I would like to introduce to you one of my favorite Newfoundland writers, Donna Morrissey. If you haven’t read one of her 5 titles yet then I highly recommend you check her out. I had the honor of meeting her this past week and it was a moment in time that I soon will not forget. But before we get to the ramblings of the evening itself, allow me to provide you with the back story of how I fell in love with Ms. Morrissey’s writing.
Two years ago my family and I moved from Nova Scotia to Ontario to be closer to my dad who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. If anyone knows anything about this type of the C word then you know that beating it is a rare thing. Needless to say we were in for a year of broken hearts and making the best out of a rotten situation.
Anyone who knew my father knows his love for reading was second to nothing else when it came to his favorite thing to do. My dad introduced me to The Thorn Birds and Gone with the Wind long before I should have been reading those titles. But dad knew I was hungry for words and what I was reading at school did not feed my soul as adequately has it should. He loved asking me what part I was reading and when I would tell him he would always entice me by saying something like, “Wait til you get a little further in, something real good is about to happen.”
That year in Ontario was a blessing for my family. I got to spend my dad’s last days with him and we created some lasting memories through all the aching tears. One of those memories for me was when dad gave me Kit’s Law, Donna Morrissey’s first novel. He had already read it and told me that he was sure I would love it as much as he did. And he was right. To call it a page turner would be an understatement. I got completely lost in the book as it took me back to Newfoundland and allowed me to connect with my dad again in a place where cancer wouldn’t get the better of us. It was the only book I read that year other than Dr. Dyer’s The Power of Intention.
While reading Kit’s Law, dad and I did our usual thing where he would ask me what part I was reading and we would talk about it and he would tell me to wait until such and such happened. It was our own mini father/daughter book club and I cherished those moments more than any words can describe.
I began reading Ms. Morrissey’s book Sylvanus Now a couple of months ago as homework for myself while writing my first novel, Sisters of Avalon. My story is nothing like that of Adelaide and Sylvanus but I wanted to emerse myself into reading a book that captured the Newfoundland culture in such a way that it would transform me back there even if I was not physically there myself. I knew that by keeping Donna by my side I would have a trusted companion to go to when I needed a taste of the Newfoundland air that I so greatly miss. I often tell friends that Donna is who I want to be when I grow up. We have similar backgrounds; we both grew up in out port Newfoundland, we both now live in Nova Scotia, we have both lost a parent to cancer and she published her first novel at 40 and I am getting pretty close to that same colourful number myself.
Last week when I saw the marquee outside the Catholic school near the university where I work, I took it as a sign from God, I mean how could I not. Donna Morrissey, January 16, 7-8:30. It called my name and when I mentioned to my husband that she was coming and that tickets were 25 bucks he bought me the ticket without hesitation as a gift. He knew I should go as well.
This particular reading was being put on by the Alumni of Scared Heart and I kind of felt like a gate crasher sitting there with all the Nuns and past students from the school. The irony of it all was not lost on me as a heavy part of my book revolves around the Catholic Church, well my second book is a little heavy, this first one is more Catholic light, it’s the third one that might really upset the Pope. But I think it’s safe to say that his excellency will most likely not read my trilogy.
As I walked through the great doors of the school a statue of Jesus welcomed me with open arms. I swear I could hear his voice in my head saying, “Now missy be careful what you put in dat book of yours, you don’t want it to come back to bite you in the …” And yes Jesus had a Newfoundland accent in my head but what can I say, he is all-encompassing.
I respectfully made my way past the towering shadow of the Man Himself and made my way to the room where Donna would be reading. I grabbed a glass of vino and dashed to the very front row where no one sat but me. My first interaction with my favorite author came when she looked at me and wondered why no one else sat in the front row. I told one lady, jokingly of course, that it was just for me.
When Donna got started her comfort level with this room full of strangers was inspiring. I am sure she had done this sort of thing a hundred times over by now and it showed. She commanded that room like the Captain himself. I was hooked for the night and could have listened to her read the entire volume of The Deception of Livvy Higgs. I will save that one for my summer reading list for sure.
When Ms. Morrissey read, her itty-bitty body spewed out a voice that was thunderous. Her characters leapt off the page and came into the room with us. Her larger than life personality came roaring out and there would be no stopping her for the night. When she dropped the F bomb a couple of times I could see from the corner of my eye that a couple of ladies in the audience got a little tight-lipped. Oh well, that was nothing compared to how the room went up when she talked about losing her erection. Almost died I did, I had tears rolling down my face. She was fierce and she got away with it in spades because she is a very lovable person.
When she told the story of her mother and her battle with breast cancer the tears started again. I am not sure how she got through that story without bawling herself but she did. Her strength was transcending.
When the reading was over and the questions were answered I grabbed my 15 seconds or so with her to tell her how much her work has inspired me. She graciously autographed a book for a friend of mine who couldn’t make it and one of the other audience members offered to take a picture of us for me. I jumped at the photo opportunity and with wine soaked lips I told Ms. Morrissey that she was my soul sister. After I said that she put her hand on my head and tasselled my hair. Donna Morrissey fondled my head, and I liked it!
A couple of pictures later, then out the door I ran, I didn’t want the nuns to find out that I had crashed their party. I also had to catch my bus back to Sackville or risk having to wait another hour before catching the next one. When I got home I couldn’t get to sleep. My head raced with the beautiful language that was still spinning in the writing cockles of my mind. What a thrill it was for me to be in the company of Ms. Morrissey. If you ever get the opportunity to go see her yourself I am telling you now, you will not be disappointed.
See you next week.