Bits and bites of everyday life


Why do I write?

True North Perspective
Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more

I pondered the question this week as I prepared for Arts Night at the First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa on the 25th of February. When did an interest in writing appear?

I honestly think we are bestowed certain gifts at birth. And at a very young age, I was extremely curious and loved words. Once I learned to read in Grade One, books became treasure islands where other worlds manifested themselves and I could travel freely there. Considering I was schooled in a one-room country school where there was only one teacher for eight grades, a school day offered lots of time to indulge my passion. And so it was, that at the age of twelve, after reading Anne Frank’s diary, I truly started writing.

Feelings were taboo in my family so keeping a diary was a wonderful way to discover the “me in me” while learning to cope with my very sensitive nature. I had been blessed, or cursed, with an incredible awareness of my surroundings and the people around me and all that sensitivity needed an outlet that was often denied. So writing, singing and drawing were perfect mediums where I expressed my feelings freely. At home, I sometimes felt almost invisible, but in my diary, I could be a queen, a shining star, the bravest girl on earth or the smartest one. I could fly! 

Then adolescence came along with its constant turmoil and challenges! In the farming communities of the 60s, you were expected to grow up fast, expected to become a responsible adult way before the age of twenty-one but you weren’t given the guidance. You had to sort of figure it out yourself. For this very reason, some missed the boat! They became flawed adults and struggled for the rest of their lives. I wanted to be someone and writing helped me to focus even when teenage love blurred my vision.  

Like many ill-fated lovers, from Romeo and Juliet to Endless Love, I got married at age nineteen to a young man who was doomed. I failed to see his tortured soul. I only saw his unhappiness… something I thought would change once we got married. I was naïve and I was wrong! His sad moods and his paranoia didn’t go away. Instead he grew more and more depressed till he had a major break-down three years into our marriage.

I had no one to talk to so I would write my feelings down until one day my husband locked up my diaries. Love had turned into the ultimate weapon of control! When my daughter was born in 1975, I started writing again. I needed to share those beautiful moments! By then, my husband had been diagnosed as manic-depressive with psychotic tendencies and shock treatments had been used to curb the downward spirals of depression. Despite seven years of psychotherapy, our relationship worsened and our ten-year marriage ended with his suicide in 1979. 

Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair at the 2008 Ottawa independent Writers' book fair.

I was exhausted and numb. I now needed to invest in myself for my sake and my daughter’s. I slowly rediscovered the woman behind my lost and battered self. I started reading Leo Buscaglia, Barbara De Angelis, Marianne Williamson, Scott Peck and my favourite, Wayne Dyer. Slowly, the real “me” emerged and seven years after my husband’s death, as I discovered the extent of his treachery, I experienced anger, real anger!

Not wanting to remain stuck in that chain of anger, I decided to write in earnest about my experience. First, a short story in English and then the novel “Le jardin négligé”. Proud of my accomplishment, I submitted the manuscript to “Le Salon du livre de l’Outaouais” writers’ contest. And lo and behold, it won first prize for adult, non-published novel.

My dreams were coming true! Everything was falling into place. The anger vanished! I felt blessed and sure enough, I met my second husband that summer.

He understood and encouraged me and so it was that my first novel was published in 1990 by Le Méridien and launched at the Salon du Livre where it had won first prize. Writing that novel had been difficult but now I was ready to speak to women who had gone through abusive relationships. For the next two years, I concentrated on the translation of my novel “The Neglected Garden” and wrote another French novel, “Une prière pour Hélène”.

I spoke to women’s support groups, community groups, on radio and TV talk shows and at book fairs. Writing had liberated me and given me the opportunity to help other women. Writing had also opened the door to real love with a man who respected me, a man who wasn’t intimidated by my talent and my strength, a man who wanted to share with me and be part of my life.  

Brian and I built our new house in 1993 and married the following spring. Secure in our love, we both expanded our horizons. His business prospered. I started painting. Our respective daughters got married and a first grandchild was born. We enjoyed our new role of grandparent. But life is often unpredictable and unfair. Brian was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer in 2003 and although he gave it his best shot, wanting to survive that cancer, he died in February of 2004 after a courageous battle.  

Leo Buscaglia said, “The greatest thing we have is life.” And every day one has to choose life because it has so much to offer and one has to live it to the fullest. In June of that year, little Logan Brian was born…  

“The Neglected Garden” was published in 2005 and “Une prière pour Hélène” in 2007. My painting “The Garden of Promises” graces the cover of my first two books and I specifically painted the one for “Une prière pour Hélène”. 

In 2009, Carl Dow of True North Perspective asked me to write an article for International Women’s Day. I agreed and right away, Carl appreciated my unique perspective, the fact I embrace life, no matter what it sends my way. And so it was that “Bits and Bites of Everyday Life” became a regular column of TNP and will become an anthology called “Muses from the Blue Shack” some time this year. 

What do I derive from my art? INSPIRATION! Wayne Dyer says the word means “In Spirit” and it is so true! I met Wayne Dyer for the first time in Toronto in 2002 and still carry his autograph in my purse. It keeps me “in spirit”. I know I will never be as famous as he is but I do know I have been able to touch people. I have helped some bring about positive changes in their lives. I have offered advice and encouragement. When I look at the stars in the sky, admire a beautiful sunset or watch a graceful bird in full flight, I know I am part of this Universe.  

I remember those words from Barbara De Angelis: “Love attracts more love … so become the person you always wanted to meet.” Writing has made me a richer person for having been free to be me! 

Blessings to all!