“The WCC allowed me to embark on a journey of deep self-discovery and blooming.”
We’re thrilled to announce Shirin Tobie-Paul as the WCC Chapter Lead in Ottawa! This month, we asked Shirin to share with us a reflection on her journey as a WCC writer, facilitator, and now chapter lead.
Can you describe your WCC journey? How did you arrive here, at this moment?
I attended one writing session at the Evelyn Gregory Library and fell in love with the Writers Collective of Canada, then called the Toronto Writers Collective. I knew after my first write that I wanted to become a facilitator. I told myself that if anyone suggested that I serve in this way, it would be the confirmation that I had to obey the pull. I received lots of confirming pulls and shoves.
I promised that my answer to the WCC would always be “yes!”. Whenever Siobhan, Director of Volunteers and Programs, called with the invitation for me to facilitate or co-facilitate workshops, she knew that I would show up.
What is meaningful to you, as a WCC facilitator and chapter lead?
I want the world to attend WCC workshops. I want everyone to experience our unique offering. Creating safe spaces
for writers’ stories to sit for a moment, especially in these times of division, is an honour. Our six essential practices provide the scaffolding to build something beautiful.
This will always be my favourite part of what we do: A writer shows up for the first time not knowing what to expect, they feel something different, and return each week until they are bravely sharing their stories with the group.
What connections can you make between the celebration of Black History Month — during which we reflect on brilliant legacies, diasporic histories, and investments in Black futurity — and the work of igniting authentic voice?
The art of storytelling is an integral part of allowing us to remember where we come from, who we are, and how we thrive. As a girl, I loved sitting with the adults while I listened to the oral stories that taught me much about our journey around the world.
Our workshops go further in welcoming the deepest parts of our stories and giving them a safe space to be explored authentically and with courage.
How have you experienced sharing YOUR story? What has the impact been as you have connected to your own authentic voice?
I have enjoyed hiding for years. I kept my stories buried inside me. I didn’t want to call attention to myself. I wanted to fiercely protect the little girl who had never felt safe.
The WCC allowed me to embark on a journey of deep self-discovery and blooming. Each time that I shared deeply, others were moved to tears. I realized that nurturing the process where my words grew from seed to healing tree allowed many to get a bit of shade, where they could find their own voices and release them through words.
We’re connecting with our community of writers and facilitators to ask them why they write. We welcome you to write to the prompt “I write because…” and tell us why!
I write because I fell in love with words at age seven and the love affair is eternal. I love the way letters are formed and how they come together to create a word that elicits an emotion. I love how they swirl on a page and create stories.
I write because it allows me to manage my emotions on paper. I write it all down, I read it and read it again. I sit with it, ruminate and grow.
I write because someone is awaiting my story to help on their journey to healing. Vulnerability through my words is a gift that I choose to give to those who are ready to receive them.
I write for peace. Writing takes me away immediately, to old joys and adventures in the future. Sometimes it anchors me to the present. A fresh sheet of paper and a pen hold endless possibilities. Possibilities that I lovingly and gently give room to tumble, hide or frolic.
I write to remember. Paper and pen are trusted friends. Friends who know.