A Canadian LesFic site at last. It got me thinking about myself in relation to the three things: being Canadian, myself as a lesbian writer, and fiction.
Even though I am a Canadian citizen my Canadian identity is tentative.
I didn’t grow up in Canada, I arrived here when I was 25 years old and I still make cultural gaffes. All the time. I miss some clues and people miss mine. It’s okay. I think I just come across as a bit eccentric and as I’m a writer, that’s expected. Or I hope so. I find myself explaining every year to friends that celebrating Thanksgiving means nothing to me. Nor have I ever grown accustomed to putting cinnamon on everything sweet. I hate cold and only like to see snow on the far away mountains.
Nonetheless, I am settling in as a Canadian.
I came out as a lesbian in Canada, supported by a fantastically eccentric and irreverent group of women. Thrown into the deep end of a new lifestyle, I definitely emerged with a good grasp on Canadian life. The multicultural mix of the country has enriched me, too, and I love walking and biking around my city, hanging out and chatting to strangers in cafes, and delighting in the range of arts events I can attend pretty much any night of the week.
I think I can authentically claim an identity as a Canadian writer. My writing developed here. Hours spent in writing groups with first class writers, men and women, straight and lesbians helped me hone my skills. I’ve learned from reading the lovely poetic writings of people like Marie Claire Blais and Dionne Brand, as well as from the more straightforward, and often subtle, storytelling styles of writers such as Jane Rule and Alice Munro. A year spent in The Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University under the guidance of Wayde Compton sharpened my ability to spin a tale. These influences have broadened the range of my writing in interesting ways resulting in a definite Canadian flavor that sometimes surprises me.
Oh, and I have taken a fancy to pumpkin pie. Big time.
That I can’t separate the influence of Canada and of being a lesbian from my own writing is a given. These two things influence my subject choice, how I approach a story, what story I choose to tell. Also, the fact that I grew up and lived in Ireland and was influenced by that literature and, at the time, repressive culture comes to bear on these choices, too.
When I chose Caroline Nealon as the main character of New Girl I did it, in part, to write the story I never had growing up, the story of someone who didn’t have to struggle against family and her community to claim her lesbian self. She could focus on figuring out her values without that particular sword handing over her head. I feel strongly, as I’m sure many of other writers and readers do, too, that it is essential to create such stories because how we treat our characters in our stories influences how real life perceives us and opens new ways for us to respond to our reality. This is why I will always write some stories that include gay and lesbian characters, or allow my characters the space to explore these issues, whether they are aged 12, 20, 40 or 82. And though I may not always have a blatantly gay or lesbian character in my story, the lens I look through as I write is, of course, from my perspective both as an immigrant and a lesbian.
Finding Lesbian Writers
I very much appreciate the other lesbian writers I’ve come across. Too bad I don’t have more time to read because I am fascinated by the range of stories we produce: contemporary and historical literature, romance, mystery, sci-fi, speculative fiction, non-fiction, and poetry both written and spoken word, and probably many more genres than I can list. What is really exciting is the growth in the type of stories that are emerging. We moved beyond the mere survival tales of coming out, to produce heroes and villains who are brave, strong, vulnerable, evil, good, surviving, loving, cheating and dying, in other words, the whole gamut of human experience from a lesbian perspective.
Having a central place like this site to easily identify and find other writers of Canadian lesbian fiction…oh, the excitement! I can hardly wait to find new writers I’ve missed. It provides too, the opportunity to get know the people behind the names a little better. It breaks down the isolation that can result from living in such a huge country and give us all a place to come to know ourselves as Canadian, lesbian and fictionistas in all our variety, writers and readers alike.
Congratulations to everyone who worked so hard to create this splendid website.
Joan B. Flood
Born in Ireland, Joan lived briefly in France and England before settling in Canada. She has just finished her second novel. She has worked as a gas jockey, an art teacher, a short order cook, and an administrator. Her writing has appeared in anthologies in Canada, the US and Australia