The Importance of Writers in Residence

I can still remember my first visit to the WiR, how nervous I was (okay, terrified) and how they made me feel comfortable and more than that, capable to take on the task of writing and publishing.  So, to that WiR and the ones coming in 2014, I’d like to talk about the WiR program and why I think it’s an amazing service offered to writers.

First off, it’s a FREE program offered by the libraries of Edmonton, Fort Saskatchewan, St. Albert and Strathcona County.

The authors on board are professional and established, and have been in the industry for a while. They may not have all the answers you seek, but they’ll have a starting point for you and their information will be up to date.

The WiRs will offer programs that have relevance to you as a writer. They can help you avoid pitfalls and give you information you need to ignite your writing.

They will read excerpts of your work and give you suggestions and pointers to tighten your story.

As writers, we can be nervous about sharing our work or asking questions, we worry the pages aren’t good enough–that we’re not good enough–remember, though, the WiRs job is to listen and offer input…I guess what I’m saying is don’t let your nerves prevent you from using an amazing resource and doing everything you can to be the best writer you can be.

The residency will go on holiday break on December 15, 2013 then roll out again in January. Stay tuned to this blog and your community library for more information.

Past Writers in Residence include: (from

Linda Goyette – 2007 Writer in Residence

Linda Goyette is a passionate collector of Alberta’s stories. As Writer in Residence at the Edmonton Public Library, she worked on an anthology of immigrants’ writing called The Story That Brought Me Here. While editing the book, she also compiled the Other Languages collection of the EPL.

Candas Jane Dorsey – 1990 Writer in Residence

(When asked about her favourite library experience): “When I was a kid it was a privilege to go into the adult library. I remember sitting in the gallery floor of the old downtown library watching through the majestic rounded windows as a storm swept down the river valley. I remember the teen section in the Strathcona library where I checked out the novel Ride Out the Storm to get me through a year of withstanding peer bullying. I remember sitting on the big rocks outside waiting for my family to finish checking out their big stacks of books. I remember the Idylwylde library when it was brand new. I would have to get my folks to check my books out on their adult card as kids were only allowed to take out three books at a time (must have been a baby boom thing, too few books to go around). After we had our books we’d go across the street to the Dominion store and buy fresh hot bread, then go home and eat hot bread with butter melting into it and read our new books–a Saturday tradition.”

Martin Godfrey – 1989 Writer in Residence

The Library’s writer-in-residence program featuring Martyn Godfrey from June 13 to December 5 was popular. Mr. Godfrey gave 109 manuscript consultations and critiqued 63 manuscripts to help aspiring writers achieve their goals as published writers, resulting in several new writers having their manuscripts scouted for publishers. He also gave readings and writing workshops attended by 506 people.

For more about previous Writers in Residence, head here.

Writer in Residence Retrospective – Marilyn Dumont (2008) & Helen Forrester (1991)

marilyn dumontMarilyn is an award-winning local writer who has published three collections of poetry, and whose work has been widely published in Canadian literary anthologies. Most recently, she helped create an impressive multimedia project – Honour Songs – paying tribute to Aboriginal women during the Edmonton Poetry Festival.




Helen-Forrester-007Helen Forrester was the pen name of June Bhatia (née Huband). She was the author of more than 15 books, including “Twopence to Cross the Mersey,” which was turned into a musical. She passed away in 2011.

Writer in Residence Retrospective – Chris Craddock (2010)

Craddock_headshotChris graduated from the University of Alberta’s BFA Acting Program in 1996. Since then he has written or co-written over 20 plays for Fringe, Main-stage and TYA audiences, as well as 2 feature films. Chris has also written three musicals, two of which received commercial productions in major cities.

Some highlights include: BASH’d a gay rap opera, which played three months off-Broadway and is the recipient of a GLAAD award. BoyGroove, which received a six week commercial run in Toronto and a Dora Award. 3…2…1, which toured to the Magnetic North Festival in Ottawa 2006. The Pharmacist/La Pharmacien, a bilingual feature film written by and co-starring Craddock is currently in audio-post. “Summer of My Amazing Luck” (adapted by the novel of the same name by Miriam Toews) toured extensively in Canada and is being developed into a feature film by Merit Productions in Winnipeg. His hit solo show Moving Along has toured across Canada (presented by such companies as One Yellow Rabbit and Theatre Network) and was filmed for Bravo Television’s Singular Series.

Chris was Artistic Director of Azimuth Theatre from 2001 to 2005, and Artistic Director of Rapid Fire Theatre from 2005 to 2009.

Chris has been nominated for eighteen Sterling Awards and has won five. He is the recipient of the Alberta Book Award, and the Centennial Medal of Alberta for his contribution to the Arts.

From the EPL WiR Page


Writer in Residence Retrospective – Monica Hughes (1988)

Monica Hughes has the great distinction of being the first Writer in Residence for the EPL (according to the EPL’s website: “The Board initiated and applied for funding from AFLA for a writer-in-residence program, featuring Monica Hughes, as an anniversary project.”)

A prolific author, she penned over thirty-five novels, won the Governor General’s award twice, and was made a member of the Order of Canada.

She passed away in 2003.

Writer in Residence Retrospective – Conni Massing (2009)

1. What was the most memorable part of being the Writer in Residence? The most memorable part of my time as writer in residence: I loved the whole experience but I must say that what was most striking after a year at that post was realizing that absolutely everyone has a fascinating story to tell. I felt very privileged to get a glimpse into the lives of some of the writers I met with, to read about their secrets and passions and incredible real life adventures.

2. Did your year of working with writers change the way you approach your writing? If so, how? I’m not sure that the experience changed my approach to my own writing but it definitely influenced the way I respond to other writers’ work in mentorship and teaching situations.  I’ve learned to listen a little harder in order to discern what kind of feedback would be most useful. In fact, some of the writers I met through the EPL residency didn’t necessarily want a “critique”; they just wanted to know their work had been read.

3. What projects are you currently working on? Current projects? I’m developing a new play called The Invention of Romance which will be produced next year. Local filmmaker Geraldine Carr and I are co-producing a short film that I wrote, (entitled Voila!) which should be finished  before the end of the year. I’m also developing a television series with local writers Curtis Gillespie and Scot Morison.

4. Where can readers find your latest work? It’s Road Tripping:On the Move with the Buffalo Gals and folks can find it at bookstores and libraries. Readers can also track down the published versions of my plays: The Aberhart Summer, Gravel Run, The Myth of Summer, & Homesick.

5. What is your advice to writers? The usual stuff, which doesn’t mean it’s any less sincere! Never give up. Write a lot, read a lot. Roll with the rejections and don’t take them personally.  Did I mention that you shouldn’t give up?


From EPL’s Web Page:


conni2Conni is an award-winning writer with numerous credits in theatre, film, television and radio. Recent stage work includes the hit comedy The Myth of Summer, premiered by Alberta Theatre Projects, Ooga-Booga, commissioned by Concrete Theatre for their annual Sprouts Festival of theatre for young audiences, and an adaptation of W.O. Mitchell’s Jake and the Kid, commissioned by Theatre Calgary. Several of Conni’s short fiction and non-fiction pieces have been published and broadcast on CBC Radio; she is currently writing a book-length memoir about road trips.

In addition to her work as a free-lance story consultant, Conni teaches both playwriting and screenwriting in the University of Alberta’s Department of Drama. She has previously served as playwright-in-residence at Theatre Network, Playwrights Workshop Montreal, and the National Theatre School of Canada.

Writer in Residence Retrospective – Jocelyn Brown (2012)

Jocelyn Brown – 2012 Writer in Residence

1.  What was your most memorable experience of being the Writer in Residence?

There were so many!  At the moment, I’m remembering a wonderful little memoir group at the Woodcroft Branch.  All the participants were such dedicated, talented writers.  There was a junior high student who came with his mother to write his Chinese great great grandfather’s story.  What a story it was.  I was also taken with the story of a young woman who had a stroke, was misdiagnosed and sent home twice, then was sent home without any rehabilitation.  Again, the story–and the drive to tell it–was remarkable.

2. Did your year of working with writers change the way you approach your writing? If so, how?

Oh, sure.  I advised many of the writers I saw to get closer to the heart of their story, to become more direct and clear. Eventually, I thought I should listen to myself too.

3. What projects are you working on now?

I’m working on another YA novel: Sophie goes to Shanghai.  I’m also experimenting with bookmaking at the Nina Haggerty Centre, possibly the most creative zone in the city.  I’ll be their writer-in-residence for at least a couple more months.

4. Where can readers find your latest work?

I have an article in the recent issue of Eighteen

5. What is your advice to writers?

Become part of a writing community.  Make sure your work receives rigorous, honest critique. Serious writers will find both community and excellent critique at any of the writing programs at the Banff Centre for the Arts.

(From the website):

wir_jocelynbrown_bw1Jocelyn Brown grew up in Edmonton with her five sisters and her first published stories were about games they invented as children. One of these stories, Miss Canada, was nominated for a National Magazine Award and won the McClelland and Stewart Journey Prize. Her other stories have been published in literary magazines and produced on CBC.

Formerly a theatre costumer and children’s clothing designer, Jocelyn’s first book, One Good Outfit, combined her love of clothing with social satire. Called “a very funny and strangely moving book” by the Edmonton Journal, One Good Outfit is an affectionate guide on making the most of one’s clothing.

Also set in Edmonton, The Mitochondrial Curiosities of Marcels 1-19  is a young-adult novel about grief, crafts, and semi-criminal adventure. Praised by The Globe and Mail for “transcend[ing] the genre,” Mitochondrial received rave reviews across the country and in the States. Jocelyn loves visiting high school writing classes and has held workshops for young writers at the Bennett Centre’s Young Writer Camp as well as at Hamilton’s GritLit Festival. Watch this site for news on her special program for high school students—The Hero’s Journey. If you’re too curious to wait, feel free to contact her.

Jocelyn also writes for Eighteen Bridges. Her recent article “The Dark Side of Pink” explores breast cancer politics.

In her current writing, Jocelyn continues to be curious about Edmonton’s character. Apart from the weather, the mall, and the bad driving, what makes the city distinctive and where did those qualities come from? Over her writing residency at EPL, Jocelyn will try to answer these questions in two works: 1) a novel about a group of unusual children on a dangerous mission and 2) The Margaret Crang Project, a website about a fascinating Edmonton politician.

A former creative-writing instructor, Jocelyn has given many writing workshops and met with dozens of writers about their work. She has also been a participant in writing programs and knows how unnerving it is to submit new material for critique. If your story/play/novel/poem seems stuck and you don’t know what it needs, why not send it to her? She may not have the answer, but you will have an interesting conversation about possibilities.

Writer in Residence Retrospective – Marty Chan (2011)

Marty Chan – 2011 Writer in Residence

So, what is the 2011 WiR up to now?

1. What was the most memorable part of being the Writer in Residence?  Bar none, my favourite part of working as the Writer in Residence was meeting all the incredible writers in the city. I was constantly amazed at their talent and passion. For example, one of my clients contacted me a few months after our meeting to tell me he had found an agent for the manuscript he had shown me. Despite my lack of rhythm, I did a little happy dance for him.

2. Did your year of working with writers change the way you approach your writing? If so, how? My approach to writing hasn’t changed, but my appreciation for this community has grown. Edmonton has well over 70 groups devoted to some aspect of writing, and it speaks to how diverse our writing community is.

3. What projects are you currently working on? My third book in the Barnabas Bigfoot Series will be coming out in the fall of 2013, and I’m working on a steam punk novel for young adults. Hopefully that will come out in 2013 or 2014.

4. Where can readers find your latest work? My newest book is Barnabas Bigfoot: A Hairy Tangle. It’s the second in the series, and people can find it at bookstores and libraries across Canada.

5. What is your advice to writers? Don’t be afraid to fail, because failure is a sign that you’re trying something new and different. And when you do fail, remember that revision erases all evidence of that failure.

(Taken from EPL’s Bio)

marty_with_cat_no_creditMarty Chan is a quadruple threat with successes in theatre, television, radio and children’s fiction.

As a playwright, he’s best known for his Sterling Award-winning play Mom, Dad, I’m Living with a White Girl. The cross-cultural comedy has been produced at theatres across Canada and received an Off Broadway production. Theatre fans may have also seen his numerous Fringe plays, most notably The Bone House, which was a hit at both the Edmonton Fringe and the Edinburgh Fringe. He served as the Citadel Theatre’s first playwright-in-residence (2002 – 2006), during which time he developed the Chinese opera/western musical theatre fusion play, The Forbidden Phoenix (music and lyrics by Robert Walsh).

Marty enjoyed five years working in Canadian television. He was the executive story editor of the Gemini Award-winning series Incredible Story Studio, which was broadcast around the world. He also worked on the one-hour TV series Jake and Kid and the half-hour youth series Mentors. In 1996, he wrote the TV pilot, The Orange Seed Myth and Other Lies Mothers Tell, which aired on CTV and earned him a Gemini nomination for best writing in a children’s/youth series and the Gold Medal for TV pilot at the Charleston World Television Festival.

Alberta audiences may have heard Marty on CBC Radio performing his light-hearted humour commentaries. The weekly Dim Sum Diaries ran from 1994 to 2000. He also claimed top prize for CBC Radio’s Alberta Anthology dramatic monologue competition 5 years in a row. He has written two radio plays (The Gift and Mom, Dad, I’m Living with a White Girl), which were broadcast nationally.

His first kids’ book, The Mystery of the Frozen Brains, won the 2005 City of Edmonton Book Prize and his second book, The Mystery of the Graffiti Ghoul, earned the 2008 Diamond Willow Award and a nomination for best juvenile crime fiction from the Arthur Ellis Awards. His third book, The Mystery of the Mad Science Teacher was shortlisted for the Golden Eagle Children’s Choice Award. He contributed “Driven” to Henry Chow and Other Stories, an anthology of short stories for young adults. He also wrote the picture book True Story (with illustrations by Lorna Bennett).

For his contributions to the arts, Marty received the Horizon Award from the University of Alberta as well as the Performance Award from the City of Edmonton.

Marty continues to write and live in Edmonton with his wife Michelle and their two cats, Buddy and Max. In 2010, he launched his fourth book, The Mystery of the Cyber Bully. His next novel, The Barnabas Bigfoot Series: A Close Shave will be launched in the fall of 2011.