Kindling to the Fires of Creation

The University of Winnipeg’s newest writer-in-residence is ready to listen and learn

“It’s every writer’s dream really - to be invited into a conversation all about writing!” Jennifer Still says over email.

The poet, bookmaker and editor was recently announced as the University of Winnipeg’s Carol Shields writer-in-residence (WIR) and is rather excited about the honour. Rightfully so.

The position of WIR is one of inspiration, mentorship and creation. With an office located in the cozy second-floor hallway of the English department, Still’s door is open to any students enrolled at the U of W.

“The position supports the artistic process above all else,” Still explains. “From the practical to the face-to-face (face to page) private work. It’s a wildly generous and productive space set up for real artistic growth and connection. I’m so honoured to be invited in.”

Still brings much knowledge and experience to the important role. Recipient of the 2012 Banff Centre Bliss Carman Poetry Award and the 2012 John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer, Still is also a poetry editor with Winnipeg based journal CV2 and also has two collections of poetry under her belt.

“I’m very excited to be meeting writers and responding to their work,” Still says. “To be able to witness a writer hearing something new in what they’ve done is amazing. I’m also excited to be able to see literature grow, transform and come into being.”

Mentorship is another area that Still is well-versed in and has provided her guidance at the Banff Centre’s Wired Writing Studio in 2013.

Joshua Whitehead, 26, a first-year masters student enrolled in cultural studies at the U of W, has experienced the creative growth WIRs facilitate through his visits with previous WIRs, Chandra Mayor and Gregory Scofield.

“At first I was intimidated to go visit the WIR, but after I went I found it very enlightening,” Whitehead explains. “You’re able to get a slowed down, one-on-one look at what the editorial process is actually like.”

Whitehead, a published poet, credits his creative writing success to his mentorship with Scofield. The compassion Scofield brought to Whitehead’s first portfolio of poetry gave him the confidence and insight into revision and eventually publication.

Whitehead’s experience with WIRs in the past didn’t stop at creative work. Scofield’s and Mayor’s guidance also helped Whitehead with academic writing, critical thinking and critical speaking. 

“I’m very excited to go see Jennifer Still,” Whitehead says. “I’m so curious to see what she has to offer and what insight I can gain from her.”

Still is also excited to begin her work at the University.

“Mostly, I hope to gather and engage a diverse community of writers and artists in a rich conversation about writing,” Still explains. “I hope to forge connections by way of creation and community.”

For more information on Jennifer Still’s office hours, visit uwinnipeg.ca.

Published in Volume 69, Number 19 of The Uniter (February 4, 2015)

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