Nightswimming 2022-08-22T15:48:41+00:00

Project Description


And on it went. I kept the story going, embellishing the lie, piling untruths over my wounded pride like blankets for refugees, never going as far as confirming Sheldon and Pearl’s assumption that I had experienced the tectonic shiftings of that most grown-up of geographies, sexual intercourse, but never saying I hadn’t. This gave me something that neither Sheldon or Pearl possessed – little ol’ haywire me, the one that wouldn’t end up with Sheldon – at least they thought I had stirred the mystery of making love.

Though, as it turns out.

Some things are better left unsaid.


Shared, I suppose, only with a glass of icewine.

Contact, light. According to Sandy Knowles those were the saddest words spoken on the moon, breathed across the 240,000 miles separating Apollo 11 from the blue opal of the earth by astronaut, Buzz Aldrin, as the LEM settled in silvery moon dust.

Nightswimming opens on the fortieth anniversary of the momentous Apollo 11 mission, with Sandy Knowles, cartographer, alone at her office desk, recording an audio memoir of those moonlanding times. At first, Sandy keeps her contact with the past light, speaking of summer in Muskoka where paradise was nothing more than a hillbilly get-together of forgotten cottages; where spinster twins in identical dresses held tender vigils for lost love; where a sad hippy preached peace between Dylan and swigs of vodka; and two friends struggled with the awkward complexities of loving the same one-of-a-kind boy.

And yet, there is something more, another meaning for contact light, which these forty years later she pretends to forget—the quick grazing of horror in the black waters of a long-ago lake.

Lyrical and engaging, Nightswimming is a sweetly nostalgic novel about what happens to us when our first explorations of love, like astronauts swimming through the dark unknowns of space, takes us someplace we never intended to go.

Nightswimming is published by Seraphim Editions.  It was short-listed for the Hamilton Literary Awards, fiction prize, 2014.


The novel, Nightswimming, came to me in clues.

A few years ago an image appeared behind my eyes and persisted there for days. It was an image of the whole earth as seen from outer space; a blue and white opal abiding like a Christmas bauble in the middle of my mind. It was the famous view of the earth as depicted in the photo taken from outer space by Apollo astronauts. Me being me—and stories coming to me the way they do—I thought, this must mean that my next novel had something to do with the Apollo missions, with the moon, and with that mesmerizing vision of the earth.

Days passed. The moon continued much on my mind. I started remembering that first famous moonlanding in 1969. It was summertime. I was a kid at a boxy cottage in the Muskokas. I’d watched on a pintsized black & white TV as Apollo 11 astronauts, Armstrong and Aldrin, emerged from the cocoon of the Eagle and imprinted humanity’s footsteps in the silver dust of the moon. This gave me another idea—I would set the novel in Muskoka in that magical moonlanding summer of 1969.

A few weeks later I was poking around a CD store in Toronto: the moon, astronauts, and summers at the cottage were still with me—seeds of my story, slowly germinating. On the second floor of the store, I spotted the cover of a CD. Corner of my eye. There was a photo of the moon on the front of it. Without a second thought, I bought the CD. It was a greatest hits compilation, by the American band, R.E.M.

At home, alone in my office, while summer wandered in through the window, I listened to the CD, waiting for something in the music to tell me something about my novel. And then a gift breezed in from 1993—from that time when R.E.M. band members, Michael Stipe and Mike Mills recorded the second to last song on the CD. The song was called, Nightswimming.

That was the first time I’d ever heard Nightswimming—the first time I listened to Mike Mills’ confident piano, playing as if he were channeling the bravado of youthful recklessness inspired by dark water and moonlight; the first time I’d heard the tender, breaking, brightness of Michael Stipe singing words that were song-poetry. “They cannot see me naked. These dreams they go away, replaced by every day.” The piano repeated the melody, like memories fingered and lost, like gauze that drifts near and away; and then violins sighed, and a single yearning oboe lifted the song into a place of pining for the vanished vividness of youth.

Such is the power of music. Such is the artistry of this particular song—a masterpiece of memory and of the resonance through time of seemingly ordinary moments that turn out to be extraordinary. As I listened, I knew—here was the mood of my story.  Here were its themes. For the first time I saw my main character. She appeared as another image behind my eyes—a girl in her early teens, honey-blonde hair in a tangle down her back. She’s wearing a sweater over a bathing suit. Bare legs, bare feet. She’s walking along a path by a beach. It’s dark. Stars. Moon. She’s going nightswimming with two friends.

“I stopped at the water’s edge. The lake at night is a neutral land. Daylight divisions between sky, green hills and water are gone. At night, the darkness below the lake’s surface floats up and combines with the black reaches of the universe which pours from above. In that united vastness three kids standing at the water’s edge are nothing more than the lapping of chaste wavelets on the sand. And yet. How those three on the beach still agitate me.”

(From my novel, Nightswimming)

I found my way from there, going forwards and backwards, until I’d gathered the breadcrumbs of the story. Then I got to work. At the start of every day of writing I listened to R.E.M’s Nightswimming and sunk myself into the feeling of my story. It took eighteen months to write the novel. Six months to edit. It’s being published this September (2013) by Seraphim Editions, Hamilton. Whenever I listen to Nightswimming now, I can barely contain my feelings. It’s as if the entirety of my novel is awakened by the opening chords of Mike Mills’ piano and by Michael Stipe’s sweet assertion: “Nightswimming deserves a quiet night.” Such is the power of music. Such is the gift of inspiration.


“Have you ever read a book that just keeps surprising you with its truth and beauty at every turn of the page?  A book that takes you to places you know like the back of your hand, and then flips your hand over to read the map of its lines?” Bernadette Rule – read the whole review

“…the work of an utterly sophisticated stylist, who plays the reader like a piano.” Robert Nielsen, Potlatch Publications – read the whole review

“…memory soaked language that serves as a guide through experiences we’ve all had; experiences that call back those summer evenings, with sunsets that belong on postcards.”  Pepper Parr, Burlington Gazette

“Probably the best summer read I’ve ever come across, Nightswimming evokes the smell of summer, water, wooden dock, even if read in the midst of a Canadian autumn.” Review on Goodreads – read the whole review

“It’s a story for neo-hippies and true hippies, and for anybody who wants not-to-forget the exquisitely consuming fire of their first love.” ‘First Fiction’, Literary Press Group – read the whole review

“Beautiful, funny, lyrical and terribly moving.” Bernadette Rule, Artwaves, INDI 105.1FM listen to the podcast

“Nightswimming by Janet Turpin Myers is (an) engaging debut novel that harnesses the sights and sounds of the Muskokas, the momentous events of the Apollo 11 moon landings, and the stirring passions of first love. Beautiful yet funny, Myers explores the major turning points of the 60s and how these events affect us in our consciousness and our memories, in language that is lyrical and moving.” Stephen Near, Hamilton Arts Council 21st Literary Awards.