Thursday, December 29, 2011

favourites of 2011

Chime by Franny Billingsley

This was one of those books where I read the very last page, breathed in deep, and then flipped back to page one and read it through again. I’ve never quite met a narrator as unreliable as Briony, nor a place as dark and magical as Swampsea, nor creatures as mysterious and realistic as the Old Ones. There is darkness and danger here, but also light and love. My favourite line in the book is this one: “If you say a word, it leaps out and becomes the truth… How can something as fragile as a word build a whole world?” I think it sums up Briony’s struggle with herself, and what has happened in the past. It sums up (for me) why stories are so valuable. But I also think it sums up the world around us. So much of how we see things (ourselves, others, the situations we find ourselves in) depends on how those things have been named for us. And sometimes, in order to make things better, some renaming is in order.

Feed by M.T. Anderson

I resisted this book for a long time. I'm not really sure why. But then, one day, I found it staring at me from the shelf of my favourite used bookstore. I grabbed it, flipped it open to page one, and… couldn’t. stop. reading. I loved the voice. I loved the dialogue. I loved the fact that it was poetic and satirical, and the descriptions were sparse, forcing my imagination to do a lot of work. And I loved the fact that the whole time I had this sense of foreboding, that Titus was going to do something I didn’t want him to do, that I was going to ball my eyes out… and while all that did happen, I thought that the way Anderson did it all, the way that everything came together, the way that it ended… it was perfect. After I finished it, I let it sit. Then I re-read the last chapter. And then re-read it again. Rarely do I find a book that ends perfectly, but Feed definitely does.

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

Let me just say, first off, that I will happily spend all my money on books by Shaun Tan. As someone who grew up raised by immigrant grandparents, I really resonated with this book, and the hospitality of the characters found within its pages. There are no words, only illustrations. Hundreds and hundreds of illustrations. It’s a story told only in images, and Shaun Tan does it so, so well. I found it magical and moving and, as with every other piece of work by Tan, it cast a spell over me.

Friday, December 23, 2011

so, yesterday, this happened

Meet Harvey - my Christmas present to myself.

(I'm in love.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

you guys! you guys!

Middle-earth! Really good-looking dwarves! Galadriel fixing Gandalf's hair!

*flails arms and jumps around*

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

this is what a book addiction looks like

A few weeks ago I decided to ban myself from entering a bookstore until I finished reading all the unread books on my shelf. Because, seriously. My shelf is getting out of control. I was doing sooo well... and then today happened.

I walked in.  

I walked out.

I came home with four new books. 

FOUR NEW BOOKS! I think I have a problem.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Eowyn, heroine of my heart

Tonight, after watching a movie (which shall not be named) where the only female character not only dies, but dies twice (and is so incredibly annoying), I'm trying to think of all the fictional girls that have made an impression on me in my life.

Since I've recently mentioned LOTR and the importance of finding myself in the stories I read as a girl, I thought I'd bring up Eowyn. Though she's not in the story for long, and is one of only three girls to make an appearance in LOTR (not the best track record, John, but I'm overlooking it), this lady made a HUGE impression on me growing up. 

So here's to you, Eowyn. Thanks for being so darn brave.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Okay, seriously, this.

Adorable, no? Not to mention Hanneke's song... beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

la la la lists

A short list of things I did this week when I really should have been getting ready for shows...

1. Discovered the blog Hitting on Girls in Bookstores and spent the afternoon reading all the back-posts. My two favs: this one and this one.
2. Tried to decide between which movie to see first: Hugo or The Muppets. This is a very tough decision.

3. Spent the entire day reading City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare. Bought the next book (City of Glass) because I need DISTRACTIONS while I wait for Clockwork Prince to come out (four more days). Will is my literary crush of the year. (Is it weird that he's, like, seventeen? Actually, don't answer that.)

4. Went to the farm, hung out with my grandmother, worked on revisions, ate lots of strudel.

5. Listened to Basia Bulat. Non-stop. For the past three days.

And now I actually have to get back to work, and get ready for THIS:

Friday, November 25, 2011

on holiday season sales and wizardly wisdom

Today I'm packing everything up for my first show of the holiday season: the Christmas Handmade Market. Reasons to be excited about this show in particular: 

1. It's near my family farm, which means I get to hang out with my grandmother. Loveliest. Woman. Ever.

2. It's happening at the Good Earth Food and Wine Co., which is a place I have never been, but have always wanted to go.

3. It means I get to hang out all weekend with artisans and entrepreneurs - two of my favourite kinds of people.

Completely unrelated to shows and making stuff - I've been thinking about Lord of the Rings a lot lately (mostly because of a story I'm writing) and I came across this excerpt from the movie. 

I freaking love that part.  

See you on the other side! (By which, I mean, monday. Not "that far green country under a swift sunrise"... although, maybe that one too.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

clay (part two)

Okay, remember this little guy?

Well, now he's this:

Ta Da!

Monday, November 21, 2011


This is going to be a pendant. 

Just you wait and see.

Friday, November 11, 2011

important things

I've been thinking a lot lately about the importance of books, and the stories we find in them. Stories tell us that we're not alone. They help us to be better, braver versions of ourselves. But first we have to be able to find ourselves in the stories we read (or watch, or hear).

For me, as a young girl, I read to find myself reflected back to me. I read seeking answers to the questions that dwelled in the nether regions of my heart: Could a girl have her own adventures? Could she go up against the monster, and vanquish it?

Because of these questions, I desperately needed to find myself in the stories I was reading - and I did. I found girls who travelled through worlds, befriended armoured bears, sent the undead back where they belonged, and bound magical creatures to them with just a name. These girls told me so much about myself, and what I was capable of.

But as I’ve grown, I’ve begun to notice that while I find myself – a white, heterosexual girl - in these stories, I rarely find other girls in them. And that frightens me. Because I know what it means to find yourself reflected back to you in the stories you read, and I know what it means when you can’t find yourself there.

I think change is coming, but it is oh so slow. And not nearly enough.

So. In light of this, the next book I'm starting on is this one.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


My absolute favourite part of one of my absolute favourite books:

“What do you think love is – a thing to startle from the heart like a bird at every shout or blow? You can fly from me, high as you choose into your darkness, but you will see me always beneath you, no matter how far away, with my face turned to you. My heart is in your heart. I gave it to you with my name that night and you are its guardian, to treasure it, or let it wither and die.  I do not understand you. I am angry with you. I am hurt and helpless, but nothing would fill the ache of the hollowness in me where you name would echo if I lost you.” Coren to Sybel in The Forgotten Beasts of Eld

Oh, sigh.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Sometimes, I’m searching for a book, and I know exactly what book it is, only I can’t find it. Or name it, even.

I take the books off the shelves, and I read them one by one. But even before I get halfway in, I know this isn’t it. This isn’t what I’m looking for. But I have to finish, and when I do, I move on to the next one.

These days I find myself searching, searching, searching.

This can mean one of two things: Either, the story I’m searching for is inside me, waiting to be let out. Or it can mean that I need to go back. Back to the books who – when I read them that first time – made me say: This! This is it!

Today is one of those days where I put down a story half finished, tired of searching, and went back.

The book I went back to is The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia McKillip. I first read it when I was twelve years old, and have since read it dozens of times, and every time, I know exactly what will happen next. But it doesn’t matter. Because, to me, it’s perfect. It’s the story I’ve been craving.

What stories are you craving?

Monday, October 31, 2011

tis the season

With November being tomorrow (gah! really?), I thought I'd do a quick post about three of my upcoming Christmas shows.

November 26 and 27
The Good Earth Food and Wine Co., Beamsville

Check out my featured artist page here.

December 3
First United Church, Waterloo

A Little Bird Told Me Sale
December 10
Little City Farm, Kitchener

There will also be a Christmas Studio Sale that is yet to be planned, and I'll put up the details of that when I plan it. :)

Monday, October 24, 2011

why is a raven like a writing desk?

I have no idea. But yesterday my hubby surprised me with this:

(gorgeous bar stool courtesy of my dad and step mom)

It’s an old post office desk. And now it’s my writing desk.

I am more pleased than I can say.

Friday, October 21, 2011

keep going

I’m afraid.

There’s a story in me that wants letting out. It’s a story that’s been growing for a long time. And now that I’m writing it down, I find myself afraid.

The story feels big. Really big. Too big for me.

I know that if I want it told, I’m going to have to push myself hard. And when I get to that place where I can’t go any further, to that line in the sand, or that fence at the edge, I’m going to have to step across the line, hop the fence, and keep going.

Keep going.

What if I can’t tell the story the way it deserves to be told?

That is what I’m most afraid of.

So right now, I need to be brave. It’s the only way to get the story out.

Monday, October 17, 2011

What I Learned at the RUCCL One-on-One Conference

1. That editors and agents aren’t scary. At all. In fact, they’re rather lovely. They are kind, encouraging people who are deeply invested in good storytelling.

2. That I think I’ve found “my people”. At any given moment, all you had to do was mention an author, book, or character and someone within a five foot radius not only knew exactly what/who you were talking about, but had something to say about it too. I’m not sure I’ve ever met so many strangers that I so instantly connected with.

3. That I can navigate my way to New Jersey and back all by myself. I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it at first, but here I am, back on the other side of the border, dreaming about what a great time I had.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Highlight of this Weekend's Craft Show:

This lady.

That's my grandmother. She came to visit me at my booth.
I'm pretty sure she's the most beautiful woman in the world.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Some Things

I just purchased this book from my favourite bookstore. I'm not finished it yet, trying to savour it, thinking that so far this is my favourite part:

Stories are the wildest things of all, the monster rumbled. Stories chase and bite and hunt.

Oh, and this part:

You will tell me the truth.
"And what if I don't?" Conor said.
The monster gave an evil grin again. Then I will eat you alive.

And possibly this part too:

Stories are wild creatures, the monster said. When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?

Unrelated to this... in my next life, I would like to be born here please. (I have a thing for fjords.)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

“The lesson for today is this: It is better to travel with hope in one’s heart than to arrive in safety.” –Granddaddy to Calpurnia, pg 322

This weekend I read The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. This book is breathtaking - in a quite, gentle way. It is tender, and heavy, and opens you up. It makes you ask important questions. Questions like: "how are we to spend the brief time that is allotted us?"

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

ripen like a tree

Ever since fall started settling in, I’ve been anticipating something. I’m not sleeping properly. Not eating properly. I can’t focus on normal, everyday things. I’m both yearning for and fearing the future. It’s a bizarre place to be in, like I’m walking on an edge, darting in and out of the world.

Then today, a friend recommended I read Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. I found this in letter #3:

In this there is no measuring with time, a year doesn’t matter, and ten years are nothing. Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn’t force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come. It does come. But it comes only to those who are patient, who are there as if eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly silent and vast. I learn it every day of my life, learn it with pain I am grateful for: patience is everything!

Be patient. Ripen like a tree. Summer does come.

I needed to hear that.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I Swoon

I just purchased this print from this shop.
It's inspired by The Taming of the Shrew.
I can't stop staring at it.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

On Starting and Finishing

It is a well known fact that I am excellent at starting things and not so excellent at finishing them. When I took a Myers Briggs test five years ago and it declared me to be an INFP (introverted, intuitive, feeler, perceiver) I fully claimed this identity. I basically stamped the letters INFP onto my forehead. “I start things and I don’t finish them!” - was my mantra. I think I did this because I was noticing a tendency in my life to fail. I failed to pass my classes because I didn’t try to. I failed to finish post-secondary programs because I lost interest in them. I was always quitting jobs that I had once been convinced were right for me. Deep down inside, I was afraid – no, terrified – that there was something seriously wrong with me. Why did I find it so easy to start things, and so hard to finish them? Myers Briggs gave me a label that I could hide behind.

Everything changed this year. After yet another failure (quitting my program at school last fall) I started writing again. Writing stories. Something I hadn’t done since before going to university. I started writing and I didn’t stop. I started a novel. Then I middled it. And then… I finished it. I finished a whole novel! When I realized this, I had to take a step back. Me, an INFP, perpetual starter and never finisher… finished a novel? What in the world was going on?

I think I’ve figured it out. I think that maybe my reasons for always starting things and never finishing them was because I was starting the wrong things. It was like I had writer’s block - but in everyday life. And the solution to writer’s block is to always go back. Go back to a part in the story that was working. And then re-write from there.

So that’s what I did. I went back to the thing that used to work: storytelling. And now I’m re-writing my life. I’m re-writing the part where I decided I’m a failure and claimed an identity that wasn’t quite true. Yes, I am excellent at starting things. But now I can also say with pride that I finish things too. Or at least, I finished one thing.

I’m holding on to that.

Monday, August 22, 2011


When I walk home through the park, I always listen to this song on my ipod:

It makes me feel like I'm walking through a fairy tale.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What is REAL?

Growing up, one of my strongest memories is of my dad reading to me before bed. Sometimes if I'm reading the same book as one he read to me I can hear his voice saying the words. One book in particular has always had a special place in my heart:

I recently bought my very own copy of this book (thank you, Words Worth Books) and while reading through it again, was struck by this passage in particular:

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day... "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real, you don't mind being hurt... It doesn't happen all at once... You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

I just love it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


I just posted these little guys in my shop. Aren't they cute?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

this makes me happy

Yesterday I discovered that Republic High School in Missouri banned Slaughterhouse Five from it's curriculum and school library.

Today I discovered that the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library is giving away free copies of the book to students from Republic. An anonymous donor gave the library 150 books to give away. (

Some days I'm just so in love with the world.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

home for a rest

I looked up “home” in the dictionary today. This is the definition I liked best:

“A place where something flourishes, is most typically found, or from which it originates.”

After a very busy three weeks, I needed some time to rest and recharge. The place I usually go to do this is my childhood home.

There’s something sacred about the farm I grew up on. There are memories woven through every room of my grandmother’s house. There is magic hidden just beneath the floorboards of the barn. And there’s something that sits, waiting, just beyond the trees. Something transcendent, and nameless, and huge.

At Hillside this weekend, a poem was read in one of the workshops I attended. With it came an image of this particular spot in the forest, where I used to sit as a child:

Lost by David Wagoner

Stand still.
The trees ahead and bushes beside you are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here, and you must treat it as a powerful stranger, must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers, I have made this place around you. If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you, you are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows where you are. You must let it find you.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

before I head out...

We can't live in the light all of the time. Sometimes we have to take all the light we can hold into the dark with us. -Libba Bray

Friday, July 15, 2011


And this is what happens when Kristen rushes to get things done.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

art on the street

I'll be in Guelph this saturday, participating in this lovely little thing:

Hope to see you there!

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Wordy Weekend

I finished two books while vending this weekend. My anti-social behaviour was made possible by this handsome guy:

(that's the second draft of my novel he's reading)

So. I fell completely in love with these two books:

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman was beautiful and tender and a little bit scary. It's about a boy raised in a graveyard. This is my favourite part:

Bod shrugged. "So?" he said. "It's only death. I mean, all of my best friends are dead."

"Yes." Silas hesitated. "They are. And they are, for the most part, done with the world. You are not. You’re alive, Bod. That means you have infinite potential. You can do anything, make anything, dream anything. If you change the world, the world will change. Potential. Once you’re dead, it’s gone. Over. You’ve made what you’ve made, dreamed your dream, written your name. You may be buried here, you may even walk. But that potential is finished.”

Silas was my favourite character.

On to the Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi. What an amazing book! I sometimes forgot to breathe while reading it. From page 1 it dug it’s oily, grimy word-claws deep inside me and refused to let go until the very end. Here’s a snippet from my favourite part:

Family. It was just a word… The blood bond was nothing. It was the people that mattered. If they covered your back, and you covered theirs, then maybe that was worth calling family. Everything else was just so much smoke and lies.

Well, that's all for now. Goodnight everyone.

(my candlelit display)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My One True Love

Summer Reading

It's no secret that I love children's lit: witness the bookshelf that accosts you as soon as you walk through the front door of my house. Three quarters of the titles there range anywhere from picture books to young adult literature.

One reason for this might be because I find children's literature has the ability to open me up more than adult literature. Here's an example of one such story, told in the form of a picture book:

Part of the appeal of this story is how beautiful and complex the illustrations are, and how well they complement and build upon the text. I love, love, love the little red leaf that's present on every page. As a reader, you often don't notice it the first few times through, but someone whose reading the pictures definitely does. It gives the story that extra bit of depth, but you have to really be paying attention, you have to know how to look for it.

Sometimes when I'm feeling sad, I go to Words Worth Books (that's the little indie bookstore in uptown Waterloo) and read through their children's section. I always come out with a renewed hope in things. Usually, I also come out with a new book.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Monday, June 13, 2011

Stitch 'n' Kitsch

So, the Stitch 'n' Kitsch was this past saturday. And if you've never been to one of these bi-annual lovelies, you are missing out. But don't worry, there's another one just in time for Christmas. :) If you need extra encouragement, check out this blogger's post about the day.

So I was pretty much ecstatic the night before the show as I was packaging all of my jewellery. Why? Oh let me tell you. Over the past month Lin, a local graphic designer, has been working on a new logo for Two Cent Sparrow and *miraculously* all her designs came back from the printer the day before SNK! The adrenaline caused by looking at my beautiful branding gave me the extra energy I needed at the end of the night to finish getting everything ready for the show.

Here are some close-ups:

And now it's back to work...

Friday, June 3, 2011

Stitch 'n' Kitsch

On Saturday, June 11 I'll be a guest artist at the Stitch 'n' Kitsch - Waterloo region's funkiest indie craft show. Come check it out!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How to Refer to Strangers

Yesterday my friend told me that one of his professors had taken to calling him “sir” as of late. The title appalled him.

Born in Ethiopia, he became a refugee in Kenya, and is now a permanent resident of Canada. Given this background, the term “sir” has colonial connotations for him. It brought to his mind the image of a powerful white man – someone to be feared.

I was genuinely intrigued by this. I use the title “sir” (as well as “miss” or “ma’am”) when serving customers in the cafĂ© where I work. At the same time, I’m pretty committed to uprooting the withered roots of colonialism. If there was a contradiction between these two things, I wanted to remedy it.

So I asked him: “What kiswahili word would you use to acknowledge a stranger?”

His reply was simple and succinct: “Ndugu.” Brother.

Language is powerful. Use it for good.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

hope is the thing with feathers

Check out my artist interview on my the blog True Becoming!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

order and disorder

Today I’m feeling stupid. Part of this has to do with the changing of the seasons (which somehow always manages to turn me into this hyper-sensitive creature). The other part has to do with school.

Lately the words “maybe school isn’t for you” (said to me last fall) have been echoing in my head. In some ways, I know it’s true. University is the very epitome of order, structure, and obedience to authority. If you can’t follow rules, you really don’t belong there.

And therein lies the dilemma.

On the one hand, I want to read and learn and formulate ideas in a structured, orderly way. On the other hand, I don’t want to sacrifice the parts of me that are disorderly for the sake of succeeding in or gaining approval from a hierarchical system.

This struggle between order and disorder comes out most clearly in my essay writing. It’s simple, really:

P1. I don’t like structure.

P2. Essays are all about structure.

C. Chaos ensues.

Seriously, though. Essays are all about rules, and following rules. There are rules around how you write and organize an introduction, a thesis, a main argument, and a conclusion. There are rules for how you structure sentences and paragraphs. (Every paragraph must be a kind of “mini-essay” a TA told me recently.) There are even more rules derived from the MLA or APA, telling you exactly where to put your page number, how wide your margins have to be, and so on, and so forth.

Maybe it’s just because I’ve been out of school for too long, but it seems to me that the essay is just another form of control, and school itself is just another tool to train people how to perpetuate the status quo. The most interesting part for me is that we pay (or our parents do) exorbitant amounts of money in order to subject ourselves to this system. Control through consensus.

Isn’t that a kind of hegemony?

Of course, this could just be a justification for why school makes me feel stupid. :)

Monday, March 28, 2011

anticipating spring

[rez-uh-rek-shuh n]
1. the act of rising from the dead
2. a rising again, as from decay, disuse, etc.
3. revival

Friday, March 11, 2011

oh productivity... you and I should hang out more often

One of my favourite things about having my own studio is that I am ALLOWED TO BE MESSY (that and the fact that I get to listen to music I'm not allowed to listen to at home). You wouldn't guess it from the pictures, but the space behind the camera is very, very messy.

And isn't that what art is?

This last one is for Amber:

Thursday, February 10, 2011


(warning: this post is a melancholy one)

After living away from my childhood home for seven years now, I’ve suddenly developed this desperate and fanatical need to be connected to my family in any way possible.

Every time I leave my grandparent’s house, I get this feeling... it’s a lot like being punched in the gut and having all the air sucked from your lungs... that feeling of what if that was the last time I see them?

But there's a deeper fear in me than that of physically losing my grandparents.

These days I’m never sure whether my grandfather is going to remember my name when I walk through the door. The man whose house I grew up in, who let me fall asleep on his lap every night and carried me to bed still sleeping, doesn’t always know who I am. His frequent question of, “What relation are you to my wife?” never seems to get any less painful – although I get better at hiding the pain. I think the first time I realized he didn’t know me was the day the homesickness began.

In the beginning, I raged: against nature, god, whoever would listen. It wasn’t fair. In fact, it was cruel.

As I’ve begun to spend more time with them though, I find myself wondering if my grandfather’s forgetting is simply a reflection of my own forgetting. Perhaps it's not that my home is slipping away from me; rather, I slipped away from my home a long time ago.

My grandmother often tells me, “We used to be such good friends, you and I.” It’s true: she was my best friend growing up, before I left. But the longer I lived far away and pursued things completely outside of her world, the less I stayed connected to her.

I think the truth is that I began the process of forgetting them long before my grandfather began the process of forgetting me. In gaining independence and freedom and self-discovery, without knowing it, I began losing some of the things that are most precious to me. And that realization is the most painful one of all.

Can this be corrected? I intend to try.

Friday, January 7, 2011

the new studio

Finally! My new studio is all set up and I love it. I love it so much I can't help sharing it:

this is my WRITING DESK

this is my THROWING AREA

these are my SHELVES

stay tuned for a studio-warming party, coming in the near future...