Entries in Creative Nonfiction (7)

Sunday
Apr232017

CNFC/CARTE BLANCHE 2017 CONTEST SHORTLIST REVEALED! and I'm on it....

Holee! Who knew?

Just look at this! And watch a video of me reading an excerpt for the conference celebration!

 

 THE CNFC AND CARTE BLANCHE ARE PLEASED TO ANNOUNCE THEIR 2016–2017 CREATIVE NONFICTION CONTEST SHORTLIST.

The winner will be announced on May 5 in Vancouver, BC at the 13th annual CNFC conference.

The shortlist was selected by contest judge, Andreas Schroeder.

“To the Lighthouse,” by Kelley Jo Burke

 

Kelley Jo Burke is an award-winning drama and nonfiction writer, and writing teacher.  Her musical Us premieres March 2018 at Regina’s Globe Theatre, and “Bringing Up Fur Baby” (CBC Radio’s IDEAS) airs May 2017.

 

 

“The Unicycle in My Garage,” by Barb Howard

 

Barb Howard has published  three novels and one collection of short fiction. She has recently started to explore the amazing and difficult process of writing creative nonfiction.

 

 

 

“A Chaotic Jumble of Infinite Possibility” by Joshua Levy

 

Joshua Levy is a frequent storyteller on CBC Radio and recently received a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts to write a memoir. He splits his time between Montreal, Toronto, and Lisbon, Portugal.

 

Congratulations to our three finalists and thank you to everyone who participated!

Saturday
Jul192014

The Reluctant Artiste gives a TedX Regina Talk

This is my TedX Regina 2014 talk about  what I learned while touring my creative non-fiction memoir, Ducks on the Moon. Thanks so much to Jayden Pfeifer, Johanna Bundon  and Nevin Danielson for putting together such a wonderful event. 

Tuesday
Jun242014

The Reluctant Artiste: The Heartbreak of CBPS (Chronic Big Picture Syndrome)

A friend of mine just became a grandmother. (Let me pause there for a minute. Hand to heart. Deep breaths. A friend of MINE is a grandmother. A peer. A childhood friend even. Someone who I remember vividly wearing a cat costume with divine black velvet ears and perky whiskers when it was totally not Hallowe'en, but just a Tuesday and her Grade Four self needed to release her inner kitty. I have a Grade Four Kitty friend with a gorgeous little grand-daughter, and a blissed-out-new-father son, smiling from the photo with his newborn on his chest, like he is old enough to have a new-born and not still playing Lego down in my rec room. Processing. Processing. Nope.) Let's try this again. 

A new person has come into the world and nothing will be the same again. Just because a birth is not an unusual thing,  that one occurs around the globe about four times per second, doesn't mean the first statement is not true. A life is in motion. A story has begun. And I am old enough to know that stories are not safe things. Things happen in stories. Bliss, pain, love, unbearable loneliness, ecstacy--these things come-- in tiny drops or tidal waves-- when a life is put in motion. But they come. And you can anticipate, or prepare or practice your dog paddle til you're blue in the mouth. But when it does come like a five story fist of water slamming everything known and safe to matchsticks, and throwing it out to a rubble tumble sea, you've got nothing, but to spread your arms and ride it to wherever your story's going. 

(This is not something you write in a "Congratulations on your new Grandchild!"card. I mean, clinically depressed, Gauloises-smoking nihilists would manage something with a nice bunny on it, and a gift card for Toys R Us.)

But I have gotten to the point where I don't see just the day, the moment--I am always looking to where the moment is going push the story next. I am always looking at what it cost to get to the moment. I have developed Chronic Big Picture Syndrome. 

Which has made this week a little challenging. Quite apart from Hello Grandma Kitty's news, my son is about to leave his elementary school, and go to high school. Now before you go, "Ah, she's going to wax all soppy about her youngest growing up, and leaving the nest, blah dee blah blah...let me be perfectly clear. As a CBPS sufferer, my problem is NOT fear of empty. I long for empty. I visualize it, late in the night, when the stories that are my children finally, for a few sweet seconds, rest, and I can go from flailing to gently bobbing atop their very full cross currents. 

I am just trying to keep it together as my CBPS threatens to overwhelm me. When my fellah stood up on the stage to take his "diploma" (and when did the end of Grade Eight become something that required pomp and circumstance? When did leaving Pre-school for that matter? How many times can we listen to "Good Riddance" by Green Day before we figure out that it's not a nice song, and that "I hope you had the time of your life" is a Fuck You that should not be lisped by four year olds wearing teeny tiny cocktail dresses and My First Fake Lashes?) anyway, when he took his diploma--all I could see was the story--the stories--of how he got there. And the stories he was being pushed towards, by Green Day and time. 

Those who have followed my writing around my younger son will know that he is on the autism spectrum, and getting him through grade school has involved lots of story. A lot of it good. I am thinking about his communication therapist who came to kindergarten with him every day, for months, after spending half a year in a model classroom, trying to acclimatize him to a classroom. And who just sat, and supported him, until he looked at her and said "You can wait in the hall." I am thinking about the teacher who threw her arms around me after she heard we'd won, and the school board had guarenteed an education assistant. I am thinking about the three teachers who sat like cats with canaries wriggling in their mouths, waiting to surprise me with testing that showed that my boy had gained three years of lost development--in one. The little girl who got between him and a bully--arm outstretched, looking firmly up at the aggressor. The big, gentle, unflappable male teacher who walked past my son, now a former student, and said ,"Hello wonderful boy." I am thinking of so many good, strong caring people who fought so hard to keep my son's story headed somewhere safe. 

That's a good thought, right? Except I can't stop there. I have CBPS so I have to also think about the other stuff in the story to date...the wondering how often I could arrive at work with bruises and swollen eyes without human resources stepping in. The year he talked about suicide every day for three months. The daily picture of him alone,  hunkered down on the playground, trying to avoid the older boys who harried him. The way that picture stayed on the back of my eyelids all day, so that every blink brought it again. The day he ran. And no one knew where. 

(Four blocks. Across a busy city street. One of his daycare workers, walking to work, found him in a November bare baseball diamond. He was "looking for food and shelter.")

And that's not all of it. I don't just see the story to date. I see the story to come. As the other kids in his grade received prizes for excellence in academics, or sports, or community involvement, and my boy sat and watched them move away and on, I saw next chapters headed our way...high school (and god, that's hard enough for the more standardly issued, what will it be for an Ichabod Crane tall, pock-faced autistic guy with all the wants and desires of any teenage boy and ZERO game?), adulthood--when every single bloody support for people on the spectrum basically evaporates, and I'm an old mum, how long can I work, keep a house, keep him safe? How will we even negotiate that--when all he wants is a home, a wife, a job, children (dear god, children---he is very clear on that point). This "turning point" this "fork stuck in the road" puts him a year closer to the rest of his life's story...and that my friends, opens us up on a big picture that anyone in the ASD community will tell you is complicated at best. 

So, forgive me if I seem to be holding my breath a lot. Forgive me if my eyes are awash in water and salt. I feel the Big Picture coming, right now, and it makes me want to write inappropriate things in baby cards....and have the wrong look on my face in proud-parent-of-the-grad photos. 

A new person comes into the world. A new story begins. And there is NOTHING than can stop that story's flow. So I spread out one arm, to try to keep myself afloat. And I wrap the other around him. And we take a big breath and get ready to ride, wherever the story is going. 

 

 

 

Monday
Jun092014

The Reluctant Artiste does a TedX Regina Talk

 

Tuesday June 10, at the Main Stage, University of Regina, I will join a host of fascinating speakers at TedX Regina.

I'll be speaking about what I learned performing my memoir play, Ducks on the Moon

To purchase  Ducks on the Moon

To hear the CBC IDEAS documentary based on the play. 

FMI about TEDX Regina and to see a complete list of the speakers, and their bios. 

 

Friday
Feb142014

Portrait of a young Reluctant Artiste in love: Exact. Oh. 

It wasn’t what I wanted.

We’d only been together a few months. And I was in love—capital L-O-V-E—and I wasn’t sure he was.

At least there’d been no words to that effect. Not one. Despite all the silences I had placed strategically in his path, wide and waiting.

And it was Valentine’s Day and I thought maybe he might take the opportunity to demonstrate what he had not yet said.

The box he held out was rectangular. Bracelet-shaped—which I thought was promising. I would have preferred ring-shaped, but beggars can’t be choosers, and I unwrapped it, heart a pitter patter, and saw, not a blue velvet jewelry box, but a blister pack.

An Exacto knife.

Narrow and matte silver chrome. The sort used for slicing the waxed sheets of copy that we both worked with, in the dusty days before computers replaced the sweat and smoke tinged lay-out tables of the newspaper print shop. I would be the envy of the slicers, I realized, much later.

At that moment, all I could think was a) he doesn’t love me b) he wants me to be more employable so he can dump me in good conscience and c) what the hell do I do with my face, in case I am wrong about a) and b).

“It reminded me of you.”

What did that mean? He saw me as cold, hard-edged, the kind of woman who cut things? Very particular things? The kind of woman who you certainly did not envision a life with, because you don’t spend your life with retractable razors—not if you have any sense at all.

“What? Don’t you like it?”

“Of course I do. It’s great. It’s just—“

“What?”

“Well. It’s an unusual gift for Valentine’s Day.”

“You said Valentine’s Day was a corporate plot.”

“I didn’t mean it!”

Tears.

“What’s the matter?”

“I love you. Do you love me at all?”

“Of course I love you. I’d kill for a knife this cool. It’s got a rubberized grip—“

“Stop.”

“What?”

“Go back.”

“Where?”

“To the part where you love me. “

“Of course I love you. What did you think we were doing all this time?”

I didn’t know. Because there’d been no words. He didn’t know that I didn’t know—‘cause every gesture he’d made since the day he’d met me, was him telling me.

He had yet to learn the language of silence yearning for words. And I had yet to learn the language of Exacto knives.

 

 Happy Valentine's Day.