A&E » Arts

Quest University's conference for writers launches in June

World-class poets and authors to closely guide writers in weeklong event



If you're a writer on a mission to take your work to a professional level, check out the new Quest Writer's Conference.

Jessamyn Smyth, the founding director of the conference, says participants will get the opportunity to work very closely with internationally known writers on an existing manuscript.

The writer's conference runs at Squamish-based Quest University from June 21 to 28.

"It's an opportunity to bring existing work but also generate new work," Smyth says.

"In the mornings, the students will work one-on-one with faculty, or in small groups. In the afternoons there are readings, workshops, panels on publishing and questions people have about navigating the world of literary magazines."

Smyth says the singular location of the apostrophe in the event's title is deliberate as they want to honour the efforts of the individual writer.

Smyth hopes to emulate the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference in Vermont, where hundreds of participants attend small workshops where their work is assessed by faculty and invited scholars. Coincidently, Smyth's grandfather ran the Bread Loaf Conference for over two decades.

"This is an amazing opportunity for me to create a similar kind of writers' conference on the West Coast," Smyth says.

"But what we're not doing is a festival. We're creating an immersive, week-long, almost 24/7 writers conference... It will be really intimate. The faculty was chosen as much for their reputation of being really talented, generous teachers as for being amazing writers."

The award-winning faculty members taking students through the intensive program are: Joy Haro, winner of the William Carlos William Award from the Poetry Society of America and the Pen USA Literary Award for Creative Non-Fiction, who has written seven books of poetry; Oliver de la Paz, who has won the Akron Prize for poetry and teaches in the MFA program at Western Washington University; Alicia Ostriker, who has published 14 volumes of poetry and won the William Carlos William Award; Rebecca Brown, who has written 12 books and has won the Boston Book Review Award for Fiction and the Lambda Literary Award; and Gregory Orr, who has written 11 collections of poetry and won an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

There will be other speakers and guests offering advice on the market for writers, publishing and other elements of writing.

"They all are extraordinary, I'm a little beside myself actually," Smyth says.

She hopes to include more Canadian writers and artists in other artforms in future conferences.

"I want no more than 100 participants for the first year because I want it to stay very intimate. I want to keep group numbers with each faculty member to stay under 20," Smyth says.

"We've got the whole Quest campus and there will be terrific food in this beautiful, beautiful place. And we will have the opportunity to go out for guided hikes and outings to places like (the Sea to Sky) gondola and to Whistler.

"But for the most part, they will be here in this immersive opportunity, working with their faculty member and taking part in professional development workshops."

Tuition, room and board for the conference is $1,750, while participant-only tuition is $800. The event is accepting applications for attendees until May 1. 

For more information and to apply, visit www.questu.ca/quest_writers_conference.html.