I was skulking through Lou Freshwater's facebook account a few minutes ago because I was looking for this photo to steal and put here.
Do you have to ask why?
Look at that face. If ever a person's face was designed to match up with a name, it would be Freshwater. She looks like she just stepped out of an Ivory soap commercial, for crying out loud. The only way her name would be better was if it was Lou Freshface. But it doesn't sound quite so romantic, quite so, oh, I dunno, authentic.
Now there's a word you can use to describe Lou.
In her life. In her words. In her voice. In her encouragement. And, most of all, in her amazing writing.
This is the first few paragraphs of a story she posted recently called Aunts:
I don’t know what happened to all the men. Used to wonder if they killed them. For a while I even thought maybe they just kept hatchin’ girls all by themselves in some secret spot out in the woods where all the howls came from.
I called them all by Aunt, but come to find out some of them weren’t really my aunt they were cousins or friends of cousins. One afternoon I was in the house on Brick Street when one of them told me to wash the collards.
“I don’t want to,” I said.
“I don’t care what you want, Ms. fancy pants. Now get on in there and wash those collards,” she hollered back. Then another one of them came marching in the room, shaking the whole floor and the earth underneath with every step, and she looked at me real serious and said, “Girl, don’t you know if you eat collards they’ll give you big boobs? You want to be the only woman in this family without big boobs?” I just stood there, and wished I could blink my eyes or wiggle my nose like on TV and make myself disappear. But the snap of her hand towel on the side of my leg got me into motion quicker and better than any magic potion ever would have.
I love this story. I love all Lou's stories, as a matter of fact, but I especially love the ones where she writes of the south. She writes with such tenderness, such intelligence, such humour, that I want to be there. To live there with those aunts and eat collards and grow big boobs. Y'see, they don't have collards up here in Canada and I figure that's why I don't have any. Any worth braggin' about, that is.
So, Lou's photo is up there because it's a great photo. And it's up there because Lou is an amazing writer. But it's also up there because last week, when I was doubting my ability as a writer and feeling a little low, Lou called me to bolster my confidence and smarten me up.
I loved talking to her! We could have talked for hours. She was so warm, so friendly, so smart in every sense. When I finally hung up my heart sang for hours.
I realized then, that it was finally time to pass on a very special award.
On July 20, Mark Kerstetter brought me to tears when he gave me an award he drew, painted and made up himself. Suis Generis, he called it.
This is the award, the 'badge,' and this is what Mark wrote to accompany it. (I still read these words occasionally and they still take my breath away):
"In the spirit of showing appreciation I've created my own badge. It's based on my drawing of a rose-kind of fantasy flower straight from my noodle. Sui generis: one of a kind. This is a token of appreciation for someone who's irreplaceable, someone unmistakable, someone who practices great and totally unique artistry. It goes to someone I really like, my buddy Cathy Olliffe. It's for her because her writing kicks ass and also because her spirit throws mighty waves into cyberspace. She may do with it whatever she likes. It only comes with one rule: should the recipient wish to pass it on, it only goes to one person."
I held on to this award since then, rather selfishly, I must confess. That's how much I treasure it. Honestly I wanted to wait for the right moment to pass it on. Finally, after talking with Lou the other night, that moment has come.
Thus, I have this to say:
Sui generis: one of a kind. This is a token of appreciation for someone who's irreplaceable, someone unmistakable, someone who practices great and totally unique artistry. It goes to someone I really like, my buddy Lou Freshwater. It's for her because her writing kicks ass and also because her spirit throws mighty waves into cyberspace. She may do with it whatever she likes. It only comes with one rule: should the recipient wish to pass it on, it only goes to one person.
Congratulations, Lou. This couldn't be going to a better person.
To read more of Lou Freshwater's stories, visit her blog, Baby's Black Balloon.
To read Mark Kerstetter's work, visit his blog, The Bricoleur.
I often think about music when I think about my writing friends. This reminds me of Lou, I think because the heroine shows so much strength. She has this strength, Lou does. It's another reason why she is Suis Generis.