Winter, Spring


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It's been three months since I've written here. A lot has happened. After completing a weeklong tidy-up of the first draft of my novel in February, I submitted it to several readers and an editor. The feedback that I received from them precipitated a flood of ideas. Originally, I had planned on taking six weeks off before finishing what I'd imagined would be a final polish, but could not put the story out of my head, or didn't want to, and instead resumed work on a second draft after only a few days.

At the beginning of March I took a long drive from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia to La Ferme, Quebec, where Spirit Lake Internment Camp once stood. Here, the grandfather of my novel's protagonist spent his first two years in Canada, unjustly imprisoned. I dragged my tent a quarter mile through the woods and deep snow and camped near the edge of the frozen lake. That night a local Cree man found me by my track. He told me that I was on Indian land. I asked if that meant I should go and he said that no, as long as I was respectful of the place, I could stay. He asked me what I was doing out there and I told him about the war camp. He said he had heard it mentioned by some elders, but didn't know much about it. Then he went. In the morning I lay listening as a doe hoofed up the snow beside my tent and cropped the plantstuff therebeneath. The thermometer showed - 21 °C. I was a long time in there dreading opening up my sleeping bag. I visited a nearby church where some artifacts from the old camp are kept.

Last fall, when I began putting this story down, I believed that because I had gone through the process of writing a novel once before I should be able to complete this once in a much shorter time. A single draft and revision was my aim. That was presumptous. Now the second draft is finished and still I know the story has to be better. But I need a little time away from it. Late nights of rumination have become exhausting.

This month and next I am in Montreal taking a French course, trying to keep the story at a distance. The results have been mixed. Articles such as this and this and this have got me contemplating everything from slight revisions of the backgrounds of characters to rather more consequential changes to the central course of the novel's events. Sleep still eludes me. These are exciting times.

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