Author & Teacher


While it may look like I haven’t written for the blog in a while, I can see by my unpublished drafts that I tried.
The new year usually brings contemplation and reflection, and that’s more true this year than ever before.

I remember writing last year’s post, but I can’t read it now. Coming off a busy 2013 where I published a book but also lost my grandfather, I really believed 2014 would be a positive year. That optimism seems so misplaced.

It was a year of unimaginable highs – especially in my writing career – but it was also a year that made the challenges of 2013 seem like a children’s game. And now that it’s over, I find I am nowhere near a point I can begin to detail plans and hopes for 2105.

Much of 2014 was spent as a consultant? editor? of med school applications. In the spirit of the Top Ten Experiences portion of the med school application, here are my Top Five for 2014. (Thanks to my dear friend Monica for pointing out that negative experiences have as much as or more impact than positive ones – I’ll save those for a future post.)
In no particular order:

1. My novel. Readings and panels. I was humbled to be asked to join Kate Vermette at her post GG-win event at the University of Brandon. In Vino Novellus in Canmore. Word on the Street in Lethbridge with Diana Davidson was a highlight. At Festival of Words in Moose Jaw, I was so happy to have my sister, my mom and my grandma attend my events.

2. The med school applications themselves – attending to constraints of character count – not word count – was a fantastic and frustrating exercise in editing and word choice for a writer. Another writer friend who also helps students with these applications agrees that there is much to be gained by working with such constrictive editing. While interesting to work with another’s Top 10,  it was shifting my own life experiences around, choosing then re-choosing my top 10, that was truly enlightening. I have had so many amazing (and some somewhat shitty) experiences that have shaped me. I appreciate the introspection this experience forced upon me.

3. Teaching. Beyond my regular job as a schoolteacher (my grandpa always called me that) – which I love, most days – I was invited to teach at Wordsworth in Bragg Creek, and at Sage Hill Teen Writing Experience in Moose Jaw. Those opportunities, coupled with gigs in High River, Calgary, Brandon and mentoring for Booming Ground, were good reminders that my teaching skills are hand-in-glove to my writing, and both are gifts that I must continue to nurture.

4. Awards. I was nominated for and won two very special awards in 2014. I won the Jon Whyte Memorial Essay Award from the WGA, and I won Best Woman Writer at the High Plains Book Awards. Both of these awards meant so much – the essay award was for an essay about my experience with postpartum depression, and the Woman Writer award was directly supported by a feminist group in Billings. Women’s experiences were at the forefront of the media this year, and I am glad tto have tapped into that in a small way.

5. Finishing my Masters degree in May and spending time with my UBC pals. Finishing my thesis while working intensely on another project was difficult – there were some nights I would work on med school interview questions until near-midnight, then spend 2-3 hours on my rewrites. Late nights and stress contributed to what seemed to be a never-ending bout with pneumonia, but all was well by May, and a week in Vancouver with my friends, and later my family, made all the work seem worthwhile. Grad was so much more fun than the first time I convocated. It might have been the Prosecco.

Bonus item: The people in my life are what made all of these experiences list-worthy. I met so many new friends at all my book and teaching events. Existing friends and family members stepped up in the best ways this year. From care packages in the mail, to a kind note written on a business card; from Facebook messages (often saying the same things!) to 2AM phone calls; gifts of sea salt chocolate and extra class coverage and coffees; from taking my kids out of the house to give me space to dressing up and coming with me to an awards dinner. Afternoon Menchies and Starbucks runs (okay, walks). Beer and blueberries on the beach.

There were so many great moments in 2014. Folkfest with my family. Spokane. Interviewing Miriam Toews at the CPL. Being interviewed by CBC Radio. New-Year’s-Eve-tipsy at InfiniTea, and another fancy (haha) dinner in a long tradition of top-notch NYE celebrations.

I’ve no idea what to expect for this year. But I am done with expectations and hopes for a year. Taking it day-by-day this time. Sometimes hour-by-hour. I have the best family and friends around. I have a million ideas for stories. My knee doesn’t bug me when I run. Those are all good places to start.

Book of the week: A Girl is a Half Formed Thing – Eimar McBride

Song of the week: Ex’ and Oh’s – Elle King (Still stuck on this one.)

Run of the week: My treadmill. But Orkney, in my mind.

Leave a Reply