Supporting and encouraging emerging voices

Writer-in-residence Lauren Carter hopes to encourage a diverse range of writers

This fall, Lauren Carter starts her term as writer-in-residence at the Millennium Library.

Lauren Carter, the new writer-in-residence at the Millennium Library

Carter won the 2020 Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction for her novel This Has Nothing to Do With You, as well as the John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer. She is a novelist, poet, blogger and writing coach whose work has appeared in magazines including Prairie Fire, Room and The Fiddlehead

The writer-in-residence program is an annual residency run by the Winnipeg Public Library, which not only gives the writer an office and time to work on a project of their choice, but they are also made available to help members of the public with their writing. 

“A lot of people are very nervous about writing and may not have done it since high school,” Danielle Pilon, head of reader services at the Winnipeg Public Library, says. “They don’t have a lot of knowledge about it, and the writer-in-residence is there as a resource for them.”

In the early stages of her writing career, Carter benefited from a writer-in-residence program in The Pas, which hosted poet Lorri Neilsen Glenn. 

“It was incredibly valuable to be able to sit with her, and she went over some of my poems and even just to be able to talk writing,” Carter says.

Due to the ongoing COVD-19 pandemic, consultation appointments with Carter will be held largely online or over the phone for the time being, which is a service that Carter has been offering to writers for several years. 

The benefit of the residency program, especially with its virtual availability,  is that she is able to offer these services for free to anyone in Manitoba. 

“I’m hoping for a wide diversity of writers,” Carter says. “I’m hoping for people who are just beginning to write, people who feel like they can’t or they shouldn’t. I’m here for them, and I’m also here for people who have been writing for a long time and are looking for ways to figure out next steps or solve some problems that have been sticking points.”

“Lauren is a great mentor. She’s very warm and has a lot of experience working both in person and online, which is going to be important,” Pilon says. 

“At the start of the pandemic, there was a lot of talk about how we all were going to be so creative. Everyone was talking about the novel they were going to write, the art they were going to make, the bread they were going to bake. Six months in, some of that optimism may be a little deflated, but it is still important, and people still have the stuff to say about their lives that are important to them.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the public has been engaged in difficult conversations and political action, and Carter says we need writing from a wide range of viewpoints more than ever.

“In these very scary times, with the rise of white nationalism, and as we are focusing on the importance of equality, stories give us an opportunity to step into other people’s circumstances to develop empathy and understanding,” Carter says. 

“We are all human, and some of us have had a much easier journey than others. We need to listen to those stories that we might not have (been) listening to or might not have had the opportunity to listen to in times past.” 

To learn more about the writer-in-residence program, book an appointment with Carter or learn about upcoming virtual workshops, visit the Winnipeg Public Library website.

Published in Volume 75, Number 06 of The Uniter (October 22, 2020)

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