Writer in Residence

About that Award

Submitted by Lorrie Potvin

Several months ago, I was sent an e-mail sharing the good news from the Alumni team at Algonquin College that I was to receive an Alumni Award of Distinction for Apprenticeship.  I graduated from the Auto Body Repair program at the College in 1985.


I didn’t get the message.  You see my server had sent me a warning that my mailbox was dangerously full.  I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, whether it would refuse future mail or just let the old correspondence fall away into the crevices where the fairy dust lands.  To reduce the chance of rejection I spent a quick half hour going through my mail program swiping left, deleting e-mails, which were mostly unread newsletters.  They were from writers and spiritual leaders I admire.  Others were from tool sites like Busy Bee and Lee Valley.  A tradeswoman can never have enough tools.  Always a matter of needing instead of wanting.  I tell myself.

The day before the deadline to accept the award, I received a note.  This time it was from the boss himself asking, “did you receive an email from our Vice-President?”  I replied “no, I hadn’t, but I’ve recently deleted several newsletters, so if it’s important, please send it again.”

Paula and I were escorted to a table for two at center stage.  The area was set up cabaret style with two offset rows of tables for recipients, their plus one, and for some other important folk from the College.  Walking to the table I was fluctuating between self-importance and the urge to run.  The Ikea ad, Start the car! came to mind.  A simple oversize clear glass vase with some water held one white rose.  Another lay on the black table wrap, it had an attached tag that simply said ‘Apprenticeship’.  

While we waited the rest of the theatre filled up with friends, family, and supporters.  There was a certain comforting buzz as people took their seats, chatting and greeting their neighbours.  

I knew I was going to be the first recipient because apparently Apprenticeship starts with an ‘A’.  Like, if I had known.  Buzz aside, every time I thought of going up on stage, adrenalin broiled from my gut to my chest.  I kept licking my lips and swirling my tongue around the inside of my mouth seeking any kind of saliva.  I might have reached for the vase, but people were watching.  My heart pounded, my hands were gripped by a cold sweat I couldn’t wipe off fast enough, and there was a whooshing in my ears.  The practice sessions I had visualized over the previous week disappeared with the snapping of sweaty fingers trying to bring my being into centre.


Paula and myself on stage, photo by Dave Fisher

Then, I looked over to my left and locked eyes with Ann.  She smiled like she knew I was about to throw up a pre-show appetizer.  In relief I grinned back.  A week before, at a dinner for just the Award recipients, it was Ann who praised me for speaking from the heart.  I had no idea that after our meal we would be handed microphones to introduce ourselves, and to share a bit about why we were receiving the award.  Of course, I was first, see above.  I started with, “well, this shouldn’t be a hard act to follow.”  I was grateful that I had taken the time to read the recipient’s stories.  All the folks being recognized were leaders in their fields.  They had changed lives, and the common thread among all their stories was commitment to family and community.  Extraordinary people.  I can’t tell you what I spoke about because my words evaporated as quickly as I said them.  It was Ann who touched my arm when she was leaving, to reassure me that I had done a good job.

Maarsii, meegwetch, thank you,

I’m truly honoured and humbled to be part of this year’s group of extraordinary Award Recipients. Congratulations to each of you and please, keep on amazing us, our world is better for it.

As a child I had lots of dreams, they saved my life.  But I’d never dreamt that almost fifty years after being told I couldn’t take shop because I was a girl that I’d be standing here today a high school shop teacher.

Every time I step on to the shop floor it feels like home.  Thank you to the college for paving the way and recognizing the dream in me.

I’d like to acknowledge all the kind and patient teachers I’ve had.  It’s through their generosity that I’m able to live my best life possible.  Maarsii, meegwetch for all my relations.

I also need to thank the friends and family who have shown up tonight to support me.  To name one means to name them all, so I’ll skip those two for now.

Lastly, I wouldn’t be here tonight without the love and support of my partner Paula.  Every day she wraps me in her grace.  I am truly blessed.  I love you.

Maarsii, meegwetch, thank you, et merci.

I’ve since corresponded with Ann by email.  I check them more closely these days.  She shared a story she wrote about a fight with a spider in a bathroom.  I choked in laughter when she described the spider landing on her nose, and how she smacked herself hard, in the face, determined to come out on top.  It’s no wonder then, that the mother of six recently survived cancer, surgery, chemo, and a heart attack, all within six months. 

It's ALL in the stories, isn’t it?  Keep collecting.

With love,  

Lorrie xo


The Awards show was first class the whole way!  Check it out at:



The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.

Tradeswoman, artist, writer, and teacher Lorrie Potvin, a queerishly two-spirited Métis, is the author of Horses in the Sand: A Memoir. Her first book, First Gear: A Motorcycle Memoir and the essays "My tattoos speak of life and loss" and "Why I’m thankful for multiple sclerosis" (The Globe and Mail), were published under her previous surname Jorgensen, as was the short story, "The 13th Dock" in Writing At Wintergreen, an anthology edited by Helen Humphreys.

Working and teaching in the trades for over 30 years, Potvin holds an Inter-Provincial Red Seal in Auto Body Repair and Refinishing from Algonquin College and a diploma in Technological Education from the Faculty of Education, Queen’s University, with additional qualifications in Manufacturing and Special Education. A citizen of the Métis Nation of Ontario, Lorrie lives on a lake north of Kingston in the area served by the High Land Waters Métis Council where she’s lived for 30 years, building her home and creating art made of stone, wood, hide and steel.