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why am i talking about capes?

April 6, 2012

i never, ever considered myself a non-fiction writer. for some absolutely ridiculous reason, i had made delineations in my mind – fiction, not fiction. poetry, not poetry. i’ve gone through “stages” (like a crop cycle. so what’s my fallow? er… we don’t want to know, too depressing.) what i mean to say is that i was a “poet”. and then i was a “fiction writer”. and now i feel like things are changing again like a tectonic mess.

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for the sake of disclosure, i’ll outline my writing past.

  • when i am 6 i win a contest for a poem about snow.
  • when i am 20, my friend carly convinces to me apply for carolyn smart’s writing class at queen’s
  • er…. the years in between are a haze of poorly written song lyrics and (possibly) rhyming poems

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that’s kind of it. carolyn’s writing class put such a fire under my arse that i started writing and writing and writing. in fourth year, i had my mind set on being a lawyer, but applied to writing programs as a sort of joke. joke was on me when the only school of 12 that i got into was my secret first choice – UBC. UBC had been a dream that i didn’t admit out loud to anybody, because i thought that it was going to be the hardest to get into. i like to think that fate had a finger in that.

the point of that background was to say that i only wrote poetry until i was 21. when i was 21, i saw a video that inspired my first ever real short story (which still is my only ever real short story – WHY are those so hard to write?!) and that story turned into my thesis four years later. but i had held off on writing “fiction” because i considered myself only a “poet.”

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the funny part is, when i started at UBC i took NO POETRY CLASSES for the first year, so when i mentioned my opinion on poetry once in a while people had the tendency to get a little shirty, as if i didn’t have a right. to be fair, they knew me only as a fiction writer, someone who was experimenting with graphica and graphic novel, and who was also trying her hand at screenwriting. so for a year i had the mantle of “fiction writer.”

“fiction writer” is the cape i feel the least comfortable under. i think that – for me – writing a story takes the most energy and imagination. i feel sometimes that i have too much space – that which attracts me also scares me. the cape is stiff and crackly and itchy. it doesn’t work for me. after a few washes, though, it’ll be malleable.

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i had put an ultimate block on non fiction. but, to be fair, i was surrounded by very talented female non-fiction writers – kaitlin fontana and chris urquhart being two of them – so i thought ‘who am i to cast my hat into the ring?’ and made an imaginary quota and decided that my exceptional friends had filled it, and decided that that non-fiction mantle was decidedly NOT for me, not ever. i was too nervous about trying to maintain a thread throughout it. also, i assumed that my experiences weren’t fantastical enough for people to want to read. i saw myself as not adventurous, as oatmeal.

apparently not. well i’m not saying that i’m not oatmeal, but i am saying that i’ve been eyeing that non-fiction cape for a while and i finally lifted it off the rack. i was worried that my colleagues would think that i was stepping on their toes. i was worried that i wouldn’t be able to keep a story going. i was worried that no one would want to read it. but i have to say, the glitter on the hem of the cape was far too alluring.

and for some reason lately my non-fiction gullet is wide open, and i can’t stop writing about my time at the fishing lodge up north. even though it’s been two years since i’ve set foot on that part of the canadian shield working there and three years since i’ve fished there, i’ve been thinking about it, dreaming about it, and writing about it. i know that the people i met deserve to be immortalised because of their bravery and their senses of humour! i know that that part of canada needs to be explored so thoroughly in writing. and i know that charlotte gill’s new book eating dirt really inspired me. i read the first chapter of that book and sat down and wrote a new non fiction piece. sometimes now i have to run from what i’m doing in the kitchen and scribble down a little story. i’m not saying they’re incandescent, but they’re coming out!… maybe my brain just needs a little break from the thesis. you know.

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anyway, the point of that ramble-on was that i always thought i would only be one “type” of writer – poet, novelist, non-fiction writer, essayist, whatever. goes to show how ridiculous my type-a boundaries are, aren’t they? how silly of me to think that i could try and control the writing and the muse. whatever. i’ll go with it!

photo credit to jessica fase

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wait, why did that get so sartorial?

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