I’m usually to be found in my kitchen, sitting in the comfortable Goodwill chair that swivels and rocks, gazing out the glass back doors at my garden. There’s a computer on my lap, a cat squeezed in beside me, and possibly, if it’s after five, a glass of wine nearby. I do have an actual office upstairs, with an actual desk, but the light and view are so much better here. My daughter once said, “Mum, you’re going to die in that chair.” Possibly.
We moved into this narrow semi-detached wreck of a house in downtown Toronto in 1986, a year before its hundredth birthday. My kids grew up here. They now live across town but come back regularly, my son with his big bouncy dog and my daughter with her two bouncy sons. I live with the cat and several tenants.
This house is where I became a writer. When we moved in, I was a 36-year-old stay-at-home wife with two small kids, and, after spending my twenties as an actress, had just earned an MFA in creative writing. Five years later, I was a divorced single mother with no idea how to proceed. The answer came when I started writing essays for newspapers and CBC radio, and teaching memoir and personal essay writing at what is now Toronto Metropolitan University and later also at the University of Toronto.
I wrote essays, taught, and raised children for over ten years, then focussed on writing books, my first published in 2007, two more in 2014, and the fourth in 2020. I’ve been teaching students how to tell their own stories for nearly thirty years, work I still do and love. My U of T classes are now taught on Zoom, in my kitchen.
And writing has, quite simply, been automatic all my life and remains so, with more essays and the blog on this website always ongoing. My new book, the memoir-in-essays Midlife Solo, recently came out to rave reviews, I’m pleased to say.
It seems I did finally figure out what I was meant to do on this earth. Imagine, I can fulfil my purpose sitting right here, in this chair.