Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Writer's Life

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This is my final posting as Writer in Residence and it seemed fit to follow in the footsteps of other previous WiRs and say something about this nebulous, fabled thing called "the writer's life." It is also the day that I saw my book, Shopping for Sabzi in print, fresh off the press (and available in stores by next Wednesday!). AND, if that wasn't enough, it is also the day that my very first website,, went live. All on Hallowe'en, which casts a supernatural pallor on the whole thing.

I also wanted to say more about Pasha Malla's story "Respite" because it too is about the writer's life. If now, I'm feeling joyous and smiling spontaneously because of seeing my name and words in print - and no doubt too much Hallowe'en candy handy helps - Malla's story returns us to the sheer loneliness of the writer's life, a loneliness that doesn't dissipate even when sharing a meal with your significant other in a kitchen.

Womack, the writer in the story, is working on a novel, retreats to his study to hammer away at it, a compulsive-obsessive habit that eats away and eventually destroys his relationship with Adriane. Obsession can be passion and has been for many a writer. With Womack, though, the obsession becomes the removal of himself from the intimacy that he once shared with Adriane, their estrangement symbolized by eventual taunts from her about "that novel." The novel-in-progress takes on a life of its own and in the process leads to the unraveling of the life that Womack has known.

Yet, there's more to the story than this. Womack decides to volunteer. At first, this seems disingenuous. Why would an obsessive writer surrender some of his scarce time? His work involves providing respite care for a family with a severely disabled boy with pronounced physical and mental limitations. Each Saturday, Womack goes to the family's house and bathes, diapers, and feeds the boy. It is arduous and unflattering work.

It is also tiring. The work fatigues him, leaving him little energy for his relationship with Adriane. It is almost as if he is the one who needs respite, from the failure of his own life, and we're led to believe, his own writing.

All said, "Respite" is a deeply poignant, if melancholic look at the costs of an attempt at a writerly life. Yet, Womack seems to bury himself; he doesn't try to repair his relationship with Adriane. He lets it drift and disintegrate. Adriane takes the extreme action of taping their conversations. When he cateches on, Womack is furious but Adriane says that she wanted to convey to him what he sounds like during their strained conversations. She wants to reflect to him what he has become, but he cannot see it. To my mind, for a writer to lose the ability to apprehend the reality around him or herself is akin to losing the capacity to write.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Nitin Deckha

Nitin Deckha is the author of Shopping for Sabzi (TSAR Publications, 2008) and a contributor to Once Upon a Time in Bollywood (TSAR Publications, 2007) and several other publications.

Go to Nitin Deckha ’s Author Page