A look inside the Writer in Residence Week

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This past week marked the closing of the fourth annual Wilfrid Laurier University Writer In Residence week, with special guest Elizabeth Hay.

The Visiting Writer Program began 4 years ago when Laurier hosted author Lawrence Hill and the program has been running strong ever since. Each year when the guest author visits multiple events, panels, discussions and meetings take place and are accessible to both public and closed groups.

Hay began the week with an open panel discussing changes occurring in Canada’s northern regions. On Wednesday March 19, Hay visited Brantford campus to give a public lecture and to meet with the Laurier Brantford reading group. On Thursday, she hosted a public lecture held in the Maureen Forrester Hall that also included a book signing.

She engaged in a public discussion with the current Edna Staebler writer in residence Colleen Murphy on Friday.

“The 2014 Visiting Writer program at Wilfrid Laurier is an exciting program,” stated Murphy. Each of these events was open to the public and allowed Hay and other members of the Laurier community to discuss themes that occur in Hay’s writing.

Murphy stated that she was thrilled to have engaged with Hay.

“I was honoured to be on two panels where she spoke: one at the Polar Regions Centre where we discussed writing about the north with an audience made up of creative artists and scientists, and on another panel where we discussed our conscious engagement with the world through our work.”

There were also a number of closed events that Hay attended, including meeting with the Laurier Reads Elizabeth Hay group.

This group is in its third year of existence at Laurier. The first meeting is a few months before the author comes to Laurier and is open to anyone. This small group of people then meets every other week to discuss the book. This year’s book was Elizabeth Hay’s award wining novel Late Nights on Air, which won the Giller Prize in 2007/8 and takes place in Yellowknife in 1975.

The story focuses on a small radio station in the Yukon and is underscored by the drama that unfolded surrounding the pipeline that was to be put into Northern Canada. Dr. Tanis McDonald led the group in discussions about the Canadian north, radio and voice, and the history of radio and the pipeline.

The group then met with Hay on Thursday March 20 to discuss her process in writing the book. They group had prepared questions for Hay and were eager to talk about their opinions on her award-winning novel.

The Writer in Residence Program has no intention of slowing down and will only expand in future years. Students are encouraged to engage with the author and attend the events in following seasons. Previous authors have been Lawrence Hill, Joseph Boyden and Alissa York. Murphy commented, “Wilfrid Laurier is a university where the intersection of liberal arts and sciences is taken seriously.”

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