Who inspired me to create? My late mother, born again writer and former talk show host.
Pat Krause was her pen name, but her first name was Mary. Her ambition was to become a journalist, with Paris as her beat. In mind be known, she was always there. Last thing at night, first thing in the morning, absorbing the news of the world, making sense of events. Opinionated she was. All her life she shared those with us. In me, they took hold. Mom lived to collect, stories, ideas, whatever. Each file had its place in her next production, or maybe the one following it. Until life's end, another story was always in the works.
We craved her attention. That's only natural. But to win a spot in our scribe's tales afforded special recognition. The reward for doing, or saying anything she admired was to be elevated to the status of the ballyhooed, an emerging talent, understudy-in-training. Someone she would talk about.
Mom's writing revealed another side of her. Freshie, her first book, was about her own high school years. In this, we discovered a character with flaws we could not quite accept, at least not initially. Our mother, proper as we imagined, had actually behaved foolishly at times. Surely this was fiction, or so I believed to be fact.
An awakening followed, mom had a life, her own at that. That hurt in a funny sort of way. We were not a part of her life back then. We had to accept that, however hard it was.
She missed my wedding in Europe in order to get that damn book to the publisher. I was pretty choked about that, but her book proved more historically significant than my big day, at least to her. We learned from her tale mom was once crazy in love, impulsive, funny and mischievous, like us then. For God's sake, she met dad in the detention room. Oh my, we connected through that. Innocence lost, was maturity found. Evolution had new meaning.
Mom actually listened closely to others, especially writers and journalists. Anything truly meaningful to her became the basis for the day's rant, Say what, there's sugar in toothpaste? Through her we learned what was important – to think.
Her journalistic ambitions were satisfied by a stint at CBC. For five years she hosted Insight, and Gab, as she had been known in high school, was finally getting recognition for all those fact-finding research initiatives. Her confidence inspired the release of Best Kept Secrets, a collection of short stories. Had one of my tantics been revealed? I searched the whole book, all for naught.
Okay, I played second fiddle to others. Dad was always her leading man. And when he died young, he lived on as the main character in Acts of Love, her first novel. In this, we were reminded mom was always in control of her characters. As crazy as this may sound, it was Dad's imagined encore that actually inspired her next book. How so? Because on the way back from his funeral, a newspaper comic caught my attention. The Frank and Earnest Eyeball News contained my father's first, middle and nickname, all in its title. And the humour featured was so him. When I sent this to mom, she immediately saw it as a divine sign, a miracle of sorts. Eyeball was back from the dead. Mom was prone to the sort of eccentric thinking only the English admired.
She immediately wrote the creators of the comic strip for permission to include mention of this miraculous happening in the novel that followed. And the theme? True love of course, never dies...
Writing was the surest way of getting her attention. This, I learned, from my eldest sister, Judith Krause, a poet of the laureate class, six published books to her credit. So after my own run of destination titles, I turned to writing and producing ebook musicals, Wetion and The Pilot and the Parrot be two. This gave me something to chat with her about during our Sunday call routine.
The calls always seemed to turn to how she inspired me. From there the conversation inevitably shifted to our trips to swinging London, long ago, with all those memories of The Sound of Music, Oliver, and the like, live on stage. We were all so young together, even though we did not realize it, and impressionable. It took decades to appreciate just how spoiled silly we were back when.
As mom approached her final chapter, she suffered a stroke. Vascular dementia was diagnosed. Every time I phoned she would disclose the same secrets, as if for the first time. But that was okay too, it reminded me of the teaching techniques parents deployed, repetition to learn. There was really something edgy about those teachers we admired, and never forgot.
As sad as it was, the bright side was I could keep talking about my ebooks. Being old school meant she was never really able to fully grasp the logistics of these, scenes following chapters, original music and different styles. It was always new to her no matter how many times I had explained what an ebook musical was. And believe me, the curious always ask. But she also gave me some great ideas. So it became a ritual, and celebration. Something else I could give her credit for. Conversations that made us both feel great.
With her passing, I lost one of my most important critics. Mom was always my greatest fan, even though she found it difficult to read anything I ever wrote, which always puzzled me.
In an odd sort of way, I am still writing for her approval. But wise I have become, mom was always more interested in her own stories, mine belonged to me. I am also grateful for this. One day, I will write one so great, she will be forced to critique it. We all know, inspiration hails from the strangest of places.