Intermittent but Indeed Individual!

On the excellence of Joan Didion’s writing

March 28, 2021

“There’s the entwining of sensuous and ominous images …. the fine, tight verbal detail work: the vowel suspensions … the ricocheting consonants … the softly anagrammatic games of sound.”

See more in the whole article: “The Falconer: What we get wrong about Joan Didion” by Nathan Heller, The New Yorker, Feb. 1, 2021

Snakey Haven

July 13, 2020

Every year we drive from Vancouver to a cottage near Godfrey, Ontario. A personal essay I wrote about this cottage was published July 3, 2020 in the First Person column in the Globe and Mail. Here’s the link to “House of Slithering”. (After reading this you may well wonder why we make the long trek.)

We’ve decided to share our cottage with the snakes living in the walls
The Globe and Mail, April 2, 2020


July 13, 2020

The pandemic has brought so much into focus about how we want to live, and in what kind of society. The idea of “we” itself is being challenged. Here is an “I” instead, lines from the poem “The Summer Day” by the wondrous Mary Oliver:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

More on writing

Aug. 18, 2019

According to Donald Barthelme: “The writer is that person who, embarking upon her task, does not know what to do.”

From an excellent article: “George Saunders: what writers really do when they write”.
The Guardian, March 4, 2017


June 4, 2019

I wrote a short memoir about my grandmother, Ida Willinsky Kamman, and it’s now published on-line in HAL, Hamilton Arts and Letters. Writing a memoir was a wonderful combination for me of remembering my family, unforeseen emotion, and, I admit, self-indulgence. (This is what I want to say.) How much is a memoir about the author as well as the subject?

“Burning Questions for My Grandma”
Memoir • Miriam Clavir

Writing Cabin

May 22, 2019

My writing retreat is a screened-in shed by a beaver pond, in rural Ontario. These extraordinary lines describe my emotions today, and were written almost 140 years ago:

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet

From Inversnaid, by Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1881


April 22, 2019

You detected that my last 2 posts were about writing, first when I was very young, and then when I’m rather older and trying to find a little literary humour in this. What about in-between? I enjoyed scholarly work: research and writing in the conservation profession, culminating in a book published by UBC Press, “Conserving What is Valued: Museums, Conservation and First Nations.” I was fortunate to be the conservator at the UBC Museum of Anthropology, where an academic environment and a progressive museum lead to looking underneath what traditional museums said they were doing: how, why, and for whom. Hence the mystery novels after I retired?

On Ageing

April 21, 2019

Quotes from Carol Tavris’ excellent review of several books on ageing, in the Times Literary Supplement, March 22, 2019:
“. . . it’s time to add, “We’re old, we’re bold, behold!”
“As George S. Kaufman famously noted when he saw his fellow playwright S.N. Behrman in his office the morning after the latter’s farewell party, “Ah, forgotten but not gone, eh?”

First Literary Effort

Feb. 7, 2019

For those who’ve asked when I began writing:
My first “literary” effort came out when I was five. My father had taken a trip to Europe and beyond, and the title of my booklet was “Leo”. I illustrated it and my mother wrote down what I wanted to say about each picture. Here are a few examples of my stellar prose style and art.

The Polish China. We didn’t break any yet.

Witch puppet. She is Judy’s but I like her to be mine.

Another puppet from I forget.

P.D. James

Nov. 28, 2018

P.D. James, as quoted in “Shrewed”, a wonderful book by the journalist Elizabeth Renzetti; in the interview P. D. James commented on the appeal of writing mysteries. “No matter how difficult problems are in life—in your own life or in the life of a country or society—in the end they can always be solved, not by divine intervention or good luck, but by human intelligence, human courage, human perseverance”

On Writers

Sept. 25, 2018

“ . . . writers, as a tribe, are strange. They keep odd hours and have weird, often bad ideas. At gatherings, they tend to skulk or be over-present, like a recently uncrated Labrador . . . Hollywood is filled with stories of prima-donna actor tantrums . . . trashed trailers, and overnight benders. Rather than erupting in this healthy manner, writers go home and quietly develop suicidal snacking habits, or unnecessary family trouble, or a rash.”
Nathan Heller, staff writer at the New Yorker

Hemingway on writing

Aug. 8, 2018

Despite the hot, humid days here at my writing retreat in Ontario – the weather flattening my two cats as well as the humans – I’ve at least been thinking about creative writing, and gathering what well-known authors have said about writing. This escape from my own work began long before the publication of my mystery novels, “Insinuendo: Murder in the Museum” and “Fate Accompli: Murder in Quebec City”. Interestingly, the insights which have been most meaningful to me are from literary, not mystery writers. Here are two quotes from Ernest Hemingway:
“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you . . .”
“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.

Which bookstore?

June 27, 2018

Breaking news? Fate Accompli may not be available from your favourite bookstore, as I had happily posted, due to the ins and outs of distribution systems. If you can’t get it locally, Indigo/Chapters and Amazon will bring it in. Or contact me.

It’s Published!

May 31, 2018

Fate Accompli: Murder in Quebec City, is now out! I’m dancing. It would horrify me if I really felt it was wonderful to see the full story of terrible murder in print. But I can say, wow, a puzzle concerning real archaeology and a fictional murder that can be bedtime reading; this I’m proud of. Here’s an article about Fate Accompli in BC Booklook:

Excerpt from Fate Accompli

May 28,2018

In this excerpt Berry, our protagonist, is being comforted by Daniel, her boyfriend; they’re trying to overcome the horrible day of the murder by chatting about anything else. They’re in his apartment, drinking Merlot, eating Brie, and talking.

“It’s hard not being part of the gang here,” I said. “Everyone knows everyone, you all have the same touchstones.”
“But your French is fluent. Maybe you can’t rap in French, but you do okay.” Daniel waited for my reaction, biting a smile, and continued with, “You’re making real progress, you know. You’re becoming as much a smart aleck in French as you are in English.”
How to change the subject without sarcasm? Daniel beat me to it, and more gently.
“Is it the people here who make you feel . . . more like a tourist?”
“No. Not here. In Montréal maybe, they’ve subtly made the point I’m not Québécoise. Even with my French. How do they know?”
Daniel’s lips moved without speaking while he considered what to say. “Your style’s, well, different. Of course, your dig clothes are