Writing Menopause: An Anthology of Fiction, Poetry and Creative Non-fiction


edited by Jane Cawthorne and E.D. Morin

Print: 978-1-77133-353-5 – $25.95
ePUB: 978-1-77133-354-2 – $12.99
PDF: 978-1-77133-356-6 – $12.99

224 Pages
April 26, 2017  

The Writing Menopause literary anthology is a diverse and robust collection about menopause: a highly charged and often undervalued transformation. It includes over fifty works of fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, interviews and cross-genre pieces from contributors across Canada and the United States that break new ground in portraying menopause in literature. The collection includes literary work from award-winning writers such as Roberta Rees, Margaret Macpherson, Lisa Couturier and Rona Altrows. Emerging voices such as Rea Tarvydas, Leanna McLennan, Steve Passey and Gemma Meharchand, and an original interview with trans educator and pioneering filmmaker Buck Angel, are also featured. This anthology fills a sizable gap, finding the ground between punchline and pathology, between saccharine inspiration and existential gloom. The authors neither celebrate nor demonize menopause. These are diverse depictions, sometimes lighthearted, but just as often dark and scary. Some voices embrace the prospect of change, others dread it.Together, this unique offering reflects the varied experience of menopause and shatters common stereotypes.

“We live it but we don’t often talk about it publicly. Reading this book is like joining a hot conversation of distinct voices, each with a unique approach to storytelling. Their stories are clever, funny, and sometimes, bloody embarrassing. They talk about living with symptoms that keep you awake, melt your skin and your patience, and make you loud, cranky, and tearful. Their stories tell us how menopause shifted their thinking about their bodies, aging, fertility, sexuality and gender identity. When I finished the last page I felt as free as I did getting to the other side of menopause.”
—Diana L. Gustafson,  Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University, St. John’s, and co-author of Reproducing Women: Family and Health Work Across Three Generations

“Strong women. Sexy women. Funny, proud, and beautiful women, living life to the full and in charge of their own destiny. Sometimes hot and sweaty, but never afraid. This anthology of poetry and prose provides an inspirational insight into the complexity of women’s experience of menopause. There may be lows, but these are far outweighed by the highs. Reading this book made me both laugh and cry, and feel glad to be a woman at mid-life. I recommend it highly.”
—Jane M. Ussher, author of The Madness of Women: Myth and Experience, and The Psychology of the Female Body 

“This volume breaks the silence surrounding menopause through women’s stories of their own experiences of this important life transition. It should be essential reading for health practitioners, women’s health researchers, and women living through, or anticipating, this phase of their lives. As the accounts in this book demonstrate, it can often be the best phase.”
—Janette Perz, Director of the Centre for Health Research, Western Sydney University

“Writing Menopause is the first mixed-genre anthology I know of that explores menopause, a subject that still seems shrouded in codes of silence. This anthology sings its subject loud and proud, and for this reason alone it is worth the price of admission.”
—Mariam Pirbhai, Professor and President, Canadian Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies (CACLALS), and author of Outside People and Other Stories

“Remember the not-so-distant past, when women didn’t speak about menopause—except in tones that expressed diminishing dread, as if a women’s worth was connected to fertility and birth. This collection will help to evolve arcane perceptions. As every woman’s experience with menopause is unique, so is every piece in this collection. The more we listen and the more we speak, the more our wisdom surges. The more we learn about our woman-beings, the more we reframe the myths that have isolated us from true nature—from the wild we have in our spirits.”
—Sheri-D Wilson, Poet


Jane Cawthorne‘s work has appeared in newspapers, magazines, literary journals, on CBC and in academic journals. In 2011, she was a finalist for the Alberta Writers Guild, Howard O’Hagan Short Fiction Award for her story “Weight.” Her play, The Abortion Monologues, has been produced many times in the United States and Canada. Jane has an MFA in Creative Writing from the Solstice Program at Pine Manor College in Boston and lives in Toronto.

E. D. Morin’s fiction, poetry, interviews, book reviews and essays have appeared in such publications as Fiction Southeast, The Antigonish Review, Alberta Views, Wascana Review and Alternatives Journal, and her work has been produced for broadcast on CBC Radio. Winner of the 2007 Brenda Strathern Late Bloomers Writing Prize, Elaine co-directs the annual Calgary reading series Writing in the Works.

The Chrissie Hynde Stories by Rea Tarvydas

I sat in a barbershop in Calgary, Alberta. Chrissie Hynde was in the adjacent chair with her feet up on the counter. Her biker boots were scuffed, the soles worn. A minute earlier, the barber had refused to shave my head. I asked him why and waited. He ignored me and repeatedly dipped a comb in blue tonic. “You’re great,” he said in Chrissie Hynde’s direction.

“No, I’m not great. I’m an ordinary person who plays in a band. Why won’t you shave her head?”

“It’s the easiest way to grow out the grey.” I pushed my unruly hair behind my ears. There was an inch of grey at the roots.

The barber narrowed his eyes at me. “It’s too short for a woman. Besides, I don’t want to be responsible for someone who has her head shaved, then jumps off a bridge. No way.” He was a big man with small, close-set eyes, and an oversized head. His hair was dyed black and carefully combed over a bald spot.

I assured him I would not throw myself off any bridge.

“Women your age—” The barber draped a towel across my nape.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked.

<p“That’s misogynistic bullshit and you know it,” said Chrissie Hynde.

The barber was silent, so she stood, grabbed a pair of scissors and set to trimming her bangs. The cuts were small but rough. Effective. Those bangs framed her kohl-ringed eyes to perfection.

“Looks good,” I said.

“It’s always a mess but I’ve learned how to manage it. I’m pretty comfortable with my look.” She wore a singlet under a blue vest, faded jeans and a black-and-white striped tie.

“You’re not very feminine,” said the barber. He snapped a nylon cape on me. Placed his hands on my shoulders like he wanted to calm himself down.

“Listen, I never wanted to be known as a girl in a band. I wanted to be known as a rock n’ roll musician,” said Chrissie Hynde.

And this got me thinking about how, the last few years, I wanted to be known not as a woman, but as a person. How I’d taken to wearing androgynous clothing and how I felt uniformly free.

“Shave it off,” I told the barber. He complied.

I travelled to The Banff Centre to work on a novel. I woke sick with strep throat. I was delirious by lunchtime. It was February and minus forty degrees Celsius. The windows were frosted over with a half inch of ice that was clawing up the glass like it wanted to escape. The in-house doctor prescribed antibiotics. I was put into quarantine, but twice a day I wandered over to the dining room and choked down a bowl of soup.

At lunchtime, the waitress leaned in and asked, “Have you seen the athletes?”

It hurt to shake my head.

“There are eight hundred athletes here for the Junior Olympics. We’ve got them billeted in the theatres out back. There are so many, we’re feeding them in shifts.”

“Haven’t seen them,” I whispered. My throat was shredded.

Later, in my room, my fever spiked and the walls started leaning in. Trails of colour rose from the tv. And I thought I could hear the athletes below, talking and laughing together on their way to dinner. Delirious, I shoved a chair to the window and climbed onto it. Balancing, with my fingertips on the metal transom, I could just see over the ice. The angle was acute. The walkway was empty. No athletes.

There was a knock at the door. It was Chrissie Hynde.

”Hey, how’s it going?”

I told her about my throat.

“Throats. Listen, I know throats. You got a kettle? I’ll make you a hot toddy.” She held out a bottle of whisky.

I crawled into bed while Chrissie bustled around my room, clearing away my clothes and making space on the desk for a small box she had fished out of her messenger bag.

“What’s in there?”

“Stuff from home. I’ve been on the road a lot. I know to put together a lotta things out of little Ziplocs.”

“Have you seen the athletes?” I inhaled cinnamon bark fumes. They reminded me of my father and I hadn’t thought about him in months. Dad swore by the efficacy of hot toddies. “Cures what ails you,” he would say, and then plunk down a steaming mug of brown liquid.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, sick girl,” said Chrissie Hynde. So I explained.

“No athletes,” she replied and spun in the office chair. Her hair was pulled into a messy ponytail and I could see a bit of grey at her temples.

After a while, she asked, “What are you writing?” And I tried to explain my amorphous novel. I’d grown scared of its size.

“The writing process. Ain’t it grand? You’ll get there.” Chrissie Hynde brewed another hot toddy, took a sip, hesitated, then said, “I have to tell you something. But you have to promise not to say anything to anyone.”

I promised.

“I’m thinking of going out on my own. I’m writing a buncha new songs. I swore I’d never do it and here I am, going solo.”

I was standing among the avocados and blood oranges. Chrissie Hynde had shared her favourite salad recipe and I wanted to try it for dinner. A woman in her fifties stopped me and said, “You’re too old to be out in public wearing those.” And she pointed at my cargo shorts.

“Fuck off.” It came out of my mouth before I could stop myself.

“That’s not nice.”

“You’re not nice. I’ve never met you and you come up to me and tell me I shouldn’t be seen in public wearing shorts.”

“It’s unseemly,” said the woman. And I knew she was referring to my varicose veins.

“Fuck you,” I said with no hesitation. Later, I e-mailed Chrissie Hynde to tell her about my experience in the produce department at Safeway. I got an automatic response that indicated she was out of the country.

Transporting my completed novel manuscript, I rode an asphalt escalator across Southern Ontario. I came upon Chrissie Hynde. She was playing a solo gig in the middle of a farmer’s field—empty save a small herd of cows grazing on cut hay.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“I’m heading out on the road next month. I’ve gotta practice.” She strapped on her guitar and bent over a piece of equipment.

There was a howl of feedback that she hastily subdued. I stared at the herd, knots of black-and-white cows with broad backs.

“New songs?”

She nodded. “Stockholm’s the name of the album.”

“Like Stockholm syndrome?”

“Nah. I went to Stockholm and recorded it there. But I know what the syndrome is. I mean, I read up on it.”

And I remembered a recent trip to Florence. In the Uffizi gallery, immense Renaissance paintings leaned over me like darkness visible. I grew frightened and escaped to a concrete bench in the packed square. Later, at the business hotel, I dreamt I was choking on blood-red oil paint.

“Are you scared?” My lips dried as I recalled the oozing sensation of my dream.

“You better believe it. It’s just me. No one else. I mean, a band has a personality of its own and once you know what it is, it’s pretty comfortable up there on stage. What the hell. It’s only failure.” Chrissie Hynde tuned her guitar, then launched into a jangled riff. When the amp crackled, the cows took off on an awkward run.

I moved house. That is, I lifted up my bungalow and moved it to Saskatchewan. I’d always wanted to live by the Qu’Appelle River and figured my old house would survive the long trip down the TransCanada Highway. An urbanite wanted my narrow city lot, but not my sturdy bungalow.

I drove the pilot pickup truck forty kilometres an hour across the flatlands while Chrissie Hynde rode shotgun. “WideLoad” flashed the pilot pickup as it inched ahead of the flatbed that carried my bungalow, warning drivers all the way to Saskatchewan. “WideLoad, WideLoad, WideLoad.” That would be me. Too wide for places like city lots, office jobs, and marriage. Chrissie Hynde carried a red-and-white megaphone and, every once in a while, would announce a random thought out the open window.

“What happened with your husband?” she asked.

“I just need to be alone for a while.” I needed time to figure myself out.

“Listen, I’ve been on my own for a long while. I didn’t exactly plan on it happening. It just happened. But I believe in love.”

And I told her how I didn’t know what I believed. About a lot of things: writing, love, marriage. How living with a middle-aged man preoccupied with his aging body was hard work. How I couldn’t talk to him. How I couldn’t talk to strangers anymore.

“We’re all strangers, aren’t we?” she blasted through the megaphone.

I winced. “Do you have to use the megaphone?”

“You bet. I’ve got shit to say. Why in the hell are you moving your house, anyhow?”

“Geographical adventure. Dangerous impulses beneath the stucco.”

“The wiring’s hot?”

I nodded and fiddled with the radio knob. Reception was intermittent on that one stretch of road.

“Yeah, that’s menopause for you. Listen, you gotta have fun. I had an affair with a younger man a few years ago,” she blurted out the window through the megaphone. A chain of birds startled off the telephone wires that underlined the prairie sky.

“What was that like?”

“It was a doomed relationship, but the sex was fantastic. You’re on hiatus from your marriage. You should give it a try.”

I considered sex with a younger man. Twenty-five years since I’d disrobed in front of a man other than my husband. I considered the dangers of vigorous sex when lubrication was an issue. Cystitis at a minimum. “I don’t think I’m ready for that.”

“Do it anyway,” said Chrissie Hynde. And she asked me to pull over. The last I saw of her was in the rear view. She was standing in the middle of the road outside of Moose Jaw. The megaphone remained.

Caged by Lori D. Roadhouse

Female gorilla holds aloft the knife
accidentally dropped into her enclosure.
Eyes him warily. She knows what he wants.
“Get the fuck away from me, Silverback!”

“Hey, hey we’re the monkeys, we just monkey around!”
She glares at him, bares her teeth. Hisses, even.
She’s tired of this cage, tired of the judgemental,
gawping gawkers filing by. Wants out.

This was for better or worse, but not for this.
Not for a lifetime of hell-in-a-cage.
She drops the knife with a clatter, panting and
sweating, head down, clings to the bars. She’s rattled,

weary of making waves, weary from making babies.
She knows his shtick. She heard it through the
grapevine he’s been swinging on in his spare time.
He and that new gal from Boston. Yes, she

heard about their funky monkeying around
and no, she’s not going bananas.
She needs out. Out. Damn spot she’s in.
“An increasing number of marital deaths are

a symptom of underlying marital woes.”
She read that in the paper this morning, during
her last hormone-induced personal sauna.
The knife incident wasn’t truly an accident in

this series of unfortunate events. Tell that to
Lemony Snicket. It’d knock his balls out of the wicket.
A ticket wicket. “Buy me a ticket on the last train
anywhere but home tonight.”

She picks up the knife from the kitchen sink,
where it had fallen with a clatter.
Hot flash over, she resumes, resigned,
peeling the potatoes for his dinner.

Fact and Fiction by Heather Dillaway

List One: Things Menopausal Women Would Love to Hear That are True

•It’s okay to be glad to be done with menstruation, the threat of pregnancy, and the burdens of contraception. It’s also okay to use the menopausal transition to question whether you really wanted kids, whether you had the number of kids you wanted, and whether you’ve been satisfied with your reproductive life in general. It’s normal to have all of these thoughts and feelings.
•You’re entering the best, most free part of your life! But, it’s okay if it doesn’t feel like that yet.
•Menopause does not mean you are old. In fact, potentially you are only halfway through your life.
•You are not alone. Lots of people have the experiences you do. You are normal!
•I understand what you’re going through. (Or, alternatively, I don’t completely understand what you’re going through but I’m willing to listen.)
•It’s okay to be confused and frustrated at this time of life, or in any other time of life!
•You’ve had an entire lifetime of reproductive experiences and this is simply one more. How you feel about menopause is probably related to how you’ve felt about other reproductive experiences over time. It might be helpful to reflect back on all of the reproductive experiences you’ve had to sort out how you feel about menopause.
•Talk to other women you know. Talking about menopause helps everybody.
•Menopause and midlife can be as significant or insignificant as you’d like them to be. For some women these transitions mean very important things, but for others they mean little. Whatever it means to you is okay.
•Researchers are working hard to understand this reproductive transition more fully.

These represent the kind of supportive comments women might want to hear while going through menopause and, in particular, perimenopause. Items on this list also help us acknowledge that our bodies and bodily transitions cause us to reflect on our life stages, our identities, and our choices.

List Two: Things Menopausal Women Would Love to Hear But
Might not Be True

•This is guaranteed to be your last menstrual period. You are done! (Or, a related one: You’ve already had the worst. It gets better from here on out!)
•Signs and symptoms of menopause will be predictable and will not interrupt your life.
•No one will think negatively of you or differently about you if you tell them you’re menopausal.
•There are no major side effects to hormone therapies or any other medical treatments you might be considering.
•Doctors will be able to help you and will understand your signs and symptoms, if you need relief.
•Leaky bodies are no problem! No one will care if your body does what it wants, whenever it wants.
•Partners, children, coworkers, and others will completely understand what you’re going through.
•Middle-aged women are respected in this society and it is truly a benefit to be at this life stage.
•There is a clear beginning and a clear end to this transition.
•Clinical researchers are researching the parts of menopause that you care about.

This reflects many of our societal norms and biases about our bodies, aging, gender, fertility, and so on. This list also attests to the difficulties that menopausal women have in accessing quality health care or getting safe relief from symptoms when needed and notes the potential disconnects between research findings and women’s true needs during this transition.

Introduction – Jane Cawthorne and E. D. Morin

one: un/done

The Chrissie Hynde Stories – Rea Tarvydas

Let’s Talk About Sex – Taryn Thomson

Eating Beets During Menopause – Donna Caruso

I Found Her at the Beach – B. A. Markus

In Charge – Glenda Barrett

Caged – Lori D. Roadhouse

Dervish – Sally Ito 

Disassembly – Jane Cawthorne

Adjusting the Ashes – Susan Calder

Long ago and far away – Louise Carson

Il y a longtemps – traduction par Lise Tremblay et Louise Carson

woman burning – Lynda Monahan

Unzipped – Maroula Blades

Go. Rock. – Noah Michelson interviews Tori Amos

Man with a Vagina – E. D. Morin interviews Buck Angel

Flash Flood – Colette Maitland

A woman at mid-life – Shirley A. Serviss

The Hot Women – Rhona McAdam

two: in/fertile

Life after Life – Arlene S. Bice

I Am My Mare – Lisa Couturier

The Things We Carry – Tanya Coovadia

On Women and Forest Fires – C. E. O’Rourke

Up at Two in the Morning – Caroline Bock

The Brothers Germain – E. D. Morin

Unconventional Wisdom – Merle Amodeo

Her Love Life – Gemma Meharchand

Roll Over a Change Is Coming – Maroula Blades

Autumn Fields – Margaret Macpherson

A sprinter with pluck and panache – Rona Altrows

Sixty – Marianne Jones

Perimenopause – Alison Stone

the year it did not flood – Gerry Wolfram

These Things Did Not Happen – Shelley A. Leedahl

October – Steve Passey

On Mountains and Menopause – Jane Cawthorne and E. D. Morin

three: un/known

Evie’s Massage Parlour – Roberta Rees

Hidden Talents – Lou Morin

Drenched – Leanna McLennan

Pressed On – Carol Kavanagh

Midnight Flit – Taryn Thomson

Ugly Duckling Syndrome – Carolyn Gage

Icing on the Cake – Rachel Williams

Eddies – Virginia Boudreau

My Mother’s Skin – Kate Austin

Blue Thread – Rona Altrows

Thaw – Elaine Hayes

Threshold – Jane Silcott

Perimenopausal I Buy a Navy Blue Blazer – Shaun Hunter

Bond – Ellen Kelly

Reality Check – Frances Hern

Salt – Cathy Cultice Lentes

Child of Earth – Carolyn Pogue

Fact and Fiction – Heather Dillaway

Last Blood – JoAnn McCaig

Contributor Notes

10 reviews for Writing Menopause: An Anthology of Fiction, Poetry and Creative Non-fiction

  1. inannaadmin

    Writing Menopause: An Anthology of Fiction, Poetry and Creative Non-fiction
    reviewed by Laura Wershler – spring/summer 2018
    Canadian Woman Studies/les cahiers de la femme Vol. 32, No 1,2

    Chrissie Hynde becomes mentor and muse to a perimenopausal woman who wants a barber to shave her head; an artist takes a pair of much-younger brothers as lovers; a couple take their well-worn, no-longer needed pram to the dump; an aging mother struggling to breathe shares menopausal wisdom with her midlife daughters; a man with a vagina talks about menopausal stigma; a women loses her womb and the fruit of her womb in short succession; a daughter becomes her mother; blood flows, sweat drenches, curves develop; and, beneath all, relationships drift, shift, and realign.

    At the root of the poems and stories—both fiction and non—in Writing Menopause are the transitioning relationships of women at various stages in the transition to menopause. Almost every piece can be deconstructed to reveal a relationship in flux. Characters—real, imagined, and metaphoric—are in the midst of renegotiating, reinventing, reimagining their relationships with partners, lovers, friends, children, mothers, nature and, mostly, themselves. Family life, partnered life, friendship, and sexuality are boldly exposed. Points of view expand and shrink, reaching beyond these women’s everyday lives and deeply within their changing bodies and evolving psyches. It’s this exploration that editors Jane Cawthorne and E. D. Morin were seeking when they put out the call for submissions to Writing Menopause, wisely knowing “that there are different ways of seeing and reading experience.”

    The anthology is arranged in three sections titled to represent the yes and no contradiction of each theme. Selections in UN/DONE explore menopause as both the end and the beginning of domething. IN/FERTILE includes pieces that celebrate and mourn the end of reproductive function, and explore new forms of fertility that arise in women’s lives. In the last section, UN/KNOWN, characters are revising what “they thought they knew,” with most acquiring a new—bold and/or tender— sense of self.

    If there is one menopausal cliché readers can expect to find in this collection, it is “night sweats and hot flashes.” References to either or both are found in at least twenty-five of the anthology’s fifty-four poems and stories. Whether mentioned in passing or the focus of a paragraph or two; whether as observation by a young boy about his mother (“Or I would find her in the kitchen mopping her face with the hem of her apron…”) or as title (“The Hot Women, Drenched”); whether as metaphor (“We unattended candles lie radiant as glowing ash.”) or call to action (“Maybe these night sweats are my body’s battle cry. Rise up, she calls.”), such references suggest that far from being clichéd, night sweats and hot flashes are noteworthy phenomena with mysterious alchemical power.

    Writing Menopause is not the book you read to find medical explanations or treatment suggestions for night sweats. It’s the book you read when you want to know how menopause feels, how it is experienced by women like you and not like you. It’s the book men should read if they want to better understand the women in their lives. It’s the book health-care practitioners should read to help them see beyond the symptoms presented by women advancing towards or already in menopause.

    Menopause may be the destination but it is the scenic road trip all women take to get there that makes for the compelling writing in this anthology. Some voices are missing, as the editors themselves lament in “On Mountains and Menopause.” Where are the stories of women facing poverty or taking on challenging physical or creative pursuits? Some pieces are stronger than others, but collectively they offer something for every reader. I was struck particularly by the opening to “My Mother’s Skin” by Kate Austin:

    I’m wearing my
    mother’s skin
    and since I’ve passed my
    best-before date,
    her hands fit as if they were

    And in Jane Silcott’s “Threshold” I recognized the contradictions and confusions, the whirls of circuitous thinking, and the arguments we have with ourselves as we meander or crash our way into menopause. Sometimes we feel hapless, sometimes we feel fierce, and sometimes we are perfectly at peace with ourselves. Silcott writes: “No one cheers you on through menopause.” They do now. Writing Menopause is one big cheering section, led by Silcott’s last words on hot flashes: “People used to call hot flashes ‘blooms.’ How apt. We flushing, heated women blooming out everywhere.”

  2. inannaadmin

    Let us channel Chrissie Hynde
    reviewed by Mom Egg Review – September 21, 2017

    I wish Writing Menopause had been on my nightstand, too. [Germaine] Greer’s feminist voice was brilliantly hard-edged and stark. But Cawthorne and Morin would have added fifty-five more to the mix, and I might have been not only informed and ready for a fight but also entertained, validated and prepared for what has become the most challenging and rewarding period of my life so far.

  3. inannaadmin

    It’s just powerful
    reviewed by Lower East Side Librarian – Septemper 10, 2017

    The story Drenched by Leanna McClennan led me to ask my boss if we could have a menstrual hut in our new library building. She didn’t have any luck, but maybe I will.

  4. inannaadmin

    You Must Read This Book!
    reviewed by Menopause Goddess Blog – July 24, 2017

    It’s breathtaking. Literally. And hot-flashing, mind melding, heart touching, beautiful. I actually think ALL women would love this book, not just those of us who are approaching, well in, or past menopause.

  5. inannaadmin

    A Book Giveaway!
    interview with E.D. Morin on Friend for the Ride: a blog about menopause, women’s issues & midlife – June 23, 2017

    Most of the stories we were reading didn’t speak to us, and didn’t reflect us or the women we knew. These were not stories we felt were even true. We had new points of reference, different cultural touchstones than the ones being depicted. We wanted to hear about these. So, in this collection we have references to Chrissie Hynde, Tori Amos and Billy Idol.

  6. inannaadmin

    In praise of older women
    interview with E.D. Morin on The Mixed Zone: bringing the best women’s sports stories online -May 17, 2017

    As older women, we know what it’s like to get through hard things, long projects. We’ve gotten to the other side of childbirth, the other side of raising kids. These are brutally hard. Most of us, by middle-age, will have arrived at the other side of one or several injuries. I cracked my head open in a climbing fall a few years ago and battled post-concussion syndrome. I’ve come back from countless soft-tissue injuries, from sprained ankles and fingers to tennis elbow and a torn rotator cuff. And I’ve bled copiously, from bashed shins to torn forearms. But I’m proud of my battle scars. They’re my history.

  7. inannaadmin

    A diverse and robust collection
    interview with Jane Cawthorne on the online literary magazine Women Writers, Women’s Books
    May 15, 2017

    Like all writers, we went through the arduous process of pitching the book and finding a publisher. We’re happy to have been accepted by Inanna Publications, a great feminist publisher in Canada. They have been wonderfully supportive. And although most of the contributors are Canadian, the book includes writers from New York, Maryland, Georgia, Florida, California, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, Virginia and Maine. It’s great to have this wide representation.

  8. inannaadmin

    Anthology explores the underreported topic of menopause: Inside Jane Cawthorne and E.D. Morin’s Writing Menopause
    reviewed by This Magazine – March 17, 2017

    Writing Menopause is a revolutionary collection of work passionately and bravely confronting menopause, a topic society tends to avoid. Featuring several types of writing, editors Jane Cawthorne and E.D. Morin expertly assemble a meaningful collection written from a diverse cross-section of North Americans. Though the styles and the writers are so varied, the book flows seamlessly from one piece to the next. The writers explore every aspect of this phase in life, from perimenopause to hot flashes, and the feeling of loss to the stigma menopause has on a person’s mental state. The anthology sets the stage for future public conversations about the end of menstruation.

  9. Inanna Admin

    Writing Menopause edited by Jane Cawthorne and E.D. Morin
    reviewed by Shelley McAneeley
    FreeFall Magazine – December 1, 2019

    What to say or not to say regarding menopause? Cawthorne and Morin’s anthology compiles a melting pot of stories that traverse the emotional landscape of fear, embarrassment, loss, silence, continence, disappointment, divorce, promiscuity, flight, pleads, and humour. It makes me wonder why women share so little of life’s major reproductive events, even amongst themselves. Here is an excerpt of humour that will be sure to make you cringe:

    …the time she asked me to get slimmer “piss pads” for her because the sticky strip on the wide ones got caught on her hair.
    “How did it get all the way up to your head,” I’d asked on the phone, and the next day she greeted me at the apartment door with a bladder-leak pad twisted into a bow over her ear. (123-124)

    Secure in my own anonymity, this book places me safely behind the screen of a confessional where stories spill out pained recollections about lost fertility, beauty, cultural rejection and a host of other existential crises. The book swells with stories that reflect those fears that women have about getting older; about fertility inadequacies and the shame of aging. Some stories dive into personal pain, while others explore cultural issues. Many stories express sorrow, although, not all women express regrets about the arrival of menopause, some feel sheer relief to have reached the crone age.

    The flight from the feminine self and the altered role of woman as crone verses seductress or mother is confusing, not just at the personal level but within family and culture. The study of menopause outside of hormonal science is barren. This taboo topic is not yet plumed. The book offers women an escape from isolation through sharing snippets. It permits women the opportunity to explore and join in a “tribe” of other aging women and offers relief in knowing that you are not the only one. It’s time to commence a discourse with each other.

    Clear your throats ladies and speak up, your daughters wait. This is a daring book that tosses an emotional topic around like a hot potato. A roller-coaster read and a must for women of all ages.

  10. Inanna Admin

    Writing Menopause edited by Jane Cawthorne and E.D. Morin
    reviewed by Carolyn Creed
    Prairie Fire Magazine – July 10, 2019

    With the national success of Gordon, Deerchild and Roberts’ collection on menstruation, Gush, we consider Cawthorne and Morin’s work, published previously but no less powerfully, to serve as a vital companion piece. There is no denying that the taboo subjects of women’s cycles have ceased to carry the invisible publication ban that held women silent on the topic(s). Like the exploration of the phenomenon of monthly bleeding for fertile women, Cawthorne and Morin’s anthology of the end of female fertility strides into territory that rarely takes up literary space. The result of collecting diverse stories on a subject many would prefer not to broach is surprisingly readable—even though the word “squinching,” used in the intro by the editors themselves to describe a squirming, flinching discomfort, does characterize a reader’s response to many of the entries (1). How readable the selections turn out to be, in the three sections that enter, explore and exit the state of fertility’s cease, makes the assembled pieces remarkable as a whole.

    In Section I, “Un/Done,” we are exposed to the early stages of response to the phenomena associated with menopause: the irregularity and downright oddness of later-in-life menstrual periods is brought to our attention in “Disassembly” by Jane Cawthorne, when the mother whose son takes up her love of the piano witnesses the result of a massive flow as his mother contends with the stressors of her husband’s precarious work status, his loss of a job, and his subsequent decision that the piano must be sold. Through Thompson and Caruso’s pieces, a sense of how sexuality and view of self in the world undergo change, so that in the latter, “Eating Beets during Menopause,” the metaphor of beets’ reddening effect on urine becomes a nostalgic reminder of what has been lost. By interspersing snippets of non-fiction between poems and short stories, the editors have created a lilting movement through the states the authors and/or speakers inhabit; this pleasing composition works successfully throughout the collection.

    At the beginning of the first section and toward its end, celebrity singer/songwriters make an appearance: in the fantasy, “The Chrissie Hynde Stories,” Chrissie Hynde becomes muse to a speaker whose longing for escape brings her repeatedly in range of the Pretenders front-woman. The actual performer, Tori Amos, gives a wondrous interview to Noah Michelson in “Go. Rock.” On appearing in green leather and talking about menopause at the age of fifty, Tori Amos remarks that women “can’t be doing granny rock. We’re singing about emotions, we’re singing about sexuality, we’re singing about all these things” (47). Like Lori Roadhouse’s poem “Caged,” the interview questions why women must yield to men’s expectations of them, and continue to be defined as lesser beings even after they have broken free of the supposed “biological imperative” of childbearing and the mothering of young.

    The second section, “In/Fertile,” shows women a-doing while their bodies undergo change, so that a sense of each life fully lived while menopause appears at the margin of the experience sounds the dominant note. The opening story, of a grown son’s loss to drowning, stands out: Arlene S. Bice’s “Life after Life” juxtaposes the speaker’s recent hysterectomy against the news of her son’s disappearance into the nearby river. As family and neighbours gather to search, to offer help, the mother deals with multiple strains. “The day slipped by with no sign of Guy. My stitches pulled from standing so long; my strength drained” (63). The story ends with the loss confirmed, and the grieving mother declares with multiple meaning, “Part of what made me a woman was gone” (67). As counterpoint to this tale, many of the rest of the stories and poems in the section are playful and explorative, with new discoveries to be made, post-menopause, about sex and adventure: a particular treat is the poem “Unconventional Wisdom” by Merle Amodeo, which holds the promise in dream form of a “handsome stranger” who would “stay in my bed/ until we’d done/ everything I’d missed/ for the last ten years” (84). There is, indeed, life after the ability to produce new life has terminated.

    In Section 3, “Un/Known,” the editors expose us to the non-fiction piece, “Hidden Talents,” in which the author, Lou Morin, gains access to a new sense of smell, having given up most of her regular one due to surgery. With the capability to detect the odour of a certain craziness in those she meets, she finds the new talent yields a scent that is “[a]lien, acrid and unnerving” (131), but one which stimulates her excitement at the discovery, “the next turn in my fantastic inner voyage” (136) A reconsideration of self and others also informs Kate Austin’s poem, “My Mother’s Skin,” in which inheritances from a mother are tallied up, including those of the body’s aging appearance: “I map the marks/ on my hands/ pale ones, dark ones/ to find a path to/ my mother/ myself” (155).

    Self-knowledge in the face of inevitable change informs piece after piece in the collection as a whole, and the resulting assembly of works brings a reader who has to deal with post-menopausal realities—or one merely contemplating the approach of the stage—much comfort and consorority (not a standard term, but it definitely belongs here). The penultimate work in the last section, Heather Dillaway’s “Fact and Fiction,” catalogues things which menopausal women crave hearing, both true ones and ones that “Might NOT Be True” (193)—a humourous list in view of the knowledge of how much disinformation exists around menopause. The closing piece of the volume, Joaann McCaig’s “Last Blood,” marks one last menstrual period by a retrospective celebration, fittingly final. It summons recall of the collection mentioned at the review’s outset, Gush. Since Gush highlights the uniquely female condition of menstrual monthlies, Writing Menopause belongs beside it as an introduction to the state beyond, also located in the domain of woman.

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