The Stories Behind the Story

Of course, there is always a story behind every story. Bit by bit, the details of what precipitated my memoir, Ready to Come About, are getting out.

Earlier this month, the historic waterfront bookstore, Nautical Mind, posted an article I wrote called “I Grew … We Grew Together“. This article discussed an event that, in part, led to my bizarre decision to sail the Atlantic Ocean with my husband, David. It also described just a little bit the many challenges we had on this improbable adventure on the high seas. Perhaps what I like most about this article is the title, because it sums up what I feel to my core, that this experience was life-altering in ways David and I could never have imagined possible. Thank you Nautical Mind Bookstore!

Just this last Tuesday, Dundurn Press published an article I wrote called “Writing is a Lot Like Appliqué“. The following is from the prologue to my book:

This was David’s dream, not mine. Far from it. I loved family and friends, our dog, our home, my job as an occupational therapist. Appliqué was my idea of a thrill. I didn’t have an adventure-seeking bone in my body.

I have had a life-long interest in fibre-arts. In this article, I talk about how, much to my surprise, I discovered that the process of writing is, in lots of ways, similar to that of creating an appliqué. Coincidentally, the cover of Ready to Come About is based on one of my appliqués! I am thrilled! Thank you, Dundurn Press!

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Then the Guelph Mercury Tribune published an opinion piece with the following headline:

Guelph author Sue Williams felt compelled to tell life story

Jeremy Luke Hill talks to ‘Ready to Come About’ author about her true life adventure and personal journey

In this piece Jeremy Luke Hill, Publisher of Gordon Hill Press, recaps an interview he had with me regarding the writing of my memoir. Here is the link to the interview. Thank you so much, Jeremy, for your interest in my book and for the support of the Vocamus Writer’s Community!

If you are interested in these “stories behind the story”, you can access each of the mentioned articles by simply clicking on the links provided in this post.

 

 

 

Still Flying High!

There are some positive life events that simply will never be forgotten. Your first romantic kiss. (David claims I kissed him first). Your wedding day. Birth of your children. The arrival of grandchildren.

For ocean sailors, that first landfall.

For writers, an acceptance following so many rejections.

For me, another such event was the night of the book launch of my memoir, Ready to Come About.

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This was held last Thursday night, June 6th, at the eBar of Guelph’s iconic bookstore, The Bookshelf. I was blown away by the size of the crowd that came out to wish me well, so many that I was unable to have time meet with everyone.

I am deeply grateful to all who attended the event and want to say “ A BIG THANK YOU”. It was you who made the night successful: family, old friends from years gone by, new friends, neighbours, Waupooian sailors (if there is such a word), my childhood best friend, my OT colleagues and classmates, my roommate from university, fellow writers, writing instructors and mentors, and people I met for the very first time.

Also, a special thanks to Randy Litchfield who did such a great introduction, to the eBar staff that worked hard to make the night a success, and to our son John and daughter-in-law Emilyn, with Nathan Smith, for the music … and the performance of Nathan’s song, “Set Sail”.

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Days later, I am still flying high.

Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart!

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Writing is a Lot Like Appliqué

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Okay. So… full disclosure: Yes, I was drawn to the field of occupational therapy because of my deep-seated beliefs in its noble goals of promoting uniqueness and meaning and diversity. But I also LOVE crafts. And I was told, mistakenly, that crafts were central to the profession.

Although they once had been, by the time I was studying OT, the profession was hell-bent on distancing itself from the basket-weaving image. But truth be told, I believed then, and still very much do, that there is huge therapeutic value in doing crafts. There, I said it!

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My life-long love affair with crafts, particularly appliqué, started when I was seven years old. My aunt, Kathy, gave me this small wall hanging that she had made with scraps of material and bits of embroidery floss. I loved that aunt and I cherished that little cloth picture. Something about its colours, its simplicity, was just so beautiful. And it had emotion. This little work of art has hung on a wall in my various homes ever since.

Inspired by my aunt’s creative genius, over the years I learned embroidery, crewel, and quilting techniques, and eventually began designing my own appliqués, striving for the same effect.

After my improbable year-long sailing of the North Atlantic, I made the appliqué of our sailboat, Inia, being tossed about in monstrous seas, mid-ocean, mid-storm, in the middle of the night, to convey what I had experienced; more importantly, how I had felt.

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Then I decided to write a book about the adventure. And I discovered that, to my surprise, the writing process and the appliqué process are similar. There is the starting with a general idea, a theme, the drawing of bold strokes, the adding of focal points here and there, the taking away extraneous clutter, and the finishing touches— always thinking; what’s missing, what’s enough, what’s too much, until it feels ‘emotionally accurate’, until it feels ‘just right’.

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I am over the moon to say, my debut book, Ready to Come About, will be released next month. What’s more, Laura Boyle, artistic director at Dundurn Press, used my sailing appliqué to design the book’s cover. It’s an emotional match made in heaven. It’s perfect on every level. I couldn’t be happier.

Thank you, Laura!!

 

Port Hope Presentation and Book Signing

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“In the fall of 1996, we bought a single-masted, fin-keeled Tanzer 26 and christened it after David’s grandfather’s boat. The Killarney II marked the end of cottage rentals and the start of marina-to-marina sailing on Lake Ontario and the Bay of Quinte, which carried on through the boys’ teenage years.”

That is a quote from my memoir, Ready to Come About, being published by Dundurn Press.

Our Lake Ontario sailing was limited to brief jaunts during David’s two weeks off. It was anything but “extreme sailing” and, in no way prepared either of us for what lay ahead. A decade or so later we found ourselves alone in a 37 foot boat circumnavigating the North Atlantic Ocean.

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A Lake Ontario stopover on the Killarney II was along the wall in the Port Hope Municipal Marina, where we experienced the quiet, the small town friendliness, the fishermen coming and going, the lovely beach, the unexpected arrival of Shad fly season and the infamous Port Hope storm surge! That night will be etched in our memories forever!

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Now, almost 21 years later, my husband and I are returning to Port Hope, this time by car.

The Port Hope Public Library, in partnership with Furby House Books, has invited David and me to do a presentation of our year-long adventure on the high seas, what precipitated the voyage, and what we learned by it.

There will be an audio/visual presentation, readings from my memoir, Ready to Come About, and a Q&A. Books will be available for sale and signing.

If you are in the area, I hope you will be able to join us for this event.

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Friday June 14, 2019 at 1:00 p.m.

Port Hope Library
31 Queen St.
Port Hope, ON
L1A 2Y8

 

Occupational Therapy and My Memoir: they actually have a connection!

My grandparents, while in their early sixties, the age I am now, were diagnosed with severe progressive neurological disorders; my grandfather had ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, my grandmother, an aggressive form of Parkinson’s. They lived in a modest stone house, downtown Hamilton, Ontario. My mom and dad were their main, almost only, source of support.

While my parents cut the lawn, shopped, and banked for them, I followed my grandmother as she shuffled around the kitchen making a Finnish staple, “Pulla”. And I watched my grandfather put classical music on their Hi Fi, usually Sibelius, then hook himself up to a tube connected to his liquid “lunch-in-a-bag” hanging from the chandelier in the centre of the living room. He had lost the ability to swallow.

Even though I was only around eight at the time, their struggles made me ache. But I also marveled at their ability to still find joy in their shrinking worlds. And their desire to hold onto what independence they had, shaped me, profoundly and forever.

In high school I was told about the profession of occupational therapy, and that, at its core were: the view that there are lots of ways to live a life; the belief that autonomy and self-determination is what makes us whole; and the assertion that we have the right to take risks.  In that instant, I knew I was meant to be an OT!

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My career spanned several decades, throughout which I embraced those core OT values – that is, as a professional, with my clients. However, as a parent of three sons, sometimes I wasn’t so sure.

Ready to Come About, being released by Dundurn Press this May, is the story of my improbable year on the North Atlantic, and my personal journey within, through which the mom in me ultimately became convinced there is no more precious gift than the liberty to chart one’s own course, and risk is a good thing… sometimes, at least.

Given the OT subtext of Ready to Come About, I emailed OT Extraordinaire, Sue Baptiste, to ask if she would be an advance reader. Her answer was an immediate “yes”, and her praise, swift and high.

To my delight, here is what she had to say:

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Recently I joined Sue for a wonderful lunch in Hamilton.

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Thank you so much, Sue Baptiste!

 

In Praise of Barbara Kyle

If you are an aspiring writer, I’d like to introduce you to my remarkable friend, Barbara Kyle. Following a long acting career in film, television and stage productions, Barbara became an internationally acclaimed author, known for her historical fiction series, the Thornleigh Saga, and several suspense novels, the latest being Entrapped, winner of the IndieBrag Gold Medallion, currently being developed into a four part television series. More recently, she has become a sought-after lecturer on the creative writing process and mentor to writers around the world.

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After I had completed the first draft of the manuscript for my memoir, Ready to Come About, and was beginning to tackle the daunting task of editing it, I had the good fortune of landing in one of Barbara’s lectures on ‘the novel’ at the University of Guelph. It was immediately obvious to me that she is an expert on all things writing, and a passionate teacher of it. Through a subsequent seminar by her I gained the practical tools I needed to approach this editing stage, objectively, systematically, even enjoyably. The rewriting process that had felt like pure torture at the start, became a labour of love. Over the course of the next fifteen months, I sat at my kitchen table, cutting words here and slashing whole scenes there, and my story gradually became tighter, brighter, and ultimately almost 40,000 words lighter!

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I am thrilled to say I now have a publishing contract for Ready to Come About with Dundurn Press. What’s more, developmental editor, Allison Hirst, commented that the story flows at a good pace without leaving anything out, and it was one of the cleanest manuscripts she has seen in a while.

In addition to Barbara’s in-class lectures, she runs online courses, and has written an inspirational, information-packed book on the creative writing process: Page-Turner: Your Path to Writing a Novel that Publishers Want and Readers Buy. This book sits prominently on my shelf of writing resources.

So, if you’re working towards the goal of getting published, no matter what stage you’re at in the process, Barbara can help. Check out her website. Better yet, contact her. You’ll be glad you did!

 

Kingston – A fitting place for a book signing

Kingston Ontario is an historic Canadian city, but also a place of significance for me.

In May of 2007, Kingston was the last familiar port of call for Inia before heading into the mighty St. Lawrence River on a sailing journey that would ultimately cover 11,000 nautical miles, two transatlantic crossings, and 14 ocean passages with a total of 86 days at sea, all in the space of a year.

Inia was tied up to the wall in Portsmouth Harbour with the limestone walls of Kingston Penitentiary, then an active prison, in the background.

Inia in Kingston

Kingston also marked the beginning of my often challenging, ultimately rewarding 37 year professional journey as an occupational therapist.

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Autonomy, self-determination, and the right to live at risk, values central to both journeys, are explored in my memoir, Ready to Come About.

So it somehow feels fitting that I will be signing copies of Ready to Come About in the heart of Kingston’s downtown.

Join me at the Novel Idea Bookstore, 156 Princess Street, Kingston, on Father’s Day, June 16th between 1 and 4 p.m.

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Book signing in Picton

I am pleased that one of my first book signing events will be at the Naval Marine Archive – The Canadian Collection, in downtown Picton, located in beautiful Prince Edward County on the shores of Lake Ontario.

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We were first made aware of the Naval Marine Archive when our boat, Inia, was at Waupoos Marina. Our good friend and dock neighbour, Craig Archibald, told us that this is a “must see” place for anyone into boating. He was right! I was blown away with the incredible collection of books, art, models and displays. It is a truly unique place that you should not miss if you are in the Picton area.

I will be there on Saturday June 15, 2019, from 1 to 3 p.m. with copies of my memoir, Ready To Come About.

The address is 205 Picton Main St, Picton, ON K0K 2T0 in the heart of downtown.

For those from the County, just to let you know, there is local content in the book. Anyone heard of Green Island?

Book launch date is set!

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I am so excited to announce the book launch for my memoir, Ready to Come About, being published by Dundurn Press.

Come and join David and me in the celebration! We will have refreshments, live music and readings (yikes!). The book will be on sale, and there will be a cash bar.

Details:

Thursday June 6, 2019 – six to eight p.m.
The eBar at the Bookshelf
37 Quebec Street 2nd floor, Guelph

Here is a little blurb about the book:

It wasn’t a midlife crisis. She wasn’t running from the law. She didn’t have an adventure-seeking bone in her body. In the wake of a perfect storm of personal events, Sue suddenly became convinced that, in her sons’ best interest, she had to get out of their way. And her husband, David, needed to follow his dream to cross an ocean. So she’d go too.

Ready to Come About, Sue’s debut book, is a compelling memoir about her improbable adventure on the high seas, and her profound journey within, through which she grew to believe there is no more precious gift than the liberty to chart one’s own course, and that risk is a good thing… sometimes, at least.

Early Praise for Ready to Come About:

I love Sue’s book, a startling, swashbuckling sea adventure, and all the hilarious and terrifying details of that, combined with the very personal story of lost connections and deep love. It is a remarkable story — heroic and inspiring.
Miriam Toews, author of Women Talking

A thrilling adventure, a profound love story, and a testament of self-discovery that will make you cheer. It is not only an empowering memoir, but also a very fine book.
Barbara Kyle, author of A Traitor’s Daughter

Hope to see you at the event! If you need any more information, such as where to stay in Guelph, please contact me below: