Sitting on the tarmac at Pearson Airport on Thursday afternoon waiting for all the rerouted planes to dock and disgorge their occupants, I turned on my iPad to read the emails I couldn’t read in Cuba, and found a nice form letter from Banff School. The nice lady thanked me for applying to The Writing Studio 5 week residency program, but regretted to inform me…
I did not realize how much I had pinned on being accepted to that program. But there was my beautiful son beside me to gather me in his long brown arms as I wept, telling me that my writing is good, that I have potential, that I will be successful… You know your writing is very good, Mom. And suddenly Banff didn’t matter nearly as much as that moment.
It’s not over. I have received two grants to write this memoir – one from the WCDR and one from the OAC – plus I still have the thousand dollars I won for the Whispered Words contest. I’m just not certain how I will apply the funding. Whether I will simply book time off and work alone, or seek out alternative mentoring. For the past three years I have been learning how to write a novel, and for the past two I have embarked on learning how to write a memoir. Back then, four years ago, I honestly thought it would be easy; all I needed was time and space, and voila! out would pop, if not a masterpiece, well then, something worthy. Ha. Ha. Ha.
As for the novel, The Cost of Weather, well… a funny thing happened on the way to publication. Last summer, I took a workshop with the wonderful Cordelia Strube. I hadn’t read any of her work, but I loved the workshop, her energy, and her approach. She was kick-ass. So when she spoke at the WCDR’s breakfast meeting a few months ago, I bought her novel, Planet Reese, had her sign it and asked if she’d come to speak for the WCSC. She accepted with heartwarming enthusiasm.
I settle in to Planet Reese. On a plane coming home from a cruise with his family, Reese defends a flight attendant from a groper and inadvertently kills the guy, and becomes a kind of hero, since the groper happened to be an Arab. What a perfect start! I settle in. At first I think, oh, this is great, another story about a good guy who is prevented from seeing his children, and feel happy to share this theme with such a marvellous writer. And then… holy crap. The writing is superb: witty, wry, dry, incredibly well-researched, textured… In short, way better than mine. (Says my council of apes.) But that’s not the problem – the problem is that not only can’t he see his kids, but he’s an environmentalist, he lives in a basement, his father is dying, and he gets accused of molesting his daughter, among a few other things that are the SAME as in Cost of Weather. I freeze. Although my book is already written, it’s still in production, and I want to get it done. But I can’t. I can’t shake Planet Reese.
I write to Cordelia and pour out my plight. It feels like a confession. Her book was published in 2007. Mine was begun in 2008. She answers me the same day. Her email is calming, reassuring, and generous. She remarks that if she were in my position she might, “…chant to myself repeatedly, “Great minds think alike.” And councils me to not let it “cool my jets.” I think I love Cordelia.
I often have the thought that no matter how I envision the future, it never ever turns out that way. It’s usually better, but it’s always different. Writing is like that. Not just the actual writing, but the challenges one faces, the people one meets, they are all such surprises. And no matter how much they may feel like a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, there’s always clearer vision after the stick is removed.
And Cordelia has agreed to speak to the Simcoe County Writers as well as lead a mini workshop in May. Life is good.