Saturday, January 3, 2015

a writing student describes her first class

A big snowfall just ended - all is still, thick and white in the garden, except for the flurry around the bird feeder as the sparrows and cardinals eat a late lunch.

Last night, more "Sherlock" - I allowed myself to watch a few favourite bits from shows I'd seen before. So good! Today, errands - I became obsessed with finding a specific pair of new running shoes in my difficult enormous size - 10 1/2.  Most stores only stock to size 10. My search entailed a visit to Nike in the dreaded Eaton's Centre, where I didn't find the shoes but did buy a new pair of tight running tights, and then to various Winner's. Found them - $60 less than at the Nike store. Bought them. So now I have new tights and purple Nike Pegasus shoes. No excuse not to get really fit, with the winged horse on my feet.

But the problem with looking for shoes at Winners, which is one of my tiny addictions: I also found another gorgeous pair of running shoes and couldn't resist. Only they're size 10 and slightly too small, but I'm convincing myself they'll stretch. Or my feet will shrink. They're turquoise and purple, my colours! They'll fit! I know they will. All I have to do is shave a little bit from my left big toe.

Or take them back. Sigh. This happens a lot with Winners. How to waste time in one easy step.

I've been editing a big manuscript - Lina took my course years ago, kept coming and finally wrote a full-length memoir. Today I came upon this page, and liked it, and would like to share it with you. I don't remember a class where so many vanished overnight, surely her memory is a bit extreme - but there are always a few.
In 2001, I took a creative writing course at Ryerson University, called “True to Life.” The first day, eighteen women and two men sat in a circle listening to Beth Kaplan, our professor. She said, “Welcome. This course is for you to write your life stories. I am not here to judge, only to help you make your stories better. This is a free zone where you can speak openly, without judgement.”
The second time we met, the class number had dwindled; the two men had disappeared and only twelve women remained. I guess the others weren’t prepared to expose themselves. Beth asked us to read what we had written. I was third from her left, and I was happy she asked the first woman on her right to begin.
Some of the stories were tragic, but I couldn’t really concentrate, and besides, my story was more important, wasn’t it? Two more to go and then it would be my turn. I never perspire, but I was sweating by the time my turn came.
“I can do this,” I silently told myself.
I lifted my papers. My hands shook, so I put them down again. “I can do this. I can do this.” I read the first three sentences. My voice cracked. I held back the tears that were ready to burst.
“Would you like me to read it for you?” Beth asked.
Without answering, I passed the paper over to her. I watched the others’ reaction. They looked serious, sympathizing with my situation. When Beth finished reading my story, something amazing happened. My shoulders were no longer up to my ears, I wasn’t sweating anymore, and the vice on my heart had loosened. I was even giddy. I had shared my most intimate thoughts, my fears, my uncertainties, and now I was free of them.
The rest of the course was a true learning experience. I was able to listen, and really hear,                      the other women tell their stories.

Brava, Lina. I'm so glad it worked for you. And now you're hooked for good. 


  1. This is such a lovely post. A great way to enter the new year, alive to stories, bargain tights and runners, and the beautiful words of your student. Thank you for all of it.

  2. Lina is a determined woman - afflicted with polio before her first birthday, she has had an extraordinary life. I'm happy to be one small stage of her amazing journey. What worries me in her story is all those vanished students - I can't believe six women and two men dropped out instantly. But as I said, there are always one or two.

    I wish you a most joyful 2015, Theresa, and thank you for your crystalline thoughts, writing, poems - and your quilts.