The recent launch on October 17th for Rita Moir’s new book, Not of Reason: A Recipe for Outrunning Sadness, took place at the Vallican Whole Community Centre.
It was “fantastic,” says Moir, “with cake and music and readings from the book. It was a wonderful social occasion. I sold a bunch of books; that’s good.”
This book is about death, but it’s also about profound familial love. Award-winning memoirist Patricia Hampl describes the book as “a kind of musical movement, allegro/andante… beautiful, hard-won, finely achieved…it took my breath away.”
Writing the book took many years and was not an easy process.
“When you’re writing about such raw and emotional material, you have to craft it carefully because it can’t just be raw emotion lashing out on the page. I write in small scenes, so I end up with 90 or 100 different pieces and then I need to weave them together into a narrative arc,” says Moir.
The title comes from a line in the book:
“To cope with our losses, we look for signs, not of reason but beauty,” says Moir. “The book is about how you need to opt for joy. Grief is very hard-hitting; it smacks you over the head, and climbing out takes effort.”
She learned this lesson from her mother, who told her to “opt for joy.”
Writing the book affected Moir’s grief.
“The process of writing is transformative because you take sludge and craft it. The crafting of work is how you move from the raw footage. You become a maestro of your material, and that is, of course, transformative because in doing so, you can release the stories. At the Vallican Whole, I felt like I was releasing those stories, releasing my mother and sister with their stories out into the world.”
Other things also helped Moir climb into joy such as dog agility training and dancing.
“Grief is so powerful, but joy is so strong,” she says.
She also found much joy in the writing process.
“There is a joy of finding the right words or the right phrases. The skill of writing, you’re always learning it.”
Her journalistic lens shines through in this book. She was a journalist for many years, working for at the Nelson Daily News and for CBC Radio.
“One of the big strengths of my writing is my years of journalism because I had to learn to get to the story. They write it using active verbs and active language. You have to have a love of language.”
Moir is semi-retired. She still does some occasional writing for pay.
“I left journalism for the less lucrative life of a creative writer,” Moir laughs.
Moir’s readers may be curious if there is another book on the horizon.
“It depends on how far away the horizon is and how many years I have. I seem to be getting slower. I seem to write about death, and the write person hasn’t died,” Moir laughs. “It’s always interesting how people survive and move on from a struggle.”
Publishing while living a busy, community-involved life, in a pandemic to boot, was no small feat.
“The book was lost in publisher’s bottom shelves. Some of those years were Covid. For some of them, I chaired the Senior’s Housing Board in the Slocan Valley for six years, and it was full-on as a volunteer, getting the housing built in Slocan. Publishing is very slow.”
She is so appreciative of the community support received so far. She hopes it will continue.
“Writers like me depend on a community helping our local art and writing out into the rest of Canada and the world. Writers from a rural area know you need to support of your community to help get the word out. Any support people give by letting their friends know if they like this book, I hope people will help get it out there.”
Moir will be doing a reading at the Nelson Library on Wednesday, October 27th.
Pre-registration for the event is required here.
Rita Moir's book launch, former Motherlode Bookstore and retired lighthouse keepers Caroline Woodward and Jeff George handling book sales. — Photo courtesy Linda Crosfield.