“Here is all I ask of a book – give me everything. Everything, and don’t leave out a single word.”~ Pat Conroy
Yesterday I read of the recent passing of author Pat Conroy, probably best know for his novel The Prince of Tides. I love the story, the beauty, the lyricism of Conroy’s fiction but my favorite of his books is a memoir titled My Reading Life.
My Reading Lifeis Conroy’s view of life through the books he’s read and through the people who introduced him to those books. This work resonated deeply with me: I related to Conroy’s love of words, to his knowledge of Latin, and to his habit of collecting words and phrases and quotes. I was amazed at how much I learned about this author through his reading choices; I even started a list of the books he’d read, thinking that I would visit them all at some point.
During this list-making process, I searched the book’s title on Pinterest and discovered to my delight that the list already existed! The title of the Pinterest Board? My Reading Life-Pat Conroy.Thank you to Liz Whittaker for creating this board which is not only a gift for readers like myself, but also an outstanding tribute to avid reader and accomplished author, Pat Conroy.
RIP, Pat Conroy.
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Angel the Clown, a once-upon-a-time busker on Granville Island.
When I first moved to Vancouver, I was in awe of buskers. How on earth did they summon the courage to perform in the street? I wanted to try it but I had to talk, no, trick myself into it.
Vancouver’s Granville Island Public Market is a well-known venue for street performers. Transportation to it from my place of residence meant a trip on the Granville Island ferry. One day (not in costume), I put my soprano recorder into my purse and counted out enough coins for a one-way trip to Granville Island. In order to pay for the return trip, I would have to park my butt someplace, pull out that recorder, and play a few tunes.
Upon arrival at Granville Island, I strolled through the market. Then I sat at an entrance and, trembling something fierce, I extracted my recorder from my purse. I put the beret I was wearing onto the ground, shaped it into a coin receptacle, and started in. I don’t recall all of the tunes, but one of them was certainly the familiar “Early one morning just as the sun was rising…”
I have to say that there could have been no sound as encouraging as the jingle of coins. Once the first few dropped, I continued playing, all the while counting coins out of the corner of my eye. When I was certain I had enough money to pay my way home, I put my recorder away, picked up my beret, and, with the stealth of a flash mob member, slid back into the crowd.
After that, I borrowed a clown costume which my sister had created for herself for Hallowe’en and spent a few summer afternoons as Angel the Clown, a children’s entertainer on Granville Island. It wasn’t difficult for me to come up with material–recorder tunes, action songs, sing-a-longs– as I had already spent time as an elementary music teacher.
The memory of that summer is a fond one for me, not only because I enjoyed the experience but because it was one which paved the way for my leap-taking philosophy. As an author, propelled by dreams, I regularly thrust myself forward on the road to writing, always trusting that there will be someone or something there to support the journey.
Do you have any stories about taking a leap? Please share…
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My father never sat still for a second. When he wasn’t at work, he was working around the house: building, painting, repairing. Now, although remarkably healthy for a man of ninety-two, he is physically incapable of creating the things he once could, such as the chaise longue in the picture below.
A while back, I was trying to come up with an idea for a flash fiction contest. The premise? Write a complete, untitled story in fifty words or fewer without using the letter ‘e’. I pondered it for a day or two. Then, as I was driving along a country road, I spotted a man on a ladder, re-painting the tired green trim on his two-story house. That triggered a memory: something my brother had told me, something that my dad had told him. Dad’s words? “Last night I built a whole house in my head. Getting old is tough. Body can’t do the work.”
There it was, my story idea! But I couldn’t use the words house or head (no e’s allowed.) I also did not want to use the phrase last night because of word count limitations. I came up with a story and submitted it to an On the Premises mini contest; I edited the result slightly before including it in my short story collection, Passages.Here’s the final cut:
Today, I built a mansion, foundation to rooftop.
Laid floors, hung doors, put in windows.
Alas, no triumph.
Today, I built a mansion, but only in my mind.
My body is old, sagging. My hands? Arthritic claws.
I’m stuck, longing for past skills, biding my days…
waiting for God.
I treasure this short piece, not because it won any contest (not even short-listed) but because it is a candid portrayal of the inevitability of the life cycle. And, of course, because it was inspired by my father.Thanks, Dad.
To all the Dads out there: Keep talking, sharing, telling, building legacies…
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Who inspires you to face the blank page? What makes you do it?
Whenever the daily routine of facing the page grinds on me, I park myself at the computer anyway. I let the words stutter and stumble. I trust that the rust and sputter will eventually give way to clarity and flow. I know that the time to do get started is now, because now, I can.
I was always going to write… someday. That someday became today after my husband was diagnosed with, and treated for cancer… twice. In 2005, he had an autologous peripheral blood stem cell transplant with a 50% chance of survival and a 10% chance the treatment alone would kill him. He survived. He smiles. He thrives. And, he inspires.
There is no someday. There is only today. And today, I am gifted with health, time, and opportunity. Today, I write, because today I can.