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In Praise of Norma

The year is 1977. That’s when I recall a certain WIT (writers-in-transition) meeting at one of our
members’ homes.
As we settled comfortably into our host’s living room waiting for the ‘official’ start to our
evening of reading, Norma — a usually calm voice in the midst of writers’ babble — held up her
arm for attention. When we were finally quiet, she solemnly announced to all in attendance: “my
book has been banned.”
There followed a moment of stunned silence. And then came cheers! One by one, each of us
shouted: “Norma! That is great! Terrific! Now it will be a best seller. Everyone will want to buy
it! Read it!”
We were all delighted! Congratulating her on such a great achievement…a banned book! What
better publicity! What a coup!
Norma was talking (and chuckling) about her latest published novel: “Woman in a Blue Hat”.
The book is about a young wife (supporting character is a Lake Huron beach) who is kidnapped
by drug freaks. While the young woman is forced to star in a porn flick, her husband frantically
searches for her.
A most tantalizing theme! And, we all agreed, banning the book would bring wonderful and
wanted publicity!
Alas, I’m not sure that happened. I believe the euphoria was short-lived and Norma continued to
live quietly in Sarnia.
Fast forward to another time, another place
Nothing escaped her keen eye. I recall a professional photography exhibit years ago in The
Gallery of the Grove. It featured political conflict photographs in El Salvador by a local award-
winning photojournalist. During her visit to the Gallery at the time, Norma stood and studied a
black-and-white image: its focus on a crying child, lost in the depths of poverty, hunger, and
Across the room on this Opening Day stood a table laden with goodies of every delectable
description as well as coffee, tea, soft drinks and water.
She commented on the disparate irony of the scene, not in a mean way, of course, but with the
eye of an artist. Here were walls covered with stark, frightened, terrified people living in constant
upheaval. Meanwhile, well-fed gallery guests gazed upon each gut-wrenching photo. She later
wrote about that obvious contrast.
Over the years, Norma also wrote with humour. This vintage 2009 piece is a personal favourite:

I loathe, despise, detest, deplore
being cornered by a bore.
Motormouths who never cease
should be dropped in boiling grease.
Folks who chew with mouths ajar
call for feathers smeared with tar.
Toothpicks used in public places
turn diners into damned disgraces.
Drunken, cursing, loud-mouthed guys
are of humans most despised.
And last of all that I abhor —
rich old farts who still want more.

Thanks for everything, Norma. Especially for being true to you.
And I know you are still writing. Wherever you are.

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