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Wednesday, 09 April 2014 11:32

Swift Current author debuts with collection of short stories

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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For Swift Current author Peggy Worrell the act of writing gives her a better understanding of life and she is sharing these experiences with her debut collection of short fiction.

The official launch event for her first book, Proudflesh, takes place at the Swift Current Library April 14 and she will also be the featured author at the Lyric Theatre’s next Write Out Loud event April 16.
“I really write for myself so that I can understand life better but I would not have pursued a publisher if I weren’t interested in my stories to be out in the world,” she said. “I hope that some of the insights will resonate with readers and I don’t know who those will be. I think when you create art and send it out in the world, usually you don’t really know who it impacts upon, but I believe there will be people who will be comforted or affirmed or validated by what they read.”
The 17 short stories in the book have been written over the past seven years and she considers writing to be a vocation.
“Characters cross my path and those people interest me and my imagination takes those experiences or the people to another place,” she said. “I feel like I just need to write that down and then of course if it’s sufficiently interesting it develops into a short story.”
Her writing explores themes such as goodness, happiness and blessings, but the stories are also about death, loss and disillusionment.
“Although the themes are rather somber, there are glimpses of beauty and of course that speaks to hope,” she said. “There’s still that little glimmer of something that keeps people going and that helps them to believe that their lives could be better.”
The publicity material for the book by her publisher, Thistledown Press, refers to it as a “collection of hard-edged prairie fiction.” Worrell agreed the stories are aimed at mature readers, but they will also be surprised.
“Some of the stories are kind of whimsical,” she said. “There’s some magic realism … and then they go to the Empire State building and they go to an encounter with a leprechaun in Ireland. So it has quite a range and a gypsy thrown in for flavour.”
One of the benefits of such a collection of short stories is that a writer has more flexibility and each story can be about something different.
“Part of the craft of short story writing is deciding what to leave out,” she said. “What to leave for the reader to fill in for himself or herself.”
The book’s title, Proudflesh, refers to one of the stories in the collection, which she realized might be a metaphor that also applies to other stories.
“I would like to keep that a mystery for people who read the book,” she said. “I would like them to discover that word and kind of grapple with it and come to some definition for themselves, but it does have to do with resilience and with surviving difficult times in one place and being stronger for them.”
There are female and male protagonists of different ages and in various settings. According to Worrell the characters in her stories will sometimes do things that are even unexpected to her.
“That’s really amazing when that happens,” she said. “They seem to develop a persona of their own and even though I’m that person, not literally, but I’m the person at the keyboard, I am often surprised by my characters. They’re much more bold than I am, really. They’re much more plucky and adventurous than I am and so that’s kind of an interesting thing to think about.”
She has been a social worker for 40 years, but is now semi-retired. She grew up on a farm in the Yorkton area, but lived in Nipawin for 30 years. She stayed in Prince Albert for a few years and Swift Current has been home since 2005.
“I still do some short term contract work, but really I consider writing to be my vocation and I have considered it to be that for the past five years,” she mentioned.
Some stories reflect her experiences as a social worker and Worrell said it is a career that expanded her world view.
“There’s always an autobiographical element to any fiction writer’s work but just some segments really were experiences I’ve had,” she explained.
“Mostly it’s more that I’ve been an observer than actually in the position of my protagonist.”
For the next six months her focus will be on a reading tour around the province to promote Proudflesh. She will be finishing two stories that were not quite ready for publication and she is working on a story for an anthology that will be published by the Prairie Quills, a writer’s group in Swift Current. She is also working on a collection of children’s stories about and for First Nations children in foster care.
The book launch on April 14 at the Swift Current Library starts at 7 p.m. In addition to a reading by Worrell there will be author readings by Seán Virgo, Elizabeth Withey and Anthea Loran. The Write Out Loud event at the Lyric Theatre on April 16 starts at 7 p.m. and includes musical entertainment by Highfield Schoolhouse Band.

Read 7241 times Last modified on Wednesday, 09 April 2014 14:20