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If a tree falls in the forest ... should it be used to make the paper for my novel?

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I’ve been working on a novel for the past year and a half, a process which has made doing any kind of creative writing here in this space more and more difficult. I’ve kept up with my book-to-movie blog at Chapter1-Take1.com but that’s a very different kind of writing. When giving out factual information, I don’t require inspiration. 

Now I’ve finished the book and I’ve begun reaching out, searching for an agent. An easy sentence to write, a horrifying, intimidating, paralyzing process to undertake. The first chapter, one I was happy with before, now strikes me as sophomoric, tedious, garbage and any number of cliche criticisms. Is it? Or is that my fear talking? I don’t know. I’m in a place where I can’t imagine my novel is worth the paper it’s written on—about 1/3 of your typical paper-suitable tree. Which is why I still can’t find the energy to get back to memoir pieces. My writing brain needs a break. 

So in lieu of a writerly post, I’m posting photos instead. If you follow me on In…

Bon Voyage: Our TransAtlantic Crossing


Over on Chapter1-Take1, I shared a French-dubbed trailer for the movie Brooklyn starring Saoirse Ronan. In the film, Ronan’s character, Eilis, emigrates from Ireland onboard an ocean liner in the 1950’s. That’s how they rolled in those days. Er, that’s how we rolled in those days. 



We came to North America on an ocean liner too, sailing across the Atlantic Ocean from Liverpool on the R.M.S. Sylvania in the middle of winter. It was during the last days of trans-Atlantic ocean crossings; the Sylvania was the final ship built by the Cunard Line before the whole world took to the skies, leaving ocean liners to the pleasure seekers and cruise goers. Unlike Brooklyn’s Eilis, who landed at Ellis Island in New York, we landed in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It was February 1960 and I was five. We’d already moved from England, where my brother and I were born, to Libya, then in ’57 to Turkey where my sister was born, and back to Libya. And now we were leaving the shores of Tripoli where winter days went down to the low 50’s, for Canada. If I thought I knew what cold was, I didn’t. 

That’s me wearing the scarf and the glasses with my leg hooked on the railing, with my mother and my little sister, Nancy, between us. My father would have taken the picture while my brother was likely off exploring the ship.Taking a look at my lightweight garb, the photo must have been taken in the early days of the ship’s passage, before it got really cold. 

I still have an old metal steamer trunk, the iconic Cunard line stickers on it, and the photo above, but few real memories from the trip. Except for one small snippet stuck in my head, like a stray earring lost in the lining of an old suitcase, useless without the other earring; a memory of my brother giving me a tour of what he’d discovered, opening a  door to reveal the empty movie theater in a deserted hallway we weren’t supposed to be in. Just our luck, he told me, the cinema was closed for the winter crossings. 


I texted my brother, confirming the name of the ship we sailed on. He told me Cormac McCarthy sailed on the Sylvania too, except he was going the opposite direction. McCarthy was taking his fellowship money from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and going to Ireland to rediscover his roots. McCarthy met his second wife, a dancer on the ship, on his 1965 crossing. A dancer? I don’t think there were dancers on our trip. Like the theater, were the dancers shut down for the season? 

I wonder what else my brother knows about our voyage.

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