I was born near water and mountains in the summer of 1962. I must have liked being born in summer near water and mountains because summertime, ocean, lake, river, mountains, all, I feel in my skin and bones, in my muscles and blood, in, my, soul. Frequently my mother had to come after me when I escaped from our house running toward, no doubt, the nearest creek or patch of rocks or trees. I had two older siblings both whom were as black a sheep as I was. My brother, for example, liked to sneak thumb tacks and June bugs onto the chair of our school teacher and then revel in delight as he watched the man sit down and horror come over his face. My sister kept, on the wall above her bed, a picture of a goats head floating in a pot of soup. This was apparently from a Rolling Stones album cover but nevertheless, it horrified me and made me wonder about my sister. Until she put up a poster of David Cassidy. Then I thought she would be alright. My own forms of entertainment had to do with mountain climbing, swimming, and berry picking in bare feet and a bikini, but sometimes I got tired and would spend an entire summer afternoon sitting on the front lawn of our lake town home waiting for tourists travelling highway 3 to stop and use the pay phone at the store across from our place. After every caller, I would jump on my purple banana seat bike and race across the highway to nab the dime that they sometimes left behind in the slot. Occasionally I would hit the jackpot and a handful of dimes would tumble out when I pumped the release. This was nirvana. I could buy a Coffee Crisp and a bag of salt and vinegar chips and a Grape Crush all at the same time. Then, in June, 1973 I moved to the north and exited childhood. I didn’t re-enter it until much later, when I had my own children. That’s when I learned that when you’re an adult, you don’t have to act like one every day. Just most days. When I wasn’t acting like an adult, or when I was, I was also running a business teaching studying politicking reading writing playing slo-pitch and later, when there was more time, hiking and travelling. Now those children are grown, and I, like all of us, have stories to tell. Some of us are driven to tell them. I am one of the driven.
My writing roots are, as far as I can tell, deep in my genetic code where no mad scientist can go. I believe this of all writers because if it were possible to manipulate the genes that make us writers we would all be lined up to get the ‘let me sleep, let me stop’ modification treatment.
Of course, I am happy to be a writer. I just wish it was easier. And, I wish it didn’t come with so much risk. What if I accidentally offend someone? What if I accidentally give away my deepest secrets? I didn’t worry about these things when I was a kid writing short stories and poems and keeping diaries and writing love letters to Scott Decembrini. But now that I am a published writer, I do worry about them. So I say now, as a true Canadian, my apologies if you are offended by anything I write.
Style is an elusive concept and therefore difficult to describe, especially if it is your own you are contemplating for a website piece like this. In fact, it is too elusive for words. Instead, I can say that, when I am writing, I am seeing hearing smelling feeling the story and that is what drives my words and sentences. Often, what I’m seeing hearing smelling feeling is intensely painful or intensely beautiful and therefore very personal. At those times, I enter the secret back room of Truth. And Truth is of course, a powerful place. After I have written those kinds of passages, I must find the courage to keep on the page what I have written.
I know if I fail to find the courage and try to pawn off the dishonest on my editor, she will call me on it straight up. Since I don’t want to waste her time, I try to face it on my own. I go back to the place, very early in the morning when even the birds are still sleeping, and I give over my soul to whatever Truth it is that I am supposed to get down on the page.
This is my approach to writing. To tell the truth.