Calgary author pushes LGBTQ writers to dig deep, share intimate Christmas stories
'If there is anything left for you to hold on to, do not let go of hope'
An accomplished author recently challenged Calgary queer writers to share their intimate experiences with family at Christmas time, the good, bad and the ugly. She wasn't sure what the response would be.
The finished product, Queer Christmas in Cowtown, launched earlier this month to a sold-out crowd at an independent book store.
"We had standing room only by the end, they had to keep on adding rows of seats as people kept coming in," M. Jane Colette told The Homestretch on Thursday.
"I was worried that no one would come. It was fabulous."
'Just wanted to express myself'
Colette is the editorial mind behind the collection. She did a call-out for stories from the group YYC Queer Writers.
Tet Millare, an author and activist in Calgary's two-spirit and racialized LGBTQ community, answered the call.
"I just wanted to learn to write and express myself more, in a different way," she explained.
"We are here in Calgary, we are part of it. It's alive. For my part, it took me a month to finish. She was like, 'Just get it done, get it done.'"
Darkness and light
Millare says her contribution is about darkness and light.
"It's about racism in Calgary. Fighting for everyone, basically the burnout I am experiencing," she said.
"But it ended on a high note, because it's about hope. That is what I wanted to tell everyone, if there is anything left for you to hold on to, do not let go of hope."
Colette says the 13 stories in the collection are from writers with diverse backgrounds.
"There is a mixture of expertise in the group. I have been writing professionally all of my life, but there are other people who have never really finished anything. They were saying, they want to be writers, they want to be published but they weren't getting across that finish line. A project is a good way to do it. And telling stories is such an important way of being human," Colette said.
"I have never done a collection like this before, I have always flown solo, so I wasn't sure how much organizing or planning I would have to do, so I did very little. But I think it all came together in a really great way. Every story is so different yet common themes cut across in the end."
Millare says that while Christmas can be a time filled with anxiety for the queer community and everybody else, it's about finding your own family, even if it's not the one you were born into.
"I'm pretty lucky. I have been adopted by a lot of people out there, taking me into their homes," she said.
"This Christmas, I will be with my chosen family."
Proceeds from the sale of Queer Christmas in Cowtown go to Camp fYrefly, a leadership retreat aimed at LGBTQ youth.
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With files from The Homestretch