A per­sonal jour­ney shared

Nicole Spence launch­ing mem­oir Dec. 7 at Tall & Small Café

The Casket - - Wheels - RICHARD MACKENZIE richard­[email protected]­cas­ket.ca

The Tall & Small Café in down­town Antigo­nish is host­ing a spe­cial book launch, Dec. 7 from 6 to 8 p.m., as lo­cal writer Nicole Spence in­tro­duces her mem­oir Some­where North of Where I


Pro­mo­tional ma­te­rial speaks to the con­tent of the book.

“Some­where North of Where I Was is the heart-rend­ing story of a young girl whose child­hood in­no­cence was stolen,” the pas­sage reads.

“Re­told with the re­flec­tive voice of a woman who has sur­vived and tran­scended the trauma of child­hood poverty, ne­glect and abuse, Spence’s wis­dom and poignant sto­ry­telling abil­i­ties, draw you into the world of a lit­tle girl whose tragic cir­cum­stances are tem­pered with fond fam­ily mem­o­ries. One may be left to won­der how it is a child can sur­vive and move beyond such ex­pe­ri­ences.”

In an email in­ter­view with the Cas­ket, Spence talked about her de­but book be­ing such a per­sonal and re­veal­ing pro­ject.

“As I say in the first page, ‘ev­ery fam­ily has skeletons in their closet. In my fam­ily there are armies. We are, how­ever, the ex­cep­tion to the rule. In my fam­ily, our skeletons are out danc­ing for ev­ery­one to see.’

“Hon­estly, this has been my life’s work. I wrote the first ver­sion when I was 15, in my Grade 9 English jour­nal,” Spence said.

“The orig­i­nal ti­tle was Noth­ing Can Take Away the Pain. It was my truth at the time. I was so cer­tain, back then, that it would be­come a book … and a movie some­day (I still do, by the way) … that I went to a lo­cal no­tary and had him stamp it so that I could main­tain the copy­right. He chuck­led at me but stamped it just the same.

“I picked it up again af­ter my sis­ter was mur­dered dur­ing my se­nior year of uni­ver­sity

(1993-94). See­ing her life end so trag­i­cally drove me to live my life beyond the cir­cum­stances of our child­hood. Pill Mil­ner’s English 420, Creative Writ­ing class gave me the space to re-write as a sur­vivor what I had first writ­ten as a vic­tim.”

Spence talked about an “un­known force” driving her for­ward.

“I wish I could name it,” she said of the ‘force.’

“I have taken the past 25 years to write it be­cause it has taken me that long to get where I am and be­come the per­son I am to­day. No longer a vic­tim, or sur­vivor, but a woman who has the life ex­pe­ri­ence to back up what she says and who has tran­scended those la­bels.

“I have met and be­come friends with so many peo­ple, men and women alike, who have ex­pe­ri­enced, al­co­holism, vi­o­lence, sex­u­al­ized vi­o­lence … and sur­vived. Many have found their voice. Many have not. All of them have a courage and strength that is im­mea­sur­able and ad­mirable, even when they don’t feel it them­selves.”

Asked about the big­gest chal­leng­ing in get­ting the book ready for pub­li­ca­tion, Spence quipped “fin­ish­ing it.”

“Se­ri­ously, though, get­ting it pub­lished was easy,” she wrote.

“I fin­ished the man­u­script a full year be­fore I be­gan look­ing for a pub­lisher. Through a se­ries of syn­chro­nis­tic events, I found my­self at Pitch the Pub­lisher on Sept. 16, 2017, at the Word on the Street Fes­ti­val, two days af­ter my son had spinal cor­rec­tive surgery. My son wished me good luck and I made the 10-minute walk from the IWK. I lis­tened while oth­ers gave their pitch. I had no clue what to in­clude. I had prac­ticed var­i­ous ver­sions and knew I had just five min­utes to com­plete the pitch.

“Lis­ten­ing to the oth­ers, as well as the re­sponses from the pub­lish­ers gave me a re­ally good grasp on what they wanted to hear. I stepped up to the podium and gave my pitch, which was ex­actly five min­utes.”

Her suc­cess­ful pitch has seen the book pub­lished by Acorn Press.

As for the launch lo­ca­tion, Spence talked about why the pop­u­lar Main Street café is the ap­pro­pri­ate set­ting.

“I wrote a lot of the book in the safe space of The Tall & Small Café,” she said.

“The first page, re­flect­ing on the death of my sis­ter, was writ­ten in the old Tall & Small, be­fore Meghan and Zack ex­panded. It is such a won­der­ful space for writ­ers and artists. Meghan (Peters) and Zack (Benoit) have a gold mine of a spot. I am not even sure if they re­al­ize what an im­por­tant part of the com­mu­nity they are.

“When I asked Meghan if I could have the venue there, she was very ex­cited and sup­port­ive. The re­sponse from my friends and col­leagues has been great, so far. I’m ex­cited and a lit­tle ner­vous, but launch­ing it at The Tall and Small, feels like I’m bring­ing it full cir­cle. With my fam­ily there, it will feel like home. There is no bet­ter place to be.”


Lo­cal writer Nicole Spence will be launch­ing her book Some­where North of Where I Was, Nov. 7 at the Tall & Small Café in Antigo­nish.

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