The Magic of Memoir: a good Home & an Honest house by Cynthia Reyes
Until recently I hadn’t read very many memoirs. I recall reading one about thirty years ago called: An Island to Oneself. I suspect it caught my attention because I was living on a small island at the time. The next one I remember reading, and loving just as much, was one about a quirky couple who lived off the land and loved building rock garden walls. And I read that one while living on a rocky acreage, in a one room cabin, with my husband.
But when we moved to our character house and garden in town, my tastes changed to reading memoirs about ordinary people living ordinary lives until…until I discovered memoirs written by people who were striving to overcome adversities. And now I’m absolutely hooked. They are magic to me—not as in abracadabra—but as in faith boosting words that give me a whole new perspective on the trials we humans face in life.
I learn alongside the author as I follow his or her adventures.
The latest memoir I read was: An Honest House by Cynthia Reyes. I’d already devoured and loved her previous book: A Good Home, so there was no risk for me in buying and reading her second book too. And this memoir cast an even deeper spell over me as it was poignant and personal. She gave her heart, her soul, her tears, and her laughter. And I held my breath, I cried, and I laughed as I read it. Well done, Cynthia.
So when I ask Cynthia if I could interview her for my blog (and she said yes) I started dreaming up the most magical questions I could think of. Please allow me to introduce to you Cynthia Reyes. She has non-fiction stories published in Arabella Magazine, the Globe and Mail, and Toronto Life. Cynthia has won a variety of awards for her former work as a journalist and executive television producer.
Cynthia, thank you for allowing me, a forever fan, to interview you today.
1 – My first question is one that’s born out of the immense respect and admiration I gained for you and your husband (Hamlin) as I read about your wonderful relationship in your books: What was the first thing you noticed about Hamlin when you met him?
I have to tell the truth! It was that he had a slim but powerful figure. Having been a national/international hurdler, that made sense. But it came from his character, as well, and that was quickly revealed when he spoke: that sharp intelligence, honesty and sense of humour were all very appealing.
2 – I’m a hopeless romantic (and a snoopy one too), so I’d like to know where you went on your first date with Hamlin?
It was to a restaurant for lunch. Lunch was informal and a safe bet for us both because lunch dates last only about an hour, so if we really didn’t like each other, we could escape!
3 – Which of these names for God can you relate to the most: Shepherd, Father, Rock, Savior, Light, King or other (please specify what the other is)? And why?
I often address God as “Father God”, though I know full well that God is bigger than any human gender. My mother prayed to Father God and I do the same. And God is my family’s light and rock. We call on God daily to light our path and direction. In times of uncertainty or trouble, God is our rock, the rock we hold on to.
When my husband got seriously ill, out poured a poem about reaching for the rock. Which made perfect sense to me.
4 – What’s one of your favorite bible verses?
There are so many.
“Jesus wept.” The shortest verse in the Bible, but for me, the most powerful. I relate profoundly to Jesus’ humanity in that moment where he wept over his friend’s death.
Paul’s letters also contain numerous verses that I love, including this one:
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
5 – Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote? When was that? Do you remember any lines from it (and you know I want to know what they are)?
I’m sorry – I don’t. I wasn’t very good at poetry! I started writing nonsense poetry as a way to bring back my vocabulary after the accident, and that led to more poems.
One of my first (nonsense) verses was an ode to the wisteria vine in our garden that just wouldn’t bloom:
“Wisteria, oh wisteria
You drive me to hysteria…”
6 – What did you find to be the most enjoyable part of writing memoir?
When I’m able to get into ‘the zone’ and the words flow effortlessly to create a scene or story that expresses what I want the reader to know. Don’t we all wish we could always be in that zone?
I love writing about people, nature and family moments, and in both A Good Home and An Honest House, I loved writing about my church and my enjoyment of the fat little prayer book we use: The Book of Common Prayer. I love it.
Also, I enjoy the final polishing stage of book-writing – working with my editor, and choosing just the right words to describe a person, scene or emotion.
7 – I’m tempted to ask you when and if you will be writing a third book; however, I’ll restrain myself and instead ask you to share what you hope people will gain from reading your memoirs.
I’m still on a recovery journey and am slower than I’d wish, but if God knows I have a third book inside my soul, I will do it. Some days I think I do, but I have to pray on it. DV or Deo volente, as my mother used to say. (If God is willing.)
My church community blessed and launched the book. Then we sent it out into the world with the hope that it will bless everyone who reads it. Many people who bought the book early appear to be on their second reading of it now. This happened with A Good Home and I would like the same to happen here: that people will return to it for inspiration, joy, and perhaps comfort too.
I suspected that readers would be moved to tears at times (my publisher did and he’s not given to crying as he reads), but I also wanted them to feel blessed by An Honest House — to be, in some way, stronger for having read it.
I was conscious of that when I was writing this book An Honest House, in particular. I wanted readers to feel blessed by having read it. You could call some of the passages “word-gifts” to my readers.
Finally, by writing this second book, I wanted to say that God, working in and through us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. My two books are a testament to that beloved reassurance from the Bible.
Thank you, so much, dear Cynthia, for granting me the honour of interviewing you. I loved how you included quotes by your mother. Thank you, also, for lending me these awesome photos of you, Hamlin, your church, and your gardens that bring back scenes from your books. By the way, your blog is always a pleasure to read. I’d give it a 5 star rating as I did both of your books when I reviewed them on Amazon and Goodreads. I hope readers will visit your blog and discover for themselves your warm and captivating writing voice. You’re one of my favorite Canadian authors and bloggers.
Actually, I’m getting goose bumps remembering hearing you being interviewed on CBC radio by Shelagh Rogers, I never dreamed I’d be interviewing you too. I just knew I wanted to read whatever you wrote.
You do magic with pen and paper.
Here’s a link to Cynthia Reyes’ blog that includes links to both of her memoirs:
Dear friends, if you’d like to leave a comment here as well, Cynthia will be pleased to read them. But I do hope you’ll pop over to her site too. She’s an awesome blog friend.
I’ll allow you to close this post, dear Cynthia. Blessings ~ Wendy
Thank you most kindly for giving me this opportunity, Wendy. Thanks for your generous support of my writing, for me as a person, and for my books. You are a skilled and soulful writer, and your faithful witness, honesty and kindness are a boon to others. You send much goodness into the world through your written word and I know your memoir is going to be special. Grace and peace to you.