Notes from #CNFC2013 Part 2

Further to the regina mom‘s Notes from #CNFC2013 Part 1 here is part 2, detailing the session, “Ownership: Stories and Lies,” with Kate Braid and Tyler Trafford, moderated by Myrna Kostash at the 2013 Creative NonFiction Collective’s annual conference in Banff.

 

trm knew of Kate Braid’s work as a poet, having been introduced to her Georgia O’Keefe poems at the Sage Hill Writing Experience more than a decade ago.  She did not know that Kate Braid was also a nonfiction writer and so listened intently during the presentation about her latest nonfiction work, Journeywoman: Swinging a Hammer in a Man’s Worldtrm knows women who work in trades and technologies.  In fact, when she first became active in the women’s movement, she met many women involved in Saskatchewan Women In Trades and Technologies (SaskWITT), women who, like her, were part of the women’s coalition that came about during the end of the Devine years.

 

But back to Braid, who said that memoir writing is not the same as autobiography.  Rather, it tells part of a life.  She said she struggled with finding the stories that mattered and added to it as she went along.  Wisely, she had kept a detailed journal and was able to reference her notes.  Her first draft took more than 25 years to write and was over 1,200 pages!  Eventually, it was carved to a book, thanks to her editor who was able to see the narrative.

 

She said her intent was to be emotionally honest about her experience in the construction trade, about that time in her life, and found that the tense she chose to use, present tense, afforded her the best means of doing so.  The past tense tended to pull her away from the story.  She also said that a memoir’s success depends on the author showing what s/he has learned and referenced Myrna’s opening remarks about memory being like a computer.  “Memory is a backseat driver who wants control,” she said.  Truthtellers, of both emotional and literal truth, she added, are essential to credibility.

 

Her advice, which comes from Beat poet, Allen Ginsberg, is what the regina mom tries to do, that is to “write as though no one is ever going to read this.”  Easier said than done, but doable.  Still, Braid knew people would read her book and so she changed some people’s names to protect them.  She asked herself if names were essential to the story and, in instances where they were, she sent out chapters to those named and sought their feedback.  trm is thinking she may well have to do that with her Sask women’s movement essay, presuming it ever gets written, that is.

 

Braid spoke about her fear and how it stopped her from writing over and over again.  At one point she was paralyzed for years and it got even worse after she submitted the manuscript to her publisher!  But once she was able to figure out who she was writing the book for, the tradeswomen who went through what she went through, it was easier.  She decided she was providing a baseline of what it was like to be a woman working in the trades.  She knew the book wanted to be written, knew it had to be written.  She wrote various versions of it — scholarly, lighthearted, for example — and finally got it written.

 

trm can’t help but wonder about the women who, when she worked at the YWCA, were apprenticing in the trades and remodeling various locations in the building.  How many of them faced ridicule and insult once they completed their training?  How many even completed the training?  Certainly, working as part of an all-women crew would be very different from working as the only woman on a construction crew!  And trm bets they’d love to hear Braid read from her book, so she’s going to do what she can to get Kate Braid to Saskatchewan for a reading in the near future.

 

Advertisements

Notes from #CNFC2013 Part 1

Further to a previous post about the Creative NonFiction Collective’s annual conference in Banff, the regina mom offers the following notes from Myrna Kostash’s opening words to the session, “Ownership: Stories and Lies,” with Kate Braid and Tyler Trafford.

Myrna began the session talking about nonfiction and memory.  “What is a memory?” she asked.  There’s been a lot of work done around memory and she suggested that each time you think about a memory, the memory changes.  “How many iterations of it are there?” she asked.  She compared memory to a computer file that is opened, changed and saved back onto the computer hard-drive, making a case for false memories.

This fits entirely with what trm has been thinking as she works on her Wolverine Creek essay.  Each of her visits to St. Peter’s Abbey, where she fell in love with the creek and began the essay, have morphed into one big long hodgepodge of memory.  She has become entirely reliant on other sources, including the memories of others which, she now understands, can be as unreliable as her own!  So, she’s looking forward to The Art of Memory with Seán Virgo taking place at St. Peter’s College this summer.

Kostash went on to speak about the “anxiety” that society has about nonfiction.  That’s a whole new think for trm! This essay helped her get her head around it and was a useful read when trying to understand something else Kostash said, almost in passing.   “Every journalist knows that what he [sic] does is morally indefensible.”  It’s a disputed quote, but it got trm thinking about another essay she’s trying to write, one about the Saskatchewan women’s movement 1985 to the present.  She has much to say, much to work though, but it feels too much like venting, too much of what a good essay should not be.  But now that she thinks about it it might be the route through to completing that first draft!

So that was the first ten minutes of the session. More to come!

A brief overview of CNFC 2013

the regina mom lives in interesting times.  Sometimes she feels very blessed by that.  At other times, not so much! This is her feel-good post.  She’s finished an amazing residency at the Last Mountain Lake Cultural Centre, is working in her new role as Co-chair to bring forth the 2013 version of the Cathedral Village Arts Festival  and is busy with more than a couple writing projects.

And, trm had the great pleasure of attending the Creative NonFiction Collective’s Annual Conference at the amazing Banff Centre this past weekend. *  Not knowing many people in the organization, she’s been a bit nervous about going.  But the confidence the residency delivered and knowing  that writer-friends, Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail and Myrna Kostash, would be there helped her decide to go.  What a great decision!

At the Meet’n’Greet, she met the aforementioned friends as well as another, Lorri Neilsen Glenn, whom she’d befriended at the Sage Hill Writing Experience more than a decade ago, and laid the foundation to build others over the weekend.  She was very moved by the Member Readings that evening and wished she hadn’t been so tired from her early morning travels to enjoy them more, as well as to participate, herself.

Then, on Saturday morning, the regina mom felt her cylinders beginning to charge first, when Myrna spoke about memory.  “How many iterations of it are there?” she asked and then compared it to a computer file that is opened, altered and closed again, creating a possible false memories.  And then, while Kate Braid spoke about her book,  Journeywoman: Swinging A Hammer In A Man’s World, the energies really hit hard!

It was only the beginning because still to come was Tyler Trafford talking about lies in nonfiction and how they serve to deliver Truth, the plenary on the current status of digital publishing with former Saskatchewanian, Steven Ross Smith, literary agent, Don Sedgwick, and web editor, Allison McNeely, and the Master Class on organizing research, with Lynne Bowen followed by Karen Connelly‘s inspiring keynote address.  the regina mom had not anticipated that address as being one that would get her political attention but when the word “totalitarianism” was followed by an explanation of the Harper government’s attack on Library and Archives Canada, she pulled out her notebook and started paying close attention.

Saturday night’s celebration of the Reader’s Choice Award featured readings from nominated works by the nominators and not the nominees, so that was particularly interesting.  And Sunday morning saw CNFC members gather for their Annual General Meeting to talk about the business of the organization, including a probable website re-do and next year’s 10th Anniversary conference, to be held in Calgary.  the regina mom will see you there!

_____

* more to come