InkWell writing series launches its first book, The Double World

A free creative writing workshop series for sufferers of mental illness and addiction will be celebrating the launch of its new book, the Double World, this week.

Toronto writer Kathy Friedman first experienced depression and anxiety in early childhood. She recalls her feelings of functionality punctuated by “difficult” times. Her struggles with mental illness, she explains, are far from over.

“It’s something that I feel like I deal with every day,” she says.

For Friedman, getting the right help wasn’t easy. While one in five Canadians suffers from mental health issues every year, accessing the right institutional support is still an ongoing battle for too many. 

“My experience in trying to get help in the mental health system has been a mixed bag,” she says. “I’ve had some really positive experiences with amazing doctors and therapists, but I’ve also had experiences that were extremely disempowering, when I felt like I was being treated as less than human and my voice or experiences didn’t matter.”

From what began as the InkWell writing series – a free creative writing workshop for sufferers of mental illness and addiction that Friedman co-founded with writer Eufemia Fantetti – comes an anthology of pieces by local writers. The Double World includes poetry, fiction, memoirs and more by 18 workshop participants, available for purchase for $15 at Thursday’s (Jun 1) launch at Friends House (60 Lowther).

Friedman first got the idea for InkWell in 2013 after an event with speakers, including the late writer David Foster Wallace’s biographer D.T. Max, that explored the impact of mental illness on artists.

“It was the first time I’d heard people talking about the impact of their mental health issues on creativity and their writing lives,” she says, as well as “seeing artwork that had been influenced by that and hearing artists talk about it.” 

Friedman, a Journey Prize-nominated writer who teaches creative writing at the University of Guelph, began the series as a way for artists with a history of mental illness to practise their craft in a safe space where attendees can contribute to discussions of mental illness in literature.  

“We’re hoping [participants] come away with a sense of empowerment and of having the ability to tell their own story on their terms – as a means of recovery, but also as a way to involve more diverse voices in arts education.

“I’m not a doctor. I can’t prescribe medication or offer therapy, but what I can do is build community and share my skills and what I know about writing.”

InkWell’s The Double World book launch and fundraiser begins at 6 pm. Proceeds from book sales and the silent auction will go towards supporting InkWell workshop programming. | @Shantal_Ot

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