Somewhat Suburban Facts of My Life
Here’s me, Baby Janet, moments after my birth, being held by Dr. Taylor. Apparently I was the last baby he delivered after a decades-long career in medicine. I’ve always wondered if it was something I said.
I began as a Quebecker, born at the coldest time of the day (1am) in the coldest time of the year (February) in one of Canada’s coldest cities (Montreal). My mother tells me I was born rapidly and cried for three months.I think this was because I was freezing. My family was transferred to Burlington, Ontario, when I was mid-way through Grade Six. In January. I showed up to school with an orange and black balaclava over my face—essential school-kid gear for surviving Quebec winters—and had my first experience with social un-coolness.
I was seven years old when I decided to become a writer, after composing my first story on the swing set in my Montreal back yard. It was a post-modern masterpiece about a suburban cowboy smarty-pants named Crackle-Nosed Crimson. At seven, no one told me I could not be a writer. I believed this was a reasonable goal until my first year of high school, when my guidance counsellor encouraged me to consider office work instead. That was the last time I asked anyone for guidance.
At the age of twelve I wrote an article about dogs that was published in the Hamilton Spectator after winning a writing competition. I wrote: “I really cannot see why some people think dogs are inferior; because a lot of dogs are more faithful and obedient than people are.” I would say that still seems to hold true today.
In high school I was a disdainful adolescent, obsessed with drilling Latin verbs—amo amas amat. Despite being schooled-to-death, I continued on to McMaster university in Hamilton, Ontario, where I earned two degrees: a Bachelor of Social Work and a BA in Political Science. I signed up for Social Work because people advised me to get a ‘practical’ degree and I happened to have a nose for human dysfunction. I signed up for political science because I grew up arguing politics around the dinner table and thought I could get easy credit for my skills in that area.
After I graduated, I won another writing competition sponsored by the International School of Social Work. It was earnestly entitled, Peacemonger, and published in their journal, Sage. If you google me using Janet Turpin Myers that is oldest hit you’ll get on me. After that, if you google a little more, you’ll get a Janet Myers from California, who happens to be the Winemaker at Franciscan Winery in Napa Valley. I‘ve actually been to her winery and can report that that Janet Myers is at the top of her game.
I’ve had five paying jobs: pea picker, movie theatre candy bar girl, swimming pool store clerk, counselor to alcoholics and drug abusers, administrator at a Waldorf school. My favourite job was candy-bar girl since I got to watch movies for free. This was the genesis of two of my most enduring passions: movie-watching and popcorn eating. My least favourite job was as a pea-picker which I did at a pea-patch in Oakville, Ontario. I was paid 25 cents for six quarts of peas, which worked out to $3 for an entire day’s work. I decided after two days of screaming kneecaps and stealth mosquitoes that I was not cut out for farm labour and quit.
I spent six years writing, Love Watching Madness, which I realize is two years longer than it took Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel—though in fairness, he had help. I don’t like the number six because I find it boring—however if you use your imagination, 6’s do look pregnant so there may be something gestational about them. This makes 6’s appropriate for creative work.
In 2007/08 two of my poems appeared in issues 12 & 13 of a now defunct poetry anthology called, Hammered Out, published in Hamilton. I’m especially pleased with my poem in issue 13 (which was devoted to surreal poetry) because that poem came to me entirely in a dream, word for word, and I didn’t have to do any work. In 2013/14 more of my poems have appeared in poetry anthologies published by The Tower Poetry Society, Hamilton. Some of these poems are about love, which is a departure for me, since my usual poetic bent tends toward noble indignation and/or flat-out pissy despair.
To date I’ve actually written eight novels, though officially, I only admit to six. I’ve blocked memory of the first two, which I wrote in my angst phase (late teens, early twenties). After I grew up and Life Knocked Me Around a bit, I went at the writing with less angst, more self-control, and have since written six novels that I consider worthy of publication, more than a few short stories, too many poems, a teleplay for a TV pilot, and an embarrassing number of (mostly failed) song lyrics. Sadly, I am not a musician and so most of my lyrics are yearning for accompaniment, like anxious schoolgirls waiting for someone to phone. HOWEVER, one of my lyrics was picked up by an Ottawa musician, Cam Jones. You can have a listen.
My first published novel is Nightswimming, (published by Seraphim Editions) and it made it’s debut in September 2013. Nightswimming was shortlisted for the Hamilton Literary Awards Fiction Prize. It did not win. However, Canadians tend to be very nice to losers and so I glowed happily beneath the humble light of sympathy that shone on me (if only briefly) in the wake of that literary loss. A short story I wrote, entitled, Crashing, did win something: third place in Hamilton’s grtiLIT Short Fiction competition-2013. My second novel, The Last Year of Confusion was released in the spring of 2015, also by Seraphim Editions. I’m delighted to report that Elvis Presley made an unexpected guest appearance at the novel’s launch; the King was transported through time and space via a portal at the base of an Easter Island moai (this makes sense if you read the book). I’m also delighted to report that The Last Year of Confusion was shortlisted for the Hamilton Literary Awards Fiction prize in 2016. Again, I lost. Again, I had glowed.
Me, at the Hamilton Literary Awards, the night The Last Year of Confusion was honoured for being short-listed for best novel, 2016
Elvis showed up at the launch for The Last Year of Confusion, sang some songs.
Since good biographies should contain ‘useful’ information—how about this? My grandmother, now deceased, insisted that I was a descendant of the early-Victorian writer, William Harrison Ainsworth. In his time, Ainsworth wrote popular gothic novels and was a buddy of Charles Dickens. They partied together with the local literati. I have a picture of Ainsworth. We both seem to sport the family chin. My grandmother told me that that chin was the mark of a writer. Of course, she also said that an agent of the IRA once knocked her down the steps of the Montreal Metro.
Communing with Charles Dickens’ desk London