July 17, 2012 • In web :: Features
“Nobody describes a flower in the same way”
Toronto’s Sister Writes gives women writers center stage.
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I remember visiting the Bloor Gladstone library one morning – looking for a peaceful place to pass some time -- when I saw the Sister Writes poster. It invited women to join a free creative writing program taught by professional writers, learn writing skills and publish their creative work in a literary magazine. I sent an email to the writer and founder of the program, Lauren Kirshner, asking her how I could register. A week later I was accepted and was sitting at my first class with my green Sister Writes binder.
I remember my first class. Lauren asked the 12 of us to introduce ourselves. The backgrounds of the participants were diverse in terms of age and education and I also realized that I wasn’t the only immigrant there. About half of the participants have found in Sister Writes the opportunity to practice their literacy skills while writing creatively about their lives. At first I felt shy and I wasn’t sure that the program was the right one for me. I changed my mind as soon as Lauren started the class and asked us to do a free-writing assignment.
Lauren told the class how she founded Sister Writes in 2010. After graduating from the University of Toronto Masters of Creative Writing program –
where she was mentored by Margaret Atwood – she discovered that there were no free creative writing programs for women in downtown Toronto. She believed there were stories in our communities that went unheard and all that was needed was a space where those voices could shine through. “Doing creative writing is often seen as a luxury,” she says. “But Sister Writes is built on the premise that sharing stories is vital.”
Lauren told us about the importance of being on time for the class every Tuesday and to take the responsibility as writers seriously since it takes determination and courage to put our thoughts and opinions on paper. She also told us about her own journey as a writer, from freelancing music reviews and features in her late teens, to publishing fiction, poetry, and articles, and her first novel, Where We Have to Go (M & S). That novel went on to become a finalist for the City of Toronto Book Award, get published in Germany, Holland and the US, and earned her a “Best Emerging Author” accolade from Toronto’s NOW Magazine, among other distinctions.