“I think of a writer as a river: you reflect what passes before you.”
- Natalia Ginzburg
I’ve been wondering what I’ll talk about at my book launch in October. Actually, I’ve mostly been wondering how I’ll keep my supper down before the book launch, but that’s another matter for another blog post… Anyway, I had a glimmer of an idea this morning while chatting electronically with a friend who lives in a faraway land. She knows a guy whose surname happens to be the same as my great-grandmother’s, who happened to have come from the same faraway land as the guy. Of course there’s a story to everything, and I’m hard-pressed not to bore people with my little tales, so with my usual thrill in the sharing of such things I tapped away as follows:
“You know, my great-grandmother, who hailed from England, was a P., hmm… It’s a great story, how she came to meet my great-grandfather: He was on his way to Capetown as ship’s doctor, and she was travelling there to work at a nursing post (this was during the Boer War). They met onboard and fell in love and never left the ship – the captain married them and they turned around and sailed to Nova Scotia, and later, on to the Dutch West Indies where my grandmother and her siblings were born. Chapter 5 of my novella is built around snippets of their story.”
I’ve often mined my own experiences to plump up my writing, and in the case of Chapter 5 I’ve taken bits and pieces of family lore my father used to tell me – “Yes, you’ve told me that one, Dad. A hundred times,” teenaged eyes rolling - and preserved them in fiction (and I do love the image of a piece of story floating in a jar of fiction).
My point: Family stories are important connections to our past. They give us an understanding of our present, and broaden our sense of self. It’s entirely likely that other descendents will have variations on the version of the story I have inherited, but that’s part of the mystique. And in the case of my friend’s pal, the possibility of discovering long-lost rellies in a faraway land is thrilling.
It needs work, but I think I’m onto something. I’ve got four months to whittle away at it… plenty of time to foster my pre-launch jitters.