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Gwen Tuinman

Novelist Speaker Advocate

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Nova Scotia’s Bessie Hall: Mariner and Heroine

I’ve been reading Women at Sea in the Age of Sail by Donal Baird, a fascinating account of seafaring women from Canada’s east coast in the 1800s. For reasons I didn’t understand at the time, I was drawn to the book at a Halifax book store in 2018.

Gender roles of the Victorian era barred women’s aspirations taking to the sea for the purpose of being part of a ship’s working crew. None the less, a number of women in the 1800s travelled along with their husbands for some semblance of family life rather than be left behind to raise children alone. They often gave birth at sea without the care of doctor or midwife, suffered the lack of female companionship, and endured stormy weather and shipwrecks.

Continue reading “Nova Scotia’s Bessie Hall: Mariner and Heroine”

Writing Memoir

I began work on a new memoir essay over the past winter. Cold dark mornings are conducive to introspection. I’d make my 6 am cup of hot water and lemon, then pad downstairs and start the fireplace. Cozied up on the sofa with an artist pad and an assortment of colourful pens, I’d stare into space and take a deep breath. What did I need unearth and grow from? Continue reading “Writing Memoir”

When True Feelings Slip Out

Most mornings I spend an hour and a half reading nonfiction texts and reflecting. Recently, I’ve been thinking about racist views shared on social media. Coincidentally, in preparation for shaping the imaginary world in my next novel, I’m reading “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life” by Erving Goffman. It’s an older publication, but I’m gleaning inspiration here none the less. Continue reading “When True Feelings Slip Out”

Starting to Write a New Novel

I’ve just finished writing a novel. The research phase began while I was still writing a previous novel.  I purchased books, scoured the internet, interviewed people, and to be sure the setting details were just right, I travelled to the geographic areas where the story takes place.

This novel was written over the course of two years during which the characters came alive.  Although couldn’t see them, I could feel their presence, Continue reading “Starting to Write a New Novel”

One Writer’s Room

Virginia Woolf said that a woman needs a room of her own if she’s to write fiction. I’m privileged to have such a room. It’s a snug space that accommodates a desk and chair, a book shelf, and a sofa table. There’s enough space along the centre of the room to roll out a yoga mat and meditate in front an antique stand made by my great grandfather. Through the window this morning, I see espaliered plum trees growing alongside a sprawling elderberry bush. Continue reading “One Writer’s Room”

Belonging to the Journey

“When you plan a journey, it belongs to you. When you begin a journey, you belong to it.” After reading this African proverb in a friend’s Facebook post, I drew a quick breath and my heart opened up. Words that resonate carry such power.

So often, we engineer plans to orchestrate a project or life event according to our vision how things should go. Sometimes the universe has bigger ideas. Our creation expands beyond what we imagined, and unexpectedly carries us forward on its own energy. We cling, wide-eyed and uncertain, to its sweeping tail. The horizon is obscured by fog and around every corner is a new corner we can’t see around. Continue reading “Belonging to the Journey”

Feeling Nostalgic–Green Tomatoes

The fall season is truly upon us now, and the garden aspect of our urban homestead is winding down. I took a break from writing to harvest the last green tomatoes —  a treat you won’t find at the store. Continue reading “Feeling Nostalgic–Green Tomatoes”

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