Francine Cunningham

Francine Cunningham is an Aboriginal writer, artist, and educator from Calgary, Alberta

Francine Cunningham’s short story “Pornorama” was published in The Puritan Issue 30 with guest fiction editor Doretta Lau. “Pornorama” is about a woman who works at an adult movie store in Fort McMurray, AB.

My story “Pornorama” takes place in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. It is apart of a collection of linked short stories I am writing that all take place during the course of one harrowing day in Fort McMurray when the sun rises red, smoke hangs in the streets, and the people of this town fight to stay alive.

When I was 19 I moved to Fort Mac to go to college and study acting. I lived there for two years and during my time, like the protagonist in my story, I worked the graveyard shift at a local adult store. Let’s just say that not everything in this story is true, but also that not everything is fiction. That adage, write what you know, is what really started the idea for this collection. I found that many people who have never lived up in Fort Mac are curious about it. I was only there for a short period of my life, but it was an informative period. I always described the town as an entirely different world. Some days it felt like I was living in a world of magic realism, where things were so crazy they couldn’t be totally true. I am hoping to bring this element of magic realism, lived experience, and all the things that go with living in an oil town to the page.

Some of my favorite stories are ones that leave you on edge. Stories that push the limits of what a reader will believe. Stories that cause a person to fling their book to the other side of the room from shock. Stories that exist in a universe where everything and anything can happen. Where a reader is begging for the fourth wall to be broken so they can slip in and be apart of the story. These types of stories can happen in worlds that seem to be mundane and they can also happen in worlds so fantastical they explode the imagination. The short story format is perfect for these types of stories. Little bites of time that you can consume in one sitting. There are so many amazing Canadian writers who are doing this with their fiction, I am excited to be a part of this mind exploding edge of writing. And if I can share a little bit of my life experience, all the better. This collection is something I am truly excited about and can’t wait to keep writing.

And, for those of you who are curious, you will see Michelle and Crimson again, hopefully soon.

Francine Cunningham is an Aboriginal writer, artist, and educator originally from Calgary, AB but who currently resides in Vancouver, BC. Francine has an MFA in Creative Writing and a BA in Theatre from UBC. She graduated from Keyano College in Fort McMurray with a Visual and Performing Arts Diploma with conservatory style training in acting. Francine received an award for a First Nations artist in 2015 from The First Peoples Cultural Council, was a participant in the 2014 Indigenous Writing Studio at the Banff Arts Centre, and placed second in the 2014 Our Story: Aboriginal Arts and Stories contest. Her work has appeared as part of the 2015 Active Fiction Project in Vancouver, in Hamilton Arts and Letters, Kimiwan ’zinenineteenquestions.com, and The Ubyssey. She is currently running creative writing and visual art workshops across the lower mainland Greater Vancouver Area with the aim of helping students express their unique ideas and feelings surrounding issues of identity. She is also working on her second novel, a collection of short stories, and an adult picture book. For more information check out her personal website.

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