Coach's Corner: Cara Hedley
To inspire you as you compete in the Canada Writes Literary Triathlon, we're running tips on the art of sports writing all week. Today: how repetition means very different things for writers and athletes.
Each sport is a story told again and again - and part of the beauty is in this repetition, each game, race or event operating inside a unique, ordered world with its own boundaries, rules, roles, syntax, and laws of motion. An even greater beauty is found in the seeming effortlessness of athletes and teams who have engaged in the repetition long enough, who have entered that story told again and again, and mastered the telling. But, for writers, danger lurks in this repetition, in the ever-present traps of repeated images, over-used language, drained clichés that no longer move. Victor Shklovsky writes, “Perception becomes habitual, it becomes automatic,” and suggests, “the technique of art is to make objects ‘unfamiliar’.” When it comes to writing about sport, this guidance is key. Stay away from the old, habitual modes of telling. Find new ways to enter that ordered world, to defamiliarize the story told again and again. Find the spaces that exist between a body’s intelligence - that ingrained knowledge of the rules, boundaries, laws of motion - and the pure abandon that lives at the core of speed, finesse, and trust between teammates. Dance language into those spaces where improvisation and hope take over in sport - the endless, shapeshifting jazz that keeps us coming back to the same story - and write the sport new.
Cara Hedley is the author of Twenty Miles, the first Canadian hockey novel about a women’s hockey team. Twenty Miles, inspired by Hedley’s experience playing three seasons for the University of Manitoba Bisons Women’s Hockey Team, was nominated for the 2008 Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction, and has been taught in sport literature courses across North America. Hedley teaches literature and is completing a Ph.D. in English literature and creative writing at the University of Calgary.