About Me

“I believe increasingly that only the willingness to share private and sometimes painful experience can enable women to create a collective description of the world which will be truly ours.” ¬†Adrienne Rich

I am the granddaughter of Margaret Haslem Kennedy of County Down, Northern Ireland whose daughter, my mother, looks at me bewildered and wonders aloud where I came from. When asked once which of her five daughters pleased her the most, my mother answered that [number four] keeps a nice house. She forgets that in my teens, I was her favourite child. I was so squeaky clean that even my best friends were afraid to tell me that they drank gin, smoked dope, and played touchy-feely games in their boyfriends’ cars. I walked alone to communion every Sunday and feared that God would find me vain as I slept in curlers every night.

When did I, second daughter of Irish Quakers, stop believing in God and self-righteousness? When did I become so mixed up and scrambled, like the eggs my mother served every Sunday morning, that I stopped singing hymns and started stomping my feet to country and western music?

I blame my demise or, I’d prefer to call it, my uprise, on Simone de Beauvoir. In my late teens, I discovered Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter in a friend’s bedroom and read that, even for a conventional middleclass daughter, self-sacrifice is out of style. Sometimes I feel as if the right author drops into my hands at the very moment I need insight. I can’t list all the authors that informed my twenties and early thirties but by forty, when I was sure that I was living an adapted version of my mother’s life, I ran into Jong, Nin, Miller, and Parker.

“Drink, dance, and laugh and lie,” was Parker’s advice.

Baudelaire taught me that there is more fun to be had on a dance floor with a drink in one hand and a poem in the other.

“Be drunk, always
that is our sole concern…
Drunk with what?
With wine, with poetry, or with virtue,
as you please.”

At that time, I was living vicariously through poetry as I had no time for dancing or wine. I was completing a university degree, tending young children, and despairing about my humdrum life. “When one realizes that [her] life is worthless,” Edward Dahlberg, an Amercian writer and critic wrote, “[she] either commits suicide or travels.” I chose the latter. I packed my bags and moved to France with my chldren for a year. Although happier, I still despaired. One particularly bleak afternoon, I picked up a pen and began to cry the blues in writing to a friend. The next day, when I reread what I had written, I was shocked to see that all my scattered thoughts had rearranged themselves into clear-thinking prose. A fluke, I thought. I wrote another letter and then another, and everything I wrote was coherent, even wise. I grew to like myself on paper. All the tension and passion which threatened to dissolve me, found its reasons and resolution on pages of 8 x 10.

When I discovered my true love was writing, I returned to university and studied creative writing. I attended writing workshops. I ghost-wrote for a popular author, published bits and pieces, was short-listed for a literary award, and won a small literary contest. This astonishes me now. I was still keeping house and raising children.

A few years later, when my responsibilities were lighter I stopped writing as a friend was diagnosed with cancer and needed my help. I went to work in her fashion boutique – where I would never have gone under usual circumstances, having no great interest in fashion – and where I learnt I have an eye for order and beauty but, as much as this pleased me, I missed writing. To re-ignite myself, I decided to take a simple university writing course.

Like Alden Nowlan in What Happened When He Went to the Store for Bread the series of events that followed changed my life. I started one writing course, hated it, dropped it, met the director of the writing centre who recommended I take another but suggested I first read A Voice of Her Own: Women and the Journal-Writing Journey which excited me beyond measure and so I enrolled in the author’s course. One was not enough. I took another and another and under her tutelage, I blossomed. (A worn metaphor, I know, but I don’t know how else to describe the extent to which the books, ideas, support, and many kindnesses she offered changed my life.) Moreover, in one of her sessions, I met three women – all incredible authors – with whom I formed a writing group. We continue to support and inspire one another.

The past year has been one of tremendous change. I am now living in France in a sleepy little village where I hope to write to my heart’s content.

” I find that having released myself from the duty to say things I’m not interested in, in a language I resist, I feel free to entertain other people’s voices. Quoting them becomes a pleasure of appreciation rather than the obligatory giving of credit, because when I write in a voice that is not struggling to be heard through the screen of forced language, I no longer feel that it is not I who am speaking, and so, there is more room for what others have said.”
(Jane Tompkins in “Me and My Shadow.”)

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