I am the last of four children, reportedly a “happy surprise” rather than an “accident”.
My first play was performed for my grade six class and our teacher, Miss Potty. My second play was performed for my grade nine English class and teacher. By age seventeen, I had finished my first novel about a naive young woman from South Carolina who comes to live with her savvy, somewhat jaded older cousin in Toronto. No one has ever read it, and that, trust me, is a good thing. The protagonist’s name was Whisper. Enough said.
I worked on my next novel on and off from 1981 to 1993, about a woman who meets a magician on the 5th Avenue in New York. I never finished it, but two years ago the inspiration for that story became the short story, A Bird in the Hand.
For the nineteen years I worked in the restaurant business, I continued to write poems and short stories. At Glendon College I took one year of Creative Writing, a year when Michael Ondaatje graced that campus as Writer in Residence.
My poems have been included in Poetry Toronto, The Whitewall Review and bill bissett’s end of the world speshul. My short story, Oblique Angles, appeared in Cross Canada Writers’ Quarterly.
I spent four winters, from 1988 to 1992, in India, training and meditating. Since 1989, I have had a therapeutic bodywork practice of Osho Rebalancing, a form of massage which includes all aspects of the being: the physical body, as well as its psychology and emotional health.
I danced around writing for years, circling and circling back through the body to the pen.
After I had pushed through many dense years of motherhood and running two businesses, I found myself a single mother of one son, with only one business to manage. As I explored the space around me, I found there was room for writing again, as well as space and time and most importantly, a burning desire.
I signed up for a creative writing course with Anna-Mackay Smith and then hired her as my personal coach. I still have faint discolourings on my behind from her gentle yet insistent kicks.She helped me with two short stories which I entered into the Literary Lapses contest in Orillia. I didn’t win anything, but I did have the great good fortune there to attend a half-day workshop with Ruth Walker. I picked up a brochure for a weekend writing retreat called “Turning Leaves” with Ruth Walker and Gywnn Sheltema.
After working a year with Anna, she suggested I connect with Susan Reynolds, who ran a course specifically designed to help writers get their first draft of their novel written in a year. Anna’s forte is in the theatre, and at that juncture of our work together, she felt Sue would be a good fit for me.
Sue also offers a monthly day-long Sunday workshop full of writing prompts and fabulous food (that’s right!), so I thought I would start there. When I left that first Sunday, after a day of writing and reading with six other writers, I cried all the way home. I found my tribe, I thought. I was home at last.
I signed up for Turning Leaves, and spent a divine weekend burrowing into the all aspects of the writing process sharing and learning with some brilliant writers.
Since then, I have become a workshop junkie. To go on retreat, for a day, a weekend, a week, and write in the company of other writers, hear their fresh raw work, and expose my newly hatched prose and poetry is a rich and gratifying experience every time.
In The Novel Approach, that year-long course in novel writing, I was able to get down the first draft early and set in to working on the revision. It is May, 2011, and I am circling the manuscript, shifting and settling the scenes, adding paint, putty and clay, with the intention that by summer, I will have something in my hands to offer to an agent.
Last year, Susan Reynolds joined me and Esana Lotfy in our annual Radical Restoration retreat in Costa Rica, to lead a writing component each morning after yoga. It was such a divine experience for everyone that we have added a week for next year, so that we will be writing our hearts, floating in warm salt water, stretching our muscles, and eating heavenly food for two whole weeks.
Yesterday, May 10, I received an email from carte blanche magazine, with an offer to publish a short story I submitted, Choose the Hammock. It’s only been thirty years since my last publication. It’s a new world, and I’m part of it.