By Rachel Woodward, September 13 2016 —
Shane Book will take residency at the University of Calgary as this year’s Writer-In-Residence.
The Writer-In-Residence role takes place over a 10-month period where the writer spends half of their time writing and the other half working with students and the community. Book is expected to talk about writing and to help aspiring writers with their work.
The Gauntlet sat down to chat with Book about his new role and his work in the industry as a poet, author and filmmaker.
The Gauntlet: What does it mean to be the Writer-In-Residence?
Shane Book: It’s a 10-month position for either an emerging or a mid-career writer. They are selected in a competitive process. It means you get 10 months to write. You’re supposed to spend 50 percent of your time writing and the rest of your time doing community engagement, which in my case, involves giving readings and the most important part — manuscript consultations. We meet with students at the university and also the greater Calgary community who have manuscripts that want some help and consultation. Every week, we have office hours where people come in and bring their work.
G: Why were you initially attracted to the position?
B: It’s very rare that you get a block of time where you get a salary [and] you have time to do your own work. It’s a very prestigious program. A lot of great writers have gone through it and have gone on to make names for themselves in Canada and beyond. I had been teaching in the United States and also I had never been to Calgary. It was [one of] the few parts of Canada I’d never been in, so I wanted to live here and see what it’s like.
G: What is some of the work that you’ve done in your writing career?
B: My training has primarily been in poetry and I’ve published two full-length books. I have published some chapbooks, written non-fiction journalism and more recently I went to film school, so I’ve made a couple of short films and I’m working on some longer film projects.
I guess to sum it up, I work in poetry and film and I’ve also written essays and published various non-fiction. The first [poetry] book is a documentary-style of poetics that draws on my experiences living in a lot of different places. It’s stuff from the developing world — memories [and] news articles.
G: By the end of the program, what are you hoping to have achieved?
B: I hope to have written two full-length feature film scripts and written at least one new book of poetry.
G: What is next for you after the program?
B: Probably just sleeping. But the idea is that if can write a decent draft of one of the scripts, I would like to direct it. The next step would be to start raising money and casting actors. The following year we would shoot it and it would be my first feature. I would like to write television [and] I’m interested in writing a book of prose — perhaps essays or something in fiction.
Edited for brevity and clarity.