Guest Blog by Heather Ramsay
I’ve always been intrigued by the number of different stories that evolve out of one place.
The paths we follow in our daily routines, the people we encounter, our histories, our connections all influence what we observe. These details add layers to our stories and the stories of the places where we live.
I’m a relative newcomer to this area. Before coming here, I lived in Smithers and Haida Gwaii, both places with a lot of stories. I wrote many stories about these communities while working for the local newspapers. Since moving to the Fraser Valley, I’ve completed a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and have deepened the way I think about stories.
When I think about Chilliwack, my mind goes to mountains, rivers and fields, but also to the minute details of the aging a-frame house where I live in Ryder Lake. The creaking noise in the hallway and the warp in the windows that distort the view. The elongated hoof prints in my garden. The soggy patch where the rain drips off the roof into the yard. Through these details a narrative can grow.
The idea for this workshop is to let your concrete observations conjure a story about place. I was inspired by Douglas Glover in creating this workshop. The author of several books, including the Governor General award-winning novel, Elle, Glover is also a gifted creative writing teacher. In his on-line magazine Numero Cinq, he created a community where writers could learn and discuss stories and techniques — where they could meander and be among people who shared his passion for words. He encouraged this community to think more deeply about many things, including place.
His series, What It’s like Living Here, inspired writers from Edmonton, Minneapolis, Saskatoon, Nantucket, South Korea and more.
“Stick to concrete evocation of a series of places. Pack in as many concrete evocative details as you can. Don’t be seduced into talking too much about motives, relationships, the past, etc. Let the self arrive through the details of place. That said, sometimes a lovely narrative arises through the details of place. Let it,” he wrote in his instructions to those who wanted to submit.
Although Glover shut down his site to new submissions in Fall 2017, all the words and lessons he curated remain. And his teaching continues in workshops like this. I invite you to join me in an exploration of this place. “My Chilliwack: What It’s Like Living Here” will be held on March 17 from 10 to 4 at the Chilliwack Museum. Come and write about your house, your neighbourhood, a favourite street. Bring photos to inspire you or write about the things you see in the Chilliwack Museum. Take us on a tour of this place through your eyes. Maybe your story will be in the Chilliwack Museum blog next time.
Register for “My Chilliwack: What It’s Like Living Here” online here.