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5.07.2011

To my mom


Janet Lunn

The time seems appropriate to talk a bit about my own mom. My relationship with my mother was not always an easy one, but it’s not my place on Mother’s Day to retrace the troubles we’ve seen. Instead, I’ll tell the tale of how she made a writer of me.

My mom is popular Canadian childrens’ author, Janet Lunn.(janetlunn.com) She grew up in New England, moved to Canada to raise her family and, by serendipity, I now live 30 miles from her childhood home in New England. She taught me how to write both literally and in the professional sense. She started me reading and writing at age four. When I was 12 and she was working on her second novel, I spent weekend afternoons in her study lying in a huge basket of unfolded laundry while she sat at her desk reading different versions of sentences and paragraphs asking which one I preferred and why. I don’t know why she picked me, or even if she gave all the other 4 sibs the same treatment, but trying one different word to see how it changed the tone of phrase or character taught me so much about words and writing. When the galleys came back from the publisher she read them aloud to us all and I tried to hear where I’d put my dime’s worth in.

At nineteen I wrote my first novel. A sprawling adolescent space opera about the far future of mankind. I asked her to read it. She told me it stunk. Not in those words but she was bluntly critical. She offered to help me work on it “if I was serious”. I declined. Three years later I came back and we worked every day one on one for several months on creative writing and if you’d say having to take daily criticism from you mother isn’t easy - you’re understating. Her pencil was sharp and her cutting was severe. A couple of years later we did it again, only this time on a second novel I was writing. She was cruel, unyielding and methodical. I ate it up. Day after day gave her rewritten chapters and pages hoping the pencil would be kinder to me. Fat chance. Two more years passed before I returned, this time with a completed novel looking for her opinion. She had only one thing to say. “I think you can be a writer,” she said with a smile, and I was walking on air.

That was 25 years ago and I’ve written enough words since to bury Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and John Creasy combined. Only a modest few of them have made into publication but I’m still working and I love writing - a gift my mother gave me.

The other biggest gift my mom has given me is to accept that love is a confusing and complex thing that takes a lot of work and sweat to last. I’ve loved her as a child, hated her as an teen, and tolerated her through my hardest times only to come back around to love. She is a complex and flawed human being like every one of us, not just a mom, and we have managed to forge a good relationship between two adults, not just a mother and son. For 20 years now we’ve been friends with no regrets about the past.

It’s been a helluva ride, Mom. I love you.