Cake and Other Things

My first and only book, Dirty Bird, was published ten years ago. To write that feels savagely wrong, how could so much time have passed between its publication and now? It compels me to try to justify my last ten years. Or what I accomplished, given I write each day. I wake early, brew coffee, open my laptop and play with words for a couple hours, trying to arrange them in resonant order to tell meaningful stories that will one day connect with my mythical readers. If I can sneak in some writing time later in the day or evening, during the “golden hour” when the light is at its softest, I’m at my happiest.   

In ten years I have gained some weight around the middle, ate enough cake, spent a decade with my daughter and son, ate more cake, travelled, said farewell to my stepdad, my dog, ran thousands of kilometres, welcomed a new dog, sold a house, built a house, hit some tennis and golf balls, baked, cooked, woke one day to more grey hair than I can count, thrived in a happy marriage, and languished in a global pandemic and have come out changed on the other side. But in ten years I have not published a book. 

I have finished five manuscripts, all of them fraught with missteps and/or hard lessons learned. They span genres, from prose fiction to mystery to young adult. The have fine titles, don’t you agree? 

1. NYC: The Pattersons (mystery)

2. Young Love (young adult)

3. Eating Beignets in Jackson Square (young adult)

4. Footballhead (adult fiction)

5. Greatness (adult fiction)

The point of all this is not to justify my existence. Simply to acknowledge that a lot of life came at me in a decade (as it comes at all of us). I have written well enough from a granular level, or line by line, but that is not enough to create a great book. More specifically, it’s easy to craft one or a hundred fine sentences, but it’s a colossal effort, or an amalgamation of skill and hard work and dedication and family support and great advice and dumb luck and stubbornness and resilience, to stitch 6300 fine sentences into one cohesive, propulsive, thought-provoking narrative. 

For those of you who ask periodically, I am still writing. I write every day, no different than eating or drinking water, it sustains me. 

I have finished a manuscript recently, and it has passed a few important checkpoints and now I am hopeful it will soon find a home with a publisher. The manuscript is written as well as the others, but it’s the first story I have found in a while that has resonated with others as much as it has with me.  

The manuscript is called Greatness, and it’s about greatness and one man’s dogged pursuit to achieve tennis success on that sport’s greatest stages. I was a competitive junior tennis player and I still play the game, so I guess I am writing what I know, or what I want to know, or what I wish I’d known (because it follows the life of a professional tennis player). I don’t know why but I never thought I could combine my obsession with sports and words, as if they didn’t go together. Like fish sauce and icing sugar. In truth, writing about tennis, or being able to channel my love of a game I played as a kid into a meaningful pursuit in adulthood, has been cathartic, helping me feel like I am still a part of the sport I gave so much of my youth to. 

I have two prominent fears in life. Never again publishing a book. That is my greatest fear, because I know what kind of writer I was ten years ago, and I can only hope that the logic of the Gladwellian theory of 10,000 hours leading to mastery has faintly rubbed off on me. 

My second is a deep fear of social media. My gawd it petrifies me, the more time I am away from it, fearing it like shark-infested waters, the greater my fear grows. I so prefer the life in front of me. Buying a fine cake, slicing into that fine cake, feeling the sugar dissolve against the roof of my mouth and my tongue as I taste that fine cake. I prefer that to seeing somebody’s picture of a fine cake. But I know that the two do not have to be mutually exclusive. One can feed the other. And I know social media has helped bridge our many pandemic isolations. Like windows into our personal worlds, it helps us see the good and bad and all shades of life in-between. 

Here is to overcoming fears.

Here is to goals, and working doggedly towards finding greatness in whatever we pursue.  

Here is to love and companionship and acceptance, in whatever magnificent form you experience it, because is that not the point of life?

And here is to the world’s greatest cake.

(Last piece of 2021’s frozen white cake with almond frosting from the Olde Village Bakery in North Rustico, PEI)

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