This month marks a change in Winnipeg’s literary guard, as Ivan Coyote becomes the sixth Carol Shields writer-in-residence at the University of Winnipeg.
Coyote has been a touring performer since 1990 and published her first book, Boys Like Her, in collaboration with her performance troupe Taste This, in 1998.
For Coyote, who calls both Vancouver and Whitehorse home, this latest writer-in-residence position involves many aspects.
“I get to stay in one place a little bit more and really have some focused time on my own work,” Coyote said in a phone interview as she drove through an Albertan snowstorm. “It means less time on the road and more time for creation as opposed to performance.”
“It’s going to let me work on longer projects,” she said. “I’m hoping to finish this big CanLit novel while I’m in Winnipeg. It’s hard for me in my normal touring schedule to find time for longer projects. I think that’s why I’ve got six books of short stories out and one novel.”
The change of scenery will also be a major influence for what Coyote writes during her residency.
“Instead of being surrounded by people that I know, and instead of being in a place where I’ve got 40 years of personal history and 80 years of family history, I’m going to be in a completely different province,” she said.
“So anyone who writes about their personal life and non-fiction in the way I do is of course going to be affected by where they’re located for four months,” she said.
In addition to her own work, Coyote will lead workshops and work one-on-one with writers, both students and members of the community.
“I use the term ‘writer’ to mean someone who is writing. I don’t quantify or qualify writer by whether or not you’re published or what you’re published in like a lot of people do,” she said.
Though her residency allows her a break from touring, Coyote plans to continue performing throughout her time in Winnipeg. There are already plans for a gig with Rae Spoon sometime in February as well as a number of artists with whom she would like to collaborate.
“There’s a fantastic arts scene in Winnipeg that I’m hoping to get to be a part of for the months that I’m there,” Coyote said.
Though this will be Coyote’s first extended stay in Winnipeg, numerous tour stops over the years have left her with a positive impression.
“I was always impressed by the history and the quality of the arts scene,” Coyote said.
“I also noticed years ago that it was one of the only big cities in Canada where a performance artist could own their own home. So it’s feasible to not only live as an artist in Winnipeg but to get by because of the cost of living being a bit lower than it would be in say Toronto or Vancouver.”
To read excerpts and watch videos of Ivan Coyote’s work visit www.ivanecoyote.com. Also, stay tuned for more information on events and workshops.
Published in Volume 65, Number 15 of The Uniter (January 13, 2011)