The writer-in-residence program at UBC Okanagan can have a big impact on writers from the region. When Salmon Arm writer Karen Bissenden was accepted into the UBC Okanagan writer-in-residence program she didn’t expect the experience to leave such a lasting and meaningful impression.
“I left with a new perspective on my writing style,” says Bissenden, who met last year with novelist Fred Stenson, the 2009 writer in residence at UBC Okanagan. Stenson suggested foundation ideas for her writing, which “allowed me to understand some of my strengths, and taught me a technique of looking at my story from another point of view,” she says.
“It was an excellent opportunity. I have written a number of stories since that session — feedback is always inspiring,” says Bissenden, who has published one book of poetry and a number of magazine articles.
“There are many writers like me — not in a school environment and without the financial means to pay editing fees. Free feedback from capable authors? Who wouldn’t apply?”
Sponsored by the Department of Creative Studies at UBC Okanagan, the writer-in-residence program is an annual community service available to residents in the Central Okanagan. The program allows 16 selected local writers to get free critiques of their work.
This year, novelist and poet Laisha Rosnau will spend two weeks, from Mar. 1 to 15, on the UBC Okanagan campus as the third annual writer-in-residence. Rosnau’s second collection of poetry, Lousy Explorers, was released by Nightwood in 2009, and her first, Notes on Leaving (Nightwood), won the Acorn-Plantos Poetry Award in 2005. Her novel, The Sudden Weight of Snow (McClelland &Stewart), was an honourable mention for the Amazon/Books in Canada FirstNovel Award.
In addition to meeting with local writers, Rosnau will be giving a free public reading on Thursday, Mar. 4, at 7 p.m. at the downtown Kelowna branch of the Okanagan Regional Library, 1380 Ellis St.
Nancy Holmes, Head of the Department of Creative Studies, says Bissenden’s response to the writer-in-residence program reflects the feedback she has received from local writers who have taken part in the program.
“A writer in residence puts a rare creative resource at the disposal of a community,” says Holmes. “Emerging writers often work in isolation, especially once they have taken a few creative writing courses and perhaps no longer have a regular writing group.
“The writers in residence can offer encouragement and excellent editorial and publishing advice,” she says. “Our program, in its third year, is a great success. We have more and more writers applying to participate each year, and we’ve had incredibly positive feedback about the service. Part of this is due to the terrific writers we’ve invited to be in residence: Lynn Coady, Fred Stenson and Laisha Rosnau.”
Writer workshop Mar. 20
The Writer in Residence program and Continuing Studies will host an intensive four-hour workshop at UBC Okanagan on Mar. 20 looking at the role of place in creative writing. The workshop from 1 to 5 p.m. costs $50 and is aimed at writers of poetry or prose, fiction or non-fiction.
Writer-in-residence Rosnau will explore how place affects our creative lives, the choices writers make when creating a setting, and more. For information about participating in the Writing Place workshop with Laisha Rosnau, contact UBC Okanagan Continuing Studies at 250-807-9289.
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