While browsing on the internet I came across the following old advertisement. I say old because it was posted on the occasion of Canada Day (beginning of the month) but it still caught my eye. It was directed towards Canadian writers, specifically Romance writers. It read:
SYTYCW (So You Think You Can Write)
Romance Writers! Give us your Great Canadian Heroes and Skip the Slush Pile!
Calling all writers! Have you ever dreamed about writing The Great Canadian Romance? Harlequin editors are on a nationwide mission to show the world what our Canadian romantic heroes are made of.
Is he Strong & Rugged?: He could play hockey or baseball in Montreal!
Is he Refined & Sophisticated?: He’s a Toronto billionaire with a yacht to boot.
Is he Dark & Mysterious?: He’s a Vancouver PI with his own agenda…
Is he Charming & Sexy?: He’s a Red Deer cowboy secretly yearning for a family.
The questions continue and the list goes on.
I know that this is Harlequin Romance we’re talking about, where the hero is this extraordinary person with all the characteristics of a superhero. My question is this:
What’s wrong with ordinary men? Just any man. Why does he have to be a billionaire or play hockey or own a yacht or a private jet? Why can’t he be just an ordinary hardworking person? A teacher, a tailor, a blue collar worker, or just any decent man as long as he has a decent job, he is honest and puts the needs of others before his?
Life is full of such men. In fact the rich and the famous represent only a minor percentage of the population. The rest are people like us who are doing the best they can to live a normal and dignified life. They are working hard to provide for their families and loved ones, trying to make this world a better place.
Both my parents were hardworking people. They themselves were deprived of their childhood and of a proper education since they were refugees at a very young age. My mom was not even eight years old and my dad was ten when they were displaced from their homeland Mousa Dagh in Turkey and taken to an uninhabited corner east of the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
They lived in tents in a refugee camp, until much later when the families were moved to houses. Each house consisted of one bare room, with no proper door or window, and one small bathroom built outside. That was all they had to start a new life.
My dad had to work at the age of thirteen to support his family while my mom knitted and did needlework to support hers. With no proper education, with limited means, both worked hard to give us a childhood and an education they never had the chance to have. They taught us to live with dignity and integrity and loyalty. Loyalty to our families and loved ones, loyalty to our community.
My brothers and I didn’t have daily chores as kids. According to my mom, this was because we had to enjoy our childhood and since we would have plenty of time to work later on in life. She did all the work inside the house and sometimes even helped my father with his work. She spent hours cleaning, cooking, doing needlework, doing whatever she had to do, to create a clean and happy home for us.
Going home from school each day was a treat. Walking through the door and being surrounded by the smell of her cooking, or going to bed smelling the freshness of the bed sheets. It was like she gave her life to us and every day was spent making our lives comfortable. (Something I try to do for my kids too as much as I can though she set the bar too high.)
My dad on the other hand was up early every morning and by 6:00 a.m. he was already in his workshop, way before we went to school. And late in the evening when we had already finished with our homework and all, we would wait for him to end his work for the day so that we could have dinner together. His work was manual and he would be at it from 6:00 in the morning till 6:00 in the evening with a half hour lunch break.
I grew up watching them, idolizing them, and I in turn have tried to pass on these values to my kids. My parents are my heroes and so is my late husband, who worked his whole life for us, some years without taking any vacation time.
The biggest commitment any man can make is to his family, in my opinion. Those are the heroes I would like to write about in my novels. It all starts in the family. As William Saroyan once wrote:
“Go out to some single person and dwell with him, within him, lovingly and utter the truth of his existence and reveal the splendor of the mere fact of his being alive, and say it in great prose, simply, show that he is of the time, of the machines and the fire and smoke, the newspapers and the noise. Do not deceive. Do not make up lies for the sake of pleasing anyone. No one need be killed in your story. Simply relate what is the great event of all history, of all time, the humble, artless truth of mere being. There is no greater theme: no one need be violent to help you with your art. There is violence. Mention of course when it is time to mention it. Mention the war. Mention all ugliness, all waste. Do even this lovingly. But emphasize the glorious truth of mere being. It is the major theme. You do not have to create a triumphant climax. The man you write of need not perform some heroic or monstrous deed in order to make your prose great. Let him do what he has always done, day in and day out, continuing to live. Let him walk and talk and think and sleep and dream and awaken and walk again and talk again and move and be alive. It is enough. There is nothing else to write about. Speak of this man, recognize his existence. Speak of man.”