Oyster River Pages: If you could tell your younger creative self anything, what would it be?
Jenny Ferguson: Oh my stars. It’s going to be hard, it’s going to hurt, it’s going to be all the feels, and a lot of the feels are going to suck. But, you like these kinds of challenges, and you are strong. You’ll want to quit writing, and you will quit for a few years. That was the right thing to do. Sometimes we need to simmer, sometimes we need to focus on other things. You will come back to writing. You will return to feeling like that GIF—the one you really love now—of the figure with the mask on, being struck by a sea of feels.
This is all okay.
ORP: What are you doing to shape and inspire the next generation of artists?
JF: I teach creative writing. But hey, that might have nothing to do with shaping or inspiring the next gen. Mostly, I teach because I love being inside the messy process of learning.
ORP: What’s your favorite under-appreciated work of art?
JF: Indigenous bead art and the Indigenous artists who work with beads. Can I drop a few names here? A handful of my favourites: SweetgrassandSageCo, Kasenniyostah, Brilliant Beads by Blanche, LaLeeBeads, and SydneRainShop. Please go check them out. Their art is breathtaking and wearable. It’s an art form that wows me every time and the best reaction I can manage is usually heart eyes. Beads are such small things, and they have a life of their own, and outside of Indigenous communities, bead art gets relegated to the arts and crafts section, like it isn’t a form of art, like it’s only a hobby. Once you get on Insta and start following Indigenous bead artists (there’s a smaller community on Twitter, too), you’ll quickly become obsessed.
ORP: What advice would you give someone who has never been published?
JF: See the drama of question 1 first. Then come back here and let me tell you that it’s worth it, even when it isn’t, because life is about the peaks and the valleys and art chronicles life. Also, write romance novels. Turns out, romance novelists make the money and get to work with books that end happily-ever-after. Or, happy-for-now, and sometimes that’s good enough.
ORP: What are you currently working on?
JF: Essays, specifically one about why sharks are the only thing I can trust with my tender feelings for living things after Penny the giraffe’s death. I’m sorry if that made you sad. Please learn to love sharks.
Jenny Ferguson is Métis, an activist, a feminist, an auntie, and an accomplice with a PhD. She believes writing and teaching are political acts. BORDER MARKERS, her collection of linked flash fiction narratives, is available from NeWest Press. This story was shortlisted for the Knudsen Fiction Contest in 2017. You can find Jenny online at @jennyleeSD and www.jennyferguson.ca.