Taking a stand through the arts

February 7, 2018 | Arts & Culture

Reading Identity conference allows students to share creative and academic work

With creative writing, it’s not just a story. The arts are a way for us to take a stand. It’s important to be involved in a community that challenges pre-conceived notions of how things should be. We look at the nuances, we read between the lines and we challenge. We know how to argue.

I started presenting and volunteering at the Reading Identity conference three years ago. Being as introverted as I am, I never thought I would enjoy presenting, but I love that it can be a performance. It’s so vibrant to me. It builds a sense of community when you share ideas, and I like hearing what the faculty has to say about my writing.

Presenting creative work helps me grow as a writer. While some of the comments aren’t always helpful or warranted, it doesn’t just help you create a thicker skin, it allows you to defend your choices, and make people see your work in a light they hadn’t considered.

This year, I presented a short story at Reading Identity, Chasing the White Dragon. The main character of Shelley becomes very dark, and I wanted to dig into the backstory of what made her so dark, which is why I included her ex-boyfriend, Parker. Taking something like sexual assault, and thinking about #metoo and all that’s happening in the world, I wanted to reinforce that “little things” aren’t really little. It’s the microaggressions that can push someone to their breaking point.

Shelley’s narrative is about how circumstances can make you dark. I want to show it’s okay to have darkness in you, because it’s not what defines you. Your actions define you.

—Danielle Steinke, 4th year, Bachelor of Arts, English Honours

Reading Identity is an undergraduate conference organized by students and faculty in MacEwan's Department of English. Students presented both creative and academic work from February 2-3.

This is part of our Portraits of MacEwan series on Facebook. To see other inspiring stories from members of the MacEwan community, visit Facebook.com/MacEwanUniversity.

Excerpt from Danielle’s short story, Chasing the White Dragon:

The duo makes their way across the rocky terrain. Football calls echo in the background and a whistle trills through the air, an indication that the practice is coming to a close. Shelley can hear her father’s booming voice cracking across the stadium, starting when Parker’s hand finds the small of her back. “I got somethin’ to show you,” he drawls, pressing a gentle kiss to her cheek. He runs his free hand through her hair, pulling her closer. He presses a soft kiss against her lips, nipping at the bottom one. His kisses become harder and more urgent, his body rolling erratically, pressing her for more. Shelley pulls back, wrenching her body from his. “C’mon, sugar. Just a li’l more, just another li’l kiss,” he murmurs.

“No,” she insists, pushing him gently back.

His face contorts into something horrific, any indication of the sweet Southern boy melting away as she repeats the world ‘no.’

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