Distillery Discussions, a part of Elk Valley Pride Festival, was held at the Fernie Distillery on Wednesday night. The popular event, billed as, “an evening of exploring growing up gay in a 70s Western Canadian red-neck city,” featured Gordon Sombrowski, who lead a discussion with Nancy Jo Cullen, author of The Western Alienation Merit Badge. Admission was free. The storytelling was priceless. In a face to face interview, Cullen said that her work of fiction, which explores LGBTQ life, is about a family who has to come and live together in 1982 in the wake of the National Energy Program that battered Calgary’s economy.
“They are coming together because they have to keep the house because their father, Jimmy, has just been widowed for the second time,” she said. “Their personalities clash, like family members do. They invite a house guest, and so she is kind of the match that really lights the fire and ignites all kinds of tensions in the family. They suffer a family breakdown.”
“In the end of the story, there’s some time in the now, where we see what’s happened to them after 1982, and then it goes back to 1974 when they’re children, and it’s kind of a way that shows you that the problems that have afflicted the family have always afflicted the family,” Cullen explained. “So it’s a story about a family through time.”
Cullen said it feels great to have the book done.
“There’s a time, probably for anyone writing a novel or a book length project, where it feels like it won’t get done, and that you’ll never finish it. So when it’s finished, there’s kind of a feeling of disbelief.”
Event organizer Lori Bradish said the Distillery Discussions are the second time Fernie Pride has hosted LGBTQ authors.
“We really like to highlight the cultural aspects as well as the party aspects of Pride Festival,” she said. “When I got involved with the Pride Festival last year, the whole idea of how open and welcoming and inclusive Fernie is, the reception of the community has been awesome, right from the financial support of big corporations and small companies, to the public coming out and supporting our events. It makes my heart glow.”
The Western Alienation Merit Badge is available on Amazon.