WordWorks 2021 Volume III

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2021 Volume III

Words will carry us

Free in Selected Markets

Mental health and wellness for writers

2021 Volume III September | wordworks



wordworks | 2021 Volume III September


Letter from the editor . . . 2 From the desk of the executive director . . . 3 Writing as a tool for transformation . . . . 4 Member milestones . . . . 8 A dozen ways to stay calm and keep writing . . . . 10 Healing with words . . . 12 Scattered storytelling: On writing and attention


Thorns, prickles, and roses . . . . . . . 14 Celebrating the small wins . . . . . . . 17 It’s all about the word . . 18

Overcoming impostor syndrome . . . 21 Loving your creative animal . . . . . 22 Finding your people: Why community matters 24 Supporting mental health and wellness in writing groups . . . . 26 Self-compassion for writers . . . . . . . 27 Launched! New titles from FBCW members . . . . 28 Dislocation . . . . . .


Writing the third act . . 20

Cover image: Great blue heron preening, courtesy John A. Kelley. In Coast Salish teachings, the heron brings messages of self-determination and self-reliance, an apt metaphor for this issue’s theme of self-care. (see: libguides.royalroads.ca/fourfeathers/welcome)

2021 Volume III September | wordworks


Letter from the editor my thoughts turn to community and language and the many ways words create a sense of belonging. For myself, and I think for many writers, words have carried us through the pandemic.

As the season transitions into fall in BC and Yukon and our conversations move indoors, into our homes and gathering places (such as we can gather),

I have had the pleasure to be part of several communities as this magazine came together. First, I had my local community in Smithers. I am grateful to live here. Next, within the Federation of BC Writers, I worked with staff and volunteers, including our recently retired Managing Editor, Ursula Vaira. Finally, I worked with a community of writers whose generous and compassionate words you will find in this magazine. Within each of these communities, language helped us deal with our challenges—not only in our

FBCW BOARD OF DIRECTORS: greg blee, Megan Cole, Barb Drozdowich, Wiley Ho, Ruth Lloyd, Kamal Parmar, Katherine Wagner. WordWorks is published by THE FEDERATION OF BC WRITERS PO Box 3503, Courtenay, BC V9N 6Z8 970 View Avenue, Courtenay, BC V9N 5R2 www.bcwriters.ca hello@bcwriters.ca wordworks@bcwriters.ca Copyrights remain with the copyright holders. All other work © 2021 The Federation of BC Writers. All Rights Reserved. ISSN: 0843-1329 WordWorks is provided free three times per year to FBCW members and to selected markets. It is available on our website and in BC libraries, schools, and historical societies. FBCW Annual Membership Rates: Regular: $80 | Senior: $45 | Youth: $25


wordworks | 2021 Volume III September

FBCW ADVISORY COMMITTEE: JJ. Lee, Steven Price, Esi Edugyan, Alan Twigg, Gail Anderson-Dargatz, Anne Tenning, Betsy Warland, Darrel McLeod. FEDERATION OF BC WRITERS STAFF: Bryan Mortensen, Executive Director; Angela Douglas, Director of Communications; Jessica Cole, WordWorks Managing Editor; Diana Skrepnyk, Design Director; Amber Cowie, Fund Development Associate; Tara Borin, Membership Associate; Meaghan Hackinen, Contest Coordinator; Cristy Watson, WiseWords Committee Chair. EDITORIAL STAFF: Jessica Cole, Managing Editor; Dana J. Keller, Copy Editor. WRITE FOR WORDWORKS: Pitch article ideas to wordworks@bcwriters.ca.

own creative works but in our relationships with ourselves and each other. During the pandemic, when were unable to see our communities in person, we sent messages or engaged in video chats. We journaled, and when we could, we wrote. Words carried us when hugs could not. You may find yourself reflected in these pages as we talk about mental health and wellness and the writing life. As we deal with the effects of isolation, my hope is that we continue to rely on words to keep us going, to stay connected, and to remain inspired. Thank you for being part of the WordWorks community. Jessica Cole, Managing Editor

ADVERTISING: WordWorks advertises services and products of interest to writers. Contact amber@bcwriters.ca. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: The Federation of BC Writers acknowledges that Indigenous writers have not been able to take their deserved place in the literary culture due to wounding by colonization, by racism, and by the failure of gatekeepers to recognize a rich culture of storytelling, to nurture Indigenous writers, and to share opportunities to be heard and honoured. WE WELCOME ALL WRITERS to tell their stories; we want to read, listen, include, support, and recommend. The FBCW gratefully acknowledges the support of the Province of BC, the BC Arts Council, the Canada Council for the Arts, Access Copyright Foundation, and the Magazine Association of BC.

From the desk of the executive director Well, hi there! As many of you know, Ursula Vaira, our Managing Editor extraordinaire, retired after our last issue. We at the Federation of BC Writers are so happy for her but miss her dearly. We are so excited that her protégé, Jessica Cole, has taken on the role and has put her own spin on the amazing work our team has accomplished in past issues.

support than a quick tip. That is why I joined the Federation of BC Writers, and I suspect the same is true for many of you. It is the reason the Federation of BC Writers and this magazine exist. Our organization has surpassed 1,000 members in our 45th year, and we all have unique needs that centre on our backgrounds and preferred writing genres.

The Federation of BC Writers made a hard pivot during the With COVID-19 continuing to early months of the pandemic linger, our new editor had to Zoom-based the amazing idea of programming. Despite focusing this issue it coming about as on mental health We want a direct result of for writers. In to make certain the pandemic, it preparing my brought forward letter for this that people who a significant volume of realization that could not attend in WordWorks, we now have I spent a great the past stay tools to support deal of time people across the connected. thinking about province in more what methods have meaningful, predictable helped me maintain ways. As such, I want you all a creative practice during to know that, for the Federation, these difficult times and why I digital gatherings are here to stay am a part of this organization. even as we work toward in-person When I am struggling with my events. We want to make certain own writing, I often think of what that people who could not attend my fitness instructor friend tells in the past stay connected. me about exercise: just putting on gym clothes eliminates one barrier to success. Exercise is that much easier to do after you take that first small step. The same is true for writing. If I just open my Word file, I inevitably will get something written, even if it is just one sentence. As much as the gym clothes approach has helped me, as a writer I sometimes need more

To that end, we have several initiatives in the works. One of these is our new members-only Writing Circles initiative. All artists have their own methods and approaches. Some prefer to work solo like Stephen King describes in On Writing. (Spoiler: he’s not a big fan of writing groups.) Others thrive in the presence of others. For those who

work best with a circle around, these new groups are for you. Each group will be unique with its own norms and approaches, and each one will have a specific area of focus driven by participants. We want to support a diverse set of circles to meet the needs of groups around BC and Yukon that might not as easily gather because of geographical concerns. As such, you will see groups starting right away for LGBTQ2S+ Writers, Travel Writers, Grant Writers, Neurodiverse Writers, and more. If you have a group in mind, give us a shout, and we’ll see if we can form a circle. On behalf of our team at the Federation of BC Writers, thank you for being members and readers of this magazine. Bryan Mortensen, Executive Director

2021 Volume III September | wordworks


Writing as a tool for transformation:

Finding the gifts in our postpandemic world BY RAYYA LIEBICH


fter almost a year and a half of global grief, I am stumbling out of quietude and looking for ways to reconnect with the world and with others. For many like me, it is a time of great excitement—and anxiety. COVID has impacted us differently as individuals, yet we have experienced a worldwide grief immersion together. While navigating the pandemic, we have shared in the collective discomfort of recognizing our own mortality. None of us are immune to loss. Hopes and dreams, expectations, livelihoods, time with beloved friends and family—the world as we knew it came to a screeching halt. My personal crash course in grief came seven years ago following my mother’s sudden death. On that dark January morning, I sat in shock at my kitchen table. There was a blizzard in my rural town, I needed to fly overseas, and my passport had expired. I did the only thing that made any logical sense. I picked up my pen and started writing. Over the next five years, I was able to transform the confusion, chaos, and heartache of loss through poetry. Putting pen to paper was a cathartic outlet that allowed me to move through every tangle and knot. Through writing, I found a way to organize and make sense of the unimaginable. Day after day, page after page, I found my way toward healing. Grief is a complex and misunderstood visitor. As author and activist Stephen Jenkinson highlights, we live in a world of death phobia and grief illiteracy. Our culture lacks the language, rituals, and supports to


wordworks | 2021 Volume III September

hold the bereaved. Yet to move into this postpandemic phase, we desperately need to develop the skills to make peace with what will never be, and to actively mourn our losses. One of the most heart-wrenching and valuable lessons I have learned is that your old life dies when you lose someone you love—or, in this case, when the world loses so many lives at once. At the same time, we have the incredible chance to move into a deeper appreciation of what it means to live fully. Contrary to popular belief, grieving and mourning are not interchangeable terms. Grief is the internal experience of loss. Mourning is when you take your internal feelings and express them outwardly. Actions like writing allow the loss to be acknowledged and the feelings to transform. Without actively mourning, grievers can feel stuck in the traumatic memory. Writing allowed me to mourn my loss, and so I was also able to make radical and brave decisions guided by the clarity of my grief. I left my ten-year career as a Waldorf teacher and committed to my dream of becoming a writer. I wrote poem after poem until I was able to publish a chapbook and, eventually, a fulllength collection of poems in memory of my mother. I connected with my local hospice and created a curriculum called Writing through the Grief to assist others in healing their losses. I swam upstream against a culture that wanted me to pull it together, move on, and get over my grief. But the more I connected with grievers, the more I understood how our societal taboos are holding us back from healing. I found a new joy for life by facilitating death cafés at the

Kalein Centre and discovered that grief desperately needs an outlet to exist and that our departed want to be remembered.1 Through loss, I was able to re-engage with the world and live my best life. In this potent time of reflection, full of anxiety and awkwardness, I’d like to offer a few writing activities to help readers gain perspective around both the past and the future (see page 7). These exercises can be done on your own or with a friend or group. Witnessing each other is a powerful way to change the discourse on grief, but these exercises can also be of great benefit if done privately in a journal for your eyes only. Set aside half an hour or so of uninterrupted time, make a cup of tea, and—without expectations or judgements—invite your pen to guide your reflections. There is no correct way to grieve and no formula for writing. Simply try to keep your pen moving, allow whatever wants to be written to be written, and go where the energy is.2 Acknowledging our grief and reaching out for support is a brave and important step in healing. If writing or reflecting on your losses feels overwhelming, reach out to your local hospice for resources, support groups, or a list of local counsellors. There are also wonderful free resources online, social media communities, and toll-free hotlines for immediate support.3 You are not alone. In fact, more than ever before, may these words ring true: We bereaved are not alone. We belong to the largest company in all the world—the company of those who have known suffering. - Helen Keller 2021 Volume III September | wordworks


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wordworks | 2021 Volume III September

Writing as a tool for transformation: Activities PART 1: Mourning losses and articulating disappointments

one week. After rereading, ask yourself How can I integrate some of my inner wisdom?

1. Our culture does not teach us to mourn our losses. Our small losses are deemed trivial and not given the validity they deserve.

PART 3: Showing Gratitude

Exercise 1: Make a list of the small losses you’ve experienced since the pandemic started. Nothing is too trivial to mark. Try for ten. 2. A large part of coming to terms with loss is dealing with our expectations of “what should have been.” Until we articulate our disappointments, it can be difficult to move beyond them. Exercise 2: Travel back in your mind to New Year’s Eve, 2020, and how you imagined the year was going to unfold before the pandemic hit. Start with, I was supposed to, or I was looking forward to, or I was going to… PART 2: Finding clarity 3. With grief comes clarity and the chance to create ourselves/our world anew. Through loss we gain new insights on our old lives and selves. Exercise 3: Make a list, starting each line with I wasn’t expecting the pandemic to help me/show me… 4. We can hold both loss and gratitude. The gratitude does not negate the pain. Exercise 4: What is in place for you right now because of unforeseen circumstances that could be seen as an unexpected gift or blessing? Start each line with Right now, I am grateful for... 5. This crisis may have shed light on how you want to engage with the world anew. Exercise 5: Set a timer for ten minutes and reflect. Are there any brave changes you are willing to make? New attitudes you want to bring into your daily life? Keep your pen moving and come back to this question again and again, searching for different responses and angles to explore. When these exercises are complete, put them aside and read your responses over again in

Celebrating what we have is an important part of living fully. Keep a gratitude journal by your bed and commit to writing one line per day. Reaching out to others and connecting with our communities can strengthen all of us, especially after a time of social isolation. Write a letter to someone who has been by your side or supported you from afar throughout the pandemic. Thank them for the ways they have shown up for you. Send the letter! Notes 1. Death cafés are part of a worldwide movement to encourage conversations about death, dying, and living fully. The goal is to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives. Over 12,735 death cafés have taken place in seventy-eight countries since September 2011. For more information and guidance on how to lead your own café, visit deathcafe.com and kaleincentre.org. 2. In her classic book titled Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg offers guidelines for an authentic writing practice, including, “Keep your pen moving, don’t cross out, don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar, don’t get logical, and go for the jugular” (Shambhala Publications 1986, 8). 3. Visit the virtual mygrief.ca or follow Instagram channels such as @whatsyourgrief for shared understanding. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, call the BCwide Crisis Centre distress line at 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433).

Rayya Liebich is an award-winning Canadian poet of Lebanese and Polish descent. Passionate about writing as a tool for transformation and changing the discourse on grief, she teaches creative writing classes in Nelson, BC. Her debut collection of poems, Min Hayati, has just been released by Inanna Publications (June 2021). 2021 Volume III September | wordworks


Member milestones The Federation of BC Writers is home to a variety of tenacious and dedicated writers whose accomplishments range from publishing short stories, books, articles, and poems to hitting their word counts, winning writing contests, and more. In these pages, we celebrate the successes of our BC and Yukon writing community. These are just a few of the incredible milestones our members have reached lately: Teresa Hedley’s memoir, What’s Not Allowed? A Family Journey with Autism, is an accepted submission for the Governor General’s Literary Award, 2021. What’s Not Allowed? was reviewed by Terrance James in BCBookLook’s “Living with autism.” Margot Fedoruk not only completed her creative writing degree after her children left the nest but also finished her first book, Cooking Tips for Desperate Fishwives: An Island Memoir. It has been Fedoruk’s lifelong dream to write a book. DK Eve won several awards this year: first prize for both the 2021 Island Short Fiction & Word on the Lake contests; second place in the North Shore Writers Association contest; and the Vancouver Island Regional Library’s first Poem in Your Pocket contest.


wordworks | 2021 Volume III September

Arianna Dagnino published, in Italian, Il Quintetto d’Istanbul (Ensemble 2021), a literary account of what it means to be writing in transcultural and bilingual modes. She will be on a book tour in major Italian cities. Pauline Le Bel’s poem, “The Chestnut Agreement,” about her finding a mate for a lonely old chestnut tree on Bowen Island, is now a highly amusing and somewhat informative YouTube video. Dreaming big in a small Kootenay village, novice author Susan Dunnigan pursued the dream of narrating her memoir. Raw and real, Warrior Angel: Beyond Disability: A Family’s Quest for Ordinary is now an audiobook, read by the author. Sanjana Karthik had her work read out loud by the mayor of White Rock for National Poetry Month. This was something she was able to accomplish last year as well, and she received an honorarium. Valerie Fletcher Adolph’s pandemic goal was to publish a trilogy of light-hearted historical mysteries to lighten the spirits of readers. Set in post-WWII England, the novels follow an intriguing cast of unique characters.

In July 2020, Salmon Arm writer Kevin Gooden challenged himself to write a micro-fiction story on Twitter daily for one year, using the #vss365 word prompt. He did—reaching over a dozen countries—and was read over 100,000 times.

After “Work in (Endless) Progress” was published in FBCW, Marie-Claude Arnott got two endorsements for her memoir and created a website. She is also working on a new book proposal and posting on her Facebook Page, The Writing Keys.

S.E. Saunders recently published her first novel, Houston in September, on Kindle Direct Publishing after lengthy rewrites and edits. She looks forward to working on the remaining eleven books in the series.

Ashleigh Rajala’s short story, “The Palm Reader,” a contemporary fabulist piece published by the Tatterhood Review, was nominated for the 2021 Best of the Net Anthology.

Barbara Robin is happy to report that she is regaining her love of writing following the loss of her beloved partner, Elroy, who died of cancer in November 2020. She is quoted as saying, “Writing about him has been my solace.”

Margaret Growcott has just had her first novel published. It is a fictionalized history of her grandmother, who was born in 1872 in England. At age ten, Margaret’s grandmother worked in a cotton mill in the mornings and went to school in the afternoon.

As a short story writer, KT Wagner has learned to soften the sting of rejections by making it a goal to receive at least one hundred of them annually. She is well on track to achieve this goal in 2021 with sixty-four rejections (and three story sales!).

Claire Finlayson served on the board of directors of the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts for ten years. On August 15th she will be presenting her own book, Dispatches from Ray’s Planet: A Journey through Autism, on her “home” stage.

Naomi Beth Wakan just celebrated her 90th birthday with the publication of Wind on the Heath (Shanti Arts 2020), celebrating sixty years of her poetry writing.

Ann Berens published her first non-fiction book in 2020, a shortened version of a family history she compiled from handwritten memoirs and letters which were written by her father, who was an oil geologist in the early 1900s.

Would you like to see your own literary feats celebrated in the pages of WordWorks? Visit bcwriters.ca/milestones. 2021 Volume III September | wordworks


A dozen ways to stay calm and keep writing BY WILEY WEI-CHIUN HO

In early 2020, I found myself in the cool slipstream of writing flow. A channel was open, and I was swimming in new ideas and stories. Buoyed by recent wins, including a scholarship to a writers’ workshop at Banff Centre and first prize in the 2020 BC-Yukon Short, I was on a roll, averaging a thousand (fairly decent) words a day. Then, the new coronavirus hit, and the world went flat and quiet. Initially, I considered the stay-home orders a gift, another sign from the universe to devote myself to my writing. But instead of producing more with the extra time I had from suspended work contracts and cancelled social events, I wrote less. I slept odd hours and moped around the house. At my desk, I would write a sentence and delete it, open a book and stare at it like wallpaper. I wasn’t alone. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Public Health Agency of Canada has reported spikes in anxiety and depression, with over forty percent of the population experiencing fatigue, loneliness, a persistent sense of fear, and a lack of motivation. After weeks of feeling unmoored and creatively blocked, I checked in with my doctor, who assured me I was depressed but not clinically so—at least not yet. She said it was vital that I try new things to improve my mood so it didn’t get stuck in a low pattern. I researched and tried a variety of lifestyle hacks. After months of experimentation, here is what I found. Sleep is a strong ally. The nights where I stayed up way too late bingeing The Queen’s Gambit and Superstore did me no good, no matter how good their writing. The nights when I went to bed with a book (preferably not horror or apocalyptic) enabled better rest and calmer mornings where I could get some work done.


wordworks | 2021 Volume III September

Consistency is important. I reserve three hours every morning to write. In that time, reading counts too. If my own words are reluctant to come, I read. Sooner or later, an amazing passage will inspire me back to my own writing. When I can’t face the page, I sing— badly, but that’s beside the point. After belting out a couple of sappy ballads, I find it difficult not to smile. Nature is restorative. Walk, run, bike, swim, forestbathe. The exact activity is unimportant, but scientific data shows that after just forty minutes of being in nature, our blood pressure, blood glucose, and cortisol levels all measurably drop. Simply being near trees or the ocean, particularly minus technology, gives our nervous system a reset. I’ve started to leave my smartphone at home. Without the distraction of pinging notifications, or the ability to take pictures or “quickly” look something up, my body has begun to notice the physical world around it. I’ve taken to bringing pen and paper on my walks for when new ideas or observations arrive—and they do most often when I’m outdoors. Gradually, my calm has returned, and with it, creativity. After six months of experimentation, I had written a new short story and revised several others. I was feeling quite proud of myself until I heard a writer say she’d finished a whole novel, which, she complained, paled in comparison to Shakespeare penning King Lear during a London plague. “Not only that,” she continued, “he also came up with the plots for Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra.” How was that supposed to help ordinary mortals like me? It didn’t. But it did lead me to another realization: Comparison truly is a killer to joy. If you must compare, then compare your writing today to your writing last month and notice the progress.

I’ve come to appreciate the many components of wellness and its necessity for creativity. Here are my dozen learnings on how to stay calm and keep writing: 1. Good sleep is foundational. Get your beauty sanity sleep. Deadlines can be helpful. Having an external source of accountability is useful to keep the keyboard clacking. I’m thankful to be part of a writing group that exchanges work every two weeks. This regular infusion of feedback and support (even via Zoom during lockdown) is nourishing for works in progress. Writing contests provide yet another motivator to polish a story.

2. Nature is a source of joy and energy. Get your daily outdoors fix. 3. Regularly unplug from technology, social media, and the news. Feel your diaphragm expand when you do. 4. Comparison is a killer to joy. There are always more/less prolific, better/worse writers than you. Damn Shakespeare. Compete only with yourself. 5. Designate time for writing and reading, and protect it.

Naturally, some days are better than others. Accepting that life is flux has helped me to neither give up nor take the easy days for granted. Even as we slowly emerge from this pandemic, other disasters are occurring. It helps to acknowledge life’s endless cycle of doom and recovery. When everything feels too much, I take a break. On such days, I do very little except practise gratitude and radical (self-)acceptance.

6. Read like a writer. Take note of good craft and practise it on the page.

Wiley Wei-Chiun Ho is a TaiwaneseCanadian writer of short stories, personal essays, and memoir. A technical writer based in North Vancouver, she has been published in magazines and anthologies, and she contributes to North Vancouver Recreation & Culture’s Active Living blog. Wiley is completing her first book about her Taiwanese-Canadian “astronaut” family.

10. Eat well and stay hydrated—so obvious but so often overlooked.

7. Deadlines help, as do writing groups that exchange constructive feedback. Writing contests can get your story to the finish line. 8. Dwell in gratitude—it’s the healthiest emotion. Enumerate the wonderful people, pets, and gifts in your life. 9. Sing. Dance. Cook. Do something other than writing for a different creative outlet and inspiration.

11. Laughter relieves stress and provides perspective. Reach out and spend time with goodhumoured people. Watch silly cat videos. 12. When all else fails, practise radical (self-) acceptance. Stay in your PJs all day, suspend your brain on mindless entertainment, eat that entire bag of chips and chase it down with sparkling wine. Just make sure it isn’t every day. If it is, please go see your doctor. Here’s to your wellness and a flowing pen!

2021 Volume III September | wordworks


Healing with words BY ANGELA DOUGLAS

When my son was born, I experienced a traumatic childbirth during which I almost died. A lengthy struggle with postpartum depression followed. For nearly a decade, I couldn’t talk about “it” or the first year of my son’s life. Then I came across a birthstory contest by the Doula Support Foundation on the Federation of BC Writers Facebook page. I hadn’t written in many years but had always hoped to get back to it. It was a dream of mine that I had roundhouse kicked aside out of a lack of time and an abundance of insecurity. Initially, I had only intended to write about my daughter’s simpler, safer birth. But after I’d written her story, I knew I needed to write my son’s. I hadn’t planned on submitting it, as I didn’t think that the Doula Support Foundation would be interested in sharing what could go horribly wrong in the delivery room.

I wrote and wrote and wrote. Inspired by a contest with a two-thousand-word limit, I wrote an entry three times as long. Whereas I’d submitted my daughter’s story comfortably, I agonized over my son’s—every single word. I flip-flopped right up until twenty minutes before the deadline, and in one bold and terrifying moment, I hit Send. Several weeks later, when I learned that I’d gotten an honourable mention for my birth story, wet joy gushed off my face as I ran to tell my husband. I assumed it was for my daughter’s story. As I read wordworks | 2021 Volume III September

In a short-lived burst of confidence, I agreed to read my story when they asked. Days before the event, I realized I just couldn’t do it. While practising, I cracked and lost my voice after just three paragraphs. Rather than remove me from the line-up of readers, one of the women at the foundation offered to read it for me.

I wrote and wrote and wrote. Inspired by a contest with a two-thousand-word limit, I wrote an entry three times as long.

Starting with research, I ordered my hospital records. My memories were in and out— as my consciousness had been. The documents confirmed everything I remembered, had been told, and more. I’d had no clue that my son’s life had been at risk too. I cried for days. Different tears than in the past. These were tears of acceptance. Out of those records and grief came strength.


the mention out loud to him, I discovered that it was for my son’s instead. I cried again—validated. Maybe I was good enough to pursue my passion.

During the event, I turned my camera off, listened, and appreciated it more than I could say. She doesn’t know how many times I have rewatched her carefully and kindly honour my heartache with such exactness. Each time it is easier to watch.

This process has been healing and motivational. Since then, I have won mentions or prizes in two more contests and regularly write and enter them. I tend to submit lighter material now, for the most part. This experience also inspired a career change that allows me more time to write. I am working on my first novel and have written several other “therapeutic” pieces that are just for me and will never see the light of day. Write your stories and enter those contests; you never know what the outcome may be. Angela Douglas loves to write creative non-fiction, especially travel stories. When she isn’t working or chasing her children, she is ripping her hair out at her desk as she tries to edit her first novel. Find Angela at angeladouglas.ca or @anglynndouglas on social media.

Scattered storytelling: On writing and attention BY JESSICA COLE


ed Leavitt, MSc, is a registered clinical counsellor based in Abbotsford, BC. He specializes in treating people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and more. Ted comes by this clinical focus honestly: he was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of thirtythree. He relates the journey in his streamof-consciousness-style memoir, Teddy Hit Me: Scattered Stories of My Search for Attention (Connectivity Mental Health Counselling 2019). In it, Ted writes that prior to his diagnosis, “I had always felt like there was something more I could do, that if people gave me a chance, they would see that I was smart and […] a good person, but because I had fallen flat on my face so many times in my attempts to prove this, I also felt that my potential would always remain as […] something that could have been.” The diagnosis conveyed to him “an acceptance that I had been searching for my entire life.” The idea of being a “person of permanent potential”—a quote from Gabor Maté’s seminal work on attention deficit disorder, Scattered Minds (Ebury Publishing 1999)—is threaded throughout Ted’s memoir. The stories in Teddy Hit Me are funny and relatable for anyone who struggles with impulsivity

and inattentiveness—but the book is also tinged with sadness as Ted explores the effects of his search for attention on his self-esteem. “I didn’t know that when I started the book,” he says when asked about the theme. “I realized how many of these experiences that ended in some form of pain for me were built around trying to get people to notice me. […] My initial plan was to write about all the stuff that I talk about in my presentations and with my clients, about neuroscience and implicit memory and trauma and anxiety and addiction and all that stuff.” He recommends writers be prepared for their own intended themes to evolve. “If you keep going to this place that’s not what the theme is, but you keep going there, maybe that’s what the book’s actually about.” Ted encourages other writers who are struggling with inattentiveness to consider the source of their resistance: “My first tip is to get the book, The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield, in which he names resistance and personifies it.” Of resistance and people with ADHD, Ted explains, “There’s a neurological thing going on in our prefrontal cortex that makes that happen. And so, the

frustrating part of it is that we are even resistant to ourselves. So, as soon as writing starts to be a thing that I’m supposed to be doing, I don’t do it. It has to be a thing that I want to do.” How can writers who are struggling to stay in the chair work around resistance then? “What I tell clients who are dealing with this sort of, like, having to force yourself […] is [to] visualize the finished product. Because maybe the process isn’t super enjoyable for you. It feels like work. So don’t picture the process, picture being done. Picture what your book is going to look like, what the cover is going to look like, what that’s going to feel like.” On the writing of Teddy Hit Me and how his own inner resistor affected his process, Ted muses, “It would have been more frustrating if I didn’t know my ADHD as well as I do.” Ted Leavitt can be found at connectivitycounselling.com. Teddy Hit Me: Stories of My Search for Attention is available at various retailers. Jessica Cole is the managing editor of WordWorks. She writes fiction under the pen name Jess Wesley and enjoys working with writers to polish their work. 2021 Volume III September | wordworks


Thorns, prickles, and roses BY JANINE CROSS

People are not like roses. For starters, we don’t have thorns; though technically, neither do roses. Thorns are modified branches or stems, as found on lemon and mandarin orange trees. Roses have prickles, which are modified epidermal cells. Unlike the thick, waxy epidermis of the rose bush, human skin is soft and woefully devoid of defensive pointy prickles. Yet as writers, we’re often told that to achieve success, we must “grow a thick skin” against rejections. Well, I’m not a fragrant, showy bloom, so it’s no good telling me to grow a thick, defensive skin, with or without spiky protuberances. As a human, I’m not meant to. Human survival depends upon a cooperative society. Many of us buy food farmed by others, live in dwellings built by others, and wear clothing sewn by others. We depend upon group members to learn skills necessary to survive in diverse and often hostile environments. As psychologist and neuroscientist Mark Leary says, humans have “a pervasive drive to form and maintain at least a minimum quantity of lasting, positive, and impactful interpersonal relationships.”1


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It’s been this way for eons. For our hunter-gatherer ancestors, individual survival depended upon being an integral part of a community. The more sensitized you were to the risk of ostracism and rejection, the quicker you could correct negative behaviour and ensure your continued existence in that community. This sensitivity to the risk of ostracism and rejection became, and remains, a necessary human trait. Neuroscientists have used brain imaging to track neurological responses to rejection and exclusion. People who were left out of group events displayed the same brain activity associated with physical pain.2 For us writers, then, the emotional pain of rejection— of being excluded from the “group” of the magazine or anthology or publishing imprint to which we’ve submitted our work—is a very real, physical pain. When our work is rejected, alarm bells clang inside our heads—at risk of ostracism; at risk of death! This alarm is intensified by the fact that we humans often see our work as part of our identities and an extension of ourselves. Evolution has formed our underlying neural and cognitive mechanisms to be this way as a means of survival, so “growing a thick skin”

in response to rejections is counter to two hundred thousand years of our species’ development. So how do we deal with the actual physical pain of rejection? Here are a few science-supported techniques: • Take the piece that has been rejected, give it to several trusted people, and ask them to say only nice things about it. Make it clear that this is not a critique but a shower of rose petals only. You need this unconditional positive regard to reinforce your sense of belonging. You need to know that you’re not being ostracized from your community and at risk of death. • List some books you’ve enjoyed and why. This immersive task in your favourite garden of literature will disrupt negative rumination with meaningful distraction. Research shows that individuals who engage in tasks to disrupt negative thoughts are less likely to experience depressive and anxious symptoms.3 • Volunteer with a writing organization. The role of community and perceived belonging is critical to psychological well-being. There’s a strong positive relation between an individual’s sense of interpersonal belonging and their ratings of happiness and subjective well-being.4 Being a part of a community also increases networking opportunities that provide a wealth of information during times of ambiguity. In addition, helping others boosts your self-esteem while serving as a reminder that you are not alone. • Prune away the gnarly urge to engage in a public (social media) reaction. Focusing on a rejection is akin to focusing on what you can’t do, instead of what you can. As psychologist Guy Winch explains, such negative entanglement makes individuals less likely to perform at their best, which in turn drives them to focus even more on their shortcomings.5 This emotional spiral enhances feelings of helplessness and demoralization. • Remind yourself which writing skills you’re good at—comedy? prose? similes? Listing your strengths will help you heal your self-esteem. If you’re unable to rise above self-criticism at that moment, compose a letter to your favourite author as if they’ve just suffered this rejection, and tell them why their work has worth. Then read the letter aloud to yourself: this is the same message of self-compassion and support that you need to hear. Reading out loud boosts the staying power and positive impact of the message.6

• Go to a restaurant and notice how many entrees you don’t choose and can’t afford, even though they appeal. Then visit a library and notice how many books you don’t choose. Editors and agents are like the rest of us: they have budgets, likes, dislikes, and time constraints that can change hourly, daily, monthly, and yearly, depending on mood and circumstance, all of which may have nothing to do with the quality of your work. The next time you receive a rejection, don’t bother trying to grow a thick skin. You’re a human, not a plant. You evolved to enjoy the rose blooms and feel the prickles. Heal your emotional injury by replenishing feelings of social connection and reviving your selfworth. And if someone tells you to grow a thick skin? Show ’em the verbal equivalent of some thorns. Notes 1. Roy F. Baumeister and Mark R. Leary, “The Need to Belong: Desire for Interpersonal Attachments as a Fundamental Human Motivation,” Psychological Bulletin 117, no. 3 (1995): 497–529, doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.117.3.497. 2. Naomi Eisenberger, Matthew D. Lieberman, and Kipling D. Williams, “Does Rejection Hurt? An FMRI Study of Social Exclusion,” Science 302 (October 2003): 290–292, doi.org/10.1126/science.1089134. 3. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema and Jannay Morrow, “Effects of Rumination and Distraction on Naturally Occurring Depressed Mood,” Cognition and Emotion 7 (November 1993): 561–570, doi.org/10.1080/02699939308409206. 4. See note 1. 5. Guy Winch, “Why We All Need to Practice Emotional First Aid,” November 2014, TEDx Linnaeus University, 17:15, ted.com/talks/guy_winch_why_we_all_need_ to_practice_emotional_first_aid/up-next. 6. Noah D. Forrin and Colin M. MacLeod, “This Time It’s Personal: The Memory Benefit of Hearing Oneself,” Memory 26, no. 4 (2018): 574–579, doi.org/10.1080/09658211.2017.1383434.

Janine Cross is the author of Touched by Venom, voted by Library Journal as one of the top five sci-fi/fantasy novels of 2005 and the first book in The Dragon Temple Trilogy. She’s also the author of Shadowed by Wings, Forged by Fire, and The Footstop Cafe. As a private pilot, she writes articles for aviation magazines. 2021 Volume III September | wordworks



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wordworks | 2021 Volume III September

Join fellow writers for support, motivation, and a dash of accountability. Initial groups for LGBTQ2S+ folk, Travel Writers, and Women (more to come based on request)

Info Session on Sept 9th 2021 Circles Starting in fall 2021

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Celebrating the small wins BY IRIS CAMERON Think back to the first time you hit a writing milestone. Maybe that was finishing a project or a chapter, hitting a word goal, or having a big breakthrough. How did you feel when you sat back and realized what you’d just accomplished? In my case, I felt exhilarated. The first time I wrote a book, every single word felt like a victory. I was amazed that I could write five hundred words in one sitting. I would hit 5K or 10K or 15K words, and I would celebrate it. When I finished that book, I was so incredibly proud.

It’s disheartening to look at everything you’ve done and brush half of it off as not a big deal— to pour yourself into a project and then shrug and say it’s nothing you haven’t done before. It makes it harder to muster the energy to write when nothing feels like an accomplishment anymore. What happened to that exhilarating feeling that made every word feel like a success?

This is why it’s so important to let yourself celebrate the small wins. Even if we’ve written more, or better, or faster in the past, every word still counts. Maybe nothing will ever Even if we’ve written more, feel as huge as the first time—the novelty of it is or better, or faster in the past, gone—but every time we every word still counts. sit down to write, we’re still accomplishing something.

Now tell me, that first milestone—the one that you were so proud of at the time—have you hit it again? Written another project, or chapter, or significant number of words? Had a breakthrough that left you reeling? If you’ve been writing for a while, you probably have. Maybe even multiple times. How did you feel the most recent time you hit that milestone?

I’ve written four books now, and even though I improve every time, each one feels like less and less of an achievement. I still get that thrill when I finally write “the end,” but it’s so easy to downplay the rest: I just wrote 5K words this weekend, that’s not much. I’m only 30K words through this book, I’ve barely done anything. Etc., etc. I always want to go bigger, better, faster. It’s so easy to lose sight of those early milestones when we’re always focused on how we can improve. There’s nothing wrong with reaching for the stars—sometimes the best work comes from pushing ourselves—but it’s important to remember how far we’ve already come, too. Writing a book—or even getting more than a few thousand words into a project—used to be the star I was reaching for. It felt light years away. Now that I’m here, I find myself reaching for farther and farther stars while forgetting that making it this far used to feel unreachable.

Next time you hit a milestone, give yourself some credit. Think back to that version of yourself who was amazed by the thought of doing this much and acknowledge how cool it is that now you can. You don’t need to jump for joy or throw a party, but pause and take a moment to smile to yourself. Writing can be a hard and thankless task, but it’s also pretty incredible what we can do with our words. Your writing matters. So celebrate that. Iris Cameron is a first-year Writing and Publishing student at Okanagan College. She loves theatre and acting, and when she’s not onstage, she can usually be found reading, writing, attempting to learn a language, or otherwise being a nerd about words.

2021 Volume III September | wordworks


It’s all about the word:

On being a human, a counsellor, and a writer BY ISABELLA MORI

i’m dying of thirst because of the vast empty because of the dry dust and the sand within me that soaks up even the last drop i’m not starving but i thirst for the waters that gather up down or some other place but not where my tongue lies swollen


o starts a poem I wrote many years ago after I delivered my children and myself from my abusive ex-husband and made room for all the hard stuff in my life to come to the surface. Later, many of my therapy sessions started with one of my poems. Theologian Michael Dowd calls poetry “night language”—language that lives in a world where much is felt and not seen. Night language can express ideas and experiences that are otherwise hard to articulate. “i’m not starving / but i thirst” was a way to convey that while there was enough sustenance in my life in many ways, some vital element was in scarce supply—and that I felt that the reason for that scarcity lay within myself. What exactly that scarcity was about was unclear to me, as was why I experienced it—but that’s the stuff of night language: touching on the unspoken, the unknown. My ability to write poetry came from growing up in a family that screwed me up yet at the same time gave me the tools to deal with it. My parents showed me a model of marriage that validated living with an abusive spouse—“stand by your man!”—but also gave me a sense of justice and self-determination. This early experience of agency would later help me


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escape my abusive relationship. Meanwhile, through their passion for literature and art, my parents gave me the tools to deal with the aftermath. Welcome to growing up with a genius father who was a fantastic painter, a deep thinker, an addict through and through, haunted by bipolar disorder and chronic pain, manipulative, wise, licentious, caring, and so funny that I peed my pants more than once laughing. Welcome to a mother who created magic with a violin, believed it when people said she wasn’t creative, dealt with her anxiety by bursting into rage, was passionate about avant-garde music, never made us feel poor even though we lived in great poverty, and together with my father, turned codependence into a baroque art form. Welcome to my native country of Germany in the ’50s and ’60s, dominated by stories of war, the Holocaust, the bombing of Hiroshima. To a sister with a disability, the twists (mostly twists) and turns of the sexual revolution, and enough family members and friends dying of suicide that I thought for the longest time that was a normal way of dying.

on after that separation from my ex-husband, studying to become a counsellor seemed the right thing to do. There came a point when it dawned on me that the word, this basic unit of language, is central in my life. As a writer, I write stories, but the word is fundamental. I want the right word, the beautiful word, the word that precisely fits what wants to be said. (For more thoughts on that, see my piece “Circling Around Writing” in the online literary arts magazine, Literary Heist.) As a counsellor, I pay close attention to what the person across from me says, and their word choices give us both clues. There is a reason why a client may say “my older brother” and not “Joe,” even though I know very well that Joe is their older brother. Why is it that they use the more distanced term of “older brother,” rather than the intimate “Joe”? Maybe we can explore that. “i’m dying of thirst” —so begins the poem. The last three lines are:

There were a few things on my mental health plate. However, since I can remember—perhaps even before I bought myself a fountain pen after being paid for my first “job” at age six—writing has been the raft I could clamber onto in the midst of the emotional white water churning around me. One memory in particular stands out: I was in my twenties, living in Paraguay with my son, working at a job that involved quite a bit of writing and translating. This kept my literary fingers limber, and I wrote a lot of my own poetry at home as well. The poetic images that kept coming to me were of a toad—me—living in a deep well, only occasionally making it to the rim to sit in the light for a short while before quickly returning to the depths. Those were the words I was able to use because the term depression was inaccessible to me. Depression was something my father had, something that kept him in bed with the curtains drawn for months on end, and I. Was. Not. That. Years later, when the emotional waters around me had stopped churning and had calmed down to manageable waves, I began to let the idea of depression in. First, I used poetic language, metaphors, to warm up to it: the dark fog I felt at times was “clouds,” my mood “weather.” Around that time, I also started working as a counsellor. I had played a part in my mother overcoming a life-threatening depression following her retirement; as a result, helping others felt like a natural role, and when I needed something to focus

but i thirst because i dare not drown.

In the end, therapy, a loving new marriage, fulfilling work—and yes, lots of writing—invited me to abandon the fear of drowning, and I threw myself into the flow of life. Today, I don’t thirst anymore. Today, I have enough waters to soothe me and pour out to others. Isabella Mori lives in Vancouver and has authored two books of and about poetry, including A Bagful of Haiku – 87 Imperfections. Isabella’s work has appeared in publications such as the anthology The Group Of Seven Reimagined and is the founder of Muriel’s Journey Poetry Prize. Currently, Isabella is working on a multigenre book on mental health and addiction. 2021 Volume III September | wordworks


Writing the third act BY WENDY BURTON

Our third act, “old age,” has taken launch featured twenty-one people on the lustre only Boomers could seated in six-foot bubbles, and give it. The third act of a classic I read behind a Plexiglas screen Western story is where “all the nine feet from the first row. things” come to their satisfying Two weeks later, all public and conclusion. All must be private events and gatherings resolved. The third were prohibited. The act is not supposed reading events I to contain the I am had planned were beginning of cancelled. I sold adding new plot another story. books from the

to my third act, What then of trunk of my car, me? What of the offering change breaking all woman whose plot at arm’s length the rules. reached an apparent along with sanitized ending with the death inscriptions. I read over of her lover, yet life Zoom, my halting internet went on? What of me, who matching my inexperience came to publishing late as a result with the medium. I, who was a of familial duties and the pressure public speaker for forty years, of work, years of never finding the had stage fright. In January 2021, time, and then five years spent I finished a solid seventh draft walking my beloved home? of a novel that began in 2019 as a short story that wouldn’t shut Is it too late? Should I give up? up. Words cascaded onto paper. For my own mental health, the answer has to be no. I am adding new plot to my third act, breaking all the rules. I have written the beginning. My fictionalized account of my greatgreat-grandmother Millicent earned a letter of distinction from Humber College in April 2020. I was invited to post a synopsis and sample chapters in a special place on their website where agents and editors can have a look. Millicent waits. When I was seventy-one, my debut novel, Ivy’s Tree, was published. The books arrived from Thistledown Press in September 2020, in time for the well-planned launch in October. My book 20

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Amid twenty-five rejections in 2020 and 2021, four pieces were published, one the Gold Winner in Alberta Magazine Association’s British Columbia Story of the Year. I learned most Canadian publishing houses won’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. One needs an agent. I sent out packages. I received responses: “We are not interested in representing you.” I was told, most piercingly, “We don’t see much of a career here.” I was jealous. Sick with envy. Resentful. Bitterness stalked me the way pileated woodpeckers stalk bugs in fir trees.

I attended virtual events, and many thumbnail images showed people half the age of my older son. I was invisible in Zoom calls where my age was apparent. Who wants to network with someone older than dirt? I turned to social media. It is a prickly environment. I experienced the futility of claiming a nanosecond of attention there. I’ve heard of younger writers who finish, triumphantly, a draft and send it off to their agents and magically a publishing date appears: 2023. I will be seventy-four by then. While I admire writers of all sorts, I especially admire those writing the third act, who write as if their life depends on it. As it does. I am an old woman. I am not trying to become a writer. I am a writer. I write.

Wendy Burton lives on Hornby Island. Her debut novel is Ivy’s Tree. Her essay “Swimming in the Dark” (Folklife, October 2020) won Gold BC Story of the Year from the Alberta Magazine Publishers Association. She is currently engaged in the “100 Rejections” challenge.

Overcoming impostor syndrome as a writer of colour BY RAHMA KHAN


riting is a skill that is achievable for anyone who has practised and mastered it. But to make a career in the competitive English writing industry is not as straightforward as it may seem, especially when you are a person of colour. Seven years back, when I decided to pursue freelance writing as a side hustle, I was naive to overlook the challenges which every non-native English writer, like myself, encounters. The top reason for my rejections was that I lacked the writing proficiency of a native English writer. Thanks to my Pakistani roots, as the country was a British colony in the past, I grew up in an environment where English proficiency was considered more valuable than knowing the local language. In school, I learned English first, then my native language, Urdu. I never questioned my English language skills until I came across freelance writing jobs where I ticked off all the prerequisites but failed to check the Native English Writers Only box. Investing in growth is the way to go in the competitive freelance writing industry, so I regularly enrolled in writing courses and attended workshops with successful writers. Though these efforts helped me land a few assignments earlier in my career, most of the work I got included writing short product descriptions and reviews. I continually failed to land long-form features and opinion assignments. Mental wellness for non-native English speakers, some of whom are writers of colour, is an overlooked aspect in this industry. Racial discrimination can lead to repeated rejections, and feelings of failure can take a toll on the writer’s mental health. Even after being able to create a decent writing portfolio, my language skills were still being surveyed with a different scanner than that of a native writer. While I was made to pass a series of unpaid writing tests and to present an internationally recognized English language test to get closer to securing an assignment, the native English-speaking folks were always moved to the front at the first hiring stage. Two years into my writing journey, I was dealing with impostor syndrome, doubting my capabilities,

and losing confidence in my skills. I hit rock bottom when my negotiated writing rates were once turned down by an editor who stated my lack of “natives like” writing proficiency. It made me realize how I was being underpaid and considered a cheap labour option for projects which don’t require top writing quality. The last year and a half have been a game changer for people of colour all over the world. Since the Black Lives Matter protests took place, awareness of diversity and inclusion has been substantially enhanced across all industries. From supporting POC-owned businesses to taking part in the Cancel Culture against big brands who implement discriminatory practices, under-represented voices are now heard loudly. Since mid-2020, there has been a great demand for POC writers, and non-native English speakers are being hired to share their perspectives on issues ranging from the white saviour complex to the decolonization of travel. Publications are now featuring the stories of marginalized communities. I always used to consider writing for international publications and magazines as something out of my league. However, over the last eighteen months, I have accumulated more than twenty bylines in reputed publications. I have stopped letting impostor syndrome affect my confidence, and instead focus on enhancing my skills and growing my writing portfolio. Rahma Khan is a travel writer and independent journalist from Pakistan. Creating awareness for the rights of BIPOC, Rahma uses her travel blog, thesaneadventurer.com, to share her discrimination stories and first-hand experiences with BIPOC travellers. Her work has been published in Independent UK, Open Canada, and Passion Passport, among others. 2021 Volume III September | wordworks


Loving your creative animal BY SONJA LARSEN


veryone knows animals are good for your mental health. But it’s not just their fuzzy faces, cute antics, and warm bodies that help us. It’s what they can teach us about embodied learning, communication, and respect. After I adopted a small rescue dog, I discovered positive reinforcement training, which uses choice and rewards instead of fear and punishments. Committing to building a relationship based on joy instead of intimidation was a powerful decision that has affected every area of my life. What I’ve learned is a kinder and more effective way to work—not only with my dog, but with my own creative animal. 1. Reward the behaviour you want The more rewarding something is, the more we like it. Simple right? The little dog loves it when I call his name because he knows it’s always worth showing up. I try to remember to do the same in my writing life—to thank myself for showing up, to set some kind of reward. Maybe it’s a walk or a cookie. Maybe it’s drinks with a friend. Maybe it’s the reward of building craft, meeting interesting people, the pleasures of always learning. I have a mental, and sometimes a literal, sticker book where I put my little gold stars. 2. Stop yelling In studies, dogs trained using corrections were slower learners, and their owners reported more frequent behaviour and aggression problems. As trainer Sue Ailsby says in “Sue Eh’s Rules of Training,” “Be aware of your own tendency to blame. Be aware of your own tendency to punish.” I’ve stopped trying to negotiate with the blaming shaming hypercritical voice in my head. Instead, I remind myself I wouldn’t talk to a dog that way. 3. Respect the body Positive reinforcement training is part of a growing field that looks at the ways our bodies remember, react to stress, learn, and heal. Although I’d witnessed dogs


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“shaking it off” for years, it wasn’t until I read Resmaa Menakem’s My Grandmother’s Hands that I really began to appreciate the importance of using movement as a way of helping all bodies process difficulty or uncertainty. Walks or two-minute dance parties often help me when writing about challenging subjects. 4. Work with the animal that shows up My little dog came with some problems and issues—a phobia of crows, for example—but just because that seems dumb to me doesn’t make it any less real to him. Belittling fear doesn’t work. So I keep striving to give him the coping skills, choice, and motivation to manage more effectively. Sometimes we avoid the crows. Sometimes we watch them from a distance and eat cookies. 5. Slow is fast You can’t rush learning, or healing, but you can optimize the conditions for it. When I train my dog to do something new, I start in very small increments: five minutes here, five minutes there. I want the learning-seeking part of his brain, not the fear and fatigue part. I want the little dog to feel like he could still go a little longer instead of thinking, Thank God that’s over. When I wrote my memoir, instead of six-hour marathons, I worked in smaller chunks of time until writing and trauma didn’t feel like they automatically went together. And I gave myself extra gold stars for being brave. 6. Break it down As I’ve taught my dog to jump through a hoop and spin around, I’ve learned the need to break down goals into their smaller components. We step over the hoop. We raise the hoop. I sit down every Monday night to write. I give myself credit for all those little challenges—submissions, rejections, word counts—that make up a page, a story, a writing life.

7. Work a little hungry I don’t mean I starve my dog, I mean I choose to work with him when he’s most interested in the rewards I have. Just before dinner is a great training time—just after dinner, not so much. When I began to get serious about writing a book, I realized I often didn’t give my work my best energy and that I’d been filling up on other projects and not staying hungry for my primary creative goal. 8. Compassion vs. coddling One of my favourite trainers, Emily Larlham, describes her style of training as “based on compassion for the learner.” Someone recently asked me, “How do you know the difference between being compassionate with yourself and slacking off?” The simple answer is I enjoy myself a lot more when I’m compassionate. When I feel like I’m spending my gold stars instead of guiltily playing hooky. Or when I’m still actively asking myself, what do I need to move forward? What’s the smallest win I can get right now? What do I need to keep making this process feel rewarding? More community connection? Guidance or mentorship? Long walks? What’s going to make the tail wag? 9. Be a good guardian One of the biggest changes came for me when I asked myself the following questions: If my creativity was a dog, would I treat it poorly? Would I punish it when it made mistakes? Would I be nice to it one day and kick it the next? Would I only feed it sometimes? And the answer to all those questions was no. My creative

drive has been my faithful companion my whole life, but it has often felt like a source of anxiety and disruption. Since I’ve begun to treat it like a dog, it’s been easier to remember to be loving and kind, to rest, to play, to get outside, to find all the cookies I can. 10. There is only one best dog in the whole world and everyone has it When I first saw a photo of my dog on the humane society website, he was holding a tennis ball in his mouth, and I assumed he was about thirty pounds. I didn’t know they made little tennis balls for little dogs. I didn’t know what to do with a dog that seemed so fragile and yet so independent. I didn’t know how much this dog was going to change my life. He’s not a perfect dog, and I’m not a perfect writer. I’m sure we’d both like to be bigger, tougher, and braver than we really are. But he loves it when I call his name. He can do small tricks. He’s the best dog in the world, if for no other reason than he’s the one I call my own. Sonja Larsen’s awardwinning memoir, Red Star Tattoo: My Life as a Girl Revolutionary, was published in 2016. When she is not playing with her dog, Ralphie, she teaches writing workshops. She is working on her second book, which is about life in the computer lab of an inner-city community centre.

2021 Volume III September | wordworks


Finding your people: Why community matters BY CADENCE MANDYBURA


inding a critique group is standard advice for writers who wish to improve their craft, but the benefits of a writing community go far beyond the words on the page. The right community can give you hope, support your goals, and sympathize with your challenges. For both your writing and your wellness, it’s worth taking the time to find and connect with fellow writers. Community “makes you feel like you are a part of something greater than yourself,” says Crystal Hunt, co-founder of the Creative Academy for Writers, an online writing community. “There’s a lot of research […] around feeling like you are part of something and contributing to something that [suggests it] really does have positive mental health impacts.” Hunt, who holds a master’s degree in health psychology with a specialization in social support, further explains that community can offer not only practical advice, but also emotional support: “You can come to the community and you can say, ‘Okay, I just got my heart stomped on by my fifth rejection letter on this one piece,’ […] and you’re talking to people who understand what that feels like.” Betsy Warland, a writer, manuscript consultant, and teacher, also mentions the importance of finding support from other writers, saying that “Most people don’t understand the writing life.” She has built many communities throughout her career, including the Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University and the Vancouver Manuscript Intensive. Building community takes time, she says, and “we have to learn how to recognize each other.” Why Writers Need Community Because writing is an intensely solitary vocation riddled with rejection, it’s no wonder many writers feel isolated and inadequate. “As writers, I think sometimes we really struggle with issues of our self-worth and


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what our labour is worth,” says Natasha Deen, one of the mentors for this year’s BIPOC Writers Connect, a mentorship event organized by the Writers’ Union of Canada and the League of Canadian Poets. She acknowledges that this struggle can take on additional dimensions for marginalized folks. “How we exist in the world as women, how we exist in a world as part of the queer community, if we are Black, if we’re Indigenous—the world does not turn the same for us.” And the risks of going without community? “You quit,” says Deen. “The reality of writing versus the romance of writing is so huge. […] If you’re not engaging a community, you may not necessarily have a very realistic view of what publishing is and you may not have a very realistic view of what it means to be a writer.” Hunt agrees that newer writers might feel like they have to learn everything on their own. Without a community, she says, “your risk of getting stuck, or of getting incorrect or incomplete information, at any stage in the process is very high.” That can be not only demoralizing, but expensive, too. Inexperienced authors might get caught in exploitative contracts, not knowing how to value themselves or where to go for guidance. To Thine Own Self Be True Knowing the importance of community is one thing, but how do you go about finding the right one for you? Warland advises that it’s a long game—and it starts with self-reflection. “Learning to figure out what makes community within yourself as a writer is really crucial to writing,” she says. For her, this includes things like how she takes care of herself as a writer, her writing environment, the writers she reads, and language and narrative itself. Deen agrees. “You have to know who you are as a human being in the world before you start

Tips on finding writing communities building your community, or else what you’re going to end up doing is going out into communities where you don’t quite fit, and then it’s not going to be what you deserve, [and] it’s not going to be what they deserve.”

Follow publications you love. Subscribe to their newsletters and follow them on social media. Attend and promote their events. You may soon recognize others who share your artistic sensibilities.

Your values, goals, dreams, and personal history can all factor into what type of community is right for you. Other aspects to consider are what sort of relationships you want to build, how much time you have, what you can be flexible about, and where you set your boundaries.

Go local. Search within your community and region for writing groups. Libraries and educational institutions are great places to look.

The aim, according to Hunt, is “finding somewhere where […] you have to edit as little as possible of who you are in order to participate.” In fact, you should feel welcome even when you’re not at your best. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the social media illusion that everyone else is wildly successful and never has a bad day. “Don’t hide if things aren’t going well,” says Hunt. “If we all show up when things are not rosy and perfect, it means that any of us feels like we can show up anytime.”

Go global. Especially given the pandemic, many writing groups have moved online—this can be a great option for introverts who are less comfortable meeting people in person. Just say hi. Read something you adored? Attended a thought-provoking panel you enjoyed? Reach out to the people involved to thank them. A polite, complimentary note will rarely go amiss, and it could be the beginning of a connection. Build your own. If you’re not seeing a place for yourself, find a few like-minded writers and build something new.

You Get What You Give The benefits of community are deep and wideranging—but like any relationship, it doesn’t come at the snap of your fingers. “For most writers, you have to put in the time and help make it happen,” says Warland. “It is a balancing act, it’s always changing. […] You always have to be adapting.” For those seeking community, perhaps one of the most important questions is what you’re willing to bring. “As you’re asking them to bring treasure to you, what is the treasure that you’re going to bring to them?” says Deen. Engaging with a community today can have effects long into the future. What you give, you will get back. Find your people—and treasure them.

Cadence Mandybura is a writer and editor based in Victoria. Her fiction has been published in Pulp Literature, FreeFall, NōD, FudokiMagazine, and the Bacopa Literary Review. When she isn’t writing, Cadence enjoys martial arts and Japanese taiko drumming. Learn more at cadencemandybura.com.

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Supporting mental health and wellness in writing groups BY SHEILA CAMERON I’ve been in several writing groups over the past fifteen years, and I feel fortunate that most of them were positive experiences. The rules were clear, people encouraged me, and I felt supported in my growth as a writer.

• Don’t let chatter detract from the group’s purpose. Make time in the agenda, or at the end of each meeting, for some personal connection.

But a few years ago, when I joined a group to work on a highly personal memoir, I encountered a very different experience. I was forewarned that I would need thick skin to fit in. As a freelance professional editor and an experienced Toastmaster, I was very comfortable with giving and receiving feedback. And none of that helped me in an environment where the structure was unclear, crying was admonished, and my attempts at positive feedback were shut down.

• If your personal story (e.g., memoir) is very distressing to you, try distancing yourself by writing (or rewriting) scenes in third-person narrative.

Writers’ groups are vulnerable places, and it can be difficult to share new writing or personal stories. Can the people in your group be trusted to hold your work in confidence? Are they the right people to bear witness to your writing? Do they know how to respond with empathy rather than judgement? These are learned skills.

As the Colleague

There are important elements to any successful writing group. Structure and routine help to create feelings of safety. If rules are clear and consistent, people feel more comfortable to share their writing and offer feedback to others. That said, rules need to be flexible—people join groups not only to increase their confidence and improve their writing, but also for social contact with other writers. How can you ensure that you and your colleagues feel safe, supported, and at ease? Here are a few tips for promoting wellness in any writing group: As the Leader • Create a framework for meetings, including expectations for communication. You can post a visible agenda until everyone becomes familiar with it. Start and end on time. Discuss boundaries and helpful ways to hold each other accountable. • Have a clear plan B in case someone has trouble adhering to a rule (e.g., we’ll start on time, and late writers can join in without interrupting the flow). 26

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As the Writer

• Know your audience. Trust your instincts, and only share when it feels right. • Provide a content warning if your writing is likely to distress others. Allow members to opt out of reading or listening to your story. • Provide feedback that is encouraging (feels good) but still constructive (moves the writing forward—which ultimately feels good, too). For example, “I love how you brought this scene to life with sensory details. To build on the strength of that, you could…” • Don’t try to fix or help the emotional writer. Just be present. Listen. Allow them space to share their story and process their emotions. Then move on with care. • To provide more objectivity when offering feedback, discuss the “protagonist” or “character” rather than the “author.” In Any Role • Be kind! And if you do have a bad experience, get up, dust yourself off, embrace the lessons learned, and carry on with your writing. Sheila Cameron is a professional editor and longtime member of Editors Canada. As the author of Shine Bright: Live A Supernova Life, Sheila is passionate about raising our collective human consciousness. Visit sheilacameron.ca to learn more.

Self-compassion for writers BY HALEY P. HEALEY


or writers, words are our raw material, our instrument, and our art form. But how often do we examine the words we say to ourselves? How aware are we of the internal dialogue that plays constantly in our minds as we mould words into sentences, paragraphs, verses, short stories, or entire books? Self-compassion asserts that the words we say to ourselves are often harsher than the words we say to others. When you aren’t as productive as you like, you might offer critical self-dialogue and put-downs or ruminate over your perceived inadequacies. You might say, “You’re so slow and won’t ever finish your work in progress at this rate.” But if your writer friend expresses similar feelings, you are more likely to offer kind words, encouraging phrases, and gentleness. You might say, “We all have unproductive days. I’m sure things will speed up after a break or a walk.” These are two very different messages. The term mindful self-compassion was coined by American psychologists Dr. Kristin Neff and Dr. Chris Germer, who believe kindness toward the self can be lifechanging. Mindful self-compassion consists of three elements: selfkindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. In a nutshell, selfcompassion involves showing the same kindness and compassion to yourself as you would show a dear friend. Writers can harness

self-compassion when working through perfectionism, self-doubt, impostor syndrome, and rejection. Self-kindness is the perfect tool for working through perfectionism. Self-kindness asserts that imperfection is inevitable and that difficulties are a part of life. Our first drafts won’t be perfect and later drafts may not be, either. If we can be gentle and kind to ourselves when the writing process is hard, we will experience less stress and frustration and more resilience. Common humanity can be helpful for rejection and involves remembering that all humans suffer. The opposite of isolation, it reminds us that setbacks happen to all writers and are not unique to any one person. Remembering that difficult emotions and rejection are part of the human experience is less hurtful than thinking rejection is unique to us. If we’re struggling with productivity, we can tell ourselves that all writers struggle to be productive sometimes. Reminding ourselves we are not alone in our feelings is often deeply comforting. Upon receiving rejection, it can be helpful to remember that even famous writers cope with non-acceptance. Mindfulness is a useful tool for any part of the writing, editing, publishing, and marketing experience. Mindfulness involves meeting each moment and each experience with a non-judgemental and receptive mind. This practice lets us accept thoughts and feelings

as they are and makes it easier to accept them rather than fight them. Mindfulness helps writers focus on goals, counter negative self-talk, find emotional balance, and remain resilient when things don’t go the way we hoped. The next time you experience a writing setback, I invite you to show yourself the same compassion and warmth you would show your best writer friend. Offer yourself some encouraging words—writing them down if you prefer—or remind yourself of past successes. Ask yourself what you need. Perhaps being kind to yourself means strolling through the neighbourhood, watching light play through the forest trees, sipping a creamy tea, or phoning a kindred spirit. If you would like to learn more about self-compassion, you can visit Dr. Neff at self-compassion.org and Dr. Germer at chrisgermer.com. Haley Healey is a high school counsellor who lives and writes on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Snuneymuxw First Nation. She is the author of two Heritage House Publishing books: On Their Own Terms: True Stories of Trailblazing Women of Vancouver Island (2020) and Flourishing and Free: More Stories of Trailblazing Women of Vancouver Island (2021).

2021 Volume III September | wordworks



New titles from FBCW members

Séjour Saint-Louis

Lilacs In The Dust Bowl

Reed Stirling / BWLPublishing, 2021 / 9780228616603

Diana Stevan / Peregrin Publishing, 2021 / 978-1-896402-15-4

In Montreal in late nineteenth century, a gifted young poet falls victim to madness. Today, a struggling father is driven to drink over the intransigence of his music-obsessed teenage son. An equally conflicted wife and mother threatens separation. What connects these two worlds? The Victorian fountain in Square Saint-Louis, a series of seemingly random incidents in the city, a bronze bust on a white plinth, and a school reunion where myth, art, and mysterious e-lixar fuse into dramatic reflections of family dynamics. Through mirroring, resolution proves possible.

Black Bears in the Carrot Field Linda K Thompson / Mother Tongue Publishing, 2021 / 978-1-896949-84-0 Thompson’s debut book of poetry dazzles with personalities full of imperfections and humour. The characters inhabit a gently stirred mixture of place, time and memory with her family and its maze of roots holding the centre. The poems are intriguingly operatic with voices coming in and out of geographical places: Yellowstone, Taos, Kitwanga, and Briercrest, Saskatchewan. There’s Verna, who sneaks back from the dead, Gloria, who whacks down walls, Kirk, who buys a house on Visa, and old Pete, who never loved the moon. And who was that guy? Spotted at the Stawamus Chief, driving off in a mid-blue Dart? It’s still a point of discussion. In the bar. Some nights.


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Based on a true story, Lilacs in the Dust Bowl is an inspirational family saga about love and heartache during the Great Depression. In 1929, when Lukia Mazurets, a widow and Ukrainian peasant farmer, immigrates to Canada with her four children, she has no idea the stock market is about to crash and throw the world into a deep depression. Falling grain prices, the ravages of nature, and unexpected family conflicts threaten to smash her dreams of family unity in a strange land. And when love knocks on her door again, awakening desire she thought was long gone, Lukia has to choose between having a man in her life or the children she’s sacrificed everything for.

Unsettling Spirit: A Journey into Decolonization Denise Nadeau / McGill Queens University Press, 2020 / 97802280-0157-7 / $37.95 What does it mean to be a white settler on land taken from peoples who have lived there since time immemorial? Denise Nadeau weaves together personal stories and reflections on how to live with embodied integrity on stolen and occupied land. Incorporating insights from Indigenous ethical and legal frameworks, Unsettling Spirit offers an accessible reflection on possibilities for settler decolonization. A foreword by Cree-Métis author Deanna Reder places the work in a broader context of Indigenous and settler scholarship.

Amplified Silence Kieran Egan / Silver Bow Publishing, 2021 / 9781774031575 This is Kieran Egan’s first book of poetry. Amplified Silence evokes the lives of children and animals, time passing in the natural world and the worlds of imagination, and the poignancy of human relationships. The poems are rich in humor, alert to changing times and circumstances, and the mysteries that lie behind our everyday experience.

Swamped Manolis Aligizakis / Ekstasis Editions, 2021 / 978-1-77171-432-7 / $25.95

Vengeance Ian Kent / Tellwell, 2021 / 978-0-2288-5370-1 Jake Prescott tries to take some time off, and a monster from his past awakens. They had learned that someone was trying to eliminate scientists highlighting the global warming crisis. They learn the main cause of global warming might be animal agriculture. Jake and his girl friend Sabrina try to catch a romantic vacation in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Their plans are cut short when an old school chum, Mateo Perez, contacts him. Working for Interpol and the Buenos Aires Police, Jake joins Mateo. Stymied by Balkan drug cartels, they become involved in a game of cat and mouse with a familiar enemy who is determined to stop talk about global warming…a deadly game.

Gold in the Shadow: Twenty-Two Ghazals and a Cento for Phyllis Webb Diana Hayes / Rainbow Publishers, 2021 / 978-0-9734408-7-4 / $24.95 “I once stood on a rooftop in Argentina and watched a man, in the square below, tango with an invisible partner. The one he held in his arms moved with him and through him in such a way that it was impossible to tell who was leading and who following. Diana Hayes’s collection, Gold in the Shadow, is a dazzling rendition of such a dance. Like the vesper flight of swifts, these poems recalibrate on the wing, orienting themselves to the echoes of a beloved poet—at the same time they are perfectly themselves. They are enough. They are more than enough. The bones are rising with the moon. Gravitas. She is praised.” - Eve Joseph

Manolis creates a novel based on his life experiences and his interrelational power, and he presents to us a high-quality prose by bringing up the true values of life, with fullness, vitality, and persuasion—values which exist behind the conventional values of the Stock Exchange.

All the Elements Seven Poets from Sooke dl clay, C.E.M. Winstanley, Tatjana Darling, David Reichheld, Jim Bottomley, Mel Denys, Linda M. Green Abraham / May 2021 / 978-0-9937296-8-3 / $10 Seven poets from Sooke breathing the salt of the Salish Sea, persevering through a pandemic year of challenges creating poetry to reflect All the Elements. Purchase via SookeWriters.com.

Show Us Where You Live, Humpback Beryl Young / Greystone Kids, 2021 / 978-1-77164-573-7 / $22.95 This lyrical picture book for children 3 to 7 years celebrates a child’s connection with the magnificent humpback whales. In a call-and-response format a mother shares the wonder of the whales with her child, and the child shows how he can swim, sing, and blow bubbles just like the whales. With beautiful illustrations by Sakika Kikuchi, readers are left dreaming of the world we share with the whales.

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Flourishing and Free: More Stories of Trailblazing Women of Vancouver Island

Obittersweet: Life Lessons from Obituaries Tamara Macpherson Vukusic / Mosaic Press, 2021 / 978-1-77161-528-0 Former reporter, poetry lover, and word nerd Tamara Vukusic has devoured the obituaries for more than 20 years. She clips favourites, highlighting the lines that make us feel the loss of someone we wish we knew. A fascinating collection of essays—one theme for each month of the year—inspired by real obituaries and filled with quirky anecdotes, interesting perspectives, and thoughtful observations. Whether you have an insatiable curiosity about humans, an appreciation of the craft of writing, or are simply a connoisseur of the art of living, Obittersweet is a timely and timeless gift. “Funny and smart read that turns what is a popular pastime into witty life advice.” - Catherine Dawson March, The Globe and Mail

What’s Not Allowed? A Family Journey with Autism Teresa Hedley / Wintertickle Press, 2020 / 13:9781989664018 “Relatable, insightful, joyful and inspiring,” What’s Not Allowed? A Family Journey with Autism tells the tale of Erik from womb to emerging adult. Written with compassion, humour, and keen observation, we are taken inside the shoes of autism and invited to link arms with the Hedley family as they nurture Erik from boy to man. Heartfelt stories highlight themes around life with autism and allow us an intriguing glimpse into the mind of autism. What’s Not Allowed? offers an uplifting “gois-me” approach to mining the best version of each of us—autism or not. “There are a lot of lessons on these pages for all of us, and we can benefit from considering them and acting upon them.” - Peter Mansbridge


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Haley Healey / Heritage House Publishing, 2021 / ISBN-10: 1772033537, ISBN-13: 978-1772033533 In this fascinating follow-up to On Their Own Terms, author Haley Healey chronicles the lives of a whole new crop of resilient, hard-working, rule-breaking, diverse women who lived on and around Vancouver Island. Flourishing and Free introduces readers to Sylvia Stark, Mary Ann Croft, Barbara Touchie, Minnie Paterson, and many more. Uplifting, empowering, and entertaining, this concise collection of stories will appeal to anyone interested in learning more about the unsung heroines of the West Coast.

Oh Fiddle Oh Faddle J P Bailey / H Wilson Books, 2021 / 978-1-7752793-3-4 / $21 A children’s book showcasing 25 of the world’s endangered or vulnerable creatures, who model hats and headgear while discussing how not to treat a fiddle. A fanciful tonguein-cheek poem for musicians and naturalists. Aimed at children aged 3 to 8. Courtenay author. Beautiful colourful illustrations by emerging Mexican artist Ana Sofia Chi. An appendix in the back describes each animal depicted.

Love and Courage in Troubled Times Charlotte Cameron / Fictive Press, 2021 / 978-1-927663-70-7 What if the past suddenly invaded your present? This is what happens to Lesley Graham, a Vancouver teen who starts having troubling visions and nightmares when she accompanies her family to a remote village in the South of France so her father can finish his book on the 13th century Cathars. Her first job, her first crush and a series of unsettling events challenge Lesley in ways she never expected—and force her to reconsider the role that history plays in our lives. A coming-of-age Young Adult novel for readers 10 and up.

Weeping Goes Unheard Lucia Mann / Operion Books, 2021 / 9780985603946 In her eighth book dealing with human rights and social injustice, journalist, humanitarian, and social activist Lucia Mann tackles Canada’s shady history regarding the offensive treatment of its Indigenous population. In Weeping Goes Unheard, Ms. Mann paints a compelling picture of the wrongdoing that has separated native families and torn children away from their parents. Her work represents an overdue look at the tragic injustice that exists today.

Scratching Initials Linda Pearce / 2020 / 9781-7774279-0-0 This is a book of poems illustrated with line drawings, dedicated to Linda’s sister, who died young. The poems are generated by vocabulary gleaned from the junior novel What Katy Did Next by Susan Coolidge, which was one of her sister’s childhood books. Linda began the process by making a word bank from a single page and then allowing the words to interlace with something in the day or in her imagination at the time, which would lead into a poem. As a result, the poems are eclectic in subject and form, bound together only by the thread of their common inception.

Warrior Angel Beyond Disability: A Family’s Quest for Ordinary

(prompts for a healthy life)

Write Away! (Prompts for a Healthy Life) Naomi Wakan / Pacific-Rim Publishers, 2021 / 978-0-921358-52-7 / $25

“Write Away! expresses the urgency of just getting on with it! Naomi’s intriguing writing exercise suggestions help us to do just that. Peppered with personal anecdotes, poems, philosophy, and wit, Write Away! encourages us to dig deep into our psyches and release those creative juices. An exhilarating roller coaster ride with therapy and practical writing skill development combined!” - Alison Fitzgerald, Scattered Leaves, retired VIRL Librarian Naomi Beth Wakan

Min Hayati Rayya Liebich / Inanna Publications and Education Inc, 2021 / 9781234-567-89-7 / $18.95 “This debut collection presents bereavement’s value as a tribute to love. Rayya Liebich is a poet of elegance and grace, sagacity and wit.” - Susan Andrews Grace (author of Philosopher at the Skin Edge of Being). Min Hayati travels through a daughter’s childhood memories in Montreal, her mother’s homeland of Lebanon, and the dark realities of grief across borders. Rayya Liebich is an award-winning Canadian author of Polish and Lebanese descent. Passionate about writing as a tool for transformation and changing the discourse on grief, she teaches creative writing classes to youth, adults, and seniors in Nelson, British Columbia. For book sales, readings, events and more visit: www.rayyaliebich.com

Susan Dunnigan / Celticfrog Publishing, 2020 / 978-1-989092-48-4 Raw and real, Warrior Angel is an intimate portrayal of the Dunnigan family’s quest for “ordinary.” Pulling back the veil of disability, their journey offers insights and understanding about the inherent complexities of daily life. With a son labelled disabled, the family is committed to fostering a “good life” for Matthew. Standing against ingrained societal tendencies that patronize and marginalize people with disabilities, they reject segregated approaches. The family is determined to nurture capacity, belonging and responsibility, so that Matthew may flourish. As for all citizens, life offers no guarantees. Fiercely independent-minded, Matthew doggedly pursues ordinary opportunities where abundant risks, struggles, and rewards await.

2021 Volume III September | wordworks




ut here you are as far from other people as the city will permit. Tide’s fluidic compost like halitosis kicked up along the shore’s

receding gum line. The sloppy chug of waves lip smacking cement pylons becomes a nervous tic, enough to make you irritable for what it implies about the usual awkward response to a diagnosis: Dysthymia. So clinically Greek you almost laugh. When a friend asks, you resort to Wikipedia. It is easier than describing sadness as oceanic: breakers slugging interference down an infinite timeline in one direction. Or, like October, as a foregone conclusion. It isn’t until you wander back to catch a bus and notice starlings nested under the eaves of a Korean grocery, divebombing pedestrians who have no interest in their naked chicks – the stupidity of birds acting out an evolutionary script. Attraction becomes little more than sheer refusal of extinction. Forms of survivability. Everything seems to parallel the never-ending task of getting by. Midday showers accelerate on schedule while complete strangers huddle together under Plexiglas shelters. There is a heavying inside. An excess of love or sadness bleeds into the many dark angles of your bones in song. Just that. A harp of nerves, aching. Jordan Mounteer’s poems have appeared in Canadian and American publications and have won or been shortlisted for a number of awards. His first book, liminal, came out with SonoNis Press in 2017.


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2021 Volume III September | wordworks


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