Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Writing and Writers - Sarah Pashagumskum

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As I have been reading over the course of the last 2 weeks, it has started me thinking a lot more about writing. You see, I am not much of a "planner" - I am much more of a "doer". I like to think of myself as a "human living" rather than a "human being." It seems there are as many ways to approach writing as there are writers.
My cousin Sarah Pashagumskum is a very accomplished woman who is balancing the demands of a doctoral program and thesis against those of a wonderful husband and four, count 'em four (!) children. The plan was for she and hubby and kiddies to come to Toronto for this week for her to be able to finish off her paper. The 2 older boys (Jacob 11 and almost 9 Noah) would go to a hockey camp in Mississauga with their Dad (Brian Dioszeghy), I would look after the 2 little ones (Amelia almost 6 and Aidan 7) and Sarah would go to the library to work. She is an advocate for marginalized students and works in Northern Quebec and it is this work that has been the basis for her educational pursuits. Her Master's thesis was "First Nations Parent and Community Involvement in Education." This time around her, dissertation is about "First Nations Reserve Student Engagement".
We both thought that this week would be the perfect solution to the lack of concentrated time she normally faces. Well, things have a way of not going as expected which is the only thing that can be expected.
First of all, my two dogs are insane. People who know me would all agree that I raise really good kids and really naughty dogs. Sonic (the Hedgedog), a half min pin/half pomeranian lunatic thinks that Amelia is an all day sucker and follows her around panting and wagging his little tail incessantly in a manic way that makes him seem positively posessed. Elly, is a hard core herder, (half German Shepherd/half Australian Cattle dog) and she really thinks that it's her job to make sure noone runs in the house OR gets off the couch in the family room. She happily wags her tail and is puffed up with a sense of accomplishment that no kid has fallen on scissors while running in the house on her watch.
Poor Sarah. All she wanted was a little piece and quiet and the chance to squeeze out the last 20 pages. We talked about it last night over a glass of wine when she and Brian returned from an anniversary dinner at the Royal York. I babysat :) We went to the movies. (I apologize to those nice young people who had to clean up the popcorn after us.)
It seems to Sarah that her new strategy is to take this week off and approach this final bit with a renewed sense of energy next week. Yeah right. We've all been there. Who among us has not been so sick to death of their own writing that they want to toss the whole thing out? I remember thinking at one time, near the end, that my book Taking the Ice should be renamed to Pj's Stupid Skating Book. The toughest part seems to be when the finish line is just within view.
Sarah has been down this road before having co-written A History of Quebec and Canada with E. Fairies in 2002. It was published in English and French by the Cree School Board and is still in use today. My hat is off to those writers who are responsible for writing school textbooks. It is a real gift to know going in that your work is going to be in front of occasionally reluctant students and still come up with something engaging and creative. It would be something I would have to work up to.
When we were talking last night, we agreed that writing is a case of one word following the next. She is going to try to stick to that thought as she wrestles with her thesis in this home stretch.
In the meantime, congratulations little cousin:
From Lakehead University:
Sarah Pashagumskum, who has been awarded the
Assembly of First Nations “Heroes of our Time”
Scholarship for Education.
A woman, wife, mother and advocate for education. How about "Heroes for All Time"?

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Pj Kwong

Pj Kwong is a figure skating expert and writer currently working for CBC Sports. Her first book, Taking the Ice: Success Stories from the World of Canadian Figure Skating (BookLand Press), will be in stores in September 2010.

Go to Pj Kwong’s Author Page