Gail Sidonie Sobat is nearing the end of her one-year appointment as the metropolitan Edmonton regional writer in residence and decided that a seasonal party was in order. Since the start of the year, she has been stationed in four-month stints at both the Fort Saskatchewan and Strathcona County public library systems before landing here in this fair burg.
She felt like it was a grand opportunity to gather together her cohorts and counterparts for an evening of revelry, the likes of which can only be surmised by a roomful of writers at a local brewery.
“One of my dreams as writer in residence throughout my term was to somehow invite all of the writers in residence in this city and area together,” she began.
“I think we have a fantastic treasure chest of people who are serving as writers in residence in various venues and in various capacities. The general public doesn’t know how privileged Edmonton is, how lucky we are to have all of this talent at our fingertips. It’s incredible!”
She admitted that she had to count them all out and only then did she realize that there were 11 such writers, playwrights and writing coaches in residence throughout the metropolitan area.
“Isn’t that astonishing? It’s an embarrassment of riches!”
A coach, Sobat explained, is someone who helps a budding author to roadmap a book, figure out where to go with the story, and offer guidance for other parts of the process.
On Monday, most of them will all be in the same room at the Yellowhead Brewery to offer some readings and participate in a Q and A session. Considering the location, there will also likely be a toast to both the advent of winter and a convivial cheer to all of the writers in residence, some of whom – including Sobat – will be leaving their stations at the end of December to make way for their successors to take up their mantles.
Sobat said that she would offer a toast to all of the people who do such good work in the city on behalf of writers everywhere.
“It seems like there’s such a generosity of spirit to me,” she said, noting that the event should help to take away the mystique of the ominous ‘Writer in Residence’ and show how approachable they actually are.
“Some of their mandates are to work with the public. I suspect everyone would be eager to talk to anyone who is an interested writer, an interested playwright or poet.”
Alberta Views columnist and acclaimed author of Who by Fire and Thing Feigned or Imagined, Fred Stenson, is the writer in residence at the University of Alberta. He added that at the very least people should have a fine time but at the most the meet’n’greet could work wonders for any budding novelist.
“Hearing from the city’s (writers in residence), all in one evening, is a sort of mentor supermarket: see who sounds best suited to read your work and find out where to get in touch with them,” he suggested.
Joining Sobat and Stenson are Edmonton Public Libraries’ writer in residence Elizabeth Withey, Workshop West’s playwrights in residence Nicole Moeller and Beth Graham, Latitude 53 Gallery’s writer in residence Theodore Fox, and Steven Ross Smith, Suzanne Harris, and Kimmy Beach, the last three of whom are with the Alberta branch of the Canadian Authors’ Association as the writer in residence, coach in residence and forthcoming coach in residence, in order.
Other writers in residence around the region who will not be able to make it to the event include MacEwan University’s writer in residence Peter Norman and the U of A’s Lee Playwright in Residence Colleen Murphy.
The event is free to attend but is restricted to attendees aged 18 and up. A portion of beer sales will go to support YouthWrite, Sobat’s organization that promotes writing among youth.
An Evening with Edmonton’s Writers in Residence takes place Nov. 30 from 7 to 10 p.m. There will be a cash bar featuring Yellowhead’s beverages for $6.25/pint, along with $6.25 hi balls, $7.25 wine, and $2 for pop and juice.
The Yellowhead Brewery is located at 10229 105 St. in Edmonton.
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/YouthWrite.