Saskatoon has a rich literary community that offers regular author readings at bookstores and poetry reading nights — but the University of Saskatchewan master’s of fine arts writing students aim to offer a different kind of literary event and are doing just that.
On Mar. 1, the River Volta Reading Series held an event which featured readings from authors Lisa Bird-Wilson and Sylvia Legris. The RVRS is held once a month by the MFA writing students and it always takes place at 7 p.m. at D’Lish Café.
The events usually feature two authors who read from their latest works, after which there is an open mic session, where anyone can participate and everyone is encouraged to join.
Geoff Pevlin and Simon Boehm, MFA writing students and two of the organizers of the events, spoke to the Sheaf about the RVRS.
“The River Volta Reading Series is a platform for authors or aspiring authors to get up and read their work, whether it be poetry, short stories, snippets from a novel or anything,” Pevlin said.
The reading series was started in 2013 by two MFA students who had just moved to Saskatoon and wanted to find a way to get involved with the literary community.
“It’s been passed down through the students and we are the fourth ones to inherit it,” Boehm said.
The two authors who read at the most recent event, Bird-Wilson and Legris, are both based in Saskatoon and have won awards for their literary works — in fact, recently both authors were nominated for the Saskatchewan Arts Board Poetry Awards. Bird-Wilson’s book, The Red Files, and Legris’ book, The Hideous Hidden, are both works of poetry that were released in 2016.
“We look for people who have recently published something or are going to publish something soon,” Pevlin said.
The reading series aims to create a space where writers of all levels can read their work among a supportive crowd, as this is something that the student organizers recognize is important for the literary community in Saskatoon.
“The literary world is very insulated, by nature. Writers are generally introverted, or their work is very private, and this is a good way to get exposure and to meet other people who are doing the same thing you’re doing,” Pevlin said.
As well as providing a platform for aspiring authors, the reading series is also a way to form a strong literary community that mixes both published authors and unpublished writers.
“Our biggest goal is to strengthen the community among writers and people who aspire to be writers,” Boehm said.
The events are held every month throughout the school year, usually on the last Wednesday of the month. The last RVRS event of the school year will take place on Mar. 29, and it will feature MFA writing students reading their work rather than the usual published authors — it will also have an open mic session as usual.
The events are laid back and fun, and have a supportive environment. It is a great opportunity for students who aspire to be writers to get exposure for their work and to network with other writers or students with common interests. Even students who are not writers can go to enjoy the talent of others and to have a drink and a dessert at the café.
“It’s a good way to meet new people and maybe present some of your own work,” Boehm said. “And if you don’t write yourself, there is great cake.”
Photo: River Volta / Supplied