How I Survived my First Solo Book Reading and Discovered the Magic of Why I Write

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How I survived my first solo book reading and discovered the magic of why I write.

When the librarian from my local library asked me to do a reading from my memoir, River Tales: Stories from My Cowichan Years for their book club, I imagined a cozy conversation with a small group of eager fans.

It wasn’t until the librarian showed me the poster that she had made for the event, that I realized it was also open to the public!

I panicked.
I wasn’t practiced.
I had a ‘small’ voice.
I asked for advice.

My writers’ group said, “Project your voice, breathe from your diaphragm.
My younger son said, “Read excerpts that follow a theme.”
My daughter said, “Read the story about the raccoon and the chicken.”
My elder son said, “Practice, practice, practice.”

I did it all, and more. Ninety minutes, speaking to twenty-seven people. They listened, they laughed. I told anecdotes, and they asked questions. No one noticed my deep breaths, the moments my mind went blank, the times I fumbled with a memory.

Then a strange thing happened as I was telling my stories. I saw myself in the audience. The young woman in the front row clutching a copy of my book, her shining eyes never leaving my face, absorbing every word with her whole being; that was me years ago.

I remembered how I felt the first time I heard a writer speaking to me, her words moving within me and how I knew then I was going to be a writer. That was Sylvia Fraser reading from her memoir, My Father’s House 1987.
She wrote in my copy of her book: “To Liz, thanks for your glowing face, Sylvia Fraser.”

And another time, listening to the elegant British born Elizabeth Latham, reading from her locally based historical fiction Silences of the Heart 1995 and feeling inspired and at the same time despairing of ever being able to write as well.

Latham inscribed my book: “To Liz Forbes, and thank you for being such a warm and positive person while I read, Elizabeth Latham.”

I also recognized an older version of me in the woman who sat directly in front of the lectern and asked questions with what I knew was a burning desire to know.
This woman asked about writing, about publishing, asked how I organized my stories, and if it was a problem using real names. I wondered if she were also a writer, she evaded my question but I noticed her furiously making notes on scraps of paper jammed into my book. A closet writer. I wished I had asked her name.

Another woman wanted to know if I wrote with pen and paper or directly to the computer. I asked Jane Rule that question years ago; only her options were paper or typewriter. I confess that I don’t recall her answer, only that she said her arthritic hands were so sore she could barely manage to write.

I once thought if I knew an author’s secrets of writing (how often she wrote and where; in her own study or at the kitchen table), that I would know how to become a writer too.

If anyone had asked on this day of the library reading, I would have told them there is no secret; it is about a need to write, a desire to figure out life, to record the world around you. Most of us have messy lives, doubts about our abilities, know we will never be as great as: ‘pop-in-a-name-here’, but we keep on writing because in the end, that is all there is.

And, reading passages from your book and entertaining an appreciative audience and perhaps inspiring someone to write their own story, is where you’ll find the real magic that makes the work of writing all worthwhile.

Musings of an Island Crone

Liz

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Crossing the Threshold into Cronehood

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Have you ever been to a Croning?
I have. But not by choice.

A Croning is a ceremony, often wicca like, where women are celebrated for reaching the status of crone, wise woman, or elder.

My younger friend Sharon invited me. It was twenty years ago and I was not ready to be a crone. I was old enough, over fifty (sixty actually), grey hair, gone through menopause and had become a grandmother, but I was not nearly wise enough.

Nor was I ready to embrace old age, I was in a new relationship and the association of crone with the word hag or witch just didn’t fit my self-image. Pictures in my childhood fairy tale books by Grimm and Anderson came to mind, hunched back old crones stalking innocent children in the forest, hags cackling over cauldrons of stewed toads. This was not my reality.
I went, but only because Sharon, who was celebrating her fiftieth birthday, and ready to welcome her cronehood, was treating me to the experience.

You know how it is when you walk into a room and everyone seems to know each other and no one hands you the play list? That was how it was for me on this day. I watched as people embraced each other, I participated in the required circle where we introduce ourselves by our matrilineal line, dutifully naming our mothers, grandmothers as far back as we could go. I had done this many times before, with passion, but I couldn’t dredge up any of it on this day.

Women’s gatherings can be welcoming, warm and infused with joy. Seeing women being free to express themselves and move unconsciously to their own rhythm is delightful. This gathering was like this, and I had a hard time getting in sync.

Most of the women at this workshop were too young to be crones in my opinion. Yes, there were a few elders, lovely white-haired women who dressed in the appropriate flowing organic cotton dresses and long strands of beads. These were women I would love to have known but I couldn’t make myself participate.

It was towards the end of the day that we held our Croning ceremony. I watched as the oldest woman in the room walked up to receive her crown of cedar and her crone blessing. Others followed. I shook my head when someone beckoned me to go up and I held myself apart from them as they chanted and twirled with scarves swirling from their outstretched hands.

There was something not quite right about the day for me, and I have never been comfortable in groups where feelings felt contrived but at the same time there was a part of me that longed to join in and to revel in the freedom they so joyously embraced.

I certainly was not ready to welcome Cronehood.

All this changed last year when I turned eighty. I had arrived at this magical age, still healthy and active with a long list of things I wanted to do. Definitely a milestone to celebrate. I could now properly claim Cronehood status. I did some research. The Unitarians had this to say about Crone ceremonies and the word Crone: link

We could perhaps define the crone as a woman that is gracefully adapting to the process of aging. She inspires others. She is comfortable in her own skin and with her spirituality. Her intuitive and creative powers are pronounced. But what really sets the crone apart is that she embodies a passion to explore meaning in her life; and she exemplifies an unselfish willingness to share her honesty, knowledge, wisdom, love, and compassion.

Honoring our wise women for the contributions of knowledge and wisdom is a tradition that has been lost over time. This ceremony acknowledges that our elders are our wisdom-keepers.

Crossing the threshold into Cronehood can be a major event in a woman’s life. It’s a celebration of all that you’ve learned, and all that you will come to know in the future. For many women, it’s a time to make new commitments and vows. This third cycle of your life is the one in which you become an Elder. The word Crone should now be a word of power for you, so celebrate it. You’ve earned it.

I took this advice to heart and celebrated my eightieth birthday with my family and a few crones. The accompanying photo shows my daughter Maureen, my friend Sharon, me and my sister Kate, all beautiful crones who are aging gracefully.

I have entered what I consider to be the fourth cycle of my life. I embrace my Cronehood as I join the legions of elders who continue writing and publishing well into their nineties.

Stay tuned,
Musings of an Island Crone

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What are your writing goals for year 2020?

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Chemainus Writers

A big shout out to my writers’ group. Who knew when we first met at the iconic Billy’s Delight Ice Cream parlour in downtown Chemainus that we would still be meeting nineteen years later? Although Billy’s Delight is long gone, of the four strangers who met that day, three of us, Bernice Ramsdin Firth, Tom Masters and I, are still going strong.

Chemainus Writers quickly grew and we have held the group at six or seven people so we have enough time to read our work and have it critiqued at each meeting. We meet every two weeks in each other’s homes. Between us we have published at least 26 books, and contributed to a number of anthologies, magazines and newspapers.

Feel free to follow us, you never know, we might become famous! The group can be emailed at chemainuswriters@gmail.com

Members: Tom Masters; Sylvia Holt; Mary E Nelson; Lois Peterson, Bernice Ramsdin Firth; Mary Anne Hajer; Liz Forbes

We eat too—that got out of hand for a few years—whomever was hosting was preparing almost a full lunch which we all devoured. Writing and critiquing builds up an appetite. It got to be too much and now we are back to serving just coffee and cookies at mid afternoon; much easier on the host but we often mourn the former culinary delights. Which is why, our Christmas meeting is always a party. This year we met at Ma Maison in Saltair, on the outskirts of Chemainus, ate a delicious lunch; I had butternut squash quiche, followed by pumpkin cheesecake…so good.

Even though it was a Christmas Celebration it felt as though we should do something writerly, and we all read a short humorous piece on our writing goals for 2020, but with a twist. We had to write them in the past tense as though it was the end of the year 2020. This is harder to do than you would think.

Mary E Nelson, poet and author of Catla, a YA historical novel (Orca Books), wrote the following:

Looking back over this recent past year
has it standing alone – one without peer

Though winning the Pulitzer felt like a coup
Canada’s GG made my dreams come true

So I blushed and protested that my little words
just fell together – a flocking of birds

while waiting to see if the two Y.A. books
would make it through all the alleys and nooks

And by Jove, that they did! Wouldn’t you know
and now someone, Disney? – the very best blow
wants the rights for a movie – I told them go slow

For I’m tired of the limelight, it’s time for a nap
Yes, the year 2020 sure put me on the map!

Mary E Nelson
2020

Did I mention that Mary has a wicked sense of humour?

Have a happy and healthy New Year-2020 and write those goals!

Liz Forbes
Musings of an island crone.

A small selection of books written by members of the Chemainus Writers.
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Grant Evans with View From The Tower

Books for Sale

FacebooktwittermailWe have our books. 200 wonderful lovely books printed two days before Christmas. We dashed down island over the Malahat through fog and rain and almost snow to First Choice Books in Victoria and picked up Grant’s copies of View From The Tower. We were able to fill the almost 20 pre-orders before Christmas.

Yesterday, we placed copies of View From The Tower at Amy Jo’s Cafe by the Crofton ferry terminal to Salt Spring Island.

VIEW FROM THE TOWER at cafe

Ashley Harris receiving Grant’s books before she serves our coffee and muffins.

It is a new year and a new look at our local coffee shop. When we took Grant’s books in today we noticed that they had redecorated over the holidays and the wall colour matched the cover of Grant’s new book perfectly! Amy Jo and her daughter Ashley have a section featuring local authors and View From The Tower is well placed among these authors. The cafe is a popular spot for tourists and locals to buy the local art work, hand crafts and books on display.

 

local artist Beckie and Vicki buying VIEW FROM THE TOWER

Local artist Beckie Hutchinson and Vicki Halme buying copies of View From The Tower from Amy Jo’s.

Copies of View From The Tower are also for sale at Volume One Books on Kenneth Street in Duncan as well as directly from our web site.

Next step is to place the books at our local and up island museums and, taking a tip from the late Joe Garner, “Never Fly Over an Eagles Nest”, we are keeping a box of books to sell in the trunk of the car. We sold our first one of 2016 to my sister outside the Cowichan Bay Pub where we had just had lunch. We had given her one already for a Christmas gift and she asked if we had more.

“Oh yes”, we said and whipped up the hatch back of our car and did a quick sales deal. So stop us on the street if you want to buy…we have books.

This has been a great start to our new year. I love writing and selling, so it is a great package all around.

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