walkin’ off my first rejection letter

I’ve received my first rejection for this novel! My goal is to try and think of it as an important part of the process, rather than a discouraging slap to the face. It’s so difficult, because in order to do any of this – write a novel, revise it, and query it – I have to live with the astronomical hope that someone will read my query and think “that sounds so great! I want more!” and what an audacious, ridiculous thing to think! And yet, here I am. Putting my book baby in the hands of other people to discard at will.

I’m trying to stay distracted by doing too many other things, as usual. My Shitty First Draft of my next novel is crapping along merrily. I just finished performing Verdi’s Requiem in a choir of 150 with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, and that was a pretty magnificent experience. I’m going to the gym, baking lots of bread and other carbs to make up for going to the gym, and working, parenting, folding laundry, and snuggling the cat. I’ve slumped a bit in reading since I finished my Lord of the Rings reread, but my son is really into the Moomintroll books, so that is high on the priorities list. I’m knitting a sweater. So you know, just a few things to distract me.

The polar vortex has finally buggered off, and with any luck Winnipeg will thaw out soon. It’ll be a muddy, slushy mess for a while, but soon I can drink tea on the deck and then I’ll be in heaven, even if I do get dozens more rejection letters. Onwards!

dressed for the weather in a wool hat, sunglasses, scarf, and parka

It’s fucking freezing outside.

I know I said in yesterday’s post that it gets colder where I grew up, but that doesn’t negate that -30°C with an extra -10° of wind chill is bitter AF.

Living in this climate requires a level of clothing that I have two feelings about: one is that it builds a dangerous economic disparity into the ability to live here, because my full set of outdoor gear is probably close to $1000, and it could easily be higher if I had, say, a Canada Goose parka, and didn’t try to buy all my stuff at the end of the year when it goes on sale. Spending $100-200 per kid per winter season is a huge piece of my budget. Brand names in the winter gear field is even more fraught than usual, because stuff like Canada Goose or The North Face or Uggs or Manitobah Mukluks or whatever is trendy is also getting a big piece of that reputation because of their ability to deliver. When I was a kid and starting to get into this stuff in a big way, only The North Face, Helly Hansen, and MEC were authorized to be worn by Canadian government employees working above the arctic circle. But a 700-fill down parka is at least $350, and that is a lot of money!

But, I grew up upper-middle-class (have since slid a few marks down to mid-middle class, oh no) and having warm gear was not an undue financial strain. I also read Madeleine L’Engle constantly, and Troubling a Star was a seminal text for my adolescence, and sparked an Antarctica craze that has never died. I used to read Troubling and then the MEC catalogue, and fantasize about winter clothing. I know, that’s weird, but it has never really gone away. I love it. I love learning about how the people indigenous to the northern part of the continent we call North America survived before all this “technical gear” – STRANGELY ENOUGH, those methods are still better than anything a factory can make out of petroleum products – coped with the climate. I can “only” afford 700-fill down parkas with synthetic fur on the hoods, but I bet that ring of raccoon on Canada Goose is warm as toast, because NOTHING keeps you warm like fur. (No one reads my blog, but if you want to hate on fur, please take that somewhere else where people are doing it badly, as the traditional and necessary methods of trapping and using animal pelts for warmth is not up for debate, and most of the “discourse” is racist af.)

This is a lot of rambling, which I am allowing myself because, as I said, no one reads this, and even if someone does, they’ll be bored as shit by this point so I am talking entirely to myself, and all of it is to say what I’m wearing today because I’m proud of being clad in literally head-to-toe wool. Wool is in third place of warm badassery after fur and down. I know we do a lot of shitty things to steal the ways animals keep warm to use for our fragile meatsacks, but the fact remains that birbs, sheeps, and fluffy critters Know What’s Up and I really wish we could make use of that without being shitty to both the animals and our fellow humans (in manufacturing AND in exorbitant prices that mean that the poorest among us are also the coldest).

(FUN FACT in the novel I just finished, I threw in a nifty bit of socialism where the government subsidizes the winter gear they wear, in order to make the system more equitable. I also wrote a whole novel around my love of winter gear, essentially. Read it! It’s not boring, I promise! Well, you can’t read it, but hopefully it gets published so you can!)

MY CLOTHING TODAY

  • handknit wool socks, fair isle pattern for extra warmies
  • my new Icebreaker merino wool long underwear, aka my new significant other, I love them so much, and I have my skinny jeans overtop
  • my favourite cable-knit sweater that I knit last year over a tshirt, but if it gets colder I would put my long underwear shirt under it
  • one of my wool scarves
  • a wool toque

WHEN I GO OUTSIDE I WILL ADD

  • my ski pants, which cost a flaming fortune because finding women’s ski pants in extra long is not a cost-saving enterprise, holy shit
  • my down parka
  • my double-layer snowboard mitts (snowboarders are all princesses who also need a lot of dexterity and pockets, so I like to scout snowboarding gear, also it tends to Look Cool)
  • another wool scarf, I have so many, it is excellent
  • a different wool toque that is warmer
  • giant winter boots
  • my sunglasses, to look cool and also because the cold hurts my eyeballs

and I will look amazing. That is all.

I live in Winnipeg. Lots of people call it Winterpeg because it’s accurate. And in the winter, there’s a lot of bitching and whining about the weather – too cold, too windy, too much snow, not enough snow, too sunny, too grey, too icy – no matter what the weather is, somebody hates it. That’s fine; people are different and a lot of people live in a climate they don’t love. And it’s easy to complain about the weather, because it doesn’t hurt anyone and it isn’t going to change because a group of people huddle together like penguins and moan.

In Winnipeg, the cold days (like what we have right now) are around -20°C, which is pretty cold. There’s often a wind, and the wind is terrible and makes it feel much colder. Sometimes it gets below -30°C, but not for long. It’s definitely cold, and the days in December and January are definitely short.

In the town where I grew up, in northern BC, the temperature would often drop to -40°C, which is a lot colder. We didn’t get wind when it was that cold; winds would blow warm air down from the mountains and bring chinooks with them, the unseasonable melts that happen a few times in a winter. When the deep freeze happened, everything would become still. The snow had a different sound; a squeak instead of a crunch. The shadows changed colour and became purple; the sky would often be pink. Up north, our daylight around the winter solstice was only 5-6 hours, and I’d go to school before the sun rose and come home as it slipped below the horizon. So I saw a lot of pink, purple, and blue skies. I lived on the hill overlooking the town, and all the moisture in the air would freeze into a fog and settle onto the town like a blanket, with the ski hill lights across the valley twinkling along with the stars. I used to get a chill sitting by the freezing cold window to watch the sky deepen and the stars come out.

I complain about the cold and the winter along with everybody else, but I don’t actually hate it. It’s not pleasant and it’s downright dangerous, but winter has a special kind of magic that I have always loved. The book I’ve just finished writing is a bit of a love letter to winter, and in spite of spending two years working on it, I don’t think I’ve finished writing about the cold, the snow, and the ways humans interact with it.

The winter is magical, and I love it.