If this was one of those Christmas letters your Auntie Lou sends out every year, it would be four pages, double-sided, there would be a lot of exclamation points, the family photo with ugly sweaters would be replaced by ugly masks and you would be expected to sanitize it before reading.
Yup, we had a year.
Anybody hear about this global pandemic we're having? Australia nearly burned down too, I heard, and for a brief, shining moment, Canada was home to their own royal couple. But the big news for us this year? The Stanley A. Milner Library opened after years of renovations!
2020 by the Numbers
It was a banner year for readers and writers, at least I think it was a banner year. Breaking it down, here's what happened, by the numbers:
- Met with 116 writers
- Read on average 20 pages per writer, per visit, seeing a writer on average two times, meaning I read 4,640 manuscript pages
- Met with writers from all over the world including Manitoba, Ontario, British Columbia, New York, Australia, Spain, Italy... and of course, Edmonton
- Hosted (through EPL) 11 workshops, attended on average by 40 people, meaning we spread a love of writing and reading to 440 people
We partnered on special events with:
- The Art Gallery of Alberta, opens a new window
- Girls in Film and Television, opens a new window
- NaNoWriMo Ninjas, opens a new window
- Women in Film and Television Alberta, opens a new window
And our roster of speakers and facilitators reads like a Who's Who of Canadian writing talent:
- Jana O'Connor, opens a new window
- Mary Pinkoski, opens a new window
- Janice MacDonald
- Minister Faust
- Natasha Deen
- Vern Thiessen
- Alexis Kienlen
- Mark Leslie Lefebvre
Beyond all of these numbers were the people, new writers, established writers, writers from the community who just wanted to connect and make me feel welcome. They came from every possible angle. They were poets, novelists, screenwriters, letter writers and memoirists. I read novels, cookbooks, scripts, children's books, poetry, short fiction, creative non-fiction, graphic novels and letters of application. All genres were represented. I read thrillers, romance, tween, young adult, toddler books, horror, non-fiction, memoir, roman a clef, technology and race, biography, history, fantasy, science and comedy.
The moments were many and always memorable. My most memorable writer came early in my tenure.
She was a poet and frequently suffered from insecure housing—a sadly not atypical problem in Edmonton. She dropped in when I was still at the wonderful Highlands Branch before the Milner Library opened.
She wanted me to hear her poems. They were handwritten on printer paper. Because of her housing issues, she was always afraid she was going to lose them. She just wanted someone to hear them.
So we stood alone in the office and she read them to me. They were fun, some were touching, they were all good. And then she left. I am honoured that I could do this, that she chose me to hear her work.
There were a lot of memorable moments, though. I met with teams, a father working on a tween novel with his 11-year-old daughter. A mother-daughter team writing a memoir about their adult adoption. A pair of friends writing a science book about peregrine falcons.
Some of the proudest work I did was with writers working on first projects, and watching them grow as a writer, grow in confidence, even as the pages grew. Some of those first projects were writers whose second language was English. Writers in their own language took the leap to write in English. It was inspirational to know that writing is so powerful, you want to be heard in your second language as well as your first.
I had a pen-pal poet. All the work from him came via Canada Post. I responded in kind. It was fun to lick stamps and drop things in a mailbox (I didn't actually LICK the stamps of course, they're stickers now, but that's not as fun).
Part of the deal being the Writer-in-Residence is that you work on your own material, half-time. And I did. Thanks to the generosity of the Edmonton Public Library, I completed two screenplays, made my theatrical debut with my first produced live play, and I wrote two short stories. One of which was published on the back of a can of Super Stout ale, produced by Blindman Brewery, opens a new window from Lacombe, Alberta. You should go to the beer store and do a little reading. My story is called "Pizza."
This year was historical in so many ways. The reason I won't ever forget this year wasn't because of political divisions, wearing masks, washing my groceries, or the 1,583 hours I spent on Zoom. I won't forget this year because of all my new friends and colleagues.
It was an honour to be your EPL Writer-in-Residence.
Now someone please give me a job.
Susie Moloney has written five books of fiction and several feature films, the first of which premiered at the Calgary International Film Festival. She writes about the supernatural through the purview of deeply flawed, strong, relatable women and sometimes kids. She shares her life with a blind dog named Scrappy and a husband named Vern.