49 In the Beginning

British Columbia
Jowita Bydlowska Ontario

Jowita Bydlowska was born in Warsaw, Poland, and moved to Woodstock, Ontario, as a teenager. Her work has appeared in an assortment of magazines, newspapers and online publications, including Salon, The Huffington Post and Hazlitt. Drunk Mom, Bydlowska’s memoir, is an account of her relapse into addiction after the birth of her son. @JowitaBydlowska Read more

Amber Dawn British Columbia

Amber Dawn is a writer, filmmaker and performance artist. She is the author of the Lambda Award–winning novel Sub Rosa and the memoir How Poetry Saved My Life. Amber Dawn was the 2012 winner of the Writers’ Trust of Canada Dayne Ogilvie Prize for an Emerging LGBT Writer. Read more

Helen Humphreys Ontario

Helen Humphreys is an award- winning author of five acclaimed novels. Her last novel, Coventry, was a finalist for the Trillium Book Award, a New York Times Editors’ Choice and a Globe and Mail Best Book of the Year. In 2009, Humphreys was awarded the Harbourfront Festival Prize for Literary Excellence. Her new book, Nocturne, is a candid and intimate memoir about the death of her brother. Read more

Priscila Uppal Ontario

Priscila Uppal is a poet, novelist and York University professor. Her publications include eight poetry collections, most recently Ontological Necessities, which was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize; two critically acclaimed novels; and the study We Are What We Mourn. Her latest book, Projection: Encounters with My Runaway Mother, is a memoir. Read more

Host: Andreas Schroeder
Friday, October 25, 2013 - 1:00pm - 2:30pm
Granville Island Stage
$17 / $8.50 for school groups

What might begin as a private journal, a way to understand personal events and emotions, sometimes has such power that it demands to be published. Helen Humphreys began Nocturne as a private letter to her deceased brother when grief prevented her from writing fiction. Amber Dawn wrote some of her memoir about her experiences as a sex worker almost a decade ago, then shelved them. “I was terrified,” she admits, but “I knew I had a book.” Priscila Uppal, poet, novelist, anthologist, essayist, felt compelled to write her memoir after an intensely emotional reunion with the mother who had abandoned her. Jowita Bydlowska began Drunk Mom as fiction until she realized she had to own, and own up to, the story. Four writers talk about the starting places for their memoirs and where they’ve arrived as a result.

Tickets will be available for purchase at the door.

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View the study guide for this event.

In the Beginning


Amber Dawn, How Poetry Saved My Life
Jowita Bydlowska, Drunk Mom
Helen Humphreys, Nocturne: On the Life and Death of My Brother
Priscila Uppal, Projections: Encounters with My Runaway Mother

Curriculum Connections:

  • Language Arts: journal, memoir and personal narrative


  • Writing in a journal is a way to understand your personal thoughts and emotions, to reflect on the past and create a vision for your future. Encourage students to keep a personal journal, writing on a regular basis. This can be encouraged by taking ten minutes during each class for “silent writing” time.
  • Ask students to submit 1-3 journal entries of their own choosing throughout the year.
  • Get all students to submit a more “public” piece at the end of the year, presenting a 3-page personal narrative to be shared with others. Students might consider presenting their stories by reading an excerpt to the class in a casual “literary reading” style event (with snacks and drinks).