Windsor poet, Windsor Star blogger on motherhood, and writer of Black Moss Press’ Laughing Through A Second Pregnancy (a very engaging and hot-selling memoir about being pregnant again) last night very nervously and courageously got up at a rowdy jazz club in Detroit — a place called Cliff Bells and joined in a story telling contest. She stood up — a glass of chardonnay stiffening her resolve — and talked about what she knows — motherhood, specifically though her own experience of a doctor conducting a vaginal examination. It was a jaw-dropping, and very funny skit, and she had the audience in stitches for a solid five minutes. Cliff Bells is an amazing setting for this in downtown Detroit, and the place was jammed and hopping with jazz. This was its famous and highly popular Moth Story—Slam, an event that is by turns hilarious, tear-jerking, outrageous and even spiritual, so say the club owners. They state in their advertisement, “The chatter of the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd drops to a hush as the names of the 10 storytellers are plucked from a hat. Each takes the stage to tell a five-minute tale related to a broad theme. Last night it was motherhood, and there is no one better than Vanessa Shields, a Black Moss Press author, to zero in upon this particular motif. She knows it — no pun intended — inside and out. She killed last night! And when she was done, and all through the rest of the night, people were filing up to tell her how much they loved her story. To win this night was big. And to watch Vanessa, Windsor’s own on stage, was delightful. She will move on to the greater contest in September at Detroit’s famous Gem Theatre. All the best with that.
Here’s a little bit of background on Vanessa. She was born and raised in Windsor, Ontario, where she currently resides with her husband Nick and two children. The product of her mother’s second pregnancy, family has always been very important to Vanessa. “My sister and mom and I were a threesome to reckon with as I was growing up,” Vanessa says. “ We were always uniquely connected to one another.” When she’s not chasing after her kids, Vanessa pursues her passion for creative writing. As a free-lance writer, Vanessa has established a multi-faceted career as a journalist, poet, playwright, and children’s author. She regularly organizes and presents at writing retreats and teaches her own workshops: The Writer’s Process, Adventures in Creative Writing: The Odyssey Project, Memoir Writing Part I: The Courage of Memoir. For the last three years Vanessa has been chosen for the Ontario Arts Council’s Writers Reserve, and is the 2010 recipient of the Windsor Endowment for the Arts as an emerging artist in the literary field.