Writer in Residence Program
The Writer in Residence Program brings authors of national and international standing to MRU to work with and mentor students. For the last decade the program has provided “an opportunity for authors, students and faculty to meet, exchange ideas and increase awareness of scholarly and artistic endeavors….The goal of the Visiting Author Program is to allow students, faculty and the greater community access to distinguished and unique voices in the Canadian literary landscape in a personal and professional way that encourages new ideas” (Cope).
Visiting writers hold office hours and meet with student writers. They also visit classes, give public readings/multi-media presentations, and host debates and discussions with other writers. The Department of English Writer in Residence program forges links between the academic and the creative communities within Calgary and across the country. This gives our students direct contact with their role models and inspires them in all aspects of writing and the study of literature.
2016/17 Writer in Residence
March 6–10, 2017
Di Brandt's acclaimed and award-winning poetry titles include questions i asked my mother (which was recently re-issued in a 30th anniversary tribute edition with an Afterword by Tanis MacDonald); Agnes in the sky; mother, not mother; Now You Care; and Walking to Mojacar, with French and Spanish translations by Charles Leblanc and Ari Belathar. She has collaborated with numerous other writers, musicians and visual artists, including Aganetha Dyck, Kenneth Nichols, Rebecca Campbell and Carol Ann Weaver, Jane Finlay-Young Annie Jacobsen and Barbara Godard. She has lived and worked in Winnipeg, Edmonton, Windsor (ON), Toronto, Berlin and Brandon (MB), and has held Creative Fellowships and Guest Lectureships in Scotland, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Spain, New York, Colombia and Japan.
Past visiting writers
Read more about Maureen's experience as Writer in Residence.
Read more about Ken's experience and the Writer in Residence program.
Fiction writer, musician, memoirist, teacher and performer Ivan Coyote was the Visiting Writer January 23–26, 2012. Ivan Coyote’s visit demonstrated the many ways in which a visiting writer can touch the university and community. Coyote’s reputation as a storyteller ensures that she was in great demand by instructors, and her class visits were one of the many highlights because of her great gift of storytelling. Coyote draws on her family’s and her own experiences for her writing, and her discussions about how she transforms “kitchen table stories” into writing and performances gave many students the courage to write honestly about their own lives, and to see their experiences as meaningful to themselves and to other readers. The relevance tone and style, and emotional effect of her writing can be summed up by in one memorable visit:
"Renae [Watchman] and I joined forces and Ivan spoke to both our classes — to my students, she opened their eyes…to the religious strife and notions of histories — plural — that we had been speaking about in our Postco Ireland unit...she did this by beginning with a story about her recent trip to Belfast in which she went to a tourist centre, requesting a city tour. She was asked whether she wanted an orange bus or a blue bus. (You can imagine Ivan's response — I just wanted a $%%& bus!!) When she exclaimed she just wanted an expletive bus, she didn't care what colour it was, the tour guide said well, you just might — the orange bus is the protestant tour of Belfast and the blue bus is the R[oman] C[atholic] tour….
I think her candour about the constraints of the normative paradigm of masculinity really touched several students, one of whom came down, shook her hand, and thanked her for recognizing that there are more to men than the narrow roles seemingly available to them. Her emphasis on the importance of story, overall, to one's identity...her emphasis on the fact that we are all story-tellers resounded for those many closet English student/writer types."
Associate Professor, Department of English
In addition to fiction and memoirs, she has produced CDs and films. She brought both her experience as a creative writing teacher and writer to the English department. In addition to her fiction classes, she has distinguished herself by teaching memoir writing to seniors, where she discovered her “true calling,” encouraging elders to write down their stories, and to view them as an essential contribution to the knowledge of their communities (Brandt).
Coyote’s recent novel, Bow Grip and other writing was on the syllabi of several English department courses, and Ivan provided many informative and inspiring class visits to post-colonial, novel and other literature courses. Like Austin Clarke, Coyote also emphasized the discipline, perseverance and hard work required to turn life into memorable and inspiring stories. Ivan’s experiences of growing up gay in a small community near Yellowknife were one of the features of her public performance on the evening of January 26 to a packed lecture hall, which alternately had her audience in stitches or in tears as she told a variety of stories based on her family, her childhood, the way she has dealt with gender, class and gay/lesbian issues in a number of contexts, including how she, as a writer with few formal academic qualifications is treated in universities. As part of her lecture/performance, Coyote reinforced the importance of storytelling in bringing various communities together, to promote understanding and empathy, to prevent bullying, and to inspire people who did not think that they could write that they had a worthwhile story to tell.
Like many of the other writers in the Visiting Writer program, Coyote commented on the importance of such programs, not only for readers, students, faculty, and the public, but as a way to for writers to continue their craft through discussion and engagement with a diverse reading audience. As one memorable story from her performance illustrated, a teenaged writer summed up Ivan’s characters and achievements more pithily in a few sentences than any academic study of her had ever accomplished. As she observed in an interview in Mount Royal’s This Week, “I get the chance to entertain and inspire writers, social justice advocates and hear from individuals who are learning to tell their own stories” (Brant).
Nolan observed how the visit not only provided university members and public with insight about writing, but also provided a forum for people of aboriginal and non-aboriginal backgrounds to come together: “It’s important for people to not be afraid of the culture….A lot of the obstacles to understanding have been about fear — fear of inequality, fear of someone taking something that I think is mine. When in reality, I think we all have to believe in abundance. We’re all in it together, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people” (De Ruyter). She noted that she loved meeting with students, faculty and the public because it gave her the “opportunity to be in an environment where you can engage in discussion and become inspired” (De Ruyter).