We all know the strange limbo-land between Christmas and New Year. A land of past and future. The Christmas celebrations are over, but memories remain. The glitz of the holiday décor is still shining, but with an absence of gifts and anticipation. Leftover meals are the norm – turkey this and that – accompanied with moans of ‘not again!’ echoing over the dining table. Half boxes of chocolates and sweet cookies scatter tables and shelves, tempting some to taste, while others resist. Gifts are put away, to use, or keep for another day. We think on our excesses – too much alcohol, too much food, too many treats partaken. Pine needles fall as the tree begins to whither, needles prickling under foot, falling into crevices, and appearing for months to come. The hustle and bustle, frantic preparations and worry, vanish leaving us with a feeling of anticlimax and tiredness. We slouch on the sofa, watch mindless shows feeling at a loss and lethargic after so much activity. Some may use this time to reorganize, restock, renew, while others feel undecided and aimless.
As we languish in this limbo-land feeling heavy and worn, gradually a spark begins to form. A new celebratory opportunity awaits. Party plans are made, and excitement builds again as family and friends look forward to a New Year. The stroke of midnight is filled with kisses, hugs and new promise. We once again find new purpose and are full of possibilities, goals, tasks and ideas. Expectations are high for a new year, a new start, a new you – everything is possible. We pack away the decorations letting the house breath again with a lightness and uncluttered space. We may be missing the glitter and sparkle but find satisfaction in a fresh home. It gives us the opportunity to begin with a clean slate as we go forward into uncharted country – a New Year.
Did you enjoy your Christmas & New Year celebrations in this half-life existence we are experiencing?
Do you make goals for the New Year?Care to share yours?
I wish all my followers, a wonderful and safe festive time this year. Although, many of us will not be able to be physically with our family, friends and loved ones, be thankful they are safe and well. Whatever, ‘tag’ you put on the season – enjoy it in whatever way is possible:
I should be ‘resting’ the first book in my detective series until the New Year, but will probably delve into editing and revisions. Fortunately, I have the full week between Christmas Day and the 3rd January off work, so will make the most of it.
Why did you decide to write an autobiography? For many years, existential questions like “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” have haunted me and challenged me to go deeper into myself. My search for answers to these questions led me to journaling about life moments captured on the page; writing these short pieces called out for expression. Exploring poetry and essay, fairy tale and short life stories helped me find my “real writer” voice. Self-help books, spiritual retreats, talented mentors, friends and a personal interest in storytelling, psychology, image and myth fuelled my appetite for words. Gathering these stories together into an autobiographic novel took a long time. Now that my book is complete and ready for publication, I am more aware of the gifts and talents I can bring to the world through writing.
How long did it take you to write it? I began capturing moments of my life at a women’s writing seminar in 2004. When the instructor said I had an unusual story – growing up female in the macho world of the military – I was surprised; my upbringing seemed “normal” to me. Many of the stories in my book began back then.
What difficulties did you experience in writing it? Because of the transient nature of my childhood, I saw my early life as chopped into segments and filed in my memory by location. Recently when working with an editor, I began to see links and patterns in my life and finally, story connections were forged and fashioned into a smooth narrative. I had difficulty identifying the genre of these stories because they are based on authentic flashes of memory, and reimagined with fiction writing tools. My goal was to reveal my authentic emotions in short life stories and connect with other kindred souls through them.
How did you come up with the title? In my childhood, our family was in constant transition, and my tools for coping with goodbyes and hellos and consequently with loss and resilience. Alternate titles I considered included “Permission to Speak, Sir!”, “Nesting Places”, “Home and Away”, and “Finding Home Without a Map.” These titles spoke to my developing comfort with being at home in my heart and belonging in my own skin. At one point, the title was “Saying Goodbye is Easy – Letting Go is Hard”. The second half of this title was dropped because it became obvious to me that letting go of the past was getting easier.
As a child of a military family – what can your story teach others? The stories we tell ourselves and others influence what we believe about the world. The military has its own myths, my father’s story included World War 2 events, and my mother told stories connected me to generations of extended family and how the military influenced them and my own childhood. All the legends and myths to which I was exposed inspired my narrative of leaving the sanctuary of home and seeking independence. I believe that many women experience loneliness and isolation when they choose to leave their parents’ home and grow into their own lives. Reframing my life story allowed me to understand that it is a universal story.
The book is a collection of short stories – why did you chose this format? Short stories stand alone, and a collection of short stories are sometimes linked but not always; a novel-in-short-stories has a narrative arc even though the stories stand alone. It is not a memoir because that genre covers a set period of time. Autobiography is factual but many of my stories were imagined to make a point. My research revealed that short stories are more likely to be accepted by a publisher if the author’s stories appear in literary magazines or their writing is well known. This format seemed to work for me because it suited my experience in life.
Do you write in any other genre? I began writing poetry in the 1970s, and I was seeking inspiration for poems when I attended the women’s writing classes in 2004. With encouragement, I began writing prose and personal opinion essays for magazines. Poetry continues to intrigue me and I hope to add to my published books of verse but I also have a novel on the back burner (which is also told in segments!), two based-on-real-events historical fiction books and a non-fiction book. I do not write fantasy or romance and tend to lean towards literary fiction.
Do you have other books? Since 2004 I’ve created several handmade poetry chapbooks, and published two books of poetry. I’ve also self-published a book of essays and a volume of personal fairy tales. All of them are inner focused, and intended for kindred spirits who are interested in myth and metaphor.
Where can your readers find you on social media? On FB as Kathie Sutherland Author, on Twitter as Kathie.Sutherland aka wordpainterpoet, on LinkedIn, Instagram and on my website kathiesutherland.com where my books and writing companionship services are available. I offer Inner Child workshops, Reminiscence and Listening Services, a scuba diving-inspired workshop focused on going deeper into emotions and create “Portrait Poems” as personal gifts.
Do you have a blog? Since writing “Saying Goodbye is Easy”, I have gain clarity about the purpose of my writing. I want to give back through coaching and writing companionship. I have renewed my blogging practice.
What did you learn about yourself while writing this autobiography? The whole of my writing life has been about acknowledging and accepting myself. This autobiography has been narrative therapy for me. Each piece I worked on required me to come to terms with the theme of the story I was writing. One of my greatest strengths is my love of learning. That love brings me back to the greater life questions and my search for answers. I love learning through research. I love learning about words. I love inner work. I love writing to grow.
The origins of ‘Boxing Day’ are steeped in history and in my naivety, I assumed everyone had or knew of Boxing Day. Growing up in England my understanding was that it was an old tradition to open gifts the day after as Christmas Day was spent in church and then feasting.
The exact etymology of the term ‘boxing’ is unfortunately unclear and although there are several competing theories, none are definitive. Money and other gifts were traditionally given to the needy and to those in service positions, such as servants. The European tradition goes back to the Middle Ages but its exact origin is still unknown. There have also been claims that it dates back to the late Roman/early Christian era. It is known that metal boxes were placed outside churches to collect special offerings tied to the Feast of Saint Stephen. In England it was the custom in the nineteen-century for Victorian tradesmen to collect their ‘Christmas boxes’ or gifts on the day after Christmas in return for good and reliable service throughout the year.
The name could also derive from another old English tradition, where wealthy landowners would allow their servants to have the 26th off work to visit their families in return for a smoothly run Christmas Day feast. Each servant was given a box containing gifts and bonuses and sometimes leftover food! Also around the 1800’s churches would open their alms boxes and distribute the contents to the poor. These boxes were filled with monetary donations from the wealthier members of the congregation.
No matter which version you would like to believe, Boxing Day is still an enjoyable holiday and one spent with family and friends, enjoying the ‘left overs’ and new gifts.
Soar, Adam, Soar, by Rick Prashaw with Adam Prashaw, (Dundurn Press, 2019) What inspired Soar, Adam, Soar? I intended to write my own, unusual life story. A Catholic priest married and became Dad to a child identified as a girl, named Rebecca Adam by smart parents (LOL), the kid who took us on a 22-year ride to the “boy in the mirror” he knew he was. His drowning at 22 from a seizure gave the memoir a new twist and urgency.
How did you come up with the title? It’s my final 3 words on a Facebook tribute to him the night he died. The post is Chapter 12 in the book. The phrase popped into my head writing that night about our long ago love of the movie, Lion King. Mufasa telling the small Simba that one day he could look to the sky to find his father. Except here, in a cruel tragedy,the old Mufasa lives. I look for my Simba in the stars.
Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp? Love wins! Diversity is good. “Beauty comes in many colours”, Adam posted once.Freedom is what we do to what happens to us (Jean-Paul Sartre). Despite the tragedy, Adam’s infectious joy, positive spirit and wicked humour infuse the story, especially with his 125-plus social media posts. Jan. 20, 2016, two days before the drowning: “Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies in us while we live (Norman Cousins)…”
Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog? Everywhere, like my son LOL! Web site, http://www.rickprashaw.com with blogs (book tour, transgender, grieving, organ donor, faith). @RickPrashaw on Instagram, Linkedin and Twitter. There’s a FB Author page here https://www.facebook.com/RickPrashaAuthorw/
Do you have plans for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone? 2 books moving forward, simultaneously. Father Rick, Roamin’ Catholic, stories from my faith journey that capture my crooked, straight path to heaven’s gate. Adam will show up here. Private Dick Prashaw, D-Day Dodger, will be my Dad and Mom’s WW2 love story, a creative non-fiction book I throw myself into as a character to finally get Dad’s war story out of him.s
Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one? I read and am writing memoirs, biographies. There will be a few more memoirs drawing on my political and newspaper lives. The creative non-fiction book has me in a sweet place of writer’s terror. And I’m loving short stories falling out of my heart to the screen.
What is your best marketing tip? From my NGO and political work, I knew John McKnight’s community assets mapping. Map all the universes you inhabit — work, play, sports, hobbies, neighbour, school, past lives etc. Identify their social media, meet-ups or gathering places to market the book. Parenting, grieving, Pride and organ donor universes are part of why Soar, Adam, Soar is in its 4th printing eight months out.
Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?
Both! I love telling Adam’s story but I crave a hermitage right now. Instagram is new and good. Twitter with its trolls and fights is a necessary evil. Facebook works as readers and my friends devour the stories behind the book and from the 32-city (and counting) tour
What do you enjoy most about writing? All my life until now, I wrote for others, e.g. news editors, religious superiors, NGO and political bosses. Now I write to myself. The best book compliments are from people who know me and say your book is exactly as if I am speaking to them. I found my voice.
Do you read for pleasure or research or both? Pleasure, with a heaping side plate of research. I am reading a few war and faith books prepping for my next two memoirs. Waub Rice’s Moon over Crusted Snow is my stepping into fiction writing coming soon!
Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager? My mutt, Dallas, a 7-year-old flat-coated retriever who Adam adopted, stalks me everywhere. Adam’s my agent.
Where is your favorite writing space? I wrote this memoir at my home office, in Adam’s old bedroom. Cereal bowls of coffee, 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. writing, punctuated by two walks with Dallas
Do you belong to a writing group?If so which one? Ottawa Independent Writers Group that meets once a month. Online, the Canadian Authors Association, National Capital Region.
If you could meet one favorite author, who would it be and why? It’s often the book I have just finished. Hmmm, one. Michelle Obama, to soak up her class and energy and thank her for being my book’s guardian angel in the O Biography section, with Becoming,
a shelf above and over Soar, Adam, Soar.
If you could live anywhere in the world – where would it be? 2 answers. (Sorry. I’m bad with rules) Right here in my beautiful Ottawa and back “home” in Northern Ontario (North Bay, Sudbury)
Do you see writing as a career? Well, as an emerging writer at 68, till my last breath….
What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline? Wine, chocolate, Peaky Blinders.
Rck Prashaw has had a diverse career as a journalist, Catholic priest, executive director of a national NGO, and political staff to members of Parliament. He is a winner of the National Ron Wiebe Restorative Justice Award. Rick lives in Ottawa.