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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Prayer flags in November

November – Off to the publisher

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November is my least favourite month. Even though I am a west coast girl and don’t mind the rain, this gray, cold, eternal downpour is depressing. The south east winds are gusting and rocking my bird feeders. One lone black capped chickadee protected by the roof of the feeder is diligently pecking at the seeds. A prayer flag hung nearby startles with its splash of bright yellow and red. On my porch, small mauve pansies bloom in pots already plumped with daffodils waiting for spring. There is hope.

And in the warmth of our home we celebrate Grant’s accomplishment in finalizing his west coast aviation memoirs. View From The Tower is at the publishers now and will be available soon on this web page and at Volume One Books in Duncan.

All is well.

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Heron - Nanaimo Marina Seawalk

Freddie

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I thought I saw Freddie on the Sea Walk the other day. I was quite far away but it looked like him as he was standing at a slight tilt with arms clasped behind his back. He was gazing out at the marina, perhaps at the great blue heron that owns that spot of shore line. My steps quickened momentarily and then I remembered. Freddie was dead.

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Coffee and a muffin as restorative downtime.

Downtime

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I treated myself today. Not by shopping for clothes or stuffing down chocolate cake—I treated myself with downtime. My free time has been taken up with writing. Grant, my husband, and I are doing the finishing touches on our memoirs. Both of us leap out of bed in the middle of the night and scribble down a thought. Often in the wee hours of the morning I see the lights on in Grant’s study. Some days my head is in turmoil with scattered images and I can’t organize them into sentences. That is when I procrastinate by eating or baking.   

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The sea walk gazebo in Nanaimo, BC

Walking

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We didn’t go anywhere this summer. Usually we take picnics to the beach, swim in the ocean, and take day trips to all the small towns up and down island. This summer we lived like moles, tucked into our respective studies, writing. I was working on my memoir Growing Up Weird and Grant was writing View From The Tower, tales of his life as an air traffic controller in Port Hardy. It was abnormally hot outside and our house was cool.

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