Department of Writing Photo)

The Department of English and Writing Studies in University College, Sept. 21, 2018.

If you’ve got an interest in creative writing, pursue it — regardless of your major.

On Wednesday night, Dr. Shane Neilson proved that it’s possible to marry two opposing passions together.

At the first Creative Writers Speakers Series of the semester, the award-winning poet and family physician inspired students of all faculties with his story. He also piqued their interest by sharing some ins and outs of the writing and publishing industries.

The goal of the weekly talk, which acts as a course for those in the creative writing program, is to allow all students the chance to explore and pursue creative writing. To achieve this, the departments of English and Writing Studies are working in collaboration with Poetry London. They’re bringing a diverse group of esteemed and up-and-coming Canadian writers to Western University.

Sarah Minos, a third-year English major and creative writing minor, initially registered in the course for a module requirement. After listening to Neilson’s encouraging words, she came to recognize the tangible benefits of the Speakers Series.

Dr. Neilson gave students insider tips on how to gain more exposure in the writing and publishing industries; he encouraged them to apply to the Frog Hollow Press Chapbook Contest, which is a springtime contest he helps run. Frog Hollow Press publishes the contest winner, which provides a huge opportunity for new Canadian poets to be heard.

“I felt inspired just listening to him. I started going through story ideas that could work for the contest he told us about," Minos shares. "Yesterday, I didn’t know that contest existed, so even just one speaker has helped me understand the system a little bit better and helped push me towards where I want to go as I try to figure out my own path as well.” 

After one session, Minos explains that students are already better connected to the professional industry they hope to enter upon graduation.

The program isn’t just beneficial for students in the creative writing program, though.

“I’m not in the creative writing program, but I’ve written for fun a lot and it’s a hobby of mine, so it’s interesting to hear from perspectives of actual writers,” says Hana Brännström, a fourth-year physics student on exchange from Sweden.

Brännström appreciates that Western is encouraging students to explore their diverse interests by providing engaging opportunities like the Creative Writers Speakers Series. She talks about how this program is providing her with the chance to grow in a field other than her major and why that’s impactful to her university education.

“Having access to creative writing is super interesting and important in other fields as well. I’m in physics, so I have to describe things to the public and take things that are very abstract and complex and find a way that people can understand and find it interesting," Brännström says. "So it’s practical for physics, and it’s also really fun.”

Brännström was one of many students outside the creative writing program to attend the opening talk on Wednesday, and she's already looking forward to next week. The speaker lineup for the rest of the semester looks bright with a variety of writers, including poets, graphic novelists, podcasters, playwrights and more. Notably, Western's Writer-in-Residence, Governal General Award and Kirkus Prize winner, Cherie Dimaline, will host the talk on Nov.14.

This series showcases just how possible it is for students to explore interests outside of their major. If you love to read or have an interest in writing but are unsure how to pursue it, take a step outside of your comfort zone. You might be surprised by how close an "unrealistic" dream could be if you just take a chance.

The Creative Writers Speakers Series will run every Wednesday this semester from 4:00-5:15 p.m. in UCC 56 and is open to all students.

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