My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

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Alanna’s pad

Went to an open house chez my friend Alanna Cavanaugh, who lives in the Artscape artists building opposite the Drake Hotel, ground zero of hipsterdom. Alanna used to come to my class at the Y, and just from the way she ran, with her skinny limbs flailing and her bright smile, it was clear she was not your usual jogger. So one day I asked her who she was. She was a dancer and an actor, and now, she said, she was a visual artist. But she grew increasingly discouraged, as we chatted on our jogs around the gym, and one day she was on the verge of quitting.

I gave her some generic encouragement, because I’d seen her stuff and liked it a lot. Hang in there, I said, which is something my friends have often said to me. Something good will happen. And sure enough – two weeks later she got a contract with the Bay! And other work started to pour in. Now she designs housewares for Lord and Taylor in NYC, among other successes. She’s hilarious and vibrant and a lot of fun. And her flat was just featured in “Covet Garden.” That’s her cheery living room, above. I have one of her “Room of One’s Own” Penguin posters, and covet the scissors. I introduced myself to a friend of hers over the bread and cheese, we started to talk, and instantly, the way women do, we were down and dirty, into divorce, husbands, children, despair. I mean literally, two minutes, right into the thick of it. Love that.

Then walked a bit in the ‘hood – all the hipsters in their skinny jeans and parkas and boots and floppy hats, unisex – a guy saying to his girl, “I do NOT have male pattern baldness!” I went into the Drake Hotel General Store, but it was so ironic, it made my teeth hurt. A coffee mug with “Good morning, asshole” written on it – stuff like that. Then, row upon row of interesting shops, including a knitting collective and a charcuterie store. Imagine, in Toronto, stores specializing in the best charcuterie and tea and cheese and bread and all good things. Why bother to go to Paris?


As for my travails with the memoir, read this interview with Greg Hollingshead, who wrote a novel twice and still abandoned it, about reaching the end of the line:

You’re celebrated for the three novels and three short story collections you’ve written to date, and last year, you were awarded the Order of Canada. Eighteen Bridges mentioned that you’re working on a fourth novel. How fares that project? 
The novel was finished (twice) and then abandoned. I just couldn’t get it right. And no point putting something not-right out there. I’ve been writing short stories again, which after that long slog with the novel is really enjoyable.
I’m with you about the long slog, Greg. And this from a writer called Liz Harmer, about writing her prize-winning short piece of CNF, “Blip”:
In one way it was very difficult. About two years ago I abandoned the writing of a long memoir based on this experience. I had already written 100 pages and was learning all sorts of things about the experience, but I realized that the timing wasn’t right for me to write this as a book. I happened at that point to be reading some essays by Jonathan Franzen. One of the essays, called “The Discomfort Zone,” weaves biographical information about Charles Schultz into a narrative about Franzen’s home life, and it inspired me to distill the long memoir I was working on into a shorter piece. So, “Blip” was distilled from quite a lot of work and time and energy and thinking.
I began to look into e-books and self-publishing today. Onward. 



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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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