MY STORY

(or at least one version of it)

The Journey Begins

It took me decades to make that claim: "I am a writer." I'd wanted to be a writer since the age of 13 when, in 1965, my grandmother gave me a small black notebook to use as a diary and the instructions that I should write a little about my life every day.

That summer, I accompanied my grandparents on a car journey west to northern Saskatchewan to locate the prairie village she had lived in as a little girl. Sadly, when we arrived, the village had long blown away with the dust leaving only an abandoned and crumbling grain silo. From the back seat of their Chevrolet, I recorded the events of that day and noted my grandmother's sadness and bewilderment at how everything had changed so dramatically.

By the time I had finished high school, I knew I wanted to be a writer, thanks largely to my English teacher Miss Dixon who had always encouraged my writing and liked to read my descriptive stories out loud to the class, not that they were appreciated by many but Miss Dixon had fuelled my literary aspirations.

Unfortunately, neither my father nor my Maths teacher supported my dream. My father's reaction was vociferous, claiming he wouldn't give me "one red cent for that nonsense" and decreed that I get a "proper job" in a factory. My Maths teacher, whose recommendation I required on my university application, responded similarly, shooting down my dream by stating in no uncertain terms that he would never recommend me for that "Mickey Mouse baloney" and instead, strongly suggested I rethink my life's course. He wouldn't sign my application until I had agreed to follow a more "practical" course of study. Thus I embarked on a journey into economics and sociology. Needless to say, I dropped out before the end of my first year.

Deflated, I crawled into a hole thirty-six hundred feet underground and became a hard-rock miner in a Northern Ontario nickel mine. Ironically, one day, while working in a flooded shaft at the bottom of the mine, an old-timer took me aside and told me that I didn't belong in their ranks. Why? I asked.

Because, he explained like a surrogate father, the mine was no place for someone with an imagination. Down here, he said, an imagination was a liability. You should go back up top and become a writer, he said, patting me on the back.

I did return to the surface where I began a long, circuitous journey over land and sea. My hero's journey.

Thirteen years later, I returned to University, this time studying literature and art. I excelled at my passion thanks largely to the excellent mentoring I received from Professor D.M.R. Bentley, editor of the Canadian Poetry Press; Professor Ross Woodman (Romantic Poetry) the husband of Jungian analyst Marion Woodman; and Professor Peter Auksi (Shakespeare), all of whom taught me my writing, editing, and critical reading skills. Honourable mention also goes to Professor Dick Shroyer and Professor Larry Garber for instilling in me an appreciation for computer technology and a love of good coffee and European cafés.

My undergraduate work led to an M.A. and then, in 1988, to national funding enabling me to pursue a Ph.D. in English Literature at the University of Edinburgh. It was while there that I was offered the opportunity to become the Senior Tutor in both the English Department and the Centre of Canadian Studies. In 1995, however, I jumped the academic ship to become Principal Teacher of English at the Edinburgh Rudolf Steiner School. It was while teaching there that I discovered the Scottish Storytelling Centre, which awakened a new fire in my belly.

Ten years later, I left classroom teaching to become a full-time oral storyteller. That required a lot self-invention, flexibility, and sacrifice. However, storytelling has taken me across the UK, Europe, and to the Middle East and Canada. I have coached and mentored dozens of storytellers, performers, musicians, therapists and coaches, as well as worked with many corporate and community organizations. Along the way, I became particularly interested in life stories, stories of illness, and legacies.

In 2017, at the age of 65, I began training as an end-of-life (EOL) planning facilitator/coach with the Scottish-based social enterprise Before I Go Solutions® under the leadership of Jane Rogers. As one of their coaches, I was able to develop my interest in legacy storytelling and writing alongside my EOL work. That year also saw me return to my hometown of Hamilton Canada to be closer to my youngest grandchildren. There, I joined a local writers guild and began working on a collection of stories I'd hoped to publish as a memoir. One of those stories, "All Things Shall Pass", won an award and was published. And recently, I was invited to tell another one of my stories at an upcoming (25 September 2020) charity event. In the promotion for that event, I'm listed as a "writer and storyteller". It only took about fifty years to finally become what I had set out to be all those years ago.

So to anyone reading this who has harboured a dream of becoming a writer, do it now. The first step is to state publicly that you are a writer. Say it with me, "I AM A WRITER!"

Doesn't that feel good? Now pick up you pen and write.

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"Brothers". Photo by Mom