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Introducing the U of C’s new Writer-in-Residence

Stephanie Tang, September 4, 2014 —

Each school year, the Calgary Distinguished Writers Program brings an emerging Canadian writer to the University of Calgary as part of the Writer-in-Residence program.

This year’s author, Ian Williams, admits that he is often so busy that he writes whenever he can. But his upcoming ten month residency at the U of  C will give him a chance to work on his projects. 

“I really needed some time to do creative work, and this is the best residency in Canada,” says Williams, who has already completed residencies and fellowships at other institutions.

The residency will run from Aug. 15, 2014 – June 15, 2015. Williams’ time will be divided between working on a novel and community involvement.

He’s excited for the opportunity to meet other writers in the community through manuscript consultations, presentations and readings.

Williams’ work is inspired by relationships and technology in the modern age. He’s fascinated by the intersection between the two, especially in an age where Facebook and Twitter are part of everyday life. 

Although technological advances have made it easier to keep in touch with people, he observes that it can also have an adverse effect. 

“My last book was about people pursuing a romantic relationship and being unable to connect. And despite all of their technology that promises them connection, and this belief  that technology can connect us meaningfully, we often end up disappointed by it and somehow strangely more alienated than we were before,” says Williams.

Williams is equally critical of literature — particularly poetry — that fails to reflect our technological landscape. He speculates that the decline of poetry may be due to the sudden and exponential growth of social media and smartphones, which has left poetry struggling to adapt.

“I don’t want to read hundreds of poems about Twitter or Facebook or anything. But we shouldn’t pretend like these things don’t exist, and they haven’t changed how we communicate and how we use
language,” he says. “I think poetry is big enough and strong enough to handle anything.” 

Williams has published both poetry and fiction. He says he doesn’t have a preference between the two. 

“I honestly think I’m perfectly bi-generic. I love them both equally,” he says. “It’s like if you’re perfectly bilingual. If you speak Spanish at home and English in the world, sometimes you think in Spanish, sometimes you think in English.”

On Sept. 11 the U of C will host Hello/Goodbye, an event to formally welcome Williams and bid farewell to last year’s Writer-in-Residence, Sara Tilley. Both authors will hold a free public reading and reception at the Arrata Opera Centre at 7:30 p.m. 


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