Wednesday, November 14, 2012


On Looking Back

Recently, in preparation for writing a memoir intended for the family, I’ve sorted through the diaries I’ve kept spasmodically over many decades. Diaries reveal what you really think and feel, not the impression you try to give to the world. You write them to record what’s happening but also what you’re thinking and feeling.Reading through mine I’ve learned a thing or two about myself.

The most disconcerting thing I found was the consistency, the lack of change despite the ups and downs of my life.

To give a few examples, when I was twenty-two I read vociferously, loved the CBC (as I lived in a remote northern bush community it truly was a link to the outside world), and thought Canadians were the best and luckiest people in the world. I wrote at length and raged at all nations in the pre-World War II years for not allowing Jews into the country when it was apparent that they needed refuge. In my teens I’d been in the southern US where the Jim Crow laws prevailed and I couldn’t believe the reality and unfairness of what I saw. In our remote community we ordered the New York Sunday Times (which arrived by train on Thursday) and useless though it was I cheered for voter registration and wished I could do something to help.

At twenty-two genealogy fascinated me as it does now. And back then I tried my hand at writing, painted and did all kinds of crafts.

And so it went. I was then as I am now.

Are all of us much the same from our twenties onward? Do attitudes that we have when we’re young change? Certainly I’ve known friends who were avowed Communists in their youth and now vote NDP or Liberal but is that a difference in degree and not in basic philosophy? I also have friends who were hippy protesters and still support social movements, march and petition for change. We all know individuals who make radical changes in their lives but I wonder if the seeds were planted and unacknowledged years before.

As a writer it’s important to discover why and how characters change. Or don’t, if they’re like me.

A member of the Ladies Killing Circle, Joan Boswell co-edited four of their short story anthologies: Fit to Die, Bone Dance, Boomers Go Bad and Going Out With a Bang. Her three mysteries, Cut Off His Tale, Cut to the Quick and, Cut and Run were published in 2005, 2007 and 2007. The latest in the series, Cut to the Bone, was published this month by Dundurn Press. In 2000 she won the $10,000 Toronto Star’s short story contest. Joan lives in Toronto and Ottawa with two flat-coated retrievers.

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