My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

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teaching and learning

My dear friend Bruce just wrote to say, “You sound like you’re giving up on the book. Don’t give up.” Omigod, no. If you have the impression that I’m giving up, it’s just that my mewling self-pity took over for a bit. I’m glad my stern editor read that particular section of the book, because I needed his critique, but there are other chapters nearer what he’s looking for – the “hot bits,” as he says, the juicy stuff, the harder, deeper stuff. What he was really saying was, don’t start here, start there. I need to plunge into the back story and lead readers to the liberating wonders of the Beatles rather than the reverse. So off I go.

Teaching is winding down for the term and I marvel again, as I always do, at the secrets we all carry, the truths that emerge, the fears that silence us. What a powerful bond we share at the end of our weeks together. This term I had an unusual student, a man in his thirties who spent years as a homeless junkie. He’s now clean and presumably lives somewhere, because last night, to the feast celebrating our last class, he brought a fruit salad made with his melon baller. A man with a melon baller has a home.
My job as his teacher was to honour his fantastical mind, his fierce imagination, broad quirky knowledge and improbable but true story, to preserve an extraordinarily interesting voice but get him to write so that our ordinary minds could follow. By the end, he got it. He didn’t have to challenge or shock us, he, like everyone else, had to craft his truth to make the story compelling. And he did. As I ate my melon balls and listened to him read, I was proud – not only of him, but of the process I’m part of as a teacher. When people sneer that creative writing cannot be taught, I wish they could hear the first essay this man wrote, and the last. As W’son is helping me, and several fine editors help W’son, I helped a worthy beginning writer learn the craft of storytelling. It takes a village.
What I want to know is: How have I managed to live for 59 years without a melon baller?

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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