Like Mother like … Son?

My mother just published her first piece of professional writing at the age of 82. The article, entitled "The Fun in Fungi," was given a two-page spread in the March 2012 issue of More of Our Canada magazine.

My mother started collecting ceramic mushrooms more than a quarter century ago. The pieces, life-size, lifelike reproductions, were made in Lantz, Nova Scotia. Originally designed for museums, word spread of their artistry and uniqueness, and collectors sought them out. My mother is one of those who now take pride and pleasure in their collections. She owns more than one hundred.

As far as publishing goes, I suppose you could say my mother is a late bloomer, but it's probably more accurate to say she has a unique sense of timing. I remind myself that this is the same woman who returned from a trip to New Mexico some years ago to announce she'd just taken a ride across five counties in a hot air balloon. Apparently, it was something she'd wanted to do for years. While I'm happy to have writing in common with my mother, I doubt I will add ballooning to the equation.

When she showed me her article, my mother told me how proud she was of her writing skills. It was a good, straightforward telling of her love of collecting, along with a short history of the ceramic pieces. In fact, I was as much impressed with the writing as the fact that she'd got it published in one of her favourite magazines.

Still, the writer in me wanted to know more. Was there anything she'd do differently? I asked, knowing my own fondness for textual revisions. She thought this over a moment then said, yes, in fact there was something she would have done differently: "I’d send them a different picture of me."

"Why?" I wondered, thinking the photo an accurate portrait of her standing in front of her display case. She hesitated. "Well, I’d send them something a little younger," she said.

Ah, but of course. There was that family resemblance again.

Jeffrey Round is a Toronto novelist and filmmaker. His most recent book, Lake On The Mountain, was published by Dundurn Books in January. Visit: www.jeffreyround.com.

When SONY Pictures Comes Calling...

Recently I got a bit of exciting news. One morning, early, I found a nondescript email sitting in my in-box. It was so nondescript that I almost overlooked it. It turned out to be from a producer's assistant at SONY Pictures. He was inquiring about the film rights to my new novel, Lake On The Mountain, published last month by Dundurn Press.

My first inclination was to think it a joke. It was too soon after publication for anyone even to have heard of it, I thought, but on re-reading the note it seemed genuine enough. Besides, it's a good book with a solid storyline. Why should it be so hard to believe that someone might want to turn it into a film?

At that point, unlike others who might have jumped up and down, then shouted from the rafters and quickly Facebooked all three-thousand of their closest friends, I did what any good WASP would do: I went into Shut Down Mode.

First things first, I told myself. I began to fold all the clothes lying scattered around my bedroom. (If you've seen my bedroom -- not that many of you have -- you'll know that entails a lot of work.) Then, once I'd obsessively folded and refolded everything, I went downstairs and washed my dishes till they squeaked. All that in order not to think about what I’d just read.

For me, Shut Down Mode occurs when emotions threaten to overwhelm. It "doesn’t do" to get too happy, too sad, too overjoyed, too…well, too anything. Think of the Queen of England. Have you ever heard her let out a really good belly laugh? Not bloody likely, though I’m sure she's dying to. It's not that I don't feel things. Or that Liz doesn't either, but we both find it necessary not to be seen to be Out of Control. Disaster could strike. And besides, we might look ridiculous.

I have a friend who once told me I needed to learn to celebrate my victories, small and large. "Because frankly," said he, with a tone that was all gloom and doom, "as a writer you probably won’t see too many of them." A good pessimist, he knew whereof he spoke.

I just shrugged. I didn't understand this "celebrate" mentality.

"You just go right on to the next thing as though nothing happened," he said. "Why not stop and enjoy it?"

"But what's the point of celebrating something that's already over?" said I, a good realist.

Of course, the truth is that stopping to celebrate would mean admitting I had an emotional attachment to the outcome, something both Sherlock Holmes and I won't easily admit to, if we admit to it at all. "Cry at the birth, Rejoice at the death," A.J.M. Smith advises with poetic whimsy in The Wisdom of Old Jellyroll. When it's over, it's over; let it go.

It would also be an admission that maybe nothing will come of this email inquiry from SONY. And I would have no control over that, either. Somewhere in my subconscious, I must have decided it's better not to get excited, lest that excitement later prove to have been misguided, like a beauty queen stripped of her crown for louche behaviour. If you don't care about the potential outcome, you can't be robbed of it when it turns out to be nothing.

I admit it's a pretty grim outlook, but it feels safe. And, as a result, my laundry gets done really well, when I bother to do it. Just in case, however, I've made one small concession, one celebratory gesture to acknowledge this episode. I have allowed myself, if only in my mind, to start casting the film. "Build it and they will come," right? Or in this case, the film corollary: "Cast it and they will shoot."

In the meantime, now that my clothes are folded into a reasonable semblance of order, I can get back to my writing -- the one place where I really am in control.

Jeffrey Round is a Toronto novelist and filmmaker. His most recent book, Lake On The Mountain, was published by Dundurn Books in January. Visit: www.jeffreyround.com.

Sunny California

On my way to sunny California, where it was 6 degrees Celsius recently. What's up with that? No matter. I'm on my way there to brainstorm a new dramatic series, not lie on the beach.


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