Welcome to Shiny!

This is the text of the introductory email sent out to participants in the Shiny! speculative writing group. The email is a digital version of the launch party we hosted in Calgary on January 26, 2020. (This email will also be sent out to new participants who sign up for the email list.)

The goal of this post is to let you know what to expect from the group, set out the various ways to participate, and share the schedule for 2020. This email also includes some writing generously shared by participants at our first Shiny! writing group meeting on February 2, 2020.

Our monthly emails (the first of which will be coming out mid-February, 2020) will not include quite so much background, and will not be as long.

So, first, introductions.

The first introduction is for the group itself.

Shiny! a speculative writing group is an offshoot of An Unexpected Light, a six-month online course in narrative therapy and speculative fiction. Although Shiny! extends the work that we’re doing in that course, and exists because course participants asked for it, you do not need to be a past or present (or even future) participant in the course in order to be part of this group. You can download the syllabus and find out more about upcoming rounds of the course here

An Unexpected Light was created in response to a growing sense of hopelessness and despair within my communities, and Shiny! extends this work into an ongoing, inclusive, joy-and-justice oriented writing group.

Then, me.

Hello! I’m Tiffany. I will be our facilitator.

I’m a white settler on this land, and the in-person events for Shiny! will happen at Loft 112 take place on Treaty 7 land. This is the traditional and ongoing home of the Indigenous signatories of Treaty 7, which include the Blackfoot Confederacy, including the Siksika, Kainai, and Piikani First Nations; the Stoney Nakoda, including the Chiniki, Bearspaw, and Wesley First Nations; and the Tsuut’ina First Nation. This land is also home to the Metis Nation of Alberta, Region 3, and to all of the Indigenous folks who live here. The ongoing effects of colonization and capitalism mean that this land is home to many Indigenous folks whose traditional land is elsewhere or unknown. Shiny! is explicitly an anti-colonial and anti-racist group, and recognizing the ongoing effects of the colonial project is part of that work. 

I am non-binary, and use they/them pronouns. I co-facilitated a Non-binary Superpowers narrative therapy group with my colleague Rosie Maeder in Adelaide, South Australia, and we published a collective document in the International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work. You can read a PDF of that document here.

I’m also bisexual, and am the founder and facilitator of Possibilities Calgary Bi+ Community Group. We meet once a month at Loft 112 in Calgary and have been running, with one extended break, since 2010.

I’m also fibromyalgia-enhanced, and constantly working to make peace with my inner demons.

I have degrees in English (Hons) and Women’s Studies (Hons) from the University of Calgary, and a Master of Narrative Therapy and Community Work from the Dulwich Centre and the University of Melbourne. I’ve been published in a few places, and have worked as a professional editor for quite a while. I’ve been facilitating writing workshops and groups for over a decade.

We will be getting together in person most months in 2020, with the opportunity to write together, and to share our writing and respond to each other.

The next introduction, you!

This group is open to participants of every gender, orientation, ability, neurotype, race, class, body size, and experience with writing. Youth over 12 are also welcome.

You do not need to be a published or experienced writer to join us – everyone has a unique and valuable voice, and imagining possible futures is work for everyone. 

You do need to be interested in and invested in justice and liberation in order to participate in Shiny! The goal of this group is to write possible futures that are more just, more inclusive, more free than what we have now. The status, as Doctor Horrible so rightly put it, is not quo. I hope that this group will help us find ways to challenge the status quo, to find ways forward into futures that are more colourful and more liberated. Futures that refuse patriarchy, colonialism, racism, fatphobia, ableism, ageism, transantagonism, heteronormativity, and all the host of other systems and structures of harm that surround us in the present.

I am so excited to share this space with you!

So, what can you expect from this group?


The in-person meetings will include time to share snippets that we’ve read and appreciated over the last month and to reflect on writing that has really resonated for us, time to write together, and time to share our writing.

These meetings will happen on the first Sunday of most months at Loft 112, from 4-6 pm.

Our confirmed 2020 dates are:

  • March 1 (at Loft 112)
  • April 5 (location and time TBD – this will also be the launch party for the spring round of An Unexpected Light!)
  • May 3 (at Loft 112, tentative)
  • June 7 (at Loft 112)
  • July and August dates TBD
  • September 6 (at Loft 112)
  • October 4 (at Loft 112)
  • November 1 (at Loft 112)
  • December 6 (at Loft 112)

Participants are welcome to write between sessions and bring that writing to the group if they want. 

The emails will hopefully support that writing! And also be a way for people to fully participate from a distance.

The Shiny! online component exists in order to make the group accessible to participants who can’t make it to the in-person meetings because of work schedules, childcare, disability, distance, or any other reasons.

There will be two emails per month. The first will be short, and will be sent out the day of the in-person writing group and will share the writing prompts that set for that session. 

The second will be more substantial and will go out mid-month, with the first email going out mid-February 2020. 

The longer emails will include:

  • Some reflections on our topic for the upcoming month.
  • A couple writing prompts. 
  • Selections of writing shared by participants in the last month.
  • A small link roundup relevant to our topics.
  • Submission opportunities.
  • And a craft lesson each month!

These lessons are entirely optional, and nobody will be grading you! But if you want to fine-tune your craft, hopefully these lessons will be a resource. The craft topics requested at the launch party are: 

  • Dialogue
  • World-building
  • Plotting
  • Narrative voice and perspective
  • How to write short fiction
  • How to write mystery

These longer monthly emails will be shared as blog posts, which you can find on my website or on Patreon, with a link to the blog post sent out to the email list. If you would like to be added to the email list, let me know!


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Here are the two prompts we wrote on at our first writing group session on February 2, 2020.

First, we read an excerpt from Alexis Pauline Gumbs story Evidence in Octavia’s Brood. This was a letter written from Alexis beyond capitalism to Alexis within capitalism. (Although I can’t share that excerpt publicly here, you can find more of Gumb’s amazing future-thinking in this podcast episode.)

The prompt was: Write a letter to yourself from a future beyond an oppressive system that currently constrains you. (Some of these letters are generously shared below, and brought me to tears in the session!)

Our second prompt was generated using the Magic & Fairy Tale Storycubes, and we wrote stories that included a knight, a wizard, and a treasure chest. 


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Letter to Self from a Post-Apocalyptic Future.

February 2, 2020

Dear Agnieszka,

(How amazing that I can send this to you! So much has changed over all these years…)

The world made it through!

Somehow, we were able to stop destroying.

I don’t think anyone believed it would ever actually happen… that humanity would finally see Itself as intrinsically part of the Organism that is Earth… that all the self-harming practices – even if they relieve the pain of regret-isolation-sorrow – could be lessened respectfully… and that we-Earth can love us/Itself with compassion again.

Yes! We forgave each other! And Earth forgave us! Forgiving/forgiven for all the damage and harm done out of fear and misunderstanding. We moved forward, toward a patient re-learning how to care for and respond to the loneliness that drove us to distraction, production, the whole illness of progress.

Honey, I know that you *know* how hard this is to do. When the pain strikes, and it seems like nothing will stop it and pretending to “be normal and go shopping” seems like the only way out.

Sweetie, forgive yourself for not knowing. Continue doing what you are doing. I am telling you from here that imagining different possibilities in response to the pain and the regret and the fear, is exactly what was needed.

Relieving the pain makes perfect sense! No judgement against any human on Earth! Searching for true relief – the collective relief, for everyone, every life – through patient, respectful questioning – that is the work that eventually brought us towards Healing. Hope and peace.

We finally saw what really mattered! We saw how incredibly beautiful it all was, we all were! How unbelievably “enough”! And we could stop the cutting, the burning, the packaging, the injecting, the improving. And we stopped!

We looked at each other and at the Earth, and we were stunned. By the sheer beauty and wealth of just being and wealth of Being Just.

We really breathed! We breathed the Air. The Water that remained was slowly but steadily healing Itself because the Earth loves to heal. The Green things gracefully returned.

We were patient and respectfully waited. We used language and music and art and all the ingenuity of Earth to bless Life. With respect and awe.

Agnieszka, I know you offered yourself in Love and Compassion to People/Earth around you.

And I know you were often bound by rules/constructs in your society that created tensions and fear. I am so glad that you didn’t let it stop Your loving and forgiving (despite the harsh pressure to focus on the capitalistic bottom line).

I am so glad you persisted, because your persistence kept the Love growing, and practicing forgiveness allowed it to grow big enough for the Healing to take.

This Healing couldn’t happen without Forgiveness. So, thank you.

Love yourself fiercely. Always.

It’s the fuel of all our Potential.


To Me,

From a  place where you have all the time, the energy, space to do things.  Where you are no longer obligated to keep a space in your mind for bills, money and the like. 

Don’t worry, each step takes you closer.  Each choice, and while it seemed impossible, you weren’t the only one.  Everyone wanted to be free of the burden that is capitalism.  Time has the value you want in it, and not defined by dollars.  Passion is first and no longer questioned as a “side hustle”.  I remember the horror, the sadness each time someone asked “what next” expecting the answer to be monetizing. There’s no worry about those kinds of things.  There is space enough for everyone to explore, enjoy and live.

Lazy and productive are opposite sides of a coin that is no longer valid.  And with them went famine, suffering and the pain of depriving people of the necessities. 

The calm that exists because of it is wonderful and is like a vacation that never ends.  I remember vacations and loving the way the days were shaped by desire and curiosity.  I remember loving them.  I know you love them.  Imagine a world like that.

Don’t worry.  You’ll see it.  You’ll enjoy it, and it will all be surrounded by the wonderful relationships you, we, spent so long cultivating. 

I wish these letter could carry pictures to show but they only carry words and you’ll have to trust.  Trust me.  I am you.  Trust yourself, and walk forward.

Shannon


Dear Joseph,

It all fell apart.  Everything broke.  Nothing is the same.  The toil and pain, the exhaustion and the sadness, the aches, the darkness.  And more than anything, the fear.  It all came crashing down around us.  We just couldn’t keep it aloft.  It had gotten too heavy.  It got wide, and tall, and blocked out all the goodness in the world.  It grew sharp edges that tore at our hands, covered in the salt of our sweat, and seeped into our aching muscles.  Our nerves were on fire, and our tears streamed non-stop.  Until one-day we gave up.  We gave in.  We stopped holding it up.  In the end, it fell heavy upon us.  Set to crush every person to nothingness.

We were crushed.  We died.  But it was not at all what we expected.  For what died was not our spirit.  Not our bodies.  No.  What died that fateful day was our fears.  Our old ideas.  For when it all came crashing down, we realized its immense size and weight were illusions.  It’s needles and knives, imagined.  Like kinetic sand, it only held its shape because of we all pushed so hard to keep it up.  Once we stopped pushing, once we stopped caring, it crumbled into such a fine dust that a light breeze was enough to whisk is away. 

Now a warm wind blows, unencumbered by our fears.  It fills our souls and lights our minds.  We understand that we do not need towers, we need plains.  We are all important.  There are no gods among us, because it will only create devils.  There are no leaders, only advisors.  We are all peers, on different legs of the same journey.  With different destinations, but all going in the same direction.  Towards hope, and love. 

So, Joseph, keep your hope.  Do not give up as you may have thought about.  Be ready to give in.  And together we will all get through.  The other side is so different and so much better than anything we know right now.  Better that we could have imagined.  You can do it.


I am so excited to share this space with you.

(Though also excited to never again try and create so many rows and blocks of content in the email list platform. Yeesh!)

There is no cost to participate in this group, but if you’d like to support the work, you can find me on Patreon or you can make a donation through etransfer or at the events.

Much love and hope,

Tiffany