It is a myth that a novelist works entirely alone. While it is true that in visioning and authoring a book, certain hours must be solo, if anything, the process leads to greater human connection.
As I wrote The Shining Fragments, again and again the journey of knowing the story’s central character, Joseph Conlon, and his journey, brought me into conversations with others passionate in their fields. Joseph’s quest led to my own search: to find the resources and experts who could help me “see” life as it was in a late 19th-century Canadian city; and also, to form relationships with those who could help me see into the land of my character’s birth, in fact, the birthplace of many of my own ancestors.
The vision for Joseph’s story came to me on two sides of an ocean. First it found me where I lived, in the bustling 21st-century city of Toronto, and then later in the fields of County Armagh, Northern Ireland.
Writing a first novel is a two-fold act of creation. On one level, there is the creation of the novel itself; on another, that of the writer. One needs helpers on both levels. Thus, the Acknowledgements section in The Shining Fragments is long, and for good reason. I have had many of them.
Owning that it is possible to be a writer while also serving in the world in other ways became a mission in and of itself. For those of us fundamentally coded to serve as both the Helper and the Artist in a single lifetime, it is important to find our kin.
For that reason, and many others, I hold my recent picture with Wayson Choy dear. Best-selling author of The Jade Peony and Paper Shadows: A Chinatown Childhood, Wayson came to the launch of The Shining Fragments in Toronto earlier this month. A magical moment. He was a light bearer for this project when the book was still a manuscript, as was Mary Jo Morris who, for several years, was the story’s only reader. She made suggestions and gave me encouragement at times when feeling the assuredness of a master teacher was the very thing my soul longed for. Later, another master teacher, Mary Morrissey, graced my life by giving me a skillset for navigating the road to publication – and for that matter, any road with obstacles.
Humility comes with the practice of rising up, falling down, and rising up again – as does joy, growth, and so much more.
We are not meant to go it alone.
In the end, while a book is wonderful to read and behold, it also serves as an emblem of another story entirely, one of relationships and interconnectedness. For both unfolding stories, I remain grateful.