Mount Royal's latest visiting writer has a story to tell

Mount Royal's English Department, with the support of office of the Vice-President, Academic Robin Fisher, recently welcomed Ivan Coyote to Mount Royal University as our latest Visiting Writer.

Coyote, who spoke to the public, on campus, Jan. 26 at 7 p.m., in EA 103,1 was also on campus counselling student writers for the week.

An award-winning author of six collections of short stories, one novel, three CDs, four short films and a renowned performer, Coyote's first love is live storytelling, and over the last thirteen years she has become an audience favourite at music, poetry, spoken word and writers festivals around the world.

Ivan Coyote
Coyote's passion is for live storytelling in front of an audience.

Coyote has won a number of awards for her disarming, provocative and often funny written work.

Close to Spider Man (2000) was runner up for the Danuta Gleed Award for short fiction. Her third book One Man's Trash (2002) was short listed for the Ferro Grumley Award and was a finalist for the 2008 Vancouver Public Library's One Book, One Vancouver. Ivan's first novel Bow Grip (2006) was also short listed for the Ferro Grumley Award, and won the 2007 ReLit Award for best fiction.

Her latest collection of short stories, The Slow Fix, was released in September of 2008, and was nominated for a 2009 Lambda Award.

Coyote was born and raised in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, where her family's history and experiences were explored across the dinner table.

"Growing up in an Irish-Catholic family in Whitehorse, storytelling was in my blood."

"I want to tell old-fashioned kitchen table stories, the kind where you can imagine you are drinking black tea with canned milk and it is snowing outside.

"I believe in the transformative power of storytelling, and that collecting and remembering oral history not only preserves a vital part of our families and where we come from, but that a good story can help inspire us to reinvent a better future."

Building on a tradition of bringing thought-provoking and inspiring writers to campus, Mount Royal's English Department is planning to utilize Coyote's unique blend of creative writing, music and live storytelling to open up a dialogue about the nature of creative expression and discussion of Coyote's work of gender, Canadian Studies, creative writing, memoir and social justice.

For Professor Michele Holgren, Coyote's unique voice and multidisciplinary method provides a window to her students on how and writer's creativity doesn't have to stop on the page.

"Coyote's integration of poetry and music in her performance work shows our students that the act of creative writing extends beyond just putting your work in collections," said Holmgren, who coordinated this year's Visiting Writer program.

Since 2001, Coyote has been teaching creative writing to students across the country. Beginning at Capilano College in 2001 teaching short fiction and classes and workshops, in 2007 Coyote was invited to become Carleton University's writer in residence.

While in Ottawa she taught a third year fiction class as well as a three memoir writing classes for senior citizens. It was while teaching seniors that Ivan realized her true calling. Coyote strongly believes in listening to the stories of elders and encouraging them to write down their lives.

Not only did her memoir classes sell out, but several of her students continue to meet and workshop their writing together to this day. Ivan currently teaches memoir writing at the now renamed Capilano University in North Vancouver.

For Coyote, acting as the Visiting Writer gives her the opportunity to expand her experiences in different parts of the country and check out the local writing communities. "I'm on the road 80% of the year, but I love my job," said Coyote.

"I get the chance to entertain and inspire writers, social justice advocates and hear from individuals who are learning to tell their own stories."

For more information on Coyote and her visit to the Mount Royal campus, please contact Michele Holmgren.

- Colin Brandt, Jan. 19, 2012