Friday, January 14, 2022

on writing

The most fun! As I've reported here, I decided to explore the possibility of a compilation of my essays through the years. I find writing the first drafts of anything hard, a slog, but editing, cutting, shaping, moving this word here and that paragraph there, is joy. That's what I've been doing, and now I have a manuscript of 56,000 words.

Let me repeat that: in a week, I've compiled a manuscript of 56,000 words. 

That's not to say those are all GOOD words. So far it's 47 diverse personal essays, starting in 1994 when I began to publish in Facts and Arguments in the Globe - about half published or read by me on CBC, the rest dug up from my files. Some I think are good and others probably too weak to include but there for now, aiming for variety in tone and subject. All are the solipsistic reflections of an aging woman. Me me me: that's my subject and I'm sticking to it. Well, me, my children and friends and city and colleagues and loves and distresses and travels and thoughts and realizations. 


Chaos in my office, open file cabinets and paper everywhere. But also I was just asked by Queen's Quarterly to send photographs; this spring they're publishing an essay about my British penpal Babs who died at sixteen in 1966. So there are also photos everywhere. 

Babs on the left, aged 12 in 1962 when we began writing, and her little sister Penny, who is now a good friend and new penpal living in Liverpool. 
Me also 12 in 1962
The letters 1962-1966

Teaching 3 classes this week, stimulating and exciting. It's been really cold; heaven to earn my living sitting in the kitchen in slippers. As always, too much to read. A new library book: Elizabeth McCracken's short stories The Souvenir Museum, wonderful. And of course Macca's two extremely heavy books. Be still my beating heart.

Maybe this will be my winter - compiling old stuff and filling in the gaps with new material, for a book of essays that - with my usual stellar track record - almost nobody will want to read. And what publisher wouldn't be keen to jump at essays by a middle-aged, middle-class white woman, the demographic everyone is most interested in right now? 

But I'm doing it anyway. Because it's easier than writing, for one thing. 

All true.

PS. I just skimmed the manuscript, and it's sure that many of those 56,000 words are repetitious or turgid or boring. Maybe it'll be a SLIM book of essays. 


  1. How exciting! I too did a similar thing last year and compiled a manuscript from a decade's worth of essays. I have about 59,000 words! But, as you say, they may not all be GOOD words. I wish you luck with yours, and hope the same for mine.

    1. Wonderful, Pearl, brava. Yes indeed, best of luck with it.

  2. Replies
    1. If this book appears, you will get the first copy, Theresa! I am waiting impatiently for "Blue Portugal."