The winners of an adult writing competition sponsored by the Western Manitoba Regional Library (WMRL) may not be full-time, professional creators, but they’re treating the hobby like it is.
Lenora Buffi and Renee Cronley were handed top honors in the 2018 WMRL Short Story and Poetry Contest. The inaugural year of the initiative, which was run October through mid-December, had about two dozen entries in each of the short story and poetry divisions. The WMRL announced the winning contributions on Jan. 23.
Buffi won for her short story, “Clarity,” which takes an emotional look at abuse suffered by seniors affected by debilitating illnesses such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease. The protagonist, Ruth, is unable to care for herself and relies on her husband, Roger, to function on a daily basis. Roger, a gambling addict, is not putting his wife’s best interests before his vice.
Buffi, a 54-year-old resident of Neepawa, created the story to highlight the need for legislation to protect adult individuals who require homecare from friends and family members. The province of Ontario has laws in place to protect patients with long-term health care needs in the home, but Manitoba falls short with protections only set for people living in care homes, Buffi said.
“That’s why I wanted to write this story. It was very cathartic for me,” she said, adding that the story is based on an acquaintance whom was the victim of a similar scenario.
“I think the topic is probably worth a book because of a legal quagmire I’ve found myself in with someone I know. Also, the character has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and both conditions rob the individual of the ability to protect themselves. Somebody they know could end up robbing them of income and often, they are living on a fixed income, leaving them destitute or unable to purchase the basics like food. I wanted to draw attention to the fact that someone suffering either with a health concern or a caregiving concern can also be put in financial or physical danger.”
Buffi is the author of one published novel, Vista, which was released in early 2018. The book is available from most online retailers, including Amazon.ca. Besides narrative fiction, she also writes poetry and has entered various competitions over the past six years.
Although She has been writing for about a decade, Buffi has only taken the sideline vocation seriously since 2012. She tries to write on a daily basis, although she does not force productivity goals on herself.
“I just have to write. It’s just there. The stories are just there and have to come out. It’s like an urge; something that’s always been there.” – Renee Cronley
“My long-term hope is to get a book in a retail store. For Vista, the company I went with to self-publish provided some marketing services in their package, but Chapters declined to stock the book in stores and that’s at the retailers discretion, which I understand,” she said, noting that she’s willing write what she believes needs to be said despite potential backlash from opponents of her points of view.
“I hope to write a book that reaches a broader audience, resonates with a wider readership and ruffles a few feathers because I’m not the politically correct type. Even wading into the fiction side of things can be hazardous to your health.”
Cronley won the WRML poetry competition with “Brandon Hills,” a lyrical portrait of the area where she likes to run. Like Buffi, the married part-time nurse and mother of one child sets aside time every day to put words together, both narrative fiction and verse.
“I just have to write. It’s just there,” the 34-year-old mother of a two-year-old child said. “The stories are just there and have to come out. It’s like an urge; something that’s always been there.”
Cronley has been writing since high school and began her post-secondary education as an Arts major, but switched when she realized it may not be profitable. She also had an interest in psychology, so moved into the field of nursing.
“I used to write all the time, so it came to me a lot easier,” the Brandon-based writer said. “But when I switched to nursing, I focused a lot of time on that and fell away from writing. When I started typing again, I kind of stood there and looked at the keyboard. Now, things are flowing a lot easier. This is pretty much what I’ve always seen myself doing.”
Cronley has had poetry published, but also writes short stories and is currently working on a book. She said she has written about 30 short works of fiction with intentions of getting published in that realm as well. Her education in psychology plays a large role in her writing career.
“I write a lot of thriller-type things, so I’ve definitely got an interest in that,” she said, adding that writing poetry and narrative are different for her.
“(‘Brandon Hills’) sort of came naturally to me. The nice thing about poetry is if something inspires me, I get it done. A short story takes longer and a novel takes forever… I find that I write whatever I’m feeling in the moment or it might not turn out very good. Sometimes I’ve had a poem turn into a short story. I usually have to work in the evening with a little one in the house that makes a lot of noise. Even in high school, I wrote in the evening to late night hours. I don’t think I’ve ever attempted to write in the morning. I don’t know what would happen if I did. Nothing good, I suspect.”
Buffi’s short story, “Clarity,” and Cronley’s poem, “Brandon Hills,” can be read at the Westman Journal’s website, westmanjournal.com.
The WMRL will host its next writing competition for youth and teenagers this summer. Another adult contest is scheduled to open this fall.