Welcome to the latest installation of “Finding the Form.” In this new series, contributors share how they found and developed the creative form for their recent work in The New Quarterly. You can find Marilo Nunez’s “We All Want to Change the World” in Issue 150.
I am a new short story writer. I am in my final year at Guelph, doing my MFA in Creative Writing. My main focus going into the program was playwriting because that is what I do for a living, I work in theatre. Playwriting has been my primary genre since I was in my twenties. But secretly I have always wanted to write novels and short stories. I took the creative writing masters instead of a playwriting master because I wanted to be exposed to the other genres. Broaden my horizons.
I found myself in a class with Michael Winter, novelist and fiction writer, in my first year. It was one of my favourite courses during my time at Guelph. He introduced me to short story writing and learning how to use emulation, imitation, to write our stories. Not plagiarism, but emulation. Being inspired by writers who came before and dissecting their craft, word by word, then using that as a jumping off point. My story We All Want To Change the World was crafted after studying The Swim Team by Miranda July. The two stories have absolutely nothing in common except for, the story began as an exercise in using the past and the present in the same story. My first draft was just that- it was about a woman (me), now in her forties, describing to her husband about the first time she fell in love with a boy named Pablo, and the Jukebox and the camping trip. I went back and forth in the story, from the present to the past, young girl to older woman. The story evolved with each draft until it became one told through the young girl’s perspective only, about this particular moment in her life, when she had her first crush on a boy and experiencing the feelings that all young adults begin to feel when they are growing up, that of a loss of innocence.
It was essential for me to capture my experience of growing up the daughter of Chilean exiles because I haven’t read any stories about this experience. It is a very unique perspective and as a child I always felt torn between the politicized world my parents carried with them and the world in which I liked boys and played with Barbies. I tried to capture that sense of being torn in two while still wanting to be a girl who likes a boy. And of course, the boy is himself politicized. In the exile reality, it is difficult to get rid of the nostalgia that one carries over from the country which one was forced to leave. My father still lives in this world, a limbo between Chile and Canada, which I find heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time.
In terms of genres or styles, I am new to short story writing. All of it is exciting to me. I am a playwright, so my work is created through dialogue alone. It was refreshing and scary to have to create a world using inner dialogue and long passages of description. I loved it very much, and I look forward to doing more of it. And for me, it is essential to tell the stories of the people who can’t tell their stories, either because they lack the language or are no longer here. My Chilean exile experience is a unique one, but seeing how the world is turning right now, I know that there are children arriving from places like Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan etc., who, like me, came here to Canada as babies or young children, and who will one day want to see themselves in the stories we tell. I am forty-five years into that story of exile, and I want to have it told in the stories we create in the Canadian milieu because this is where I call home. I want my children and my grandchildren to read about their culture and their heritage in the pages of books published in Canada.