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One Strong Girl one ‘gut-wrenching, honest, heartfelt book’

October 28, 2018

Lesley Buxton was a fiction writer who’d given up on fiction. “Fiction seemed frivolous compared to what was going on in our home.” Her daughter was dying. She needed to understand what was happening, and why, and how to cope. “I visited websites and blogs that dealt with grief, hoping for answers. The answers I found were often clichéd or prescriptive.”

So she started a blog, “Fall on Me, Dear,” not only to look for those answers but also to “share what it was like to mother a very sick child—the isolation, the heartache, but also the beauty.” From the start, readers responded positively. “People wrote me from all over the world sharing their experiences.”

One of her readers was King’s MFA mentor Lorri Neilsen Glenn who suggested her blog could become a book and told her more about the King’s limited residency program. “I was hooked.”

In November 2018, Buxton’s MFA manuscript, One Strong Girl — which won this year’s first annual Pottersfield Prize for Creative Nonfiction — will be published by Pottersfield Press. Publisher Lesley Choyce describes it as “a gut-wrenching, honest, heartfelt book. The writing is powerful… a difficult story well told.”

“King’s,” Buxton says now, “was the perfect fit for me. I needed the intimacy of a small university. We all hung out together, cheered for each other during readings, talked about our projects. I remember feeling privileged to be surrounded by such intelligence and compassion. I received support from all the mentors, not just my own.”

Her primary mentor during the program was Vancouver writer Jane Silcott. “She knew it wasn’t enough for me to tell my story. I wanted to tell it beautifully. She was fabulous at showing me where I’d fallen short, or letting me know what I needed to expand.”

When Buxton learned she’d won the Pottersfield prize, she says, Silcott was one of the first people she told. “Her response was great.  She said, ‘Of course, you did.’”

Buxton’s decision to submit her manuscript to the competition also has a King’s connection. She and her fellow Class of 2016 grad, Sue Harper, still meet weekly in person or over Skype to critique each other’s work. “She sent me an email basically telling me to apply… Sue’s a former high school English teacher so I always do as she tells me.”

Buxton and Harper are currently collaborating on a children’s book, a guide to British Columbia’s regional museums. Buxton’s next solo project will focus on alleged physical and sexual abuse at the Grenville Christian College where she was a student in the eighties. Though she was not herself a victim, “we were all affected by the constant tension that dominated the atmosphere. I want to figure out why it took so long for the truth to be revealed and what the fallout has been for the former students.”

For more information about — or to apply to — the King’s MFA program, visit our website or contact MFA Executive Director Kim Pittaway. Applications for the 2019-20 academic year are now open.