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Writing About Trauma (Without Being Super Annoying)
3 October,2022 at 20:00 – 22:00 EDT
Open to all.
Limited to 12 participants
We plan to hold this workshop in person at the QWF office, with up to two virtual slots available for people who are unable to come to our office. If public health conditions necessitate it, this workshop may transition to a purely online model.
There was a time when bad things would happen to me, and I would be like, this is so terrible, my life is so awful. Then, I became a writer. Now, when bad things happen to me, I think: this kind of thing is so awful… for people who are not writers. This is going to make such a good essay.
Being a writer is a superpower. Writers are often uniquely sensitive, which can make us vulnerable — but that sensitivity, when channelled appropriately, can turn into our greatest strength. When we learn to transmute our challenging, painful, and even traumatic experiences into art, we learn a very real kind of invulnerability: a capacity to spin agony into gold, a way in which we are always safe, always on top, and can always have the last word. At its best, this skill can allow us to wrest power back from our worst experiences and literally pave a road to fame, fortune, healing, and transcendence. There are, however, a few essential skills we must learn along the way.
In this eight-week workshop, Montreal-based poet and nonfiction writer Tara McGowan-Ross will take the participants on a journey through their shadows, mistakes, betrayals, and heartbreaks, towards the end of creating a powerful and transformative piece of work. She will cover subjects ranging from basic critical thinking and how to apply it, to how to create a safe container for your difficult feelings, to the ethics of writing nonfiction, which inevitably includes other people with opinions and boundaries — to injecting the kind of skill, humour, and humanity required of a work so that it may avoid the most common pitfall of writing trauma narratives: being, like, super annoying.
Tara McGowan-Ross is an urban Mi’kmaw multidisciplinary artist and writer. She graduated from Concordia University’s philosophy program with a minor in Creative Writing in 2016. She is the author of poetry collections Girth and Scorpion Season, and the memoir Nothing Will Be Different. She has served on numerous editorial boards, including Goose Lane’s Icehouse imprint, and has been anthologized in Best Canadian Poetry and Anthologie de la poésie actuelle des femmes au Québec. She lives in Montreal, where she is a theatre critic, a rebel educator, a Substack columnist, and the host of Drawn & Quarterly’s Indigenous Literatures Book Club.