Our Weaving Words program is a 6-week creative writing workshop offered in partnership with the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild. For a few hours each week, participants learn and share, exploring their literary creativity. Beginning in 2010, this program has helped over two hundred newcomers put their powerful stories to paper.
Growing up in Afghanistan, Soomaya always enjoyed novels and poetry, even writing her own poetry in Persian (Dari). Since her arrival in Canada last fall, she has felt an urgent need to share her story. She wants to honour the life and loved ones she had to leave behind. She joined Weaving Words to gain experience writing creatively in English so her stories can eventually reach a wider audience.
“With Weaving Words and the encouragement of my classmates and my teacher I was able to write something…Even if it has many grammatical problems, now I can take another step because the first step is more difficult than the others,” Soomaya said.
Danica Lorer is the local storyteller who leads Weaving Words. She provides support to participants as they break through the fear of expressing themselves creatively in a new language. “One of the things that we see over and over again is that people think that they are not able to tell a story because their English language skills are not at a point where they are confident, and the beauty of story is that every story is important, every story is worth telling,” Danica said, “You don’t have to have perfect grammar and perfect spelling to tell a beautiful story.”
Throughout the process of Weaving Words, Soomaya was surprised to see her own thoughts and feelings reflected back at her in other participants who were forced to flee their homes. “It was an interesting experience to express yourself and to listen to others and find out that you are not the only one in this world that has been through bad things, a chance to not feel alone,” Soomaya said.
Danica sees storytelling as a fundamental part of connecting with other people. “There are so many ways that story is important for being human and part of a community. We gain empathy by learning other people’s stories and we gain understanding of the world by being able to be in a room with people from different countries,” Danica said.
Poetry is often viewed as a highly complex art form rather than a means of communication and connection. However, for newcomers with limited English abilities, poetry can feel more accessible than long-form prose.
“Sometimes poetry is within reach for people because every single word is so important and it’s condensed and minimal, for people who have difficulty expressing themselves in long sentences and paragraphs there can be some really lovely stories told in a very small package in a poem,” Danica said.
Soomaya wrote her poem for the members of her community who are still in Afghanistan, and for anyone who wakes up each day in a country experiencing war. “I just wanted to remind whoever who reads my poem that those people exist, they are somewhere in the world, and they are suffering,” Soomaya.
Global Gathering Place and the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild publish annual anthologies of work written by the participants. Keep an eye out for our 2021/2022 anthology to be released this spring.
Each month, we feature one of our dedicated, warmhearted volunteers. This month, we are celebrating