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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Thursday, September 22, 2005


The gorgeous weather of September in Vancouver: it's right out my office window. Glowing leaves stir in the cool air; a silver whirligig spins in a plant-pot on the brick patio.

I have kept journals for most of my life. The earliest ones I have are from when I was five years old, before I could write. Mom likes to tell the story of how I drove her nearly insane by pestering her for how to spell words. She tried to get me into school a year before schedule because I was so keen to learn how to read and write. As a January baby, I would have been only a month younger than the youngest kids allowed in. Indeed, my friend Gregory across the road was born on 31 December, just over three weeks before me, and he was sent off to school while I remained in kindergarten. The school wouldn't bend the rules for me, so I did year after year of kindergarten in church basements. If kindergartens granted degrees, I would have a PhD.

Here is page 1 of the journal (actually just a pocket-sized spiral-bound notepad) I started in the fall of grade 1, age 6, in 1965:

I have seen
Many Trees
hwath Leevs
Foln oFF.
Do you ReeMe-
mbr The
Time We e
Sowe The
Crash Up.

Need a translation?

I have seen many trees with leaves fallen off. Do you remember the time we saw the crash-up?

I think I wrote these pages to my mother. I don't remember now what the crash-up was that I was referring to.

My next journal was a bound "five-year diary" that I received, I think, in Christmas 1967. It had space for five entries on each page. I made a few entries in early 1968, then lapsed, and picked it up again for a few more in 1969.

I started another journal in August 1971, age 12, in a red spiral-bound notebook. But that lasted only a few days.

I tried again, I think as a New Year's resolution, on 1 January 1974, just before my 15th birthday. I used to make my entry in bed at night, with the black Duotang folder propped on my knees. That journal lasted into March before I left off. I started that journal with a lengthy dream description in point-form. Then this short entry for New Year's Day:

Today was dull, dull, dull! I slept till 11:00, after which I spent most of the day watching a Charlie Chaplin film festival on TV. Brad phoned in afternoon, saying he couldn't be here today to start the chess tourney with Gordon. After threats of forfeit, etc., it was agreed to be started tomorrow.

Another year, another resolution: I launched a journal again on 1 January 1975, and this one took. I have kept journals more or less continuously since then.

You're reading the latest one right now.

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