In case you’ve missed the news from Canada, I’ve just become an award-winning essayist. I’m honoured and excited although I’m not running around the house flinging my arms in the air singing I’m the winner anymore. Not out loud.
My essay Nana Technology won Canada’s 2015 carte blanche/CNFC competition. It’s more than an honour to be held in esteem among such an accomplished group of professional writers. The announcement was made at the annual CNFC conference in Victoria, British Columbia. Nana Technology will be published in the May-June issue of the Québec literary journal carte blanche. You can read the official announcement and an excerpt from my piece on carte blanche or on the website for Canada’s Creative NonFiction Collective.
What does this mean for a creative nonfiction writer like me?
The definition of validation is to lend force or validity to; confirm, substantiate. It comes from valid: having legitimacy, authenticity or authority. Valid, adj., is borrowed from middle French valide: sound, true. Also from Latin validus: effective, strong.
The definition, the etymology and four syllables fail to capture the connotation, the essence of validation. It is the outcome of hope and work and dedication. Internal validation, external validation, validation from respected peers; it pulses a rhythm that pushes us forward as we grow and shed skins of ourselves.
That’s what we do in the writing process. At least that’s what I do when I’m writing pieces of creative nonfiction, my articles and thoughts that read like stories. I use words to peel back protective barriers and discover something new about us as humans, to answer parts of questions or even to unearth the questions I seek to answer.
This is just the beginning, but even so I didn’t get here on my own. Two and a half decades of editing, translating, writing financial articles, features and travel pieces, being paid, not being paid, being ignored, rejected, dismissed, reading beautiful words and writing crap. The glorious life of a writer, sustained only by support.
We don’t write in a chateau tower like Montaigne but we do question like him. We write amid, not despite, the turbulence of life. We search for our pens, our phones, our voice recorders when words flow into the car on the way to school, breast-feeding our babies or showering our grandmother, wiping the dog barf from the bedroom floor, listening to a concert, slamming doors, or the last sad sigh of the dishwasher. We memorise sentences that land on us during walks, runs, the commute to work and tattoo them on the back of our hands, the delicate skin of our forearms.
How many times has the writing I love been rejected? How many times have we stripped down to our vulnerable curves to be left sitting naked and alone?
I keep going because I can’t not write. I keep going because I’m not the only one who believes in me: my patron is my husband, then there are my children, my parents, my two special aunts. These people propel me forward with words of kindness and encouragement. There is an invisible but solid breakwall of support from a few artist friends, my international soulmates, my special writing friends. These are the people who encouraged me on each time NanaTechnology was rejected, so that I rewrote it and sent it off again. And again. And again.
Please support Raif Badawi, a blogger from Saudi Arabia who has been sentenced to ten years in prison and 1000 lashes, 50 of which he has received, for criticizing Saudi Arabia’s clerics. Raif Badawi’s picture sat in the PEN empty chair at the CNFC conference in Victoria, British Columbia.