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Never too old to start writing

By Sherry Tompkins

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Jess Bond was 60 and thought she was too old to start writing. Boy, was she wrong. Bond has written seven books, six collections of short stories and one novel. All of the books are about life in Cape Breton. Photo by Sherry Tompkins

It’s never too late to start writing. That’s the lesson Jess Bond, 83, learned 23 years ago.

Bond, a retired schoolteacher, moved to Stirling from Scarborough in 1987.  At 60, Bond felt it was too late to start writing.

“Jack, it’s too late. I’ve waited too long.  I should’ve started this when I was 30,” Bond says, reiterating a conversation she had with her son Jack.

She credits the start of her writing career to Jack’s response.

“Mom, bite your tongue and just sit down and do it,” he said.

Taking his advice to heart, Bond bought a second-hand computer and enrolled in a computer course at Loyalist.

She knew right away she was in the wrong course.  Her instructor came around to see what level of skill each individual. Bond told him she didn’t even know how to turn the computer on.

“Suddenly I knew how my students felt.  It was overwhelming to not have a clue where to begin,” said Bond.

With the support of her neighbours she learned how to operate her computer.

Bond has been a life-long learner taking summer, night and correspondence courses throughout her life.  She started by taking a correspondence course through Humber College.

At that time, Allister MacLeod was teaching creative writing at Western University in London, so Bond took a summer course with him next.

“That turned out to be the best course that I could have taken.  He was brilliant.  He used to say to me, ‘Who’s got the microphone?  Whose story is it, anyway?’”

He taught me that my character has to have something that he or she is just dying to say.  I bumped into him years later and I asked him, ‘Who’s got the microphone?  Whose story is it, anyway?’ He laughed and replied, ‘That’s a good thing to have tattooed on the inside of your forehead.’”

Bond began to write short stories and just started sending stories for publication.  There are quarterly publications from every university in Canada, says Bond.

They don’t pay, but if you can get published in one of those, it gives you credibility. You have to get published in order to get published.

Bond has written seven books, six collections of short stories and one novel.  All of the books are about life in Cape Breton.  Bond attributes her following to the fact that all of her stories are set in the same time and in the same place.

Although the characters are fictional, they are based on her experience and inspired by colourful characters from her life.

Bond’s books are sold locally at Chapters, Greenley’s and at West Wing Books in Stirling, where she held a book signing for her latest book, More Cape Breton Stories, released in December 2010.

Analese Meek, co-owner of West Wing Books, lit up when asked about Bond.

“She’s been really good to us.  She always has a big following here in Stirling,” said Meek.

At 83, Bond is currently working on her eighth book and has an intriguing idea for a book based on a 35-year correspondence between herself and her good friend and polar opposite, Lilian Clairchild. A brief description of their relationship and their differing views and personalities sounds amusing, enlightening and edifying.  Bond wonders whether this concept would be well received, being a diversion from her usual writing genre.

Asked what advice she would offer to someone wishing to be a writer, Bond said it takes two things.  The first one is the ability to spend time alone.  Writers have to be alone to write and not everyone is capable of that.  The second thing is that you also need to have people to discuss your ideas with.

While living in Stirling, Bond was part of a writing group.

“We would get together and read our stories to each other.  Sometimes just reading it out loud was enough to recognize something that didn’t work.  Sometimes someone else had to say something. You just have to jump in and try it,” said Bond.

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