So after I launching two kids and a book in two years back in the early 2000s, I went through a bit of publishing dry spell. Then this year, with two books coming out within six months of each other, those in-the-know told me I should start developing my “online presence.”
Unfortunately, turns out coming up with a “presence” really sucks. My fiction is never remotely autobiographical. I have no marketable “persona” other than ones that have been blogged to death ― working mom, harried volunteer, opinionated artist. Other than the stories I tell, there is nothing particularly remarkable about me or my life.
I ended up calling my blog “Write in the Middle,” with the tag line: I’ve lived in Winnipeg my whole life. It’s an unassuming, middle-of-the-continent kind of place that sometimes yearns for greatness — which is why it suits me, I guess.
It kind of made sense given that I’m a mid-career, mid-life writer who lives in a place that as far as many are concerned, is neither here nor there. But probably the key word is yearning.
Pretty much all my stories involve a pervasive, sometimes senseless yearning.
In Your Constant Star, my YA novel that came out this past spring, the three young protagonists collide like electrons, attracting and repelling each other as each seeks something they can’t really name.
Faye, adopted from China by a couple from Winnipeg, wants to understand what may never be understood ― why is she so pissed at her doting parents? What makes her long lost friend, Bev, tick? How can her birth country be so brutal and so beautiful at the same time? Bev, unexpectedly pregnant and determined to give her offspring what she doesn’t have, just wants to feel something ― to give a shit for once in her life. As for Mannie, Bev’s self-sabotaging baby-daddy and hero is in own mind, he just wants to come to the rescue for once in his life.
The interconnected Winnipeg stories in my other new book — Boy Lost in Wild, launched this fall — similarly explores our common ability to yearn. No matter what their age or circumstances ― from a sixteen-year old Iranian “sandwich artist” who defies her secular parents by wearing a head scarf, to a Ukrainian octogenarian who remembers the 1919 General Strike ― these Winnipeggers are united by their search to figure out who they are, and where they belong.
No matter who we are, to feel alive, is to yearn. So I write about yearning, in all its forms.
And hopefully, my stories are also about mercy. For yearning means we all walk around with a nagging sense of the unattainable and unrealized, of who we want to be and who we really are.
For most us, if we’re lucky, we come to understand that being neither here nor there is a pretty good place to be.