The Place of (my) Place in Writing
Before I started writing fiction, I'd written a lot of non-fiction. Yet despite reading mainly fiction, I had no idea how to write it. I often tried to think of something to make into a story, struggled to conjure characters or scenarios to thrill or inspire readers…or at least not put them to sleep. Nada.
Then I read an article in Writer's Digest magazine. Perhaps the three hundredth article. It was written by a woman in the southern U. S. who described how her home region provided the inspiration for all of her stories. She wrote about how the landscape filled her senses and her heart, thereby supporting her mind in the crafting of stories.
Suddenly I got it! That was how I felt about Manitoulin Island! I love the rolling farms and rocky fields, the waterways that dot and surround the land. And Manitoulin is full of characters whose character I understand and with whom I resonate. An unexpected door had opened for me, and in walked my first fictional protagonist–Samuel Blackmore, an old farmer whose life changes through time and relationships. That story is still one of my favourites.
In the years since, while creating numerous other characters and stories that spring from "my" island, I've gotten to know others who create works that grow from this land–potters and painters, dancers, photographers and, of course, writers. We talk about the Great Spirit of Manitoulin Island and how that Spirit nourishes our own. We talk about the cedar bush and juniper fields, the spectacular fall colours in a good year and the muted beauty of even the less extravagant ones. The alvars and the hundreds of miles of shoreline that support life and sooth our sometimes flustered spirits.
But mainly we talk about the feel of this place. What a wonderful gift.
Kate Thompson is a published author and speaker who lives in M’Chigeeng on Manitoulin Island. She has published four books and numerous stories, essays, poems and articles. Kate offers her Write into… series of workshops for adults, teens and children in various settings.