I'm meeting with an editor this morning to try to sell my new book. It's not like the old days. I used to offer a publisher an outline and one or two chapters, get a contract, an advance and a deadline and go and write a book, usually a book a year but one year I wrote three for three different publishers because my second daughter was getting married and I needed money for the wedding. Well, we'll see.
I'm going to include part of my preface that reads like a pitch. See what you think:
My husband died suddenly 42 years ago, coming up 43 as I write, after 20 years of marriage. We had four children, still unfinished, still in the midst of growing up, as I was, in the midst of a life, now drastically, completely and irrevocably changed.
I had been a stay-at-home mother but with a difference. I was a writer and I worked at it, that is, when I didn’t have dinners or birthday parties, or flu or mumps or vacations or special events to cope with. I was a playwright with some claim to the title, having had several plays produced in Winnipeg, Stratford and Toronto, but I had never had to make a living at it. Now I did.
There’s a saying attributed to the Canadian playwright, Bernard Slade, that “you can make a killing in the theatre, but you can’t make a living.” I knew that. What I didn’t know is that you can’t make a living as a writer, either, unless your name is headline-famous. I decided to hang out my shingle as a writer, a journalist if you will, and try to leave enough spare time and energy to keep on writing plays. That way I could still be a stay-at-home mother and look after my challenged, youngest child. Oddly enough, I managed to do this. The best accounts of how I did this are in my book “The Right Track: How to Succeed as a Freelance Writer in Canada” (1998).
My first book grew out of an article on my widowhood that appeared in MacLean’s magazine.[That evolved into a commissioned series for the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association, and then segued into a book, “Beginnings: A Book for Widows” (McClelland & Steward, 1977). It went through several printings each of 4 or 5 editions, plus one edition, two printings in the U.S. (Bantam Books, with financial translations by an American business friend), and a Big-Print edition (Allen & Unwin) in the U.K. It remained in print for 27 years and developed a devoted cult following of absolutely powerless women who lend each other the book.
I was the darling of the insurance industry, cast as a professional widow, young enough to be a prime example of how not to back into widowhood. London Life used to give a copy of the book with every death claim they settled and they had a wailing wall at their head office where they posted their thank–you letters - no wails, only praise and thanks. Most (Protestant) churches kept a copy in their libraries and a lot of funeral associations did too. Whenever and wherever I spoke and no matter the subject (frequently playwriting or whatever my latest book was about), there would inevitably be two women in the audience who came up after to touch (!) me and say (exact words) “You saved my life.”
Now that the book is OOP (Out Of Print) and my friends have reached the age when their husbands are leaving.I buy copies of it from second-hand bookstores via Amazon to help them. It was the bedside table book I needed and couldn’t find, and continues to be for others. The book costs one cent, by the way, but the shipping is over six dollars. A later book, “Life’s Losses” (MacMillan, 1996), also OOP, sells, used paperback, for $37.86 Canadian, and new, for $119.62. You can get that one for yourself, as I can’t afford it.
Now you understand my title for this book: “Endings”. I dedicate it to all the women (mainly) who have grown old with me, plus all the younger ones, men, too, the Boomers who scarcely know how to deal with death, to say nothing of its prerequisite corollary, age.
What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.
T.S.Eliot, Little Gidding
P.S. I was stood up. :-(