Chandra Mayor always knew that she wanted to be a writer but it was at the University of Winnipeg where she learned how to become a true writer.
In January, Mayor begins her term as the University of Winnipeg's Carol Shields Writer-in-Residence. She says being the Writer-in-Residence feels like coming full circle. "In so many different ways the U. of W. really deeply shaped the kind of person I've become, the kind of writer I have become and hopefully am still becoming," she explained.
"I'm really really excited," she admitted. "I graduated from the U. of W. after studying off and on for ten years. I was a single mom and I managed to find time to become politically involved as well. It's where I really began writing seriously."
"Professor Catherine Hunter's classes and her perspective had a profound effect on the development of my writing," she explained. "Many of the poems that were published in my first book were things that I wrote in her class."
"The U of W is also where I learned how to think," she recalled. "I learned what I cared about and I learned how to transform these thoughts and theories and ethics into action, apply it to the real world."
This isn't Mayor's first residency. She's also been the Writer-in-Residence at the Winnipeg Public library. "These are fabulous opportunities. I loved it at the library. It was fascinating and challenging," she said. "I felt honoured to be in that office. People often brought very personal and vulnerable things to share with me. I tried to treat people and welcome their vulnerabilities with respect and dignity and intelligence because part of writing is believing that what you have to say matters. Sometimes that's very difficult for people to accept about themselves."
Mayor believes that the stories we tell about ourselves shape the world we are in and are transformative. "So many of us are told that what we have to say doesn't matter," she explained. "Being the writer in residence allows for that office to also become a space where we remember and relearn that what we have to say matters tremendously."
While she is looking forward to talking to other aspiring writers, Mayor is hoping that she will be able to complete a new manuscript. "Having an office with a door that closes is so profoundly important."
Right now, she has to seek out a quiet corner of her apartment with her laptop, a space she shares with her daughter, a toddler, the cat and the budgies. "There are always a million things to do, or the phone's ringing. It's very difficult in the middle of the chaos of my life - joyful chaos but chaos nonetheless."
Meet Chandra Mayor at her Inaugural Reading on Thursday, January 23, at 7:00 p.m. in Room 2M70 at the University of Winnipeg. The event is free and open to the public.