Telling our family stories: The Forgotten Voice

I’m currently teaching a creative writing class that takes inspiration from our individual family stories. As part of the curriculum, I decided that I would have my students start memory boxes. I’ve bought each of the students a craft box made out of wood, so that they can paint and decorate it to suit their personality. What they put in it is up to them, but I hope it’s something that they will keep.

Of course, opening a memory box is the type of thing that can really prompt recollection… and stories. So, in order to help connect with—and inspire—the students, I decided to dig through my crawl space to discover my own memory box.

Because I knew I had one somewhere. I also knew I hadn’t opened it in eons; I had dutifully shifted it from apartment to apartment, home to home, throughout my life, mostly just cramming it away in the corner of some dark storage area. In my imagination, it was just an old and battered shoebox, its corners held together with tape.

I found the box in the utmost furthest depths of my crawlspace. It wasn’t a shoebox. It was much larger and a quick peak under the lid in the flashlight-illuminated darkness revealed a treasure trove of mementos.  So I tugged it out, navigated back through the obstacle course that is our crawl space, and brought the box into the light.

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Inside was a journal chronicling my trip to Central America in my early twenties, a skunk trophy I won when I was in Elementary School (for being on the worst curling team—yes, this is LONG before the culture of everyone earns a participation ribbon), old photos, an unpaid cable bill, and countless letters.

Most of the relics in the box were over twenty years old, though some (like the skunk trophy) even more ancient. As I rummaged through the contents, I found one particular object that piqued my curiosity: a cassette tape attached to a stack of letters with an elastic band. I had no idea why this tape was in this box; I had no recollection of it whatsoever. I yanked the tape free of its parcel then promptly forgot which stack of letters it had belonged to. The only way to really figure out what the tape was about was to listen to it.

Luckily, my wife still has an old tape player stuffed away in our storage (she refuses to throw it out, despite my nagging). So I procured the player, stuffed in the cassette, and began listening.

It was a girl’s voice, but I had no idea whose it belonged to. I thought maybe it was my sister. Or maybe my cousin. I even wondered if this tape had belonged to someone else and just ended up in my box of memories by mistake. But then I heard the girl say my name; she was speaking to me directly.

And then, suddenly, I knew who she was.

I remembered.

* * *

I grew up in a very small town. I think my graduating class had all of 50 people. I always laugh when my students ask me how I chose my high school because the truth is that I had no choice—there was only one option available to me, the only school in town. It was the type of town where the school body didn’t change much. Oh sure, a few people came and went, but it was the type of town where 80 per cent of the people you started Grade 1 with were then when you graduated from Grade 12.

For me, Yvonne was one of those people.

I met her in Grade 1, but it wasn’t until I was in high school that she and I became fast friends. That’s when my family moved to the other end of town, her side of town, which meant we took the bus everyday together—or, once I had my license, the car.

Our relationship was not always a simple one. As is so often case in such a situation, the line between friendship and romance was often blurred. We went to movies together, starred opposite each other in school plays, did projects together. I remember many weekend nights when we would drive up to the desert in my old ’66 Ford Custom. It was a behemoth of a car; the trunk was so long and wide that we could sit on it, backs against the rear window, and our feet wouldn’t even dangle off the end. We’d sit there, contemplating the stars, and do what all young people do: share our hopes and ambitions. The town was small, but I feel like on those night, with the desert sky beaming above us, that the world seemed vast and endless . . . and possible.

In those days, Yvonne and I knew everything about each other that there was to tell. We talked almost every day. I knew every nuance of her expression, the cadence of her voice, the ups and downs of her demeanor. I guess that’s the way it is with best friends.

When high school came to an end, Yvonne and I went our separate ways, chasing dreams. For those first couple of years, we were still very close. We wrote each other often, sharing correspondence and the luster of our exciting experiences in new places with new people. We even attempted a formal relationship at some point, but it was mostly long distance…and by that time—well, we had more distance between us than physical space. We had simply grown apart. This time, when we went our separate ways, it was for good.

Through the next few years, I lost touch with Yvonne. We didn’t write, didn’t talk on the phone. From time to time, I heard about her through mutual friends, things such as she had fallen in love, she had gotten married, she had given birth to a daughter. Whenever I received these tidbits, I was genuinely happy for her . . . though, I must also confess that it was sort of like hearing about someone I didn’t know, like a character in a story I used to read as a child. Yvonne really wasn’t a factor in my present life—so I simply didn’t dwell on her.

More years passed. I was twenty-five and living in the city with another childhood friend, Mike. We were doing well, two young men with professional jobs, a nice apartment, and steady girlfriends. Mike was good friends with Yvonne’s stepbrother, so he was the main conduit for news about her.

One winter’s evening, the phone rang for Mike. He ducked into his room, talked for a few minutes, and came out looking like someone had run him over with a truck.

“I have to tell you something,” he said, leaning heavily on our kitchen table. The hesitation was heavy in his voice.

“What is it?” I asked impatiently.

“Yvonne shot herself.”

I remember feeling confused and bewildered. I remember Mike continuing to talk, but it was suddenly like we were under water; I couldn’t hear anything. But, eventually, I came to the surface. I remember asking, “So. Is she okay?”

Mike looked at me with discomfort, almost frustration. “No, she’s not okay, Lee. I’m trying to tell you. She shot herself.”

It was February 14th, 1996. Valentine’s Day.

It’s hard to express the turbulent emotions that I experienced after receiving this news. I remember a gamut of feelings—confusion, anger, guilt. But mostly anger. I became determined to not dwell on the matter. I didn’t even go to Yvonne’s funeral. I refused to reflect on my relationship with her or to play the games that everyone else wanted to play—exploring the whys and hows of her death. I didn’t go back and look at old photos, examine old memories, or get in touch with anyone about it. I didn’t want to know.

Simply stated, I put it all away. My mementos from Yvonne were stuffed away in that box, and that’s where they stayed. I never opened that box, except to put other stuff on top of it.

I thought of her no more.

The years continued to pass—an entire decade, then another. Life carried on. Every now and then, Yvonne popped into one of my dreams or crossed my mind. She was still a girl to me—frozen in time, locked at the age of twenty-five or in some cases younger, sitting on the back of my car, talking about her hopes and ambitions. Sometimes, I would catch myself perusing facebook, looking at the posts of other old friends, and wonder what had become of Yvonne and what she was doing these days—only to suddenly remember with a sharp pang of guilt that she was gone, and had been for a long time.

Maybe this is because I had refused to really deal with her death. I don’t know.

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Yvonne on her 19th birthday, which is on June 30th. This photo is taken in my parents’ old house, so Yvonne and I must have both been back from college for the summer.

But then there was the discovery of the tape. Listening to the full cassette revealed that Yvonne and I not only wrote each other letters, but we taped them. She mentions as much in her recording, telling me that she can’t find the tape I had most recently sent her so, instead of recording over it and sending it back to me, that she’s starting a new one. So there’s that mystery solved.

Still, finding—and listening—to the tape was so very strange. It wasn’t quite like finding an old forgotten photograph or a video clip of us. It was a message from her, directly to me, same old same old—her talking about her plans for her future, her desire for happiness and love.

That part to me is heartbreaking. But mainly I feel gratitude for hearing the sound of my friend’s voice again, the one that had evaporated from my memory. It certainly wasn’t the healthiest of decision to pack away my emotions . . . but I am at least thankful that I packed away the relics, because they allowed me access to something all these years later.
And that is why I’ll have my students make their own memory boxes, too.

 

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Just add water . . . ?

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This week, I rolled out one of my favorite classes as part of my CWC creative writing workshops: A Monster in a Bottle.

In this class, the students each assemble a prop that consists of a miniature glass bottle stuffed with monster parts: claws, fangs, eyes, fur, feathers and that sort of thing. I actually only let students pick from three different supply piles, as I feel this makes them a bit more creative and considerate.

The idea is that this bottle is something they can buy at a pet store. It then has to be “hatched” through a series of special instructions . . . which, of course, the students have to write.

Here’s some of the photos from the day’s activity. As always, I’m continually amazed at the ingenuity of the students! Some of them definitely thought outside the bottle . . .

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Telling our family stories: The Farmer, The Giant, and the Milk Thief

Long ago in a place not seen by anyone now living, there dwelled a humble farmer with a large family. His land was poor and barely arable, growing only onions, but he tried to scrape out an existence to support his extensive brood. The farmer did not even have a stable to keep his cow. He had to tie the creature to a tree in his yard, so that it would not wander away. However, the cow was his one boon, for it granted the farmer two large pails of milk each and every morning.

milkpail.jpgOne day, as the farmer was carrying his two pails of milk to the farmhouse, a giant was passing by. He was a terrifying fellow, with a head the size of a bathtub. When the giant saw the frothy milk slopping in the pails, a terrible thirst came over him.

“You, farmer!” the giant boomed. “Give me some of your milk.”

“It is for my family,” the farmer protested. “It’s all we have for our breakfast.”

Now, the giant was a crafty fellow. It would be easy for him to take both pails of milk by force, but he thought if he did so than the farmer might rouse his neighbors and drive him from the country. So he said to the farmer, “If you do not give me one of your pails of milk, I will take both. Do not be so greedy.”

If he had any courage at all, it abandoned the farmer while he stood in the dark shadow cast by the giant. So he gave one of his pails of milk to the giant. The enormous man drank down the milk in one gulp, cast the empty bucket upon the ground, and plodded away.

Every day afterwards, the giant returned and demanded that the farmer give him a pail of milk. Knowing not what else to do, the humble farmer obliged.

milkcow.jpgHowever, one day the farmer went to milk his cow, only to discover that it had gone dry, and would give no milk. Not two pails, not one, not even a single drop.

Soon, the giant arrived and demanded his daily drink.

“My cow is dry,” the farmer said. “I have nothing for you this day, and nothing for my family.”

“I suspect you are trying to trick me,” the giant growled. “But I am in a hurry today. So I will make you a deal. Tomorrow, you will give me two buckets of milk. And if you do not have them, the I will eat your oldest child.”

Then the giant stomped away, causing the ground to quake.

The farmer was at a loss for what to do, and began to fret. But his wife said, “Tell a story to the cow, and it will soothe her.”

And so the farmer did as his wife suggested, and spent the afternoon telling tales to the cow.

However, the next morning, when the farmer returned to the cow, it was to discover that she was still dry. Soon enough, the giant arrived in the yard. He leaned down and glared at the farmer with an angry eye.

“I’m ready for my two buckets of milk!” the giant thundered.

“The cow is still dry,” the farmer moaned. “I have no milk to give.”

“I do not like these tricks,” the giant grumbled. “But I am in a hurry today, so I will give you another day’s grace. When I come tomorrow, there better be FIVE buckets of milk waiting for me. Otherwise, I will eat your oldest child AND your youngest, too!”

Then the giant clomped away, causing the trees to tremble and topple.

The farmer was now truly terrified. But his wife said, “Sing a song to the cow and coax the milk from her udder.”

It seemed like a silly idea, but having no better plan, the farmer went into the yard and began singing loudly to the cow. He sang all afternoon and into the evening. At last, exhausted, he went back to his house and fell sound asleep.

However, the next morning, when the farmer returned to the cow, it was to discover that she was still dry. Soon enough, the giant came rumbling into the yard and demanded to have his five buckets of milk.

“The cow is still dry,” the farmer told him. “I have no milk to give.”

“You have tested my patience to the thin,” the giant snarled. “But I am in a hurry today, so I will give you one last chance to please me. When I come tomorrow, there better be TEN buckets of milk waiting for me. Otherwise, I will eat all of your children, and your wife, too.”

Then the giant galumphed away, causing the rocks to tumble down from the nearby mountains.

The farmer was at his wit’s end and felt that everything was lost. But his wife said, “Go and perform a dance for the cow. That will surely start the milk running.”

The farmer felt this was a hopeless suggestion, but not knowing what else to do, he went into the yard and began dancing for the cow. She stared at him with blank eyes, chewing her cud as he pranced before her. He performed well into the night until at last he collapsed from exhaustion and began to slumber in the long, dead grass.

It was not long after he had fallen asleep that the farmer awoke to a sinister hiss. He rubbed his eyes and poked his head from the grass to see the most unbelievable sight. A prodigious snake was slithering out of a hole in the very tree that he used to tie up the cow. At its widest part, the serpent was as thick as a barrel, and it was as long as the tree trunk from where it had come. The snake’s scales glinted in the moonlight—and so did its eyes as it began to suckle the cow, drawing all the precious milk from its udder.

milksnake.jpg“Ah ha!” thought the farmer. “This is the scoundrel who has been causing me all my grief.”

He quickly fetched an axe and while the giant serpent satiated itself, chopped it in half. As he watched the snake writhing on the ground, dying, the farmer hatched a plan. He had solved one problem, and now he could solve another. So he proceeded to skin and dress the snake and afterwards began roasting its meat over a fire he built in the yard.

As the sun came up, the farmer’s wife peered out of the doorway of the house and said, “What is that smell? Are we to have meat for breakfast for once?”

“No,” the farmer told her. “This is for another purpose. Now fetch me some lye and bring it to me quickly. Then take all of the children and hide in the house. Make not a peep until I tell you it’s safe to come out. Oh, and one more thing. Bring me an onion!”

The wife did as the farmer asked, bringing him the lye and the onion. The farmer sprinkled the lye over the snake meat roasting on the fire. As for the onion, he cut it in half and held it to his eyes, causing the tears to stream down his cheeks. Soon enough, as his family scrambled into their hiding places inside the house, the giant came romping over the hill and into the yard.

“What is that delicious smell?” the giant asked. “I can see you didn’t butcher the cow.”

“These are my children and my wife,” the farmer sobbed. “For the cow is still dry. I could not bare you to devour them whole, so I did the horrible deed myself and am now cooking them on this fire.”

“This farmer is a strange fellow,” the giant thought. “But it makes no difference to me.”

Then, chortling, he snatched the meat from the spit and began gulping down the thick strips of flesh. It wasn’t long before he began to gasp and groan. Next, he began clutching his belly.

“What trick is this?” the giant wailed. He waved a threatening fist at the farmer, but before he could do anything else, he crashed to the ground, dead as a stone. His collapse was so violent that it caused the water to rush over the banks of the nearby river and flood the farmer’s field, covering it with fresh loam.

The tremendous sound roused the farmer’s wife and children from the house. They rushed into the yard to see the farmer standing before the fallen body of the giant. The farmer quickly related the entire story.

“What shall we do to celebrate?” the farmer’s wife wondered when the tale was done.

“Why, I think we should dance!” the farmer proclaimed.

And, as stories go, the farmer and his family lived many years in peace and happiness. Perhaps they are still living so, if they have not died in the meantime.

* * *

That’s a short folktale I wrote based on the stories told to me by my paternal grandfather. I remember listening to him as a boy and being fascinated by the many characters and creatures that populated his tales from Hungary or, as he called it, the “Old Country.” In particular, I remember him describing a snake that would sneak out of a tree hollow and steal the milk from the family cow.

Apparently, this is a common myth: the idea that snakes can steal milk. Of course, it’s scientifically impossible, but it does make for a great story. So, taking inspiration from my grandfather’s words, I decided to write my own tale, drawing on some of the traditions of Hungarian folktales. In particular, Hungarian folktales have their own particular endings and beginnings.

This is also the assignment I’m giving my creative writing students over the next two weeks. Phase 1 is to research myths, legends, and folktales from an ancestral culture. They have to pick three tales and provide a short summary of them. We’ll evaluate the stories and they’ll choose one in particular to focus on. Then, they will either retell that story or use it as inspiration to write a more original tale (as I did).

By the way, here’s a picture of my young grandfather (he’s the boy in the front row, wearing what looks like a gown) and his family in Hungary.

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Telling our family stories: A Walk in the Rain

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My students have submitted their first assignments in my class to teach creative writing through the lens of family stories. This first piece was to write a short poem about a moment of connection they experienced with a family member.

This has been a bit of a tricky assignment for them because, one, it involves a bit of vulnerability, and, two, they’ve been having trouble picking the family member and the moment.

I always strive to do the assignments that I give to my students. So I wrote a poem about connecting with my paternal grandfather (that’s him at the top of this post). I was very close to him growing up and it’s pretty easy to think of moments when we connected. However, one moment in particular stood out for me, and that was a day my grandfather walked me to school in the rain. This stands out for several reasons. I’m not actually sure why he walked me to school—I didn’t live with or anywhere near my grandparents, so it must have been for some unusual reason that I was with him on a school morning. Also, the number one thing I think of when I remember my grandfather is his storytelling—but, on this particular morning, we shared a walk of silence.

Well, here was my attempt at my own assignment:

Shall we walk in the rain?
I will follow your lead,
The umbrella between us
But not a single word.

How many times
You have mesmerized us,
Brother and I,
Over a tattered album
With countless tales
Of the Old Country?

Distant places
I have never been,
But dream to wander,
Places of myth and legend
Where witches and gypsies
Seem to lurk
In every dark nook of every forest
Or bend of every country road.

But places of war and danger, too
Where soldiers arrive
—suddenly—
In the night
To loot and snatch
Food and sometimes people, too.
Places of hunger and woe,
Where a single loaf of bread
Cannot be bought
Even with a wheelbarrow topped with money.

But you do not tell me these things
Now
As we walk together in the rain.
Instead we savour silence
And solitude
Between two people
Who don’t always need words,
But just each other.

Telling our family stories: Jack and the woman with no fortune

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There was once a poor boy named Jack who grew up in England. This was long ago, before iPads, iPhones—well, you get the idea. The only “i” was in yourself. And Jack had a lot of it. He was quick-fitted young fellow and could spin a tale or two.

Somewhere along the way, he learned how to tell a fortune using a simple deck of playing cards. He would ask his supplicant to shuffle the deck, then would deal out a selection of the cards on the table. Next, he would examine the chosen cards to weave a story for his listener. Hearts represented love, of course. Diamonds were for wealth, clubs for good fortune, and spades for misfortune.

Jack left England with the rest of his family in 1926, immigrating to Canada at the age of fifteen. They ended up in northern Alberta, Grande Prairie to be exact, where the winters were long and tough, the nights dark and cold. It was the perfect stage for a storyteller like Jack. Even though Jack’s family came from a humble background, and they could always use another coin, Jack never accepted money for his fortune telling. These were hard years for everyone, after all, and no one seemed to have it easy. Jack’s fortunes were a way to provide a little bit of hope, a little bit of succor, during those times. As such, neighbors from near and far would make their way to Jack’s family home on those frigid nights, pining to hear the young man entertain them for a few hours.

One night, a particularly large crowd showed up at the house. As everyone huddled around the kitchen table, near the old wood oven, Jack pulled out his worn deck of cards and, glint in his eye, began telling fortunes.

One of the people who came that night was Old Bess. Despite her nickname, Old Bess really wasn’t that old. It was that hard prairie living that perhaps made her look so hard and (some say) grim. She and her husband were the closest neighbors to Jack’s family, but she rarely attended Jack’s theatre. Some said it was because she was superstitious and a bit afraid of Jack’s dabbling with the “devil arts.”  Others said she didn’t take it seriously at all, but in fact thought it was all a lot of “hogwash.” Still, others said she was just shy, or patient, feeling that she had all the time in the world to hear what Jack had to say about her future.

Well, this was the night that Old Bess finally took a turn at Jack’s table. The hour had passed midnight, and everyone had heard his fortune when Old Bess’s husband encouraged her to have a seat in front of Jack to hear her future.

“Just a bit of fun, after all,” he claimed.

Jack himself was feeling weary after spinning so many stories, but Old Bess’s husband seemed eager. So Jack passed the deck to Old Bess and asked her to shuffle it, cut it, and select her cards. Then he placed the chosen cards down in front of her and gazed down to discern her future.

He saw nothing.

The cards were simply not speaking to him anymore that dark night. It wasn’t that the cards were blank—as always, there was the typical combinations of suits, the same mixture of face cards with numbers. A certain queen sidled next to a seven, a sword-bearing kings taunted a clever-looking jack, a particular ace stood off to the side, all alone. But Jack could weave no story from their faces, tug no thread from their tapestry.

I must be too tired, Jack thought with a yawn. My brain’s gone fuzzy.

He apologized to Old Bess and told her he had run out of rhythm for the evening. “Come back next Saturday,” he told her. “I’ll let you have first turn.”

Old Bess agreed and everyone cleared out of the house. Jack fell straight to sleep, but his slumber was not entirely peaceful.

Which, in retrospect, was not that surprising. He woke up the next day, walked into the kitchen to find Old Bess’s husband sitting with his parents at the kitchen table. “Bessie died during the night,” the neighbor man said.

If you asked Jack, it was all just a coincidence. But after that, folks weren’t quite so eager to line up to have their fortunes told by the poor boy from across the ocean with the glint in his eye.

* * *

Well, that is a true story. Mostly true, anyway. Or as true as I know. It’s mostly the way I heard it, though I added a name to the neighbor woman in the story, because no one ever gave her a name and I feel she ought to have one. As for Jack, he was real enough—he was my maternal grandfather, and he was quite the storyteller. He especially loved telling tales over a deck of cards. He told many fortunes to friends and family over the years—including me.

Here’s a photo of Grandpa Jack and his family on the ship coming over to Canada. My grandfather is in the back row, second from the left:

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Retelling this story about my grandfather is how I began Class 2 of the new workshop series I’m teaching this term. The program is called CWC Family Stories for the Creative Writing for Children society.

The students have been exploring their identities through the lens of family stories and family history. Last week, I had them write a short poem about a moment of connection with a family member. The truth is that they’ve had some trouble accomplishing this assignment—but that’s okay. After all, improving their ability to express themselves is one of the reasons they are taking the class!

In a future post, I’ll publish the poem about my Grandpa Tom (my other grandfather) that I chose to write as way of example for them.

 

Telling our family stories: The Boy and the Three Criminals

There was once a wealthy man who lived in a village near Vienna. He owned many businesses, including a butcher shop and a tavern. One day, while in his tavern, he told one of his regular patrons that he had to travel to the market in Vienna to buy beef for his butcher shop. Little did he know, three unsavory characters were listening in on his conversation, and overheard of his plan. They knew that the wealthy man’s pockets would be weighed heavy with gold and formulated a plot to rob him. The next morning, they waited along the forest road and ambushed their unsuspecting victim. Instead of handing over his coin, the wealthy man attempted to fight off the three scoundrels. He was murdered and the three thieves escaped into the woods.

Not long afterwards, a local villager found the wealthy man’s horse by the side of the road and soon discovered his body. The authorities were alerted, a posse formed, and the three men were soon captured. Punishment was swift; the three fiends were sentenced to hang in the town square.

Before their execution, each man was given a final wish. The first criminal asked for a tankard of beer so he could blow the foam off and drink it. He was granted his wish. The second criminal wanted to spit in his mother’s face because she had not “raised him right.” His wish could not be granted, because his mother was not present; for all anyone knew, she was no longer alive. The third criminal stared into the crowd of onlookers and asked that the son of the man he had murdered to come onto the scaffolding, so that he could lift his chains and know their weight.

The boy obliged and, timorously approaching the murderer, grasped the heavy chains in his hand and knew their heaviness.

The men were executed and the boy inherited his father’s wealth and businesses. But he mismanaged his affairs and eventually fell into severe debt, and lost everything.

* * *

Well, that is a true story—as far as I know anyway. It was told by my grandmother. The boy in the story was the husband of her own grandmother. I don’t have a picture of the boy (there weren’t many cameras back then!), but I do have a picture of my grandmother as a child in Austria:

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I also have this photo of her mother, my great-grandmother, who told the story to her:

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Well, this is a famous story in my family, and retelling it is how I began Class 1 of the new workshop series I’m teaching this term. The program is called CWC Family Stories for the Creative Writing for Children society.

I spent the last few months developing this program. It’s designed for teenaged students, and is meant to help them explore their personal, familial, and cultural identities through a creative lens. My feeling is that when we explore what has come before us, we can gain insight about ourselves . . . which is very important when you are writer!

And, of course, you can also discover a treasure trove of new ideas. And a writer is perpetually on the hunt for new ideas!

Personally, I find the facts of the family story told above to be suspicious. It reads like a fairy tale—there are three criminals, and an implied lesson, as if the boy in the story took such heed of the chains that he took no further risks in his life, and thereby fumbled away his inherited wealth. Still, it doesn’t really matter if it’s fact—there’s a certain truth to it. (Though, it’s at this point that I must say that my grandmother—the conduit of this story—was illiterate. As such, she trained herself to survive by memorizing everything. She never told a different version of this story—or any story, for that matter. She never elaborated or modified. So, if this story was ever made more fanciful, it was by someone who came before her).

In any case, I’m looking forward to the workshop series. We’ll be tackling family stories from a variety of angles, discussing food, family rituals and traditions, family homes, even family pets.

We’ll also be reading a series of books over the course of the next twelve weeks. It’s pretty easy to find books that relate to family life; pretty much all of them do! But I developed a list that connects to the specific topic of each week. For the record, here is my list . . .

* * *

Paperboy, by Vince Vawter

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly

The Flask, By Nicky Singer

Crispin, Cross of Lead, by Avi

Alexandria of Africa, by Eric Walters

The Gospel Truth, by Caroline Pignat

 

The Wee Free Men, by Terry Pratchett

Stones on a Grave, by Kathy Kacer

Half Brother, by Kenneth Oppel

Running Wild, by Michael Morpurgo

Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom, by Susin Nielsen

The Green Man, by Michael Bedard

* * *

I hope to chronicle much of the program on this blog over the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

 

Exploring Québec ~ Day 4

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Day 4 was actually the final day of my time in Québec City. Since it was a truncated day, with part of it spent getting to the airport and flying home (which actually also turned out to be a better part of the night—but such are the risks that go with trying to make flight connections across a giant country such as Canada), Marcie and I did not do a great deal, other than visit the Museum of Civilization, have a final lunch, and then wander the old streets one last time.

The Museum of Civilization is in the lower old town, but in a very modern building. The main exhibit chronicles the history of the province and is brimming with all sorts of interesting relics from the past. I highly recommend it.

Well, one thing we learned about this place is that people are extremely convivial, full of love, and very proud of their beautiful cities. And well they should be! Even wandering through the time-worn streets of Québec City one last time, Marcie and I discovered many lovely doors and details.

How did we miss these previously? I’m not sure! But here are some of the final things we noticed.

oldquebec-yellow-door-flowerhandle

olddoor-reddoorstones

oldquebec-55-door-marker

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oldquebec-doorbuzzer-gray

oldquebec-facedoorknocker

oldquebec-gray-door-handle

oldquebec-liondoorknocker

oldquebec-windowlattice

oldquebec-wooden-door-winebottle

Well, my next adventure, will be sticking my nose into my sketchbooks and laptop to work on the actual “writing” phase of my writing projects—and to teach some creative writing courses. One involves the theme of family history . . . but that’s a post for another time. In the meantime, I’m fuelled up with inspiration and ready to spring into a fall of creativity!