Wake The Stone Man [Book Review]

Book Reviews

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In April I received a copy of the Beacon Award for Social Justice Literature (2014) winner, Wake The Stone Man, from Fernwood Publishing. At first I didn’t know what to make of it, there was so much going on! But once I was ready to take it all in I became completely enveloped in the story.

Molly and Nakina meet in Fort Mckay, a small Northern town, with a mythical stone man who “watches” over the inhabitants. Nakina is Ojibwe, which translates to having a difficult time fitting in and keeping safe. She is beautiful, womanly, and strong. Molly, on the other hand, is rail thin and quietly curious. I really got into the story when I realized how similar I am to Molly. We like to read, watch, and then create — for her it’s art, for me it’s words.

Wake The Stone Man depicts a friendship that many readers can relate to; filled with fear, guilt, love, happiness, and regret. Their losses both individually and together fuel the novel and give the storyline its gumption. It is written from Molly’s point of view with honesty and integrity. Carol McDougall has written a novel ending with an epic reminder that life can indeed go wrong, but sticking around is sometimes the best thing you can do.

She reminds the reader that circumstances have a way of going full-circle and that it is important to continue to search for answers. McDougall reminds her readers that they have the strength and courage to change their own lives, and the world.

“…I decided goodnuff wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted more. I wanted out. I kept thinking about that girl I’d seen trying to escape over the fence of the residential school. I figured she wanted out too.” (11)

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

SYNOPSIS

Set in a small northern town, under the mythical shadow of the Sleeping Giant, Wake the Stone Man follows the complicated friendship of two girls coming of age in the 1960s. Molly meets Nakina, who is Ojibwe and a survivor of the residential school system, in high school, and they form a strong friendship. As the bond between them grows, Molly, who is not native, finds herself a silent witness to the racism and abuse her friend must face each day.

In this time of political awakening, Molly turns to her camera to try to make sense of the intolerance she sees in the world around her. Her photos become a way to freeze time and observe the complex human politics of her hometown. Her search for understanding uncovers some hard truths about Nakina’s past and leaves Molly with a growing sense of guilt over her own silence.

When personal tragedy tears them apart, Molly must travel a long hard road in search of forgiveness and friendship.

Looking Back to Move Forward

Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal
Photo from Ultralinx

Photo from Ultralinx

When I was younger I was against looking back; moving forward meant forgetting the past. Yesterday as I went through my various memory boxes and packed up my old notebooks, I realized that sometimes the only way to know how to move forward is by looking back.

Relationships are quickly put into perspective as memories jump out of photos and leap off of letters. Reminders of who you were and how far you’ve come smile at you like an old friend. Suddenly your entire world expands and everything makes sense, including the hard times you couldn’t control, the hard times that you created, and even the good times you didn’t think could be beat.

“Taking time to look back, is a foundation on course to build a stable future.”
Unarine Ramaru

Here’s to a brand new week of a brand new month. Remember that you can face anything that this week throws your way. Remember to start and end each day with a smile. Remember to love.

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

 

Whiplash: the film, the writing, the life you’re living

film, Lifestyle/Personal

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Last weekend, Alex and I watched Whiplash. He’d seen it before and said to me, “when you watch this, think about your writing”, so I kept that in mind as the opening credits rolled out. There’s no denying that Whiplash is a time-bomb of emotion, a story that depicts what it really takes to be one of the greats. There’s a part in the film where the band teacher (Fletcher) says to his student (Andrew), “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job”.  Why? because it promotes mediocrity. It promotes that just because you’re good, you don’t have to push yourself beyond the capabilities that you don’t even know are there.

I was there to push people beyond what’s expected of them. I believe that’s an absolute necessity

If you’ve watched Whiplash, you’ll know that Fletcher is a little insane in the way he pushes his students – especially Andrew. But it kinda worked, didn’t it?

Andrew: But isn’t there a line? You know, maybe you go too far, and you discourage he next Charlie Parker from ever becoming Charlie Parker?

Fletcher: No, man, no. Because Charlie Parker would never be discouraged.

This line moved me beyond belief. It inspired me to sit down every morning and evening this week; to write all of the words I could let out of my head. It inspired me to start trying again, to believe in myself, and to push myself harder when the words won’t flow as well as I hoped they would. Because, the next Dorothy Parker would never get discouraged.

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

*Quotes from Imdb*

Shed your Skin

Lifestyle/Personal

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Those days are going to come and go. The days where you feel inadequate as a writer, noticing the strides other people are making, wondering why you’re not working hard enough to make them yourself. The days where the words get stuck in your brain, turning into a web of thoughts that cannot untangle. The days when you go to work with the most positive attitude and whimper in the bathroom because you’re making mistakes or feel overwhelmed. The days where nothing you do is right, or even enough. One of those days where you feel like shedding your skin and starting fresh.

Days and weeks where your anxiety becomes so intense it paralyses you, body and mind. You make an appointment with the doctor and the hairdresser on the same day at the same time. You forget about that story you started writing or that you promised to get together with a friend. It gets so bad that you feel sick ever day, your head aches, and your body sore. Those days where you take the anti-anixety pills your doctor gave you, but they just make things worse. They turn you into some kind of zombie, The Walking Dead are more alive than you.

But then there’s a day where everything is okay. Not just okay, but magical in its closeness to perfection. A day where you feel good, write well, and work better. Where a smile doesn’t leave your face and laughter widens your mouth letting through a booming sound known as pure, innocent happiness. A day where you know in your heart of hearts that you are loved, that you love others, and that even the bad days aren’t so bad at all.

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

*Photo from Pinterest*

New Mantra: Write Like A Motherf*cker

Book Reviews, Lifestyle/Personal
From Buzzfeed

From Buzzfeed

Over the last week or so I’ve been reading Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed. It was recommended to me by Kaiti from HarperCollins Cananda and my cousin Amanda. I don’t want to finish it. It’s a compilation of the columns Cheryl wrote for The Rumpus and goodness it’s gorgeous. It’s an advice column but raw, unfiltered, honest, and breathtaking. You get sucked into Dear Sugar’s words and end up feeling rejuvenated and ready to tackle the day.

One column in particular had me in tears before work. A twenty-six-year-old depressed writer asked Dear Sugar how to get out of her writing-funk. How she could write a book to be proud of. She asked: how does a woman get up and become the writer she wishes she’d be? Dear Sugar’s response is my mantra today and forever, I hope you’ll find solace in it too.

 

You need to do the same, dear sweet arrogant beautiful crazy talented tortured rising star glowbug. That you’re so bound up about writing tells me that writing is what you’re here to do. And when people are here to do that they almost always tell us something we need to hear. I want to know what you have inside you. I want to see the contours of your second beating heart.

So write… Not like a girl. Not like a boy. Write like a motherfucker.

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

*Quotes from The Rumpus Website

Into the Fire, No Burns to Report [A Narrative]

Fiction
From Beautiful Decay .com

From BeautifulDecay.com

He woke, his chest made of flames, burning into his heart. Smoke swam up his throat, choking him until he let it out. He was a dragon made up of fear. Nerves. Fear. Anxiety. They caused this paralyzing fire that interrupted his dreams, his sleep, his every waking hour. It hadn’t always been this way, when youth and innocence were on his side, Sylvester was feared nothing. Before the heartaches and senseless blunders, before his girlfriend’s abortion, and epic failures, Sylvester LIVED. He allowed and even enjoyed getting thrown into the fire, flames of all kinds. He tried anything he could and never looked back. His answer was always YES. Before, he jumped into the fire with both feet and came out with no burns to report. He relished in the notion that he was a survivor and that the fire could fuel him.

That was before, before his parents’ divorce, before his professor tried to touch him, before he saw the effects of chemotherapy, before school became difficult and failure a constant. Before he got fired for the first time, before his effort began to yield no results of success. Before it all seemed pointless.

Now, he’s burning on the inside, in a senseless, restless sedation.

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

Signs and All the Jazz

Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal

I believe in all kinds of magic, in dreams coming true, in luck, and hard work. BUT I’ve very rarely looked for or believed in signs. I’ve had trust my gut when making decisions but I’ve never sought out signs from the universe to lend some help. On Friday, for the first time in a very long time I felt as though the universe was trying to tell me something. On the way to and from work, a giant white plastic bag flew into my windshield, getting stuck momentarily before I regained sight of the road in front of me. Also on the way to work I nearly got hit by a transport truck who was making a left hand turn (thank goodness I sped up at the last moment).

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That was the moment I realized that life was trying to tell me something. It was literally trying to hit me in the face. Telling me to wake up and see the good in life. Telling me to stop letting nerves dictate my life and to go with the flow. Telling me to pay attention and make time for what I love to do. Telling me that life is so so short and it doesn’t make sense to spend a single moment dreading failure or even making plans.

Life is life and I have the capacity to handle anything that comes my way. I have a dream big enough to give me courage, a brain smart enough to give me strength, and a heart full enough to not only guide me, but to ensure that I have just the right amount of love and laughter in my life.

I’ll take that as a really great sign…

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

Birds Fly

Lifestyle/Personal

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A great friend sent me that quote last night after I regailed her with my most recent insecurities and fears. I told her how my anxiety has been giving me loads of nausea and mental blocks. How it’s been poking away at my confidence and turning it to some variation of mushy fear. After I read that quote and she gave me the ever so subtle reminder that MISTAKES ARE OKAY, ALL THAT MATTERS IS THAT YOU LEARN AND TRY, I felt my confidence boost.

As I watch the birds fly strong and proud in their V formation, I’ll remember that I is smart, I is strong, I can do anything.

Sending sunshine and confidence to you on this rainy morning!

Love Always,
Vanessa Xo

*Posted from my Moto X

 

Foggy Morning Sunrise

Lifestyle/Personal

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Yesterday I was up early and enjoyed my morning drive. Since the time-change, it seems that if you’re on the road before eight you get to witness the sun rise at some point. Yesterday, magical hues of yellow, pink, purple, and blue bounced off the morning sky and expanded before me. Fog lifted slowly giving the sky a cotton candy softness that both soothed and motivated me. In that moment I felt like I could dream or do anything. Like I could learn, adapt, change, and understand how to be just as quietly beautiful as the morning sky.

Love Always,
Vanessa Xo

*Posted from my Moto X

Realizations – Revelations – Growth

Lifestyle/Personal
From Pinterest

From Pinterest

The slogan for this season of Girls is nowhere to grow but up and my heart is beating in tandem with its sentiment. It’s time. My dreams don’t have to die in order for me to grow up, but they need a red marker and a heavy edit (and that’s okay). Although I’ve never been one to give up on my dreams or tell others to, I’ve realized something insanely beautiful: the moment I began making decisions based on things that were actually happening in my life (and not what I hoped would happen), my world began to change. Once I decided that it’s OKAY to not work in publishing or live downtown, my life chose a different course, one that excites me, one that I’m happy about. Writing will always be waiting for me, this blog will always be mine, but maybe, just maybe they aren’t meant to be on the top of my priority list. Maybe my heart and my head are finally ready for something new to take top-shelf.

I feel like my head is on straight since I turned twenty. All those years of questioning myself, doubting myself, and being afraid have suddenly morphed into something more welcoming. Understanding is it? I’m not sure but I am seeing my priorities clearly and they’re lined up in a way that suits my life, my goals, and my relationship not the way that society or tradition dictates.

Mid-twenties have never felt so good.

 

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo