The Winnipeg Public Library’s new writer-in-residence is taking appointments as of Oct. 1.
Founded in 1985, the writer-in-residence program has hosted writers like Di Brandt, Miriam Toews, Doug Whiteway and Joan Thomas. The program is free and available to anyone. Emerging or established writers can submit their work for feedback and discussion with the writer-in-residence. This year, Carolyn Gray takes on the challenge.
Gray is a multidisciplinary writer with a background in theatre. Gray writes long- and short-form fiction, drama, creative non-fiction and screenplays but says she is happy to work with writers of all genres.
“I love talking to people about their ideas,” Gray says. “I love working with people on their writing. I find it so mutually enriching. It always feeds my process when I talk to other people about their ideas, and when you find pathways through things and issues and develop ideas.”
Danielle Pilon, head of reader services at the Millennium Library, says the writer-in-residence is “here for anyone, whether it is someone who has never tried writing at all before and thinks they might want to tell their life story, or it is someone who ... has a fair bit of experience under their belt already.”
Gray has published books and had several plays produced professionally, but she understands what it is like to struggle to begin. Her first lessons in fiction were taught by the University of Winnipeg’s own Catherine Hunter. When she took Hunter’s Advanced Creative Writing class, Gray says she hit a brick wall with her writing.
“I knew I wanted to start writing prose,” Gray says. “I read all the books (that I could find about writing prose), and I kept hitting this brick wall, not understanding how to move forward. Catherine was able to help me through it really easily. She said ‘You just need to practise finishing things, and once you start finishing things, then you’re going to finish more things and longer things.”
With this key encouragement, Gray was able to move forward with her work in prose and complete a master of fine arts in writing from the University of Saskatchewan.
It is all about “finding a way in,” Gray says.
Pilon says past writers-in-residence have said they “are often approached by people who have a story they want to tell, but they don’t even know where to start, so they want to hear someone not only give them a little advice but also encourage them that it is worth telling their story.”
The writer-in-residence program “is so important, because people have these desires to do things in the arts,” Gray says, “I know from experience it is sometimes like hitting a brick wall.”
“I didn’t know I wanted to write screenplays. I never found anything that could help me do that. You can read the books, but for me it is best to talk to people and to learn from them. This free library program is incredible. You can come in, and I can use everything at my disposal to help respond to what you are looking for.”
For details on how to submit writing, see the Winnipeg Public Library website.