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5 things I learned from author Ann-Marie MacDonald

Canadian Living
Culture & Entertainment

5 things I learned from author Ann-Marie MacDonald

Adult Onset A little while back I had the great pleasure of meeting author and actor Ann-Marie MacDonald to interview her for the October issue of Canadian Living. (If you haven’t seen the issue yet, get it today while it’s still on newsstands!) Over the past two decades, she released two hugely successful booksFall on Your Knees and The Way the Crow Flies—and today, at last, she is releasing her third novel, Adult Onset. The latest book is a story of a woman with two young kids, who is struggling to be a mom while reconciling her difficult relationship with her own parents. Though all of Ann-Marie’s works are very distinct entities (you won’t find any formulaic fiction here), her third book has the same beautifully crafted descriptions and character-driven storytelling that readers have come to love from the writer. But, she admits, she drew much more heavily on her own lived experiences for this book. When Ann-Marie sat down with me, we talked about cooking, writing processes and everything in between (at one point she actually compared writing her semi-autobiographical book to cooking pasta: You think it will be a simple task of throwing together some ingredients you have on hand, but it ends up being so much more complicated). I came away inspired from my chat with her, having discovered a lot about both her and her writing. Here are five things I learned from Ann-Marie MacDonald. Ann Marie MacDonald 1. The imagination needed for storytelling is built into all of us. “One’s life experience is the definition of a writer’s raw material,” says Ann-Marie. But that doesn’t mean that you have to have lived an exciting life to write something interesting. “Looking back on Fall on Your Knees, I felt like I knew what it’s like in that trench,” she says. “How do I know that? How could I possibly know that? Well, I know that because we have empathy as human beings. Empathy, compassion, imagination, that’s the holy trinity right there.” 2. She chose to be a writer long before she knew it. “I feel like I never decided to be a writer. I feel like it decided me,” says Ann-Marie, who trained to be an actor at the National Theatre School of Canada. Though she started out as a playwright, she sort of fell into writing novels. But not too long ago, when she was going through some notebooks she had as a kid, she found a passage where she announced to her nine-year-old self that she wanted to be a writer. “That came as news to my 50-year-old self,” she says. 3. There's a learning curve to motherhood; it's not a gift. The mother of two, who used to think she would never spend her life caring for children, says she knew she had a lot to learn when she took the plunge and had kids. “I kind of assumed I’d be really bad at it, at least certain aspects of it,” she says. “Then I realized, well, you just take it step by step, and you try to learn and you get better at it. I can work hard at this and learn and improve.” 4. Being a mother changed her—but not in the ways she thought it would. “I thought I was going to be sacrificing a whole lot,” says Ann-Marie. But now she just sees what she’s gained. “I think I’m nicer. I’m probably genuinely a better person. I know that I’m happier.” Ann-Marie says she now knows her neighbours' names—and all their pets' names too. And being a mom has made her a more disciplined writer. “I always thought I was disciplined before, but now it’s, ‘Listen Ann-Marie, the kids are in school, and you’ve got to hop to it.’ It’s put a whole bunch of things in perspective.” 5. Perfection isn’t something she strives for. While juggling writing, being a parent, hosting a TV show and more, Ann-Marie knows she can’t expect to do any of it perfectly. And she shouldn’t try. Flaws, says Ann-Marie, are the very source of creativity. “It’s where friction happens, and it’s where life and thought arises,” she says. “With human beings, there’s no such thing as perfection. As soon as you start throwing a perfect pitch in baseball, you’ll start making mistakes so that your brain can learn something new. And that’s why perfectionism is inimical to creativity. It’s inimical to the existence of life itself and it’s inimical to the imagination.” Check out our video in the Test Kitchen with Ann-Marie MacDonald, and  our favourite fall reads for moms (spoiler: Adult Onset made the list!). (Photography: David Wile)
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5 things I learned from author Ann-Marie MacDonald

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