I’m at the Banff Centre for Continuing Education for just over a week. What an awe-inspiring place this is! I’ve been accepted into the Writing With Style program which means I get to study with Arthur Slade, one of Saskatchewan’s — and Canada’s — best Young Adult fiction writers.
I know, I know, Bernadette’s a Poet, not a fiction writer! But one day four or five years ago as I sat in my back yard determined to write the definitive poem about my parents’ divorce, it happened. I wrote for about 20 minutes, maybe half an hour, nonstop — one of those Natalie Goldberg-style free writing exercises, really. When I stopped writing and read what I had written, I quickly realized it was not a poem. What had come through me was a strong voice, one of a teenaged girl who was trying to tell her story, not through poetry but through fiction!
I was baffled! I’d always said I couldn’t write fiction because I couldn’t think in sentences, but here it was, proof that I’d been lying to myself! I tried to let the work sit for a time, but I found myself coming back to it over and over again until, finally, I decided I had to get the first draft finished. One winter, at the Saskatchewan Writers / Artists Colony (Retreat) at St. Peter’s Abbey, I did just that. My poor neighbour, fellow colonist and writer extraordinaire, Dave Carpenter, expressed concern about me. I did a lot of crying as I wrote.
I guess some would say that writing that first draft was a healing journey for me. The crying bit is how the novel got its working title, Crybaby. I’ve crafted the work a fair bit since then and I’m looking forward to hearing what Art has to say about it!