Every month, I attend a women’s writing circle at my place of work. It’s a safe space where we get together, write in silence for a few minutes on various prompts that are offered, and then either read or talk about what we wrote as a large group / smaller circles. I look forward to it every month, and can tell others do too by all of the familiar faces. Plus, they serve a fantastic hot lunch.
During last month’s circle, one of the moderators handed out a flyer for My City My Six – “A participatory public art project that will reveal Toronto and its residents, six words at a time. ” She asked us to spend a few minutes writing out as many tiny stories as we could using only six words. I’d never done this before, so I didn’t know what to expect – but when time was up and we were called out of our bubbles to share with the group, I’d found that I’d written over 20 stories. I was marveled. I had no idea that I had so many minimalist stories to tell. I decided to commit to contributing to this cute project with as many stories as I can dream up.
I encourage you to try your hand as well!
My first dreamy stories: Clouds above, barefoot in the grass.
Keeping grounded amidst the everlasting chaos.
I remember when I fell in love with a work of fiction.
The year was 2014, and I was underground riding the TTC. Sitting alone and smiling to myself after a particularly whimsical sentence, I was halfway through reading Heather O’Neill’s second book, The Girl Who Was Saturday Night. Suddenly a shadow fell over me, and I felt a tap on my shoulder. Jarred out of my reverie, I looked up. A scruffy man with kind eyes was staring down at me.
“Pardon me, miss – but I just had to say,” he began timidly.
“Yes?” I questioned, unintentionally annoyed at the interruption.
“I- I just had to say that the book you’re reading must really be wonderful… your face and your smile were just shining with happiness.”
I was taken by surprise; I lowered my eyes and blushed.
“It makes me want to read that book, too,” he quickly added, backing away.
“The book is called The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by a Canadian author from Montréal, named Heather O’Neill,” I blurted out, not wanting him to feel bad for embarrassing me in such a sweet way.
He scurried away, ready to exit the train. “You can get it from your local library!” I called out after him. He turned back to thank me, then stepped out of my life forever.
This book, that sentence, and the moment solidified my love for Heather O’Neill. I have an unshakable loyalty to people, things, and situations that leave an impact on my life.
I had previously read Heather’s debut novel, Lullabies for Little Criminals – a sad tale set in Montréal revolving around a twelve-year-old protagonist named Baby. I’ve always had a love affair with Montréal, and the charming island city is featured in all three of her novels. Heather’s playful, romantic style infused with a melancholic reality speaks to me in a way that I’ve never encountered before. By the time I had finished her second novel, I was hooked.
We showed up early, ordered fancy wine, and scanned the already-full room. There were seats available at the back… but there were also a few rows available right at the front. We sauntered over; reserved! Dang. We plopped ourselves down anyway and waited to get kicked out.
What I loved most about this book talk with Heather O’Neill was the sincerity in it; it was more a conversation between herself and Joshua Knelman, (co-founder of The Walrus magazine) about her life, her art, and her views on things. I got a sense of who Heather was by the questions Josh asked, and how Heather answered.
I was a little star-struck, I must say. Heather is an entirely enthralling person to be in the same room with. I left that evening with a dreamy mind and stars in my eyes.