Six Degrees of Separation -How’d I get here?

I occasionally attempt to retrace the steps that brought me to being a writer. The funny thing is, every time I retrace my steps, I come up with a different path, different reasons, different excuses. Maybe some of us were just born to witness, to tell, to retell. Maybe writing is a gene we either get or don’t get? Or a virus one is born with…A virus that lies dormant until a certain je ne sais quoi occurs, igniting the disease into full bloom. Je ne sais quoi sounds so frilly, don’t it? Calm down, it simply means I don’t know what. Which is the thing that would happen to ignite the virus–I don’t know what.

If I were to look at the evolution in terms of books read, I might be able to come up with a SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION list of books that brought me from child to writer. Actually, I could probably come up with a different list daily, and argue why each of the books on each of the lists deserves to be there. Let’s try these 6 degrees from my today’s me, shall we? Six books with explanations as to why they were an integral part of my journey from child to writer.

BOOK 1Green Eggs & Ham by Dr. Seuss

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I almost always go back to this book as my IN THE BEGINNING, my Genesis. Perhaps it IS my Book 1. It made me love the way words sound, even before I could make them myself. It made me love the music of language. Rhyme is a kind of art onto itself, no? It makes whimsy and play out of a language that exists for the very serious and no-nonsense purpose of communication. All the Dr. Seuss books, in their turn, ignited a love of words and language in me. Even the made up words made my heart go pitter-patter. To this day, I still hope to one day come upon a Zizzer-zazzer-zuzz or a truffula tree. One cannot underestimate the importance of word play. It sticks with you.

BOOK 2CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY

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Another one I cannot leave out is Roald Dahl’s Charlie & the Chocolate Factory. I’ve heard so many horrendous things about this creator in the time between my first reading of Charlie and now. But it would be revisionist of me to pretend this book didn’t change the course of my future. It was probably around 1972 when I first read it. Give or take a year. This book made me want to be a writer. I could stop here. But it wasn’t enough. We often forget the things that call to us when we are children. We lose sight of them. We need some sort of 2nd awakening to bring us back into the fold. So this book gets credit for making me a more voracious reader and planting a writing seed that would lay dormant for a while, just waiting for that je ne sais quoi to come knocking and wake it up.

BOOK 3A SEPARATE PEACE

Here’s where it all becomes foggy. So many books in my teen years would fight for this all-important #3 slot in my 6-step journey to writer. I think, today, I’ll choose A SEPARATE PEACE by John Knowles. (One of the books that are on the sidelines screaming WHAT ABOUT ME is The Chrysalids by John Wyndham. A Separate Peace spoke to me in more ways than one. I fell in love with the friendship, the envy and spite and greed. The darkness was something I could understand. And the hero-worship. It was an unsettling read. It made me want to write a story that would emulate it, pay homage to it. It was a real stepping stone from READER to WRITER. It made me think, ‘I could do this’. Or at least it made me want to try.

BOOK 4THE OUTSIDERS

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Still a teenager. Still a dreamer. I came upon THE OUTSIDERS by S. E. Hinton. This was a story of underdogs. And of reaching up out of that existence into something better. The characters were outsiders…it was right there in the title. Yet, they were allowed to have a story. The story was allowed to be about them. I loved that concept. I was a major outsider at the time and finding that book was everything. It was reassuring to know that Ponyboy Curtis could be looked down on as an outsider, and yet still have all these hopes and dreams and thoughts and feelings. And to see all the good in these boys who were so quickly cast aside by society? Their hearts were golden, even when they struggled to survive. This was such a nuanced story. It made me look into the scaffolding of storytelling. I wanted now to see the underbelly, to take it apart and see how it worked…just like my younger brother would often take mechanical toys apart to see how their cogs and wheels and belts and whatnot worked. This was the book that made me dissect…an important and crucial step in the journey towards becoming a writer.

BOOK 5Fast Forward a Bunch of Years and Bold, Italics, and Underline the Title for Emphasis – WRITING DOWN THE BONES

The fifth book that brought me to writing, at least as I list them here today, is probably WRITING DOWN THE BONES by Natalie Goldberg. When I found this book I was in the middle of something of a breakdown, searching desperately for books to save me. I was scouring the library reading this, that, this, that, this, that. I was desperately seeking Susan. Aside from the odd scrolled and jotted down poem, I had all but abandoned WRITER. I made my way through fiction at my library, but it wasn’t enough. I tried biographies and read about so many different lives. Nope. Still searching. As it began to feel somewhat like a spiritual search, I snuck into the spiritual and religious section of the library. I read about different religions, practices, etc, etc. One week I was a Buddhist, the next I was in love with Paramahansa Yogananda. And then I fell into a book called LONG QUIET HIGHWAY – A MEMOIR ON ZEN IN AMERICA AND THE WRITING LIFE. Hello! I loved everything I read about Zen. I still secretly harboured that WRITING LIFE thing…if only to whisper this aspiration only to myself, and only in the dark where I couldn’t see. That’s a lot of ONLYs. So, I read this amazing book LONG QUIET HIGHWAY, and it ignited a spark…I adjusted the course and found another book by the same author– WRITING DOWN THE BONES. This is such a simple book that spoke to me simply. It made me remember that I wanted to be a writer. Goldberg was so gentle in her guidance to writers in this book. Her way of demystifying writing and writers gave me the permission to at least TRY. I was like baby Groot. “I AM WRITER.” It might have been the only three words I could say, but I said them on repeat until it became something more real.

BOOK 6THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS

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Whoa! I think I arrived at writer before a full six degrees of separation had the opportunity to occur. I’ll stick one more book here at the end and merely because it set a fire in me as far as storytelling goes. After I had decided to wade into the pond and try my hand at writing, I stumbled upon Anne Rice’s THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS. It’s her homage to Great Expectations, which is another book that I read in childhood that made me fall in love with story. When I got to the last page of The Feast of All Saints, I literally turned back to page one and began to reread it. I found everything about that book gorgeous. Forget about the Vampire Chronicles (I also enjoyed the first 5 or 6 titles in that series but, for me, they paled in comparison to Feast). This book was the book that solidified in me the desire to not only tell a story, but to tell a story well.

Is it possible for the path to writer not to be taken through a literary garden? Maybe. There could be some out there who just want to write without first reading. But I can’t imagine it. I know not how I came to writing, really, but I do know I entered into it as a reader.

So, what are your six degrees of separation? What six books make up the cornerstone of the writer you’ve become?

Word Up Barrie – Guest Author Event

Thanks to my cousin in Barrie for telling me about a monthly event there–and for putting my name forward to the organizers as a possible guest reader–I’ll be doing a reading at WORD UP BARRIE this coming November. I know it’s a long way off, but I thought I’d post about it here and also mention the year’s line-up for guest readers at the event while I’m here.

The WORD UP BARRIE events take place at Unity Market Cafe & Studios in Barrie, Ontario. The event is monthly and it starts at 7 pm. They have one or two feature guest authors do a reading. This is then followed by an open mic.

My own reading will be on Thursday November 8th.wordup.jpg

If you’re in the Barrie area, or if you want to drive up Highway 400 from Toronto (GTA) for some creative synergy, here’s what WORD UP BARRIE has in store for the rest of the 2018 schedule:

  • Thursday June 14th is BRUCE MEYER
  • Thursday July 12th is BRIAN VAN NORMAN & DANIEL PERRY
  • Thursday September 13th is Hugh Graham & GABRIEL VERVENIOTIS
  • Thursday October 11th is BRENDA CLEWS & ROBIN BLACKBURN McBRIDE
  • Thursday November 8th is MARC LABRIOLA & myself
  • Thursday December 13th is SKY GILBERT & DARRELL EPP

YOU CAN READ ALL THE GUEST SPEAKER BIOS ON THE WORDS UP BARRIE UPCOMING EVENTS PAGE HERE.

Looking forward to this! And also to possibly getting up there for one of the other events prior to my own. For you creative types, don’t forget– THERE’S ALSO AN OPEN MIC SESSION at these events.

LA BÊTE Coming to SOULPEPPER!

I can’t believe we haven’t gone to the theatre yet in 2018! Time to rectify this. Next Wednesday (May 16th, 2018) is opening night for La Bête at Soulpepper Theatre! In case you’re wondering, it runs through to June 22nd…lots of time to arrange tickets and get there. Us? We’ll be there on opening night!

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La Bête – Soulpepper (from Soulpepper website)

I absolutely LOVE a good comedy. And as a playwright, I know they are one of the hardest things to write. The thing about La Bête, which is an award-winning Broadway play, is that it’s written in RHYMED COUPLETS OF IAMBIC PENTAMETER!

Why the ALL-CAPS, you may ask. Because my FAVOURITE PLAYWRIGHT OF ALL-TIME also wrote in rhymed couplets of iambic pentameter. Co-incidence?, you may be asking. No. Well, not exactly. It’s actually because La Bête is an homage to–or at least inspired by–Molière. He wrote my favourite play, Tartuffe (I wrote a post last year on this blog about seeing Tartuffe for the first time on stage—after loving it for decades on paper). The thing is Tartuffe was first performed in 1664. For the La Bête playwright, David Hirson, to have tackled rhyming couplets of iambic pentameter in 1991?! It blows me away. For the play to hit Broadway and be so well received? Magical!

And NOW we get it here in TORONTO! Courtesy of and thanks to SOULPEPPER.

The SOULPEPPER synopsis of the play:

La Bête is a modern comedy of classical insanity. When the Royal Patron grows weary of their theatre troupe, actors Elomire and Valere fight for survival, as art squares off with ego in a riotous theatrical showdown for the ages.

My own thoughts on the play:

This play was originally set in the France of 1654, which takes us back to 10 years prior to the opening of Molière‘s Tartuffe (see above–because I’m a theatre nerd and I notice these things). I really hope SOULPEPPER goes large with how revolted Elomire is with Valere. Elomire sees himself above Valere, who is a mere street performer. He also sees Valere as an idiot, unworthy of their theatre company. Valere is also large and in love with himself, but a total dolt. He misses the insults. The royal patron foists the two together and they are thrown into a sort of love it or list it situation–save the theatre or lose it. They just have to figure out how to get along long enough to pull off saving the theatre troupe.

I can’t wait!

VISIT THE SOULPEPPER WEBSITE TO FIND OUT WHAT THEY HAVE IN STORE FOR TORONTO THIS SPRING/SUMMER

VISIT THE LA BÊTE PAGE OF THEIR SITE FOR INFORMATION ON THE PLAY AND TO PURCHASE TICKETS!

LOCATION AND BOX OFFICE INFORMATION FOR SOULPEPPER

LA BÊTE

SOULPEPPER

Young Centre for the Performing Arts
50 Tank House Lane
Distillery Historic District
Toronto, ON M5A 3C4

RUNS: Wednesday May 16th – Friday June 22nd 2018

See you there!

Into the Void I Go…

Today I step my feet into the void once again. This reminds me, of course, of the quote from Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.

“100 years from now? All new people.” ~ Anne Lamott

When I first came back to writing somewhere around the turn of the millennium I dove head first into the soundbite world of both Anne Lamott and Natalie Goldberg. Lamott spoke to my urgency to marry my words with the sacredness of life. Goldberg spoke to my need to tell my secrets, to get down my words…to write down the bones.

“Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.” ~ Natalie Goldberg

The writing of both of these women thrilled me and moved me. They made me want to be not only a better writer, but a better version of myself. With her insistence on going deeper into the things you fear the most, Goldberg gave me the courage to write about those things I did not speak of…And Lamott, with her beautiful and tragic ‘100 years from now? All new people‘, made me think, ‘What the hell…I’m going to die anyway. Without a trace.’ We are transient…this alone should be enough to remove the fear of going deeper. The two women converged to make me a more fearless writer. Later, these teachings helped me to be a more fearless person.

Together, they brought me back to writing. In a new way…one I feared less. I have them to thank, one catchy soundbite at a time.

Today I released a LONG short story into the void. It will most assuredly get lost in the din of words riding the ether superhighway these days, but that’s okay. I’m fine with this. I’m only here for a little while. I wanted to write this story. I wanted to ignite a passion in maybe ONE person. One little person out there in the world of somewhere in the ballpark of 7.5 billion people. If the right person finds my short story set on the Camino de Santiago and says to themselves, “I want to go there,” my job is done. I myself have been ignited through literature…I’ve found my way to many a places in this way.

It’s been almost twenty years now since I have reignited my journey as writer, and I have since heard much smack-talk about both of these women. The words granola and hippy and earth mother, etc, etc, etc have been bandied about–as though they were negatives, no less! I have even heard gimmicky used—that one, I really can’t tolerate. These women have FED me. One should be open to find inspiration wherever they find it. In them, I found it in abundance.

What the essence of creativity really comes down to, in the end, is that we all have our own paths to walk. How we get to creative expression doesn’t matter. Hell, some of us never fully get there or have no desire to get there. Or find creativity in things others might not think of as conventional creative activities. We are all on our own paths. And in the end, in the bluntest and simplest of terms, we are all essentially walking to our graves. “100 years from now? All new people.” How we make that journey? Therein lies the rub.

Today, I made another little pit-stop on my own creative journey. My LONG short story LIGHT NEAR THE END OF THE WORLD is NOW live on Amazon and Kobo. If you take a chance on this short story, I hope you enjoy it. Even if it doesn’t ignite a spark of desire in you to get out there and walk the path to Santiago de Compostella, I hope it at least entertains you.

HOMEWORK: Don’t forget to search out those things that scare you today…and go deeper. Past the fear. We’ll all be gone before you know it. Today is the day…

Buen Camino!

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Camino de Santiago, Spain. 2014
Camino Short
Pick up Light Near the End of the World today. Discover the Camino…

Corinne began her Camino de Santiago pilgrimage way back in St. Jean Pied de Port, France, weeks ago. Exhausted, spent, and on the verge of giving up, she meets a pilgrim who gives her the inspiration she needs to carry on. But is it enough to get her there, to the famous cathedral at the end of the journey in Santiago de Compostela? Follow Corinne’s path along the Way of St. James as she struggles to carry on and to find herself along the way.

Light Near the End of the World on GOODREADS

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