Family reunion, intermission at the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival (it's a costume--he isn't actually wearing a nightgown, nor joined a cult). And family trip to Ottawa. And so much river time.
Nine years of marriage (five years together before that), and I know and love this man more deeply and fully than I ever have.
I first begin to ponder the idea that creative success--that elusive thing I have been driving toward since I was 8 years old and first decided I wanted to write books--might come with a best-kept-secret shadow side when I finished the novel I'd been working on for many years. I was supposed to be happy, I expected to be happy, and I found myself devastated. Depressed, actually.
The shadow hit again when I won Chatelaine's creative non-fiction contest and, preparing for a publication more visible than any previous publication, I experienced a dose of fear, dread and shame at least as big as the joy and pride.
I was in my shady back garden at the end of last summer when I emailed dear writer friends Sarah Henstra and Suzanne Alyssa Andrew: do you think this is a thing, this idea of a shadow side to creative success? Is this just me? And do you think anybody besides me might want to talk about it?
Fast forward nearly a year, and you will see us above, along with Carrie Snyder and Maria Meindl, talking about this very topic at the Canadian Writers' Summit to a standing-room crowd. The energy was honest and vibrant, with a real feeling that we were hitting a nerve and speaking things that needed to be spoken. There was a lot of head-nodding. There was a lot of note-taking. It was so good, so real, so resonant. And I was awed and delighted and humbled that an idea I'd wanted to explore for myself had (as usual, of course) turned out to be an idea that others wanted to explore too, that a woman who'd come from Rochester, NY would tell me afterward had been worth the trip to the conference all on its own, that people would be drawn to from other tents just to see what all these people were so engaged by in Market Tent B. Oh, it was good.
And there is to be a Shadow Side part 2: the written version. Maria, Carrie, Suzanne and I have created a written interview piece, which will appear in The New Quarterly likely sometime in 2017, and I'm very excited about that.
And until then, writer Melanie Marttila put together her notes from the panel and has generously shared them here if you want to check them out.
She learned to read like she learned to crawl. On her own, voracious for the world, and mostly while my back was turned.
'I lost it,' she said again. 'Sorry. I lost it.'
I am not, gratefully, at this stage of new motherhood anymore, but Bethan Roberts captures it wonderfully in Mother Island. It's really hard to write about the early days of motherhood. Who wants to read about sleep deprivation and crying for pages on end? How do you convey the depth and disorientation and total identity-rearrangement of it all without boring readers and yourself? I'm coming up on a new-motherhood section in my work in progress and I think Bethan Roberts has just given me a clue: you do it succinctly.
I had a fantastic time reading from The Mother Act, my novel in progress, in the Readings at the Common reading series on Monday night. Thank you to Josef Hochleitner for capturing me in action! And to everyone who came out and gave such a warm response.
Writing a novel is terribly solitary, and it's rare to get the opportunity to witness your readers' responses in real time. Also terrifying. And also affirming. Someone other than me finds these characters engaging! I'm continuing on with renewed energy.
After months of waffling between ballerina and streetcar driver, she has made her announcement: she wants to grow up to be a writer.
My husband and I met, briefly, in 2002, and for the following nine months we wrote each other letters, our courtship unfolding through words on a page. Or rather, the very first letter was on a page, an actual page written on with a pen and mailed with a stamp, though the subsequent letters were all sent via email. But they were long, thought-out documents with days or a week in between each as we took our time composing and responding, carefully unveiling ourselves to each other. I'm embarrassed to reread some of them, at the vulnerability I expressed so early on through the safety of written words. I didn't have internet access and had to save mine on a disk and bring them to the computer lab at my university. Over those nine months I fell in love with his words, and with him.
He is an actor. I am a writer. Throughout our relationship we have been frequently separated by his work, my schooling, our different nationalities. We have never returned to that intense period of letter-writing--Skype is generally the long distance relationship tool of choice--although occasionally, beautifully, one of us will send a missive that reminds us of those days. The connection, the expression, the love in time taken to write out here is how I am feeling about you. Here is what I have been thinking. How do you feel? What do you think?
One Christmas after we'd been together 8 years, I compiled all the letters and had them printed and bound in a book with a title taken from one of his early letters: I Hear Your Voice So Clearly...
Anton Chekhov and his wife Olga wrote letters. He was a writer, she was an actress. They were frequently separated by her work, his health. Their love story unfolds in these letters. The play based on these letters is called I Take Your Hand in Mine...
My husband is currently playing Chekhov in this play.
It's a sort of literary romance, and you can see it April 1-4 at the Red Sandcastle Theatre in Toronto.
My Chatelaine essay is now online here.
And my favourite comment so far: "Frankly, I found this story very hard to believe. True to life? True to a good imagination more likely."
What can I say?
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