The Voice, the Words, the Power

so here we are again with another guest blogger, please welcome the always insightful janine le gal. janine is a journalist and one of the founding members of the writers collective! we begged for some of her precious time to give us a glimpse of how she feels about writing during this, the writers collective commemorative tenth year. so glad she obliged us…

The Voice, the Words, the Power

By Janine LeGal

As a teenager in the early 80s, my fantasy job was to do what Gordon Sinclair was doing (and still does) for the Winnipeg Free Press, writing a weekly human-interest column sharing people’s stories, empowering them through the process and ultimately giving them a voice that they would otherwise not have.

For me growing up in a small conservative French Catholic community, having a voice meant having life.  I’d been taught early on not to talk about certain things, that it was best to keep things to oneself, even when I thought they were important and concerning enough to warrant attention, I was told not to be a trouble-maker.

So, here I am decades later and my fantasy of being Gordon-Sinclair like has been fulfilled.  I am writing for a living and telling people’s stories. That, plus I’m a troublemaker.  I’m taking my writing as far as I can in my human rights work and I’m doing all I can to give people a voice with their stories, their own writing and their own lives.  One of the things I always tell those I work with is this:  the best writers in the world are not necessarily the ones with the most degrees after their names, or the most awards on their shelves.  The best writers in the world are those who have something to say, a story to tell, one that transforms, inspires, compels, and leaves a mark in the reader’s consciousness, heart and soul.

We’ve all read books, all kinds of them.  I know that even as a young child I couldn’t get enough of them.  I’ve read thousands of books in my lifetime but I certainly don’t remember them all.  In fact I don’t even remember that many of them.  But I always remember those that had an impact, the strongest story that resonated with me at a particular time in my life.  In my pre-pubescent years it was Judy Blume’s ‘Are you there God?  It’s me, Margaret?’ because it helped me to understand what was happening to my body when nobody else would.  In my later years, it was Betty Smith’s ‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,’ for its exploration of the possibilities of beauty and hope growing from despair.  And of course there are a few more uplifting and transformative books on my favorites list, too many to mention here.

My entire life has been about finding my own voice and helping to give others a voice as well.  I understand the power of the written word.  It can uplift, educate, make you cry, take you to exotic places, free political prisoners, bring people together, make you laugh, replace war with peace, give you hope, and even save lives. Words are magical.  Our words are powerful and when they’re put in writing they have an indelible quality and force behind them.

Ten years ago, I, along with artist/writer Lori Broadfoot, and lawyer/writer Doug Jordan, founded the Writers’ Collective.  Our reason for doing so was to serve those who needed and wanted a voice and to offer resources that would help them in their careers and in their lives as writers.  I am proud to have a connection to what has over the years become a solid and helpful resource for local writers.

10 years later, the Writers Collective continues to grow strong and to remain true to its mandate.  I hope that all those reading this will take advantage of the many wonderful programs and services offered through this vibrant organization.  Congratulations to all of those who have worked so hard to keep it running and to continue giving everyone who connects with it a chance to be heard.

Janine LeGal is a writer and a human rights activist.

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