Finding awesomeness at Laurentian University


It was a brave new world and I had a newfound dedication to my studies.

Phil didn’t turn out to be a distraction at all, but facilitated my work with his support, and by providing me with a computer on which to write my many essays.  Soon I was spending a lot of time at his place, locked up in the basement with his 286.  I had a computer too, thanks to one of my correspondence courses, but it wasn’t even that powerful.  Seriously.  My mind boggles when I try to remember what life was like back then.

In any event, my renewed academic career was full of B’s, B+’s, A-‘s, and A’s.  I started entering writing contests … and won third place in one.  I wrote a column for Lambda, the Laurentian University Student Newspaper.  My essays began to be featured in the English Literature Society’s annual academic conference, and a couple were recognized by the English department as among the best of the year.  I entered the President’s Award Essay Writing Contest and received and honourable mention.  I also participated in a colloquium on the future of the university.

Enter great teacher of my life number three, Dr. Susan Dobra.  She was from California and ended up returning there after a few years.  While she was at LU, I considered her to be my most significant influence and one of the reasons why I excelled.

Unfortunately, my appreciation of her approached the stalker-ish.  I do hope she’ll forgive me 🙂

Another reason was Dr. Hoyt Greeson, with whom I studied Old English and Chaucer.  I and several of my fellow students joined him on a road trip to Kalamazoo, MI for an academic conference in medieval literature.  It was a great experience to be exposed to the theses and dissertations being written by some of the best and brightest in the field.

A third positive influence and support was Dr. Laurence Steven.  Through him, I entered a program whereby I became a writing assistant.  I essentially taught the composition portion of the first year English literature survey course for a couple of years.  Yes, as an undergrad.  I also tutored through the Writing Across the Curriculum Program.  Laurie was my advisor for my honours thesis project as well, which received the departmental award for best honours project that year.

Honestly, I can’t think of any professor I had at LU that wasn’t a great influence on me.  There was one I didn’t see eye to eye with, but I still benefitted from his class.

I also gained a couple of special friends on the way, Yana and Kim.  Yana was (and remains) a wunderkind.  Yana knew what she wanted from the first: to be a teacher.  Everything she did was focused on that goal and she was a brilliant student.  She also had an interest in writing science fiction.  She was president of the English Literature Society the year I joined.  Through Yana, I started working at the Huntington music library.  It was a student job that would see me through several years.

Kim is a poet and in many ways, a kindred spirit.  We were TA’s and tutors together.

All of us participated in several ELS events including a particularly memorable poetry sweatshop in competition with the professors.  Together we had some grand adventures, becoming groupies of Great Big Sea and following them around the province for a summer.

With Yana, I took karate lessons, and for myself, I joined the Bel Canto Chorus.  Creativity is fed in different ways.

Phil proposed, and we were married July 15, 1994.

Margaret, though she had moved to Port Elgin with her spouse, continued to keep in touch and keep tabs on my creative efforts.  She invited me down to Port Elgin for a workshop with Susanna Kearsley, author of the recently published Mariana and winner of the Catherine Cookson Award.

I took a creative writing course with Dr. John Riddell–Siobhan’s father; don’t you love synchronicity?–and had one of my stories published in an anthology as a result.  I started participating in writers’ groups and became ELS president in my last year of study.  I wrote a short article for Slin Roller magazine.  Thanks to my short story prize and publication, I was invited to write a science fiction story for the flagship issue of Parsec Magazine.  By the time I graduated cum laude in 1995, I was on my way.

Focus is a wonderful thing.  Sometimes it doesn’t happen in school, but at work, or at home.  When you have a particular goal in mind, it’s amazing what you can accomplish.  When and where did the pieces of your creative puzzle first come together in awesomeness?

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