All who follow the Armand Gamache series by Canadian author, Louise Penny, know that Louise’s husband died in the Fall of 2016. Michael had been the inspiration for Armand Gamache as well as her devoted partner and supporter — her great love. After his death, Louise told her agents and publishers she was taking a year off but believed in her heart that the multi-book series had come to an end. She could not write about Gamache again.
She begins the acknowledgments page of Kingdom of the Blind (released in November, 2018), as follows:
“A funny thing happened on my way to not writing this book. / I started writing.”
She then explains how, a few months after her decision, she found herself sitting at her pine writing table with her laptop open:
“And I wrote two words: Armand Gamache
Then the next day I wrote: slowed his car to a crawl
And the next day: then stopped on the snow-covered secondary road.”
I love the way she told this part of her story.
I now find myself stuck as I write my second in the series which began with Other Wise. I’m slogging through and know that a lot of what I’ve written so far will end up in a file of failed attempts. Following a wonderful flurry of readings, sales, and book group discussions for Other Wise, I’m in a brief lull. And some life events around me have me looking down the slippery slope that leads to overwhelm and depression.
So I look to Louise. And to Anne Lamott. And to Rumi. And to all the wise teachers who sit on my desk, their colorful spines a standing array of encouragement.
And so I trust story as a way through. Louise’s story. Armand’s story. My story. Margaret’s story. And I honor the notion of the shitty first draft. And I welcome each new arrival to this guest house of being human — “even if they are a crowd of sorrows.” And even if they aren’t here to clear me out for “some new delight.”
And I start writing. Taking it word by word.