Going home!

I was a teenager, living on a farm in rural Saskatchewan, when I first had the urge to be a writer.  That was a long time ago.  The dream never faded.  And here I am, a much better writer now, and I’m going back home!  On October 17, I’m heading to my hometown, Earl Grey SK, to deliver a day-long workshop on writing.

Earl Grey posterWhat’s in a Lifetime? will be an opportunity to explore your life story. What would you like to say about yourself? What are you afraid to say?  Are there tales from your past you’d like to tell?  Is there something you’d like to leave behind for future generations?

I’ll share writing exercises and memories, joys and sorrows, as well as tricks and techniques for getting started, keeping going, and knowing when to stop.

No previous publication or professional writing experience required. Bring your favourite pen, a sense of humour, and a bagged lunch. For more information or to register, please contact Anne Pennylegion at 306|939|4442 or by email at an.penny[at]sasktel.net.

This is a free workshop with funding provided by the Saskatchewan Writers Guild, the Canada Council for the Arts and Sask Culture with support from Sask Lotteries.

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Writing Place: An Exploration

Last Mountain Lake Cultural Centre

The Last Mountain Lake Cultural Centre in Regina Beach is having me back September 18 to 20 to facilitate a weekend workshop, Writing Place, which will be an opportunity for writers of all skill levels to explore the concept of place in writing.*

I’ll invite participants to consider special places that inspire their writing, if there are particular places they write about.  We’ll look at the emotional and psychological places we write from, too, and talk about the genres we find to be the best place(s) for our writing.  I’m also curious to see if there are places in the writing process where writers regularly get caught or stuck.  And I’m prepared to offer a few suggestions and opportunities to try writing exercises to help us get unstuck.

On the final day we’ll look at how we place our writing into the world, if at all, and we’ll have time to create a mini-chapbook, art card, post card, poster, or some other document to showcase our work.  In essence, we’ll create a short first draft, and revise, edit, and publish it.  Then, we’ll share it with the community at a public reading (at which there may be a very special guest).

So, please join me in creating a safe and respectful environment where we can play with words and language and share our art in community.  Registrations will be taken by the Last Mountain Lake Cultural Centre beginning September 8.

* The maximum number of participants in this workshop will be 16.

Presented with funding support from the Saskatchewan Writers Guild and the Canada Council for the Arts.


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Filed under Last Mountain Lake Cultural Centre, Literary Arts, Regina Beach, Workshop, Writer-in-residence

Lammas 2015


Pods, once yellow, long, and juicy, now shrivelled
and dirty-cream coloured, plucked from brittle stalks.

Potential of Ceres alive within each
bold black seed our fingers squeeze out.

Heat and humidity, light and time
welcome the goddess back to Earth.

She takes her place.
A tender stem reaches up,

roots take hold, a strong strand
with delicate leaves stretches to the sun.

Tendrils twist, sticky-wrap support,
and bloom to create abundance.

A process so ancient I often
forget a single idea’s power.

c. 2015 Bernadette Wagner



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Singing, Learning and the Road to Reconciliation

Many who know me know that I’ve been part of a group of women who gather and scatter and gather and scatter, as my friend, Ruth, puts it. We gather to sing and learn, then we scatter to our parts of the continent and we come together again.  We sing love songs to Earth, songs of struggle and social justice, songs of peace and hope. Most of theses were written by Carolyn Mcdade, a spiritual feminist, activist, and poet from the USA.

This week about 120 women from more than a dozen places in Canada and the USA are gathered in Edmonton for “A Planet Singing On.” We’re singing the long road of Carolyn’s music and activism to celebrate her 80th birthday. For more than 50 years, she’s been doing this work, travelling to various communities on the continent to lead programs, prepare women for recording projects and lead larger gatherings such as the one this week.

In the summer of 1999 or 2000 — I can’t remember at the moment — I attended my first gathering with Carolyn. We met at the former Calling Lakes Centre in the Qu’Appelle Valley, near Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan.  It was a powerful time for me. The singing, combined with stories of activism and fueled by feminist rituals and songs seemed to crack me open.  I cried a lot.  I almost left part way through.  My friend, Maureen, sat with me as I decided whether to leave or stay.  Well, I stayed.  The experience enlivened me in a new way and I have continued to attend gatherings near and far and have participated in two recording projects, My Heart Is Moved and Widening Embrace.  All of it has impacted my writing, my writing life, and how I define who I am and what I do.

In our gathering this morning, we honoured some of the women involved in the civil rights movement in the USA: Harriet Tubman, Soujourner Truth, Fanny Lou Harmer, and Alice Walker, to name a few. We also learned of some more recent actions of the anti-racism movement in the USA.  We sang the song those protestors sang and chanted, “Black lives matter.”

Then tonight, we honoured Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and were called to answer the call to reconcile. We heard brutal details about the residential school system, considered some statements from the TRC report and listened to stories from four women who have worked alongside First Nations people over several years.

We also sang songs that honoured the struggles, powerful songs that tell stories about individuals and social movements. To say that I was moved seems too simple an explanation of what I experienced. I cried so hard my body shook.  More than once.  But I had absolutely no desire to leave!  That a gathering of Settler women has begun to not only discern its role in the reconciliation of our relationship with First Nations people but also considered ways to be involved in the healing seems incredible to me.  It’s been such a long time coming!

Oh, yes, we have a long road to walk to get to true reconciliation. But tonight, our sacred circle began that work. I am honoured to have been part of it.  And I’m grateful to the leadership team for including this important work — on both sides of the border — in our week.

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Vertigo Series Season Finale @ Crave June 29th!


So much going on! Want everyone around to know about this!

Originally posted on THE VERTIGO SERIES:

The Vertigo Series Season Finale

Monday, June 29, 2015, 7:30pm
Hosted by:
Crave Kitchen & Wine Bar, 1925 Victoria Ave


Lorna Crozier

Cassidy McFadzean

Barbara Kahan will read from her father Irwin Kahan’s memoir Tending the Tree of Life

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The Left Coast

I flew into BC on Wednesday evening, arriving early for the Creative NonFiction Collective‘s annual conference. What a fantastic conference in a beautiful venue with an amazing group of writers! My thanks to the conference committee, chaired by JoAnne Dionne, and the CNFC Board of Directors, especially Cathy Ostler, whose dedication to the organization has been stellar! Special thanks to Betsy Warland and Myrna Kostash, the two whose vision for a connected network of CNF writers coupled with hard work, manifested the CNFC.

I’ve learned a lot at this, my third, CNFC conference. And, I’ve renewed acquaintances, made new friends, and found inspiration for the dive back into a CNF manuscript this fall.  It’s interesting to me how I can think I’m sitting down to write a poem and something entirely different comes through the pen.  I’m paying attention to that now and I think I may have laid the groundwork for another CNF piece this fall. Time will tell.

When I began this post, I was aboard a ferry to Galiano for a visit with an old friend before I head back to Regina on Tuesday to gear up for the Cathedral Village Arts Festival where we will celebrate from the heART

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One Week’s Retreat: On Love, Loss, and Writing

I’d had expectations for my retreat time here at St. Peter’s Abbey, the Benedictine monastery I’ve come to love deeply.  I’d expected to get a lot of writing and revising done, to walk and feed the chickadees every day, and to go to Vigils often.  But things don’t always happen as you’d planned.

I arrived a couple of days early because it usually takes me that long to settle in.  This time was no different so by the time the others arrived on Friday, I was writing.  By noon on Saturday I had three new poems in my Poetry 2015 folder  — yippee! I was well on my way.  And I had hand-fed the chickadees.

Then I received a phone call, well, actually a voice mail, and everything changed.  I suppose one should not check one’s phone or email when on retreat.  But I do.  I did.  And I learned that one of my best friends, the woman who stood up for me — my best woman — at our wedding 25 years ago, had lost her mother.  Yes, her mother was old.  Yes, she had been somewhat ill.  But I’d loved and respected her since I was 16 and now, 30-some years later, it’s a significant loss. She was one of the strong women I’d attached myself to over the years.  I’d crashed in her house, ate her food, read Shakespeare at her husband’s funeral.

I’d been writing some delicate stuff, going into that deep and dark place that’s often hard to face. I was feeling vulnerable — more vulnerable than usual — and to learn about this, well, it hurt.  It brought tears.  And it threw me off my writing game for a while.  I recovered, however, and started into some revisions.  I got into a rhythm and worked through about 50 pages of poetry, admiring some, tweaking some, tossing others and completely rewriting still others.  By Tuesday, I had finished that task and was feeling pretty fine.  I found some Cathedral Village Arts Festival (CVAF) work which proved to be a great transition into the children’s literature manuscript I also wanted to edit.  Another yippee!

And then, Tuesday night, around 11 pm, I learned that a colleague, Michele Sereda, was one of five people who died in an accident on Highway #6, north of Regina.  I’d heard about the accident, worried about Jane Munro and Michael Kenyon who were traveling here for a reading that took place today (Wednesday).  When they arrived safely my worries turned to people from my hometown and the surrounding communities, people I’d grown up with, family, friends.  I’d never expected the deaths to be those of a carful of artists, especially not Michele, with whom I’d been working since June in my role as Chair of the CVAF.  I was up til the early hours of the morning, trying to deal with my own shock and grief and the social media aftermath.

Needless to say, today has been a write-off.  I didn’t go to the dining hall for breakfast, but at lunchtime, as we were chatting and getting to know each other better, I spoke of my work with the CVAF.  That led to the work with Michele which led to the story of the accident and to me rising from the table to run to the bathroom where I wiped my tears and recomposed myself.  The tableful of writers was very forgiving when I returned. They’re typically like that.  I’d forgotten.

After lunch I didn’t have a lick of interest in children’s literature so I put on my CVAF hat and wrote a media release expressing the organization’s shock and sadness at the loss of Michele, a Cathedral Village resident, and the others.

I went to Jane’s and Michael’s reading, which was fantastic.  But when, at the end, Michael rose to say that he’d forgotten to mention that he wanted to dedicate this reading to that carful of artists because it seemed to him that it was a tragic loss, I burst into tears.  It was tragic.  It is tragic.

And I’m angry — not at anyone or anything — just that the time I’ve spent here at the Abbey, at this place where I love to write, has been a time of such loss for me.  Instead of writing poetry and children’s fiction, I’m writing email messages to colleagues, Facebook posts expressing my grief and condolences, media releases on behalf of organizations, and blogposts that try to make sense of it all.

Maybe that’s the point of all this.  There is no sense to be made.  It is what it is and it’s not pretty.  It’s not what I expected.  I assumed things would go a certain way — and if you don’t know what “they say” about the word, “assume,” well, I’m not telling!

This evening was a gift, however.  It was a gift of time with old and new friends gathered together, sharing stories and food, talking writing and life, and laughing.  Laughing is so important.  Both the women I lost this past week had great and contagious laughs.  There’s a lesson in there, too, I’m sure.


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