Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

eshields's blog

O Canada

O Canada
My home and native land.
Your leaves are falling and people are crawling
back into their houses again.
The days are getting darker,
the nights are growing colder
and Christmas has begun its’ abrupt commercial invasion
into every public space,
onto every television.

O Canada.
Sometimes you make me weary.
With your ‘I’m sorrys’ and your ‘hi/bonjours’.
You’re so polite and unassuming
and the way you talk about the weather
as though it could be as catastrophic as it is
for other countries who live closer to the paths
of hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis and earthquakes.
You get the occasional flood
and though the winters aren’t what they once were
there’s always a chance you’ll have to call in the army
to deal with another ice storm.

On writing and babies

One of the things I was most nervous about when deciding to start a family was distancing myself from my artistic work. I knew time would be an issue; that my writing practice would change in many ways; that I wouldn’t be able to be as present in the professional scene I had been so engrossed in. I wanted to have children and to be with my children but didn’t want to sacrifice the career I had worked so hard to build up to that point. Not surprisingly, this is a common anxiety for most women who have chosen a career they feel passionately about. Many have written about achieving ‘balance’, about ‘having it all’ about being ‘a Super Mum’. In my experience, there is no ‘balance’, trying to ‘have it all’ is impossible, and I rarely feel Super. But in the super imbalance of trying to do it all, I feel a sense of pride and exhaustion and inspiration and power and exhilaration.

Dear Blog

Dear Blog,

We Fall Down

I once went to a service at a Pentecostal Church. We sang this song:

We fall down, but we get up.
We fall down, but we get up.
We fall down, but we get up.
For a saint is just a sinner who fell down ...
and got up.

This song came to mind the other day when listening to the canonization of seven new saints by Pope Benedict.

I wondered ... is a saint just a sinner who fell down ... and got up? Or is there more to it than that?

Thinking about Eve


The guilty one.
The one who is tempted.
The one who succumbs.
The one who brings pain to everyone else.
The one who is punished.
The one who must atone.
The sin of the mother is revisited upon her daughters.

The weak one who cannot be allowed out on her own.
She is prey to her own whims, to her own unwieldy desires.
She will make bad decisions when left to her own devises.
She can never be trusted again.
She must be under the careful guardianship of a father, a husband, a leader.
She must pay with every life she brings into the world.

Pregnant. She cries.
During labour. She moans.
She atones.
She feels like she might split in two.
She thinks she will die.
There’s a good chance she will.

Workshop ... Day One

Yesterday I launched into a workshop at Tarragon Theatre for a new play I’m writing. Two actors, a director and me in a room for three weeks. I’ll take my play apart scene by scene, action by action, beat by beat then word by word looking to find greater clarity in it than when we began. There’s always a danger I could dismantle my play past the point of return; that I’ll no longer be able to find my way through it clearly. The dream is that the play comes together and I write a draft I can take into the first day of rehearsal (whenever that might be).

The Best Time

When my father dropped me off at university he said,
‘Enjoy this. This is the best time of your life.’
And I thought, wow that’s heavy and sure
of course I’ll enjoy it and sometimes I didn’t
but for the most part I did and I think my father
remembers his university days with incredible joy and nostalgia
and he wanted me to know that,
didn’t want me to let it pass me by.

When I decided to take a year ‘off’
(which hasn’t entirely been what I’ve done)
but to take a year off to be with my daughters my mother said:
‘Just do it. It will be hard but I did it.
You won’t regret the time spent.
This is the best time of your life.’
And for her, it was, she loved the chaos
of raising four little girls,
still raising four little girls, if we’re to be
entirely honest.

Favourite images from favourite novels

Imagery is essential to fiction. My favourite images are the ones that begin simply then grow and expand and press themselves out to the point, often, of magic realism. Infused in these images is the essential premise of the story, the core value of a character or the key to the world in which the story occurs. And through these images, the reader (or audience) can reach a level of understand which cannot be articulated in any other way.

These are a few of my favourite images from some of my favourite novels:

In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje: Worker Nicholas Temelcoff diving into mid-air from the Bloor Street Viaduct like a prehistoric creature.

The day the falls stopped falling

I should have liked to be at Niagara Falls on 28th March, 1848. About midnight, the falls stopped. Completely. People in their old fashioned beds with Victorian night caps and frilly nightgowns tucked up under their woolen blankets were awakened by the startling sound of it. Silence. And in 1848 the falls hadn’t been siphoned off for hydro electricity the way they are now. The thunderous roar of it was heard and felt kilometers away so its absence must have been terrifying. ‘Have I gone deaf? Has the rapture come? Has time got weary and stopped itself all together?’

Tig Notaro

I just finished listening to This American Life’s most recent podcast: What Doesn’t Kill You. First off, This American Life is an incredible program so listen, if you don’t already. I’ll put the link below. But I’ve been thinking about how to write about performance in this blog. I am a performer, I write for performers, I write stories for performers to perform and that isn’t the same as writing a novel or poem or short story. The words I write are intended to be heard so how those words are spoken is as important as the words themselves. “Performance state,” is something theatre makers talk about a lot. Mostly in rehearsals. Mostly in rehearsals for less traditional plays. At the moment. Anyway.

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