May 11, 2014

Tell It Slant by Connie Inglis

I am currently working on finishing a course through Athabasca University called Writing Creative Non-fiction. The textbook for this course is called, Tell It Slant by Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola. I would recommend it for anyone interested in developing their creative non-fiction writing skills. The chapters are informative and include excellent writing exercises. Also included is an anthology of essays. Needless to say, I am learning a lot. I don't know if my essays will ever turn into a book; I would like them to but I leave that up to God and His perfect timing in what He wants me to do with my writing.

I don't have a "usual" genre since I still feel like a babe in my writing. I must say, however, that poetry is probably my favourite genre, including song lyrics, and it has been the genre I've been dabbling in the longest. Reading good poetry is like getting a little slice of heaven on earth. And when I write a poem that I know is Spirit-inspired I feel the same.

For a few years now my children have asked me to write down the stories of our lives, which have been anything but typical. We have worked overseas with Wycliffe Bible Translators for most of the last 30 years and have moved more than 20 times in that time. See. Not typical. So I started thinking about how to do that in a creative way and when I came across this online course, I decided that this was what I needed to jump start my memoir writing.

I am almost finished the course and while I do enjoy getting the memories down on paper, I don't always enjoy the process. That's mostly because I have to follow specific writing prompts which I have found stifling at times. However, these prompts have been forcing me out of my comfort zone which is always a good thing because I am being stretched. Plus, it teaches me to give it all to God and rely more on the Holy Spirit for wisdom and guidance.

I guess I am discovering that I have a LOT of stories bottled up in my head that I need to share, specifically with my children but also my extended family. They have all been reading my essays and have been very encouraging to me. And I am continuously reminded that God is good and faithful and loves my stories too.

The following excerpt is from one assignment entitled, "At the Trail's End." This event happened when we lived on a little island in the southern Philippines called Ramos Island (you probably won't find it on a map because it was only 8 km in diameter). No roads. No electricity except for the solar panels on our roof. Our only contact with the outside world was on a 2-way radio that we used once a day to check in with our center. To say the Molbog people were poor is an understatement--they basically survived from one day to the next. One day a lady came to our hut asking for medical help for a little girl who had fallen out of the sling she was in while her mother was burning a field. I grabbed our medical kit and followed her to a hut I had never been to before.

That's the background to this excerpt:

We zigged and zagged to the trail’s end and finally arrived at a crude, one-room hut. “Help me, God. Help me give hope,” I whispered as I risked the rickety steps. There, on a low table in the centre of that one room lay the little girl. A group of adults sat cross-legged around her. The emotion in their faces surprised me, one of shame more than sadness. Nevertheless, I greeted each one out of respect and turned to the girl—a malnourished five-year-old. Most of her right side was burned, her thigh and arm the most serious with second-degree burns. Except for remnants of gray ash, her face was untouched for which I was thankful. She was awake and looked at me with fearful red eyes. I responded with a slight smile, forcing down my own feelings of inadequacy. I can help this one little girl, give her hope. I asked for some water and pulled out my soap and bag of clean cotton cloths. I worked slowly and gently, knowing I was causing pain but that I had to do this right to prevent infection. Then I gently wrapped gauze around her thin, delicate foot, leg and arm. The room remained silent. I knew no words of comfort other than, “I’m sorry” but the words seemed inappropriate.

As I worked I remembered a comment an acquaintance back in Canada had made: “There are at least 500 million poor people in the world. What is the point of even trying to help?”

I looked at the child before me. As she fought back tears I saw her strength of will. It was a strength that I had witnessed in the Molbog people since our arrival—a testament to their desire to survive in a destitute world. And then it hit me. I could not help the 500 million poor in the world but I could help one. And so, turning to the one laying before me, I offered her my hand, my cursory medical understanding and my surrender to be in it with them. This could be the bridge to cross the great cultural divide.


  1. Connie, I was powerfully impacted in how you "surrendered to be in it with them". I too have wondered how missionaries can make a difference for Christ, and your story tells this more clearly than I've understood before. (The excerpt was professionally written, by the way. Well done.)

    As for 'stifling prompts', while they can frustrate me as well, I'm often startled at the memories they trigger, the stories they bring forward. God has you in the course for a reason. I bet if you start at the beginning again, once you're done, you'll get a whole new book of different essays for not just your family, but the world as well!

    Keep on keeping on.

  2. Wow, Connie, that brings back memories. Yes, write your book. I wrote, God's Mimic, the biography of Hazel Page, who did translation in the Philippines with OMF. I didn't know what I was doing when I started but you will never regret doing it. God is our wisdom.

  3. I have heard this phrase before (tell it slant) - not sure if it is from the course or elsewhere. Good post

  4. This is such a touching story, Connie. It's good you are writing down your memories. They certainly will touch people.
    Pam Mytroen

  5. Thanks for all your encouraging comments. Being part of Inscribe, and a part of all your lives, has been so good for me. I thank God for each one of you.

  6. Brilliant, Connie. I was with you there. Your presentation of your heart and emotions were spot on and O how I felt for you as you attended to your one out of 500 million. Praying that the little girl recovered well and remembers your tenderness. Bless you and do enjoy the rest of the course. Learning is never a waste.

  7. Connie, I hope you keep writing, I can imagine you have thousands of stories. I too am taking a creative non-fiction class with Tell It Slant as our text--the cover is different, wonder if we have different editions. Mine is through UofC.
    All the best with the course and your writing.

  8. It was Emily Dickinson who suggested we tell all the truth but tell it slant. The course you are taking sounds interesting Jocelyn and Connie. I wonder which course would be better--the one at Athabasca U or the at U of C. A lot depends on the instructor too, I'd say.

    Thanks for this good story, Connie.


Thank you for taking the time to join in the conversation. Our writers appreciate receiving your feedback on posts you have found helpful or meaningful in some way.