After a year of co-hosting Simon Fraser University’s Writer’s Studio Reading Series with Esmeralda Cabral, we have handed over our duties to Karen J. Lee and Ivan Antoniw, who start in September.
I began to attend this series as an audience member in late 2009. Back then, I felt as if I was standing on a sidewalk, up on my toes, leaning against a large glass window with my hands cupped around my eyes, looking into a warm, bright, energetic room, watching a group of creative people doing their thing inside. My heart sank as I left that first evening, but I was also exhilarated as I began to work on a plan to find a way in. I applied to The Writer’s Studio with my 20 page portfolio and writing resume – a daunting task in itself. I gathered up the stories that I had written over the last couple of years and tried to make something of them. I was lucky to have a friend who had attended The Writer’s Studio a few years back to both encourage and help me polish these stories. There was something about being a part of the community I had seen at the reading series though, that was what attracted me most.
I told myself not to get discouraged if I wasn’t accepted, and that I would apply two or three more time if need be. It was hard to remain positive yet realistic, however, a month later I received an email that I had been accepted into the poetry group. My heart almost came out of my chest and I literally jumped up and down screaming, then finally dropped to my knees as if I had found water after a long drought. A bit too dramatic for you? After the death of my sister, my father, and putting my mother into a care facility all in a three year period, this was the first thing that was all mine in this new life without my family.
I did find it odd that I had been chosen for poetry, having only produced two poems in my life, but no matter, I would learn. A am a poet! Once the euphoria wore off I realized that I was in fact attending a writing program and would be surrounded with people much more experienced than I, many of them published. I started to panic and borrowed six poetry books to study. About a week later though, I got another email saying I had been accepted into the non fiction group (which made more sense to me). Confused, I inquired about the group change, and was told that non fiction was what I had been chosen for and poetry had been a mistake. “No matter” I thought, and switched gears immediately by writing a series of short non-fiction stories, just to get warmed up.
The year 2010 proved to be a life changing time for me, making the transition from sporadic writer at best to producing many short stories about not only my life, but my family’s. I wrote stories as a child and here I was again in my forties pursuing something that had remained dormant for most of my life. I continued to attend the reading series, sometimes to read myself, but mostly to blend into the writing community I was getting to know. When Fiona and Marnie, the 2011 co-hosts, asked me if I wanted to succeed them, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. Not only was I now in that warm, bright, energetic room with creative people doing their thing, I was going to help to keep that atmosphere alive. My non fiction cohort Esmeralda joined immediately after me, and we began to work on this new project together.
The writers I have met and listened to have been so inspiring to me that I now prefer to read local authors instead of the big names I had read exclusively. Talent in a community is a powerful thing, and to hear people from all walks of life, education, gender, race, sexuality, and focus is, well, the way the world should be. I have collected many signed copies of books (one of my drugs of choice), and admire them regularly, not just because of the entertaining and enlightening stories, but because I’ve met and chatted to these authors. Working with Esmeralda was what made the experience such a fun and happy one. By doing it together, we have become good friends through all our emailing, talking on the phone, having lunch, and just plain chatting whenever we could. I have learned how to give back to a community I want to be around for many years to come, and I hope that the new people who join us feel just as welcome as I did.
For our final duty, Esmeralda and I will be at the Summer Dreams Festival representing and promoting The Writer’s Studio Reading Series on Saturday, August 25 from 11am to 7 pm at Trout Lake. We will also be reading on stage from 4:45pm to 5:00pm so don’t blink if you’re there or you’ll miss us.