On Writing

Published in Thirteen Ways From Sunday – Collected Works from Boularderie Island Press

Our Publisher asked us each to write a short essay on our writing process, to be included in the collection along with our biographies. The assignment was loosely titled My Process and appears in the anthology under the title My Writing Journey. This is what I wrote.


Where to Start

My grandparents gave me a typewriter as a Christmas present when I was seven. With that and a plastic printing press I went into the publishing business. I made up stories about the figures on the rubber stamp pads that came with the printing press. Using the hunt and peck method, I typed up the copy then circulated my newsletter to anyone who happened to be in the house at the time.

On hearing my mother shout from the bottom of the stairs “Shut that light out and go to sleep!” I would pull the covers over my head and read by flashlight, stories of highwaymen riding over purple moors, Robin Hood and his band of freedom fighters, pirates, Indians, dragon slayers, and damsels in distress. I preferred my damsels to find their own way out of distress and clove to stories like Cap o’ Rushes, and the Little Mermaid (not the Walt Disney version). They touched my inner senses with visions of the strong woman rising to decide her own fate rather than waiting to be rescued. I wanted to ride beside the handsome knight, not on the back of his horse, or swooning in his arms.

In my crazy youth I never dreamed that I might actually be a writer. That was for people in foreign cities with great minds, and obvious talent, as though talent came as a gift at Christmas in a golden box. I left home when I was seventeen, probably too young. I had no choice. I felt stifled in my parents’ house knowing ‘life’ was waiting just beyond their safe perimeter.

I long thought the term was ‘road scholar’.  And even later when I knew the Rhodes Scholar to be a prestigious degree, I still liked the idea of the road scholar, the humour of it for one thing, and as a title for folks like me who lack formal education, but who gained their knowledge in an unorthodox manner.

I never had a career, but held many jobs, and as the years rolled along I began to realize that most of them had to do with writing in one form or another. My dream resurfaced that I might yet write the great Canadian novel, art with a capital A. In the days preceding PCs I stuck with my trusty IBM, tapping out stories late at night like Ellery Queen, in an age when the Smith Corona was mightier than the Smith & Wesson. But paper being what it is, hard to keep track of, many of my early stories lost themselves in the clutter of my life.

Today I am delighted to sit in front of my “all-in-one” Lenovo with its wireless keyboard and mouse that the cat can’t chew through, and its fabulous memory bank that houses everything I can muster. I have a proper desk and a good chair, several dictionaries, and lots of pencils, and lovely long retirement days where I can sit and write and not feel guilty anymore about doing what I love to do most.

My friend Jim Morrow has given me an immense amount of support. I used to run to him with my scraps of stories about racing sailboats and motorcycles, hoping he might deem them worthy to print. Then, in an august moment, he called to ask if I could take on an assignment. (Good Lord, the man thinks I’m a writer.)  COULD I?  I nearly jumped out of my shoes. The Victoria Standard gave me a voice.

I joined a writer’s group. I joined a book club. I started sending my work out to other people for consideration. It wasn’t long after that my first short story was published by Third Person Press in their Anthology Unearthed. Two more shorts are now published in Thirteen Ways from Sunday by Boularderie Island Press. Happy? You bet. Amazed? Absolutely. But more than all of this I’m grateful to finally recognize myself as a writer. That’s where it starts.

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