aodtoper.gifNancy Graham

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 That I have always been inclined to write has long been my bulwark against the blues. As a young girl, I remember waking early to the blessed quiet of Sunday mornings, trying to write short stories in the style of Nancy Drew or Trixie Beldon mysteries. But fiction did not come easy, for my head was blocked by a reality I could not express, only sought to escape.

 Aside from amassing a travel trunk full of journals since the age of sixteen, most of my writing has been in the form of poetry and literary non-fiction for rather obscure audiences. Committing to seriously writing a book was something I thought I would do in that hypothetical time of life known as retirement. But in 1994, at the age of 32, life was rapidly closing in on me in the form of near debilitating depression and alcohol abuse. On March 14th of that year, I experienced what I refer to as my “frozen moment”; an uncanny moment of supreme clarity that somehow edged through the turmoil and chaos within. In absolute despair about my reason for living, my therapist at that time encouraged me to take a leap of faith, to embrace the creative fire within, and do what I would do if I had only six months to live. Ultimately, what was one of the riskiest decisions of my life was one of the wisest. Although it entailed resigning from a well-paid government job, writing this book truly saved my life at that time. Furthermore, I had the infinitely good fortune of having a partner to support me financially during that time. Although our relationship was in tatters, it was a last ditch effort before separation; to be sure, the decision would either make or break us. Make no mistake: the decision to write this book and not bring in an income for the next 5 years, was the hardest work I had ever done up until then.

 In many ways, I feel as if I have traveled a lifetime since beginning this book in March 1994. During the years that followed, in between cycles of depression and drinking, I somehow managed to create a manuscript worthy of the esteemed June Callwood’s attention. It was to June, that destiny guided me, back in early 1997, by virtue of the North York Public Library’s Writer-in-Residence Program. It was ever so humbling to meet her that blustery March day, a woman, journalist, writer and social activist of unparalleled integrity and humanism. Her faith, inspiration and encouragement over the years have truly been remarkable. Her belief that words, which would much prefer silence, deserved to be written kept me going. Six years later, she was right: books do take much longer than babies!

“And you may ask yourself –
well – how did I get here?
 And you may ask yourself –
how do I work this?

And you may ask yourself
Am I right?...Am I wrong?
And you may tell yourself

(Talking Heads, 1984 – ‘Once in a Lifetime’)

 Those lyrics kept me company through many a drunken evening, and on many a wretched morning through my mid-teens and into my late 30s…The last line taunted loudest the night Afraid of the day was launched in May 2003

So…”how did I get here?”

 In July 2002, the universe conspired that I should meet Althea Prince, Managing Editor of Women’s Press. Within a few short weeks, after years of the most encouraging of rejection letters from other publishers, I was offered a contract with the Press, and Althea became my self-described mid-wife; a luckier author, there has never been. Goodness knows I have Publisher Jack Wayne to thank for his trust in Althea’s judgement: the proof is in the pudding of the photocopy I made and framed of the advance-on-royalties cheque he saw fit to present me with.

 Fast forward to this day, nine months later, when the cream of Production Editors / Doula Rebecca Conolly called to tell me the stork had arrived in her office. Incredible but true: nine years after conception, a 41 year old woman gave birth to her first book.

 But quite unlike a proud parent, I chose not to call friends or family about the newborn. I chose not to shake up and pop the cork race-car-driver-like on a champagne bottle I had been saving for the occasion. Instead, I treated myself to Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake (in which, incidentally, one of the characters has a depressed mother), and began reading it in that precious still-light time of dusk on my deck. While the evening flickers chirped, I was aware of the surreal peace that engulfed me. And you know what? In many ways, I felt even luckier than Margaret Atwood, who probably seldom has chance to bask in such solitude (gone are the days when she can read her own book anonymously on the subway – which I admit to doing!).

And so, “how do I work this?”

 Thanks to sales and marketing wizards / labor and delivery team Renee Knapp, Heather Bruder and Cheryl Steele and my web woman Carol Garry, the solitude will be short-lived, as this book is destined to “have legs” that will be further propelled by two very cool guys, publicists Clifton Joseph and Dalton Higgins. I was only slightly exaggerating when I told them “I’m gay, but nobody really knows it.” This prompted the question of whether or not I want them to promote my book in the gay media. If so, was I prepared to be regarded as a gay writer as opposed to a writer who happens to be gay? On one hand, I appreciated their attention to that not so small matter. On the other, this book is not about me as much as it is a way to reach and validate other people's experiences with the insidiousness of depression and her mad sisters chaos and addiction. Furthermore, for years, my depression and substance abuse issues were directly related to my sexuality. Hence, why would I want to shy away from the "gay press"? Similarly, I have volunteered to have my mug shot on the side of a bus for the Jean Tweed Centre (a la United Way Campaigns) if it would help put a face to addiction (such as it is - the face I mean!). Every time Community Development Director Nanci Harris calls, I brace myself for hearing her announce that the bus has arrived…

“Am I right? Am I wrong?”

 Most importantly, I wrote this book to help break through the crippling silence that still exists around mental illness.

"We can easily forgive a child who is afraid
of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when
adults are afraid of the light."


Page last updated
06/18/10 01:44 AM