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much-needed praise

After going on last post about partaking of the cultural riches of this fine city, I missed one of the greatest feasts of all: Nuit Blanche, on Saturday night. It was cold. I was tired. In the past, I’ve ridden around on my bicycle looking at myriad installations. But this year, after going to the theatre in the afternoon, I was happy to curl up at home with a good book or two.

Finished my friend Jane Silcott’s wonderful book of essays, Everything rustles, which is Jane to a T – honest, warm, funny, and clever. One of the perks of being a writer is knowing writers, getting to read their work and seeing their personalities and souls translated into words. I very much enjoyed learning more about Jane’s.

And then read a new nonfiction book, I am, I am, I am: seventeen brushes with death, by Maggie O’Farrell, which has been getting rave reviews. It’s beautifully written, and one word kept hitting me: urgent. She grabs you with her near death experiences and doesn’t let go. But I have to say, by the fifteenth time she nearly died, I was getting a bit tired. Can’t you just stay home and knit – carefully? I wanted to ask. Still, it’s a good read.

Now, for a palate cleanser, I’m reading Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials in the Golden Compass series. Daemons!

Speaking of a good YA read, my friend Allan Stratton, once a playwright and now a successful writer of YA novels, agreed to read my memoir manuscript. I was interested to know what he thought, because so much is set in the theatre world of Vancouver where he and I met and worked for years. He sent me his critique yesterday and made me a very happy woman.

You write awfully well. I found it compulsive reading, not just because of your prose but also because names like Brent, Nicky, Janet, Bill bring up those theatre days so vividly.


Your manuscript has great flow, and I think it succeeds in dealing with disturbing material in a way that’s affecting without being TMI. Act I has some very funny moments. The L’Arche section, Act II, is very moving. Alain is an interesting character. And your descriptions of the countryside and individuals you lived with are very human.


Your book is a highly readable and entertaining account of your journey to date. Reading it was a pleasure.

How I needed to hear this! Then I got an email from Laura Cameron, whom I’ve hired on several occasions to edit my stuff, about a few essays and the beginning of the parents book, encouraging on all counts. So yes, I guess I shouldn’t quit writing and become a dental hygienist. Onward.

Yesterday, though, no time for writing — a very busy day starting to put the garden to bed. John and I spent hours pruning, putting away garden furniture and sun umbrellas, cleaning and covering the barbecue. Later I put away the tank tops and got out the sweaters. It’s warm all this week, but still, we know, we feel, what’s coming.

Best of all, Mia, the daughter of my best friend Anne-Marie – Annie – came over midday Sunday. She’s a part-time photographer with a website and a great eye and talent. https://www.youbymia.com/

I wanted her to work with me, to help me sit for photographs so I’m not so stiff and awkward, with, often, grotesque results. Often it looks like I’m grimacing or in tears instead of smiling for a camera that terrifies me.

I thought I was smiling.

She was wonderful, showing me how to tilt my head and relax my shoulders. We took a ton of shots, including a series after I’d put on my magnificent maroon Balenciaga ballgown with a train, bought at Goodwill 30 years ago for $18 and as yet never worn. (Oscars, I’m ready!) What fun to parade around in it, including in the garden and shots of me standing at the stove, stirring a pot. Will post. If and only if they’re decent.

What I realized, after she left, is that when a camera comes out, instead of shrinking away, I should pretend to be someone else – a woman who’s confident in her looks and enjoys being photographed. I’m calling her Angela. If you want to photograph me, I’ll turn into Angela. And hopefully, Mr. DeMille, she’ll be ready for her closeup.

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4 Responses to “much-needed praise”

  1. theresa says:

    That's very good advice, Beth — to pretend to be someone else when being photographed. (A Balenciaga gown would definitely help.)I hate being photographed because it's never the person I feel myself to be. (And whom might she be, I wonder? I'll have to figure that out for my new name!)

  2. beth says:

    Haven't had a chance to try it out yet, Theresa, but it just might work. I'll let you know.

  3. Marcie says:

    me, I'm sometimes known as Miranda. The woman with the silver cigarette case filled with export a's or export eh's. loving your blog!

  4. beth says:

    Welcome Marcie. Glad you're along for the journey. A silver cigarette case: very classy.

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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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