Birte Kont "A Place Nowhere," novel excerpt translated from the Danish by Nina Sokol

You're praying? Your children are dead and you're still praying?" There was not anger there, merely vast astonishment. Abram did not answer. He raised his arms helplessly. What shall I do? (He asked his arms), tell me what should I do.

–From "Luck" by Irena Douskova, translated from Czech by David Livingstone

These three quotes – and many others – made me feel as though Jews are reliving our past lives, as though all the Jews who have ever lived in every place are with us in our grief after October 7.

Gold has given us a profound type of inter-generational, transnational hand-holding. Reading through this historical lens, I was infused with the certain knowledge that we will express our grief, write about it, process it, mourn, and continue. There will be more creativity, more literature, and more anthologies.

If you're looking to read for escape from the events of the day, then this is not the choice for you. But if you wish to have a historical perspective on events or some food for thought about what is happening around us at this very moment, this anthology should be at the top of your list.

18 Jewish stories translated from 18 languages is available from Chapters/Indigo here.

Gila Green grew up in Ottawa then moved to Johannesburg before settling outside of Tel Aviv. She is the author of dozens of short stories, and three novels and one novel-in-stories: White Zion (Cervena Barva Press), King of the Class (NON Publishing, Vancouver), Passport Control (S&H Publishing) and No Entry (Stormbird Press, Australia).

Plus, Gila has two more novels coming: With a Good Eye to be released August 2024 available for pre-order here, and The Inheritance to be released in 2025 (both from Ace of Swords Publishing Montreal).

When she is not writing or mothering her five children, her daughter-in-law or two sons-in-law, Gila teaches EFL and edits manuscripts.

This review was originally published on Gila’s blog here.

Note: Quick Brown Fox welcomes your reviews and your pieces about reading, writing the writing life, and other literary themed pieces. See other book reviews here (and scroll down) and pieces about writing here (and scroll down).

See Brian Henry’s upcoming weekly writing classes, one-day workshops, and weekend retreats here.