This is the first blog post by Lindsay Wong, the 2018 Inclusive Community Artist in Residence in partnership with the CACV and the John Howard Society.
The famous American essayist Joan Didion once wrote, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”
The act of storytelling is cathartic, therapeutic, and absolutely necessary to understanding ourselves. The experience of sharing stories fosters a deep sense of continuity. It also helps us sustain hope, for the present and future. Since prehistoric times, storytelling has been a means of survival for human beings, as a way of facing an imprecise and frightening future. The act of storytelling is universal, allowing us to envision new what ifs that may or may not happen, and from which we can draw meaning.
As a memoirist this is why storytelling has been a vital means for me to establish my culture, my identity and my purpose. Telling stories gives me a way to make sense of the world.
From April 2018 to April 2019, I will be the official artist-in-residence at the John Howard Society. The inclusive-community residence is an exciting partnership between the Vancouver Community Arts Council and JHS. I will offer workshops and individual mentorships to aspiring writers on storytelling and narrative. Through various mediums, including written and spoken word, graphic novels, illustration and comics, this inclusive community residency will nourish the creativity of individuals and help participants understand the powerful dynamics of constructing a narrative–by ”tell[ing] ourselves stories in order to live.”
During the All Staff Day on April 6 at the Coquitlam Plaza Hotel, I was introduced to over 180 staff members at the John Howard Society, where I learned about the profound work and inspiring initiatives offered by the organization. The JHS society’s vision is to foster “a safe, healthy, and inclusive community for all,” and their mission statement is to “strengthen communities by supporting people experiencing barriers so they can achieve greater independence.” In the words of Executive Director David Lee, the JHS “gives second chances to people that no one else believes in.”
In this spirit, we are offering free drop-in storytelling and writing workshops on Friday May 11th, 18th, and 25th, 2018 from 9 AM-2 PM at the Community Services Office on 3360 Fraser Street. Everyone is welcome to attend, regardless of writing experience or ability.
These are photos of the community comics completed by staff and clients at the Meet & Greet the Writer-In-Residence Event on April 27. Each panel was anonymously created by a different participant:
(click each picture to enlarge)
I hope to see you at one of our Friday drop-in sessions. Bring ideas for new creative work; bring writing projects that you would like feedback on. Work in an inspiring and supportive environment.
To emphasize again the importance of narrative on our personal lives as a powerful coping mechanism, here is my definition of “story”:
So what is a story?
I believe that a story answers these questions:
How did the situation or obstacle affect the narrator?
What is the narrator’s main purpose?
How did this experience change the narrator?
So my question for readers is, what are the personal stories that have changed or shaped your life and the lives of those around you? Please leave comments below.
RECOMMENDED READING (MEMOIRS)
- David Sedaris, Naked
- Roxane Gay, Hunger
- J.J Lee, The Measure Of A Man
- Kathryn Harrison, The Kiss
- Dave Eggers, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
- Tobias Wolff, This Boy’s Life
- Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes
- Mary Karr, The Liar’s Club
- Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory
- Augusten Burroughs, Running With Scissors
- Wayson Choy, Paper Shadows
- Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle
- Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem
- Piper Kerman, Orange Is The New Black
- Lucy Grealy, Autobiography Of A Face
LINDSAY WONG holds a BFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia and an MFA in literary non-fiction from Columbia University. Her fiction and non-fiction have appeared in No Tokens, The Fiddlehead, Ricepaper, and Apogee Journal. She is the recipient of many awards and fellowships, including from The Studios of Key West, Caldera Arts, and the Historic Joy Kogawa House. Her debut memoir, The Woo-Woo: How I Survived Ice Hockey, Drug-Raids, Demons, And My Crazy Chinese Family is forthcoming from Arsenal Pulp Press in October 2018. Pre-order it on Amazon or Chapters Indigo.