Made just for me

Have you ever come across a piece of art, a book or a film or a song and felt it was made just for you?

This happened to me recently. 

First was “When Marnie was There“, both the film itself, but even more intensely the final song “Fine on the Outside” Priscilla Ahn. I saw it alone in a cinema in Nagasaki during my final three week trip around Japan. The film’s themes of loneliness and isolation combined with the setting, a fictional village just down the coast from the place where I had spent three years and battling similar feelings, completely undid me. I saw the mists and the marshlands that were so familiar. I rode that exact train to my new home at the end of the world. I watched a young girl who was afraid to make connections with others. I saw myself at that age, afraid to speak at all. I saw myself at 26 too, taking walks on the trail into the wetlands, not quite dealing with all the things that had happened to me. 

When that final song kicked in, I couldn’t keep it together any more. It was as if someone had written that song just for me. It’s probably for the best that I didn’t hear it when I was 12. It had enough impact fourteen years later. I cry at movies. I even cry at bad movies, but this was a good movie. I had thought I knew what catharsis felt like, but “When Marnie was There” was far more powerful. Although I cried my eyes out in the cinema and all the rest of the night, I felt refreshed and emptied. 

I’m not the same girl I was when I was 12. People are often surprised when I tell them that I used to find it impossible to talk to others. I’ll talk to anyone these days. I have wonderful friends in the UK, Japan, Canada and many other countries around the world. 

I don’t live in Nemuro anymore either. The mist doesn’t rise up from the sea around my house. I can’t see birds wheeling over the marshes from my window. But I’ve taken a part of Nemuro with me in the same way I still have that scared 12 year old me. And sometimes when I want to remember both of them so intensely it almost hurts, I’ll listen to “Fine on the Outside” on repeat. 

If I can ever create anything that makes someone feel the way “When Marnie was There” and “Fine on the Outside” made me feel, I’d think I’d done something worthwhile. 

Goodbye Sweet Pen

I was kissed by a seal the day I got this pen.

My favourite pen has died. It ran out of ink, writing in a coffee shop on Thursday morning.

I have a bit of a thing for stationery, especially Japanese stationery. I spent more time and money than was probably necessary in Japanese stationery shops like Loft and Tokyu Hands. However, this pen was not bought in such a place.

I got this pen in Monbetsu, a town known for its persistent fish smell, giant crab claw, huge bears, and a seal sanctuary. The day I got this pen, I was kissed by a seal at the seal sanctuary. The gift shop at the Monbetsu Sea Ice Museum provided me with this wonderful pen. It wrote smoothly, wasn’t too heavy or bulky, nor too thin. An excellent pen.

Although I’m sad that my pen died, I always get a thrill when a pen runs out. It means that I’ve been writing!

Thank you for your service, oh excellent pen. I wonder if I can go back to Monbetsu to find another one.

The End of Extraordinary September

And so this mad month draws to a close. Since my last post some things have changed. First, this post is coming to you from sunny Yorkshire (yes, it is sunny sometimes). Mr J-L and I have been helping my parents move, complete with plumbing emergencies and more boxes than should be allowed. The UK trip has also encompassed the Welcome to Nightvale live show, Henry V, Hecuba, my cousin’s wedding, and Passport to Pimlico in a van outside the studios where it was made. Why do one thing when you can do five? And what better time to do all that than when moving house? Truly, I wouldn’t expect anything less of my family.

I also managed to catch a wretched cold, as usual when I’m here in Britain.

Even though September is ending, the intensity isn’t letting up yet. I’ve got my final big dental surgery on Friday. Dental surgery isn’t something one usually looks forward to, but in this case it’s a pretty big milestone. I’m looking forward to not being constantly reminded of the bus accident by my own mouth. Hopefully this will spell the end of my teeth falling out at inopportune moments. All that will be left is to deal with the insurance company, an ordeal all of its own.

My next post should come to you from Canada once more, where I will be reunited with John Montague, the 4th Earl of Sandwich. I’m afraid I’ve developed a bad habit of pestering our friend, who is looking after him while we’re away, for pictures and updates on his antics. Let’s just say that he’s taken to butter and might not want to come home. I will try to update a bit more frequently and a lot more interestingly, (even if that just means more Monty pictures).

The Start of Extraordinary September

September is busy, mostly in a good way. This evening is the first chance I’ve had to stop and write anything down for a while. But for once I have some rather good excuses.

First, my story ‘The Springwood Shelter for Genetically Modified Animals‘ was published in Crossed Genres, along with their interview with me. Needless to say, I was pretty smiley about this!

Next Mr J and I flew out to BC for his family reunion. For me there was no ‘re’ as this was my first time to meet many of his extended family. They were incredibly welcoming, kind, and fun! Much Sushi-Go was played, until the word sushi lost/gained all meaning.

We flew back on the red-eye, went to work, and greeted my parents and God-Father that evening. It was their first time in Ottawa. We’ve been showing them around / being impressed at their tourist powers to see things we never do.

Something you don’t want to do right before getting married is have a sick cat. John Montague, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, became very ill two days before our wedding. We rushed him to the vet on Wednesday night. Thankfully, it looks like he’ll be fine after a stay at the vet and some undignified procedures. My first fiction sale really came in at the right time as it went towards partly paying Monty’s emergency medical bills. Monty also had impeccable timing, getting sick just before Mr J’s and my wedding, but thankfully not during. He was able to perform his duties as Best Man (Cat) remotely from home. Monty was chosen as he already had his own tuxedo. Right now he is curled up on a chair as if nothing ever happened.

John Montague, in typical repose, unaware of the worry he caused.

Speaking of the wedding, Mr J and I got married! I suppose I should be calling him Mr J-L from now on! We’ve combined our names. Apologies to any future children who struggle to spell their ridiculously long moniker! I will still be publishing under Verity Lane though, I think.

I won’t be sharing much about the wedding, except to say that I’m so happy! I felt and still feel like I’m riding a wave of happiness. I’ve always had a strong sense of when something will be a good path to take. This path gives me that feeling, and I’ll be holding hands with a most wonderful person as I walk down it.

That’s pretty soppy, I should probably stop before I turn into a Hallmark Card factory.

I’m not sure when I’ll get a chance to blog again soon. September doesn’t get any calmer from here!

And there was much celebrating!

I’ve made my first fiction sale! ‘The Springwood Shelter for Genetically Modified Animals’ will be appearing in Crossed Genres this September. They also interviewed me for their new author spotlight. I’m very happy to be published by them and the process has been a pleasure.

I made a mad flurry of submissions a while ago, which led to this. I didn’t really expect much to come of it, but life proved me wrong. I did learn a few things though. When I submit things I need to keep a much better track of where and when I’ve sent them. A rush of enthusiasm is fine, but it needs to be paired with methodical planning.

In other news, I started my new job a while ago. It’s good to have some more structure in my life, though I do miss my long, daytime conversations with John Montague, the 4th Earl of Sandwich. Just before I started work I was having a very productive writing time. Thousands of words a day, consistency, all the things I aim for. Since starting work, this has slowed a little. Now that I’ve got a feel for the job, hopefully I can get back into my writing swing. A new routine of early morning writing may be in order. I’d like to have some more things to submit (methodically) soon.

Such summer

When I told people I was moving to Canada, everyone wanted to talk about how cold it was going to be. I survived my first Canadian winter without much hassle. After living in a flat where a glass of water on my bedside froze while I was sleeping, Canada’s well insulated buildings and sensible snow precautions were a great improvement.

However, nobody warned me about the summers. Canada is certainly the hottest place I’ve lived yet. OK, Japan might be hotter in general, but certainly not where I was living. It rarely made it above 14 degrees in Nemuro.

My poor, soggy British soul isn’t sure what to do with all this sunshine. The thunderstorms are very satisfying though.

In other news, my latest Tofugu article just went live. I loved writing this one because it is all about my favourite things, books! More specifically, it’s about the books behind Studio Ghibli movies like Howl’s Moving Castle, The Borrowers, and Kiki’s Delivery Service.

Writing about Howl’s Moving Castle got me all emotional. Diana Wynne Jones is my favourite author and her books are a large part of why I want to write in the first place. If I could ever write anything that comforted and enlightened someone as much as her books did for me, I would be a very, very happy person. I had a chance to meet her once at a Q and A session. She was as amazing in person as her books. To this day, I regret not sending her a fan letter while she was still alive. I am glad I got the chance through Tofugu to encourage others to read her books.

27 times around the sun

I’ve been around the sun 27 times. That’s a long way to travel.

It’s always been my favourite way to wish people happy birthday to remind them that they’ve travelled all the way around a star again. It puts birthdays in a cosmic perspective. It simultaneously makes me feel insignificant and as if I’ve achieved something. Both can be true at the same time I think.

I should make some birthday cards to that effect. Also, probably ones thanking my mother. She’s cool.

Cuteness levels have risen 250%

John Montague, the 4th Earl of Sandwich
John Montague, the 4th Earl of Sandwich

For just over a month now, my days at home have been much less lonely thanks to John Montague, the 4th Earl of Sandwhich A.K.A. Monty. I have become very dull as all I do now is talk about how awesome he is in poorly articulated sentences. He is best cat. Best cat in world. Soft cat. He is best cat in world.

We adopted Monty from Ottawa Stray Cat Rescue. Everyone we dealt with through the whole process was wonderful. They really care about the cats they rescue and foster.

For a former stray cat, Monty is remarkably chilled out. He loves cuddles and, when he’s not sleeping, he follows me around the flat. Mr. J has been trying to teach him get in touch with his inner hunter using a laser pointer. Monty just rolls over onto his back. He never scratches or bites and even likes having his fluffy tummy rubbed. Best cat in world.

Right now Monty is napping on the sofa. It is tempting to go join him, but I’ve got Japanese to study and a novel to write. I’ll just nap vicariously through him.

Best cat in world!!!
Melted Monty

Oh! Canada Again

I’m back home in Canada after a month in the UK. As expected, it is cold. The icicles outside my window reach from the roof to the windowsill. I don’t think they count as icicles anymore. They are more like columns, or prison bars. It’s the kind of weather that makes your face hurt when you go outside.

Not that I’ve actually been outside today. No, instead I’ve unpacked, done laundry, cooked tomatillo chicken chilli (slowcooker I love you), built myself a standing desk out of boxes and a photo album (I miss all the standing up from my teaching days), caught up on Woman’s Hour, done the washing up, finished off and submitted a Tofugu article, drunk more tea than is probably healthy, made a “creative consistency” progress chart out of masking tape, half built a paper model of a Japanese castle, started job hunting, and watched a lot of Youtube videos. Productive procrastination.


Behold! Desktron!

Standing desk isn’t the name of the monster. It’s actually Frankenstein’s standing desk.


I managed to write a bit too. Not as much as I want, but it’s a start. I don’t know why I have such gut scrunching fear whenever I go to write. Once I start it’s fine, but the starting is excruciating. Yet I want to be a writer. I want to get these stories out of my head and onto the page.  Tomorrow I will write more, and the next day even more, and so on. That’s the plan.

All the Tofugu I failed to tell you about

Six months of quiet. Oops. That wasn’t very good was it. I have been doing things in those six months though. I wasn’t just hiding in a cave communing with nature and honing my mental powers, I promise.

Look I have proof; Tofugu articles. Everyone knows caves have terrible Wifi. How could I have written these from a cave.


Introducing Introduction: Mastering the Jikoshokai and ALT Self-Intro Class

In which I introduce introductions and talk more about sheep than you’d expect.


Let’s all get NAKED! Onsen and Body Image

This is the article I enjoyed writing the most this year. It’s an ambition of mine to write a book about onsen one day (this is not just a ploy to get to visit lots of wonderful hot springs, really it isn’t.) Seriously though, if you only read one thing I’ve written, let it be this.


Getting Down and Dirty with Japan’s Garbage

My vocabulary went all trans-atlantic in this one. It is rubbish or trash? I don’t even know any more.


How to Cope When Japan isn’t Perfect

Yeah, this is drawn largely from my own experience. Writing it, and hopefully helping other people going through similar troubles, really helped me come to terms with a lot of the crazy stuff that happened to me in Japan.


Wined, Dined, Brined, and Intestined: Acquiring a Taste for Japanese Delicacies

Kudos to my editor for that title. Mmmmm intestined… I had a lot of fun researching this one. I do love a good gross food story. Ever since I wrote the cookbook ‘Making Meals with Seals’ for The Polar Museum, I’ve been a bit obsessed with icky food writing. Watch this space for the Necronomnomnomicon.


Michi no Eki: Japanese Stamp Rally in Hokkaido

And with this one we’re up to date. It still pains me that I never stamped ’em all. One day I’ll get back to Hokkaido and finish my collection. I swear it by my collection of fridge magnets!