Write this way, please

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4He’s no dilettante. The incoming regional writer in residence is journalist, former Edmonton Journal books editor, and best-selling author Michael Hingston.

“I feel very strongly about the writing community in and around the city. The writer in residence is right up my alley, for sure,” he said.

His work has appeared in Wired, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Guardian, The Walrus, and The Globe and Mail. His first book, The Dilettantes, came out in 2013 while his next one, an exploration of Calvin and Hobbes, is set to come out in the spring.

At this time of year, people are also very familiar with his recurring Short Story Advent Calendar, now in its third iteration. You can find a copy of the 2017 calendar already at the St. Albert Public Library where they open up a new short story every day. It sells all over the world now.

“That’s been pretty cool. We have a really strong base in Edmonton; that’s definitely our biggest market, which makes sense. This year, we’ve sold more than ever to places like Australia, the U.K., mainland Europe as well, and much farther into the States.”

He co-produces the popular literary gift through Hingston & Olsen Publishing, the publishing house he runs with Calgary graphic designer Natalie Olsen. It’s a “part-time publishing outfit” but people might also have caught their new creation, The Ghost Box, a similar compilation to the advent calendar except with seasonally spooky stories. It was edited and introduced by prominent actor, comedian and social commentator Patton Oswalt and came out just in time for Halloween.

“That was amazing.”

Although it is not exactly sure when his first day on the job will be in 2018, he will divvy his year up into three terms of four-month stints at each of the libraries in Sherwood Park, then Fort Saskatchewan, before he arrives on station right here in St. Albert most likely in mid-August. People can access his services anywhere throughout the year, however. He’ll have weekly office hours and will offer special free public programs and workshops periodically at each spot.

“I’m hoping to get out to some schools or do some outreach in other places throughout the community. That’s one of the cool things about the regional job. Downtown Edmonton has its charms. I love downtown Edmonton but I’m excited to get out into the communities in the surrounding areas and talk to the people there, see what kind of stories are hiding.”

“I’m only here for the year so the more people I can talk to, the better.”

“The Writers in Residence program provides distinct knowledge and unparalleled experiences every year,” said Peter Bailey, the director of the St. Albert Public Library. “It continues to expand both the minds and abilities of writers from all walks of life and with a variety of interests, and we are looking forward to many creative and inspiring sessions with Michael.”

Hingston will take over for 2017 writer in residence Richard van Camp, who concluded his regular office hours earlier this week.

Writers abound

Hingston is joined in his announcement by Darrin Hagen, who will spend next year as the writer in residence with Edmonton Public Libraries. He’s the well-known local playwright, actor, sound designer, composer, performer, director and TV host. His face might not be too familiar since he is also the Artistic Director of Guys In Disguise, which is currently celebrating three decades of drag comedies. If you’ve seen him in action then you know that he has a very large personality. His trophy case is big as well, with seven Sterling Awards. He’s in both the Q Hall of Fame Canada and the Edmonton Queer Hall of Fame, not to mention having been named one of 100 Edmontonians of the Century and one of Alberta’s 25 Most Influential Artists in the last 25 years.

“I’m beyond excited to meet and work with the diversity of creative voices that make up the Edmonton writing community, not only the writers I’m familiar with but also those whose work I haven’t experienced yet,” Hagen said. “The streak of unique artistic creativity in our city has always impressed and inspired me, and I know I will learn so much by spending 2018 immersed in the imaginations of others.”

Each writer will spend half of their residency dedicated to mentoring other writers and presenting programs, with the other half tapping hard at the keyboard on personal projects.

More information can be found by visiting www.metrowir.com.

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Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.