Diverse writer brings change of pace to Write Out Loud finale

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Brenda Baker sang and read at the final event of the 2013-2014 Write Out Loud series at the Lyric Theatre.

Most artists choose one or two outlets to display their creativity, but that's not how Saskatoon-based entertainer Brenda Baker works.

As a singer, songwriter and published author of both children's, young adult and adult works, Baker has plenty of perspectives to choose from when exploring a specific theme or subject, and she like to take advantage of them all. The process can be challenging, but the result is always interesting, and Swift Current residents had a chance to see it first hand at the final Write Out Loud reading of the season. Swift Current's Lyric Theatre hosted the reading on May 21, and it gave Baker a chance to show off her mix of artistic abilities.

"I feel there's a nice balance in my life between just entertaining, having fun in an artful kind of way, and then getting down to the serious literary part of my life," she said after the show.

Baker read excerpts from her newest young adult novel , before playing a few of her songs, which alternated between children's songs like the ever popular Megamunch, and songs written with more serious intent in mind.

If it seems like an unusual night of entertainment, that's because it is. Baker has used her talent to carve out a unique place for herself in the Saskatchewan art community. It's a place, she says, that allows her plenty of creative flexibility.

"The more serious writing is just that. It's intended to provoke discussion and thought, and a lot of the children's stuff that I do, like Megamunch, is not thought provoking, it's just really fun."

Her songs may be just for fun, but Camp Outlook has a serious tone mixed in with the entertaining. The novel revolves around a 12-year-old girl named Shannon and her experiences at summer camp. There are some humorous parts for sure, but novel is still thought provoking and challenging.

"She says almost everything with such certainty," Baker said of her main character. "But the paradox of the story is that she is being forced to reconcile all these things she thought she new or was being taught about the idea of a God, with her real life. On the one hand she can be honest, but she's also trying to find truth."

It can be a tense novel, and Baker leans on some of her own experiences to capture the reader's attention. However, Baker isn't recreating herself as a pre-teen. She's trying to tell a story with a voice that will say things an adult won't.

"There are elements of things that really happened to me," she explained. "Experiences at camp... experiences with infertility... experiences with having a child with Down syndrome, but the way I tell it, through the eyes of a 12-year-old, kind of changes it all up and gives it a different voice."

For most of those in attendance, Baker is a bit different than what they're used to. Write Out Loud rarely features children's authors, but the audience enjoyed the change of pace.

"We're really pleased to have her," Write Out Loud chairperson Betty McDougall said. "She's such a multi-talented person, with her music and her reading. We're just thrilled that she was able to come."

Baker originally began writing and singing for adults. She released two CDs before she even considered singing for kids, winning a Saskatchewan Music Award for Best Female Vocalist. She also wrote an award winning short story collection. In addition to her artistic pursuits, she also works as a coach for aspiring singers and songwriters, and took some time to answer some questions the audience had about publishing and performing.

"A big part of it is creative, and I want it to be as creative as possible," she said of the publishing industry. "But if you can't manage yourself, then you have to have the wisdom to know how to find somebody who wants to buy into what you're doing, and kind of help you along."

Baker's appearance marks the end of a successful Write Out Loud season. The 2014-2015 series starts up on Sept. 17 when freelance journalist and author Deana Driver reads from her latest book, . The other 2014 series dates are Oct. 15, and Nov. 19.

Geographic location: Saskatchewan

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