When you've lived a long time, as I have, it's possible that you've had not just one life but several. I've had a lot of lives and finally, at last, began to write about them. The first of those lives became a memoir, Little Comrades, published by Porcupine's Quill in 2011, as I turned eighty-one years old.
The second piece of my life has become another memoir, Love, and all that jazz, set in Manhattan in the jazzy druggy days of the late fifties – the world of ad men and mad men. In part, it is the story of a marriage; in part, the story of women's lives as the beat and hippy days rolled on. There are excursions into the publishing business in New York and Toronto during those days. Porcupine's Quill published it in the summer of 2013.
I'm pleased to have discovered my love of writing, even at this very late stage of my life. ... I am also writing some light "family" stories of aunts and uncles and grandmothers, stories of my neighbourhood and of the people in it, and some poetry and essays from time to time. At the moment I have no idea where these will lead me. My husband died in mid-May 2012, and perhaps I have some writing to do about that... Life is complicated, isn't it? ... When you look back on it. Stay tuned..
A large chunk of the life of this Laurie Lewis is the graphic designer segment, which covers the many years I worked at University of Toronto Press as designer and art director. I didn't do much writing at the time, other than advertising and promotional material for University of Toronto Press. I retired in 1990, after almost thirty years in the publishing business. The Society of Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC)
When I retired from University of Toronto Press in 1991 I moved to Kingston with my husband and my mother. I began to write, just a bit, while commuting a couple of days a week into Toronto to do freelance promotional work for UTP. My mother and my husband were both writers, and I used to refer to our house then as "The Home of the Scribbling Geezers," each of them clacking at their computers in the early morning, and me scribbling into my Grand and Toy steno book. I was greatly encouraged by the Kingston writers' community, particularly by Joanne Page, Maureen Garvie, and Carolyn Smart in those early days. It was while producing a book for Maureen's father-in-law, Harold Garvie, during Kingston's Centennial year, that I suddenly threw myself into the publishing business, with the formation of Artful Codger Press.
I had worked in publishing all my professional life, since 1961, when I began working at Doubleday in New York. So now, in my later life, I was intrigued by the notion that so many "older" people were beginning to write memoirs. What interested me was that these memoirs of interesting and articulate people would become part of the social history of Canada, resting comfortably in the National Library, to be consulted by historians into the foreseeable future. At the same time, I began to make connections among the poets' community and became interested in publishing the work of some of the liveliest minds in the region. I have never been able to promote the works of Artful Codger Press beyond the Kingston area, but felt that I was serving a useful purpose in publishing well produced and designed books for my community, to be sold locally by the best independent bookstore in the city, Novel Idea.
Becoming a writer:
In the relative calm of my later life I began to have some work published in Queen’s Feminist Review and other literary publications. At the same time, I began to glue together some of the fragments of stories I had been “scribbling” for the past ten or so years, not quite knowing what kind of writing I was producing. One year I treated myself to a wonderful workshop at Banff, with Mark Abley, who convinced me that these fragments did indeed make a story. And so, I am finally beginning to focus on my new life as a writer.
A Volunteer Life:
My life changed dramatically in 2002 when my husband went into a nursing home and my mother died, both within the same month. One of the things that helped me through the chaos of that time was the volunteer work I began to do with the Seniors Association in Kingston. I became Editor and Art Director of their publication, Vista, and helped the Association develop professional systems and procedures for producing their monthly publication for members. The publication includes, each month, several pieces of Creative Non-Fiction, primarily, but not necessarily, written by members of the Association. After about eight years with Vista I managed to retire again in 2012, and was bumped upstairs to become Editor Emeritus. Seniors Association