Letter to Banff

This August I was incredibly fortunate to have attended Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity’s Autobiography and Fiction with Electric Literature residency.

All Banff Centre’s programs are highly regarded, but when I saw they were working together with the illustrious digital publisher Electric Literature, and that the focus of the residency was to “explore the distinctions and intersecting themes between genres, such as when to be beholden to the truth and when to break free from it, writing fiction vs. memoir (and how to decide which is which), and teasing satisfying narrative threads from real life“, I knew I had to apply. I’m working on a fictionalized memoir based on my time living in Donegal as a child.

I certainly did not expect to get in, but I did, and I was also awarded financial aid from the Centre and a travel grant to help with costs.

The experience was exceptional: an extraordinarily diverse and talented group of participants, editorial consultations and group seminars with Electric Literature editors Halimah Marcus and Jess Zimmerman, group and individual discussions with guest faculty Meredith Talusan and Susan Choi. We also had the honour of attending a deeply inspiring guest speaker event featuring the Canadian poet, essayist and novelist Dionne Brand. There were two reading nights where all participants had a chance to read from their work.

Most of my time, however, was spent holed up in my gorgeous room (the Center’s accommodations have recently been extensively renovated) looking out onto pine trees and the mountains while tapping away at my computer. All my needs taken care of, and with only supportive writerly distractions, I managed to write 20,000 words during those two weeks.

This was not my first time at the Centre –  I participated in the Wired Writing Studio in 2011 (two weeks at the Centre and twenty weeks online mentorship with author Marina Endicott) – and I sincerely hope it will not be my last. While this particular residency was special because of Electric Literature’s involvement, the general atmosphere, surroundings and participant support at the Centre could not be more encouraging for anyone involved in a creative endeavour.

Thank you Banff Centre, thank you Electric Literature!

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