A new writer in residence to usher in the new year
Margaret Macpherson takes over the office from Natasha Deen
By: Scott Hayes
| Posted: Wednesday, Jan 01, 2014 06:00 am
Now that it’s 2014, there’s a new author on the scene. She’s not just a regular author either. She’s here to help anyone and everyone get through their literary doldrums and conundrums to make it on the path to being published, just like her.
Margaret Macpherson takes the reins from Natasha Deen to become the 2014 Regional Writer in Residence, a program of the Metro Federation of Libraries. This group is comprised of libraries in St. Albert, Edmonton, Fort Saskatchewan and Strathcona County.
The 54-year-old brings with her a wealth of knowledge and experience that crosses the board, having written pretty much everything from coast to coast and from north to south.
“The trajectory has definitely been with hard news at one end of the spectrum to poetry at the other end and almost everything in between,” she began. “I haven’t written a cookbook nor will I ever write a cookbook. I am a self-professed ‘crappy cook’. It’s not where I put my creative energies, let’s put it that way.”
The former long-time radio and print journalist with a masters of fine arts in creative writing has also taught journalism and creative writing at King’s University College. She has oodles of experience as a lecturer and community facilitator. Now a full-time writer, she has produced two plays, numerous magazine and newspaper articles and many poems.
She has also written eight books including non-fiction titles Nellie McClung: Voice for the Voiceless, Outlaws of the Canadian West and Silk, Spices and Glory in Search of the Northwest Passage. Her books of fiction include Perilous Departures, Released and most recently Body Trade about two young women who get caught up in sex trafficking in Central America. Several of these books can be found within the St. Albert Public Library’s catalogue.
Her works have also garnered accolades including the Canadian Authors Association Exporting Alberta Award in 2004 and the DeBeers Northwords Prize in 2012. She also represented this province in the National CBC Poetry Face-Off in 2006 and has competed on more than one occasion in the coveted Story Slam championship, winning the competition once.
“I did a lot of magazine writing and some freelance stuff. I did copywriting and all kinds of things. I worked as a cub reporter for the Fredericton Daily. Slowly over time, I went from hard news to feature writing to these general non-fiction books to a biography of Nellie McClung that was definitely non-fiction but I had a lot of creative liberties. Then I finally got to what I really love which is short stories. All the time I was teaching journalism and creative writing.”
She said that she would still be able to offer words of advice to anyone who wanted to write a cookbook and needed help.
“I would certainly offer words of advice about reading and then synthesizing the material. That’s what’s important in a cookbook: being able to read it, comprehend it and then act on it.”
She joins Jason Lee Norman, the driving force behind the recently published anthology 40 Below that featured short stories from 50 or so local writers. Macpherson had a story in that book as well.
While Norman will be stationed at the Edmonton Public Library for the full year, Macpherson will take four-month rotations going from post to post, starting with the Fort Saskatchewan Public Library, followed by the Strathcona Library system before she moves on to the St. Albert Public Library. She’s thrilled to be in this city during its next edition of STARFest set to run in October.
While here, she will mentor other writers, offering workshops while working on her own projects.
“It’s a dream job. It’s supported writing!” she cheered, referring to a major creative non-fiction project she called ‘Not the Caribou Queen’ about her early years in the Territories in the 1960s and 70s.
“Somebody’s actually going to pay me to work on that project, plus – and this is a huge thing for me – I get to meet other writers and I get to share their words and hopefully be able to help them with whatever it is that they need, maybe just encouragement, maybe a little bit of gentle critique, maybe just putting them on the road towards the right publisher or possibly helping them shape a story or structure a work of non-fiction or just bring a second set of eyes to a community that’s interested in writing.”
“I believe that everyone is a writer and the act of writing is brave and difficult. Just to be part of that and share that dream with people is truly a privilege. I’m really looking forward to the social interaction and talking about what I love,” she ended.
In a prepared statement, St. Albert Public Library director Peter Bailey said, “We are very pleased with the success of the 2013 Writer in Residence. Natasha Deen spent the first few months of the year here and made great connections with local writers, as well as staging lots of programs to help writers hone their craft. I am glad that we can build on the momentum created, and I look forward to welcoming Margaret as the regional Writer in Residence. I know she will make a significant contribution to our vibrant and talented writing community.”