Author Archives: Lesley Crewe

About Lesley Crewe

Lesley writes: "Although born and raised in Montreal a hundred years ago, I live in Cape Breton with my retired husband, two warring cats and a murder of crows. Our kids flew the coop long ago. I got into writing as a way to avoid housework and I've been on a diet for over fifty years with no success. I like to walk, read and collect old children's books. It is my mission in life to hug as many animals as possible."

A Day in My Life: Lesley Crewe

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July 13, 2014

Up at 6:30 in the Prince George Hotel in Halifax. Had a shower. Got dressed. Had coffee from a little coffee machine in the room.

Went downstairs to conference room and met Nimbus colleagues. Listened to other authors read from their books. Gave my own ten minute reading. Signed books, made plans with various bookstores etc.

Kissed Nimbus crew and other authors farewell.

Packed stuff and left the hotel. Drove to our daughter’s apartment. They went shopping. I had a nap.

Had a slice of pizza they brought back for lunch.

Wrapped gifts for our son, who is 33 today! Black and white polka dot paper. Sarah laughed at my wrapping skills and how I’m useless, but she hugged me several times so I forgave her.

Discussed ant traps.

Chopped potatoes, onions, carrots and mushrooms to make crispy packages in the oven.

Son came over to sister’s apartment and I kissed him several times until he told me to stop.

Watched the World Cup and saw Germany win! Sarah’s friend is German and sent a text, basically saying “Yahoo!” in German.

Husband, daughter, daughter’s fiance and son and I had rib steaks on the barbeque. We brought out one cake and two banana cream pies for birthday boy… all of us carrying them in a row. Son loves banana cream pie. He blew out candles.

Paul opened his gifts: new socks for work and a new set of pots. He’s gone through the old stuff we gave him when he moved away a decade ago.

Hubby and I talked about the day Paul was born. Both he and his sister have heard this story a million times. They roll their eyes, listen and nod their heads. They change the subject.

Talked to Sarah about job. Talked about houses for sale in Halifax and her wedding plans.

Washed up dishes that didn’t make it into the dish washer.

Said goodbye to boy, kissing him as he went out the door.

Looked at houses for sale on the computer. Made Sarah look at the ones I liked.

Watched her and fiance get ready for bed and kissed her goodnight.

Got ready for bed too. It was very hot out, despite the fan in the window. Husband turned and lay his head at the foot of the bed to catch the breeze. At some point in the middle of the night, he forgot where he was and tried to get out of the bed.

He kicked me in the head.

“Sorry! Sorry!”


We struggled with the sheets for a minute and went to sleep.

A Conversation with Lesley Crewe

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Kin by Lesley Crewe

Kin by Lesley Crewe

Cape Breton mother and author Lesley Crewe has published six acclaimed novels, including her latest, Kin. Lesley’s first novel, Relative Happiness, will be released as a feature-length film in 2014. Lesley spoke with Understorey editor Katherine Barrett about motherhood, grief, and creativity.

How did you start writing novels?
I was working as a newspaper columnist in Cape Breton when I started my first novel, Relative Happiness. I wrote that story to be with my son, Joshua. We’d lost Joshua twenty years earlier, when he was just an infant [see Forever below]. I wanted to write his name—to see his name in something other than granite. So I did, over and over again. I didn’t intend to publish the story—I wrote it for myself—but a friend suggested I send it to a publisher and I’ve been writing novels ever since.

How has motherhood influenced your writing?
It’s who I am. Motherhood has influenced my life so of course it has influenced my writing too. My children are grown and live away from home but the mothering never stops. I don’t write about my kids in my books, yet the experience of being a mother—that love, empathy and worry—shapes all of my characters and stories.

You wrote your first five novels in two years. You’ve now published six and have another due out this summer. How do you it?
Please don’t be too impressed or daunted by how much I have written! Everyone has their own process and a right time in life to be creative. I didn’t write anything when my kids were small; I didn’t have the energy. Now I write just to avoid housework…. Actually, I walk every morning and that’s when I think of my stories. I then sit down and tell those stories, usually in short bursts of intense work. I write books that are easy to read, books that can be enjoyed in the tub or on the beach. I tell the kind of stories I like to read myself, and I draw a lot from my life and from the people around me.

Although the characters in your books often leave Nova Scotia, they seem compelled to return. There’s a pull, especially back to Cape Breton. Do you feel that too?
I spent the first six months of my life in Glace Bay, Cape Breton, and then grew up in Montreal. I have always felt a connection to Cape Breton and was fortunate to have the opportunity to move back, even when so many people have had to move away for work. I’ve lived here 30 years now and everyone I know who has left can’t wait to get back. I think that pull stems from the people here and in the Maritimes in general—the people and the connection we have to each other.

What advice could you give to new writers?
I’ve given workshops in high schools in Cape Breton through the Writers in the Schools program of the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia. I tell my students that you don’t need to travel to some exotic place to find a good story. We have lots of great stories—and fantastic characters—right here at home. I also advise new writers to write for the love of it, not out of a desperate need to be published. Write for yourself and trust your characters, too. Sometimes they take your story in new and unexpected directions. Listen to them.

What’s next for you?
I have a new book coming out in August. Chloe Sparrow is a lighthearted novel about a TV producer. The story was my daughter’s idea so I wrote it for her. I also finished another book this winter called Amazing Grace. I fell in love with the main character of that story, Grace. I miss her now. It’s strange the way that works…. This fall will be busy with Relative Happiness, the movie, coming out and with promoting Chloe Sparrow. But I love to meet my readers. They’re always so kind to me.



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I want to tell you about a moment, gone before I was able to gather a thread of thought. But once you know, its presence never leaves. It winds around you as mist, a wind that swirls, unseen but always felt. It only comes to you after losing someone you deeply love. We lost our little boy, Joshua MacKenzie. A nurse told me she liked the way his name looked on a piece of paper. I have been staring at it carved in granite for ten thousand days.

The night Joshua died, I left this place. I went with him, carrying him into the universe myself. When I returned, pieces of my exploded heart lay all over the hospital floor. I tried to gather them up but couldn’t. My breast milk dripped down the drain of a public washroom sink because my baby didn’t need it any more. My body cried for me.

This is falling over the edge of the earth.

No mother should ever know what it feels like to leave her baby in the rain.

In school we learned that when ancient Hawaiians grieved for the people they loved, they climbed the sea cliffs and smashed their teeth against the rocks. They poked their eyes out with sticks. I used to wonder why someone would do such a thing.

They do it to let the pain out.

I wanted to be with Joshua. It would have been so much easier to die. The only reason I didn’t was a four-year-old boy who said he would grow up to be Superman and save his brother.

Somehow we lived through that long lonely winter. Spring came and then summer. Early one morning, Paul wanted to be with his baby. We went to the cemetery and sat on the grass beside Joshua’s grave. The sky was a beautiful clear blue, with glorious white clouds that rose so high they looked endless.

Paul was content. He sat on my lap and we listened to the brook dancing its way to the ocean. Birds and chipmunks greeted us as they always did. We saw butterflies and bugs, ants and even a grasshopper. The two huge fir trees on either side of Joshua’s stone gave us shade from the bright sun.

I felt a flutter, as soft as silk. My girl let me know she was there too. I looked up between those towering trees and the sky split open. I had an unborn child, a living child and a dead child. And they were all with me. Whether or not I could hold him, whether or not I could see her. They would stay with me in this world, the world before and the world after.

I didn’t lose Joshua. He lives with me every day, as surely as his brother and sister. Paul and Sarah are held in the circle of my arms. Joshua lies in his garden, in the circle of the earth, under a canopy of stars.