Today’s feature comes to us from Jeanette Bruce, Program Coordinator at Whistler Public Library in Whistler, British Columbia. Jeanette coordinates a program for the library (in partnership with Simon Fraser University) called SFU Writing Studio’s Writing Consults. These free one-on-one consultations provide local writers with the opportunity to talk with a professional writer about their projects. Enjoy! ~Laura

Library as Incubator Project (LAIP): Please give us an overview of the Writers Consults program–what it is, where it takes place, how patrons hear about it, etc.

Jeanette Bruce from Whistler Public Library (JB): The SFU Writer’s Studio Writing Consults take place at Whistler Public Library once a month. This program is a partnership between SFU’s Writing Studio, a local Writer’s Studio alumna, Stella Harvey, and the library. The idea is that Stella provides 45-minute, one-on-one consultations to local writers who submit up to seven pages of a current project.

Patrons can learn about the Writing Consults in several ways – the program is featured in our monthly newsletter, at whistlerlibrary.ca as well as whistler.ca(the website for the Resort Municipality of Whistler), on various social media platforms, and on posters throughout the community. Word of Mouth has also been a valuable method of promotion!

Students in The Writer’s Studio learn through one-on-one consultations with local writers, so the Writing Consults are like a taste of what a writer would get if they enrolled in The Writer’s Studio.

LAIP: What was the impetus for starting the program? Were community members involved in the planning for this service?

JB: The folks at SFU conceived the idea for this project, and we were lucky enough to have Stella Harvey, an alumna of The Writer’s Studio program and artistic director of the Whistler Writer’s Festival, on board to serve as our local mentor. I believe the original impetus for this program was to raise awareness of The Writer’s Studio program – a flexible, part-time course that writers could complete without leaving their jobs to go back to school. But I think we’d all agree that the program continues to thrive because it provides encouragement to local writers who may be experiencing writer’s block or who just need to talk through their ideas with an experienced author.

LAIP: What has the response been like from the community?

Writer’s Studio grad Chelene Knight.

JB: The response has been very positive! We’ve received great feedback from the writers who have completed a consult with Stella, and those who haven’t yet signed up are happy to know that they can sign up if they encounter a stumbling block in their writing. Moving forward, we’ll all be working to get the word out to as many local people as possible – no small feat in a town like Whistler where people are always coming and going!

LAIP: Are there plans to expand the program in the future?

JB: We won’t be expanding the consults program within our library, but the individual writers are given the tools to continue pursuing their projects. Since we began this partnership with Stella and SFU, a couple of our local writers have signed up for the full Writer’s Studio program at SFU – maybe they’ll be mentoring local writers down the road!

LAIP: What are a couple of lessons learned that you can share with our readers?

JB: I think we’ve learned something about human behaviour through this program – much like other goals, people tend to focus more on writing at certain times of year! January and February have been very popular times for these consults (perhaps with a fresh New Year’s resolution in mind?), and the writers in our community also seem re-invigorated after our annual Whistler Writer’s Festival in October.

Another lesson I’ve learned personally is that you never know who will be interested in a program like this. There are patrons at the library with whom I’ve interacted for months and months, never realizing that they were aspiring writers until they sign up for a consult.

Does your library offer a consultation service or other one-on-one help for aspiring writers? We’d love to hear from you! Send us an email at libraryasincubatorproject@gmail.com.

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