Suture is born

Suture was born in 2012, when I was 20 years old and finishing my third year of university. I'd transferred out of Ryerson's Journalism program (too cutthroat for my soft little heart), and I was now studying English and Professional Writing at York University, with a specialization in book publishing. I was cramming a four-year program into two years, and I ended up taking a mix of first, second, third, and fourth-year courses both years that I was studying there.

So in January 2012, I was in a second-year English class on Satire, and for our final assignment we had a choice: we could write an essay, or we could write a satire. Of course, being the keen young writer that I was, I chose to write a satire, and it was called "On Judging Art" -- and so my favourite opening lines were born:

He watches his heart pulse in a dark pool of congealing blood. 

Shifts it slightly to the left. 

It would be two more years before I came back to this universe where making art meant tearing a body open, and absolutely everything about the story would change: my main character became a young woman, I dropped any satirical aspirations at all, and the focus of the story shifted from being about artists to being about mental health. You can hear a little bit more about why Suture took the turns it did in this video:

Making it happen

During my time at York, I was often taking 5-6 classes (so that I could finish up my degree as soon as possible), and I worked as a research assistant three days a week in a work/study program. The research was very cool, although I didn't understand it at the time: I was helping to catalogue a physical collection of about 1,100 Edwardian-era postcards exchanged primarily between three sisters in southern Ontario. The purpose of the cataloguing was to ultimately contribute to discussions on both ephemera and communication--it all went entirely over my head at the time, but I still remember the work fondly!

I rented one bedroom in a three-bedroom apartment at Keele and Finch in Toronto; my roommates were strangers, and we had no furniture in our shared living spaces. My parents (who still lived in BC) paid my tuition, and I was responsible for all my other expenses.

My muses

My three most significant and earliest influences were actually from 2011, but I wanted to include them here because I think they really help demonstrate where I started. Many of my 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 favourites were big learning moments for me: the first time I was encountering literature that broke outside of what I'd been told writing was, and was for.

I have to remind us all that these books were read by a 20-year-old Nic, a 2011 Nic, a Nic who hadn't learned about feminism or representation, and a Nic who was desperately trying to understand where her heart and head belonged in this world. I promise, my selections grow as I do.

Endgame, by Samuel Beckett

I haven't reread this play since I first had to read it for a modernism class, but I distinctly remember the impression it left on me. You can do that? I thought. You can write in circles, in circles, in circles, you can write an essence without a story, you can carry an audience through the void? Previously, my big inspirations had been Ernest Hemingway and George Orwell, I had been learning to distill a feeling into a scene, learning to show not tell, learning clarity and brevity, and here all of a sudden was the opposite: a thick, muddy, meandering story--not a story at all--that felt more real and true than anything.

Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell

This was another you can do that? moment for me: a book with six stories that have nothing to do with each other, that are split in half down the middle and told from start to middle, interrupted, returning for middle to end. (If you know, thank you; if you don't, Google Cloud Atlas for a better explanation!) This book was a lesson in nestling and in voice and in undoing: it went far beyond the boundaries of what I'd previously understood a novel could be, in that each story within the novel unhinged from itself. By simply calling itself a novel, by nesting its stories within each other like dolls, a collection of short stories turned itself into a novel and built themselves a universe. This was also my first tiny foray into thinking about genre, rules, and rulebreaking in creative writing.

Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

Catch-22 held its title as my favourite book from 2011 until 2019, when it was ousted by Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse--even as my tastes changed, even as I grew as a reader, Catch-22 stayed in the number one spot. What blew me away about this book was how the structure, narrative, and core emotion of the novel all tied into each other perfectly, expertly. The first half of the book jumps around in time, and feels almost like it exists outside of time, the characters' lives feeling circular and unmoored, with stakes so high they don't feel real. Then, about halfway through the book, a tragedy involving all of the previously independent characters takes place, and suddenly the novel feels like a regular novel: it climbs unbearably high, it races, it drags the reader along a story and bellows weren't you paying attention as you and the book and the characters are all forced to live the rest of the story in unsparing and chronological detail.

See you soon for a 2013 check-in!