Dropped Threads 3: Beyond The Small Circle by Marjorie Anderson

Dropped Threads 3: Beyond The Small Circle

byMarjorie Anderson

Paperback | April 11, 2006

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In the tradition of the bestselling Dropped Threads and Dropped Threads 2 comes this new collection of essays from well-known writers and new voices.

Ever since the publication of the first two Dropped Threads books, readers and writers have longed for another installment — and here it is. For this collection, editor Marjorie Anderson took a new thematic path, searching out pieces that don’t necessarily focus on what women haven’t been told, but rather on what they have to tell. In Dropped Threads 3: Beyond the Small Circle, thirty-five women open up their own small circles of experience to others in ways that not only illuminate the lives of individual women but add more threads to the already-rich tapestry of our collective conversation.

These essays focus on personal discoveries that, for various reasons, need to be shared: the writers tell us about family secrets, sexuality, rebellion, crevices of deep joy or regret; about finding connections to nature, to animals, to a “tribe” to which one can belong; about embracing forgiveness, kindness, and new perspectives beyond the circle of individual sight. Barbara McLean tells us of the sister she never knew, and how recovering her story shed light on how grief can take so many different forms. June Callwood explores the continuity that flows between mothers and daughters, and the mysterious, chance happenings that form character. Frances Itani writes about how the voices of the women in her family – her aunts and grandmother relaying stories around the kitchen table – are as integral to her life as her own genetic code. Melanie Janzen sees connections between a Ugandan women’s collective and the neighbourhood women of her childhood, but has trouble finding a similar community of support in her own life today. And in all of the pieces, there is a powerful sense that the understanding that comes from writing and reading can enrich our lives beyond measure.

As Marjorie Anderson writes in her foreword, we trust first-person narratives precisely because they give us an inside view into someone else’s world; here, as in the best of our personal conversations, there are “no assertions of absolute truth, no earth-shaking revelations or attempts to manipulate another’s belief, just individual voices making individual claims on the discovery of meaning.” With Dropped Threads 3: Beyond the Small Circle, Anderson has created a forum in which Canadian women can share their personal discoveries with honesty, insight and humour.

Marjorie Anderson (foreword)
Margaret Atwood
June Callwood
Tracey Ann Coveart
Lorna Crozier
Andrea Curtis
Norma DePledge
Maggie de Vries
M.A.C. Farrant
Liane Faulder
Natalie Fingerhut
Lorri Neilsen Glenn
Marie-Lynn Hammond
Harriet Hart
Frances Itani
Melanie D. Janzen
Gillian Kerr
Chantal Kreviazuk
Silken Laumann
Jodi Lundgren
Ann-Marie MacDonald (introduction)
C.B. Mackintosh
Heather Mallick
Barbara McLean
Barbara Mitchell
Bernice Morgan
Patricia Pearson
Beth Powning
Judy Rebick
Susan Riley
Lauri Sarkadi
Barbara Scott
Jodi Stone
Cathy Stonehouse
J. C. Szasz
Aritha van Herk
Janice Williamson

About The Author

Marjorie Anderson has a Ph.D. in literature and taught in the English Department and Faculty of Management at the University of Manitoba for twenty years. During that time she was awarded the University’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and was chosen to teach in a number of international programs, including an MBA program in the Czec...
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Details & Specs

Title:Dropped Threads 3: Beyond The Small CircleFormat:PaperbackDimensions:400 pages, 8.9 × 6 × 1.3 inPublished:April 11, 2006Publisher:Random House Of CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0679313850

ISBN - 13:9780679313854

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Read from the Book

ForewordMarjorie AndersonMy first discovery of the universe a word can hold happened on a December night in rural Manitoba, where I lived with my seven siblings and our parents. I had been at a sleepover with a cousin who lived a half mile down a bush trail. In the middle of the night I was struck by a wave of loneliness so powerful it forced me out of bed, into my clothes and, stealthily, out the door of my cousin’s house. The path home, familiar in the daytime, had been transformed into foreign territory with its alternate strips of moonlight and tree shadow stretching over mounds of snow. I felt as though I had never been on that trail before and, moreover, that no one knew I was there. At that moment, I was outside every known person’s awareness – and I was inside the word alone. I knew it intimately and totally.The next week in school I learned that a classmate, an only child, had lost both parents in a boating accident. Immediately I understood that she too had crossed over to the interior of the word alone but, with a start, I recognized that her invisible landscape was vastly different from mine. My eight-year-old mind did the transference, and I was left unsure and wobbly where earlier I’d been certain I had discovered the absolute, shining truth about aloneness.These two experiences strongly shaped my relationship with language, and with what language builds – knowledge. Never again could I feel the charmed security of knowing something totally. Truth and meaning became provisional, someone’s small claim on a vast landscape of possibilities, one dot in a pointillist painting. My initial sense of loss was replaced by a fascination with the personal stories of others and their claims on what a word signified or an experience held. I sensed that if I listened closely and gathered in as many “dots” of meaning as I could, I might, just might, come close to the marvel of that mid-winter epiphany of 1952, when the gap between language and complete understanding vanished.I’ve come to understand the force of women’s interest in personal narratives as a collective version of that impulse born in me when I was eight. We need to know how to read the world beyond our experience of it, and we trust first-person accounts, perhaps more so because of the lack of faith in political and corporate declarations of truth and meaning. Personal stories are one means of getting a trusted inside view – This is how wisdom, love, joy, betrayal, fear, regret have been for us. No assertions of absolute truth, no earth-shaking revelations or attempts to manipulate another’s belief, just individual voices making individual claims on the discovery of meaning.Several years ago Carol Shields and I had the privilege of tapping into this passion for an inside view of women’s experiences when we collaborated on editing the first two Dropped Threads anthologies. These collections of intimate stories on surprise and silence in women’s lives have been embraced by readers with an enthusiasm that left all of us – contributors, editors and publishers – amazed at the size of the community of shared interest we found. The fact that Carol’s wisdom and generous spirit were central to that community gives those paired books an especially treasured quality.And yet there has been an ongoing insistence for more, from both readers and writers. In the three years since the publication of the second Dropped Threads anthology, personal essays have continued to come in “just in case,” and in every women’s gathering or discussion group I’ve attended, inevitably there was the question “Will there be another collection?” The decision to go ahead with a new anthology was a way of honouring the creative fervour swirling around me and, happily, keeping connected to it. The idea for the new theme came easily when I thought again of how varied our encounters inside language can be. Instead of having women focus on what they haven’t been told, I wanted them to write about their significant discoveries of meaning, to pass on what they have to tell all us enthusiastic dot collectors.In direct invitations to established writers and in a cross-Canada call for proposals placed on the dropped threads website and in the Globe and Mail, the publishers and I asked women to consider the topic “This I Know.” The responses were immediate, as women released their well-earned wisdoms into stories, which rose up from across the country like happy vapours too long confined. The only hesitancy was with absolute truth-telling, with the ring of certainty that “know” suggests. Many writers obviously felt far more comfortable with a stance one of them referred to as “this I suspect.” Advice-giving too came in on a slant, delivered with humour and a clear-eyed view of the limited benefits of unsolicited counsel, no matter how well intended.There also seemed to be limits on the kind of stories women wanted to tell. None of the three hundred proposals and submissions dealt with what women have learned about long-standing love relationships with men, and only a few were about their experiences of professional work in the traditional haunts of men. As if . . . well, as if these topics have had adequate coverage, or verge on dangerous territory.What women did want to write about was the importance of other connections – to nature, to animals, to dance, to lives beyond the familiar, and above all to the varied choices and experiences of motherhood, a topic central to a third of the submissions. Another common theme was a sense of place: discovering it within families and in the world, but also asserting it by showing the unique experiences behind common terms such as victim, addict, rebel, celebrity. Women’s remarkable affinity for endurance and peace surfaced in all these accounts. Whether they shared intimate moments of grace and beauty or charted paths through minefields of personal pain, these writers left blueprints for ways of being that others could follow.

Bookclub Guide

1. In her foreword, Marjorie Anderson describes these stories as “fresh glimpses” of “what might otherwise lie just beyond our own small circles of sight.” How does reading about the diverse experiences of other women affect you? Does it make you look at events in your own life in a different way?2. A number of the pieces in this collection tell of the writers’ secret thoughts and hidden experiences. Why do you think the authors chose this collection as the right place to tell their stories? Would you ever write about difficult events in your life, or very private thoughts, and be able to publish your work for everyone to read?3. While some of the contributors write about painful or life-altering events, others write about the simple joys that make life worth living — whether a camaraderie with coworkers or a connection to nature or the love for a pet. Compare these approaches, perhaps by finding stories that come to similar conclusions yet are remarkably different in topic or tone.4. In “Notes on a Counterrevolution,” Patricia Pearson writes about the difficulty of being honest with her nieces about her own youthful transgressions. What do you think about the “Don’t make the same mistakes I did” approach? Are we forced to be more honest with kids these days than in the past? Why or why not?5. Tracey Ann Coveart, in “I Am a Mother,” writes about the feelings of inadequacy that plagued her marriage and her social life, due to her decision to be a full-time mom at an age when her friends were all focused on their careers. Compare the stories in this book that look at motherhood, and discuss the different ways women choose to – or are forced to – balance their lives.6. In “Polonia,” Margaret Atwood writes about the compulsion to give advice to strangers, due to something she terms a “mother-robin hormone.” Compare the different approaches to advice-giving in this collection. Do you think this is an urge particular to women? Why or why not? Does the wisdom one achieves with age make it more or less likely a compulsion?7. Which of the pieces in this collection affected you the most, or stayed with you the longest? Did you find yourself connecting more to the stories that mirrored your own experiences, or ones that showed perspectives very different from your own? Were there any pieces you just couldn’t relate to or didn’t like?8. Have you ever tried to write about difficult aspects of your own life? Is it easier or harder to open up about your own experiences on the page than it is to talk candidly with family or friends?9. Some of the contributors to DT 3 are well-known writers, or have achieved a level of fame for other reasons, like Silken Laumann and Chantal Kreviazuk. Others are less known or are being published for the first time. Did you find yourself approaching the stories differently, based on whether or not you recognized an author’s name? Were you ever surprised by what you read as a result?10. Dropped Threads 3 is broken into four “parts,” with the pieces grouped according to general themes. How do these groupings enhance the connections you make between stories that may be very unlike each other?

Editorial Reviews

Praise for the Dropped Threads series:“These are all the conversations we would wish to have with friends and these essays stimulate the sense of exuberance and relief that one always feels after a long, self-revelatory talk.” –The Halifax Chronicle-Herald“There’s no manual for life. But thanks to Marjorie Anderson and Carol Shields, there are a few more voices of experience shedding light on some of life’s little surprises… [This] is an intriguing, sometimes funny and often moving collection.” –Winnipeg Sun“Each voice is distinctive, yet most share a stance: unsentimental, clear-eyed, compassionate but unflinching…. What all of them have in common is candour. Dropped Threads 2 is as good as its predecessor, sometimes even better…. The Dropped Threads anthologies have become, as [Carol Shields] notes in her afterword, an ongoing project. Long may they continue.” –Quill & Quire“Dropped Threads is a much-awaited anthology of essays and stories by Canadian women, including celebrated writers as well as women who are neither writers nor famous.” –Ottawa Citizen“It’s a collection of revealing essays and short stories by thirty-five Canadian women at mid-life and beyond, reflecting on the life events that caught them off guard and, somehow, haven’t been talked about…. As it turns out, there are many dropped threads in our lives. Weave them together and you’ve got a tapestry.” –Chatelaine