Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Swamp

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The Canadian Oxford Dictionary’s definition of the word “swamp”:

n. 1 a tract of low-lying ground in which water collects; an area of water-logged ground; a bog or marsh.
After a torrential storm and flooding less than two weeks ago, followed now by days of 40C+ heat coupled with 110% humidity, that would be the basement. Or the soccer pitch in Riverdale Park. I’ve compared current conditions to the stories I’ve read about the filming of Apocalypse Now in the jungles of the Philippines. And we know what happened there: they all went mad.

2 a difficult or messy situation; a complication (a bureaucratic swamp).
Detroit declares bankruptcy. Not a complete surprise, but still crushing news. Some light discussion about whether or not Canada should buy Detroit. Doubtless there's going to be a fire sale. Apparently Windsor is considering buying the Detroit half of the Windsor-Detroit tunnel. Is this part of the correction that the western economies keep talking about? And then there's the Canadian senate. Now there's a swamp. Florida's got nothing on our upper chamber.

v 1a tr. Overwhelm, flood, or soak with water
Moss is gathering on rolling stones and growing all around the trees. And the deck. And on the soles of my shoes. And inside my eyelids. The oscillating fan in the bedroom is really just an outboard motor.

b intr. (of a boat) become filled with water and sink.
I don't leave the house without my water wings anymore.

2 tr. Overwhelm with a large amount of something (swamped him with fan mail).
If bills count as fan mail, then yeah.

3 tr. & intr. N Amer clear (a road) in a forest by felling trees, removing undergrowth, etc., esp. for hauling logs.
I'm reworking a chunk of the first draft of Maiden Lane,” the sequel to Riverside Drive, and removing some undergrowth (sub-plots keep popping up and spreading like clover or Creeping Charlie), and now hauling some logs (shuffling chapters).

Much of Maiden Lane, the sequel to Riverside Drive, will take place during a deep-freeze in the Border Cities in the winter of 1923. Ice floes are trapping ferries in the Detroit River, pipes are bursting, snow and ice are bringing down telephone and power lines, blowing snow is blocking streetcar tracks…immersing myself in this is like a little bit of mental air-conditioning.

Writers lose themselves in words and stories just as do readers. I have to get myself inside the head of a character the same way I have to adapt and feel for their physical environment. On days like this I don't mind a mental ice storm. If you get deep enough, become so emotionally involved, it can and should be like you are there. It will make it just that much more rewarding for the reader.

Do you read sometimes in order to 'get lost'?

Time to head to the bookstore...more tomorrow.

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: Toronto.

Michael Januska

Michael Januska is an award-winning crime fiction writer whose works include numerous short stories as well as the recent novel Riverside Drive, part of the Border City Blues series set in Windsor. His first book was Grey Cup Century. He lives in Toronto.

Go to Michael Januska’s Author Page