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Red Letter Day

“I’m crying in the doctor’s office.”  There is emotion inflating her voice.  “ I saw your email just as they were calling my name to go in and I thought, I’ll wait and read it after, but then, I thought ‘fuck it’ and I read it right away, and I started crying and then I had to go straight in for my checkup, there’s nothing wrong with me, except my grey hair, but my doctor thinks I’m nuts.”  She has a beautiful way with the run-on sentences. 

“I’m crying too.”  It’s more of a blurt because a sob-laugh combo is chiselling at my words.  Through the window in front of my big black desk I can see the rock garden I made for Holden last summer with the delicate white ceramic Buddha perched on granite stones.  It’s where I leave him little presents of rocks and flowers and prayers.

“I am so happy for you.  This is your turning point!  Oh, Dolly, this is just what you need.”  She calls me Dolly when she’s bubbling over.

“But I’m so scared, I feel nauseous.  It’s just… it’s just…  I don’t know, it’s going to be so hard.”  Scanning around to find the words as though I had dropped them on the floor and they scattered like marbles.  “All the emotional mining I’ll have to do, you know?  It’s just so much.”  Of course she knows, she’s been there.  “The other day when I had to edit a piece for an anthology it threw me down the well for hours.  I don’t want to be like that for a whole year.”   

“Oh but, this is very different from writing by yourself.  You will never be alone or unsupported and you won’t have time to be sad, you’ll be too busy getting the sentences just right.  Remember, everyone in the non-fiction cohort has a tricky story too. It’s all going to be just great. Believe me.”  I do.

“Okay, you’re right.” I say softly into the phone.  “Ughhhh, It’s time.”

“It’s a Red Letter Day!  As my Dad used to say.  You should celebrate.  Do you have any idea how many people apply for that program?”


“Lots.  Many many many people.  Talented people.  And you have been accepted solely on the merits of your writing.  So just for today, please don’t say that phrase ‘it’s just…” any more.  This is really good.  It’s so great and I am so proud of you.  It’s the change you need and what an endorsement.  Holy Cow!”  Enthusiasm may possibly be one of her strongest characteristics.  After precise grammar and the effective use of swear words. 

“It’s a red letter day.” I whisper with the up inflection that makes it sound like a question.

“Yes, it is!”  She is very likely happier than I am.  “Oh Dolly, I’ve gotta run.  Love youuuuu!”


red-let·ter day
noun:  a day that is pleasantly noteworthy or memorable.
Origin:  early 18th century: from the practice of highlighting a festival in red on a calendar.


November 17/2016

Dear Ms. McGuire,

I am very pleased to inform you that you have been accepted into the Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University Continuing Studies for 2017. Welcome!

There was a large and talented pool of applicants this year, and our four mentors each selected their respective group of students from this long list.  Each mentor read all the applications and chose who they would most like to work with for the year. You were accepted in the first round.

Congratulations on submitting a successful application.

My very best,

 Wayde Compton | Associate Director, Creative Writing

The Writer’s Studio, Simon Fraser University


Holy.  Fuck. 

** note – I have never felt unsupported in my writing.  Quite the opposite in fact.  **


  1. Oh, dear Tara…how much we all love you! Congratulations…I can hear Holden’s giggles from the other side. Met with Maggie earlier this week. We both welled up with gratitude ‘for you’ – the circle gets ever smaller. xo

  2. 🙂 Congratulations, Tara.
    I am at a loss for words – but clearly you are not!
    What a gift for you and for those of us who get to read what you write.
    Here’s to your muse!

  3. Sandy Appleby

    Such wonderful news! The creative mentors of this prestigious program recognized your talent and passion for writing, Tara, as have your faithful readers.
    My heart feels full of hope and promise for you in this new venture.
    Well done you!

    • Starting today… If I can be half the man you are I’ll be satisfied. What a mountain.

      I have so much gratitude for you insight, your knowledge, your coddling and coaxing and of course your asymetrical haircut!


  4. Jo

    Omg I’m so excited for you!!! You will be a great student…and you will love every minute of it..soak it up. You may say holy fuck a lot over the course of your program…so good Tara…so good!❤️

  5. Lorraine

    OMG…Tara…I’m doing my happy dance! Which I haven’t done in a long time…I know that I’m repetitive, as per my postings, cannot wait to read all your essays, captured in a book. Your writing is so authentic, beautiful, raw, transparent. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. Blessings, Lorraine

  6. Kathryn

    So very happy for you Tara. Your acceptance and direction feels so organic as you are meant to write. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. It is a Red letter day. Love that expression.

  7. Cindy

    Congrats Tara. You have an amazing talent with words. What an exciting new chapter in your life!! I look forward to future posts on your progress!!

  8. Mark and Dodie Litowitz

    Oh my goodness…CONGRATS……way to go and we are so happy for you. Your writing is incredible and we wish you all the best…hugs. Mark and Dodie

  9. tdm

    Tara. As proud as you must be of yourself and this achievement I think it’s fair to say that I’m just as proud of you.
    I’ve been reading and following since you started and it became apparent you were a fabulous writer..and an even better storyteller.
    You’ve laid bare the pain of loss.
    I Can only hope it helps heal.
    Terry dm

  10. Elaine Scollan

    I have been thinking about you regularly and wondered to myself, ” i wonder what Tara is going to do now..” I am really happy you have found it.
    Best always, Elaine

  11. Meagan Smith

    Fantastic accomplishment Tara. You are brave! I can’t imagine how hard it was even to apply!! Looking forward to more writing from you. All the best, Meagan.

    • You’re right Meagan. The application was really intimidating. I didn’t know if I was more afraid that I wouldn’t be accepted or that I would. Lyla said “that’s exactly how I feel when I go to a field hockey tryout!”

      Thanks for being there for me,

      x t

  12. Rose Birney

    Ohhh Tara
    It’s funny…as I was reading this blog I was thinking, “I wonder if Tara has ever thought about writing a novel?”
    That is such amazingly good news. I would have picked you in the first draft too.
    You go girl!

  13. Lisa

    You can thank Holden for his hand in this! And bravo to you for taking bold action in pursuing your dreams. I believe it could be your calling…Congrats and happy writing!

    • Thank you Lisa. You are probably right about that. Holden was a really terrific writer so I’m hoping he’ll help me through. I feel like he will.

      This life is a strange hand full isn’t it? Not even close to what we expected.

      xx t

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