“One of the loveliest things that human beings do is tell stories to each other.”
So said Rudy Wiebe, a leading Canadian novelist, who is headlining the 2nd annual ‘Many Strands: Celebrating the Art of Storytelling,’ May 29 and 30 at MEI Middle School in Abbotsford.
The conference is not being called a Christian event, but the organizers and presenters are generally Christians and approach their work from that perspective.
It is an approach Wiebe is comfortable with. As a practicing Christian, he said he is “following in the steps of one of the best storytellers who ever lived.” He added: “The stories I write are written by a Christian; a Jesus follower should have a Christian response to events. But not everything we write is related to the church.”
Wiebe noted that many of the things Jesus talked about speak to our common humanity. “We think every Christian story should have some element of salvation, but most of Jesus’ stories don’t … Not every story has to end happily if you want to be believable.”
A case in point is Wiebe’s A Discovery of Strangers, which he considers “a profoundly Christian story” – even though it is the pagan Dene natives who act in a more humane, caring and Christian way than the Christian English sailors who encounter them.
It is ironic and somewhat disappointing to Wiebe that his novels have been readily accepted in secular universities and literary circles, but have often been less warmly received in Christian circles.
He suggested his writings have been “too indefinite for some Christian readers.”
On the first evening of the conference, Wiebe will read from50 Years of Stories. His first short story was published in 1956.
The following evening, he will give a lecture on ‘Where the Truth Lies: Exploring the Nature of Fact and Fiction.’ The title has a double meaning. Wiebe said people are always asking of his fiction, “Is it true?” when they really mean: “Is it factual? Did it happen in time?” Wiebe commented, “Truth doesn’t have to have much to do with fact at all.”
On the other hand, when we label something non-fiction, “people assume it is all true, and that is problematic.” Three people will often remember the same event differently, and “all language is image, a sound that only represents something else.”
For that reason, Wiebe prefers to present “ambiguity and meaning” in his work – which, he said, allows the reader “to participate in the shaping of the story.”
The conference will also feature other ‘strands’ of storytelling: cinematographer Jan Kiesser, author Marnie Wooding, balladeer Jonathan Michael, graphic designer Neil Klassen, writer Selma Turner, communications consultant Steve Rudy, children’s writer Donna Richards, and classical singer Sukainah Rahimtula.
Contact: manystrands.ca or 604.852.3701.