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Writing Life 1

I just started a new category called Writing Life. If writing is in your realm of interests, yay! Read on. If not, I hope you read this anyway—and consider writing. Everyone has a story.

Mine, today, is this:

Mama always said that she felt closest to God when she was picking blueberries. Thinking about this recently, I wondered: when do I feel closest to God? It happens when I’m paddling in a canoe. It’s a long, complicated, yet sweet story—but one for another day. Suffice to say that if I could not paddle, I would be bereft of hope.

“Willard Hewey” parked at river’s edge at our home in Canaan, on the Tusket River.

I especially look forward to wilderness paddling trips. This year, I planned two spring trips into The Tobeatic Wilderness. Although I would feel perfectly safe doing those trips, I decided to cancel them. For starters, we had planned for six-eight people (three or four boats) and we’d have to travel several kilometers to get there. The current government directive during this pandemic is to curtail travel, maintain 2 m “distancing”, and limit gatherings to five people. So there’s no way we could do these trips and comply. But another reason for canceling back-country trips is that in the event of a serious accident or illness requiring a rescue by helicopter and medics, this would tax an already burdened health care system.

However, thinking that paddling in my own backyard would still be OK, two days ago, a paddling friend who lives close by on a lake sent me a DM on Facebook: “Hi, … good morning … we are planning to canoe from your place to ours … Be at your place around 12noon … want to join us?” I replied, “YES!”  then threw together a couple of sandwiches , a jar of walnuts and raisins along with a thermos of coffee,  my First Aid kit, bag of dry clothes, water bottles … then I made sure “Miss Ebony” (our new canoe) had ropes on both ends, a bailer, and a sponge. Oh yeah. And I rooked husband Barrie into coming along.

“Miss Ebony” the day she arrived in Canaan, March 8, 2020.

I shuttled our car over to their place (5 km) where we would pull out of the water, and got a lift back home. My friends arrived ready to launch from our place, only, they also had their son, his girlfriend, and their son’s friend with a kayak. Now we were seven people, three canoes, and a kayak.

Although it didn’t feel “right,” in my excitement to have my bum in the water, I ignored that feeling, and off we went. It was a glorious 2.5 hour paddle on a perfect spring day—virgin blue sky, 15 degrees C, and a slight wind in our backs. We stopped for lunch midway on the riverbank under some large oaks and spruce trees (and, yes, we kept our distance.) It was story-book perfect–until a few hours later when my friend’s neighbour called. She’s a nurse, and she was upset. Didn’t we know the premier had issued a “no travel” advisory? Why would we be trucking our boats around? And how many people were on our excursion? Etcetera.

That smacked. And it should have.

In retrospect, transporting our boats around was not kosher, despite being in our own “backyard.” Nor should we have been more than five people. Then I read “Why we didn’t go canoeing today” in the Chicago Sun Times and felt crummy all over again.

Last night, I decided that I would simply put up my paddles and PFD until the world righted itself. But, while on my morning walk today, I thought my decision was a bit draconian. I didn’t have to go to that extreme to a) uphold government directive and b) do the right thing for the larger good. Mind you I also recognize that paddling is my drug of choice, so was I rationalizing? In the end, I decided that Barrie and I could paddle by ourselves, in our “front yard” where we don’t have neighbours upstream or downstream for a couple of kilometers. It’s safe, and will continue to contribute to my self-care.

Problem is I feel guilty that we have so much and the rest of the planet has so little. Imagine. Within a minute of opening our front door we can step into a canoe or walk in the forest. I’ve never felt so blessed. I am both grateful and humbled. Now thinking of ways to share both our forest and river once this pandemic has released its grip on the world.

* * *

Well, that was a bit of a babble.

Now for the Writing Life.

My focus this year is to improve my writing (in general), and to focus more on personal essays/memoir (in particular).

Thrilled to have discovered the following authors and their books/sites:

Highly recommend these books.

Marion Roach authored the book on the right, The Memoir Project ~ A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text For Writing & Life, which I’ve devoured. Her site is loaded with memoir topics and tips. Be forewarned: she pooh-poohs writing prompts and considers them a supreme waste of time. (More about this in my next post.) She also gave a free webinar last week which I enjoyed. Kudos to her for compiling 40 questions we had during the webinar, and responding to them on her blog.

I’m also a huge fan of Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola’s book, Tell I Slant~ Creating, Refining, and Publishing Creative Non-Fiction. Although it’s not dedicated to the craft of writing Memoir, everything in this book is applicable to the genre. And every chapter ends with a “Try It” section (loaded with prompts.) They also have a site dedicated to the book, including some outlines for classes.

So my next post will be looking at how these two different books are helping me along my journey … and why I’m about to burn seven binders of writing (poetry, fiction, non-fiction) that I’ve done from prompts over the past twenty years. OK. So I won’t just blindly burn them. But you can bet that 90% will be stuffed into the wood stove between now and the next time I show up. I’ll then tell you why, and what my strategy is “going forward.” Lordy I loathe that term, although I suppose it’s better’n “going backwards.”

Do share your thoughts about this post!


  1. Susan Surette-Draper Susan Surette-Draper
    April 8, 2020    

    I’m looking forward to your next posts and tips on memoir writing.

    • April 8, 2020    

      Thanks for popping into view Susan! Until “next time” (soon!)

  2. Susan Hoover Susan Hoover
    April 8, 2020    

    I look forward to finding out why you are going to burn all that material. Thanks for all your thoughts here. I too have been writing a bit of memoir, but also some short fiction – not my normal kind of writing.

    • April 8, 2020    

      Glad to hear you are writing some memoir Susan, and some fiction too!

  3. Joyce Boudreau Joyce Boudreau
    April 8, 2020    

    I love the honesty and purity of your writing, I always feel I know you a bit better every time I read something. I think I will purchase those books at some point this summer. Thanks again for your wonderful stories.❤

    • April 8, 2020    

      And thank YOU for your kind words Joyce!

  4. Helen Opie Helen Opie
    April 8, 2020    

    Literally canoing in your own back yard ought to be allowable, unless we are supposed to avoid Anything that might lead to an injury…and didn’t the safety people used to say that most injuries occurred at home or near it? Stop hanging laundry out? Never go over stairs, stop shoveling snow. Sto mowng grass, and thereby create fire hazards in dry times? Oh and stop bathing, lest you slip.

    We probably are always better off than someone else, and guilt will not improve their lot, although using energy spent on guilt might.

    I have moved to a place by a short and tiny river that flows from Hwy 1 into the Annapolis River. While I thought I would spend my winter settled & writing, I couldn’t.

    Do you know Brenda Thompson & her Moose House Publishing? I took her weekend memoire writing course last fall and got all fired up, even wrote a bit. She is publishing works by local authors and looking for writing by people in their own voices. No “polishers” to make it sound like Everyperson on radio or in print.

    • April 8, 2020    

      Loved reading your comments Helen. Must visit you in your new digs after we’re “allowed” to be on the roads again! And thrilled to hear you put pen to paper after Brenda’s course. I don’t know her but how wonderful she offers courses and has a publishing house! I’ll look her up! Keep in touch ~ and also fill me in on Molly Kool!

  5. Glenda Dunham Glenda Dunham
    April 11, 2020    

    This makes me want to get back to writing and especially memoirs! My daughter framed a short story I did about our Grandson (her son) and gave it to me for my Birthday two years ago! It was one of a few I had done about ‘family’ -so maybe I should get back to it!!
    Love your writing and yes, I too feel blessed/guilty for having acres to roam and a private beach to go to as well.
    Hugs and look forward to more! Will check out those books too.

    • April 11, 2020    

      Music to my hears Glenda! Happy to have you on board!

  6. Virginia Boudreau Virginia Boudreau
    April 11, 2020    

    So enjoyed your sharing of thoughts, both on paddling and the writing life. Your photography takes my breath plum away!! It was lovely to “meet” Miss Ebony and Willard Hewey! I’ll look forward to further posts; the resources mentioned are indeed, excellent. So many departure points for memoir writing!

    • April 11, 2020    

      Thrilled to see you here at the virtual water cooler Ginny! After we chatted this morning I thought, “Hmmm. Must interview Ginny about using prompts as you’ve been able to mine them for stories! A different viewpoint from Marion Roach, for sure. Let’s chat!

  7. Laura Laura
    May 7, 2020    

    Thanks for sharing this Sandra. We’re living in a different world right now. Who would of thought there would ever of been a time we couldn’t put our canoe in the water, go fishing or make a fire on our lawn. ❤️

    • May 7, 2020    

      Yes, we will all remember life BC. Before Covid. Heaven knows what it’s going to be like AC (After Covid!) but sure look forward to you coming over for cuppa by the river –with or without a fire!

  8. Bryn Harris Bryn Harris
    June 3, 2020    

    Sweet, Sandra! Very literary job on a fun-plus-serious little story. The back yard, then the front yard—nice balance. Paddling as your drug of choice—love it! Like you, I hate “going forward”—ugh! And you know how I feel about your delightful quotation marks on “distancing” too.

    I also just realized that at least one of my memoir-writing friends would just eat up those resources! I’ll send her a link to this post. Thank you so much for pointing me to your blog.

    • June 8, 2020    

      Happy to see you pop into view Bryn! Greetings from across the pond. Let’s keep in touch!

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