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More Replies from Ed Griffin
Do you have a job besides writing?
I’m retired now at age 75 (but I think I should get a full time job so I could relax a little from retirement.) My life now is teaching writing in the community, in a drug and alcohol rehab facility and in prison. And writing myself.
If not, what did you do before you began to write?
In the last twenty years, I’ve focused on teaching. For years, I taught English to new immigrants to Canada and I worked in a pretrial centre, helping men get their high school equivalent.
What other careers would you like to have?
In my next life, I want to be….
A writer from my youth until my old age
An astronomer and a teacher of astronomy
A lawyer who fights for the rights of inmates
A man who changes the prison system to true rehabilitation
And a tulip… They are very beautiful and I wouldn’t mind coming back as one.
When did your writing career begin?
Again a section from my book, Once a Priest. Chapter Nineteen -- "Writer, Writer".
In 1983, our greenhouse business was prospering, but something was wrong. My life was planting seeds, growing tiny plants and selling vegetables and garden plants in the spring. I was becoming what I grew – a cabbage or maybe a petunia. My mind was dying and I knew it.
I started playing around with writing. After supper every night I would go out to my ‘office,’ a little added-on room between our house and the garage. It had windows to the front and back and a space heater that was adequate for spring and fall, but not winter. I would sit down at the typewriter and follow my creative muse. Whole worlds opened to me. I wrote about the area behind my childhood garage where I practiced pitching and dreamed of reaching the major leagues. I wrote a short story about a group of prisoners on an island. I wrote a poem about getting along with the Russians. Hours passed. Suddenly, as I wrote, an alarm would ring in the house. The alarm meant I hadn’t turned the heat on in the greenhouses. I had to shut the door on the vibrant world that grew on the paper in front of me and hurry to the greenhouses to start the furnaces.
An hour later I’d be back at the typewriter. Type a sentence, stop, look at it, realize it wasn’t quite true and then search deeper. Layers of middle-aged half-truths disappeared, the comfortable maxims I had surrounded myself with – “Business is good. Don’t make any changes” and “Relax. You’re getting older.” The fires of my youth burned again – civil rights, world peace, a place in the sun for every person. The idealism that had lain dormant sparked back into life.
Isaiah was on scene again, reminding me of the words I read in the seminary:
I have appointed you
to open the eyes of the blind,
to free captives from prison
and those who live in darkness from the dungeon. (Chapter 42, 6)
As I wrote, I dug, I searched always deeper, trying to reach the truth. It might be easy to speak a lie, but it wasn’t easy to write one. I started to unravel the tangled skein that was me. These revelations came, not from writing philosophy or self-help dictums, but from writing fiction. Put a man and a woman in a fictional situation. What does the woman really think? What does the man think? Is this real? Is this how people are? Where do I get my ideas? What is human nature all about? Who am I?
For example, as I wrote about the prisoners on the island, I got to know each one of them. How did they get into crime? Why were they different than me? Did they have religious education as I did? What did they think about God? Was God a mean father for them or a gentle parent? What did I think about God?
Amazing. The seminary had tried for twelve years to teach me how to mediate and here I was doing it while I wrote.
What a wonderful gift this was.
How has writing changed your life?
Yes, by all means. I don’t know what I would have done without writing when the doctor said those words we all dread, “I’m sorry, Ed. You have cancer.” That was May 1996.
After a month walking around in a medical fog, I began to write. I created a man on paper who could handle cancer, a man of courage who would do everything the doctors suggested, but he would continue with his life.
I polished these writings like I’ve never polished anything. I broke them into two articles and sent them to the local paper. The paper published them and now I had to live up to the character I created on paper. I had no choice – all my friends had read the articles.
I summarized the two articles in my book Once a Priest, Chapter 24.
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