Creative Writing Turns 50 At University of British Columbia

Gotta love this caricature by Chloe Cushman, one of several that turns up in Saturday’s National Post. The article, put together by Mark Medley, celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Creative Writing Program at University of British Columbia. Contributors include Andreas Schroeder, Leo McKay, Nancy Lee, Charlotte Gill, Madeleine Thien, and Andrew Westoll, among others. Our Hero’s offering goes like this . . . .

Forty years ago, when I flew west to write a novel while earning an
MFA, I brought a portable typewriter and two dozen books. Having
graduated top of my journalism class at Ryerson and worked as a reporter
at the Toronto Star, I was stunned when, at my first
novel-writing workshop, instead of hailing my genius, the other grad
students kicked me to the curb with faint praise. I spent the next two
years discovering how little I knew about storytelling. Cortazar,
Marquez, Butor, Lessing, Achebe, Calvino. Where had these magicians been
hiding? My mentor was novelist Robert Harlow, who had recently
published Scann. After flying as a bomber pilot in the Second
World War, Harlow had become the first Canadian to attend the Iowa
Writers’ Workshop. Back home in B.C., he had helped run CBC Radio before
moving to UBC at the invitation of Earle Birney. Both men battled to
keep the creative writing department separate from the English
department. With Harlow looking over my shoulder, I completed a novel
that served as my thesis. Years later, after rewrites, it emerged via
Pottersfield Press as my second book, Visions of Kerouac: A Novel. The rest, as Harlow used to say, is persiflage.

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