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. Cheryl MacKinnon

    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

    • Tara McGuire

      Thank you Cheryl. He probably would be laughing about this and I could always count on him to correct my spelling mistakes. Phenomenal speller…and writer, now that I think about it. xo

  2. Becky Livingston

    Yeah, Tara. What great news. No surprise you were selected in the first round!. Great adventures await for you, and Holden, and the written word xxx

    • Tara McGuire

      All we can do is tell the truth, isn’t that what they say Becky? And that, as you know, can hurt like hell.

      Thank-you x

  3. Nicolette

    🙂 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!

    • Tara McGuire

      My muse. I never thought of it that way. I guess you’re right. I’ll just have to listen carefully to what he has to say.

      Much love. T

  4. Lu

    Congratulations Tara!
    I knew you’d get in. ?
    Here’s to your bravery, the words in your soul and the ink in your pen ?

    • Tara McGuire

      And here’s to the lead in your pencil! Such as it is. So much love for your support Lu. x0

  5. 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!

    • Tara McGuire

      Thank you Sandy. I look forward to learning and absorbing it all.

      Best to you,


  6. cathie borrie

    A “red-letter” day, indeed. By the way, this is about more than any one story. It is about the rest of your writing life, starting today.

    • Tara McGuire

      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!


  7. 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!❤️

    • Tara McGuire

      Oh Jo, you know all about that ‘going back to school’ situation don’t you. I’ll have a pocket full of F-bombs ready!

      Thanks for your continued support and your sweet smile.

      xo t

  8. Jennifer Brum

    Fantastic news! I’m celebrating you and this amazing opportunity. Show ’em how it’s done;)


    • Tara McGuire

      Thank you Jen,

      We just have to face what comes don’t we? In the best way we can, on any given day. xo

  9. Jeannie

    Turning point for sure. Enjoy this new chapter in your life. You really deserve this opportunity to grow and exhale.

  10. Betty Ann Kempr

    I am so happy for you and for all of us that have already had the pleasure of reading your heartfelt words.

  11. 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

    • Tara McGuire

      Thank you Lorraine. I hope to one day do a happy dance too. My heart can’t go there yet but who knows….?

  12. 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.

    • Tara McGuire

      Isn’t it great? Even better than a red dot day. xo

  13. Shauna

    A heartfelt congratulations, much love to you.

  14. Cathy

    Congratulations Tara! Love your words, always look forward to your posts! ?

    • Tara McGuire

      Thank you Cathy. I really appreciate that. Hope you are well. xo

  15. 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!!

    • Tara McGuire

      Hi Cindy,

      Thanks for your good wishes. Sending mine back to you.

      x t

  16. 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

  17. 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

    • Tara McGuire

      Thanks Terry, maybe you’ll show up in one of those stories yet to come? “I want my records back!!”

      I appreciate your support so much. xo T

  18. Katy Hutchison

    Beautiful news. Your writing is a gift and this opportunity like wings.

    Katy xo

    • Tara McGuire


      There are very few who understand what this might feel like. I look to you and your lonely walk and can only hope to rise as gracefully. One day.

      x t

  19. 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

  20. 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.

    • Tara McGuire

      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

  21. Linda

    Congratulations Tara! An honour well deserved. 🙂

  22. Lori

    I am sitting in the hair salon crying happy tears. God woman you invoke emotion! This is so perfect. We are so happy for you.

    • Tara McGuire

      So that’s what those plastic ponchos are for. Thanks Lori. You seem to lube up my tear ducts too.

      xx T

  23. 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!

    • Tara McGuire

      Oh Rosie, we’ve got our work cut out for us haven’t we? I’ll do my best if you will.

      love you!

  24. 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!

    • Tara McGuire

      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

  25. Clara Carotenuto

    Congratulations TARA! I can’t wait to Read more: “written by Tara McGuire”.

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