My husband gave me a t-shirt for Christmas that says BAYGIRL. I should have worn it to my book event on Saturday night at Norton’s Cove Studio, in the bay from whence I came. (I wore a raggedy denim shirt instead to give the appearance of not giving a fuck, like a real artistic rebel. I’m kidding. I forgot the baygirl shirt because I’m very unorganized and forgetful. I once boarded the wrong plane at the airport and didn’t realize it until the actual seat-holder of 22B told me to fly the frig out of her seat. I argued with her for five minutes before exiting the plane like the world’s shittiest terrorist.)
Some pictures of beautiful Norton’s Cove Studio:
For those of you not from The Rock (and especially for those of you thinking The Rock is Alcatraz right now), a “baygirl” is a female from one of Newfoundland’s rural, seaside communities. It is the opposite of a “townie” girl – she who hails from the capital city of St. John’s. I’m not sure what they call girls from Mount Pearl or Corner Brook, the other two cities on the island. And don’t even ask me about Labrador or my head will explode. As far as Newfoundlanders are concerned, there are only townies and baymen. If you don’t fall into one of those two categories, you’re probably a chair or a toaster.
So about eight weeks ago, this baygirl (who married a townie boy and now lives in the city) published a book, MotherFumbler. I’m not sure where it’s being filed away in bookstores in major cities like Montreal and Toronto and Vagina, Sasnatchewan. Maybe it’s in the “Parenting” section, or in the “Potty-Mouth” section located, appropriately, near the shitters. In Halifax a couple weeks ago, I found my second-born on a table with “Made in Canada” on the masthead.
But here in Newfoundland bookstores, MotherFumbler has dug her big red heel into the “Local” section, and I’m happy to be in such fabulous company. Check out the bookshelf at a local grocery store: Bill Rowe to my left, Bernice Morgan directly beneath me. (Oh Bernice, that feels good, don’t stop.)
And look at me (well that’s not me, that’s Purna) at Chapters, among a seasonal display of local bestsellers.
I confess, I propped that top one up next to The House of Wood In Vaginas (hi, Kevin Major) and coerced the lovely Chapters associate to pose. But still, there I was, stomping around among the heritage and poetry and Newfoundlandia.
Here in these larger stores, my father’s book, Fogo Island Boy, is also just a couple shelves away from mine. If I had published under my maiden name, we’d be Combden to Combden, cover to cover, spine to spine. But alas, the townie husband got his way. (I’m kidding. Changing my name was my choice. I don’t regret it.)
There’s nothing really local about my book though. My writing style is more saucy slang than local dialect. And the book has a truly universal theme: motherhood. It reads the same to a mom in Newfoundland as it does to a mom in Nantucket (where there was once a girl who…oh nevermind.) Truth be told, MotherFumbler probably belongs in the “Humour” section. A few weeks ago, it even spent a whooooole day at #2 on Amazon in the Humour/Parenting category, so there. But local is where they want me around here, so local is where I contentedly sit. One thing’s for sure, over here I stand out like a sore vagina, or thumb, whatever. Check out the titles around mine at the Gander Book Nook: Wooden Ships and Iron Men. Running the Whales’s Back. The Blackwood Schooner.
I didn’t give my book a nautical title, but I do refer to childbirth as “passing the M.V. Homo Sapien through the Screwez Canal.” So technically I fit in here just fine.
Saturday night made me even more proud of my local label. No, Mom and I didn’t split the jackpot at bingo. And I didn’t spend a night of passion with artist David Blackwood (he’s from here, too. Don’t be jealous.) I went to a meet and greet at a local studio, where 30 people from my home community came out to say hello to me. I thought maybe a couple of them dropped by to buy a watercolour at the wrong damn time, or got lost on the way to the 50+ Club Potluck. But no, they all came to see me, to talk to me. The crowd included my grade-12 math teacher, two of my kindergarten classmates, a handful of people who knew me well, a punt-load of souls who knew me only by name, and two lovelies who didn’t know me from Oprah.
Some of them purchased a copy of my book from Janet, artist/owner of Norton’s Cove Studio and gracious host of the event. Some bought several copies, for peeps living away. Others came in with their copies to be autographed, the pages already disheveled from enthusiastic turning. I think I even saw a bookmark sticking out of one. Or maybe it was a joint, I can’t be sure. Book sales be damned, I was tickled pink to have this many people venture out into the frigid night, to cram inside this cozy little studio, to share the space with lil’ ol’ me. To hear what silliness I would sputter. To support one of their own.
Now I’m extra glad my bio at the back of the book says where I’m from. Not where I live; where I’m from. I’m not from St. John’s. I’m from Badger’s Quay, in New-Wes-Valley, in Bonavista Bay. That’s right, I’m a BAYGIRL, motherfuckers. And don’t you forget it. I know I won’t. (The t-shirt wouldn’t let me if I tried.)