Welcome to another edition of Meet The Author Monday. This week we have journalist turned writer, Jonathan Gravenor. Per our usual arrangement, my comments/questions will be in BLUE, and Jonathan will be GREEN.
Let me start by thanking you for stopping by Jonathan. What I enjoy most about these brief interviews is learning about other authors and the struggles they have faced on their writing journey. What are your earliest memories of your forays into the literary world?
As a young boy in Canada, the first book I remember was an autobiography on “Gordie Howe” maybe 100 pages. But to a young Canadian boy 100 pages of gold. Over the years I explored far deeper into the literature of the time – from Vonnegut to Heller. I looked back and became swallowed by Hemingway and Dickens. But the Gordie Howe book stuck with me and still does. It made me feel like I was there when he was a 10-year-old lacing up old skates and stuffing copies of readers digest magazines down the front of his hockey socks to work like pads. Or how his hands got so cold he couldn’t feel his fingers as he practiced, yet he kept going. Words allow us to breathe, film and sound offer a replication of events and things, but words, words allow us to think for ourselves and feel like we are part of the story.
Fitting words and an apt description of just what books bring to those willing to embrace them. What genre, or genres, give you the most pleasure to read?
Biographies, but the classics still hold me. Stories of redemption and struggle, but real struggle. Anything is great if it is greatly written.
I admit biographies, except in school, are not my normal choice of reading material. That’s the beauty of reading though, we can each find our own pathways. What sent you across the divide between just reading these stories, to penning your own?
Two years after being diagnosed with cancer I was in India searching for something. One night after an all-day healing session (spiritual) I went to sleep easily. But then 3 hours in I woke up and sat straight up in bed. I climbed out of bed and went to the window of my hotel room and looked out over the Bay of Bengal – to one side the water shimmering with the light of the moon, to the other a huge slum with fires burning as people worked around the clock to make a living.
I sat at the room desk and wrote on my laptop for 8 hours, I had no idea what was coming out, it just did.
It was not that single moment that started me, that I think was just the trigger.
Amazing imagery, and best wishes for continued success in your battle with cancer. Have you given thought to what genre you are going to write? or Do you have plans for more than one?
Several .. maybe I write about the human condition or emotions. I finished my first book, a memoir. I am currently working on a new book which is about a fantasy adventure between me and a young friend.
Now the fantasy adventure sounds more up my alley and I hope you will stop by to let us know when it is scheduled for release. So you started writing during your fateful trip to India, where did you go from there to become a published author?
I worked for 30 years as a Journalist, but never considered myself a writer.
Then as I wrote above I started writing about my journey through cancer .. not the health struggle – more the struggle of a man who wondered what in the hell he had done.
My first book self-published in Oct/2017 “The Other Side of Ego”.
The year prior I was asked to give a TED Talk and was approached by agents and publishers but decided to go alone for the first one.
Many people would think you crazy for not taking the agents and publishers up on their offer. I admire your courage to do this alone. Aside from writing, and battling cancer, how do you like to spend your time?
After taking time off for to deal with my disease I am back working in journalism.
Returned back to the job you are so passionate about. Clearly you know where you want to go. Do you have anything else you would like to share?
What is it all about?
It is the question I have asked myself for the past few years – sometimes I ask every few weeks, sometimes daily and on occasion when I decide I need to struggle I ask myself constantly. For the past two weeks, it has been a constant barrage, as the suicide of my daughter’s young friend has caused me to reflect deeply about his death and about mine, the one I cannot avoid eventually.
While his death has given me a push to keep moving forward – to exhaust what I have started on this leg on my journey, it has also caused me to pause and wonder – what is next?
Gone are the days when I feared the nothingness of death, the imminent end to it all with the eternity of endless silence. I now have faith that there is something beyond all of this.
As I walked today I contemplated “what it is all about” the question of life or existence after death. I have begun to understand that there is a soul within me and I started to think about this soul and what will I do when I am released from this body? As I walked I looked at others and wondered about their souls too – then as I do when I leave my ego unchecked (even for a moment) I started a comparison.
“He looks angry,” I thought – his soul cannot be as evolved as mine. I began to think of people who have dementia like my friend Mary and wonder as her mind goes has her soul left her body already? I began to believe even if just for a moment surely my soul will do better because “I think great thoughts” and then suddenly the hubris that is in me became evident – and I thought what a fool am I.
Walking I think is like life and eventually, I worked my way to a beautiful spot – it is below Sydney’s Harbor Bridge – there I meditate. Recently I have been using a form of meditation – not where I shut everything out, but where I let everything in. With eyes closed, I listen to it all, every sound, from the clatter of traffic above on the bridge, to boats as they cut fine lines through the water – and the magic of wind, that unseen force that whispers at me as it runs its fingers through trees. I do not describe it inside my busy mind, I just hear it.
Suddenly a shriek woke me from my peace and I looked frantically from where the sound came – there just 20 meters away was a young boy bent down crying, so instinctively I ran too him. As I approached I saw him cradling a tiny Lorikeet in his hands on the ground. Lorikeets are in abundance here – the tiny bird like a miniature Parrot is so beautiful with its bright blue, green and orange markings. They are cheeky little buggers who will land on an outdoor table you sit at and expect sugar and or sweet things.
But this Lorikeet that was being protected by this young boy lay motionless and I felt it was dead. I looked at him and stumbled through some words I thought would explain it when I noticed that this boy was a downs syndrome child, and my words faded.
I immediately wondered if he understood what I said, if he could grasp life and death and as the rush of thoughts transpired in me to steal the moment I wondered if this downs syndrome child had a soul. I was lucky as his mother approached and broke the dialogue of arrogance in my head.
“He has always been like this,” she said, adding “he is always so worried when he sees something that is gone”.
At first not much registered of what she said – I was watching him as he brought twigs and leaves to lay upon the poor little bird that was motionless on the ground before us. As my mind finally calmed I began to hear her and see her, and noticed the admiration she had of this poor boy I had wondered who was maybe less than I.
We sat and watched as young Lachie ran about after his burial of the bird. After a few moments, he ran to me holding a new twig, bent half way up he said to me “see” as he held it next to his arm. The comparison was obvious the branch was shaped just like a human arm. I smiled at him and said yes I see that, so he sat between us with pride of accomplishment on his face. He then wrapped his tiny arm around mine, and his mother explained he loves closeness and compassion.
After a few moments of gentle banter, the small grave rustled and we watched as the tiny bird poked his face out among the twigs and leaves, took a look at us as if to say “what is all the fuss about” and broke into flight. Lachie leaped up and raised his tiny arms to the sky and laughed, running in circles as he tried to keep his eyes on his feathered friend that was now riding along those whispers in the wind.
We all smiled, and sometimes there are no words so we sat his mother and I as we watched joy, pure unbridled joy unleashed from the confines of a busy mind that dares to compare souls.
As I walked home I realized I still don’t know what a soul is – but I knew what it was not. It was not the thing that dares to measure or compete. Perhaps it is what was contained in Lachie’s gentle hands as he cradled the little Lorikeet or the joy he lived as the bird flew one more time. Maybe it’s none of that or all of that. But what is evident is Lachie has a soul every bit as rich as anyone’s, and obviously much less confused than mine.
So – What is it all about? – perhaps today it’s about a bird flying free, a young boy laughing for joy and me discovering that I am not all that evolved – and that’s all the way it’s supposed to be – perfect for the moment.
What a beautiful story. I am grateful you shared it. Thank you again for coming by Jonathan and I wish you continued success both in your literary pursuits, and your pursuit of life’s truths.
If anyone would like to check out Jonathan’s work, you can find some links below.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/jonathan.gravenor
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