Kirsty Cameron

What education have you taken?

I am in my last year of study at Brandon University, toward a Bachelor of Arts Degree, majoring in Creative Arts (writing and theatre), with a double minor in Philosophy, and Gender and Women’s Studies.

What accomplishments are you proud of?

I am proud of my struggle to cultivate a creative spirit while independently raising my daughter, who at 20 is herself a strongly vocal, creative, and independent spirit. I am proud of participating in the creation and maintenance of a community which is healthily bound by actively loving, honestly communicative, and mutually supportive relationships.

I have also gratefully engaged in many interesting experiences over the past decade: attending several births (including homebirths) while training as a doula; working as a nanny and family support; sitting on the board of the Brandon Folk Music and Art Society as the co-acting Chair and Festival Director; volunteering  through Westman Immigration Services as a teacher’s assistant in an E.A.L. classroom, and as a personal language development tutor; teaching theatre for several years to a large group of youth with the Treasure Chest Theatre Group; writing several original dramatic works for young actors, and directing and producing their performances; collaborating with friends and fellow artists in the production of several shows.

In May, 2009, in an attempt to raise awareness of the migrant’s plight, I travelled with a group of B.U. students (led by B.U. professor, and Latin American historian, Patricia Harms) to the Sonora Desert to participate in the 75-mile Migrant Trail March between Sasabe, Mexico, and Tucson, Arizona. I have written and presented creative works on the migrant experience.

I was awarded the Lauralei Cederstrom Award for academic excellence in the Gender and Women’s Studies department at Brandon University. My creative non-fiction work, “River Stitched”, was awarded second prize in its category by Prairie Fire Literary Journal in its annual literary contest, and was subsequently published in the Autumn, 2010 quarterly edition.

I am currently working on a thesis in creative writing.

Tell me about yourself/ your background/ your history.

When I was a younger woman searching for role-models, I would look upon various women of achievement and wonder how they came to be in the place that seemed so far from the one where I stood. I dropped out of high school during a tumultuous adolescence in which academics were not my priority, and became a mother at a young age. When I first entered University at age 21 (for a degree which I eventually left to focus on raising my daughter, and to care for personal health issues, until my return to formal studies in 2007), I was so anxious and shy that I could not meet anyone’s gaze in the halls. Compared to many of my fellow students, I was relatively poorly read and I saw myself as being culturally out of step and confused inside of an institutional academic setting, due in part to my particular class and education background. Like many young students, I was terrified to speak out in the classroom. Although I desired to learn, I was not sure if I deserved to be in University. I did not know exactly what to do to become a good student, or how to take advantage of the many opportunities waiting for me. I know better now!

How did you become interested in your field of study?

I am moved by Beauty and strange stories, by a love for the earth, by suffering, and by empathy for others. I loathe class/cultural/ethnic/gender/sex/ability-based inequities, and whatever other unjust and oppressive power guises are perpetuated and keep people from an authentic expression of their full being. I see ‘reality’ largely as a story that we tell ourselves about what is happening, and believe that all truths are situated within various narrative structures.

Poetry has always helped me to frame and connect to the world. I have always been drawn toward artists and story-tellers—by brave, brilliant, and outrageous souls—the Outlaws and Outcasts. I am inspired by people for whom even speaking or being comes at a cost, by people striving to make sense of themselves and their lives, to make sense of others and their lives—by those who struggle to make sense of Life. These people have been my models and teachers, and I will continue to endeavour to learn their wild shapes, and speak after their name.

One often writes after questions, I believe, and not in light of bold-faced answers. Curiosity is the ultimate driver, and it leads me nearly everywhere I want to go. Studies in Philosophy and Gender History provide various maps to explorations. Writing also is an attempt at connection. The theatre is a place of connection. The necessity of my own healing, and of my desire to understand and connect with myself and others, directs me continually into artistic expression.

At some point I became audacious enough to believe it would be a good idea to follow my passion. Since returning to B.U. to complete my degree I have been inspired, assisted, encouraged, and pushed along this course by several generous professors and other helpers. It is good to be led in this way! I have discovered here that much happiness is the product of risk and dedicated effort.

What is your philosophy in life?

“To look life in the face, always, to look life in the face, and to know it for what it is…at last, to love it for what it is, and then to put it away.”
This Virginia Woolf quote lately resonates with me. I think that existence is worthy of great inquiry! How hard it is to love life and to speak to that love in a world that can silence and hurt. Yet, what a wonderful opportunity one lifetime offers for the exploration of love.

I think it takes a fight to recognize and manifest one’s gifts in this world, and to learn to value education as a means of developing not only a career, but a richer existence.  If one’s gifts are recognized by others then this process may be accelerated. It is good and strengthening to challenge and celebrate ourselves and one another! That this challenge and celebration can occur within a formal academic setting elevates study, and the status of being a student. This is a place of privilege and possibility.

It is great for one to return to the world that which is at least equal to the gifts one has been given! I believe in following the flow of good fortune, and that privilege must be accompanied by responsibility. I attempt to offer to others what I receive by way of love, support, guidance, training, and nurturing. We all need to take care of one another as we make our way through.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

I intend to continue studying and learning. My short-term goals include continuing my mentorship, and developing a theatre/story-telling program based on Theatre of the Oppressed methodology to offer to students on a workshop basis, as a hired artist in rural public-school settings. I also plan to pursue a Master Degree in creative writing. In short, I want to teach, write, dance, collaborate on creative art projects, and  ideally spend as much time as possible in a little cabin by the lake—enjoying the rewards of friendship, and the satisfaction that comes from doing hard, good, and meaningful work.

Nominator’s Comments

Kirsty Cameron is quite a brilliant student.  Recently, she won a writing contest hosted by Prairie Fire, a Manitoba literary journal with a national reputation.