Following the Light of the Muse

“One writes because one has to create a world in which one can live.” ― Anaïs Nin


I’ve wrestled with words all my life. Songwriting, with it’s potential for immediate gratification by way of the listener, took the fore throughout most of my career, but I’ve also penned stories, essays, plays, poems, and one book-length biography currently collecting dust in my basement. Sometimes I wrote to make a point or to entertain, sometimes to work through an emotion or idea, and sometimes, just so someone, anyone, would pay attention to me (these always wound up being my worst creations).


But the best reason for writing has always been to create a bridge between the reader and myself - a place where time and distance does nothing to alter the sense that someone out there understands. Catharsis, I think they call it. It goes both ways. When I hear that someone has been affected by my writing, everything I experienced that went into that piece of work takes on new meaning. “Everything happens for a reason,” they say. Sometimes just knowing you aren’t alone is all the reason you need.


When Co-vid hit, I thought of all my musician friends – wings clipped, grounded, reduced to prisoners in tiny boxes strumming on my Facebook feed. I know some of them will have spent this year defiantly creating their best work in what amounts to an echo-chamber. But music is made to be shared, and as creative as my friends have been in getting their music out there even with all the restrictions, I know they miss their flesh and blood audience - and not just for the take at the door. They need that flow of energy that comes from the listener. That sense that they aren’t alone.


Somehow I’ve lacked the will to turn to my guitar through these months of social separation. A new muse is calling to me – the written word. She demands long hours sitting in a chair by the window, and fortunately, I have plenty of time for it. A year ago, I set a goal to learn the craft of the personal essay, and to find readership in literary journals. I had nothing better to do.


I have to give editor Heather Kitching at Roots Music Canada some credit for this. After writing a few stories about the Canadian music scene for her site, she gave me a broad hint: “You should write a book,” she said. Well, I’m not ready for that. But I’m working up to it.


This week, I got an offer from the Queens Quarterly Literary Review to publish a piece of memoir, which will appear in their fall issue. Well, Anne of Green Gables went to Queens University. Since she has always been my literary guiding light, the serendipity seems perfect.


First published in 1892, Queens Quarterly is one of Canada’s oldest and most respected literary journals. On it’s pages, authors like W.O. Mitchell, Margaret Lawrence, Margaret Atwood, Carol Sheilds, Joyce Carol Oates, and Sinclair Ross have all appeared. I am awed to be in this company.


The magazine’s mission is thus: “ . . . to offer both the academic and the general reader a lively collection of analysis and reflection, in fields as diverse as international relations, science policy, literary criticism, travel writing, economics, religion, short fiction, and poetry.” I’m not sure that’s what my writing offers, but as Julie Andrews once sang, “I must have done something good.” Thank Christ. Like I said, I’ve had nothing better to do.


I’ve been in the habit of posting drafts of my work on this site, but in the future, anything geared towards publication elsewhere will have to remain in the wings until first publication rights have been exhausted, or I’ve given up on finding another home for my story. However, I don’t believe there’s any law preventing me from sending my work to subscribers on the site via newsletter. I would welcome your input, editorial comments and ideas as I work through my drafts.


My plan is to pair each story I send you with a downloadable MP3 of a song from my recording archives, for your listening pleasure. If the muse of music happens to interrupt my literary flow, you may recieve a new (rough) demo or two. I’m hoping you might find it entertaining to be a part of my creative journey and I would be honoured to have your company, so sign up.


In support of your own creative journey, I’m posting a link below to Elizabeth Gilbert’s wonderful podcast “Magic Lessons” – where the international best-selling memoirist explores routes to inspiration with aspiring artists. Highly recommended.


You’ll also find a link to Queen’s Quarterly, where for only 20$ you can purchase a yearly subscription to this treasury of Canadian thought and creativity.


However this letter finds you, I hope that your own muse is guiding you through this period of isolation with the shining light of imagination. Sometimes the space of absence can call into sharp relief that which is most important: connection, comprehension, and love. And if you like, please like and share. I mean that in both literal and metaphorical terms!


ELIZABETH GILBERT / MAGIC LESSONS


QUEEN’S QUARTERLY


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LESLIE ALEXANDER

WRITER, MUSICIAN & NURSE.

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