About fifteen years ago in my pre-author life, I attended a creative writing workshop held at Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa, Ontario. At the time, I was an educator who’d never put stories to paper. Even so, I recall my enthusiasm for the chance to learn how artwork could launch students’ writing ideas.
The instructor led myself and the other teachers through collaborative writing exercises for which a series of grand oil paintings served as inspiration. To close out the day, we watched a short film produced by our instructor as an introduction to a live theatre piece. We were to watch and then write whatever came to mind.
Black and white clips rolled across the screen—a small town main street, 1960s automobiles parked at 45-degree angles, and a teenage couple in the first blushes of love leaning against a parked car. The video, so reminiscent of places I’d experienced, brought to life a vivid story.
I wrote these journal entries by a disgruntled teenage boy. The words were so immediate, as if he’d been waiting for me to tell his side of things.
Note to Self February 12, 1981 I hate this crap town. I’m getting the hell out of here, and I’m taking T with me. There’s nothing for us here. We’re done with high school in June, and we’ll be cutting out on grad. I’ll never come back to this one-horse town. For what? A job at a diner? A hardware store? End up like the old man . . . miserable piss tank. Peace out.
Note to Self March 3, 1981 I missed most of school this week. Too bad, eh? No calculus for me. Boohoo. It’s a sweet gig. T comes at 7:30 each morning to read to me. She sneaks over at lunch hour to slip between the sheets. The old man is at Tony’s Pub, working on a beer. He doesn’t even know I’ve got a girl. God, I love the smell of her hair.
Note to Self June 4, 1981 Regrets. Haven’t written for a while. I’ve been feeling like shit. Tired all the time. Doctor Killjoy told me this would happen. I had to bus it all the way to North Bay for that bit of info. Graduation? Leaving this dead-end town? Well, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Hell. I guess I will need to ponder that realm soon. T keeps calling.
Note to Self June 7, 1981 Tell Tammy.
When I read aloud that day, people leaned in. I heard an intake of air and a drawn-out mild curse word as someone grasped the boy’s fate. That’s the moment, I knew—I was a writer.
These journal entries sparked my novel, The Last Hoffman. They appear exactly as written on that day when the universe delivered them to me. I’m grateful everyday that I listened.
(PS Thanks for stopping by. Click here to join my bimonthly newsletter and receive Chapter One of The Last Hoffman.)
Sacrifice, betrayal, family secrets! A widower and young mother struggle to overcome their tragic pasts in a dying mill town. The Last Hoffman is the story of a quiet man who is tested and discovers his courage. It will restore your belief in second chances.
“For all the novel features characters that are alone, it is a story driven by human connections (…) With vivid descriptions, natural dialogue and in-depth characterization, Tuinman compels us to look beyond the surface. The ending is triumphant.” –Gail Murray, Historical Novel Society