Pearls of wisdom, past and present

Maurice Hodgson Award Winner from 2014, Cole Klassen, at the Pearls 33 launch event. Image by Cheryl Minns
Maurice Hodgson Award Winner from 2014, Cole Klassen, at the Pearls 33 launch event. Image by Cheryl Minns

Celebrating creative writing talent at Douglas College

By Cheryl Minns, Arts Editor

Every year, the Douglas College creative writing department releases the newest edition of the student anthology Pearls. Filled with students’ non-fiction, poetry, fiction, and scripts, each edition offers something new that represents the variety of creative writing at the college. This year, Pearls 34 will be released on March 27 at the anthology’s launch event, featuring readings from eight of the book’s contributors.

Writer Carleigh Baker, a former Douglas College creative writing student, had her poetry and script published in Pearls 30 and a fiction story in Pearls31. At the 2011 Pearls event, she read her poem, “Sailor Jerry, Young Love, Saint Mary,” and won the Maurice Hodgson Award for Creative Writing.

“Reading at the launch was wonderful and exciting, but a real challenge. I was nervous—really, really nervous,” Baker wrote to the Other Press, reflecting on her Pearls experience. “But after years of readings, I can guarantee that it does get better. I love reading now, and I find it very satisfying to share stories with a live audience.”

Nina Falcos, a Douglas College creative writing student and music graduate, will be reading her personal non-fiction story “Symphonic Repose” at the Pearls 34 launch event, a story about her choosing the last classical music piece for her ailing grandmother to hear.

“I think ‘Symphonic Repose’ speaks for itself. It was one where my instructor wrote at the bottom of it, ‘Do not touch this. Do not change a word.’ I dug deep for that one. It’s very personal,” she said to the Other Press.

The creative writing department accepted three of Falcos’ works for Pearls 34: “Symphonic Repose,” a poem titled “Bjossa,” and a fiction story titled “Table 16.” However, due to the book’s space limitations, only “Bjossa” and one of the longer works would fit. Falcos decided to include “Symphonic Repose” in Pearls 34, but plans to submit “Table 16”—an emotional story about two journalists of different lifestyles about to sign divorce papers—to other publications.

Pearls gives creative writing students the opportunity to have their work published and take the first steps towards establishing a writing career. It also shows students the skill-level they need to achieve in order to excel in the writing field.

“In class, we’re always getting Pearls examples from people who are now established writers,” Falcos said.

Baker is one such writer who has become successful after being published in Pearls.

“My time at Douglas built the foundation I depend on today,” she wrote. “My professors were gentle enough to keep my delicate ego intact as I learned to take risks and express myself, but firm enough to keep me on track, learning and growing.”

Falcos and Baker encourage students to attend Pearls events, to support friends whose work has been featured in the book, or to learn more about the craft of creative writing.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing what other people have contributed. To see someone read it and be proud of it and hear it from their own voice is going to be really neat,” Falcos said.

“Writers especially need to go because it is so inspiring to hear people read,” Baker wrote. “Bring a journal in case you need to scribble down something in between sets.”

The Pearls 34 launch event will take place on March 27 in the Studio Theatre on the fourth floor of the Douglas College New Westminster campus.