Category Archives: Book launch

Only Child on betrayal, trust and irresponsibility

Only Child holds copy of her debut short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point

The more I go through life the more I find my level of trust goes down. Sometimes it’s the people closest to you who let you down. I had another dose of this in several forms this week connected to the launch of my mystery short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point. Right now I’d like to insert that the hit did not come from a family member – they were great – 10 of them came to my book launch. (If you want more info on how the book launch went, stay tuned for this Thursday’s blog post on my other blog connected to Beyond the Tripping Point and fiction writing at http://www.sharonacrawfordauthor.com

You’d think I’d know better by now considering what happened with my Dad’s cancer when I was 10. Here’s a brief excerpt from my memoir (yes, still looking for an agent or a publisher directly for it):

...bad news spreads like locusts, especially inaccurate stories told to me by my mother and which comfort me, only to be crushed by the Bully. Soon after Dad returns home and to work, the Bully chases me out of the schoolyard.

“Your Dad has cancer.” She taunts me between huffs and puffs. She waddles onto the sidewalk and tries to catch up to me.

“No, it was TB. You’re lying.” I glance at her over my shoulder, then my feet pick up the pace.

“Nah, your parents lied. My Mom said your Dad has cancer.”

She’s lying. She’s got to be lying. She seems closer to my back, so I detour into Holy Cross Church for solace.

“My mother said it was TB. My mother doesn’t lie. Please God.” I kneel on the wood-hard kneelers and hang onto the pew in front of me. “Please God. He had TB. My mother said so.”

My pleading does not carve consolation into my heart. Instead, betrayal is born, and it grows up as offshoots that make no sense to anyone at the time. (Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2012 Sharon A. Crawford)

The betrayal/letdown, etc. from friends does not hit the above scale, but it still hurts. As expected, there were a few people invited to the book launch who said they would come and didn’t. Some had very legitimate reasons that came up, one very sad, with a death in the family. I can only sympathize with her and the friends who were sick. But some of the excuses, not reasons, I can only shake my head at. One got invited out to lunch with her son –well, why not just bring him to the launch after lunch? Especially as another friend and writing colleague came all the way down from Sudbury and brought his daughter, her boyfriend and her friend (those three are in Toronto). The more the merrier.

Then there is the betrayal for want of a better word. An insert here. I like to help my friends and had arranged for some car pooling between two of them, and talked to both about it and thought everything was clear. Not according to the driver. She phoned on launch day and chided me, saying I should have told her. I had, but apologized for any misunderstanding. They did go together to the book launch. But the phone call drove me over my tripping point; I was in shock, and went through the launch on automatic pilot. Sure, the launch went okay, but a few things I would have done differently if I had been 100 per cent present.

Overnight my shock changed to anger, not at her phoning – misunderstandings happen. It was the timing of her phone call. She should have waited until the next day.

I learned another lesson. Someone once said that you come into this world alone and exit it alone.

Looks like you also go through it alone.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Aloneness, Anger, Betrayal, Beyond the Tripping Point, Book launch, Family and Friends, Life learning, Memoir content, Only child memoir, Sharon A. Crawford, Trust

Only Child Remembers Mom

Only Child's Mother

My mom’s birthday is November 9. If she was still alive she would be 104. But she died at 63. Too young to die. Of course, I’m going to say that because I’m heading into that age territory later this year, so…

But the age and the date have got me thinking more about Mom. A psychic friend once told me she could sense her spirit’s presence in my house. And I have felt it, not inside the house I grew up in when I re-visited it, but afterwards at the nearby park where my friends and I used to play. I remember Mom’s weird  sense of honesty. In my memoir I have a chapter called “Mom’s Ten Rules of Honesty.” The chapter begins with

“Eat your dessert or the police will come and get you,” Mom says. She points to the front door and nods her head like I better do it or else the Black Maria will roll up the driveway and scoop me up into its dark interior.

I stare down at my bowl. Stewed huckleberries and apples. Black smashed berries and their dark juice seep through the apples. Yuck. Smothering the stew in vanilla ice cream can’t hide the taste of huckleberries, a taste that sits in the middle between sweet and bitter. But Mom insists on growing these strange berries in her garden.

“Sharon, did you hear me?” Mom gets up from the kitchen table, scurries into the living room and stares out the front window. “Oh, I can see a police car coming up the street; it’s turning into the driveway.”

I start to shovel the mixture down my throat. Then I jump up and take my turn at the living room window. Down the street, Mare’s father cuts his front lawn; Mrs. Armstrong sits on her front veranda, with her collie dog at her feet, and a couple of finned cars cruise up the road towards the dead-end street. Our driveway at 139 lolls in its usual empty state. When I finally get the nerve to look straight down at the veranda outside the window, all I see are the two Muskoka chairs – vacant.

Such was my mother’s twist of the truth. My legacy is rich with the fallout from my mother’s Rules of Honesty. She had a skewed sense of right and wrong. According to Mom, I had to tell it all as it actually happened, but she could tailor her honesty according to what she thought suitable for little ears to hear or what she wanted little people to do. Or she could stretch the truth by throwing in a little imagination. I compare it to a ruler, each inch (or centimetre, depending on your generation) from one to 10 being the equivalent of one of Mom’s Rules of Honesty to live life. The higher the rule or ruler number doesn’t necessarily mean the more significant the rule.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford).

To this day a strong sense of honesty, integrity and even justice stays with me. It is important that everyone is treated fairly and that covers the good and bad of each person. I’ve been taken to task for going after someone who has treated me wrongly or unfairly but I believe that if someone messes up they need to be held responsible. Often this means I confront the person – and that’s what I get the flak for. However, I also do the flip side of the coin and try to show my gratitude for someone who has helped me or is doing something good. An example of the latter is one of the members of my East End Writers’ Group who decided to help me with the publicity for our 10th anniversary celebration and did. Now, she is having a book launch for her memoir and I am doing my part to promote it and work it out so I can get to it (and the other book launch a few hours earlier the same day).

In case you are interested her name is Susan Siddeley and her book Home First: a memoir in voices is being launched Sunday, November 13, 4.30 p.m. at at The Flying Beaver Pubaret, 488 Parliament Street,  (just north of Carlton St. and south of Aberdeen). in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. For more information on Susan and the wonderful writers’ retreats she holds in Chile check out her blog at http://losparronales.blogspot.com/.

Do I follow my ethical criteria all of the time? No. Was my mother perfect? No. But as I write near the end of this same chapter in my memoir…

Mother’s honesty didn’t just encompass telling the truth; it covered people’s basic integrity and how they dealt with the screw-ups, bad times and bad luck that always pop up in life. Nothing is certain except taxes and death, but the trick is to wind yourself through the days, months and years until you die – without falling into the muddy waters.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford).

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Book launch, Death and Dying, East End Writers' Group, Home first memoir, Honesty, Integrity, Life learning, Mother dying, Only child, Only child memoir, Responsibility, Sharon Crawford, Susan Siddeley

Only Child looks at city changes

Streetcar and highrise in Toronto circa 2005

A  recent comment by mystery writer Maureen Jennings (Murdock Mysteries)  juxtaposed with yesterday’s book launch by outgoing Toronto mayor David Miller got me thinking. How much change should cities go through? How much of the past should they keep?

Anyone like me who grew up in a city or town during the gray ages (195os, 1960s) can probably remember “how it was” back then compared to “how it is” right now. Do we like the changes we see? Was the past really better? What do you think?

Speaking personally, I liked the more intimate closeness of a smaller Toronto but I also like the multi-cultural aspect of its now diverse population. When I was growing up, Mom and I would get around on the Toronto transit system. Before the subway was built, that meant long rides on buses and streetcars and freezing our tushes while waiting for them in winter. (I still do that now.) Mom and I used to go shopping on the Danforth part of Toronto – then populated by greengrocers and butchers and those dime stores called Kresge’s, Woolworth’s and Metropolitan. It was awesome for a little girl but sometimes intimidating…

I look up Pape but the bus still isn’t visible at the turn in the road. When it finally arrives, we climb on board and ride the rest of the short trip to one block north of the Danforth. The bus loops into a dead-ended Lipton St. with a two-foot high stonewall at the end…

…Like today, the Danforth proliferated with green grocers selling fresh vegetables and fruit and a butcher’s shop, although unlike today, the owners of the former were Italian, not Asian. Mom would buy a basket of peaches or plums.

But the butcher’s shop captures my curiosity. Mom opens the door to a clanging bell; we step in, and my feet feel as if they’re traipsing through Grandpa Charlie’s barn. I look down at…

“Sawdust,” Mom says. “That’s so the butcher can sweep the floors easier.”

I stare down at the floor, but don’t see any pieces of meat there. As Mom grabs a number and waits her turn I look up at the shoulder-high counters. Behind glass barriers lie slabs of meat in various hues of red and pink. I recognize only bacon, as I’ve seen its striped pink and white fat curling in the fry pan for Sunday breakfasts at home. My nostrils flinch at an unfamiliar odour mixed in with the sawdust, but this is not like the smell of the chickens bawking around in Grandpa’s chicken room. This smell is more animal, more immediate and ripe, and I’m not sure that I like it.

“A pound of medium ground,” Mom says.

The butcher, wearing a blood-stained apron that one day was probably white, picks up stringy medium-red worms. I want to gag.

“For hamburger,” the butcher says, with a big grin. I frown. I need to get out now.

Of course, I eat hamburgers, as a kid, as a teenager, as an adult, including at McDonalds. They always have to be cooked, almost burned. When I am 50, I give up eating red meat for five years because it bothers my digestive system and I give up ground beef forever. And I never get over the squeamishness of handling raw meat.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home Part 1 – Deconstruct,  copyright 2010 Sharon Crawford)

Some things don’t change completely – they just transform. The new “dime stores” are the Dollar and Dollar plus stores, thanks to inflation. Most are small and cramped but if you look hard enough you can find some bargains, but usually over a dollar. Butchers no longer sprinkle sawdust on their shop floors. The subway now runs along the Danforth and the particular strip of the Danforth I go to is called Greektown, but has many different ethnic restaurants. That is one benefit of a multi-cultural city, but then I often lead with my stomach cravings.

So what did Maureen Jennings say? It was at the Bloody Words conference in June where we were talking about the TV series (Murdock Mysteries) based on her Murdock mystery books. She said  the show is taped in various southern Ontario cities and towns, not just the series’ and books’ setting of Toronto. Why? Because Toronto is such a mixture of old and new buildings that it is hard to get a scene with just old buildings.

And maybe Maureen hit the cusp of the answer to my earlier question. Perhaps it is better to combine old with new, but at the same time being careful what is knocked down and what is put up. Sometimes upgrading old buildings for new uses is a better answer.

Last evening while on the bus, I thought these newer buses with their wide street-level exits that can be lowered and places for wheelchairs and scooters are better for everybody. I mean, I no longer fall out the back door when leaving – something I used to do on the old buses with their steep narrow stairs and the door closing on my back.

And no, I wasn’t drunk – just klutzy.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Book launch, Cities, Cities and towns, Murdock Mysteries, Only child, Only child memoir, Public Transportation, Streetscapes, The Danforth, Toronto

Only child has two stories published in anthology

Two stories published in this CAA Toronto branch antholog July 2010

At first glance my two stories just published in an anthology have little to do with the memoir I’m writing except the theme – death. The death of my parents looms in my memoir as that is part of its focus – growing up an only child in the 50s and 60s when your dad is dying of cancer and when he’s gone, it’s mom’s turn. In Gathered Streams, the Canadian Authors Association Toronto branch  anthology hot off the press from Hidden Brook Press  there is something connected to death in each of my stories. As I said when reading at the Book Launch July 18 at Toronto’s Bar Italia, “Both my stories are about death. One is actually in a cemetery. I chose to read from the more serious one.”

And that’s where my stories steer somewhat away from the memoir’s theme. The title alone of the short story tells you that – “My Brother’s Keeper.” The story is about a twenty-something woman, Claire, dealing with her older brother, Danny’s suicide. I’m not going to go into a big discourse, this post, on suicide, except to say that a cousin committed suicide and I attempted suicide over 25 years ago. However, after someone from a distress centre helped bring me back,  I decided to train for and volunteer for that telephone distress centre, which I did for five and a half years. These facts put together gave me the story idea but it is not about me or my cousin. What I find interesting was getting into the head of a woman who isn’t an only child and who has a very dysfunctional mother. I don’t consider that my late mother was dysfunctional – but she certainly was an eccentric character. So was my dad and maybe more so.

My other story in the anthology is a personal essay – a humourous look at how I felt taking pictures in the dead of winter (any pun intended) in a cemetery. And this one is all true. I have the photos to prove it. But again it shows how things can evolve from a certain premise. I went to the cemetery with the intention of photographing unusual gravestones. I did some of that but also got mesmorized by the trees in the cemetery. And I had to overcome my feelings of  “I shouldn’t be here doing this; it’s disrespectful” as well as deal with deep snow (it was February) hardened by an ice storm a few days before.

So where does all this hook in with being an only child? I think it shows that as an only child you have to develop some resilence; you have to move yourself forward to do things, often without support from others, certainly no siblings or in my case as an adult – no parents. Not all only children do this.  However, having siblings doesn’t guarantee support or even making and keeping many friends. I know one woman with several siblings who isn’t really close to any of them – at least from what she’s told me. She also hasn’t developed a network of friends and other support in her life, whereas I have – not overnight, but over the years.

And that may be the bottom line – what you have inside you helps determine how you fare in this life. But that’s fodder for a future post.

Go check out Gathered Streams at http://www.canauthorstoronto.org/anthology.html

Cheers.

Sharon

Onlychildwites

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Filed under Book launch, Death and Dying, Hereditary, Literary Readings, Only child, Only child memoir, Suicide