Of Writing

Of Writing

There was this moment when I looked at the guy (who was sitting in the chair of the guy who was usually there but retired) and sized him up. He looked okay. He had an open face, as my husband would say. He spun around and I introduced myself and he smiled a big goofy smile and introduced himself. I told him that I used to torture the guy who sat there before him and he said, “Good. He deserved it.”

Turns out they are friends.

And now the new guy is my friend.

In that first conversation he asked me what I like to do, other than work, and I told him I write. I thought, “What the heck? Why not call myself by what I love to do best?”

“Cool! What do you write?”

“A blog about living with Tourette Syndrome.”

“Now that is very awesome!” he said. I blushed.

“Really?” I asked.

“Yeah! What’s it called?”

I told him the name of the little site you are currently reading from and he wrote it down so he wouldn’t forget. He does that a lot, I learned, writes stuff down, sticks it on his phone, or checks it out right away, so he doesn’t forget.

“Do you like to read?” he asked.

Now it was my turn to be enthusiastic.

“I love to read!”

“What do you read?”

“Everything and anything. Non-fiction first but fiction too. My favourite author is John Le Carré for fiction. Graham Greene next. I like the classics but not all of them. I don’t usually like what everyone else is reading. I’m kind of a snob. Why do you ask? Do you like to read?”

“No. I’m not really a great reader.”

“Oh.”

“But I wrote a book.”

“Really? Cool!”

“Yeah, it is almost finished. My publisher is waiting for it but it’s not quite there. Do you want to read it?”

“Like an advance copy?” I asked. “I would love to!”

“Can you tell me what you think of it?”

“Um, yeah! But remember I’m a snob. I’m going to be really honest. I’m going to correct any and every error I see. Are you sure you want me to read it? I might change parts of it.”

“I’m counting on that,” he replied.

So that is how it began – this partnership. Steve Serbic handed me a manuscript called The Unbroken – A Firefighter’s Memoir and I took out a pen. I took out semi-colons, opting instead for short, snappy sentences. I put question marks beside the awkward phrases and unfinished thoughts. But mostly I just enjoyed the book – the way it drew me in from the preface when he told me about Ken, the first chapter that pulled me along on a series of bad calls and I could hear the sirens and feel the night air, the frustrating visits with counsellors before finally meeting Teresa, then the slow slip into childhood. The darkness. Then the light when Helen came into his life, and the calm that came with her presence. When Steve became a firefighter, I cheered. Then 9/11 and a murder scene that still haunts me. When I finished the book I knew I wanted to read it again. And I knew something else: it was for everyone.

Steve liked the changes I made. And he told me about a section in the book that he was struggling with the wording. He asked how I would say it, so I wrote it down. He loved it, so it stayed. Then he asked about another section and I wrote that too. It’s still there as well. Then he asked me what the description – the book jacket – should say.

I wrote that too.

And I realized that when we met and I introduced myself as a writer because of the little blog I own and rarely update, I was wrong about one thing. I’m not a writer because of this blog. I am a writer because I am a writer. All my life I have been writing – from paragraphs describing my summer vacation to essays about Hamlet and existentialism. From letters to my very best friend to emails to long lost acquaintances and longer lost family. Most people in my life ask me, “What is the best way to say this?” and I know the answer. I am a wordsmith. And when Steve asked me to take a look at his almost-finished memoir I suddenly had the opportunity to see my name in print.

I’ve written before and been rejected. I’ve taken the courses and done the submissions. I’ve entered contests and received the polite “not interested” emails. I’ve been discouraged. But I’ve also been a woman who does things on her own terms. Hence the blog with the tiny but loyal readership. And now an editing gig with a very unique contract.

I woke this morning with a very sharp memory of 7th grade. My teacher was Mr. Waring and I adored him. I had written a short piece about a walk to town – Manitowaning to be precise – and he had written in pen at the top of the foolscap page, “Become a writer. You’ve got what it takes.” If you’re still out there, Mr. Waring, thanks for the encouragement.

There’s a book jacket out there with my words on it.

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9 Replies to “Of Writing”

  1. Bravo Lori!! Great partnership with Steve = fantastic book!! I literally couldn’t put it down as it left me wanting more. Looking forward to the completion of the second book! As for your blogs, yup Mr Waring was right…you definitely have a knack for writing!! Keep it up!

  2. You’re a wordsmith! I keep learning more about you when you write. Keep on. Love your little stories. Miss you! 💕

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