I want to introduce my friend since grade 5 who is a wonderful story teller. Laurel Parry lives in Whitehorse, Yukon. She has published a smattering of stories and poems and has recently completed a novel. She illustrated two cookbooks, The Boreal Gourmet and the Boreal Feast by Michele Genest. Laurel tends to write about the interior of family life and most of her writing includes geology references. Her short stories are particularly marvelous.


Years ago at a writing workshop I learned about the creative non-fiction genre. We discovered that by using literary techniques of dialogue, scene and summary, writers could tell their own stories, or document events in history and they could calibrate their “involvement” in the story. One of the examples offered was Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, an account of a murder in Kansas in 1959 of a farmer and three of his family members. Capote traveled to the small town, which was in the throes of an unsolved murder, and conducted his own investigation with the help of his friend, Harper Lee. I instantly pictured the book’s cover. The bold font with its bloodied graphics.

Growing up, I remembered seeing that book on the shelf no matter where we lived. My mother explained that her father, Albert, had been an English professor and retired in 1966, the year that the book came out. At the time he wrote her a letter, excited with this new “non fiction novel” form and how it would revolutionize the way people would read and write. He was teaching his last year before retiring and included it in that year’s class. Albert sent her the book that year.

When I read the book, so many years later, two yellowed newspaper clippings dropped out. A review from the New York Times and the other, a short article about the murder of the Clutter family. The letter is long gone. I read the book and got behind the plot, noticing the style that Capote employed and thought fondly of my grandfather who died when I was seven. He never got to enjoy his retirement, which lasted for less than a year. I remembered a kind, bespectacled man, driving us around in a big clean car, telling us things that he thought we should know. There was an importance to everything he said, and he told us that there was such a thing called philosophy and that we had to build our own versions of one.

In a country as big as Canada families typically spend a lot of time in the car. We traveled more than most, because we moved around a lot and each place seemed to be more remote and far-flung than the previous. We had to entertain ourselves for long stretches. My father, Cam, was a storyteller and he would tell us about someone he knew who was faced with a conundrum of one kind or another. The protagonists in these stories were fascinating. There were misunderstandings with shameful, heroic or heartbreaking consequences. I marvelled at how many interesting people he seemed to encounter.

It wasn’t until years later that I realized that he was merely describing plotlines from short stories he’d read. If you look at my family’s bookshelves you will see well-read O Henry, Somerset Maugham, and Saki books scattered among them. I read the stories now and recall the three of us spellbound in the backseat while Dad told us about the woman who sold her hair so she could buy her husband a watch chain only to discover that he had sold his watch to buy her tortoiseshell hair combs. I wondered at the sudden humility of the know-it-all on the ship who kept his mouth shut, losing a bet, and inviting disgrace to save the honour of the woman whose pearls were the real deal, jewelry far too expensive for her working-class husband to afford. And the chilling story about a man escalating an argument with his wife, who doesn’t answer him. He doesn’t know this, but the reader does: she’d been dead the whole afternoon.

I miss Albert and Cam, my grandfather and father. But all I have to do to bring them to mind is pick up a book.

About Kim Hudson

KIM HUDSON Author of The Virgin’s Promise I grew up in the Yukon, as what I would describe as a Hero’s daughter with a Cinderella Complex. Basically life taught me many of the things I needed to know to write my first book, The Virgin's Promise. It is on a story structure for a character that needs to connect to who she really is, separate from what everyone else expects of her. It uses movie example and is equally applicable to any kind of story telling. I spent the first half of my career first as a field geologist and later as a federal land claims negotiator. It was the 80's and I was proving I could do whatever men could do. I also learned that I am fascinated with masculine/feminine dynamics. Exploring my feminine side became important to me as I raised my two daughters. This lead me to study Writing for Film and Television at Vancouver Film School, and take courses on mythology, feminism and psychology including a Jungian Odyssey in Switzerland. The theory of the Virgin's journey was developed by closely observing the archetypal expressions that are all around us in movies, music, television, advertisements and stories of personal growth, including my own. In my posts I want to introduce an archetypal structure that expands the work of Joseph Campbell on the Hero's journey to include a feminine archetype. I hope it will create stories about women and men who follow their spiritual, sexual or creative awakening, otherwise known as their feminine side. I’ve tried to use examples of male and female Virgins to show this. So go ahead and explore the ideas, tell me what movies you liked and what stories you think is also a Virgin pathway, or stories of your own personal Virgin journey.
This entry was posted in Guest Posts. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Backstory

  1. Edie Ramer says:

    Laurel, you had such a great background for a writer. I never knew either of my grandfathers, and only one grandmother. But my mother was a huge reader, and a favorite memories is when we gathered around her and she read fairy tales. I can definitely say I got my love of books from her.

  2. Mary Hughes says:

    Hi, Kim and Laurel,

    Laurel, welcome! What a wonderful way to remember your father and grandfather! Thank you for sharing these beautiful memories. I have only to step into a library and smell the books to remember my family and the trips we made to our small library when I was a child. I haven’t read any creative nonfiction but now I will look for it!

Comments are closed.