Distinguished writers change the guard

By Diana Lyuber

The Markin-Flanagan Disting-uished Writers Programme hosts its annual passing of the torch public reading this Thu., Sept. 16, bidding adieu to award-winning Nova Scotian author Robert Finley, and welcoming our newest writer-in-residence Natalee Caple, who begins her residency this Wednesday.

The evening gets rolling at 7:30 p.m. at the Cantos Music Foundation, and for the benefit of starving students everywhere, it’s absolutely free and open to the general public.

“It promises to be a great reading,” said former writer-in-residence and University of Calgary English Professor Suzette Mayr. She encourages students to come down for a night of great literature, free munchies, and a chance to hear two of Canada’s promising new writers in action.

With an award-winning first novel already under his belt, Robert Finley will read from Water, a visual and textual expose on the Acadian French shore, as well as The Harbour, which explores the ideas of longing and home through geological, personal and photographic narratives. He worked on both projects during his 10 months at the university.

Toronto-based writer Natalee Caple, whose debut short story collection The Heart Is Its Own Reason has earned international acclaim, will read from her latest novel Mackerel Sky, and from her book of poetry on notorious playwright August Strindberg, Imaginary Person.

“I appreciate the way events like these combine the public and the writing community,” explained Mayr of why such readings are important to Calgary’s literary scene.

According to program manager Gail Corbett, this strong public component has always been important to the Markin-Flanagan Programme.

“There are public readings, workshops, free one-on-one manuscript consultations,” said Corbett. “It’s all about relationships, about providing a community for writers. We bring them here to Calgary and let them stay and become part of the literary community. [The residency] is creatively charged and inspiring in that way, because it provides this whole new context for writers.”

Started in 1993 by Calgary philanthropists Allan Markin and Jackie Flanagan, the programme invites promising Canadian writers to serve 10-month residencies at the university. Their time here is split between working on personal projects and providing invaluable consultations to local writers and university students. The programme also welcomes writers of international stature throughout the year, and has played host to an impressive list including Thomas Findley and Ursula LeGuin.

“The idea originally was that the Emerging Canadian Writer and the Distinguished Writer would be at the university at the same time, to give them an opportunity to interact,” explains Corbett.

This would then work to further the program’s main objective: to advance the careers of Canadian writers while invigorating Calgary’s writing community.

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