Voices to remember: The X Page Storytelling Workshop

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

X Page Performance

On Sunday, July 24, 10 refugee and immigrant women from the Waterloo Region performed their personal narratives in front of family, friends, and community members in the Chapel at Conrad Grebel University College. By developing their writing and performance skills throughout a 12-week workshop facilitated by local, professional artists, these women were given the opportunity to showcase their narratives in front of a live audience. This year’s performance, “Voices,” was the first in-person X Page performance in more than two years. Witnessing such collaboration, compassion, and diversity was inspiring, aligning with the Centre’s mission and values.

The X Page Writing and Performance Workshop has been supported by the Kindred Credit Union Centre for Peace Advancement, Project Ploughshares, the City of Waterloo, the Ontario Arts Council, MT Space, Durrell Communications, The New Quarterly, and Kindred Credit Union for the past three years. The X Page is a writing workshop inspired by Lynda Barry’s philosophy of imperfect writing. In order to begin, writers must draw an ‘X’ on their page to visualize the concept of imperfection. This eliminates the pressure to write eloquently. The premise of this writing activity is to utilize all of ones senses while visualizing an image. This manner of writing permits raw and genuine storytelling.


At these workshops, the women played icebreaker games to get to know their peers, which was followed by several writing exercises to sharpen their storytelling skills. All of the providedwriting exercises had the goal of eliminating the fear of making mistakes. One particular writing exercise included keeping one's pen on the page, writing nonstop, for the duration of 8 minutes. This was incorporated to keep the participants from doubting themselves; they wrote what came to their minds first, without judgment. 

X Page workshops are filled with laughter, support, and kindness, provided by the facilitators and participating women. There is a sense of genuine care and respect for one another and their stories. It is an incredibly uplifting environment that pushes each woman to strive for the best.

The women, born in 10 different countries, shared inspiring stories, reflecting on topics such as childhood, love, loss, marriage, embarassment, fear, food, and family. The performers created an immersive experience with their monologues through detailed description and the assistance of background performers acting out their stories as they spoke. Some reflected on life before coming to Canada, others sharing about life on Canadian soil. Participants in the program are active community members, serving the region as administrators, public servants, library workers, counselors, and more.


Tasneem Jamal, X Page Writing Coach and Editor and Communications Officer at Project Ploughshares, was thrilled about how the performances went.

"It felt magical and perfect. I'm convinced this is because we operate out of the ethos of Lynda Barry's coaching and the X Page in particular - that art comes from trust, trust in the process and in the moment."

Jamal is proud to have a large role in this workshop. It hits close to home for her, as her mother came to Canada in the mid 1970s with three young children.

"I try to imagine what it would have meant for her to have had something like the X Page Workshop. It would have given her an opportunity to share her story and herself with the larger community, to make friends outside her own cultural group, to realize that she is not only welcome in this community, but that she is a benefit to them."

As a Writing Coach and Editor, she worked alongside all of the participants to develop their narratives. By getting to know their personal stories, Jamal helped the women find the best ways for them to portray themselves and their stories.

When prompted about the impactful role she has with regard to the X Page workshop, Jamal stated, "It's truly about connection. I can't even calculate what it means to be a part of this. It's an absolute privilege."

Collaborative peacebuilding is the lifeblood of the Centre, driving us to partner with organizations that empower those whose voices have not been heard or have been diminished because of violence. The Centre is delighted to support the X Page workshop, and we look forward to next year’s performance.

To watch this year's performance, visit: Voices: The 2022 X Page Workshop Performance.

X Page Art provided by Tarunima Mittal