No Matter the Distance: Gathering Memories in Writing

Posted on: 4 July, 2019

Category: Member News

In the spring of 2018, Raquel Rivera led a workshop for emerging writers in Chevery and Harrington Harbour, two localities in Quebec’s Lower North Shore. The goal was to encourage the act of preserving precious childhood memories through writing. 

“A Story That’s Special” used storytelling to bridge not only the gaps that exist in memory but also the distance between Montreal and remote places such as Chevery and Harrington Harbour. Based in Montreal, Rivera had participants join her via Zoom, a video-conferencing software, to take part in this special project. 

“What was special about these stories? Tales of childhood memories, humorous anecdotes and dramatic local history were easy to find in this remote region; what folks wanted was to create a collection of children’s picture books, for adults and children to read and enjoy together,” says Rivera.

In addition to discussing the technical aspects of writing, such as structure and style, Rivera encouraged writers to not shy away from putting words on the page. 

“We also discussed structure: ways we might transmit the area’s oft-told stories into narrative voice, dialogue, poetry, and even word-and-alphabet-books based on local settings, culture and know-how. “If you can say it, you can write it” is a common encouragement; in our workshop, its corollary was, “Don’t say it, write it down instead.” As such, we did brief, timed writing exercises designed to encourage fluid draft writing (and in one case, drawing).” Rivera explains. 

The “A Story That’s Special” workshop was part of a larger program addressing literacy and learning development, led by presenter and QWF member Linda Shohet; it also included on-site workshops for the local youth with poet and zine-author Angela Leuck. 

Although the exchange of childhood memories is a deeply personal and emotional exercise, the workshop’s outcome was overwhelmingly positive. By revisiting these forgotten corners of memory and experience, participants were granted a rare opportunity to reconnect with themselves and solidify their relationship with their chosen form of creative self-expression. 

“I really enjoyed this experience! It was a project that allowed me to reconnect with myself and the memories we make on the Coast while working with my love of writing. I would participate in another project like this one any time.” shared Savanah Perron, author of the picture book titled Iceberg Adventure.

Raquel Rivera is part of the Quebec Writers’ Federation’s Hire-a-Writer directory.