Ever since I was a child, writing has been a part of my life. Barricaded in my bedroom with books and stuffed animals, I penned journal entries as dramatic and overwrought as the Sweet Valley High novels I was obsessed with. I wrote poetry too, composing verses about teddy bears coming to life, tobogganing and chocolate ice cream. In the sixth grade, a period of high creative output, I began playwriting with my friends. (“The Boy Who Loved Michael Jackson” is one standout script.) By middle school, I was crafting short stories about billion-dollar bank robbers with sarcastic seven-year-old sidekicks and writing tales about misfit preteens trapped at a summer camp run by a serial killer. My narratives were as Pulitzer Prize-worthy as they sound.
Through diary and dialogue, words easily flowed from me. But that was before writing was my job. As soon as I became a professional, words didn’t come quite as freely as they did when I was imagining the minute details of which unsuspecting camper would meet an untimely end. To this day, when I’m on deadline, I have to carry out a procrastination ritual before I can formulate a single word. It involves the right pen —ballpoint, never gel — a cup of milky tea and Google. Before I start, I must know the answers to important questions like “Can you get a six-pack without doing sit-ups?” and “How do you avoid jury duty?” Eventually I get it all done and feel like a hero.
The torture of the blank page didn’t hold our readers back from entering the ELLE Canada Writing Competition, which launched this summer. Submissions were numerous and varied, with entries from women and men ranging in age from 19 to 65. The topic “The Fashion Moment That Changed My Life” was interpreted in delightful and moving ways. Some of the judging panel’s favourite pieces came from those who saw fashion from an outsider’s point of view, such as our joint runners-up: Rebecca Mangra wrote about her powerful connection to Gossip Girl Blair Waldorf’s style, even though her much-maligned Toronto neighbourhood had little in common with New York’s Upper East Side, and Jenna Hazzard, from Waterloo, Ont., poignantly shared her journey of body acceptance in the setting of the plus-size store she frequented with her mother. Our winning essay, “Hospital Pumps”, by Genevieve Anne Michaels, from Vancouver, is an unforgettable, darkly beautiful piece about using fashion as protection against life’s cruellest of blows.
Being able to share powerful stories like this is a privilege I never could have imagined back when I was in my bedroom scribbling away in my diary. Hope you enjoy this month’s read.
This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of ELLE Canada.
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