While out running today, I screwed up my nerve and ran past the fences that have closed off Bowness Park since last June’s flood. Wet and covered with mud up my shins, I had just stopped to tie a soggy, muddy shoe when I was approached by a security guard. Ruled by fear as I am, my first reaction was to judge whether or not I could outrun him, but I knew I’d be too scared to even do that.
He greeted me with a gap-tooth grin a mile wide and asked for my name and where I live.
“Kim. Up that hill.” Best to keep these things vague.
But he just shook my hand and asked if I missed the park. Yes, I said. “But my kids miss it more.”
He asked where I work. “Oh, I teach school. Up that hill.”
He told me he and his wife had been school teachers back home in India. By this point I was pretty sure he wasn’t going to give me any grief for climbing fences, so we chatted for a few minutes about school, and all the work being done in the park, and how much more there is to go. (Three more months! My new friend is happy, though. His security company is making a killing.)
Soon, it was time for me to carry on. “Would you like some water? Some tea?” he asked. “I have food, too, if you’re hungry.”
Thanks anyway, I told him, and went on my way. I’d expected a good talking-to (which I did get, in an unexpected way) and ended up with the offer of tea and snacks. Sometimes this adopted city of mine and her people surprise me.
Speaking of fear. On Tuesday this past week, I received a last-minute offer to introduce and interview Miriam Toews and Rosemary Nixon at the Calgary Public Library. Most of my friends know that I have a serious author crush on Ms Toews, and I’d be lying if I said I’ve never tried to emulate her writing.
When the offer came in, I was terrified of being on a stage interviewing one of my greatest literary idols. But I knew that in this case, I needed to scale that fence of fear. When would I ever have the chance to interview Miriam Toews again? So I did it. And it was scary – I was completely unprepared – but Miriam and Rosemary were lovely, giving fantastic answers to even my most mundane questions. It was probably one of the greatest nights of my life, one that I would have missed if I’d heeded that first “no way can I do this” gut reaction.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend a writing workshop with Sarah Selecky. Sarah’s advice centred on routine, and how some seemingly simple exercises can lead you into a space that allows that noisy, yappy part of your brain to ease up and let something new and surprising in. That’s a small part of her message, or maybe not even what she meant at all, but that’s what happened. All the fences I’ve put up around my writing in the past few months (my inability to put words together, to plot a coherent story, to trust myself as a writer) have fallen and I’m not quite so afraid anymore. This workshop, combined with a short fiction course I’m taking with Zsuzsi Gartner through Sarah’s website, have both given me a huge kickstart of confidence.
With the end of MFA deadlines, I’ve been drifting a bit (and not one of Sarah’s “good” drifts) so it was good timing for this workshop. We’ll see what comes of it.