gray days of rain
by sunset colours
Archive for November, 2008
People often ask me what the image on the cover of my YA short story collection, Weeds and other Stories, has to do with what’s inside the book. I don’t really know (I had no role in the art selection). There are no circuses and no fire-eaters in any of the stories. People (at least people who work in certain book stores) are also mislead by the title. I once found it shelved in the gardening section of Chapters.
In a way, the stories in this book are more in keeping with the theme of this blog than any of my other stories. The protagonists are all urban teens who encounter nature or “wildness” in some way — often in unexpected places or unexpected ways.
Why bring it up now when the book came out back in 2003? Yes, I’d love some new readers to discover it, of course, but what brought it to mind tonight was I was digging through some old files and came across some artwork I did with the book in mind: a kind of alternative cover image, I guess (though it’s not very good and I would have prefered something photographic — perhaps with a coyote disappearing down a dark alley, some graffitti on an urban wall, a dandelion poking out of a crack in the pavement, the shadow of a girl…). Anyway, I thought I’d share it (and in case you’re wondering, that’s supposed to be a coyote in the top left):
I arrived at my bus stop to head home this afternoon, and there were three crows ahead of me in the line (yes, they were literally standing one behind the other in front of the bus stop). They moved slightly before I got this picture, but I couldn’t resist trying to capture the original image in haiku.
black pavement shines
three crows at the bus stop
waiting in the rain
Lately, I’ve been trying to work on the very important creative writing tenet, “show, don’t tell” (sometimes easier to know in theory than to use in practice). It is often tempting, for example, to point out how your character feels instead of letting your description and imagery paint the picture. It is hard to trust that the imagery will convey everything you want and to trust that the reader will get it. Haiku can be a good exercise for practicing this (my revelation of the day). Successful haiku uses a brevity of words and a single image to evoke the feeling of a moment. So, in the haiku above, I held back on saying what I thought about the crows or how I felt about the onset of Vancouver’s rainy season. Does it come across? I’m not sure. Sometimes it’s harder to write a little than to write a lot.