Bianca Lakoseljac: Writer in Residence
I am thrilled to be Open Book’s Writer in Residence for the month of November. It is a month of transformation and whimsy—it harbours a type of incongruity in nature and in human lives in so many ways. In our Northern hemisphere it is the month of transition from autumn to winter, with unpredictable weather patterns, with sunny, summerlike days as likely as the snowy ones, and quick flip-flops in our wardrobe from shorts and sandals and summer dresses to winter coats. Symbolically, it is often associated with the end of life, followed by winter allied with death. It derives its name from the Latin word novem, which means nine, as it was the ninth month in the Roman calendar.
We’ve become accustomed to month-long events. We’ve designated April as our poetry month; February, as our black history month; October, as our women’s history month. And then comes November.
Here are a few thoughts on this capricious month by some much-loved authors:
“…and November arrived, cold as frozen iron, with hard frosts every morning and icy drafts that bit at exposed hands and faces.” J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
“But there is always a November space after the leaves have fallen when she felt it was almost indecent to intrude on the woods…for their glory terrestrial had departed and their glory celestial of spirit and purity and whiteness had not yet come upon them.” Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Windy Poplars.
T.S. Eliot called it “sombre November,” in Murder in the Cathedral, and saw it as foreshadowing death.
And was it not the gales of November that sunk the Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior in 1975—and inspired Gordon Lightfoot’s ballad, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, which became one of the most popular songs in Canadian music.
In folklore, a process of transformation also embodies a sense of beauty, and magic, and promise of a new beginning—as winter is followed by spring which symbolizes rebirth and renewal, and in Greek Myth, the legendary phoenix rises from its ashes.
On this thought, November is also a month of celebrations and feasts and remembrance—we honour our fallen soldiers on November 11; In Mexico, November 1 and 2 are marked as the Days of the Dead—celebrated this year at Harbourfront, November 5 to 6—revelled in most regions in Mexico, and internationally, as the marigold festival that has roots in the Aztec culture. Movember Canada (Moustache + November = Movember) through the Movember Foundation promotes men’s health through a fundraising drive by encouraging men to “grow their mo” and raise funds for prostate cancer research.
And of course, November is the National Novel Writing Month, often referred to as NaNoWriMo. It is an invite to writers worldwide to take on the challenge of penning—or in reality, keying in—a 50 000 word novel, starting November 1 and finishing November 30 at 11:59pm. The participants are required to register on the official website, www.nanowrimo.org . The focus is on the quantity rather than the quality of writing, with the expectation that the editorial process would follow. Throughout the month, tips on writing are posted to help creative juices flow. The aim of the project is to encourage creativity and novel writing worldwide. Many local communities offer space and hold events in support of the month-long venture.
While I admire those who get on board, I’ve never taken part in NaNoWriMo. I don’t think it would work for me. I need time.
My writing process usually takes a while and often leads me where I had not planned to go. For me, writing a novel is like living another life. Inspiration could begin in various ways: with a character, with a feeling, with an event... it could be the all-consuming feeling of love—and I don’t mean just romantic love—, or a sense of injustice that calls for remedy, or an artistic endeavour, or any happening that excites and beckons exploring. Once the story begins to form and the characters become alive, there is no stopping this new entity—the novel. It becomes my shadow, it invades my subconscious, it enters my conscience, and it lives parallel to my daily life—it becomes this new me.
In the spirit of celebrating the novel, during my residency here I will endeavour to explore the various complexities of novel writing and its contribution to literature.
Photo: November from my writing desk in Woodland Beach, on Georgian Bay.
The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.
Bianca Lakoseljac second novel, Stone Woman, which relives Toronto’s 1967 “summer of love”, has just been released by Guernica Editions. Bianca is the author of a novel, Summer of the Dancing Bear; a collection of stories, Bridge in the Rain (Guernica, 2012, 2010); and a book of poetry, Memoirs of a Praying Mantis (Turtle Moons Press, 2009). She is TWUC liaison for the National Reading Campaign, past president of the Canadian Authors Association, Toronto, has judged various national literary competitions, and has served on a number of literary contest panels. Bianca taught at Ryerson University and Humber College.
You can write to Bianca throughout the month of November at firstname.lastname@example.org.