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We're a province in the middle of nowhere, a gaping emptiness bisected in Winnipeg by two overflowing rivers that can't be stopped with words.
Why is this such a great place for writers? Let's not speak of the cost of living. I could make a long, boring list of names. Or you could just walk around with me.
Here's David Bergen cycling out of Wolseley to his studio where he'll create more great openings like this one for The Case of Lena S.: "The year he turned sixteen, Mason Crowe met Seeta Chahal, a girl who was to be married in late summer to a man she had never met." Can you stop reading now?
If you follow him to Colony you might see Barbara Romanik, a really cool fiction writer, looking for a big screen to watch soccer on.
Across the street Margaret Laurence's ghost presides at the University of Winnipeg, where she wouldn't be so lonely now with Catherine Hunter in charge of the English department and Margaret Sweatman just down the hallway, as well as the young experimental poet Jonathan Ball.
Fictionist Struan Sinclair drives by in a blur of white car, trailing gorgeous sentences. Maybe he'll pass Miéra Cook's house, where she writes volume after volume of astonishing poems.
Back in Wolseley, Chandra Mayor gets on the bus for downtown. Today's heat reminds me of the first line of All the Pretty Girls: "It is so hot that the features are melting off my face."
South to River Heights, where the brilliant short story writer Melissa Steele walks a dog. Here's one of her hilariously inappropriate characters ogling a wedding guest in Beautiful Girl Thumb: "...I could see all the way up Gaylene's stocking to the white diamond centre (cotton, I suppose) that protected what could be called her love resource centre."
Out on Wellington Crescent you can count all the Winnipeg streets that appear in Carol Shields' The Republic of Love. And you might see the spirit of Robert Kroetsch driving south past Carol's condo. He's repeating these lines from his long poem Seed Catalogue: "You've got to understand this:/ I was sitting on the horse./ The horse was standing still./ I fell off."
The best author photo of Kroetsch was taken by Michael Ondaatje and appears on the cover of his book of essays The Lovely Treachery of Words. In the photo, Kroetsch stands behind and between two female statues looking coyly down at him. He looks out irreverently, rumpled, the way a Manitoba writer should look.
Maurice Mierau edits The Winnipeg Review. His last book, Fear Not, won the ReLit Award for poetry in 2009.