“I need to start writing again.”
He knew she was serious. They’d been re-watching HBO’s Rome, Vorenus had just found out about his wife’s infidelity, Julius Caesar was in the midst of a savage attack in the Senate, and she’d just pressed pause.
“I need to start writing again,” she repeated, when he shifted around to look at her. “But I can’t write in the office. It’s a disaster in there, and the window looks out to the garbage can.
“And I can’t write in the kitchen. It’s always full of dishes that need to be washed, and agendas that need to be signed.
“The bedroom is out. Oprah once said that you shouldn’t work in the same room that you sleep in, or else you’ll never sleep properly again.
“And the dining room is too cold.”
“Well,” he said, “how about the playroom? There’s a window in there. It’s warm and quiet when the boys aren’t around. There’s plenty of room.”
“Maybe. We’ll see. I need to start writing again.”
Days later they unearthed her old desk from beneath a stack of children’s artwork, receipts in need of shredding, and the bag of fall rye that they never did get around to spreading on the garden. In the desk drawers she discovered two framed third-place certificates that she’d been carting around from house to house for the past 16 years. Who hangs a third-best journalist award? The third-best human-interest column? Second loser, more like, she thought. But the laughter died in her throat as she looked at the dates and did some math.
She was 22 when she took her first third place, twenty-four when she won the second. She was a baby, then. That’s not nothing.
Underneath those dusty plaques, there was another. A mock front page, mounted on a foam board, so old now that the corners lift at the edges. The one-of-a-kind Danna Edition of Kamloops This Week, published on Nov. 15, 2005, her last day at the paper. Five photos with appropriately inappropriate cutlines, and a 72-point headline proclaiming: “We hardly new you, Donna.”
It was both a self-depreciating nod to the newsroom’s occasional copyediting gaffs, and reminder that she couldn’t go a day without someone calling the front desk and asking for Donna, Diana, Dana, Darla. She once covered a conference and came back to the newsroom with a lanyard around her neck and a name tag that read: “Janet Johnson, Reporter, Kamloops This Week.” Her colleagues were humane, and stopped calling her Janet within three months.
The fake front page went up on the wall.
Then her husband unearthed another plaque — bigger this time, and wrapped in plastic.
When the Kamloops Daily News shut its doors in January 2014, employees were handed severance packages and a copy of the final front page, professionally mounted. Her severance when into mutual funds, and the broadsheet went into the back of a closet.
“Sure,” she told her husband. “Hang it beside the other one, maybe.”
And he did. And here she sits, with both front pages framing her computer screen, in her perfect little writer’s nook that is neither too cold, nor too noisy.
“I need to start writing again,” she whispers to herself, knowing that four years have passed, and 208 weekly columns have gone unwritten.
“I need to start writing again,” she breathes, her fingers restless on the keyboard. For 200 or so weeks she’s been writing press releases, video scripts, social media posts and other miscellaneous marketing content — this shouldn’t be so difficult.
But after a four-year, self-imposed silent treatment, now that she’s ready to speak, she’s lost her voice.
What if she can’t do it?
What if people read it?
What if they don’t?
“I need to start writing again,” she wrote.