Memoir-Writing, Teaching Writing

Birgit Ohm’s Book – One Way Ticket

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.

Blog Photo - Birgit signs book1

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. 

Blog photo - Birgit books

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.)

Blog Photo - Birgit Book launch photo and name

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.

Blog Photo - Birgit signs book closeup

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. 

Blog Photo - Birgit and Isabel

It’s all been moving to witness. And Birgit’s book launch on Sunday was one of the highlights of this journey.

Blog Photo - Birgit Book launch - gathering 1

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.

Blog Photo - Birgit's Book on Amazon

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. 

Blog Photo - Birgit Book luanch gathering 2

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.

Blog Photo - Birgit signs book 3

Congrats, Birgit!

 

A Good Home, Poetry

The One and Only Cynthia Jobin

Ever lost a blogger friend?

Someone you never met in person but whose posts touched your heart and mind?

Or perhaps that person’s writing made you sit up and say: “Wow. I wish I could write like that!”

Such a  person was Cynthia Jobin.  Her unique voice came through in her marvellous poetry and her responses to comments on her blog. I “heard” it in the email notes she sent me, the reviews of my books that she wrote.

But mostly, in her poems.

Blog Photo - Cynthia Jobin Photo

Modern poets usually intimidate me because half the time I don’t know what they’re trying to say — making me suspect that I must be deeply superficial. 

But Cynthia wrote poetry like no-one else I’d ever read.  Deep and moving, yes. But witty, surprising, and funny at times too. You felt you were sharing the joke, not on the outside looking in.

CONVERSATION WITH A CREEK

I will slap your face
I said
and the water said
go right ahead.

I’ll beat you with a stick
I said
and the water said
go right ahead.

I will stomp on you
I said
and the water said
go right ahead.

I’ll cut you with my knife
I said
and the water said
go right ahead.

I will nail you in a box
I said
and the water said
go right ahead

as it glittered
in a zillion squints
of dancing glints
along its pebbly bed.

I may be daft
but that was when
I think I heard
the water laugh.

 

Cynthia died from cancer days after posting one final poem on December 6, 2016. 

An American, Cynthia had entrusted her poems to UK poet John Looker. A new book of her poetry has been published by Bennison Books. 

Blog Photo - Book cover of cynthia Jobin book Song of Paper

Amazon.com(https://amzn.to/2A8Pq3d)

Amazon UK(https://amzn.to/2NFTF9M)

In the introduction, John Looker writes about Cynthia’s “unobtrusive intellect at work”. It was one of her special gifts:  she was undeniably brilliant, but not show-offy about it. Her poetry is accessible, even to me.

“The poems in this collection show that variety of theme and equally her range of tone; she would write just for fun as well as with serious intent.

“When reading a new poem from Cynthia Jobin I have always had that comfortable feeling of being in good hands: we know that the verses are going to be impeccably crafted but we can’t predict what path they will take.”

Thank you, John and Bennison Books.

Brava, Cynthia.