Tuesday, December 09, 2008

LibraryThing Early Reviewers UP & RUNNING!

Final tally: 977 requests for Finding Creatures. Mmhmm!

Wattle and Daub Books has offered LibraryThing 15 copies of Finding Creatures & Other Stories for review, and the bids have started coming in. Already 252 members have asked to read and review it! Whoohoo! Thanks, Susan at W & D!

10 Dec.: Double Whoohoo!
*505* people are now bidding on my book!

12 Dec.: **726** bidding on Finding Creatures!

14 Dec.: Things have slowed down. 773 requests for Finding Creatures on LibraryThing. Still very pleased.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Skeleton Dance

This poem of mine has been rattling around on the hinternet for 9 years now, but has anybody read it? I dunno! So how about I put it here and maybe one of you will plop your eyes on it and have a peek.

why dance this dance of death

skeleton jangling hollow bones together

brittle bones like flutes that wail

lonely in the wind

why dance

when the grave is cool and deep around you

when the grave night sleep is calling you on to lie

to rest to slumber leaden

why nimbly dance instead

shimmy through the interstices

wriggle wormlike up through peeks and cracks rattle

on your moss grown mound and flail

against the night

why not die the cricket's death

chirrup ceasing

stoneblack body growing dry against the hill

lifedust trembling in the slightest breeze hollowed

out by age why not die this death this death why not

just die

i will not die the insect's death

never dancing to be free

i will shimmy through the maze of airholes

left inside my grave

i will issue from my tomb and sing the hollow song

i will rattle with the wind until my bones catch flesh

and flesh grows on me

until bone and ligament are clothed in silk again until

hair sprouts dark and billowing and my eyes spark

dark and gay and life flows whole and beckoning

from my limbs

i will not lie this death of death

but dance out from my grave

because i live

because i live

because i live

C. June Wolf

©1999 Obsidian Magazine

for the beautiful original setting, go to Obsidian's site (RIP!). Skeleton Dance.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Mosque Among the Stars

A Mosque Among the Stars, edited by Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad and Ahmed Khan, is on the shelves!

"This anthology is an effort to use the medium of SF to raise the positive image of Islam in the West. The anthology features SF and fantasy stories that portray Islam and/or Muslims in a positive light."

And how is this for a lineup? (Notice anyone familiar in there?)

Table of Contents

Lucius Shepard: A Walk in the Garden
Tom Ligon: For a Little Price
Jetse De Vries: Cultural Clashes in Cadiz
Howard Jones: Servent of Iblis
Andrew Ferguson: Organic Geometry
Ahmed A. Khan: Synchronicity
Camille Alexa: The Weight of Space and Metal
G.W. Thomas: The Emissary
Kevin Miller: A Straight Path Through the Stars
Pamela Taylor: Recompense
C. June Wolf: Miss Lonelygenes' Secret
D.C. McMahon: Squat

Pages: 260
Price: $20 + shipping
To order: email zc.press@gmail.com

ZC Books

Monday, November 03, 2008

Maggie V. Jones: Goddesses, Bugs, and A Twinkle in the Eye

Maggie V. Jones is the creator of the image used for the cover of my book Finding Creatures & Other Stories. I was moved to interview Maggie for two reasons. Most obviously, there is a clear audience. The first thing people do when they see the book is to exclaim about the beauty of the image. The second response is often to ask, who did the cover? And, when I tell them, to frown. They have never heard of her. I wanted to do something about that.

The second reason is Maggie herself. Intensely personable, with a lively intellect and lightness of heart, she is such a lovely person I wanted to know more about her and what better way than to pepper her with nosey questions? Thus this interview, which Maggie kindly agreed to do.

CJW: But who is Maggie V. Jones? Where does she live? What is her life like? How does art fit into it? And where can we see more of it?

MVJ: I'm a forty year old nan, mum, wife, daughter, sister, aunt and cousin to others. I also hold the title of chief bottle washer and dog walker, in the home.

I live in Warwickshire, UK (yep, Shakespeare county). I have three contrary teenagers (bless 'em), dogs that think they own the home (they do), a husband that continuously leaves his dirty workboots on the kitchen floor (good job I love him to bits), and a three year old grandson who keeps fetching bugs into my home from out of the garden (he has a bug fetish).

Check out my latest picture, 'The Bug Collector'. Aston was the inspiration behind that one. My life, with all the people in it, is never boring, and they all provide me with an abundance of ideas for my art. My biggest critic is my daughter Pearl, and I value her input .

CJW: People are very drawn to the beautiful green androgyn on the cover of Finding Creatures & Other Stories, and the soft brown owl soaring behind her. Can you tell me the story behind the image, and its significance for you?

MVJ: It's interesting that you use the word 'adrogyn'. A lot of my artwork features characters in it that are suspiciously like people I know, and some have a mixture of family features in them, both male and female. It's never intentional, it just happens I think on a sub-conscious level. This image is a combination of my older sister Jeanette's features, when she was younger, and my youngest niece.

My younger niece is very petite, waif-like and pale; I'm always telling her she needs more iron. Nevertheless, she's a gorgeous looking girl, but she sometimes hid her femininity when she was younger and she wouldn't wear a dress ever, much to her mum's annoyance. I think I've portrayed her as a very beautiful boy and hid her modesty in the flora to save her embarrassment. She's going to go ape when she reads this

The image came into being after a very good friend of mine, Pen, told me the tale regarding 'flower face'. She had been very supportive of my art in the past, and loved this story of Blodeuwedd, which is from the Welsh Mabinogi. She tried to push me into my art (she's had teacher training, and can be bossy and scary if it warrants), and I hoped the image would not only please her but also inspire her to pursue her own dream of a writing career. So you see Blodeuwedd came about to inspire and empower two women who also happened to be like-minded creative souls, and friends.

On the surface the tale of Blodeuwedd seems to be one of a hard and cruel woman who betrayed her husband. However, it is really a tale of trials for kingship. Celtic tradition is such that kingship came about via matriarchal lineage. In order to be king you had to marry the land, and prove your devotion to the sovereignty, and show his willingness to protect it. The trials that Blodeuwedd's husband endured because of both her and his mother (the goddess Arianrhod) are symbolic of this, and his near-death and healing are symbolic of the ritual death and rebirth usually required of the Druidic priesthood. Many Celtic tales have women within them which represent the land (the land being seen as definitely feminine).

CJW: What a wonderful pair of stories—both about Pen and you and how you support each other's creativity, and of the kingship trials behind the Blodeuwedd tale. And in the end, of course, your image has inspired many more people than you and Pen. I count myself in that number.

...And the truth is out. The image has nothing to do with anything in my book. But it is so gorgeous, and the feel is so right, that we have asked Blodeuwedd to cover for the Green Man, who appears in the final story in the collection.

MVJ: In retrospect it has everything to do with the book, especially the Green Man in your story, and his intended meeting with the like minded soul, St. Francis. Like the Green Man, Blodeuwedd, who was made from broom, oak and meadowsweet, is a spirit of the land, and the land connects us all. My image of Blodeuwedd was looking for a home. Not in the sense of placement, like the hanging of a picture on a wall, but purpose. I originally created her to empower, to inspire and connect. I think Blodeuwedd found you, Casey. Throughout your book there are references to the land, and I have to admit the story of Mr Cowmeadow's Sky made me cry a little.

CJW: Ah... Yes. And you know—I doubt I've mentioned this to youbut we looked at hundreds of images before finding her. Though there was much of great beauty there was nothing that felt like it really connected to the book till Blodeuwedd.

A lot of your art involves myth and faery, but not all of it. In fact, you have quite a wide range of styles and sensibilities in your work. I have a couple of questions here. First, what is the relevance of myth in your own life?

MVJ: For me myths are that connection that ties you to people and transcends time and space. Myths are also a bridge between the living and dead. It is interesting that I place people I know, or aspects of them, unconsciously within my art. By placing my kin within the myth or in folk tales I believe I'm aiming to keep the essence of them alive. Myths and folk tales endure.

CJW: Which really completes the circle, doesn't it? Because myths and folk tales are born of our people, and preserve our kinship with those who came before us and shaped us and our world. Putting your living kin into those myths is like completing a stitch from then, to now, to then.

MVJ: I love how you worded that, "a stitch from then, to now, to then", so apt. Yes it's all about connectiveness. It gives us comfort and strength, I feel.

You know, it isn't always living kin I place in my art, its also loved ones that have passed on. I love seeing my brother Clifford's features pop up in my art (that happens quite frequently in sketches). It's like family are popping in to say hello! One minute I could be drawing a little elf and the next I see his eyes twinkling in its face. He passed over ten years ago, when he was thirty-nine, but I still feel he's close. My art is important to me for providing solace, laughter and warmth and preserving family and memories. It does that admirably, and if I couldn't ever lay a mark on a piece of paper again I'd be lost, I think.

CJW: My second question on style: When you have decided to draw a particular image, or pursue a particular theme, how do you decide what stylistic approach to take?

MVJ: The stylistic approach I take depends very much on who the audience is and the type of art they like. I try to read the person, in an intuitive sense. Whenever I've created something for someone they always say to me afterwards it isn't how they would have envisioned it would turn out, nevertheless they then go on to say it is what they wanted. Funny that.

I also draw a lot for the children in the family, and they love cartoons. And I have a bit of a macabre and wicked sense of humour, which sometimes comes out in my work as well.

CJW: When people look at the cover to Finding Creatures one of their questions is "How was this done?" I give my idea of what you did and it is met with incredulity. So why don't you tell us? What techniques did you use in creating this image? Is that your usual technique, or do you vary in medium as much as you do in style?

MVJ: Blodeuwedd was pencil sketched, scanned into the computer and digitally painted using a stylus pen on a Wacom tablet, and that brilliant software, Corel Painter. This software is the nearest thing you can get to using traditional media with a computer.

Sometimes I mix my media and scan in traditional watercolour backgrounds that I've painted using watercolour pencils, or maybe pastel backgrounds, and then paint over them some more digitally. Mostly I like to keep to a restricted colour pallet, and introduce lots of texture. I've always loved the traditional media of pastels but it can be very difficult putting in details unless you work quite large. Digital art gives you more freedom to experiment, I think, and also has a wonderful undo button!

CJW: Good point!

Finally, the discerning art appreciator will notice that a lot of your subjects have beauty marks (or in some cases, ugliness marks) on their faces. Is that because you have a beauty mark? Are these all parts of the hidden woman who is you?

MVJ: You made me laugh with this one. I haven't a beauty mark or a mole. When I was a youngster an old lady called Rene used to live in a caravan opposite us. My Mum and Dad worked full time, my siblings were a lot older and had left home, I was lonely and so ambled over to see her quite a lot.

I loved it inside her caravan; it was quite old fashioned. She used to make jelly and proper custard and serve me some up in this fancy glass sugar bowl, with this delicate silver scallop-shaped sugar spoon. I used to feel quite regal eating out of that bowl.

She also had some items in her home that fascinated me. There used to be a design used on plates and crockery ware called the 'Crinoline Lady'. Rene had some of this ware, but also had some cushions with the design on as well. She gave me these grownup pens once (better than my usual crayons) and I copied this crinoline lady, over and over again. I liked the oldy worldy large- skirted dresses, and so started looking at history books with pictures of times past. To these ladies I drew I added beauty spots and also sometimes masks, as well as showing them wearing ever enlarging and toppling wigs. So it's a quirk of mine, which connects me to my childhood.

CJW: Lovely! Maybe some day we will see Rene and her wonderful caravan in a piece of your art. She sounds wonderful.

Where do you see yourself going with your art--if that is a fair question. You seem very grounded in the moment, painting by painting. Do you also look ahead and have some sort of plan, or a path that beckons you?

MVJ: I think I'm evolving all the time, ever ready to experiment, try new things, and hopefully improving myself. There's a cauldron of ideas bubbling in my head all the time, I even dream them at night when I'm asleep. Many a time I have to wake up in the early hours and scribble a sketch down. There's never enough hours in the day for me.

I have a goal of mine that I'm working on now, in fact it's two projects. One's an illustrated story called the 'Sun King', and the other is a collection of poems for young children, again illustrated.

My philosophy is that the creative journey in itself is what makes it worth all the effort. Simply, I enjoy it.

CJW: And finally, where can people see more of your work, either online or on the hoof?

MVJ: I'm none too quick with this internet malarky. It's a painful process for me, creating and updating web pages, there's much cussing and swearing at the monitor. It seems to take an ever an a day uploading pictures correctly, despite me having broadband.

However, I'm quite proud of myself because I did manage to scramble together an online homestead, so I could gather my family around me on the net and have a place for my art and poems. I have also just created an online blog. Be warned though, I'm inclined to post waffle. There's the odd corny joke, or me mentioning some antic my Grandson has been up to, or sometimes I refer to how many lemon puff biscuits I can eat at once. Some of its about as far removed from artistic professionalism and sophistication as you could get. That's just me though, I have no pretences. I also happen to think eating three lemon puff biscuits at once is a tricky thing, requiring much talent. You can find me at: http://art-by-mags.wetpaint.com/ And my blog web address is: Maggie V. Jones Rabbits And Rambles

CJW: Thanks, Maggie, for taking the time to answer my questions. Best of luck in the future with life, family, art.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Readers' Reactions to Finding Creatures & Other Stories

I keep getting these wonderful comments from readers. (Yes, yes, most of whom are my friends, but who else would be the first readers of a new book?) I've been saving them in a file that I supposedly will go back and thumb through in my old age or something. But why not share a few with you now?

The photo above is pretty eloquent all by itself. That's Tracy Lowe of Victoria, B.C., falling into the psychic entrapment of my prose. (Well...okay not really.)


Wow!!! I absolutely love the cover. And all those recommendations.

-- Eileen Kernaghan.

I have nearly finished your book. I have been truly amazed at the layers in every story I've read so far. Of course, many I heard you read at our group. Each time I read them, I discover more innuendos, more knowledge, and more delights. Your intellect is so vast and keen. I am thrilled by the changing voices and philosophies, too.

Well done! I hope it sells vast numbers of copies--it really deserves to, you know.

When it's listed on Amazon, I shall write a glowing review.

-- Julie Ferguson.

V-con and you and the whole damn thing were great! And so far your book is blowing me away. Wow. I mean it. Wow.

-- Jo McBride Wilson

Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed last night. You read beautifully, and the story was so interesting, mysterious and engaging. And I loved how you handled the presence of the 2 kids. And the music was a wonderful surprise, too.

Thanks for letting me know about it. I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of the stories.

-- Anne Hepper

Listen, Casey J, you may get very very tired of hearing this, but Claude and the Henry Moores is just a pure sweetheart of a story; if I never read any further it's been worth it. Can't wait to see what comes next.

Another reason I liked it was I used to live on Beverly Street (in Judith Merril's house), and I knew some of the sculptures in the story. Well, not as well as Claude, but well enough to be on a nodding acquaintance basis. My all-time fave Moore is The Archer outside Toronto's City Hall. I remember him as being a bit curmudgeonly (that's what being around so many politicians will do to you) but quite a student of civic politics. If I run into Claude sometime, I'll introduce them to each other, and he can work his magic.

See, there's the magic in your story. It's completely easy-breezy to assume Claude's a real person and slip into his world, one where among other things aliens live trapped in sculptures. Do you think you'd ever revisit Claude and his project?

Nicely done.

-- Michael Price

Casey I love your book. Powerful messages oozing from the belly of that book, it's like the earth protesting and trembling from below. They aren't just stories for a story's sake, there are messages, there is a purpose - I like that.

-- Maggie V. Jones

I'm excited about sharing your stories with the people in my life - thank you for writing them. They are beautiful, and they change how I am in the world. It's a little easier to look out at the people on the skytrain and the bus and feel at home, and notice possibilities of connection and wonder and just plain good stuff.

-- Patti Powell

Just read Thunderbirds - totally loved it. I think the thing I love most about your writing is your tone - warm, affectionate, funny, compassionate and curious. I also love how erudite (I probably should look this up to see what it means - I think it means knowledgeable) you are, each story is an education. And on top of that you have such a uniquely creative imagination - understanding a tree from the inside out gave me shivers.

-- Samantha Sanderson

I am LOVING it - absolutely superb. DEVOURING it.

-- Gemma Dubaldo.

Your book is a phenomenal accomplishment!! Would you please send me 2 more copies autographed?

-- Sister Cecilia Tallack.

Isn't that last one fun? She was my teacher in Grade 4. I was a little worried she might not like it...

Casey, your book arrived here yesterday and I've been reading it at every spare minute since! It's great! I'm up to beginning 'Miss Lonelygenes' and I've loved all the stories so far. I certainly won't ever see a Henry Moore sculpture in quite the same way again! Great! I love it! When is the next volume coming out.....?!

-- Julie Bond.

Wonderful, imaginitive and varied, an endlessly interesting collection of short stories, that linger in the mind. Ms. Wolf writes in a fresh modern way, her sense of humour a friendly delight! Thanks Casey! (Review from LibraryThing.)

--Krista Reich

I am treasuring your book and enjoying being with you on this journey.

-- Esther Hisza

Finding Creatures & Other Comforts:

Hi, Casey, I _know_ it's "other stories" but still. I finished reading the collection this afternoon--at least all the stories original to it--and am finding myself feeling uplifted. Not in a David Brin way but rather in a quiet, yes, that's the way it could be manner.

Thank you.

--Peter Halasz

Warmest of hugs to you, with a grateful heart.... I am n the 3rd reading of your book btw.

--Gemma Dubaldo

Sorry for not having emailed you yet to say how much I enjoyed Finding Creatures. Also, it's a beautifully made book--congrats to all concerned. A real review in SFC (Science Fiction Commentary)--when I get around to it.

--Bruce R. Gillespie

Cheers, love, hugs, whatever works.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Some Launch Photos I Didn't Get Around to Putting Up Before

Mine is not to question why. Blogger wants to put the later photos before the earlier ones, who am I to argue?

So, in reverse chronological order:
Me reading at Pulp Fiction, 11 October. (photo Nick Zenthoefer)
Alison of Jonathan Teague & Friends, warming the crowd at Pulp Fiction. (photo C. June Wolf)

Eileen Kernaghan reading from Finding Creatures at White Dwarf. 28 September.
Me again! Signing at White Dwarf. (both photos, Julie Ferguson)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Internet Interview

I was interviewed at VCon by Irma Arkus of Hi-Sci-Fi (Friday is Alright for Nerding): The Ultimate Geek Radio Show. We were in the swanky penthouse boudoir of Con Chair Danielle Stephens at Surrey's Compass Point Inn. The show airs on the internet Fridays 5-6 PM PST at 90.1 FM (CJSF) and my interview will be archived on the website when it is done being edited.

I am as curious as anyone else to know what I said. I'd been told it was for a student radio program, so I thought, great! No one will ever hear it! Consequently I was fairly playful and unguarded in my thoughts...

Oh, oh.

Well, time will tell.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Writing Group Glories

Gloria Barkley got the ball rolling at the Writing Group at Port Moody Kyle Center today. She brought a draft press release celebrating the fact of five new books published by members in the last handful of months. She and Julie Ferguson got us up and posing with our Hot Off The Press tomes, and before you could type "Bob's Your Uncle" Julie was at home posting one of her photos to her blog, along with a pithy reminder of the value of writing groups.

I have to agree. I am a longtime member of Helix, Vancouver's oldest speculative fiction writing group, and have been with Kyle for three or four years. The members of these two very different groups have contributed enormously to my writing and have filled in the tremendous gaps in my knowledge around critiquing and self-critiquing, publishing, promotion, etcetera. More than that, having a supportive and enthusiastic group of varied individuals to meet with weekly has given me both a regular deadline to meet and a continuous infusion of inspiration and joie de l'écriture.

By the way, Julie is a font of useful information--I have leaned on her expertise rather heavily from time to time. Anyone new to the writing and publishing scene, or anyone wanting to update their knowledge of publishing, have a look at the new edition of her Book Magic: Turning Writers into Published Authors. It's fun, well-written, and packed with helpful tips.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Wattle and Daub Books

Finding Creatures & Other Stories is being published by the brand new publisher "Wattle and Daub Books". For more about the book (including very pleasing comments from authors and reviewers) and for preordering information, please go their site at www.wattleanddaubbooks.ca.

Counting down to the launch. (Gulp.)


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Finding Creatures & Other Stories: Launch, 28 September, Reading, 11 October

Book Launch & Reading

In a few weeks time I will be launching my short story collection Finding Creatures & Other Stories at White Dwarf Books, in conjunction with Eileen Kernaghan and her novel Wild Talent: a novel of the supernatural. If you are in the neighbour- hood you are invited to come down and celebrate with us. Have a drink of wine and some nibblies and a yak. (Not a yak. Just a ‘yak’.) I’m looking forward to it.

For a taste of what the collection holds, you can read “The Coin” and “After Hours at the Black Hole” at their respective posts on this blog, as well as snippets of “Mr. Cowmeadow’s Sky”, “Aggie’s Game”, “These Old Bones”, and “Miss Lonelygenes’ Secret” in the post “Storyteller Times Two”.


28 September, 2 pm

White Dwarf Books

3715 West Tenth Avenue

Vancouver, B.C.




11 October, 6:30 pm

Pulp Fiction

2422 Main Street

Vancouver, B.C.




Finding Creatures & Other Stories

“Wolf uses different genres, different voices, different culturesin short whatever she needs to make the story work. What ties it all together is her sure-handed prose and a depth she brings to her writing, that indefinable element that rises up from between the lines and gives a good story its resonance…

rather than my trying to convince you to buy it, let me ask you instead to pass it around when you’re done. Talk about the stories that moved you, about Wolf’s voice, and her gift of storytelling.

“I want this book to be a success because I want to look forward to reading more new stories by her for many years to come.

“And so should you.

from the introduction by Charles De Lint, author of The Onion Girl and Dingo.


Literary, science fictional, slipstream, and fantastic—this medley of stories is grounded in the present day, weaving backward to the life of Saint Francis, and forward to a time when Earth is a memory, and new humans are finding their place among the stars.

Wolf’s characters grapple with personal integrity and connection with others, with the imperatives to abandon fear and hate and to question cherished beliefs. A Haitian street kid with a mercurial coin, a skid-row waitress with a passion for palaeontology, and aliens inadvertently trapped in sculptures by Henry Mooreall journey side by side with a northern Native man who searches for somewhere to bury a dead spaceman, and two teenagers who build an old-style science-fiction machine with a very modern purpose.

Wolf’s unexpected approach to story telling interlaces humour, compassion, and a compelling affection for human and nonhuman with a fine-spun unorthodoxy in these understated tales of this world and beyond.


Cover image by Maggie V. Jones, Cover Design by Clélie Rich

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Mosque Among the Stars--September Release

Ahmed Khan and Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmed have announced a September release date for their speculative fiction anthology A Mosque Among the Stars.

The lineup is as follows:

Lucius Shepard: A Walk in the Garden

Tom Ligon: For a Little Price

Jetse De Vries: Cultural Clashes in Cadiz

Howard Jones: Servant of Iblis

Andrew Ferguson: Organic Geometry

Ahmed A. Khan: Synchronicity

Camille Alexa: The Weight of Space and Metal

G.W. Thomas: The Emissary

Kevin Miller: A Straight Path Through the Stars

Pamela Taylor: Recompense

C. June Wolf: Miss Lonelygenes' Secret

D.C. McMahon: Squat

Congratulations, Ahmed and Muhammad--and thank you for this much-anticipated offering.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Going On Air Monday!

If you happen to be in Haiti on Monday, you can check out the one-hour program starring myself, Dé Bryant, Amanda Schramm and Stephanie Snyder, being interviewed about our visit to Haiti. The interviewer, Carla Bluntschlii, started off by asking us how people reacted when told we were coming to Haiti, at a time when food riots and kidnappings and clay pies were in the news (see my Notes from Haiti, below). Then she went on to ask what our actual experiences had been, why we came at all, would we come back...

Here is the note she sent today:

Dearest all,
Your words of sincerity and love of Haiti in spite of the obstacles will run through the veins of the people of Haiti on Monday afternoon. This afternoon I will be going to translate clips that we will use for the show on Monday.
May you be blessed as you go on this earth and know that your courage and lives have given strength to many others!
love to you all,

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Artist & Author Finds a Kidney

Writer and sculptor Persimmon Blackbridge of Hornby Island, B.C. is looking for a kidney donation. This wonderful human and brilliant, edgy artist has written her request below. Please have a look, and look into her art, as well.

(The day after I posted this Persimmon's
medical team confirmed they have found a
match for her. YAY!!!)


I don't know how to write this. I don't like group emails, especially not ones going to everyone from my best friends to people I barely know. I don't like asking for big big giant humongous outrageous favours, and this is just about the biggest.

I'm looking for a kidney. Blood type O.

Two years ago, a false positive on a diabetes test led to the discovery that my kidneys were failing - not from diabetes but from a hyperactive parathyroid gland flooding my system with calcium for the past 10 years or more. It was a lucky accident that it was discovered, but it had already damaged my kidneys to the point of no return, and I will need dialysis or a kidney transplant in the next year or so.

My brother and sister both stepped forward immediately, and it was a huge disappointment to learn that they are both the wrong blood type.

Now a couple of friends are beginning the testing process to see if they might be potential donors. The transplant social worker advised me to find more potential donors if I can, as most people turn out to be incompatible or are eliminated for health reasons. So now I'm asking you and everyone I've ever known if this is something you would be willing to look into.

It's a big decision; it's not right for everyone. I don't expect an answer and I'm never going to ask you again.

All I ask now is that you think about it for a minute. Is this something you might do?

Obviously you would have questions or concerns about how being a donor would affect your health or lifestyle or finances. There are many places you can ask questions and get real, accurate information. There are websites by and for living donors ( http://www.livingdonorsonline.org is one). There is a nurse at St. Paul 's Hospital in Vancouver who works only with prospective donors - her job is to look out for the interests of potential donors, and she keeps strict patient confidentiality (her phone number is at the end of this email).

The bottom line is: screening for donors is very thorough. If you have any health problems, they will find them. If donating poses any health risk, you will be turned down. If you pass the health tests, there are still tissue compatibility tests that could eliminate you as a donor. I know people who have had ten potential donors step up for them, only to have them all eliminated. That's why I have to ask everyone. That's why I'm asking you.

Right now I have only one kidney left, and it's quite damaged, operating at 20-25% of normal function, down from 30-35% last year (whereas one healthy kidney provides 80% of the function of two). When I hit 10-15%, I'll need a transplant or dialysis to stay alive. At that point, if I don't have a compatible live donor, I'll go on dialysis and be put on the waiting list for a deceased donor transplant. In BC, there is an average wait of 5-10 years on the deceased donor list. People like me with type O blood usually wait approx. 10 years. Many people die waiting for a transplant.

Dialysis is no walk in the park and I'm not talking about the needles, the travel restrictions, the time spent tethered to a machine. Dialysis doesn't cure kidney failure, it's just life support. Over time, it brings a host of life-threatening medical complications. People who get a transplant instead live an average of twice as long after their own kidneys fail.

Being on dialysis, even for a year, also increases the chance of organ rejection when you do get a transplant. If I can find a compatible living donor before my kidney completely fails, I may be able to have a transplant without ever going on dialysis. This would be by far the best scenario for me.

At best, dialysis can provide only 10-15% of normal kidney function. What 10-15% means in terms of day-to-day symptoms differs from person to person. For me, even now at 20-25% normal function, I have frequent periods of extreme fatigue when I can't write or do artwork or much of anything else. So it's unlikely that dialysis will let me continue working as an artist or writer. Those of you who know me well can probably imagine what that would mean to me.

Ok, that's a lot of complaining. I'm not wanting to pressure you. Donation is not something everyone can or would want to do. You may have medical or personal considerations that I know nothing about, or you might just not want to. It's your call. I'm only hoping you might consider it. If it's not right for you, do you know someone else who might be up for this adventure? If you do, please forward them this email. People decide to donate for all kinds of reasons, and for some people with kidney failure, it's a total stranger who comes through for them in the end.

I'd be happy to answer any questions or help you find more information.

Thanks for reading this,

Persimmon Blackbridge

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Notes from Haiti, Days 1, 4 & 6

I am visiting friends outside of Port au Prince, Haiti for a month, working on various projects. These include preparing my story collection for publication, gathering notes for a novel set in Haiti, and jotting down experiences to send home to friends and family who were beset with concern that I was coming to Haiti again, particularly with the recent rash of kidnappings and food riots last month.

It occurs to me that I might share some of those notes in this blog. See below the postings from Day 1, 4, and 6

Day 1

hi, all!

i just wanted to let you know that i had made it to haiti and am safely tucked away up in the hills with friends.

i love that some of you replied to the miami note and i will try to answer some emails but don't have a lot of access to email right now. i just want to say hi now and then and tell you how it's going. if you'd rather not get the emails, please just say the word.

so i am here, TIRED, but having travelled for 36 hours am not much the worse for wear. met a gentleman from suriname who was visiting his kids in the states, a woman from buenos aires who i spent the day with in miami airport, and a young man from san francisco going to study ecology in chile. there are three american visitors here at carla and ron's--we all arrived at different times today, so our hosts did a lot of driving, for which we are grateful. (not the "lot" part, the "that they did it" part.)

anyway, they're up their blabbing so i will join them now.

advice: don't eat pringles on the plane.

(why? gas!!!)


Day 4

no internet for a couple of days, so here is a brief, delayed update.

today i think is the first day i began to really relax. i have been racing around for so long, and under so much stress with the eviction threat, etc., that i was a little shell-shocked when i got here.

day 1 i was just pooped. took in the sights without comment en route to where i am staying. those of us who had just arrived got to know each other a little (the three americans--two college students and one professor, all women). they are lovely people, as are the folk we are visiting.

the first day i got 15 pictures before my camera stopped working. very unfortunate because i love taking photos. i'm still trying to find out what is wrong.

today we went out around the neighbourhood, walking the rocky paths, visiting people here and there. there is a lovely (how much am i going to use that word?!) nest of tarantulas near the path to the lower house. they are so cute! little babies, less than an inch long, all huddled together at the opening of their grotto. really very pretty and so soft-looking i was tempted to pet them. you can safely imagine that i did not. the flock of small parrots is still here, and the weather has been remarkably cool. i even put a light blanket on the first two nights--don't know if i've ever had to do that in haiti before.
sugar press, cane museum, Port au Prince

we talked today with a young man who participates in a youth group that is dedicated to intellectual and cultural pursuits. it is founded and run by young people in the neighbourhood. they meet every sunday and share ideas, songs and jokes and have a debate. taught in school to speak french and consider creole inferior, they deliberately reverse that by speaking creole in their group, in order to preserve the language and find pride in who they are. it was lovely talking with him. we shared with him some of the experiences we have all had in our own countries around poverty and homelessness; it was an eye-opener for him to hear of the amount and sort of problems we have in canada and the usa around these issues. in haiti the impression is that all is well across the water.

i have to mention the incredible food. i love the food here so much! it's funny to see how we foreigners try to handle a knife in comparison to the way most any haitian child can use even a large one. very humbling. i have enjoyed every morsel of mayi moulen (ground corn) and fish sauce and labouyi pomdete (potato porridge), every sip of coffee with cane sugar and every gulp of ju grenadin (passionfruit juice). as much as possible, everything we eat here is local. we met Tant Yvonne today--she grows and roasts the coffee we drink--and tomorrow we'll go to meet the mamba (spiced peanut butter) lady. ( ,who has been here before and loves the peanut butter, dumps her american peanut butter at home into a dish, mixes in haitian peppers, and puts it back in the jar so she can enjoy that wonderful ting! every morning with her toast .)

thanks to all who wrote. love and hugs.

Day 6

we were all thrilled to see the mother tarantula by her nest the other night. the babies hang out at the opening during the day and run in if bothered. at night, mom stays close and they go inside (to sleep? do spiders sleep?).

i was further thrilled to go to my room that night, remove my shoes, gaze at the kerosene lamplit stone wall, and observe the familiar shape on my wall. of a really. big. tarantula.

i have transported many many spiders, bees, birds and other critters from my dwellings over time, but never one like this. i got a bucket and a piece of cardboard, popped it over the spider (who ran up the inside of the bucket, luckily, rather than trying to crawl out underneath on the uneven surface of the wall, as i'd feared), then slipped the cardboard underneath. we took my visitor to the brush outside the compound and off s/he tottered over the wall.

we visited the youth group yesterday, local village kids who gather every sunday for their intellectual and cultural development. everyone participated, from five year olds to twenty-five year olds. they put off their debate until next week so we the visitors could answer their questions about homelessness and domestic violence in north america. this was useful because the impression people have from tv is that there are no such things there. i hope to go next week to their group though, because i want to hear that debate. the question they had chosen was: are you better than anyone else? if you are, how should you behave toward that person?

they told some good jokes, too. the one about clinton and aristide was pretty telling...

today we'll be talking with (mostly listening to) ari, one of the leaders of the group i have come to stay with. (if you want to know more about their work, you can go to www.haititravels.org) he is a lifelong activist who is (among other things!) spearheading a campaign to get people buying local food and goods instead of imports. he was in cap haitien over the last few days doing a film on cassava production and a short, humourous, and very pointed short, a true story about a man who brought his suit to a party and gave all the cake and drinks to it. when people said he was crazy he said, you invited the suit, not me. before i had money, you never invited me anywhere.
Revolutionaries at the Sugar Cane Museum, Port au Prince