In the summer of 2007, YA writer Anita Daher told me how nice it would be to have a place to write. Between her small house, her kids, her husband, and her dog, she had to write sitting on an exercise ball in her living room.
At the time, we'd been looking for a new space for the bookstore (and our new restaurant). The old Chinese restaurant we found was more than five times bigger than our old location. On the second floor, there were two large spaces. One was obviously going to be our new theatre, but I wasn't sure about the other.
Writer's studios, I thought, finally. So we built three offices in the quietest part of the building and filled them with vintage couches, oak desks and brass lamps. One we rented out to a notable (and anonymous) local author who was working on his/her eighth book. And we created the Aqua Books Writer-in-Residence program for the other two studios.
Anita Daher, appropriately enough, was our first Writer-in-Res. She did her W-in-R reading from one of the four fainting couches on the premises, which is a far cry from an exercize ball.
Since then, we have had a slew of writers, artists, photographers, designers, and songwriters working upstairs in the sweatshop.
Several books have been written (mostly or in part) at 274 Garry Street, including Anita Daher's Poachers in the Pingos, Tim Higgins' Just Common Sense: The Life and Times of George Taylor Richardson, and the late Michael Van Rooy's final book, A Criminal to Remember.
It soon occurred to me that we could help new writers too. The problem with most opportunities, like residencies, is that they only apply to those with a slew of writing credits. Emerging writers, who can use a space to create and also a little exposure, usually get nothing. So our emerging writer-in-residence program was born. Only an annual thing when it began in 2009, the program will give opportunities to four unpublished writers in 2011, including the Emerging W-i-R for April, Bowen Smyth.
Visit CBC Manitoba Scene tomorrow to hear from Bowen Smyth!
This content is provided by Kelly Hughes. The views expressed do not express the views of CBC. CBC is not responsible for this content.