By Heather Killen
A writer’s work is to gently blow the embers of memory into the flames of imagination and fuel the story.
Donna Morrissey, the award-winning author of Kit’s Law and What They Wanted, is offering two writers’ workshops this month, to help novice authors enrich their writing skills and fire up their imaginations.
On July 16 she will be holding a daylong workshop in Chester at the Chester Art Centre, while on July 21 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. she will be visiting North Hills Museum in Granville Ferry.
“We all have a story to tell and it’s independent of the story of our family,” she said. “Everyone in a family has their own point of view, so there are different stories even within the same family.”
Budding writers can find the inspiration to build their voice by looking back through their own memories, she said. The elements of a good story are already within reach, it’s just a matter of finessing the details.
“When you look back across a life you find a trail of smoldering embers, some glow deeper than the others,” she said. “The energy is still there, showing that something touched you more deeply than the other events.”
The next step is to focus on how the event brought about change, or what affects it had on experience. Then recast these insights into a work of fiction, a personal myth.
In her fifth book, The Deception of Livvy Higgs to be released in September, Morrissey’s main character is led back through her past by a younger version of herself.
For a weekend, Livvy Higgs suffers a series of small heart attacks while she journeys back through a series of past experiences wrought with lies and secrets.
“She’s an aged woman who is following a series of memories, coming to peace with herself in old age,” she said. “She ‘s trying to understand who she was and why she did the things she did.”
“When you look back across a life you find a trail of smoldering embers, some glow deeper than the others. The energy is still there, showing that something touched you more deeply than the other events.” - Donna Morrissey
Her first novel Kit’s Law (1999) picked up international attention, winning the Canadian Booksellers' Association Libris Award, Britain's Winifred Holtby Prize, and the American Library Association's Alex Award.
Her second novel, Downhill Chance (2002), won the Thomas Head Raddall Atlantic Fiction Prize, while Sylvanus Now (2005) garnered Donna Morrissey a second Thomas Head Raddall Atlantic Fiction Prize and was short-listed for a Commonwealth Writers Prize.
Morrissey says several years ago she became interested in the work of Carl Jung and was inspired to delve into her own shadows to find her own voice and her own stories.
Carl Jung, one of the pioneers of modern psychoanalysis, wrote that we all live within myth, and a route to meaningful living is to find that myth and bridge it to everyday life, according to Morrissey.
The soul will suffer until it finds meaning in its own experience. Writers draw on their experiences, visiting the wounded places in order to reintegrate these orphaned events into a new story, or personal myth.
“I take everything that I am and fictionalize it,” she said. “That’s what fiction is: truth remade into myths. Take a personal story and bring it to the level of myth.”
Donna Morrissey will be holding a writer’s workshop on July 13 at the Chester Art Centre and at the North Hills Museum near Annapolis Royal on July 21. For more information on these workshops contact firstname.lastname@example.org