My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

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Gwen Setterfield and Julieta

It’s a horrible winter night, rain turning fresh snow to sloppy mush, but I am warmed by something that happened today. 13 years ago, after taking my Ryerson course, a group of women from the class formed a writing group. I urge all my classes to do so, but this surely is the most longterm and successful. They have continued to meet once a month, year after year, critiquing each other’s work, supporting each other as writers and as friends. When one member, Liz, died suddenly awaiting a kidney transplant, the others asked her husband’s permission to access her computer. They took her best stories, founded a press, and published a book of Liz’s stories. It was profoundly moving to be at the book launch – all proceeds of the sales went to kidney research – and see Liz’s family holding the beautiful book of her words, produced with such love by her writing group.

Now the group has honoured another member – Gwenlyn Setterfield, an influential mover and shaker in the arts community in this country, died last year at the age of 82, and two members of the group, Rose and Lynn, wrote a Lives Lived which was in today’s Globe. Gwen was important to me not just as an accomplished writer and interesting, vital person, but because her brother George, a biologist, was one of my father’s closest friends. She and I had a bond that was deeper than most I have with my students, and I was saddened by her death. But glad, today, that she was so touchingly remembered by her longterm writing friends. I love the ending. Brava, Gwen. Way to go.
She died after a week in Stratford, Ont., visiting one of her daughters. She saw four plays, ate great meals, bought some stylish clothes and enjoyed a spa day.

Last night, I watched a documentary called Risky Drinking, which turned my hair even more grey. It took four case studies of alcoholics or binge drinkers and followed them on their paths to destruction. Several tried rehab, stopped drinking for a bit, reclaimed their lives, and then plunged back down again. It was horrifying, cautionary. I will keep a closer eye on my own consumption, though I think two glasses of red wine a day don’t quite qualify me as a case study for this film. But still.

Today, met Ken at TIFF to see Almadovar’s Julieta, based on 3 Alice Munro stories. I couldn’t imagine turning the WASPS of rural Ontario into the passionate citizens of Spain, and sure enough, it didn’t really work. But I didn’t regret seeing it – it’s about the grief of a mother whose daughter turns away from her and disappears for many years, and I realized, again, how unbelievably grateful I am that my daughter lives on the other side of town, and though we only see each other once a week, if that, we talk or text almost daily. One of the greatest gifts of my life.

Afterwards, Ken and I had a bite to eat in the cosy TIFF bar, as the rain splattered the dark streets outside. I had one glass of wine. It was so good.



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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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