Wednesday, February 26, 2020
All Lit Up, a resource all about Canadian publishing, has a Writer's Block column, and a week ago, I was the featured author!

Go here to read about REVERBERATIONS, my office, my rituals and routines, and my lifelong quest. (Hint: it relates to notebooks.)

My advice for dealing with writer's block

While you're there, check out all the other treasures of All Lit Up, which serves as a hub for readers interested in Canadian writers, a bookstore for those who don't have one in their own town, and a community for those interested in Canadian writers.

Many thanks to Signature Editions, a Canadian publisher who makes things happen for their authors.

I'll just be over here preparing for the Centre for Health Care Ethics panel presentation this evening, which I'm so looking forward to!
Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Who Owns the Stories?

In a week, I'll be part of a panel, sponsored by the Lakehead University Centre for Health Care Ethics, that considers the ethics of storytelling in health care settings. It will also be webcast! Here's a link to all that info.

The featured speaker is Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux, Lakehead's Chair on Truth and Reconciliation. I'm sure her insights as a researcher, and an indigenous researcher, will generate a lot of discussion.

After she speaks, those of us on the panel (Dr. Elaine WiersmaDr. Vicki Kristman, and I) will respond, discuss, and take off on tangents (oh wait, that's me), with Kristen Jones-Bonofiglio, Director of the Centre for Health Care Ethics, moderating.

One might wonder what I'm doing up there, with distinguished and experienced researchers and storytellers.

First, I'm there to represent those non-experts who write about tender and touchy subjects that relate to health care. Choosing to navigate, on the page, my mother's illness, my father's conflicted care, and my own guilt was challenging and rewarding.

Every step toward sharing my writing also exposed actual information about me, and about my family members. My siblings, all of whom write in some capacity, also had their own stories about that time and the years since their deaths. I had to navigate the line between writing "all about me me me" and ensuring I spoke only from my own experience--the story I "owned."

Writers share their work. Or at least that's part of writing for me. Over time, I became used to sending out work in general, and such personal essays in particular. Still, when Signature Editions offered to publish the collection as a book, I had another "OMG gulp" moment--what would my parents think about my story/their stories being shared in this form? (My husband and I agreed that that horse had already left that barn.)

Second, in my view I'm there to represent the conversation about "story ownership" in the wider writing world. People who write fiction and creative nonfiction always ask themselves questions like "What is the story?" "How do I get it right?"

For most writers I know, the past decade's emphasis on supporting underrepresented voices in telling their own stories has added other questions: "Am I the right person to tell this story?" "Am I the best person to tell this story?" "Is this story mine to tell?"I'm also interested in helping others tell their own stories--how can I facilitate their voices and stay out of the way?

I've attended a few other sessions of the Centre for Health Care Ethics, all of which gave me new perspectives. I'm really looking forward to the presentation, the discussion, and the questions that the audience will raise.

And most of all, I'm so grateful to be included in this ongoing, important conversation.
Wednesday, February 12, 2020

A Seasonal Book: Jayne Barnard's Where the Ice Falls

So far, 2020 has been busy. January was Alzheimer's Awareness Month, and now February is ... well, flying by, mostly.

Fortunately, my evenings for the past few months have included time for reading. And although I don't write reviews, as I've said, I enjoy reading and I enjoy sharing books and resources. (Which is the purpose of the label "go there and read this.")

In that spirit, here is a book I've enjoyed reading recently: When the Ice Falls, by J. E. Barnard.

Full disclosure: Jayne once lived in this region, our paths have crossed in real life. She's a lovely person, and an excellent writer. Her work has won awards and she obviously doesn't need me to say nice things--so all of the things below have no agenda other than letting you know of a book you might really enjoy.

Where the Ice Falls is the second in a series, The Falls Mysteries. The first, When the Flood Falls (July 2018), gots lots of positive attention. I enjoyed it and scribbled "Jayne's next" on my "books to check out" page.

Like its predecessor, Where the Ice Falls has lots of things going for it--an all-too-human protagonist, her realistic and flawed friends, and their widely varied families. The greater community includes lots of real people, from different socioeconomic backgrounds, different life paths, and different experiences of physical and emotional health. The mystery part is real and serious. The solutions aren't at all obvious. You can relax into the book, buoyed by smooth prose and first-hand knowledge of the terrain (Alberta's mountains).

It was especially appropriate for me because the book is set roughly late November through the Christmas holidays, and that's when I read it! Always a nice coincidence. But not necessary--don't wait until next winter to read it!

Another interesting element: all the main characters are women. I especially enjoyed that.

The third in the series, Why the Rock Falls, is due in July of 2020. When I finished Where the Ice Falls, I left "Jayne's next" on my list. Summer reading to look forward to!

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Listening to Grief

I doubt I'll ever be finished writing about Alzheimer's and dementia. Still, I meant to write a wrap-up post for 2020's Alzheimer's Awareness Month.

However, I'm changing course, a bit. In recent days, I've been talking with friends and family, those who feel safe and those who don't, those who feel optimistic and those whose hope has flickered so long it's going out.

Grief is everywhere, or so it seems.

In late January, this article crossed my desk: David Kessler's, at LitHub, on how we experience grief, an excerpt from his book Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief. The article full of wisdom, much of which I hadn't considered, even though I feel more at home with grief than some I know.

For example: grief and mourning are different--grief is what we feel, mourning is our action.

For example: from a researcher in Australia, the story from a northern indigenous village--that when someone dies, people move something from their house into their yard. Furniture, even. So when the grieving person looks outside, she sees that the village understands what she feels: everything is different.

For example: "When people ask me how long they’re going to grieve, I ask them, 'How long will your loved one be dead? That’s how long. I don’t mean you’ll be in pain forever. But you will never forget that person, never be able to fill the unique hole that has been left in your heart.'"

And mostly: Everyone who is grieving needs to have that grief acknowledged--witnessed. Which does NOT mean listening for a while then saying, "this too shall pass," "everything happens for a reason," or "what is, is."

Just listen.

So: in these days of great grief, I'm listening.