A Conversation is a Beautiful Thing

 

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“A conversation is a beautiful thing, easily dismantled with two preschoolers in the room.” So says the narrator in “Her Full Name was Beatrice,” one of the stories in The Pull of the Moon. As a mother, I can attest to this, too, although my daughter is now a teenager and more attuned to the subtleties of communication. I remember the frequent interruptions, the demands, the calls for attention—all of which are important, and a part of learning how to be in the world. But so are conversations, and when you’re alone all day, whether it’s with a toddler or a keyboard, they become lifelines.

Our conversations take many forms these days, and they can act as both connections and distractions. We chat, we text, we message, we comment, we reply. Often we lament that our virtual conversations dismantle real ones: who hasn’t been interrupted by the sound of an incoming text or answered one while a live person across from them is talking? (See teen daughter above. Also, truth be told, see yours truly.)

It’s a love-hate thing, yet even as we diss our virtual conversations, isn’t it true that they can also inform our face-to-face ones? I take breaks from social media, now and again, and that feels like a good thing for me to do, but then I start missing the people on there, out there, wherever they are. I want to stay in the loop. I want to see their faces. Sure, it can be overwhelming and time-consuming, but on good days, Facebook is like having many conversations, sharing news, ideas, revelations; beyond the Groupons, our email inboxes can sometimes be filled with people just saying hello and I miss you and hey, check this out; Twitter can feel like a few pats on the shoulder, a friendly wave of the hand.

Here’s where this is going: it’s the first day of the new year, and I’m reflecting on the past and checking in with how things are going in the moment. And what am I feeling? So. Very. Grateful. Thanks to Brindle & Glass, I got to publish my second book in 2014! So far, that has been a marvellous experience. And, it feels like it’s opened up conversations with people all over the place. To me, that’s a big part of what writing is all about. Reaching out. Saying something. I’m lucky: people have been saying things in response. (see Reviews).

But I’m not just talking about the official reviews. For example: a friend (okay, also my very first boyfriend), now living in England, who wrote to tell me he’d just finished the book and loved the stories; the Vancouver stranger who emailed to tell me how she got the chap in Chapters to find my book in the backroom a few days before it was officially released onto the shelf; the local colleague who posted a photo of her feet and the book over a steaming bathtub; the high school friend now in Prague who shared a photo of herself breakfasting with my stories; the great-aunt of a childhood friend who saw my picture in my hometown’s paper and emailed to tell me that she got the bookstore in her small Sask. town to order the book; friends and fellow writers who’ve emailed to say lovely things and list their favourite stories. Even more serendipitously, the woman who emailed this week from somewhere in northern Canada to say that she received my book for Christmas from her husband, only to read the acknowledgement page and figure out that she and my mother used to play together—and even learned to skateboard together—when they were children. Seriously, these kinds of moments, when people take the time to reach out, really make a writer smile. Thank you.

And then there are the book clubs! I’ve attended two meetings (and one still to come) where they discussed TPOTM and asked a whole lot of smart questions, one via Skype in Ottawa, the other in person in Victoria. We talked about the people in my stories as if they were real people. (They aren’t, and yet, they are! That’s the awesomeness of fiction.) They felt connected to them. They felt that they knew them. Wow. This is an author’s dream.

But back to conversations. The etymology of the word conversation includes “Living among, familiarity, intimacy.” Writing can so often be—necessarily—a solitary endeavour, ploughing forward in a quiet darkness, uncertain of where the words will end up, or whether they’ll get beyond the notebook at all, let alone read by anyone else. The Pull of the Moon has received such a warm welcome, and I am so very grateful for the reviews and shout-outs and invitations to read and converse about writing. Most of all, I’m thankful for the chance to connect with people, near and far. Let’s keep talking.

Happy 2015, everyone.