Writing is a challenge. Raw, chaotic emotions demand to be shaped into a coherent story.
It’s even more challenging when the writer has to overcome physical or mental barriers to get the work done. Fortunately, the Yukon has the Ynklude Writing Group to support writers of varying abilities to produce plays, songs and musicals, and now an anthology of poems and stories.
Like a Diamond, Like Me launched with readings and signings to a standing-room-only crowd on November 25.
The book provides insights on the joy of expression, the pain of friendlessness, awakening sexuality, deep relationships, and the struggle for acceptance by the able-bodied.
“It’s so important for people with other abilities to be active in the arts,” said Vicki Wilson, executive director of the Yukon Association for Community Living (YACL). “It’s the voice of the community, a strong vehicle for change.”
As writers, Ynklude artists struggle with the same challenges all writers face.
Carrie Rudolph, a writer with spina bifida, grapples with “finding what to say.”
Poet and songwriter Caron Ross “fixes lots” before her work is finished, but says writing “is the fulfillment of a life goal.”
Both women advise other writers to always write from experience. “It feels fantastic,” says Rudolph.
Aside from transportation, wheelchair accessibility, and securing appropriate materials, the biggest hurdle to facilitating an Ynklude workshop is co-ordinating participants.
“If you or I want to meet, we set a date and show up, that’s it,” says YACL’s Julie Robinson. “For people with disabilities we have to check with their caregivers, parents, and employers before anyone meets.”
Also available at the Diamond launch was Jenny Jackson’s first book Silent No More: A poetic voice breaks the silence of FAS.
Jackson uses the Ynklude workshops to write about the challenges, joys and lessons of caregiving for four people with fetal alcohol syndrome.
Her journey began with the adoption of Crystal Maria, a baby specialists said was “blind, deaf, and severely retarded and will end up in an institution so it is no use to take her.” On March 4, 1977 Jackson and her husband, Ray, brought Crystal Maria home.
“It would be months before we saw the letters FAS,” Jackson writes in the introduction.
Each poem, whether written by Jackson or one of her adopted children, provides insights into living with FAS.
Time is an abstraction, money its difficult companion. A phone provides connections and its use involves strict rules of etiquette. Jail is the result of trusting untrustworthy “friends”. Aging is a dilemma for both caregiver and adult-child. Love is the thread that weaves the experiences into fine cloth.
Lauded by FAS experts in both Canada and the US, Silent No More offers readers understanding and tools to provide needed support.
As Robinson says, “Being part of the arts allows us to tell stories in ways people can listen.”