Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Colleen McCullough has died. She had a devoted audience and sold loads of books. She worked hard at her craft and was lucky enough to make some money doing what she loved. And she got an obit that led with an opinion of her appearance, because, as we all know, that’s what matters most with a woman: how her looks measure up against someone else’s ideal. 

So I figured the least I can do is help out some obit writer who might be struggling beneath a blinding cloak of sexism and stupidity — you know, be a sweet and quiet assistant, behind the scenes — and write my own obituary. I hope you like it. Oh, don’t worry: I got my husbands permission.

Golly, do all these words make me look fat?


An overweight woman who had trouble keeping her opinions to herself, Michelle Butler Hallett somehow managed to help raise two children. Her husband, Dr David Hallett, who teaches English at Memorial University of Newfoundland and who specializes in Canadian historical drama, Shakespeare, twentieth century British fiction, and the novels of David Adams Richards, insists his wife could cook a decent meal when she felt so inclined and points out that no one starved to death. Gifted with a large nose, Hallett’s wife collected and curated a wide collection of internet-based slow cooker recipes and liked to debate the use of something called the Oxford comma. She complained a great deal about her minor aches and pains, despite repeated advice to “Suck it up, Princess, you don’t look sick,” and it seems she enjoyed writing little stories on evenings and weekends. Sources close to the family note do admit that Mrs Dr David Hallett suffered from problematic hair and a regrettable tattoo habit, though she did sometimes wear makeup and always looked better for taking the time to make the effort.

I’ve signed with Goose Lane Editions. They’ll publish my next book, a novel called PETER’S ACCENT, in the spring of 2016.

(Triggers: physical and mental abuse)

A favourite song and video: “Would I Lie to You,” by Eurythmics. I watched it this evening after responding to a friend’s Facebook call for songs by or about badass women.

The video starts with the band waiting on Annie, who’s really late for the concert they’re giving. She arrives, driven by her lout of a boyfriend, who’s been at her all evening, it seems. As she tells him she may not come home to him tonight and walks away from his abuse, towards the stage entrance, he calls her a “Queen bitch” and adds “I hope your voice gives out”! Annie gets inside, sits before a mirror …

DAVE: Hey, you’re really late. What’s the matter?
ANNIE: Everything’s the matter, that’s all.
DAVE: Don’t worry. Just be yourself tonight.

This video, and especially that little exchange at the start, helped me break up with a guy who’d hit me. We were teenagers. He hit me during a minor dispute — not even a dispute, but a discussion — over what we might do that evening. I declined a suggestion. He punched me on the upper arm, hard enough to make me stagger, then seized my forearm and twisted it behind my back. I had no idea this attack was coming. I was so furious that the second he let me go I belted him one back.

This happened in public, in broad daylight.

He told me to calm down, as if it was my fault.

We were just teenagers, and I had a safe place to go: home. But even as a teenager, this guy tried mind-games on me, tried to convince me that if I somehow hurt or rejected him — he was sensitive and creative, after all, so I had to be careful, ya know — bad shit might happen. Nothing happened afterwards. I lived in dread of him for weeks. He didn’t come near me. We crossed paths a few times later, and I was civil, too polite, really — because I didn’t want anyone to know he’d hit me, and because, I think, I was afraid he’d do it again if I said the wrong thing.

The wrong thing — as if it was my fault.

We were both just teenagers, and he’d got no way to control other parts of my life, like my finances or, as happens now, my phone. So, yes, I could just walk away.

I couldn’t speak of it, though. And I’m pretty damn mouthy. I’ve no doubt there are people out there who hope my voice gives out some day. But I couldn’t speak of this. For years. Because I felt so ashamed of it. And I’d done nothing wrong. One smack and one arm-twist, from one teenage boy, and I couldn’t speak of it.

What does serial abuse do? Hey? An abusive partner who lives with you, has a finger in your bank account, puts surveillance shit on your cell phone: what toll does that take?

I think about him sometimes, wondering if he ever learned to deal with his anger.

I think about battered partners and the smug shit they have to hear from other people, shit like “Just leave,” as though it’s the battered partner’s fault somehow.

It’s never that easy.

Plague doctor

Posted: November 11, 2014 in Uncategorized

I have a recurring nightmare about a plague doctor, one wearing the mask and the long coat. I am lying prostate on a low bed, fevered and still, naked beneath a sheet. I am in a big tent, the light like bronze. Outside: spears, swords, arrows, screams, cries of men and horses. The plague doctor, ducking his head, opens the tent, and, through his dark mask looks down at me. I used to wake up there in sweaty fright; now I recognize the dream when I’m having it, and I try to let it progress, try to coax it. It’s progressed a little further. The plague doctor is trying to tell me something, and I lose his words when I look away.

Here, Dr Lindsey Fitzharris talks about the mask, and the plague, as part of her series Under the Knife.

The lunchtime walk

Posted: June 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

On my lunch break, after a long crutched walk, I sat on a bench beneath a blossoming tree. The blossoms were falling down — pelting, pelting. I shook off blossoms as I stood up. I felt rereshed, blessed. Then I nearly stepped on the dessicated corpse of a rat, likely poisoned (I was near a residential area) and now a feast for flying insects and subject to the heat of the sun.

Novelist and critic Jeff Bursey’s long-form interview with me, about my work, is up at The Winnipeg Review.

In this news story, Azzo Rezori of CBC St John’s discusses a business called Remembrance Diamonds Corp. The remembrance? Taking the ashes of your corpse and turning them into a diamond.

I like the idea of turning something normally considered vile — a dead body — into something normally considered beautiful — a diamond, but I admit, I’m a big baffled by it all. My body is not me; it’s just a temporary cage … a sick and bloated one at that, though I like my hair and eyes. My body is not me, whatever ‘me’ is. Also, a chronically ill body is a study in the idea of nuisance. I don’t think it much matters what happens to my body after I die, provided the body is not in anyone’s way. I’m all for letting it rot back into the soil. When I visited Salem, Massachusetts, in 1996, I visited the Old Burying Ground, which has, of course, some fascinating gravestones. (I love visiting graveyards; I love surrounding myself with lives and stories lived. Also, you can get good character names, mixing up surnames and first names: the dead are kind. I admit, finding the stones of children and infants, or, as happened in the General Prod cemetery here in St John’s, finding the graves of unmarried mothers who died in childbirth — still separated, still ostracized, away from family plots, away from the others — hurts.) Here’s what really got me, though: the trees. Some of Salem’s oldest trees were in and around the Old Burying Ground, and those in the graveyard stood taller, showed brighter (blazing orange and yellow, good New England trees) and had not yet dropped their leaves, while the other trees wept and showed bare patches. In the midst of death, we are in life. 

I know a woman who got a tattoo to mark the death of her mother; the ink was made up of the ashes of her mother’s body. 

How much heat do you need to make a diamond? Out of human ashes?

What do I want? A cheap box, or just a shroud, no embalming, no cremation — let it rot — get the body out of the way as soon as you can (there is a short Baha’i funeral practice that involves some prayers I wouldn’t mind being said), maybe listen to a few bits of my favourite music, and, if you’re so inclined, have a party afterwards. If I’ve loved, and lived with purpose, I won’t be forgotten.

Gems wander. They like to fall down drains, into cracks, out of tight and sweaty grips. What happens if one loses the diamond? What, precisely, is lost?