Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Setting Down the Backpack

My sister and I recently finished a long-term family project: we published my mother's memoir, the compilation of family stories our mother wrote for the five of "us kids" in the early days of her retirement.

We gave it a new name, CRADLE OF THE DEEP: MEMOIR OF A FAMILY COTTAGE. We took advantage of technology available today to publish it. And now we can be sure that our brothers' grandchildren can know their great-grandmother, just a little.

It's been a joy to spend time with my mother again, to hear her voice in my head. I write quite a bit about my mother, mostly about times that weren't so happy for either of us. I have had to work to be sure that's that impaired woman isn't the mother I think of all the time--because that wouldn't be fair. That's not who she was for most of her life.

Family business can sometimes like feel like a burden. Settling estates, meetings with lawyers, transferring assets or accepting the lack thereof. Many of those tasks don't have a definite end. An estate may be officially "settled," but YOU still have a billion boxes in the basement.

"Doing something with Mom's memoir" was a responsibility, but never a burden. It wasn't that heavy. Publishing it wasn't outside the realm of my own experience, or my sister's--not that we didn't have a learning curve, of course. Still, it wasn't as if we we were taking up brain surgery.

Finally making available this memoir feels like setting down a backpack. This book, too, is a project without a fixed ending date. People who never knew my mother are buying copies. And my relationship with her won't end--I will continue to write about her, eventually collecting my own essays someday, somehow.

But for now: Ahhh.
Thursday, October 19, 2017

Now Available: Cradle of the Deep

Available now: my mother's memoir, CRADLE OF THE DEEP: MEMOIR OF A LAKE SUPERIOR COTTAGE.

 It's really real!


My sister, Sue Agnew, and I have been working for months to make make her family stories available for the next generation, and for her extended "family."

This project has been a real labour of love: first for my mother and now for my sister and me.

Mom would be saying, "They're just family stories!" But if you're interested in life in northwestern Ontario in the 1920s and 30s, early cottage life (my mother had to train herself not to call it "the camp"), mathematicians, history and memoir in general, or (eventually) juggling kids and a beloved summer spot 1200 miles from home, you might enjoy reading it.

Hooray for publication day!
Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Challenge: Taking a Moment

Recently a friend was posting a black-and-white photography challenge, and added my name to her challenge list.

I don't always do challenges, but this one was fun and came at a good time. I'm moving a lot of projects ahead but in teeny tiny increments, and it can get frustrating.

Looking for a good black-and-white photo on my near-daily walk forced me to take a moment.

And here they are.









Ahhhhhh.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Enjoy the Process

My work has found a few new readers in the past six months, and I'm grateful for that. I enjoy sharing my thoughts and hearing others respond.

Recently I've switched focus from sending work out. I'm spending more time at the page, scribbling, creating and revising and editing, and finishing commitments to others.

It's so easy to focus on the product--the publication. "Where have you been published?" "My work has appeared in x, y, and z." It's how you connect with the outside world.

But I'm ready to be back at the page. So I'm telling myself, "Enjoy the process."

Recently, my husband and I were driving home from town at the time of the evening when a large, near-full moon was rising. Even though I knew better, I couldn't resist trying to get a picture of it.

Here's what I got.


Yup, not only TRYING TO TAKE A PHOTO FROM A MOVING CAR, but impeccable timing: behind the road sign.


More impeccable timing: behind the roadhouse.


At least in this one you can kind of see the moon, though also: hydro tower.


You can see another hydro tower looming on the left, but this one also exposes (haha get it?) the sheer folly of trying at all to 1. get a great shot of a rising moon 2. from a moving car 3. with a cellphone camera.

I'm sure "real" photographers could achieve results that are SO MUCH better than this, even with the same parameters.

But, as it turned out, the results weren't the point.

Just trying, even though I knew all the layers of folly, was worth doing. It let the two of us share a project--on a drive home that we've made a million times, at the end of a long day, in the brief respite between spending money at the grocery store and stocking the kitchen shelves.

The process was fun. 

And I've been enjoying, somewhat, the process of creating new work, sculpting new visions of existing work, idly dreaming new dreams of different kinds of work.

The results may well be the writing equivalent of blurry, ill-timed photos of a rising moon. But that's okay. It's challenging and rewarding. And that's sometimes fun, and sometimes even better.
Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Without Words