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Writer to watch

Writer to watch: Laurie Lewis

GG-winner Diane Schoemperlen wrote a winter tale for us. She also recommended Laurie Lewis as a writer to watch. Read what Laurie has to say about what inspires her to write.

"When we hear the phrase 'new and emerging writers,' we tend to think automatically of young people just starting their writing careers. But Laurie Lewis was 80 years old when she published her first book, Little Comrades. The book is the excellent and engaging memoir of growing up with Communist parents. Laurie's second volume of memoirs will be published next year. Laurie is an indefatigable and inspiring woman who never lets her age be a barrier to accomplishing great things."

- Diane Schoemperlen

A new writer at 81
By Laurie Lewis

I'm both a new writer and an old writer, actually. New to writing, old in years. Tillie Olsen said all women who manage to write are survivors. I guess I'm one of them now, at 81.
I come from a family where everyone writes, or wrote (my mother, my brother, my husband, my daughter, my son-in-law). I was the one who wasn't a writer, although I worked in publishing for 30 years. Oh, I wrote advertising and promotional material, but in my family that didn't count. That wasn't real writing. And real writing was what I couldn't do, and certainly didn't have time for at the end of a working day.

Eventually I retired and moved away from the publishing world in the big city. For a few years I took the train to Toronto every week and began to experience that calm, that quiet, of having no one to care for but myself. Three magical hours, two days a week, courtesy of VIA Rail. I began to listen to the people around me and to the words that started to unravel in my mind. I began to soak up the stories told by my seat companions, or overheard in waiting rooms. And I couldn't wait to get to my office, where I booted up my little Mac and spent half a day unspooling the threads of those stories - around the edges of the work I was being employed to do. 

I called our house in Kingston "The Home of the Scribbling Geezers." My mother settled into a granny flat adjoining the main part of the house. She wrote every morning on her little Macintosh computer, until she became ill. My dysfunctional husband worked in his basement office on a clunky old DOS, until he became ill. Both of them finished their projects and published them successfully before they became completely unable to cope. I became a champion soup-maker and general caregiver, as many women do. Another ten years trickled through that hourglass of our lives.

Now I, so far, am a survivor, with my first book published successfully this year, and the next one already accepted for publication. I have the very mixed blessing of living alone, with no one to care for but myself. But I seem to be happy, here with my feet up in the calm and undemanding sunshine, scribbling away.


Laurie Lewis is a Fellow of the Graphic Designers of Canada and is editor and art director of Vista, the magazine of the Seniors Association in Kingston, Ontario. Her work has been published in Contemporary Verse, Queen's Feminist Review, The Ottawa Citizen and in several anthologies. Her first memoir, Little Comrades, was published in 2011 by Porcupine's Quill, and was reviewed in the Globe and Mail by Elisabeth Harvor, who calls it a "remarkable memoir ... grand and electric."

Photo credit / Diane Schoemperlen: J
oanne Page

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