Chanel M. Sutherland

May 14, 2024

The Stories We Leave Behind: How Alice Munro Shaped My Writing Journey

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In the vast landscape of literature, a quiet yet profound voice has guided my journey as a writer. That voice belongs to none other than Alice Munro, a master of the short story form whose influence on my writing is both undeniable and deeply cherished.

Coming to Canada, I was introduced to Munro’s writing at an early age. Her stories, filled with ordinary people and seemingly mundane experiences, spoke to me in a way that no other literature had before. Through her keen observations and exquisite storytelling, Munro showed me the beauty that lies within the everyday moments of life. As a young immigrant to Quebec, navigating a new country and culture was a daunting task. Everything around me felt foreign and unfamiliar, from the language spoken in the schoolyard to the customs celebrated by my classmates. In those early days, it was easy to feel lost and out of place.

I found solace in the pages of Alice Munro’s stories. Despite being set in small Canadian towns, Munro’s narratives transcended geographical boundaries, speaking directly to the human experience in all its complexity. Her characters grappled with universal themes of love, loss, and identity, offering me a sense of connection and belonging in a world that often felt overwhelming.

Through Munro’s writing, I was able to see myself reflected in the lives of her characters. Like them, I was navigating the challenges of adapting to a new culture, learning to find my place in a society that was vastly different from the one I had known before. Munro’s keen insights into human nature helped me make sense of my own emotions and experiences, offering me a sense of comfort and validation during those tumultuous early years.

Moreover, Munro’s stories served as a bridge between my old life and my new one. Through her vivid descriptions of the Canadian landscape and her portrayal of local customs and traditions, I gained a deeper appreciation for my adopted homeland. Her writing helped me see the beauty in the world around me, even as I struggled to find my footing in it.

One of Munro’s greatest gifts is her ability to uncover the universal truths hidden within the ordinary. Whether exploring the complexities of family dynamics or delving into the intricacies of human relationships, her writing is always grounded in a deep understanding of the human condition. It is this insight that has inspired me to seek out the beauty in my own surroundings and to shine a light on the often-overlooked aspects of daily life.

In my writing, I strive to emulate Munro’s ability to capture the essence of humanity in all its messy, imperfect glory. I write about the moments that may seem insignificant at first glance but reveal themselves to be profound reflections of our shared humanity upon closer examination. I write about the conversations shared over kitchen tables, the quiet moments of introspection, and the fleeting connections that shape our lives in big and small ways. Like Munro, I believe that there is profound beauty to be found in the seemingly ordinary, and it is my hope that my stories resonate with readers in the same way that hers have resonated with me.

As I continue my writing journey, I carry the lessons I’ve learned from Alice Munro. She has taught me that true greatness lies not in grandiose gestures or epic tales but in the quiet moments of everyday life. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

Though she may no longer walk among us, her legacy lives on in the pages of her stories, forever reminding us of the power of storytelling to connect us all. Rest in peace, dear Alice Munro. Your words will continue to inspire and resonate for generations, ensuring you will never truly fade away.

About the Author

Chanel M. Sutherland is the winner of the 2021 CBC Nonfiction prize and the 2022 CBC Short Story Prize. In addition, she was awarded the 2022 Mairuth Sarsfield Mentorship, longlisted for the 2022 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, and shortlisted for the Max Margles Fiction Prize. Chanel was also included on the CBC Books 30 Writers to Watch list for 2022.

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