Relational Innovations: Creative Writing as Social Practice

Sep 11, 2016

Relational Innovations: Creative Writing as Social Practice
Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016

Innovative writing and socially-oriented writing are often imagined as incompatible practices. This collaboratively organized one-day symposium at The Insurgent Architects’ House for Creative Writing at the University of Calgary queries how social questions can be taken up innovatively. Topics for discussion include: urban poetic practices, visibility and invisibility, representation, identity, writing beyond “what you know”, writing from conflict zones, cultural appropriation, cultural responsibility, what it means to be a good ally in writing communities, accountability, safe spaces, the place of creative writing in the academy, the role of the public intellectual, and more.

This event is a collaboration between Canadian Creative Writers and Writing Programs (CCWWP) and The Insurgent Architects’ House for Creative Writing (TIA House), organized in conjunction with the CCWWP board meeting, to take place Oct. 2, 2016.

The Oct. 1 program is free and open to University of Calgary students and faculty, Calgary writers and the general public. Please write to confirm your presence using the header: Relational Innovations RSVP. Refreshments will be served.


Schedule at a Glance

Continental Breakfast

9:30am- 10:30am
Opening remarks
Elder’s Welcome

10:30am – 12:00pm
The Real Centre is Here!

12:00pm – 1:30pm
Lunch at TIA House

1:30pm – 3:00pm
Outside In: The Politics and Problems of Writing What You Don’t Know

3:00pm – 3:15pm
Coffee Break

3:15pm – 4:45pm
Unsettling Practices: Writers Doing Justice Work in the Academy

6:00pm – 7:00pm
Dinner at Lot 102

7:00pm – 9:00pm
Evening Reading (Lot 102)


Detailed Program

Continental Breakfast

9:30am- 10:30am
Opening remarks: Lillian Allen, Rob Budde and Larissa Lai
Elder’s Welcome: Doreen Spence

10:30am – 12:00pm
The Real Centre is Here!
Moderator: Suzette Mayr

Reading: Shannon Maguire

Janet Rogers and Lillian Allen
Re-loading the Can(n)on
Lillian Allen and Janet Rogers will present a panel talk on bridging the gap between “urban” poetic practices ie spoken word, slam, Rap to the classroom. We will explore way in which these poetry forms can be studied and shared as validated and valued cannons of poetry which add to the current and growing richness of written, presented and performed poetry.

Lorri Neilsen Glenn
Finding Words for the Invisible
More of the Canadian population than we know or acknowledge have Indigenous and/or Métis (French and/or English Métis) roots. I am one of them. In researching the lives of 19th Century Red River women, I am steeped in two (or more) histories. One ‘given’ history, written almost exclusively by non-Indigenous settler males, privileges and silences the other, just as written language can silence oral. As I pull these stories of “half-breed” women into a manuscript, I am faced with complex issues of representation and identity. Is it possible to find language that honours and represents women who, 150 years ago, were rendered invisible?

12:00pm – 1:30pm
Lunch at TIA House

1:30pm – 3:00pm
Outside In: The Politics and Problems of Writing What You Don’t Know
Moderator: Rob Budde

Reading: Jani Krulc

Jill Yonit Goldberg
Writing Outside Yourself: Creating Characters With Diverse Backgrounds
Jill will look at the question of writing characters (in fiction) who do not share your own cultural/ethnic/racial/socio-economic etc. background, and what strategies might be used to handle this. Together, we will explore some of the questions writers should ask themselves, including what responsibilities a writer has when it comes to representation, and whether or not there are characters or situations that are off limits to a given writer.

David Leach
Writing the Double Narrative: An outsider tries to get inside the Israeli/Palestinian conflict
The Israeli/Palestinian conflict is one of the most divisive issues of our times, with little room for compromise or context in a debate that has hardened into a litmus test for right-versus-left political allegiances. Based on his own travel, research and writing in the region, David Leach will discuss the opportunities, challenges and limitations of using creative nonfiction—and what he calls the “investigative travel memoir”—to tell complex stories from and about this and other conflict zones with competing historical and social narratives while still acknowledging (and unpacking) an author’s own evolving biases.

Larissa Lai
Alliance vs. Appropriation
The cultural appropriation debates of the early 1990s were both a generative catalyst for Indigenous, Black and Asian writing communities and a subject of much controversy in the mainstream press. Deeply connected to a politics of the body and aware that meaning emerges differently depending on the body of the writer or speaker, a politics against cultural appropriation struggled for articulation falling afoul sometimes of bigots and sometimes of theoretical and practical problems embedded in the politics itself. In the aftermath of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, including so-called “people of colour” are charged with addressing the brutal histories of the residential schools. The problem of speaking about others, never easy in the first place, has shifted into deeply uncomfortable and yet deeply pressing ethical terrain. This talk will lay out some of the issues at stake and ask what next steps might look like and how we might recognize movement in the right direction.

3:00pm – 3:15pm
Coffee Break

3:15pm – 4:45pm
Unsettling Practices: Writers Doing Justice Work in the Academy
Moderator: Lillian Allen

Reading: Peter Forestell

Rob Budde
Intersections and Allies: Addressing Masculinity in Creative Writing Programs
Recent events that have reached national media attention involve the
misconduct of creative writing instructors in academic settings. Adjacent to
this is a fervent discussion of the value of ‘safe spaces’ on campuses. In
the balance are students and colleagues (women, female-identifying, women of colour, First Nations women, LGBTQ2S, and women with disabilities) who are subjected to violence and abuse in ways that seriously limit their ability
to function safely in these creative writing programs. My thinking is partly predicated on my location on Lheidli T’enneh territory and on the “Highway of Tears” where many missing and murdered indigenous women were subject to violence. I would like to discuss as a group

1) the complexities of these issues as they relate to our practice in the
2) how specifically men and male-identifying teachers can respond and/or
alter their practice,
3) connections between patriarchal ideology and racism as it relates to indigenous women, and how ‘indigenizing scholarship’ might create a real climate of healing, respect, and reconciliation, and
3) how an organization like CCWWP might take a leadership role in changing
what is clearly a toxic environment for many

Nikki Reimer
Hold Your Fucking Communities Accountable: Defining and creating safer spaces for women, trans, non-binary individuals, and people of colour in literary writing communities.
Structures of racism and gendered violence exist in Canadian literary writing communities, which, on the surface, appear to be liberal and inclusive, but frequently contain instance of violence against their own members. I want to address a problem I encounter regularly when I publically address racist and gendered violence in social media. In response to my posts, friends and acquaintances involved in writing communities often tell me stories about their own experiences of racist and gendered violence, propagated by people who are known in said communities and are often respected for their writing. For legal reasons, we can’t name the perpetrators, but we still need a way to address harms against others and we need a way to protect people from being harmed. My talk takes its title from ryan fitzpatrick’s poem “Hold your Fucking Metaphors Accountable.” In the poem, fitzpatrick shows that violent metaphors in themselves constitute violence, and he reminds us of the women who were killed by prominent male writers, such as the wives of Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser and Beat writer William Burroughs. During my talk, I shall begin by reading fitzpatrick’s poem and make the connection fitzpatrick encourages us to make: metaphorical and structural violence is still violence, even if it’s not physical.

Angie Abdou
“Who Are We Talking To? Who Is Listening?” Creative Writing, the Academy, and the Public Intellectual
This paper will explore creative writing’s uncomfortable fit within the academy. In terms of social practice, creative writing has potential to reach wider audiences and effect greater change than does academic/scholarly writing. However, many English Departments tend to privilege scholarly articles over creative work, especially when it comes to choosing job candidates or evaluating faculty for tenure and promotion. At the very least, there is an inconsistency in the way different institutions view and rate creative work, even within creative positions. The aim of this presentation is to open a discussion about the variety of professional work that creative writing teachers do outside of teaching (including creative work, academic writing, book reviews, festival participation, media interviews, public lectures, etc). In the paper, I will also consider the potential of these various acts in terms of social practice, as well as the importance granted to each by academic institutions (particularly in job searches and tenure/promotion decisions). Rather than offering answers, this 6-8 minute paper will set the context, raise the questions, present some research, and begin the conversation.

4:45pm – 6:00pm
Free Time

6:00pm – 7:00pm
Dinner at Lot 102 in Kensington.
Full address: 102 10 St NW, Calgary, AB T2N 1V5
Map with directions:

7:00pm – 9:00pm
Relational Innovations Evening Literary Reading
At Lot 102 in Kensington (after dinner)
Host: Natalie Simpson
Featured Local Readers: Joshua Whitehead, Aritha Van Herk (15 minutes each)


3-minute Readings by Symposium Delegates: Janet Rogers, Lillian Allen, Lorri Neilsen Glenn, Jill Yonit Goldberg, David Leach, Larissa Lai, Rob Budde, Nikki Reimer and Angie Abdou


Short Biographies

Angie Abdou teaches creative writing at Athabasca University. She has published four books of fiction, including Canada Reads’ finalist The Bone Cage. Her most recent novel, Between (Arsenal Pulp Press), was a best of 2014 pick in Prism Magazine, 49th Shelf, and Vancouver Sun.

Lillian Allen is a creative writing professor at the Ontario College of Art& Design University. A leading international dub poet/spoken word artist, Lillian’s work is taken up across all levels of the educational spectrum. She publishes in print, audio, video, and in performance. She is the new co-vice chair of the CCWWP.

Rob Budde teaches creative writing at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George. He has published eight books (poetry, novels, interviews, and short fiction), appeared in numerous literary magazines, and he is also a regular columnist for Northword Magazine. His most recent books are declining america and Dreamland Theatre. He is co-editor of Thimbleberry Magazine: Art + Culture in Northern BC which will be launched in early 2017.

Peter Forestell is a PhD Candidate in English at the University of Calgary. His work focuses on the place of effeminacy in contemporary gay media. You can follow him on Twitter @llewforestell.

Lorri Neilsen Glenn’s hybrid work about mixed-blood Red River women is forthcoming with Wolsak and Wynn in 2017. Former Halifax Poet Laureate, Lorri is the author and contributing editor of twelve works of poetry, creative nonfiction, and scholarly research, as well as the recipient of awards for innovative teaching and research. She is on faculty at Mount Saint Vincent University and serves as a mentor in The University of King’s College MFA program. Find her at @neilsenglenn or

Jill Goldberg writes from Vancouver where she also teaches creative writing and literature at Langara College. Towards the completion of her MFA in creative writing from UBC, Jill is currently working on her first novel that she dreams of publishing in the not-too distant future. She is also an occasional poet, screenwriter, and activist.

Aritha van Herk’s novels include Judith, The Tent Peg, No Fixed Address (nominated for the Governor General’s Award for fiction), Places Far From Ellesmere Restlessness. Her critical works, A Frozen Tongue and In Visible Ink, stretch the boundaries of the essay and interrogate questions of reading and writing as aspects of narrative subversion. With Mavericks: an Incorrigible History of Alberta (winner of the Grant MacEwan Author’s Award), van Herk ventured into new territory, transforming history into a narratological spectacle. Her latest works, In This Place and Prairie Gothic (with photographer George Webber), develop the idea of geographical temperament as tonal accompaniment. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a member of the Alberta Order of Excellence, recipient of the Lt. Governor’s Distinguished Artist Award, and recipient of the Lorne Pierce Medal, awarded to recognize achievement of special significance and conspicuous merit in imaginative or critical literature in Canada.

Jani Krulc‘s first collection of short fiction, The Jesus Year, was published in 2013. She has work forthcoming in The Calgary Renaissance, an anthology of writing from Calgary, and the Tent Peg Reading Series. Jani lives and writes in Calgary and is at work on a second collection.

Larissa Lai is the author of two novels, When Fox Is a Thousand and Salt Fish Girl; two books of poetry, sybil unrest (with Rita Wong) and Automaton Biographies; a chapbook, Eggs in the Basement; and most recently, a critical book, Slanting I, Imagining We: Asian Canadian Literary Production in the 1980s and 1990s.She holds a Canada Research Chair II in Creative Writing at the University of Calgary and directs The Insurgent Architects’ House for Creative Writing there., #haamyue

David Leach is the chair of the Department of Writing at the University of Victoria and the author of Chasing Utopia: The Future of the Kibbutz in a Divided Israel (ECW Press, 2016)

Shannon Maguire is an Assistant Professor (LTA) in the Department of English at the University of Calgary. She is the author of two full-length collections of poetry, fur(l) parachute (BookThug, 2013)—which was shortlisted for the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry—and Myrmurs: An Exploded Sestina (BookThug, 2015) as well as four chapbooks, one of which was shortlisted for the bpNichol Chapbook Award. Her work appears in The Best American Experimental Writing, 2014 among other places.

Suzette Mayr is the author of four novels including her most recent book Monoceros, which won the ReLit Award and the City of Calgary W. O. Mitchell Book Prize, and was nominated for several prizes including the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize. She teaches creative writing at the University of Calgary.

Nikki Reimer is a poet and non-fiction writer who works in digital communications and marketing for higher education. Her published books are [sic] (Frontenac House 2010) and DOWNVERSE (Talonbooks 2014). She is most often always on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Janet Rogers is a Mohawk/Tuscarora writer from Six Nations territory living on the traditional lands of the Coast Salish people. Janet works in print, spoken word, performance and video poetry. Her 5th book Totem Poles and Railroads ARP Books will be released November 1st 2016.

Natalie Simpson is the author of accrete or crumble (LINEbooks 2006) and Thrum(Talonbooks 2014). Her poetry has appeared in several anthologies, including The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2013. She practices pro bono law in Calgary, Alberta and serves on the board of filling Station magazine.

Doreen Spence was born of Cree ancestry in Northern Alberta. She has represented her people and the values by which they live in an effective and exemplary manner for the past forty-five years. Drawing on her own experiences as an indigenous woman as well as those, peoples from across the world, Doreen is capable of addressing any issue that impacts on the Aboriginal community.
She travels extensively to present at numerous conferences around the world sharing her message of healing, tolerance, human rights, and the wisdom of First Nations traditional teachings. Doreen is the founder and executive director of Canadian Indigenous Women’s Resource Institute. Prior to CIWRI, she was the founder and President of the Plains Cultural Survival School Society and was a senator at the University of Calgary. Internationally, Doreen is the Canadian representative to the United Nations Working Group of Indigenous Populations, and as part of that, she advocates on behalf of indigenous peoples worldwide. Doreen has been honored numerous times for her work, including being a Nobel Peace Prize Nominee for the 1000 Women of Peace project in 2005; ; receiving an International Award at the New Zealand Spiritual Elders Conference in 1992, along with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Doreen has opened hearts and minds around the world, and continues to do so, through her teachings, persistence, wisdom, and unconditional love. She strives to bring understanding between all nations.

Joshua Whitehead is an Oji-Cree member of the Peguis First Nation in Manitoba (Treaty 1) and identifies as Two-Spirit/niizh manitoag. Joshua is currently undertaking a Ph.D. in English and Creative Writing at the University of Calgary (Treaty 7) where he focuses on Indigenous Literatures/Cultures, Critical Race Theory and Queer Theory. You can find his recent work published in Arc Poetry Magazine, Event Magazine, Red Rising Magazine,and is the current winner of the 2016 Aboriginal Arts and Stories Challenge for his poem, “mihkokwaniy”.