Women’s Writing Week at the University of Alberta


Park N Ride is a clever idea that in no way overestimates its own success. After 10 minutes of circling and a quick plea to the universal creator, I found the only parking space left in the Clareview lot and proceeded with haste to the terminal. The speed was due to my need of a washroom rather than a lateness issue. I was going to be anally early as is my wont when I do anything for the first time.

But the ladies’ washroom was “out of order” and a quick survey revealed that in typical Canadian fashion there was but one single washroom per gender in the entire station. Canadians continue to astound me with their bladder control. It’s ninja-like. Public washrooms are almost considered sissy up here because Canucks possess infinite capacity – unless there is alcohol involved and then their lack of modesty allows them to whip it out or drop trou and squat nearly anywhere.

Realizing the Men’s was the only game going (because a bouncy train and a full bladder equals a bad idea), I hopped in line behind an older gentleman with a backpack.

“Ladies first,” he told me when I explained the situation. “Ladies are always first.”

This was not my first encounter with the homeless on mass transit, but I have always found them more helpful, generous, and polite than the average commuter.

Fifteen minutes from Clareview Station to Enterprise/Bay, providing too little a frame for my nemesis “motion sickness” to set in, and I found myself in the heart of ugliness known as Jasper Ave, the heart of the city. There is absolutely nothing attractive about downtown Edmonton. It’s pre-SkyNet wasteland waiting for the apocalypse. I found a Second Cup (Canadian answer to Starbucks) with ease and passed a bit of time (chronic time anal syndrome side-effect) sipping chai and finishing the new Star Trek novelization, admiring the clever way that all previous canon was so neatly swept away for the new branch of the franchise to reinvent itself. And yes, I should wait to see the film before reading the book, but I have a fondness for Alan Dean Foster, and in the way of the anniegirl nothing is spoiled by spoilers. It merely provides more food for thought and comparison. I read the ends of novels first, always have, and find myself none the worse for my oddity.

On the way to the university, I had another homeless encounter.  A woman, I think, this time turned to me as we waited for the crossing signal at an intersection. Smiling and chuckling a bit, she motioned towards the traffic and said something rather quickly. It was lost in a combination of construction din and tires gripping asphalt. I smiled and chuckled back, as it seemed polite to do so, and this seemed to please her.

I ran the smokers’ gauntlet before entering the building and was immediately sucked into the campus bookstore to the right where I purchased two pocket-sized notebooks to replace the one in my purse that is nearly full and two novels, one of which was written by my instructor.

“Brown noser,” Rob teased when I spoke to him right before class. He wanted to know when I got into the city to be sure I was okay, no problems.

“I just want to know her writing style,” I said. ” See if she is any good. I’m not going to tell her I read it unless I like it. I can’t fake praise for crappy writing.”

“I’ve noticed that about you.”

While I was browsing and lounging in the break-room after our conversation, I noted several middle-aged women with notebooks and pens flying. It’s not fair to presume but Women’s Writing Week seems aimed at the dilettante housewife with delusions of novelist. I got the impression initially from the course selection which highlighted mostly poetry, journaling and memoir courses, the “arts and crafts” section of the writing world. It’s like “mommy-blogging” which I mostly avoid. The majority of women (and men) I read blog more about themselves than any fruit o’ the womb they might have.

When I got to class, the instructor, Lynn Coady, confessed that she titled her course a “bootcamp” to attract the serious about publishing crowd and I noted that two of the ten of us were younger than Mick (formerly MK).

More about the class tomorrow.