Everything Was Goodbye hit bookstore shelves in 2010 after winning The Great B.C. Novel Contest. In April 2011, it won the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize—and Basran believes none of it would have happened without The Writer’s Studio.
“Being around other people that are doing the same thing, and being in a space where you can believe that you’re a writer and you’re not just playing at it—it makes it very real,” she said. “It makes you take yourself seriously.”
Basran finds a place of complete honesty
The studio and Meena’s story have given Basran more than a new profession. They’ve changed her.
Her characters “very much feel like my very good friends,” Basran says. “Even though I’m not writing about them anymore, I still think, gee, what would Liam think, what would Meena think? …
“It sounds kind of crazy—but as you write about them, they just come to life. And they really write their own story. You don’t really get to write what you want to write …
“I wanted Meena to be better, she explains. “I wanted her to be smarter. And catch on a lot quicker. But any time I forced my current value set on the characters, it wasn’t authentic … You just have to kind of surrender to the page and let the characters come forward …
“Even at home, my husband and I talk about them like they’re real. Because for us, they are—I mean, we lived with them for so many years.”
Because of them, Basran isn’t afraid to be real with people.
When she first started writing, “everything was very appropriate. And everybody was very perfect. Everyone was very clever, everyone was very smart … When you’re writing, if you’re writing that way, we all know that that’s not authentic,” she says.
“It allowed me to … acknowledge the good and the bad in things, as opposed to being concerned with how things appear.”
Writing “is one of the only places where I am completely honest.”
Basran’s characters have also allowed her to experience things she once thought she understood.
Alongside Meena, Basran grieved the loss of Harj, Meena’s sister, who left her family in search of freedom from the cultural expectations she found so oppressive. Basran also sympathized with Meena as she resisted the urge to run away herself, and looked into the darkened eyes of Serena, Meena’s oldest sister, as Serena chose to stay in an abusive relationship.
“Prior to writing this,” Basran says, “I would have had judgements about a person running away, taking off, not dealing with their problems, and I would have had judgements about someone who stayed in a relationship that’s not healthy …
“Now I appreciate that I’m really not in a position to even have a judgement … People make decisions for all kinds of reasons.”
Basran says she initially wanted to make a statement about repression with the book—but that changed as she wrote.
“I realized that really … I couldn’t blanket an entire community and say, ‘This is a problem.’”
So she told one person’s story—gave one representation of her world.
“The message in the narrative is like any book,” Basran says. “Every book has a message … What that message is is really going to depend on where you are in your life.”
That’s why Basran won’t tell readers what happens next with Meena.
“The reader brings so much of their own experience to the reading that it would be unfair for me to divulge all the things that happen next.”
The Writer’s Studio and her characters have given Basran so much—but the best thing may be a new realization of who she is:
“I feel most myself when I am writing,” she told an online book club last year.
“It feels like home to me.”