“There can be a cost to acting on one’s principles, but there is a bigger cost to abandoning them.” Jane Philpott, 2019. Words to live by.
I moved to Vancouver from Toronto via Scotland in 2004 and began taking writing courses at UBC and later at SFU. I’ve always written, journals, letters, creative minute taking, bad poetry, personal essays. During a year away from work, family and friends, I lived alone in the interior of B.C. and wrote a novel. It remains unpublished but dear to my heart, because writing about my difficult issues in fiction meant I didn’t need therapy for the first time in ten years.
Encouraged by that experience, I began writing a memoir when I lived in Scotland, in the Findhorn Foundation, east of Inverness. The Foundation is an educational and spiritual New Age community where I spent more than five years after the death of my husband. The memoir, Dressed for Dancing: My Sojourn in the Findhorn Foundation, traces my recovery from grief over a period of fifteen years. (See Dressed for Dancing, Chapter 1, and ‘Experience Week’.)
I joined SFU’s the writer’s studio in 2007, where I revised my memoir under the guidance of Wayde Compton and the Creative Non-Fiction group. A short essay, ‘Out Of The Darkness’ appeared in the Writer’s Studio magazine, emerge. Two years later I revised the memoir again with Betsy Warland through the Vancouver Manuscript Intensive. Two short essays appeared in Betsy’s book, Breathing the Page, in 2010. The memoir is now published and available through Amazon. See Leslie’s Book.
In January 2013 I began an MFA program with the Whidbey Island Writers Association at the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts. One of my essays, “Outreach” has been published by Pilgrimage Magazine and nominated for a 2014 Pushcart Prize.
In terms of work, I’ve had a variety of jobs, from being a kennel girl for the SPCA, to a ski instructor, to a cleaning lady. My best paid job was teaching high school English in an inner city school in Toronto. (See ‘Classroom Lessons’.) When I became overwhelmed by marking after sixteen years, I qualified as a teacher librarian, which meant I taught nearly every subject but marked nothing. It was great. In the Findhorn Foundation I headed up the Housekeeping Department of a large hotel and learned to love housework. At different times I led entry level workshops and supervised new members as they adjusted to community life.
I graduated in 2016 and have continued to write. When I’m not writing my own nonfiction I write protest letters to politicians, garden, sing in the Unitarian Church Chalice Choir, swim in the local pool and play duplicate bridge.