I’m delighted to announce that my 1500-word entry, Leave With What You Came With, was long listed for the BC Federation of Writers 2021 Literary Contest in the Creative Nonfiction category. A braided essay, this work is a glimpse into the story of my father’s institutionalization in a mental hospital in 1961. The narrative is based on letters he wrote to my mother at the time, and verbatim notes from Riverview Hospital records obtained through the British Columbia Royal Museum Archives. It includes personal reflections of a daughter trying to make sense of a significant part of tangled family history and the ongoing impacts of mental illness and addiction. Yes, there is definitely more to come. This particular piece is part of a larger body of work. I’m honoured to be included on this list, among an impressive group of B.C. writers.
Scottish artist Robert Montgomery crafted a public light installation with this poetic and evocative phrase: The people you love become ghosts inside of you and like this you keep them alive. Working on this project I feel the ghosts of my father and my grandmother move inside me. The ghost of my mother’s disappeared youth and the shadow of my puzzled infant brother join us. My own young self traipses back and forth across the pages. This is tender territory.
Writing is solitary work, keeping company with glimmers of thoughts and memories. Setting these glimmers to the page feels vulnerable. Like many writers I can be wracked by self-doubt. There is a beautiful, blazing affirmation in having a submitted piece validated by other writers. Regardless of the prize, the process itself is encouraging. Writing calls me to come home– to remake a vow to myself, my history, my predecessors. Creative nonfiction especially demands rigour, fearlessness, and a promise of truth. None of this is easy, at least not as easy as stepping away from the keyboard and into the endless distractions offered to us daily. My thanks to the BC Federation of Writers and to the readers and judges devoted to these contests. Your commitment helps keep me tethered to the page, returning home again and again.