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    The Tragic Loss of Robert Kroetsch

    by Philip Rivard - 0 Comment(s)

    The sudden, shocking loss of Robert Kroetsch on June 21 to a highway car accident is still too fresh to grasp as something that really happened. It seems impossible that Alberta would lose its favorite writer, a week before his 84th birthday, to such a common accident.

    As a snot-nosed kid in my first year of Creative Writing at University of Calgary, Aritha van Herk introduced our class to a special friend of hers and we spent the rest of the term memorizing sections of What the Crow Said and begging Aritha to bring him back. We, or I, anyway, didn’t know that a novel set in Western Canada was allowed to be full of so much magic. I didn’t know that an entire book of poetry could be modeled on a catalogue or ledger and somehow be hilarious, sexy, and so wise all in the same line. I have kissed lemons just to see what it's like.

    For many young writers in Calgary the loss of Kroetsch feels like the loss of a grandparent. With all respect due to his real family, to whom I would express my deepest sympathy, meeting Robert Kroetsch even just once in a classroom or crowded campus pub left us with the impression of knowing him intimately. Perhaps it was his gruff, gentle sense of humour, or the way he rested his hands, fingers intertwined, thumbs twiddling, atop his proud belly as he answered our questions (questions he must have heard a thousand times) with genuine thoughtfulness.

    Useless to be upset at the tragedy, but impossible not to be, I hope we can use the gravity of his loss to make him proud. Mr. Kroetsch devoted so much of his time to meeting, teaching, and inspiring young writers (he was on his way home from doing exactly that at the time of the accident) that we truly owe it to him to keep up our hard work to maintain and nurture the excellence of Canadian literature which he had such a major part in establishing.

    My favorite memory of Robert Kroetsch, which pops into my head almost every day, are these five words he repeated several times while visiting our class:

    “The world gives you permission.”

    Click here to view catalog results for "Kroetsch, Robert"

    The 'Gentle Urging' of William Neil Scott

    by Philip Rivard - 0 Comment(s)

    If you follow local writers you are probably familiar with William Neil Scott. His debut, Wonderfull, made a pretty big splash in 2007 and his fans now patiently wait for his next novel. When I saw his picture in the Calgary Herald last week I immediately got to thinking – “Yay! – He’s in the paper… must be promoting a new book.”

    Turns out we’ll be waiting an indeterminate amount of time before getting our hands on a novel, but Stuart Gradon’s article for the Herald was still a great joy to read. I wanted to share it here because the story of Mr. Scott’s success is a great example of how dedication and hard work make a writer. He’s been an inspiration for several years and the more local heroes around town, the better.

    Read the Calgary Herald article here.

    Now that you’ve been introduced, you’ll probably also want to go check out his blog at

    Read the debut, Wonderfull, available at the library. (Click here for available copies.)

    Summer Workshops at AWCS

    by Philip Rivard - 0 Comment(s)

    People call the library all the time looking for information on writers' seminars and courses. When this call comes toward the end of Spring, it's usually slim pickings, as the season for writers' residencies and programs usually follow a somewhat academic seasonal calendar. Luckily, Calgary has been blessed with the Alexandra Writers Centre Society, who refuse to take summers off.

    Here's what they're offering this June:

    "Weekend Intensives":

    Introduction to Playwriting, June 3 - 5

    Instructor: Caroline Russell-Kin Writing comedy is more than just one-liners and writing dramas isn’t just serious prose spoken by serious people! Pull out your idea file of your scribbles and learn the craft of playwriting. Discover the secrets of professional writing and what it takes to go from page to stage.

    Poetry From Every Angle, June 17-19

    Instructor: Sheri-D Wilson

    Focus on the possibilities of your words through delving deeper into your own memory, story, dream, rhythm and voice. This workshop is about release, personal revolution and revelation. We will also focus on the presentation of your words, which will give you the opportunity to traverse the full meaning and breath to your unique voice.

    Advanced Poetry Workshop, June 24-26

    Instructor: Micheline Maylor

    Thinking of publishing? Poetry needs a polish? Don't know where to send? In this weekend intensive, we will discuss markets, generate new material, and polish work that is looking for a home. This course is best suited to those who have taken a course in poetry previously as the workshopping will be intense.

    (Times for Weekend Intensive Courses are Friday 7-9pm, Sat and Sun 10-4:30pm)

    "Saturday Workshops": (10am-3:30pm)

    Spring Cleaning, June 4

    Instructor: Elaine Morin

    Do you have unfinished stories or story ideas gathering dust in your “story closets?” Explore ways to complete those stories and to polish them so they shine through readings, discussions, writing activities and story-building techniques. Learn tips for managing files so your writing doesn’t get lost, or get out of hand. If possible, please bring printed or digital versions of one or more of your uncompleted stories or story ideas.

    Mining For Memories, June 11

    Instructor: Karen Overbye

    Many interesting things about our lives are forgotten, buried in the ordinary, crushed by the extraordinary. Through writing exercises, you will search for, find, and polish the gems you didn’t know were there. By the end of the day, you will have a significant start to a piece of writing that you could use in a variety of ways, such a scene for your memoir or fictional work.

    Learn to Beat Writers Block, June 18

    Instructor: Derek Beaulieu

    This course will introduce students to a variety of seemingly impossible tasks each of which are guaranteed to make you think about writing in new ways. Students will get a crash course on how to broaden your horizons by limiting your options — a great way to refresh the way you look at writing!

    For full details visit the AWCS website.


    Change of Space

    by Philip Rivard - 0 Comment(s)

    I’ve been waiting a long time for low temperatures to stay above zero so I could move my work-space out to the garage. I am NOT a handy-man, at all, so it feels great to use a space that the majority of people would use for building furniture or repairing vehicles for the construction and repair of a novel. More importantly, the move has refreshed my outlook on the project and even though I might have to type with mittens until June I am more excited to write than I have been since the end of last summer – when I moved my office indoors.

    It’s the change of surroundings, regardless of where to, that works for me.

    In the spirit of spring-cleaning season I hope to share my obsessive compulsion to move furniture with anyone looking for ways out of a rut or anyone needing a spark to their routine. Move! Even if it’s just re-arranging the space you already occupy, or finding a new chair or lamp at a garage sale, an alteration to your personal headquarters can work wonders and hopefully set you up for a more productive writing season.

    Although I strongly agree that "a cluttered desk is a sign of genius", a spring clean-up is also a good chance to make sure you haven't missed important notes written to yourself months prior. If you're attached to your clutter, it won't take long to build up again.

    For inspiring work-space ideas check out the setups of famous writers in these beautiful photograph collections...