WFNB AGM Weekend – Saturday Morning
The alarm sang at 6:30am. I turned it off, sprang out of bed and raised the blind to look outside. What a beautiful morning! This would NEVER happen at home. The snooze button is my best friend, but I couldn’t risk missing anything. And besides, I really didn’t feel all that tired despite only having a few hours sleep. Adrenaline is a wonderful thing.
When I went downstairs Mary was just getting things organised at the registration table outside the conference room and nobody else seemed to be around so I decided to go to the restaurant and get some coffee.
I don’t mind eating by myself in public. I’m one of those people you see sitting alone in the corner absently picking at food while otherwise absorbed in reading or writing. So, it was extremely uncharacteristic of me to approach a woman sitting alone reading Mavis Gallant and ask if I could join her. I knew she was one of the writers, I thought I had seen her the night before. I think I was much more tired, dazed and confused than I realised. I sat down, shook her hand, introduced myself, looked into her face for the first time, and then full recognition hit.
I had invited myself to breakfast with Lisa Moore, Giller prize finalist, Globe and Mail columnist and the author who was to lead the afternoon workshop. If she were another sort of person I might have been intimidated but she was very laid back and genuinely interested in my life and the Miramichi. We talked about rural versus urban living, writing from the male point of view, obsessive relationships as plot and more. It was a great way to begin my day.
After breakfast she headed back to her room to prepare for the afternoon workshop while I went to the conference room for the WFNB business meeting. Unbeknownst to me, I was actually on the agenda to speak about the state of the website, which was a bit of a shock, but I rallied and shared my limited knowledge.
My good friend, Elizabeth Blanchard, came into town for the meeting and workshops, she assured me I did a fine presentation and you couldn’t tell I was nervous. We laughed because it’s been so long since we saw one another that we could have passed in the street without saying hello.
More people arrived and we prepared for the first workshop “Life Writing” with Magie Dominic. Magie may be moving to our province soon and we’ll be blessed to have her amongst us. Read her bio and you’ll see why I looked forward to this workshop.
“Confidence” is the key word in life writing . . .
Everyone’s view is valid . . .
No one can relate your story as well as you can . . .
The best way to build confidence is to begin . . .
There are NO wrong answers. Your memory is yours and it is correct . . .
These are important points she stressed, giving us exercises to get us started and help us identity the areas of our lives we are barred from sharing out of fear.
Don’t worry about chronology, Magie said. Focus on phrases and single sentences.
Life writing requires Tellers and Listeners, she said. We did an exercise where we wrote a single sentence to tell how our days began and what we had done the night before. Then we sat quietly being listeners as everyone in the room told their story.
This is what I told when it was my turn:
How did your day begin?
“The alarm peeped and my eyes fluttered open.”
What did you do last night?
“I felt the native drumming like a heartbeat in the back of my throat.”
There was much discussion about writing memoir and fictionalising your life story. Some people expressed concern that nobody would find their lives interesting enough to read. Nothing much happened they thought. “What if you don’t have the dysfunctional family from hell?” one woman asked. “Who wants to read about happy times?”
Magie had a response to all of it — everyone’s perspective is different. Readers will either enjoy your story because they can empathise and identity with it or it will provide another unique perspective, give them hope, help them work through similar things in their own lives. None of us have the same story, even if we’ve been through the same things, witnessed the same events — all of us have a unique story that is ours and ours alone.
“We owe people our story,” she said.
And then it was lunchtime.