Interviewed by S. Lesley Buxton
Nabila Huq made her creative non-fiction debut with The Shoe Project, a writing and spoken-word program that uses shoes as a launching point for new Canadians to describe their arrival stories. Their motto is: “Shoes can be terrible or wonderful, but one thing is certain, every new Canadian has a shoe tale to tell.” The aim is to support the education of refugee and immigrant women by developing their written and oral skills as well as encouraging leadership skills.
Performances serve to promote awareness of the challenges confronting refugee and immigrant women. In 2019 at the CNCF Vancouver conference, Nabila’s group did just that with a performance that left the audience both educated and entertained. Many were visibly moved by what they’d heard. To learn more about the Shoe Project visit https://theshoeproject.online/
As well as finding inspiration from life, Nabila writes fiction. Currently she is in search of publishers for her works. A graduate in English Literature and Cultural Studies, her goals include pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing in the near future. She hopes eventually to have a full time career in writing.
When did you start writing? What do you like to write?
I started writing around the age of 9/10 years old. I wrote in my first language (Bangla/Bengali), of course. I wouldn’t say my stories were original – rather, an imitation of the stories I was reading then. I always loved reading fiction. I wrote poems, too, but never tried to publish them. I grew up in an extended family in my paternal grandparents’ house in Bangladesh. As was typical of such families, ours was also very reserved with a lot of restrictions on what the children of the house can or cannot do. I did not have much opportunity to take up other creative vocations. Writing poems was therapeutic for me. Sadly, I did not save my poems.
I took up writing seriously in 2018. I was already a permanent resident in Canada by then. One day, I chanced upon a flyer at the Immigrant Services Society of BC (ISS of BC). It was a call for participants in The Shoe Project. After a rigorous recruiting process, I was on the waiting list and was asked to join the workshops when one of the participants dropped from the project. I wrote a piece of memoir of 600 words like all the other participants and later we also performed our own stories in front of an audience. I had several occasions to tell my story – one of them was at the CNFC conference at UBC in 2019. I haven’t stopped writing since though haven’t written much either. I like to write episodes from my own life and also short stories based on true events.
What are you reading now?
I am compiling a list of narratives – both fiction and non-fiction – by temporary Canadians, i.e., people who lived in Canada temporarily on a visitor visa, study, or work permit. In this respect, I am now reading Anna Brownell Jameson’s Winter Studies and Summer Rambles in Canada with an Afterword by Clara Thomas.
Are you working (writing) now?
I am on a mission impossible of cutting down a 5,998 word memoir to 3,000 words. The deadline is 30 October.
Why did you want to join the CNCF board?
I did not really have a specific reason in mind. Cathy Cooper emailed me one day with an invitation to be a member at large, and I just thought – why not?
What do you bring to the board?
Right now? Maybe nothing. But I hope to bring in something fruitful in the near future.
What do you enjoy about the writing community?
Connecting with other writers, learning from one another’s wisdom and experience.
Last but not least, what would you like our members to know about you?
I am a pan-Canadian. I was not born or brought up in Canada, but in the last seven years I have had the opportunity to live in three different provinces and experience three very different kinds of winters. I feel tied to no one particular region but all across this amazingly wide country.