Welcome to the world of creative nonfiction, life story writing, and powerful, transgressive stories that inspire healing change.
My life’s work is guiding these stories out into the open, working with writers, artists, activists, and adventuresome scholars to transform heartbreak, trauma, secrets, faith tales, and hidden family histories.
My roots are settler roots. I hail from the Queen’s Bush–the traditional territory of the Saugeen Nation, on Lake Huron’s eastern shoreline–and now make my home in Six Nation’s territory, in Canada’s tech hub of Kitchener-Waterloo.
I’ve lived in a tobacco barn, on old farmsteads, in great cities and old steel towns, on the eastern seaboard, in the Southern Rockies, in a funky mountain town, and in the high desert country of the great Southwest. Wherever I go, I am at home.
You can always find me in print and online (see Writing). Books authored or edited include:
Body & Soul: Stories for Skeptics & Seekers, (Caitlin Press 2019) Unorthodox approaches to the sacred with award-winning women writers and poets. With a Foreword by Alison Pick.
Sainted Dirt: Reckoning with Land, Language, Family and Imperfect Teaware (under submission). A collection of true stories. Supported with generous grants from the Ontario Arts Council and the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund.
Temple in a Teapot (West Meadow/Harland Press, 2010). SOLD OUT. Limited edition chapbook with illustrations by Wesley W. Bates. Launched on a 1,000-mile book tour with women writers throughout the American West.
Stories in my Neighbour’s Faith: Narratives from World Religions in Canada (Toronto, 1999; Out of print). Faith leaders and spiritual guides in a groundbreaking anthology designed for classrooms and inclusive congregations.
In support of Sainted Dirt, I gratefully acknowledge funding from the Ontario Arts Council and the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund.
Creative community is my passion.
In 2020, I became vice-chair of the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund.
I am a member of Native Immigrant arts collective that bridges Indigenous and settler communities in the global North and South through arts and culture (see Collaborating).
Teaching includes arts & humanities courses at St. Jerome’s University College, Renison University College, and Wilfrid Laurier University, as well as guest lectures in religion and literature at the Yale Institute for Sacred Music (ISM) (see Teaching).
As a nonfiction editor with The New Quarterly (TNQ) since 2012, I’ve had the pleasure of attracting award-winning essays (National Magazine Awards, Best Canadian Essays, Best American Essays), adjudicating contests, directing writing retreats, and serving as associate director of the Wild Writers Festival. I now direct the Wild Writers Mentorship Program.
JOIN MY 2021 WEBINARS:
For down-to-earth advice on spiritual life writing, join my monthly conversations sponsored by Awakening Spirituality:
January 20 Pen, Paper, Vision, Dream: Opening to Mystery How to write about the inner life in ways that are honest and unsentimental
February 17 The Butcher, the Baker, the Troublemaker: Using family history to explore patterns across the generations that colour spiritual journeys in surprising ways
March 17 Spring Into Action: Organize your thoughts and find the supports you need to release your inner writer and to find your audience
April 21 Faulty Towers: Choose Your Building Blocks Using language around spirituality, faith, practice, ceremony, religion and tradition in ways that are respectful
May 19 The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: Exploring the tension between ethics and aesthetics. With guests Lana Cullis and Tamara Jong
June 16 What Can Poets Teach Memoirists? With guest authors Betsy Warland and Meharoona Ghani
September 15 Sexuality, Sensuality & Gender: Exploring embodied spirituality through writing
October 20 How Shall We Speak of the Dead? On obits and ancestors, with guest writer Linda Trinh
November 17 WritIng About Inter-spirituality? With guests Jonina Kirton and Vickie MacArthur
—Highlights of 2020 / Body & Soul events marked **
January 27, Wilfrid Laurier University, 6:30-8 PM BA 102; “What Editors Want” workshop for Laurier’s own Blueprint Magazine
January 29, Cambridge, ON 5-7 PM @ The Old Post Office; Region of Waterloo Arts Fund Open House www.artsfund.ca
February 4, Kitchener, ON 5-7 PM @ The Region’s HQ; Region of Waterloo Arts Fund Open House www.artsfund.ca
February 15, At last! The winner of the 2019 Edna Staebler Personal Essay Contest: “Exposed: An Interview with Sarah Ens“
**February 23, Burlington, ON 2-4 PM @ A Different Drummer Bookstore Reading at one of Canada’s top indie bookstores with Linda E. Clarke (In Two Voices) & Eufemia Fantetti (My Father, Fortunetellers and Me)
March 1, Toronto at the RBC Taylor Prize gala for Nonfiction
February 29, Kitchener 2-4 PM @ the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery (KWAG), Introducing Lamees Al Ethari, author of the Iraqi memoir, Waiting for the Rain
March 8, Kitchener 3 PM @ The Registry Theatre, celebrating International Women’s Day with dynamic local writers Lamees Al Ethari, Erin Bow, Ashley Hynd, Heather Smith, Nicole Smith, Emily Urquhart & members of the X Page Storytelling Workshop. Emceed by Kathleen Sheehy of Lost & Found Theatre
April 20, National Magazine Awards finalists announced; honoured to be a juror for Best Long-form Feature (6,000+ word essays). Congratulations to all of this year’s fearless writers and investigative journalists
**June 10, Kitchener Public Library 6:30-8:30 PM, Nonfiction panel: “Dangerous Liaisons: Women & Memoir” [free; online] With memoirists Lamees El Ethari, Carolina Echeverria, and Emily Urquhart, on the risks of going public with true stories. Moderated by Kim Davids Mandar
July 27, A revealing conversation with one of my favourite writers, HLR editor and memoirist extraordinaire: “True Story: An Interview with Eufemia Fantetti”
October 5, Listen to our spirited discussion about documenting life stories on Heather Murray’s new podcast. What a pleasure, sharing this first episode with life coach and Spiritual Awakening founder, Tina Heathers.
November-December, the inaugural Wild Writers Mentorship Program is open to writers at all stages who are ready for a deep dive into their work with a seasoned guide. With Helen Humphreys, Pamela Mulloy, Andrew Westoll, and yours truly. I am also directing this program, so if you have questions, email me at email@example.com.
Highlights of 2019:
January 28 Toronto @ the fall + winter/2018/19 issue launch of the Humber Literary Review, reading “Sign Language” in Toronto. So honoured to be in this issue, thanks to editor Eufemia Fantetti.
March 10 @ The Growing Room Festival, Vancouver, launching Body & Soul with contributors Sharon Bala, Dora Dueck, Meharoona Ghani, and Amanda Leduc. Many thanks to contributor Lori McNulty for her incomparable drive and insight. And thanks to Holly at Caitlin Press for hand-delivering all those gorgeous books!
March 14 @ The Vancouver Public Library, launching Body & Soul. A standing-room only crowd welcomes panelists Dora Dueck, Meharoona Ghani, Pamela Johnson, Jonina Kirton and Betsy Warland. Moderated by yours truly.
April 26-28 @ Lake Junalusca Retreat Center, North Carolina. Keynote speaker, with my daughter, film director Cailleah Scott-Grimes, at the Body, Mind & Spirit Women’s Retreat. What an honour, to meet this amazing group of women who are enlivening the South.
May 3-8 @ Write on the French River Creative Writing Retreat with Helen Humphreys, Alison Pick, Andrew Westoll; also, my colleague, fellow TNQ editor Pamela Mulloy, and retreat founder, Nicola Ross. Six days of creative foment at the stunning Lodge at Pine Cove in Ontario’s northland.
April 12 @ the Toronto launch of Body & Soul with 13 contributors, from Montreal to Manitoulin Island, including Jagtar Kaur Atwal, Eufemia Fantetti, Sheniz Janmohamed, Tamara Jong, Amanda Leduc, Christine Pountney, and more. Special thanks to Queen Books for a fantastic evening of non-stop book selling!
August 9 @ RWAF board retreat, University of Waterloo.
August 23, adjudicating TNQ’s annual Edna Staebler Personal Essay Contest with consulting editors Lamees Al Ethari and Emily Urquhart, and my colleague, TNQ’s editor, Pamela Mulloy. Winner Sarah Ens and runner-up Laura Rock Gaughan will appear in TNQ 152 (Fall 2019).
September 25 – 29 @ Kingston Writers Fest! September 26 is Skeptics and Seekers, a conversation with the dynamic Ann Bokma, author of My Year of Living Spiritually, moderated by Body & Soul contributor, Lindy Mechefske. Join me at my September 27 editing masterclass, as part of the KWF’s renowned Writers Retreat.
October 15 – 29 a New Mexico writing retreat for my next book, Blood, Sand, Bread: A Saugeen Primer. Getting grounded in high desert country while I try to find an honest, down-to-earth approach to recovering Indigenous and settler stories about living on the land.
November 1st – 3rd @ the Wild Writers Literary Festival in Kitchener-Waterloo. I’ll be moderating the annual publishing panel and a celebratory panel on Body & Soul, with contributors Carolina Echeverria, Sheniz Janmohamed, Amanda Leduc and Heidi Reimer. Quite a history: the collection sprang from a 2015 panel I hosted on spiritual memoir, with Eve Joseph, K.D. Miller and Christine Pountney. For the full festival lineup, visit https://wildwriters.ca/2019-writers/.
November 17 @ Guelph Dance Studio. The Passionate Heart Dance Writing Workshop. Open to writers at all levels. A glorious collaboration with senior dance artists Suzette Sherman and Michele Green, co-creators, with dance icon David Earle, of Passionate Heart Dance. Details to come.
Highlights of 2018:
February 22nd: RBC Taylor Prize professional development workshop with IFOA director Geoffrey Taylor and 5 emerging writers. Thanks to Su Hutchinson for making these vital conversations happen.
March 15th: Nonfiction panel at Wilfrid Laurier University, with Emily Urquhart and Tasneem Jamal, as part of Emily’s tenure as Edna Staebler Writer-in-Residence at WLU. (Psst: we all have “Edna Staebler” in our bios!)
April: The wayward bride in Appalachia. At age 18, I eloped to the North Carolina foothills, to marry a young man I hardly knew. A musician, who talked me into going South. This spring, my daughter, Toronto filmmaker Cailleah Scott-Grimes, and I will go looking for those who sheltered (and married) me way back when.
April 26th: Arts & Literary Magazine Summit, Toronto.
Spring: Adjudicating “Best Editorial Package” for the National Magazine Awards. Join us at the NMAs June gala in Toronto!
Summer: Adjudicating TNQ’s Edna Staebler Personal Essay Contest with Tasneem Jamal, Emily Urquhart and colleagues. Contest winners are announced in August and featured in our fall issue.
October 13: Daylong Workshop for the Quebec Writers Federation on how to apply to lit mags–the process demystified!
October 15: Writing Workshop at Meteque, as part of Native-Immigrant’s What Nourishes You? project.
November: Moderating, hosting…another Wild Writers Festival, year 7! Stay tuned for details. Then it’s off to Colorado to talk about collaborating with textile artist, Barbara Olson.
Highlights of 2017:
October: Launch of Foment literary magazine cued to the Ottawa Writers Festival. Honoured to write the afterword for this year’s edition.
September: “Greeting fields.” A generous grant from the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund gave me time in ancestral territory, researching the Bruce County archives in Southampton to write the capstone chapter of my book, Sainted Dirt.
June 20-24th: Writer-in-residence at Gallery Métèque in Montreal (NDG) to celebrate the start of Native Immigrant VII: Tionnhekwen: The Seeds of Life. The residency includes a writing workshop (11-1 PM, June 24th), as well as meetings with artists, writers, publishers and activists to discuss the role of writing in cultural collaboration. I will also be joining collective members in gathering oral histories around Dress # 7, The Seeds of Life installation.
Writing Retreat to work on Sainted Dirt. The chapter, “Zion’s Children,” was long-listed in the CNFC’s recent contest. Thanks to the contest organizers and to judges willing to take risks on my unorthodox saga about eloping to a commune deep in Appalachia.
Also, Body & Soul: Creative Nonfiction for Seekers and Skeptics showcases extraordinary original work by diverse women writers from around the country. What an honour to be editing this anthology. Alison Pick penned the foreword, which will also appear in TNQ 145 (winter 2018). More details in an upcoming post.
April 28th: Arts & Literary Magazines Summit, Toronto. A chance to schmooze with colleagues in person. With 60+ lit mags (and those are the ones in English) across the country, it’s a challenge, keeping up with the surge of changes in the industry. Thanks to this year’s organizers and presenters.
April 20th: announcing the shortlist for this year’s National Magazine Awards. I had the pleasure of serving as one of three judges for the Best New Magazine Writer. We have incredible talent in this country. My best to all whose names were in the running. Keep digging. The work you do is vital. We need your voice.
Ongoing: TNQ’s diversity project began with introducing emerging writers from a broad range of backgrounds to the trials of breaking into publishing. Jagtar Atwal, Leonarda Carranza and Tamara Jong, in particular, have been our guides since 2016, when we really questioned whose works we were publishing, and why. Anna Ling Kaye, guest editor for TNQ’s summer issue (no. 143), as well as TNQ’s Consulting Editors Lamees Al Ethari and Tasneem Jamal have also been crucial to this process.
You can read more about the project at TNQ’s blog, under The Back Story.
Ongoing: TNQ’s nonfiction feature, Soundings, showcases innovations in spiritual memoir. To date we’ve featured work by Carleigh Baker, Emily McKibbon, K.D. Miller, and Zarqa Nawaz. Forthcoming: Dora Dueck, Sue Goyette, Laura Legge, Alison Pick, and more. Send your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org.