I wanted to write a novel, but 92,000 words is an intimidating goal. My husband, Brock, did the math and asked if I could write 252 words per day for a year. “Of course I can,” I said. “Easy peasy.”
So I made myself write at least 252 words every day, not allowing myself to go to bed until I’d met my quota. That’s how I finished my first mystery novel, One for the Raven.
Brock was living with stage four (terminal) kidney cancer at the time. Loving and taking care of a man who is dying, who is declining…
It’s been three years and two months since my young husband died of kidney cancer. Yesterday, my mom-in-law called with news: a doctor has diagnosed the family with a rare genetic predisposition. They’ve suffered collapsed lungs for generations, which (we now know) is a red flag for Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome.
This rare syndrome affects the skin and lungs and increases the risk of developing non-cancerous and cancerous kidney tumours.
I’ve never wasted time wondering why or how Brock got cancer. It was a mystery to everyone: a thirty-five-year-old farmer of certified-organic crops, who didn’t work with known carcinogens or smoke. …
One day, new to Instagram, I received a private message from a man I didn’t know. It was an innocuous “hello.”
I did the responsible thing and checked out his profile: from the photos he’d posted, he appeared to be an actual human being, and not a spam robot. There were photos of him and his daughter. So I was the polite small-towner, the professional writer with a public social media profile, and said “hello” back.
He responded immediately; I could see those little dots as he typed.
His response and, more importantly, my reaction, left me baffled.
They told us my husband’s cancer was terminal: He had months to live. Maybe as long as a year. From that moment in the doctor’s office, we waited for death.
One day, Brock napped for an extra hour. Was this the end?
He woke up with a cough. Was this it?
With both of us in our late thirties, we had never witnessed death up close. On television, we watched Steve Jobs and Jack Layton (a Canadian politician) become skeletal as their cancers progressed.
“Will that happen to me?” Brock asked. We didn’t know. I patted his healthy tummy, assuring…
Many of us are staying home these days: abruptly working from home, or suddenly unemployed because of COVID-19. We don’t know when this pandemic will end.
I listen to my friends try to describe this emotional unrest they’re feeling, and I know the word they’re reaching for: limbo.
Brock and I lived in limbo for three years after his terminal cancer diagnosis, not knowing how much time we had left together, and — in those final months — not knowing what he’d be capable of physically, hour by hour.
Those years taught me some basic survival skills that not only…
I was all set to write my second mystery novel this year. One of the many initial decisions a fiction writer must make is to choose WHEN the story happens:
My next book takes place in the summer, and I’d decided it would be set in 2020. With technology changing so quickly these days, present-day is the easiest “when” choice for an author.
But now we’re mid-pandemic.
Yes, it’s a dark, unpredictable, overwhelming storm cloud — but there are some glimmers of light for those of us self-isolating during the coronavirus pandemic:
In 2016, when my son was 2.75 years old, we were concerned about his speech. I made a list of the words he could say: there were only about 20. Then we went on a 62-day road-trip across Canada. Just me, my husband and our son in a 1986 Ford Frontier motorhome.
By the end of that trip, Isaac’s vocabulary was too large to write down. It wasn’t as if we’d ignored our kid before…
When our son Isaac was two years old, we realized Brock’s kidney cancer was terminal, and that I would eventually be a solo parent.
As is my habit, I turned to books to help me process this curveball.
In the many “parenting boys” books I skimmed in the subsequent years, the chapters on single parenthood (and single motherhood in particular) resonated with me. The authors concurred that positive male role models were critical for boys, and yet: “Be wary of men,” these books sometimes warned. “The fatherless son and single mother are vulnerable to predators.” Scary stuff.
Steve Biddulph’s classic…
I met and made friends with Ryan 14 months after my husband died. Ryan and I took our time getting to know one another: we both have kids, and our own custom-made emotional baggage. It wasn’t until late February of 2019 that we graduated beyond friendship to a “relationship.”
While I might never want to get married again, or even live with someone, I didn’t start this relationship casually. I was committed to seeing how long we could last. And yet: it took me six months to tell my husband’s parents that I was seeing someone.
They visited us for…
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard for writers at any stage of their career is to create a resume (or curriculum vitae) for your writing.
An up-to-date writing resume will come in handy when you’re asked to submit a bio, when you’re writing a cover letter for a submission, or when you’re applying for a residency, grant, job or some other super cool opportunity.
But, more importantly, having a record of your writing life and your writing accomplishments is self-affirming. …