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Gwen Tuinman

Novelist

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introspection

On Curiosity, Delight and Writing

“Survival lies in sanity, and sanity lies in paying attention (…) The quality of life is in proportion, always, to the capacity for delight. The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention.”

Something about this quote from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way has taken a hold of me and won’t let go. She’s written it by way of explaining her grandmother’s approach to enduring her husband’s years of careless living. The consequences of his actions inflicted much hardship, yet through it all, Grandmother focused on the positive, indulged her curiosities to stay sane, endure the bumpy ride.

Her approach to life is perfectly suited to a writer’s life. Our pursuits are sometimes put on hold due to life challenges, but for the most part, we push through difficult times and keep writing. To do this requires that we too pay attention and follow our curiosity. We infuse our imaginings with context, much like newly submerged tea leaves spreading their colour inside a cup.

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Notes on Riding a Bird

If I could take a ride on anything in the world, I’d choose a bird. As a child, I loved the story of Thumbelina, a girl—you guessed it—the size of a thumb. She could stand eye to eye with a frog, sail a fallen leaf across a pond and wear buttercups as hats.

The book illustrations were in a style reminiscent of the Victorians. My favourite was of Thumbelina riding a cerulean blue barn swallow with a burnt orange belly and a split tail. Together they soared above farms, church steeples, and villages. I hope an illustrator one day sees Thumbelina as an Indian girl swooping along the Ganges River, an afroed girl rocking Black Girl Magic a mile above her neighbourhood, or a First Nation girl leaning over a wing to touch the tops of soft pines.

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Women Speaking

I once played a dinner-party game with friends. We took turns drawing cards from a deck of conversation starters. What famous person, dead or living, would you like to have dinner with? That sort of thing. The question I drew asked what famous person’s voice would I like to take on for a day.

Thought of certain theatrical artists and actors arose as I combed my mind for candidates. They train their voices for the stage. They learn to annunciate and project. Actors know how to breathe. You’d think breathing would come naturally. I often forget to do it when I’m anxious or overly focused on a task.  A well-meaning new acquaintance once commented unbidden, on the pitch of my voice and the way I spoke from ‘high in my throat’. She claimed that these aspects pointed to mother issues I’d yet to unpack. I gaped at her. Although I’ve written openly about the mother wound, the betrayal of my vocal cords felt like an ambush.  

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