Reprinted from Humber College’s News website: http://creativearts.humber.ca/programs/school-writers/news
I spent the summer I turned seventeen handwriting my first novel, Revival of a Dead Widowed, in a stuffy pension attic in old Quebec. Luckily, that book never saw qwerty keys, let alone actual print. I am, however, still passionate about novel writing, grateful for laptops and spellcheck, but most importantly to fellow writers who, along with other sage counsel, steer me away from titles such as Revival of a Dead Widowed.
Since that long-ago time, I’ve completed two novels, The Cost of Weather and What the Living Do, as well as a memoir, Touched. The first drafts of two of these manuscripts were written in A Novel Approach, a year-long course taught by Susan Lynn Reynolds. The second draft of Touched had the wise mentorship of the exquisite Donna Morrissey through Humber College’s Creative Writing program.
Then there are those sweet rare moments that demand a shorter piece – when a memory resurfaces or an event moves me to put pen to page.
The first story accepted for publication in a 1981 edition of Cross-Canada Writers’ Quarterly was inspired by a ‘straight’ friend’s drunken confession that he was in love with my boyfriend. Oblique Angles was accepted with a note saying that there were better written stories but that this one was “au courant.” It was publication, but it did seem to be only a step above polite rejection.
In 2011, carte blanche literary magazine enjoyed Choose the Hammock taken from a series of snapshots chronicling a life. That story, as many of my scenes and stories do, began from a prompt in Writing Sanctuary, a day-long workshop with Susan Reynolds.
I wrote What’s Left decades after a friend experienced an aneurysm that wiped out much of her brain’s right side memory function, but her mathematical skills remained intact. What’s Left won the Writers’ Community of Durham Region’s 2012 short prose contest, judged by Antanas Sileika, and was subsequently published in the Whispered Words anthology.
In 2014, a taxi driver from Assisi confessed to me while navigating the Umbrian hills that it was his fault there were no offspring in his family. I was moved by the intensity of this traditional Italian man’s despair at not being able to procreate. Since the fictional wife took some unconventional and devious methods to rectify this situation, I chose not to share the story he inspired with the non-fictional taxi driver.
Tender Fruit grew from a CBC radio piece about the plight of Niagara fruit growers who collectively raised five million dollars to buy the CanGro canning plant when it closed down. When an equal amount was requested of the government for start-up costs, it was ignored. What resulted was not only the loss of 150 jobs but 240 hectares of processing pears and 400 hectares of clingstone peaches. The tender fruit growers were paid a pittance to destroy their blossoming trees. The plant was sold, dismantled, and sent to China.
When Nancy McLeod contacted me from The Writers’ Union of Canada to inform me that I had won their short prose contest, I initially thought the call had to do with an upcoming guest for the Writers’ Community of Simcoe County, for which I am the speaker coordinator. Thankfully, unlike my first experience, no one has said that the reason Tender Fruit was chosen was because it was “au courant.”
Winning prizes for writing is thrilling. Really thrilling. And perhaps it will mean that my full-length work has more opportunity to be considered for publication.
The true gift, though, is the freedom and opportunity I have to set down in words what fires my heart. Writing itself; that act of translating experience to words, is its own reward.