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Writer in residence Bachinsky passes on the torch

The term of UFV’s fourth official writer in residence, local poet Elizabeth Bachinsky, has officially come to an end. A former UFV student herself, Bachinsky attended classes here during her first year after graduation before going on to study creative writing at Douglas College and UBC, eventually obtaining her degrees at UBC. Before her residency on campus, she worked for two years as the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows writer in residence, where she worked to build literary culture within the community.

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Date Posted: May 19, 2011
Print Edition: May 13, 2011

By Alex Watkins (The Cascade) – Email

The term of UFV’s fourth official writer in residence, local poet Elizabeth Bachinsky, has officially come to an end.

A former UFV student herself, Bachinsky attended classes here during her first year after graduation before going on to study creative writing at Douglas College and UBC, eventually obtaining her degrees at UBC. Before her residency on campus, she worked for two years as the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows writer in residence, where she worked to build literary culture within the community.

Bachinsky noted that one of the most memorable and rewarding parts of her time at UFV was the opportunity to watch students’ writing develop. The efforts of many of these individuals were displayed at her April 7 going-away reading, in which live readings of both her work and those of UFV students were staged. She recalled: “I was so choked up… I was so proud of everybody. They worked so hard and they had no reason to work that hard other than they just love writing and they love what they do.”

She also cited representing UFV at the recent Mission Writer’s Festival as one of the aspects of her residency that she especially enjoyed, noting that “out in the valley… you have to work a little harder… to create community, and especially a literary community… Any cultural endeavour you make out here it’s almost like you’re building it up from the ground… but it was really nice to see that some of those efforts are already well in place and the festival was really well attended.”

Building this sense of community is an important enterprise for Bachinsky, and it is one of the reasons she enjoys living in the valley. She acknowledged the difficulties and frustrations that youth may experience growing up in an environment without a strong cultural base, and encourages them to actively participate in building this culture.

She advised students to begin this venture by getting in touch with universities and local arts councils, which have the resources to provide both space and funding to new programs. In particular, Bachinsky spoke of the importance of doing one’s research in order to find out who to approach with ideas and of being persistent. She noted that when enquiring at universities and arts councils about who to approach with an idea, “the thing is to never take nobody for an answer… [if they say] we’re not interested, you say: ‘Well… if someone were interested, who might I talk to?’ And keep asking the question until someone says, ‘Well actually, maybe you could talk to so-and-so.’”

Bachinsky continued that even after attaining spaces and funding, if organizers want to create something that the community will be interested in they must “have a bit of a long vision and [they] have to be consistent.” This means establishing a set schedule for an event and holding it at the same time every month, which helps to build a regular audience. She encouraged students to obtain the information of regular attendees so that they can keep them informed about upcoming events, and to make use of social media, which is not only easy to do but free. Overall, she emphasized, “It takes time… perseverance… and having faith in the importance of creating culture in your community.”

This advice comes from Bachinsky’s own personal experience with creating and promoting events in the Fraser Valley. “When I was the writer in residence for Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, by the end of my two years there I had a pretty consistent audience of between 60 and 80 people every month coming to the readings. It was actually remarkable…. And you know, often people don’t even realize that they’re going to enjoy something like a poetry reading… until they do it a couple times, and then they’re like: ‘Oh yeah, this is pretty fun!’”

Bachinsky was buoyed not only by her positive experiences with the writer in residency program at UFV but also the news that the program has officially become a part of the university’s budget, meaning that “they don’t have to fight to have it included every single year.” She urged students to seek out the next writer in residence early and often, as the four-month term goes by very quickly.

“The only thing I’d like to say to students [is] to keep writing, don’t stop… the only way you don’t become a writer is if you stop writing… Keep your goals focused ahead of you and just be confident, be brave, keep doing it, have faith and visit the next writer in residence.”

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