While the University of Saskatchewan does offer a master’s degree in creative writing, very few classes in this subject are available for undergraduate students. To provide an opportunity for these students, an annual writers’ festival is returning to campus for another year.
Writing North 7: Mutations will take place in Louis’ Loft from Jan. 27 to 28. The festival, now in its seventh year, aims to help students improve their creative writing skills and to help them make connections with Canadian authors and publishers. This year, the theme of the festival is “Mutations.”
“It’s a way to launch a conversation with our featured authors. This year’s theme, ‘Mutations,’ refers to changes in literary forms or genres, or themes, or the writing scene in general. It could be granular — for example, how does a poem evolve from line to line — or broad — how is the publishing industry evolving? We like to keep our discussions organic and somewhat free-wheeling around our theme; use the theme to open, rather than restrict, discussion spaces,” Lynes said, in an email to the Sheaf.
The weekend event will feature six established writers, including keynote speaker Madeleine Thien, author of the award-winning book Do Not Say We Have Nothing and a winner of both the Governor General and Giller Prizes. Another featured author is Saskatoon’s Arthur Slade, Governor General award winner and writer of the popular children’s series The Hunchback Assignments. Other authors include Falen Johnson, Phil Hall, Sylvia Legris and Zoey Pricelys Roy.
Writing North is a free, informal and come-and-go event for which pre-registration is not required and lunch is provided with a donation.
According to David Parkinson, chair of the English department research, scholarly and artistic work committee, this event can benefit students who hope to find careers in creative writing and build a community of support with both mentors and peers.
“Very often people think of writing as a very lonely, solitary activity, and I think it is really important to see that writers have a kind of community entity in this province, such as the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild … If you’re thinking at all about writing in any genre, you should really join the Writers’ Guild,” Parkinson said.
He explains that the festival will also feature a Saskatoon-based publishing company.
“We also have a close relationship with Jack Pine Press, so the way this is going to benefit students is that if you’re interested at all in writing yourself, here are some great potential role models, some possible mentors. If you are interested in publishing your work, here is the chance to talk to a publisher,” Parkinson said.
The event is a result of the efforts of the U of S master’s in fine arts in writing program, the department of English, the College of Arts and Science, the department of drama and the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild. Funding is provided by Canada Council for the Arts, Saskculture and Saskatchewan Lotteries.
Tracy Hamon, program manager with the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild, talks about past responses to the program.
“The response to this event has always been fantastic. The inclusiveness, affordability, collegial atmosphere of the event has provided a great deal of positive responses. Authors, students, the public and even the Writing North organizers are left with a feeling of gratification and satisfaction. Writing North has become a staple of the community, and as such, attracts national recognition in its wake,” Hamon said, in an email to the Sheaf.
Hamon, agreeing with Parkinson, feels that the event will benefit students who choose to attend.
“If one wants to be a writer, it’s important to see how others have journeyed down the path,” Hamon said. “Even if one is just interested in books, there’s often an appreciation for the process and the creativity of the author that can inspire anyone.”
Image: Lesia Karalash / Graphics Editor