Friday, March 22, 2019

The Yogurt Fridge

Okay, so we're in front of the yogurt fridge. Scarlett's in the shopping cart with the milk and eggs and Sullivan's beside me, hanging onto the cart loosely with a couple of fingers. When I reach out to open the fridge, this middle-aged man appears out of nowhere, steps in front of me, opens the fridge himself and sticks his head inside. He wants yogurt too, apparently.

That's fine. People don't see people sometimes. I step back to wait my turn.

While we wait, Sully begins to loudly plan his impending purchase. He's been anticipating this, you know? We don't buy yogurt every time. It's a treat. "What kind should we get, Mom?" he asks. "Blueberry? Or, no, STRAWBERRY...?"

"Sure," I say. "Is that what you want?"

"YES," he says. "YES I DO." He hops up and down on the balls of his feet a couple of times; his hands are in little fists. He's so excited. "STRAWWWBERRYYY."

The man in front of us is moving so slowly, surveying the options before him like he's choosing a living thing instead of a dairy product. Like all the ones he doesn't choose will be hurt that he didn't choose them. I think I see him look at me over his shoulder once but I'm not sure; mostly he doesn't seem to be too concerned with us.

"Okay," I say to Sully, smiling. "We'll get strawberry."


I nod, even though it's not. Sully loves when things are on sale. "Yup."

I mean, it's on sale in the sense that it is being sold. It's for sale. Same thing.

"OH GOOD," he says in his just-barely-not-yelling voice.

But then something incredible happens.

The man looks over his shoulder at me again—this time I'm sure he's looking at me—and takes one of the strawberry yogurts. Sets it in his basket.

Okay, no, I know, that's not incredible.

But then he reaches back in—moving quickly all of a sudden, like he's got a whole new lease on life—and takes another.

Still not incredible? He's not done: he takes another.

And another.

And another.

And another. He keeps going. He's moving like a bank robber cleaning out a safe.

Dear reader: he has taken every last strawberry yogurt in the yogurt fridge.

And when he's done, he hefts the basket handle into the crook of his arm and staggers off, shooting me one last look. The look says, Ha.

My mouth hangs open for a second and then, because my mouth is open anyway, I laugh. Right out loud. And I don't care if the man hears me laughing at him. Whatever.

Okay. That's the whole story. People are great.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

A Little Visit with Sullivan Barclay Krause

I was reading on the couch this afternoon when Sullivan Barclay Krause (who you'll remember from this post) came in and sat beside me. I could tell it was him and not just normal Sully because he opened by mentioning that he'd purchased a new apartment in Austin, Texas (I asked what he bought it with and he said money and I said yes but where did you get the money and he said Sarcan—they give you money there).

Then he was quiet for a minute, thinking—or waiting—studying me very seriously. He said, "Okay." Like he'd called a meeting and I'd finally shown up and now we could talk about whatever we needed to talk about.

"What's up?" I said.

"We're going to have a little visit," he said.

I laughed, but he didn't. He just smiled politely. "Okay," I said, also smiling politely. "What are we going to visit about?"

He spread his tiny fingers out and set them on his tiny knees, studying them. "I'm going to count down," he said, "and then I'll tell you what we're going to visit about and how we're going to visit about it. Okay? Ready? Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, carwashes. First we'll visit about what our favorite carwashes are and then we'll visit about how carwashes work. I'll go first. My favorite carwash is SUDS. What's yours?"

This might seem like a strange line of questioning, both in execution and subject matter, but it didn't surprise me much. Sully adores SUDS—so much so that we took him to SUDS on his birthday. So much so that the last time we took him to the dentist, we used a trip to SUDS as a bribe to get him to open his mouth. (The time before, we tried using Menchies and that didn't work at all.)

I thought carefully. I knew that if I said my favorite carwash was also SUDS he'd call me on it because—silly mom—how could two people possibly have the same carwash?

"The one on South Albert," I said. "Petro...Can? Is that what it's called?"

He nodded gravely. "And do you know how carwashes work?"

I shook my head.

He sighed. "They spray your car with soap and then there are brushes and water and it just," he sighed again, so much work to explain such complex things, "it just washes your car and then it sprays your car with water and then it blows your car dry. Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, vacuum cleaners. First we'll visit about how you build vacuum cleaners and then we'll visit about how they work. Your turn: how did you build your green vacuum cleaner?"

This question was also unsurprising. Barclay recently purchased a shop vac and Sully helped him put it together and it was the highlight of Sully's whole month.

"I didn't really build it," I said. "It just kind of came...built."

"Mm." He nodded again, his tiny lips pursed. "Well I built my vacuum cleaner. Had to attach the hose, put the wheels on, put the lid on, all that stuff. Lots of work."

The conversation continued on like that. Lots of brow furrowing and throat clearing and head nodding. I'm really glad that Barclay and I have obviously given him such a good example of normal, healthy adult communication, and am also thankful for the reminder that if I'm ever stuck in an awkward, aimless visit with someone, I can take charge of things by counting down backwards from ten and naming a new topic.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019


The hashtag.

Invented by Chris Messina in 2007, immediately dubbed "a thing for nerds." Maybe it still is a thing for nerds, but what even is a nerd in 2019?

Wikipedia describes a nerd as "a person seen as overly intellectual, obsessive, introverted or lacking social skills." Ask any given thirty-something-year-old and they'd identify strongly with most or all of that definition. It should not surprise anybody, then, that hashtags are pretty widely used now.

There are those who use them "ironically" but in a way that serves no actual purpose (#icouldhavemadethisjokeinthecaptionbutforsomereasoniammakingitahashtaginstead).

There are those who use it for networking purposes, to connect with people who have common interests (#amwriting #amediting #writingcommunity #peoplewholikebutter).

There are those who don't understand how hashtags work at all (#you're going to wreck your hashtag if you use punctuation, symbols, & spaces and this hashtag will actually show up as just 'you').

There are those who use hashtags because they've seen other people do it but they don't really know why so they just go to town with relevant and irrelevant words (#why? #blog #hashtag #likeittoknowit #peanutbutter #blue #thatsdarling).

And then there are those who use hashtags to group their own content together so they can find it easier—for weddings, say, or pictures of their kids or pets or whatever. That's how I mostly use them, and I'm writing this blog post because someone asked me the other day why I hashtag all of my live music pictures on Instagram #suzyslivemusicdiary.

This is why:

How cool is it to be able to click one link and be able to see pictures from every single live music event I've been to for the past decade? The scrapbookers of the 90s are collectively dying of jealousy right now. 

Would you like to see the other hashtags I've been adding to? Of course you wouldn't! But I will show you anyway, for I am a blogger and it is what we do.

This one, I started fairly recently. I call it #bookmusiccombo and I add to it every time I read a book. Before I begin, I stand in front of my CD collection (yes, I still have a physical CD collection and I will never not have one) and decide which album matches the atmosphere of the book I am about to read—weirdly enough, the album art usually matches the book cover, like they were made for each other. If Barclay is in the room, I pull him into the decision and we both think it's very fun. You should try it sometime. (But get your own hashtag.)

This one is just for fun, because it's social media, and social media is all, really, just for fun. Plus, I love pictures of coffee in my Instagram feed. I don't know why; it just makes me happy. So if you follow me and you're like, Suzy, you post too many pictures of coffee; why do you do that? It's because I love seeing it, so I figure some other people love seeing it, and I want to contribute to the online caffeine zeitgeist (I don't fully understand how to use that word correctly, I'm sorry). 

Then there's this one, which is the modern equivalent of carrying your kids' pictures in your wallet. "Oh, yes, I have a video of him playing the drums RIGHT HERE, one sec—"

Okay one more. This one is fun for me, because I started it when I started writing Valencia and Valentine. The first few pictures are of my view from the Naked Bean when I was writing the first draft, then there's a shot of the mess on my coffee table the first time I pulled an all-night getting together a manuscript to send to an agent, and then there's the agency announcement, the book deal announcement, the cover reveal, and the physical copies arriving. That last picture, up in the left hand corner, was actually taken by my editor, with New York in the background (that's where a bit of the book takes place). And as people read the book and post pictures of it on Instagram (hopefully) they'll use the hashtag and I'll be able to see what they're saying about it. Fun, right? 

So. That's that.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

A List of Distractions

I turned in the manuscript for my second novel a week or so ago. It's nowhere near finished—in fact, I'm eagerly awaiting what will surely be a many-pages-long edits letter—but for now, it's off my plate. Across the table. My brain keeps trying to reach over and pull it back, but I'm dutifully distracting it.


1. Sully, Scarlett, and Barclay (feeding them, hanging out with them, letting them know I like them and stuff).

2. Friends (being around them, talking to them, letting them know I like them and stuff).

3. Listening to and making endless Spotify playlists. (You can tell what kind of thing I'm working on if you follow me on Spotify because what I'm listening to is usually pretty inextricably linked to what I'm writing. One influences the other, for sure, but I never know what direction the energy is moving in. It's a chicken and egg thing.)

4. Researching book marketing. I'm supposed to have a call with my marketing team sometime soon, and I don't want to sound dumb. I mean, I'm going to sound dumb, but it makes me feel less nervous if I fool myself into thinking I might not. It's all a pointless charade. I'm so bad at talking on the phone. Help.

5. Working on book three. After much deliberation, I've decided that my jumping off point is going to be that time I discovered a homemade flyer on the ground in Saskatoon promising me "the best time of my life" and, being the naive farm kid I was, found myself in a back alley, after dark, with a whole bunch of strangers. And that's just the jumping off point. I've also decided that there will be at least two—or maybe twenty—magicians! Because I've always wanted to write a book with magicians in it. Little known fact.

6. Reading so many books all at the same time. I have (counts) five on the go at the moment: a magician's memoir, an apocalyptic thriller, a lighthearted book about the last remaining descendant of the Bronte family, a lit fic, and a YA fantasy.

7. Blogging! (Obviously.) Because (refer to item 4) all the articles about book marketing say you should be more noisy online, and this is about as loud as I'm comfortable with. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Better Oblivion Part II

I watched Begin Again last night from atop an exercise bike (I don't have the time or patience for exercise or Netflix unless I combine them). I'd never heard of this movie before, but it had Mark Ruffalo in it and the premise sounded right up my alley (lost souls, chance meeting, music-making, New York).

The whole time I was watching it, I couldn't help but think of how it felt like a poppier, Americanized version of Once. This wasn't a bad thing; Once is one of my favorite movies, and whenever I watch it I think about how I either wish I lived in it or had written it or starred in it or something. My heart just wants to be part of that magic. There are very few movies that make me feel that way, but Begin Again struck the same inexplicable chord. 

Well GUESS WHAT? John Carney wrote and directed both movies. Mystery solved, and dear John Carney, please turn my books into movies

Anyway. On to the point:

There's a scene in Begin Again in which Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo's characters wander through New York City at night listening to the music of Frank Sinatra and Stevie Wonder through a headphone splitter. At one point, Ruffalo muses that when you put music to real life, it turns what's banal into pearls. The music is still playing in their ears only as they watch pedestrians pass, skateboarding kids, a man being arrested—and you see how he's right, how the soundtrack gives the scattered things coherence and a sense of meaning and beauty. 

As I was watching this scene unfold, I was struck by the memory of something I'd forgotten: a few years ago (three? four?), Barclay, Sully, and I went to Montreal together for a week. I'd just finished writing Valencia and Valentine and life felt very exciting and full of potential. I'd just sent out my first query letters and didn't yet know or understand how hard it was to land an agent. So I was naive, is what I'm saying, and naive excitement is so lovely; it gets into your head, like you're taking big breaths of helium, like you're newly in love. I was floating. 

We were downtown, and it was rush hour. We were standing on some street corner trying to decide what to do next, and I pulled out my headphones, plugged them in, and put on Rachmaninoff's Etude-Tableau in G-minor—my favorite piano song of all time and one I wrote into my book with maybe a little too much fervor. I gave one of the ear buds to Barclay and put one in my own ear and we just started walking, Sully asleep on my back in the carrier. Just like in the movie, we wandered Montreal, holding hands, watching the people crossing the streets and the traffic lights changing colors and the music made it all just a little surreal, like it had been orchestrated for us.

And I thought of the post I wrote yesterday about how you don't get to choose which memories you get to keep and which ones disappear without your permission. And then I thought, well, maybe this is better. Sure, you don't get to choose which memories disappear, but then sometimes they're given back to you when you least expect them. Like a present.