My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

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About

about-1

About me:

Even as a child, I wanted to be an actress and a writer; acting came first. After spending my twenties in the theatres of Vancouver, I left the stage at thirty to start a family and embark upon an MFA in creative writing. When we moved into the Toronto house where I still live, I was a thirty-six-year-old stay-at-home wife with two small children. Five years later, I was a divorced single mother with an MFA and no idea how to take up writing as a profession.

The answer came when I started crafting personal essays, eventually scores of them, for newspapers and CBC radio. I also began teaching memoir and personal essay writing at what is now Toronto Metropolitan University and later at the University of Toronto as well. Teaching was and is a special joy, because it’s a communal experience that uses not just what I can impart about telling true stories, but my skills as an actor.

After more than a decade writing essays and raising children, it was time to focus on books. My first, a biography of my once-famous great-grandfather, was published in 2007; a memoir of the sixties and a textbook guide to creative writing both came out in 2014, and a second memoir, about a dramatic life-changing year, in 2020. My fifth book, the memoir-in-essays Midlife Solo, appeared in 2023.

Thirty years after walking into that first classroom, I still love helping student writers learn to tell their own stories. How extremely fortunate to have two jobs I’ve never stopped enjoying — and striving to do better.

In a book I read recently about marketing, which is not remotely my wheelhouse, the author suggested we write a manifesto, exploring who we are as writers, why we write. So I did.

BETH’S MANIFESTO

A few years ago, I visited the Chauvet cave in the south of France, where the walls are covered with stunning reproductions of prehistoric cave drawings. I found what was on display extremely moving. More than thirty thousand years ago, our ancestors returned from the hunt to chronicle on the underground walls the animals they’d seen. Best of all were the handprints; the artists had blown red ochre over their hands to leave their individual mark. “I was here. Don’t forget me.”

We humans are narrative animals. We need to tell the stories that chronicle our lives not just to entertain each other, but to survive. It’s my belief that everyone has powerful and important stories to tell, but they often don’t know what the stories are, and they don’t know how to tell them well. My adult working life has been devoted to two things: helping people access and recount, with honesty, courage, and skill, their most important stories. And, in essays and books, telling my own.

A good writer is curious about everything. My young grandson gave me a note once. “How is it at your house,” he asked. That is what I ask my students, and what I try to convey myself: How is it at your house? Here’s how it was, and is, at mine.

I hope my website and blog reveal the truth of who I am: a so-far positive, energetic woman in her seventies, an actor turned writer and teacher, a single mother now grandmother, holder of unapologetic opinions, lover of art, nature, and many many people.

As my favourite writer E.B. White once said, “All I hope to say in books, all I ever hope to say, is that I love the world.”

Me too.

Love,

Select publications

The Oxford StoryQueen’s Quarterly (Winter 2023)

Portrait of the Artist: My Visit with Alice Neel, The New Quarterly (Fall 2021)

The romance of silverThe Globe and Mail (September 22, 2022)

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