Anne M. Smith-Nochasak:
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A rough desk from the secondhand shop faces the east window overlooking my woodlot. I retreat here on my afternoons off to prepare marketing materials, write queries, and write my stories. It does not matter what I write or how much; it only matters that I engage in the writing process. Sometimes, much of the afternoon is spent reviewing an outline or reading and editing previous work, but I love to finish the afternoon with fresh writing, sinking into my writing world and letting the story, for better or for worse, carry me.
In this space I become one with the world, sharing in our common identity as story tellers.
A vendor at a market once advised me: "You have your story to tell. But be sure to listen to the stories of the people who visit your booth. Their stories are important too."
Oh, the stories I have heard! I would love to tell them all, and show you how attentive I have become, but these are not my stories to tell. Through them, I have begun to realize that each of us has special stories to share, and by sharing them, we become one.
In Halifax one day, I was regaling a visitor at my booth with the challenges of marketing, or so I thought: We had to wade to the parking lot through water over our ankles; market tents were collapsing, and roads were closing. He listened politely, and then he asked of I had followed events in Chennai in 2015. Calmly, and with gentle grace, he told what it was like to be there, the horror and yet the profound humanity revealed. It was humbling. I would like to share his story, but it is not mine to tell. One day, when he shares it with the world, it will enrich us all. Until then, I carry brief moments in my being.
I was asked recently to share some experiences from the North, perhaps including polar bears. My son and his father have both participated in the traditional hunt, and it is long, hard work, requiring skill, strength, and patience. The experiences that are deep in my soul, however, have more to do with the little moments between the breaks, the moments of brokenness and of hope. My stories in The Ice Widow are my response to the encounters of my life; they are the stories of grief and joy that rise when we are present to one another.
Recently, I returned to the classroom as a substitute teacher. My second day, I arrived in a classroom at writing time, my favourite thing! Along with Math, Science, Social Studies, Reading, Art, and a few others. I always loved making little stories and plays for and about my students; trust me, when they read a mystery in which they each had a role, reading became fun! These young people reminded me of why writers write. The eyes were shining as they shared details about their heroes and villains, their settings, the problems the hero would face, and so on. When I asked one student whether he had worked out the resolution yet, he grinned. "Maybe," he said, his eyes alight, "there won't be a resolution. Maybe, you'll have to read the next one to find out!" Definitely, there was an invitation to enter a story world here.
At a market recently, a teacher observed that students lose their joy in writing when it becomes a task. They are story tellers, and that is their joy! Let the story out, celebrate it, and let the shaping take place another time. Celebrate telling the story. I can only imagine the creative energy of that classroom!
We are all story tellers, but let us take Thomas King's insights to heart: They are wondrous, but also dangerous, and we must be careful what stories we release into the world for they can never be called back. (The Truth About Stories, 2003 Massey lectures) Perhaps, I am thinking, not every story should be told. But the authentic stories, the uplifting stories, let us listen for these.
We are story tellers -- some stories published between covers, some in the classroom or in the market place, or on street corners. We are all story tellers; let us embrace the stories that define us all, and join in this celebration of our humanness.