Three literary nonfiction authors, including Heather Conn, to read March 30

Want to hear compelling personal stories and learn more about what literary nonfiction is?

Come out to Sechelt Public Library on Thursday, March 30 and hear three Sunshine Coast, BC authors, including Heather Conn, read from their book manuscripts.

Heather, Sheila Cameron, and Claire Finlayson will each present excerpts from their respective works-in-progress. Sheila will present heartwarming stories from Shine Bright: Live a Supernova Life. Heather will share a troubling but inspirational tale of healing and forgiveness from No Letter in Your Pocket: Twenty Years Healing a Family Secret. Claire will reveal her experiences in Ray’s Planet about growing up with a brother who didn’t know he was autistic.

Caitlin Hicks, the Sunshine Coast representative for the BC Federation of Writers, will be on hand to facilitate discussion. This free event will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Coffee and treats will be served.

Heather to teach screenwriting Feb/March in Powell River

I’ll be teaching “Writing Short Documentaries” and helping students brainstorm a group documentary project from Feb. 27 to March 2 in Powell River. This is an annual appearance I make as an instructor at Powell River Digital Film School.

Every year, the content varies, depending on the wishes of school founder and director Tony Papa. Usually, I cover how to write both drama and documentaries. Most years, I include a workshop on Introduction to SoulCollage®.

I encourage students to share their deepest personal stories or sociocultural tales from their community that no one has documented. I love their willingness to jump in and learn new things and to explore storytelling with a compelling, authentic voice.

Job placement students gain insights with SoulCollage®

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I enjoyed introducing SoulCollage® Jan. 27 to a group of job placement students at M. Magas and Associates, an employment agency in Sechelt, BC.

We did a guided visualization, identified their respective dream job, and discussed accountability, victimhood and what archetypal influences might resonate with them.

I appreciated their openness and willingness to share what symbols were meaningful to them.

Since this was one of their “fun Friday” events, I was advised to keep it “light and uplifting.” I love that SoulCollage® is hands-on and fun but still a revealing form of self-discovery that creates connectedness and empowerment.

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Mentors in Violence Training held Dec. 6 in Sechelt, BC

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I was delighted to receive one-day training in Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) on Dec. 6, 2016 in Sechelt, BC. Roughly a dozen of us attended, including local teachers and providers of an after-school teen drop-in program. The event’s co-facilitators were Wayne Spychka, my boss as an SCCSS gender violence prevention worker, and Keely Halward, Wayne’s boss. Both are experienced MVP mentors and employees in Together Against Violence at the Sunshine Coast Community Services Society (SCCSS).

In male-only and female-only groups, we did exercises that identify gender stereotypes and practised facilitating and observing scenarios portraying inappropriate sexual behaviour. The MVP process reinforces a stance of Be More Than a Bystander: if you witness anything sexually inappropriate occurring between others, doing nothing is not an option. It is important for youths to either notify an adult or authorities and/or intervene, if they can do this safely.

MVP Strategies was developed in the early 1990s in Boston, MA, based on a peer leadership model using trained student leaders. It strives to empower those who might otherwise be silent observers to situations of violence unfolding around them. The primary goals of MVP are to

  1. Increase awareness of verbal/emotional/psychological and sexual abuse.
  2. Challenges messages within a social setting about gender/sex/relationship violence.
  3. Inspire leadership by empowering participants with options to effect change in social norms.

For more details read my MVP training Dec 2016 Coast Reporter.

A Gucci dress dyed with lichens?

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Italians and other Europeans have used plants and lichens for centuries to die fabric and fibres. More recently, they have begun to use mushrooms as natural dyes.

In the fall of 2016, I attended the 17th International Fungi & Fibre Symposium on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast. It was fascinating to meet spinners, knitters, and weavers from around the world who use fungi and mushrooms as natural dyeing materials. Their exhibition of handmade, organically dyed goods from sweaters, socks and shawls to hats, plush toys and cards, wall hangings — even bright orange ceramics — was astounding.

The FibreWorks Studio in Madeira Park held its own accompanying juried show of garments and art by B.C. artists using local fibres and dyes.

For more details and photos, see my feature Fungi and Fibre in the winter 2016/17 issue of Sunshine Coast Life magazine.IMG_2081

An honour to host and organize Canada’s first Mentors in Violence Prevention program

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Former BC Lions player J.R. LaRose (back row, centre) joins grade 10 and 11 students at Mentors in Violence Prevention event in Sechelt, BC

I was honoured to organize and host Canada’s first Mentors in Violence Prevention program in Sechelt, BC on May 5. Here’s a story that I wrote for the local media:

 

A former B.C. Lions player, open discussions and hands-on scenarios recently helped about 40 local high school students learn what words and actions can lead to violence against women.

 

Sunshine Coast Community Services Society (SCCSS), in collaboration with School District No. 46, hosted a Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) Student Summit May 5 at Seaside Centre in Sechelt. Grade 10 and 11 students from Chatelech, Elphinstone and Pender Harbour Secondary School, Sunshine Coast Alternative School and the Aboriginal Program attended, along with about 20 school administrators, SCCSS staff, and RCMP members trained in MVP strategies.

 

“I’m not OK with just standing by and being silent when someone is being abused,” keynote speaker J. R. LaRose, a former BC Lions and spokesperson for Be More Than a Bystander, told the group. “It’s time we speak up and be a voice for those that have been hurt and abused. Speak up and break the silence.”

 

This event marked the first time in Canada that high school youth have participated in an MVP program. Developed in the early 1990s in Boston, MA, this peer leadership model, using trained student leaders, strives to empower those who might otherwise be silent observers to situations where bullying and violence is unfolding.

 

“We are so proud of the youth stepping up as leaders and change-makers at the MVP Student Summit,” said Keely Halward, director of SCCSS’s Together Against Violence Services. “Gender-based violence is not just a statistic, but the reality for hundreds of women and girls on the Sunshine Coast. Almost half of our Police Based Victim Services files relate to domestic violence, and research tells us that most domestic violence goes unreported.”

 

In scenarios that ranged from verbal abuse to sexual harassment, and from dating violence to sexual consent, students learned practical ways to communicate that violence and abuse are not acceptable. They discussed related issues as a whole group, and in male-only, female-only and fluid-gender groups.

 

The ongoing MVP initiative is possible thanks to funders including the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Department of Justice Canada, RCMP National Crime Prevention Initiative, the Sechelt Indian Government District and donors. For more information about this initiative and to learn about services addressing gender violence, please go to the Sunshine Coast Community Services website at www.sccss.ca or contact Heather Conn at hconn@sccss.ca.

To see story and photo in The Local, click this link: Tackling violence against women.

Screening of “Salam Neighbor” prompts $887 in donations

I was honoured to organize and host an April 15 screening of the documentary Salam Neighbor in Sechelt, BC. This by-donation event, held at St. Hilda’s Church, raised $887, which will go to the Syrian Refugee Sponsorship Committee and two other groups on the Lower Sunshine Coast working to bring Syrian refugee families to this area.

The 75-minute film, by twenty-something director/producers Zach Ingrasci and Chris Temple, reveals inspiring stories of individuals rallying against huge odds to rebuild their lives and those of their neighbours in Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp, only 11.5 kilometres from the Syrian border.  Embedded in the camp for a month, the two filmmakers form compelling connections with refugees of all ages, like street-smart imp Raouf, 10, whose almost-constant smile hides lingering trauma. Women like Um Ali struggle to overcome personal loss and cultural barriers. A Syrian husband learns to confront and release anger when his wife launches a successful microbusiness within the camp.

Raouf, 10, felt too traumatized to attend school in the refugee camp. While in Syria, he was at school when it got bombed.

The filmmakers and refugees share food, music, tears, laughter and companionship. These are only a handful of the 85,000 Syrians trying to restart their lives in Jordan. More than 4 million people have fled Syria to escape the atrocities of war.

This film, a 2015 AFI Docs official selection, is released by 1001 Media. The filmmakers created the documentary Living on One Dollar  For two months, they subsisted as radish farmers in rural Guatemala to understand life in extreme poverty.

Many thanks to Clarence Li for providing the venue for the screening and to all the local people who volunteered to help with promotion, set-up etc. Thanks to Tugg for assistance with the film’s promotion, reservations, and online donations.

Author to host Banff workshop April 23: The Power and Pitfalls of Creative Nonfiction Onscreen

What can happen to a nonfiction story when you add a fictional narrator? Discover the pitfalls and benefits of this approach while viewing the 20-minute documentary A New Way: An Organic Garden Changes Lives.

I’ll be hosting a 1.5-hour seminar April 23 at the Banff Centre in Banff, Alta. It’s part of the 2016 conference hosted by Canada’s Creative Nonfiction Collective Society.

This workshop will reveal how creative nonfiction techniques on the page translate to the screen: what works, doesn’t work, and why. What are the similarities and differences in storytelling? I will screen three short films, including a five-minute personal essay and 4.5-minute inspirational poetic piece, and encourage participants to analyze and deconstruct them. The use of dialogue, structure, tone, voice, visual detail, and other elements will be examined. In addition, the workshop will include a short in-class written exercise.

RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS: A new book rewrites Sir John A. Macdonald’s role in Canada’s history

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Most Canadians consider Sir John A. Macdonald, the nation’s first prime minister, as “the Father of Confederation.” But this crusty politician, an ancestor of mine on my mother’s side, might well be called “father of residential schools.”

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Co-authors Constance Brissenden and Larry Loyie, a residential school survivor, display my Edmonton Journal opinion piece.

 

Want to learn how his policies launched aboriginal children into decades of forced assimilation and abuse? Read my opinion piece “Macdonald’s legacy not entirely golden,” published Feb. 20, 2015 in the Edmonton Journal. It addresses the new book Residential Schools: With the Words and Images of Survivors, by  Larry Loyie and Constance Brissenden, which I edited.

Here is how the piece reads in the Edmonton Journal: Residential Schools op ed piece Edmonton Journal.

This article also appears on my blog, with readers’ comments, under the title “Bicentennial Redux: Sir John A. Macdonald Father of Residential Schools.”

Click here to read.