Welcome to my Second Acts Series!
Today, we have Canadian author Carol Balawyder musing about the two acts of her writing journey.
I am so grateful to be featured among so many (over 90!) wonderful writers in Joanne Guidoccio’s Second Acts series.
In life one has many second acts but the one which I wish to focus on here is my writing journey.
Five years ago I retired from a successful teaching career with the luck of a pension that allowed me the freedom to write without the financial burden of having a day job. My initial intention was to put my heart and soul into writing crime novels. After all, wasn’t that the purpose for my going back to school to study criminology and later teach Police Tech and Corrections so that I would have credibility as a crime writer?
But then people around me started dying: Father. Mother. Sister. I was stricken with a deep grief that I only knew how to express through writing. They say that one must go through a year of mourning and so when my dear sister, Diana, died I wrote for a year about my pain and sorrow which became my requiem: Mourning Has Broken.
Parallel to this my heart broke in a different way: Man leaves wife for younger woman. Here I was seeking out another partner to fill a hole that partly got filled by writing Getting To Mr. Right in which I created four female characters and their relationships with their fathers.
With the novel self published, I found I still wasn’t finished with these characters and followed up with novella length epilogues for each of them. So far I’ve written Missi and Suzy’s stories.
I will soon publish Felicity’s story (Not By Design).
That still leaves me Campbell which will likely be the end of this series.
But in this first act there were my crime novels lurking at the back of my mind. I have three manuscripts at different stages of the writing process, one which I hope to publish soon.
Pieces of magic.
I am a woman seeking purpose. At this stage of my writing career I feel the need to use my writing to help bring awareness to causes that are dear to me. I have begun to do this with Not By Design where the main character, Felicity Starr, develops Multiple Sclerosis.
Logically, I should be more interested in cures for cancer, particularly blood cancer such as lymphoma, leukemia and thrombocythemia – all cancers that run like river water in my maternal side of the family’s blood stream.
Before I wrote Not By Design I knew nothing about MS. I knew no one who suffered from the disease. But then again as Felicity discovers:
“The thing about having MS is that no one can tell that I am sick. A bizarre illness where you look fine but you’re not fine.”
In the early stages of writing this novel –still at the stage of trying to discover what my book was about I happened to meet (The Universe works its magic) Irene Grazzini, a young physician from Italy who was doing research at Montreal’s Neurological Institute. Because of her own writing we developed a friendship where during her stay in Montreal we met weekly for walks and talked about writing. On one such walk I said that I wanted my character, Felicity, to be struck with an illness. Because Felicity is an artist I wanted her to have a disease which would force her to give up her art (at least as she knows it) and told Irene that she could develop Parkinson’s.
Irene: How old is she?
Irene: Why don’t you give her MS? It’s more common for her age group. It’s a disease that affects coordination.
The other day I was at the library thinking about my second act.
As usual, whenever I go to the library, I check out the new books. And there it is. Very Good Lives by J.K. Rowling (in case the name is unfamiliar, think Harry Potter).
Very Good Lives is Rowling’s commencement address delivered to the class of 2008 at Harvard University. Its subject is on the fringe benefits of failure and the importance of imagination.
I imagine Rowling’s words transitioning me from my Act One to my Act Two as a commencement speech is meant to do. I am especially struck by these lines:
“If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped change. We do not need magic to transform our world; we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”
So this is how I imagine my second act.
My warmest thanks to you, Joanne, for inviting me to be a guest on your inspiring blog.
Where to find Carol…
Carol, Thanks for sharing your back story and hopes/plans for the future. I also enjoyed reading Very Good Lives and like the quote you shared. Best of luck with all your literary endeavors.