Writer Maurice Mierau with father Eric, 1968 Nigeria (provided by author)
I just got home to Winnipeg after spending five weeks at the Banff Centre. I was there as part of the Writing Studio, where 24 writers from across Canada work with established professionals. The snow was still falling the last Friday, but even in bad weather living in a perpetual postcard can be distracting.
I still got a lot done. As a writer, I'm mostly known as a poet. I went to Banff to work on a memoir, a genre that depends on storytelling, something I had much to learn about. My memoir is about the adoption of our sons in Ukraine six years ago, but also about my father's traumatic childhood fleeing from Soviet Ukraine during World War II, and about my own childhood in Nigeria and Jamaica. How could I make a story out of three completely different childhoods? That was the question I went to Banff hoping to solve.
In the Writing Studio I worked initially with Michael Crummey, a gifted novelist and poet who knows a lot about storytelling. During the last part of my time I worked with Daphne Marlatt, who helped me more than I can easily express to find the through-line for my book: the story of adopting our sons. From there I flash back to my father's childhood, and a bit to my own.
After 35 days of having other people cook and clean, and hanging out with terrific artists from around the world, I came home knowing that I could finish a book that other people might actually read.
Tuesday (June 7) I'm a poet again, reading at the Speaking Crow open mike series at Aqua Books at 7 pm. Like most artists, I bounce between roles all the time-this week it's memoirist, poet, editor, and parent. Next week the mix changes.
Maurice Mierau is the author of Fear Not, which won the ReLit award for poetry in 2009. In Banff he continued to edit The Winnipeg Review's special issue on ebooks
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