My husband and I had the pleasure of attending a special book launch recently.
It was special because the author, Birgit Ohms, is one of my writing students.
Birgit’s book, One Way Ticket, begins when she is a teenager, leaving her family and homeland to study art abroad. Soon after, she meets her future husband, and embarks on a life of adventure, luxury — and trouble.
We follow her from Europe to the USA and Canada, as she tries to reconcile her husband’s extravagant gestures and her quiet panic of knowing something is terribly wrong. (I won’t reveal more here.)
A talented fashion artist and illustrator, Birgit wrote and illustrated a children’s book in earlier years, but this is her first book for adults. Also interesting: English is not her first language, and she is physically disabled. Birgit uses a wheelchair and her hands don’t work properly, but she writes on her iPad with a commitment and discipline that many writers lack. She inspires me.
I started coaching writers at BOAA — the Bowmanville Older Adults Association (for people 55 and older) a few years ago, and have learned that if a person can tell you a tale or a good joke, they can be taught to write.
But one of the most interesting things about this work is the privilege of observing how each person’s writing develops. Of the writers I’ve coached, everyone has a different style, a different approach to storytelling.
Memoir-writing requires all the skills needed to write a good book. But, in the right context, memoir-writing is also a means of reflection, healing and growth for the author.
It’s all been moving to witness. And Birgit’s book launch on Sunday was one of the highlights of this journey.
Birgit told me on Sunday that when she started my course, she would not have believed she’d be at her own book launch, signing her own book, 18 months later. But it took me only a short while to realize that she had the trifecta of attributes needed to write a book.
She reveals the world around her, and the world inside her, with an unfiltered honesty and impressive attention to the telling details. As a result, she draws you into a scene so skillfully, you feel you’re right there. Second, Birgit listens to criticism and uses it to improve her work. And third, she writes unceasingly, always turning in successive chapters on deadline.
And now we celebrate Birgit’s triumph. All of us who have taken this journey with her – her family, friends, co-writers at BOAA and I, the teacher — are overjoyed for her.