The SFU authors spotlight

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By Monica Miller

Sarah Leavitt is a graduate of SFU’s Writer’s Studio (2002) and a published author in a variety of genres including comics, fiction and non-fiction. While doing her MFA for Creative Writing at UBC, Leavitt completed her first version of Tangles, a graphic memoir about her mother dying of Alzheimer’s.

“When my mother got Alzheimer’s disease, I knew I had to record what was happening to her and to our family,” Leavitt explains in the book’s introduction. Leavitt’s mother had passed away in the fall of 2004, and the book took six years to complete.

The final narrative was Tangles: A Story About Alzheimer’s, My Mother and Me, published by Freehand Books in 2010. It illustrated the powerful and emotional true story of Midge Leavitt’s battle with Alzheimer’s and the effect on their family, specifically Sarah herself. Tangles is a raw narrative — vivid, unforgiving, honest, humiliating, and yet compassionate, moving, and at times humorous.

Tangles was a finalist for the 2010 Writers’ Trust of Canada Non-fiction Prize (the first graphic narrative to be a finalist in the category), was shortlisted for the 2011 B.C. Book Prizes’ Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize, and a number of other accolades.

Recently, Sarah Leavitt participated in Northwords, a cross-platform project spearheaded by Shelagh Rogers. Rogers invited five authors to join her for a week of “roughing it” in the Torngat Mountains National Park in Labrador, to “explore how experiences on the land could be transformed into the geography of the imagination.” The writing and experiences of the authors, including Leavitt, has been published in an e-book, as well as on an interactive website and documentary film.

 

 Gurjinder Basran graduated from SFU’s Writer’s Studio in 2006. Her first novel was published in 2010 with Mother Tongue Publishing, after winning the Search For the Great B.C. Novel contest. Everything Was Good-bye began as a journaling project with Basran’s sisters and later morphed into a novel during the Writer’s Studio. The novel focuses on a young Indo-Canadian woman named Meena growing up in the Lower Mainland, struggling with her independence in a traditional Punjabi home.

Basran won the 2011 B.C. Book Prizes’ Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, and in an interview noted that The Writer’s Studio was incredibly influential. “Being in a space where you can believe that you’re a writer and you’re not just playing at it — it makes it very real. It makes you take yourself seriously.”

In an effort to gain more international notice, Everything Was Good-bye was picked up by Penguin Group for a second print run in March of this year, and will be published in the U.S. by Pintail Books on Dec. 31, 2012. Currently, Basran is working on her second novel, despite readers wanting to hear more of Meena’s story.

Basran, along with David Chariandy and Caroline Adderson (both of whom are instructors at SFU) are the three judges for the next Great B.C. Novel contest. Gurjinder Basran’s photograph was also included in the recently published 111 West Coast Literary Portraits from Mother Tongue Publishing.