posted on Feb. 15: Sandra Birdsell relishes her role of writer-in-residence


[img_inline align=”right” src=””]For a writer, life on campus means combining the best of two worlds.

There are plenty of periods for quiet reflection, time for writing, space to think. There's also the opportunity to meet new and interesting people, discover new writing, teach and work as an editor giving feedback and helping others shape their work.

Sandra Birdsell, this term's writer-in-residence for the Faculty of Humanities, says the role of the writer-in-residence provides the perfect mix.

“Writing is such a quiet thing. We often work in track suits and nightgowns. It's a good balance to the kind of nature of our work which is so isolating. I find people very stimulating and there is a lot of material among people.”

Birdsell is the guest of honour at a reception tonight, Feb. 15, at 7:30 p.m. at Gallery on the Bay, 231 Bay Street North.
Birdsell, who now calls Regina home, obviously enjoys the writer-in-residence experience. Her stint at McMaster is her sixth time working as writer-in-residence at a Canadian institution.

Born and raised in Manitoba, Birdsell began publishing in 1982 at the age of 40. The accomplished novelist and short story author has written scripts for radio, television and theatre, and a children's book. Her short stories have appeared in many anthologies.

Her first novel, The Missing Child, was nominated for the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award and received the Books in Canada, W.H. Smith First Novel Award. Two of her novels, The Two-Headed Calf (1997) and The Chrome Suite, were shortlisted for the Governor General's Award.

In 1993 Birdsell was awarded the Marian Engel Award, Canada's most prestigious award honouring women writers, for her major contribution to Canadian literature. She received the Canada Council's Joseph S. Staufer Prize in 1992 for meritorious achievement in the arts.

In addition to her experience at McMaster, Birdsell has been a writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta, the University of Waterloo, and has taught creative writing at the University of Winnipeg.

The McMaster writing community is keeping her busy. Since her term began in January she's read plays, novels, memoirs, children's literature and short stories. Writers submit their manuscipts to her to read and she critiques the piece. Then Birdsell and the writer meet to discuss the work.

“Sometimes we talk about very basic things or what's missing. Sometimes it's simply showing them how to construct a good sentence. Sometimes it's an idea and how to make something abstract, concrete. That's the most kind of fun — beginning to craft ideas into stories.”

Birdsell's term at McMaster is supported by the Department of English and the Canada Council for the Arts.

Writers who wish to meet with Birdsell for a consultation can make an appointment through the Department of English at 525-9140 ext. 24491. She holds office hours Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Photo credit: Don Hall (1997) (Photo from Writers Union of Canada Web site)