July 17, 2012 • In web :: Features
“Nobody describes a flower in the same way”
Toronto’s Sister Writes gives women writers center stage.
The day is cloudy and rain is falling on Toronto, but the program room of The Bloor Gladstone Public Library is filling with the smell of fresh coffee. It’s 9:50 am when I show up and set my green binder down in front of me. A few minutes later, a dozen other women have joined me around the table, sharing jokes, talking, all of us with matching binders bearing stickers that read “Sister Writes.”
It’s a typical Tuesday morning at Sister Writes, a not-so-typical program in Toronto’s downtown west end. As the city’s first free creative writing program for women and trans people, most of the 14 diverse participants here had never done creative writing before joining the program. They also came from different corners of the world – Portugal, China, Bosnia, Cuba, Brazil, Poland and Mexico, to name a few. Some had faced challenges including limited access to education, social isolation, poverty, homelessness and mental health issues. Others wanted to improve their English and writing skills.
I joined Sister Writes in 2011 after living in Toronto for two years. I was born in Mexico and studied journalism with a focus on Indigenous issues. My life wasn’t easy but I was able to make a living as a writer and an editor. When I came to Canada I sent my résumé to several newspapers, especially those written in Spanish, but the answers I received were not what I expected. They were not really interested in my writing but in my ability so sell publicity. Once, the editor of a newspaper even asked me for money in order to sign a contract with him.
Furthermore, I felt that my English wasn’t good enough to compete with local journalists. Nonetheless I never gave up; all I wanted to do was to write.