Meet Jaclyn Desforges, 2023-24 Mabel Pugh Taylor Writer in Residence

a circular headshot of Jaclyn Desforges, alongside text that reads

Award winning Hamilton-based writer Jaclyn Desforges is looking forward to working with writers in the community, offering support, mentorship and writing workshops.

Jaclyn Desforges was breastfeeding her newborn daughter at three in the morning when she decided to become a creative writer.

After years of dancing around her dream by ghostwriting, copywriting and writing lifestyle articles, Desforges felt professionally unsatisfied. In the middle of the night, she decided to go for it.

The timing and certainty still surprise her eight years later.

“I became a mother at 25 and I was tired enough at that point that the exhaustion drowned out the fear,” said the Hamilton-based writer.

“Looking back, I’m actually shocked at the decision but up until then, I hadn’t found my way in my career and had never found anything that fit.”

Desforges is the incoming Mabel Pugh Taylor Writer in Residence at McMaster.

The program provides an established Canadian author with writing time and the opportunity to mentor creative writers from the Hamilton community and beyond through workshops and one-on-one consultations.

Desforges, who identifies as queer and neurodivergent, has experienced much success since that serendipitous decision to become a creative writer.

Her book of poetry, Danger Flower (Palimpsest Press/Anstruther Books, 2021), won the 2022 Hamilton Literary Award for Poetry and was one of CBC’s picks for the best Canadian poetry of 2021.

She penned a picture book called Why Are You So Quiet? (Annick Press, 2020), which was shortlisted for a Chocolate Lily Award and selected for the 2023 TD Summer Reading Club.

She is a Pushcart-nominated writer and the winner of a 2022 City of Hamilton Creator Award, a 2020 Hamilton Emerging Artist Award for Writing, two 2019 Short Works Prizes, and the 2018 RBC/PEN Canada New Voices Award. Her writing has been featured in literary magazines across Canada.

Desforges has also completed a master of fine arts degree in creative writing from the University of British Columbia.

“My writing comes out of my own experiences,” Desforges said.

“It’s hard to be yourself, especially while you are growing up. It’s a lot easier now in my 30s, where I can just put on glittery glasses and a pink blazer and go about my life, but it wasn’t always that way. My writing is very personal and rooted in that experience of being human, with a little magic added along the way.”

Desforges plans to use the dedicated writing time provided through the Mabel Pugh Taylor Writer in Residence on a variety of literary projects. She recently completed her first collection of short stories, and has begun writing a novel. She’s also working on a second poetry collection, which she describes as a “poetic memoir.”

“I think a big part of the past few years for me has just been really accepting that I am a writer and that this is what I’m going to be doing with my life,” she said.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the residency for Desforges is the community engagement opportunities. She encourages writers of any level to book a one-on-one consultation with her and to consider attending free writing workshops that she will host.

She says her overarching goal for her residency is serving as a mentor for writers.

“My ultimate goal is to help bring people into the literary world who might otherwise be intimidated and to encourage them see the potential of their own work,” she said.

“If I have helped just one person start to have more faith in their creativity and to approach the page with confidence, I will feel like I have succeeded.”

The Mabel Pugh Taylor Writer in Residence program is led by McMaster University’s department of English and Cultural Studies of the Faculty of Humanities, in partnership with McMaster University Library and Hamilton Public Library. It is supported by the Taylor family.

Writer in Residence office hours: September 2023 to April 2024

Tuesdays at McMaster University
In-person or virtual, by appointment
10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Thursdays at Hamilton Public Library
In-person or virtual, by appointment
10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

To learn more and book a consultation, visit Jaclyn Desforges’ booking webpage.

Writer in residence launch event

A welcome reception for Jaclyn Desforges is set for Tuesday, Sept. 12, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the fourth floor of the Central Library, 55 York Blvd., in downtown Hamilton.

Desforges will share a reading and meet community members. This event is open to the general public. Light refreshments will be served. Registration is not required. For more information, visit the Hamilton Public Library website.

Virtual workshops: Fall 2023 and winter 2024

Desforges is hosting a series of free writing workshops during her residency. Details will be shared as available on the events pages of the McMaster University Library website and Hamilton Public Library website, so please check back regularly.

Helpful links

Jaclyn Desforges’ website

Jaclyn Desforges’ Substack

Mabel Pugh Taylor Writer in Residence website