Monthly Archives: November 2022

BWS 11.07.22 report: Revision and the Four Seasons of Story

Jessica Outram is Cobourg’s 4th Poet Laureate. She is a Métis writer and educator with roots in the Georgian Bay Métis Community. She works by day as Principal of Indigenous Education, supporting all schools, for the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board. Jessica is co-host of The Hummingbird Podcast, a weekly podcast about identity, healing and wellness, the spirit of place, and the pull of mystery. She recently published her first collection of poetry with Piquant Press, The Thing with Feathers. In Spring 2023, her first children’s novel will be released by Second Story Press, Bernice and the Georgian Bay Gold.

What Do the Four Seasons Teach Us About Revision?

By Jessica Outram

Nature has many lessons to offer writers. Lately I’ve been thinking about the four seasons and the lessons from them that connect to the writing process. Like this process, the seasons follow a cycle. Each season directs our behaviours and interactions.

Imagine you’ve been writing a while now, exploring forms and following stories. One day you decide this story will become something more. You enter into a revision process, an opportunity to see again. You return to the early writing of this story and re-engage using the seasons as a guide. Give each season enough time to fully realize its potential. Pay close attention to the transitions from one season to the next and how you will shift and adapt.

In the spring, consider why this story and why this form? Why did this story first find you? What about this story was important to you? This is a time to ask and answer all the ‘why’ questions. Free-write using questions to open the portal. Step into springtime. Revisit the story with curiosity, an open heart and open eyes. Be open to surprise. Watch for new ideas to bud. Connect to your inspiration. Define your form (will it be a play or a poem or a novel?). This is where you fully commit to the project. Your relationship with the project changes and as you work through the ‘why questions’ you can’t imagine your life without this story.

The transition to summer is easy. The days get warmer. Your relationship with the story is like a hot summer romance. You spend every day together now, lingering in playing with scenes or phrases. You may even feel like you’ve arrived as a writer. You are in love with this project. Your creativity blooms like a field of wildflowers. The story moves like a river. The project is fully alive. This is a lovely time for a writer. When I think of writing and everything I love about writing, it’s always the summer of writing that I’m thinking about. Sometimes we may choose to linger in summer for years.

Fall is about letting go. We often resist this transition. This is when we begin to prepare to share the story with others. It won’t be yours for much longer. Consider the audience and shape the story to meet their needs, too. What is your dream for this story? Who will enjoy it? Who needs it? What changes does this story need so it can impact readers? We pay attention to style and polish. We tend to the technical elements of craft. We check the facts and the plausibility of each scene. We share finished drafts with our writing group for feedback. And when we are done, our project glows with the radiance of October leaves. We know that soon it will be time to give the story to others.

By winter, we’ve often forgotten the warmth and joy of summer. It’s time to send the story out into the world. We don’t feel as close to it as we did in the other seasons. Sometimes we forget a scene or a character’s name or we read a whole page and wonder how/when we wrote it. We have spent so much time with the story, the writing has frozen. It’s time to share the story, to publish. Some days feel like a blizzard with gusting winds of uncertainty and blinding views of possibilities. To thrive in winter we seek out the company of friends. We collaborate with people we know (and people we don’t know) to publish. We learn about marketing and bookselling. What actions do you need to take to share this story with others? Who will help you along the way? And then, one day we notice the way the sun lights up the snow and find joy in the frost on the branches. Winter is a time of darkness and it is a time of light. When the story finds its way to the readers who need it most, we are already lost in springtime working on another project.


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BWS 09.11.22: In Case You Missed It!

Click here to see the recorded live stream of our November 9th event featuring Marlo K. Shaw, Edwige Jean-Pierre, Ayaz Pirani, and Emily Urquhart, and guest speaker Jessica Outram, who spoke to us about approaching writing in the metaphor of the four seasons, titled “Revision and the Four Seasons of Story.”

This was our second in-person BWS event since the beginning of the pandemic, and we’re so excited to be back! We even experimented with a hybrid presentation. Please stay tuned for more updates about our next events.

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Brockton Writers Series 09.11.22: Edwige Jean-Pierre

Born and raised in Ottawa, Edwige Jean-Pierre is a bilingual actor and playwright of Haitian and Congolese descent. She first came on to the scene with her solo show Even Darkness is Made of Light (dramaturgy and direction by Patrick Conner) at Buddies. Other plays she has written include Saint Bitch or also known as Our Lady of Spills, SOS/MS/ASAP, GOIN4BROKE, The Big Mess and Espoir/Espwa (co-written with Les Héritières de Toto B).

Her plays have been presented at many festivals including Rhubarb Festival and Edgy Women Festival, Hysteria Festival, and she was the recipient of the 2010 Summerworks’ Spotlight Award for her performance in Even Darkness is Made of Light. She is ecstatic to be working with Theatre Passe Muraille on the development of her latest play, La déception m’a ouvert les yeux.

Edwige’s work focuses on political and social issues.

Excerpt from Saint Bitch/Our Lady of Spills by Edwige Jean-Pierre

This piece was inspired by my mother’s experience with anti-Black racism while working in a nursing home in the 80s and 90s.

SANDRINE: (To CHLOÉ, Sandrine’s 8-year-old daughter) So you have 1 hour’s detention tomorrow. You’re lucky it’s just one.  She wanted to give you a week’s detention. Yes, I know Jessica called you the N-word and hit you in the face during recess. Yes, she will have detention too.  You are going to meet people in life that are not always going to be nice to you. You have to really try hard to be nice to everyone, because it’s the right thing to do. Really? You felt good kicking and pulling Jessica’s hair? Do you feel good now? Chloé Vincent, God did not tell you to kick her back or pull her hair.  God would never say that.  If someone hurts you or teases you, you go and tell a teacher, the principal, the babysitter, or me.  Yes, or the police… or the fireman … yes or even Wonder Woman.  You can ask God for help too, you know. That’s what St. Brendan would do. You know I get called the N-word almost every day at work and teased for my accent? Yes, by that mean old lady.  Why do I not fight back? It’s complicated, Chloé…

(Light change. SANDRINE and LILLIAN stare at each other, like two boxers in the ring.)

LILLIAN: She has no idea what I’ve gone through. No idea.

SANDRINE: She can’t possibly understand what it means to struggle all your life.  It’s impossible for her to understand.

LILLIAN: That’s the problem with people like her.

SANDRINE: That is the problem with people like her.

LILLIAN: Too damn spoiled is what.

SANDRINE: They have no heart.

LILLIAN: No idea.

SANDRINE: Impossible.

LILLIAN: I’m tired

SANDRINE: I have no patience left.

LILLIAN: I’ve no patience left.

SANDRINE: I am tired.

LILLIAN: You think you’re better than me?

SANDRINE: You think you are better than me?

LILLIAN: No idea.

SANDRINE: Impossible.

LILLIAN: It wasn’t always easy-

SANDRINE: (At her ESL class)

The verb “to show” in the past progressive

I had shown

You had shown

He had shown

She had shown

We had shown

You had shown

They had shown

(The next day… in LILLIAN’s room talking to SANDRINE)

LILLIAN: You show some respect and stop being sassy.

Ever since Gladys moved out… Just because she isn’t here…

You’re back to your old tricks… You don’t fool me. You want

to play games? I know a lot of games, missy.  I regret

donating money to the Sisters of Charity.  Bringing over

negroes that are lazy and can’t do their jobs properly… They

sing and dance and breed like rabbits.  Then they come here.

Don’t work… or go on welfare… or worse they don’t take their jobs

seriously –

SANDRINE:  (She takes a deep breath).  Just ignore it and let it go.

LILLIAN: You know Missy. 

SANDRINE: Just ignore it.  Let it go.

LILLIAN: You’re looking at someone who once donated a $20

cheque to help your kind.  I may have even helped you.

But we’ll never know.  You think about that. 

SANDRINE: Thank you so much, Saint Bitch. (She turns

around and is about to leave)

LILLIAN: Wait.  Oh God I… I…

SANDRINE: Quoi? What? What do you want now?

LILLIAN: Can you help me? I seem to have … made an accident. I need some

help to change. 

SANDRINE: Someone made a mess.  No Canadian nurses at

the moment. I will go find you one.  Let me just check to see if

there are any Canadian nurses available to assist you.  I wish

I could help you myself, but I can only sing and dance and

breed like a rabbit and I don’t know how to do my job properly


LILLIAN: Please-

SANDRINE: Please blackie? Please witchdoctor?  Please

what? Strange, still no Canadian nurse.

LILLIAN: Help me.  Please

SANDRINE: C’est pas vrai.  Are you serious? Fine… I will

help you. (SANDRINE putting on her plastic gloves and starts

cleaning and scrubbing)

Ma chère Lillian, c’est drôle comment vous pouvez être bête

puis ensuite avoir le culot de demander mon aide. Je dois

nettoyer votre dégât avec un beau sourire.  Et je vous gage

que vous n’allez même pas l’apprécier.  C’est drôle, vous ne

trouvez pas ça drôle? Alors moi je trouve ça drôle.  Le jour

viendra où vous réaliserez à quel point vous avez eu tord de

traiter les gens, comme moi,  ainsi et il sera trop tard. “Aimez-vous les uns

les autres…” C’est tellement difficile, pas vrai Madame Holt?

Bon, vous êtes propre maintenant – comment on dit-ont? Ah oui!  Spic’n Span! (Pause)

C’était un immense plaisir de vous nettoyer chère Madame

Holt (She curtseys). Vous devrez m’excuser j’ai d’autres

patients à soigner. DE RIEN!!!

(LILLIAN remains seated, frozen.  SANDRINE exits LILLIAN’s room. Exhausted, she replays the exchange between her and LILLIAN)

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