The arts depend on having an audience. It is important to demonstrate that people are paying attention to, and acknowledging the work that any type of artist has done—a lot of effort goes into creative expression, and that deserves recognition. This week, I sat down with U3 student, Julie Mannell, who is DESA’s English Literature representative as well as the founder and director of the McGill Creative Writing Society. Julie is helping the immense amount of creative talent at McGill find a voice—and giving aspiring writers the chance to be a part of a fun and a supportive community.
Can you tell me a bit about the McGill Creative Writing Society?
The McGill Creative Writing Society is a group that meets to workshop each other’s writing. Anyone from any faculty can join. There are four groups that meet on different days and each day is loosely focused on a specific type of writing: poetry, drama, short stories, and children’s books. The society also works to make creative writing opportunities more accessible to McGill writers through opportunities like the Summer Literary Seminars at Concordia, which bring famous authors from around the world to lead classes for young and ambitious writers.
What prompted you to create the Society?
Before the McGill Creative Writing Society, there was a smaller group for students who liked to write. I wanted to take this idea of a writing community and give it greater publicity, as well as making it more encompassing. The group is, in part, a response to McGill’s lack of creative writing courses available to students—which are limited by Quebec language laws. This year, for example, there were only two courses offered in addition to a class on writing for television. Moreover, such classes are extremely small and often limited to U3 students—so if you are a less developed writer there are few opportunities to improve within a classroom environment. By creating the Society, I also wanted to showcase all of the creative talent that we have at McGill.
What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
Part of my ambition in creating the Society, was to make professional workshops on creative writing more accessible to students. Although this year, starting the group proved to be quite ambitious, in the future I am hoping to coordinate events centered around publication and self-publication, and which journals in Montreal (and at McGill) are good venues for submission. I would also love to have an increased number of established authors speak to students at McGill about their work and experiences. Finally, I think that it would be incredible to have something like a McGill Poetry Festival, where students’ creative work could be recognized.
Why do you think that groups like this are important?
I believe that if you want to be involved in any of the arts, you should have access to them—and to resources for improving your craft. We are lucky to have a great academic program at McGill and this alone can help you as a writer. Yet, I think that for creative writers, there is another aspect too: you need to attend workshops, have your pieces edited, network, and be a part of a community of like-minded writers who support each other.
What do you like best about being involved in the McGill Creative Writing Society?
I have made a lot of friends through this group! My group meets every Thursday and we go to Bar-Des-Arts afterwards—it is a lot of fun. One of our members even organized a show where we were able to read our work. I think the McGill Creative Writing Society provides a safe-space for writers who are still developing and want to share their work with others. But to me, it is also just a really supportive group of friends who get drunk and read poetry on Thursdays—and I love that.
If you could be any author/poet, who would you be?
I would be a combination of Charles Bukowski and Anne Sexton because they kind of contradict each other and I think it would make for an interesting social experiment.
Do you have a favorite book or poem?
If I had to pick, my favorite book would be Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. I think there are too many poems and poets I would betray in choosing a single one, so I’m at a loss regarding the second part of the question.
If you would like to be a part of the McGill Creative Writing Society, please email Julie at [email protected] or DESA at [email protected]