Just Pretending by Lisa Bird-Wilson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
There were several things I liked about these short stories, most of which feature First Nations or Metis characters in Western Canada. First of all, the author delves into tough themes, such as abandonment, sexual assault, child neglect or abuse, mental illness and prejudice.
But the characters are so well developed that I really cared about what happened to them in each story. And the writer treated them with compassion. I think this is important because otherwise I wouldn’t have been inclined to get into such dark subject matter.
There was also a thread of humour running through the book which (besides causing me to almost snort tea through my nose) really illustrated how people use humour as a coping mechanism.
Finally, Lisa’s writing style is so smooth that I was able to get into each story and completely believe in the world she created.
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Apparently farm journalists are not known for being snappy dressers.
I was informed of this last year by a young man at Canadian Western Agribition. I started to defend my profession. Then I glanced at my shoes.
Tom Brokaw came up with the term “The Greatest Generation” to describe the people who grew up during the Great Depression. This same generation went on to fight in World War II (if not literally fighting, supporting the war effort at home).
Whenever I read anything about this generation, I automatically think of my maternal grandparents. John Holzman and Irene (Vavra) Holzman embodied many of the values people attribute to this generation. They really were great (although I suppose I’m a little biased).
I took in the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild conference this last weekend. It was a great conference, and I had all kinds of interesting conversations with other writers (topics ranged from bar fights to politics, which is sometimes kind of the same thing, I guess).
Anyway, one thing that stuck with me was Tim Wynne-Jones’ comments on how people become writers. Basically, it’s like playing basketball – when you start out, you’re having fun, and you’re a slightly better shot than the other kids, or a little quicker, etc… At some point you have to work hard to develop that talent, but in the beginning it comes down to a love of the game and what might be a slim advantage over your peers.
And I thought that metaphor really rang true. When I think about why I became a writer, it probably comes down to a love for good stories. And my grandma, Mary Guenther, is the first person who helped me develop that story ear.