Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Poor Sportsmanship, thy Name is Maia

I grew up out in the country, and the only organized activity my mother ever drove me to (read: forced me to do) was a co-ed soccer team I played on for a few years when I was 8-ish. I was one of three girls, the other two didn't exactly want to be my BFF*, and let's just say that showing up wearing hand-made shorts with frills on them doesn't exactly endear you to little boys. Plus, I sucked at soccer. Astonishingly so.

Fast forward twenty five years, and you end up in Toronto last Sunday afternoon, when BHJ and I were out and about, having a spectacularly late lunch. We live in Toronto's Greektown, and the Danforth was merrily bustling with families/yuppies/crazies, the patios even more packed than they are every weekend. (On this particular day we saw one restaurant that had lugged TVs out to their patio so they could broadcast the game to the outdoors.) BHJ and I settled at our favourite 50's diner, ordered up our meals and, suprisingly - considering my childhood soccer angst - got sucked into the game.

After we watched for a few minutes I mentioned to John, with no small amout of surprise, that the players were really showing good sportsmanship - a few of them put out a hand to help a player from the other team to their feet, and the like. Compared to hockey, it looked like a 60's love-in.

After the score was final and Italy had won the kickoffs, the street erupted in an ear-splitting symphony of horns and a jumble of Italian flags so large that they almost blocked out the sun, in an impromptu Italian-Canadian extravaganza. For weeks Toronto has looked like a mini UN with flags from all over the world neatly perched on the sides of cars, but all of a sudden, huge Italian flags appeared on the sides of panel vans, full sized flags were thrust out of car windows and handheld by the occupants, and plain old comical flags appeared in the in the hands of bikers who were working their plinky little horns with the other hand and screaming a variety of lusty cheers. I'm convinced at least one of them must have fallen off and squashed a pedestrian. (The honking, as it does every time a major sports event takes place, continued well into the night. This is why I sleep with earplugs.) But I digress.

I have to admit it was nice to be in the middle of that much good cheer, and the soccer playing was superb. Plus my lunch was really yummy. I ate and watched and even bit a nail or two during the kickoff. It was good, clean fun, which I don't get enough of on the weekends, really.

I hadn't seen the foul. They showed it later, of course, and now - due to the frenetic pace of the Internet coupled with imaginations run amok - the shocking image of Zidane head-butting Materazzi has even been turned into a game, readily available on the web. Zidane's lukewarm apology a few days later has mollified some and enraged others. FIFA has launched an investigation. It's all a big un-sportsmanlike mess.

While sourcing the agent I recently queried, I ordered one of her author's books, a novel I thought I'd really like. When I received my rejection, it included the zinger that my writing "wasn't lively enough". Naturally, when the book arrived I tore through it, comparing it to my work. I spent a fair bit of time patting myself on the back, telling myself my writing is better and mumbling things to myself like; not lively, my arse!

After enjoying my self-satisfiedness for a bit it occurred to me; I was showing poor sportsmanship. Poor sportsmanship that has no basis in reality, because I am not competing with this writer. Poor sportsmanship with a splash of jealousy, because this writer is published, and I am not. Poor sportsmanship that's about as productive as what Zidane did.

In the incomperable Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott - as always - has a lively take on the green-eyed monster:

"If you continue to write, you are probably going to have to deal with [jealousy], because some wonderful, dazzling successes are going to happen for some of the most awful, angry, undeserving writers you know - people who are, in other words, not you."
She goes on to mention the brilliantly snarky poem by Clive James, titled; "The Book of my Enemy has been Remaindered". Happily, re-reading Anne's words always reminds me to keep my sense of humour at the ready. Which I try to do, really, most of the time. And to not take it personally, because it's just not. The agent who rejected me was polite and professional and it's all for the best; I don't want someone who's not behind my work to represent me, anyway.

I wasn't so much distressed at this specific rejection, to be honest, but at the enormity of the number of rejections that are to come. And since I'm all about the melodrama, I had to go through the requisite; am-I-cut-out-for-this-and-am-I-wasting-my-life internal struggle. Luckily, there was enough chocolate in both solid and liquid/alcoholic form to help shepherd me through this trying time. All is well now.

Thanks muchly to all who wrote with words of support, commiseration, and insight, particularly, the lovely and talented Toronto artist/photographer Diana Pakkala, who blogs at; http://greyscaleca.blogspot.com/, Hamilton ├╝ber author Rachael Preston, whose wonderful second book just hit the shelves, and the fabulously fabulous Liza Palmer, who just happens to be one of my favourite writers.

I owe you all drinks.



*BFF=best friends forever. Don't ask me why, it's one of those girly things I never quite got.


piika said...

Thank you for the plug on your blog Maia about greyscale - i don't get many visitors yet. Keep at it with your book - just imagine all the other books you have yet to write!

Maia said...

I think your blog is great. I also think my next book is hiding somewhere...but I'm getting ready to start writing it. We'll see how that goes.