Confessions of a Reluctant Information Manager

The New Quarterly has posted their e-newsletter, which previews the upcoming issue (#113, due out in January, 2010). In it you can read my "e-exclusive," "Confessions of a Reluctant Information Manager: My First Semester of Library School." Want to know what I've been doing for the last 4 months? Read here!

And look for Issue 113, which features my story "You Wouldn't Recognize Me," on newsstands, in bookstores, and available online, this January!

Etching and Cross-Hatching

Recently I took a weekend-long etching/intaglio workshop at NSCAD. I made this garlic print:

I love etching! I loved how meditative it was to scrape lines onto a plate. I loved learning about cross-hatching. I loved the process of sketch to plate to acid bath to cleaning to inking to wiping to printing to cleaning, etc. etc. I've been trying to get that old-fashioned, early 20th century feeling in my illustrations as I try to figure out how to illustrate my kids' books. So now I've tried a few more pen and ink cross-hatched drawings. They don't turn out as well as actually etching, but I'm slowly getting the hang of it. Below, some of my drawings.








"We will sample it judiciously!"

"When Olena was a girl, she had called them lie-berries--a fibbing fruit, a story store--and now she had a job in one. She had originally wanted to teach English literature, but when she failed to warm to the graduate study of it, its french-fried theories--a vocabulary of arson!--she'd transferred to library school, where everyone was taught to take care of books, tenderly, as if they were dishes or dolls."

--from Lorrie Moore's "Community Life," Birds of America (1998)

Venn Diagram

The Berth House

In response to Bookninja's 're-masculate' contest, the goal of which was to 'masculine-ize' a chick lit. title, behold, The Berth House, by Andi McKay.

Here's the synopsis: Donahue “Huey” Rare is the first boy in five generations of Scot’s Bay, Nova Scotia Rares to reject the family carpentry business and head to the high seas, despite the family sea curse. In his youth, Huey apprentices with Mr. Comeau (“Mr. C”), a salty Acadian sea captain infamous for his sea chanties and mean-spirited blind parrot, Chico. After a decade at sea fighting pirates, Germans and sea monsters, Huey returns to Scot’s Bay with his crew of misfit sailors to prove his worth, winning the love of the village hooker, Ruby. When a harrowing fire set by a new American carpenter threatens the berth house his father and brothers built, only Huey can save the village. But will he?

(note #1: I'm posting this here because, what happened to this contest? Seems they got a bit of press in The Guardian and that was that. Away into the ether)

(note #2: You can read the ridiculous synopsis to the extremely ridiculous original Birth House, which has one of the worst, most sexist covers ever, here)

You Are Not a Writer

No, you're not. I know you may think you are because you can hold a pen and put words down on paper with that pen. Or maybe you can type and you think it's magic! and wonderful! and creative! when the words you type turn into sentences, and those sentences turn into paragraphs. You might think, heck, if I can write a paragraph, I can write a story! But you know what? You can't write a story because you 1. never read them and 2. don't know what the heck a story is.

You are not a writer if you:
-think there's no difference between fiction and non-fiction. If you read a story and want to ask the author, 'did this happen' or 'is this true' then you're not a writer
-wrote a poem/menu/newsletter 18 years ago and your mom/co-worker/boy (or girl) friend-at-the-time thought it was great
-have had kids and think, heck, I created life, I can create anything!
-watch more TV than read
-have no sense of humour
-think 'I'm gonna write me a book' and start writing said book for, like, a week here and there, and then abandon that idea like you do all creative ideas in favour of another creative idea like making bracelets or bread or T-shirts with funny sayings
-like the above, get a new! unique! creative idea every couple of days or weeks that you think will sell! sell! sell!
-think you'll make money and be a famous writer like what's-her-name
-make fun of other writers who'd rather write than drink or watch a bad movie
-don't swear
-can't spell
-don't know anything about English grammar and/or think grammar is full of patriarchal rules made to be broken
-think 'why do stories always have to be sad and depressing?'
-think a story actual does not need a problem or suspense to be interesting or a story. In fact you think random words on a page are a story, that it's literature's patriarchal rules that say a story needs a problem and how dare someone published and/or educated tell you otherwise

And finally, you are not a writer if you tell people you are going to be a writer. Writers write. In a room. By themselves. They write because they have to, not 'cause they think it'd be kinda cool to try writing for a while. They would write even if there was no one left on the planet. In fact, they'd be happy no one was on the planet 'cause finally they wouldn't have to deal with wanna-be writers asking them, 'can you read this thing I wrote yesterday while I was waiting for the bus?' They'd finally have some peace and quiet. They'd finally write.


Professional Writer

That's me! According to the Canada Council for the Arts, to be eligible for a grant, one must be a "professional writer" who has "a minimum of four texts of creative literary writing...published on two separate occasions in literary magazines, recognized periodicals (including general interest magazines), or anthologies published by professional publishing houses..." So, thanks to Grain (who just accepted "Happy Meat," my sex and death on an organic farm story), I have four stories published in more than two journals. When the stories will be published, well, that's another story. I also have a story ("Diving for Pearls") forthcoming in The Fiddlehead. Sometime, in the future....

In honour of being a professional writer, here's a picture of a lovely couple, admiring the man's writing. This is what The Professor and I do each day: gaze lovingly at each other's writing, because both are things of beauty.


Cover Woman

I want to say cover girl, but when you hit your 30s, girl, boyfriend, and missionary are a few words that should be left behind. Anyway, here's the cover of The New Quarterly, Issue 98 (a.k.a the Nicole Dixon Issue).

Inside you can read 2 of my stories and an interview with yours truly. For more info, click this link: http://www.tnq.ca/magazine/

You can also check out issue 100, in which my defence of the short story is published: http://www.tnq.ca/magazine/back_issues/issue_100/

Thank you TNQ!


High-Water Mark at PQL

High-Water Mark's now got it's very own page on The Porcupine's Quill website.

Five Things Literary: Advocate Harbour

Open Book Ontario recently asked me to contribute to their interview series. I really wanted to write Five Things Literary about Advocate Harbour, but the site is Open Book Ontario (i.e., not Nova Scotia), so I’ll be writing about my office and desk, instead. However, little Advocate Harbour has some big literary credentials which I still wanted to share. So here are five seven things literary about Advocate Harbour, Nova Scotia.

Edit: I don't live in Advocate, or the blue house, anymore. 'Tis life. But these facts are still pretty cool and too awesome to delete ;)

1) Advocate Harbour was named by Samuel de Champlain after Marc Lescarbot, Canada's first author (and lawyer) (well, of European descent).

2) Playwright (and actor) Sam Shepard lived out the draft in Advocate in a house called Hilltop Farm (now near Cape Chignecto Park). Rumour has it that Bob Dylan once helicoptered into Advocate for a weekend to hang out with Shepard. Actress Megan Follows (Anne of Green Gables!) now owns the house. She said when she bought it, she found sexy photos of Shepard’s then wife O-Lan Jones.

3) Megan Follows once lived in my house in Advocate. She painted my dining room. She said she spent most of the winter freezing beside the then tiny woodstove with her two very young children. The house is now owned by writer Darryl Whetter. His latest book, Origins, includes poems about Joggins, Nova Scotia, which is 40 minutes from Advocate and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is at Joggins that vertebrates first mated on land.

4) Charles Darwin wrote about Joggins in On the Origin of Species:

In other cases we have the plainest evidence in great fossilised trees, still standing upright as they grew, of many long intervals of time and changes of level during the process of deposition, which would never even have been suspected, had not the trees chanced to have been preserved: thus, Messrs. Lyell and Dawson found carboniferous beds 1400 feet thick in Nova Scotia, with ancient root-bearing strata, one above the other, at no less than sixty-eight different levels. Hence, when the same species occur at the bottom, middle, and top of a formation, the probability is that they have not lived on the same spot during the whole period of deposition, but have disappeared and reappeared, perhaps many times, during the same geological period. So that if such species were to undergo a considerable amount of modification during any one geological period, a section would not probably include all the fine intermediate gradations which must on my theory have existed between them, but abrupt, though perhaps very slight, changes of form.

—Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 1859

5) Ami McKay mentions Advocate in her novel, The Birth House (The Birth House is set in Scot’s Bay, right across the Bay of Fundy from Advocate):

[My mother] never thought I’d get married, at least not until some old broken-toothed widower came over in a skiff from Advocate or Parrsboro, looking to take some new blood back to his village.

6) Bonus fact! Poet Elizabeth Bishop lived in Great Village, Nova Scotia, about 45 minutes east of Advocate. Her poem, “The Moose,” describes the Bay of Fundy tides (where Advocate is situated) and the road through Great Village, Parrsboro, and other villages near Advocate:

…One stop at Bass River.
Then the Economies 
Lower, Middle, Upper;
Five Islands, Five Houses,
where a woman shakes a tablecloth
out after supper…

7) Another bonus fact! (Because we’re getting a bit away from Advocate, but) writer Harry Thurston lives in Tidnish, Nova Scotia (about an hour or so from Advocate) and writes often about the Bay of Fundy and the salt marshes (Place Between the Tides).


The No Dory Halifax Book Launch

I'll be launching High-Water Mark in Halifax on October 18.

Two Maritime writers, zero dories.
Thurs., October 18, 5:30 p.m.
The Company House, 2202 Gottigen St., Halifax
(reading with Darryl Whetter)


Interview with Porcupine's Quill

Porcupine's Quill did a fun interview with me, partially last fall and partially this summer. It's now online! You can read it here.

Open Book Ontario: At the Desk

Open Book Ontario asked me to write an At the Desk feature. I chose to write about how the "Murder Room" in the Blue House became my office. You can read about that process, and see a few more photos, here.

High-Water Mark is sexy

So says The 49th Shelf, who've "put together this list of Canada's sexiest books with input from some of the nation's best readers".

The stories in Dixon's collection are incredibly diverse, but sex is what most of them have in common. Everybody's doing it (well, except the married people), and they're having revenge sex, gay sex, threesomes and more. Even in Sarnia, shockingly.

Some lovely company, including Douglas Glover's amazing Elle.

Fantastic HWM Review in National Post

High-Water Mark was reviewed by one of Canada's best CanLit critics, Steven W. Beattie, so I'm not only super excited by the review itself, but by the fact that it's a real review; i.e., it's critcal, and, well, smart.

Dixon is uninterested in the kind of lyrical historical romance that was, for some time, the default CanLit setting. Her stories are abrasive and direct, marrying a fierce intelligence with a febrile style that refuses to shy away from profanity or explicit sex. There is a toughness to these stories that testifies to a refreshing honesty, a refusal on Dixon’s part to paper over the more nettlesome aspects of her material, opting rather to face it head-on in all its painful messiness. High-Water Mark is kitchen-sink realism filtered through a storm-tossed East Coast sensibility. And it is chock full of allusiveness and implication.

Read the rest of the review here.

HWM Reviewed in the Toronto Star

In her short story collection, High-Water Mark, East Coast writer Nicole Dixon reflects an understanding of the human condition — especially how ridiculous we can be when confronted with the crazy dramas of our lives.

You can read the rest of the review here.

Berton House Writers' Retreat

It's official: I'll be heading to Dawson City, Yukon, next January-March, to be the writer-in-resident at the Pierre Berton House. The promise of 3 months to write and only write would tempt any writer to the Yukon in January...right? For more info about the program, you can read the Writers' Trust's official press release.

The M Word Launches in Toronto

I have an essay in The M Word: Conversations about Motherhood called "Babies in a Dangerous Time: On Choosing to Be Child-Free." It's a non-mom essay in an anthology that's very mom-oriented--kinda like non-moms in a very mom-oriented world. Anyway, I'm heading to Toronto for the launch on Tues., April 15, 6 p.m., at Ben McNally Bookstore, 366 Bay St. I'll be reading with other contributors and there'll be a discussion. Gonna represent for the child-free! Woot!

After this I hope I never ever have to explain why I'm not having kids. I know I probably will, but, hey--wouldn't it be nice if I never ever had to ever again? Dreams...

CBC Interview about Alistair MacLeod

I was asked to share a couple of stories about Alistair MacLeod for CBC Cape Breton's Information Morning. The segment aired this morning (April 25) and I remembered to record it. Yup. I had a scotch with Alistair MacLeod. Here's the story!

Making a Difference on Cape Breton Island

Cape Breton's CBC Mainstreet has a series called "Making a Difference," about Cape Bretoners who are doing positive things in their communities on the island. Alyce MacLean, CBC's freelance reporter, interviewed me for the series. We talked about writing in New Waterford, east coast stories, working (as a woman) in technology, and revitalizing the economy of the island by supporting local businesses. Here's the link to the interview! http://www.cbc.ca/mainstreetcb/making-a-difference/2014/09/23/making-a-difference-nicole-dixon/

Two Weeks till the Berton House

I'm dreaming of a White(horse) Christmas.

Photo from Wikipedia.


Yukon Readings

I'm all set to read at both the Dawson City and Whitehorse libraries this month. Leaving Dawson is going to be quite bittersweet--it'll be hard to give up all this writing and thinking time, but I'm really looking forward to being back on Cape Breton Island, enjoying the woodstove and saying "hi" to the ocean. Still, being in the north has been wonderful. I love the Yukon and can't wait to come back. Here are my reading dates!

Dawson City

Thursday, March 19, 2015
7:00 p.m.
Dawson City Community Library


Thursday, March 26, 2015
7:00 p.m.
Whitehorse Public Library

Photo of Northern Lights over Robert Service's cabin by yours truly.

Polar Opposites

At Berton House last winter, Julien shot timelapses of the Northern Lights from the kitchen window. Back home in Cape Breton, we decided to take those timelapses, add a soundscape, and pitch it to Lumière, Sydney's art-at-night-festival. The result was Polar Opposites, a multimedia video installation we projected onto the side of the Royal Hotel in downtown Sydney.

Polar Opposites has been making the rounds--it was part of New Glasgow's Art at Night Festival, as well as Dawson's City's (s)hiver. The photos, below, were taken by Blair Douglas during this year's (s)hiver. The video was projected onto the front of Bill Big's Blacksmith Shop.

Collaborating with Julien on Polar Opposites, in part, inspired me to write my essay, "Permaculture on the Permafrost," which is forthcoming now available from Canadian Notes and Queries. The essay is about a bunch of things, but, particularly, the benefits of arts collaborations and building communities using permaculture design techniques.

As part of Lumière, Julien and I were asked to give a talk about art and community. So we talked about how Polar Opposites came about, and I highlighted some points from my CNQ essay. The talk is now on YouTube (and embedded, below).

My Essay about Dawson, Art, and Permaculture Now Online

You can now read my essay, "Permaculture on the Permafrost," which first appreared in Canadian Notes and Queries 96, here on my website

Photo, below, was taken on the trail leading to the Midnight Dome, a small-ish mountain in Dawson City, Yukon.


Two Publications

2017 has been a busy year, both on the (backyard) farm and at the writer's desk. I've had two (ok, really 3) publications this year, starting with my short story, "Salmon Upstream," which appeared this summer in Taddle Creek's Canada Issue. The issue features writers from every corner of Canada, and I was asked to represent Nova Scotia <3 <3 <3. "Salmon Upstream," about skateboarders in New Waterford, is available online for your reading pleasure.

I also published my first ever farm-related writing in Rural Delivery--a profile on Blue Pearl Farms, an organic blueberry farm in Strathlorne, Cape Breton, and a short feature on the Pan Cape Breton Food Hub Co-operative. The articles are only available in print (in the November issue of RD), but it's very much worth subscribing to RD, an Atlantic Canadian magazine with a focus on farming, rural life, and communities.

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