Wednesday, 18 May 2016

In Memory of a Loyal Reader

I appear at many craft shows and arts festivals in eastern Ontario, particularly during the summer months. It's something I enjoy doing because it gets me out from behind this keyboard and gives me a chance to meet people and talk about what they like to read.

After having done it for several years, I've reached the point where faces are becoming familiar. People often come up to the table and tell me they enjoyed the book they bought the last time, and do I have a new one they could get? I appreciate the positive feedback because writing is a pursuit that takes a lot of courage some days, and it really helps to get a little pat on the back now and again.

One couple in particular became especially familiar. The woman was the reader, and each time I made an appearance in the Kemptville area she came out, just to remind me how much she loved my writing and to check whether I had a new one she hadn't read yet. Her husband mostly smiled and nodded as she talked to me. "She really loves your stuff," is about all he'd say. Coming up to my table was her thing, it was something they obviously planned in advance, and he clearly enjoyed watching her do it.

Last winter at the St. Michael's High School Christmas craft show they came up to my table again. She talked away to me as always, and was pleased to find SORROW LAKE, which she hadn't read yet. When I autographed her copy, I felt bad that I had to ask her name once again before signing it. I've never been very good at putting names to faces, and as she left the table I made a little vow to myself that I would remember her name the next time. Connie. Connie. Connie. The next time I saw her, I'd say, "Hey, Connie! How are you?"

This morning I delivered a presentation to the Probus Club in Kemptville. Before it began, a man walked up to the front of the hall and asked if I recognized him. His name tag said JIM and I knew the face, but.......  He pulled out his phone, and as he flipped through pictures looking for one of his wife, I knew it was Connie's husband. I said, "You're Connie's husband! How is she?"

"She passed away," he said. "Several months ago."

I was devastated. I'd spent the winter keeping her name and face within close reach in my head, waiting for our next encounter so that I could give her a little something back for all her enthusiasm and loyalty. I waited too long.

So this blog post is dedicated to the memory of Connie Haldersen, a sweet person I would have liked to have known better. Thank you, Connie, for all the pats on the back you gave me, thanks for reading my books, thanks for taking the time to come out and tell me how you felt about them. Thanks for being the kind of person whose husband could enjoy her little enthusiasms with so much affection.

My deepest condolences to you, Jim.

Boy, I sure wish Connie would be able to read my next one when it comes out. Fingers crossed, I think she would have liked it, too.

Rest in peace, dear.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Community Greening Begins!

This is the time of year when local communities around here hold plant sales to raise funds for local spring projects. It's a true sign that winter is finally behind us and a whole lot of great weather is on the horizon!

This past weekend I had a chance to attend the Great Burritt's Rapids Plant Sale. Since it was held at the Community Hall, where my office is now located, it was an easy event to make. I took this photo after most of the rush had died down (and I'd already grabbed my plants!).

This particular sale is held by the Village Greening Team. They used the funds raised to maintain the public gardens in Burritt's Rapids. Isn't this a great idea? Many of the perennials are donated from local historical gardens, and this year's sale featured Fire Star Dianthus and Jack Frost Brunnera.

I zeroed in on the day lilies and asked the very kind woman helping me out to choose two that she thought might do well at my place. Turns out she had donated the lilies herself and that they came from her garden at Burritt House. So now I have a piece of history growing in my own modest garden in Oxford Station.

Can't wait to see them bloom. Can't wait for summer!

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

"The Human Race is Just Unbelievably Deep"

Yesterday morning while driving I was listening to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's morning radio program "q" when a very interesting interview began. It featured New York Times obituary writer Bruce Weber, who is touring to promote a new documentary film by Vanessa Gould that focuses on the obituary department of the Times.  (Links are provided below.)

Among other things, Mr. Weber talked about the process involved in deciding who will have their obituary written for the Times and who won't. As he said, many people are worthy but not many are newsworthy, and it is this latter quality that is usually the deciding factor.

As interesting as the interview was, it was the very last thing Mr. Weber said that stayed with me. Asked about his insight into how people featured in a Times obit have contributed to history, he said that many of his obituaries have covered people who contributed a great deal to history, such as distinguished veterans, but whose lives are largely forgotten, as the famous tend to overshadow the less-than-famous. However, he said, there are many less-than-famous people whose lives have nudged history in a certain direction.

He concluded: "The human race is just unbelievably deep. We've got a big bench."

He said it with such enthusiasm and affection that it stayed with me long after I got out of the car and went about with the rest of my day. Given that he'd talked about the sadness of his job and how it had affected his long-term view of life, his enduring fascination with people and the contributions they make in their lives resonated with me.

I recognized in it my own unflagging interest in people and my very strong conviction that there is no end to the supply of inspiration for the characters that writers create for their stories. There's no reason on earth why readers should ever settle for flat or stereotypic characters when, as Mr. Weber said, "the human race is just unbelievably deep." There's no reason why I should settle for less, either, in my own work.

Find the CBC interview of Bruce Weber here
Find the teaser for the documentary film Obit here