Since the beginning of 2015, it’s been my privilege to work with a very talented group of young writers at the Millennium Library. All different people with very different backgrounds, and taking the class for different reasons, the thing that unites them is their willingness to leap in to a wide variety of writing exercises, share what they’ve written, and critique each others work in a positive way. I’ve dubbed them the ‘Nightscrawlers’ — because the other thing that unites them: They write at night.
Arts and Cultural Industries (ACI) Manitoba sponsors this and other mentorship programs for youth. Their programming is a free opportunity, so young people may be exposed to careers in arts and culture. When I describe this program to people, they inevitably say, “If only I’d had a program like that when I was young!” And I can only agree. I had no idea when I was an artistic young person that fulfilling careers could be had in the arts. They can. And ACI helps to provide direction.
Do check out ACI Manitoba. They are the centre for arts training in Winnipeg, and not only for youth. ACI stems from Creative Manitoba Strategy, commissioned by the Manitoba Government Departments of Culture, Heritage and Tourism and Advanced Education and Training. We are so grateful to the Manitoba Government for providing this service to citizens of all ages. They’ve also initiated an Indigenous Program, and provide training for nearly five hundred cultural workers annually.
As well as working on their writing and critiquing skills, the Nightscrawlers met five professional artists. Graham Ashmore, a local actor, gave a lesson on how to read work in public. Governor General Award winning poet Kate Vermette, playwright Trish Cooper, Award Winning young adult writer Jodi Carmichael, and recently published short story writer Gonzalo Riedel came to speak to the class and work with them individually on their writing. What an unique opportunity.
As much as I wish I’d had a program like this when I was a teen, I don’t think I would have been as fearless in my writing experimentation as the Nightscrawlers were. My wish for the group as we say goodbye is one I’ve expressed to them before — but why not put it in writing, as I so often have urged them to do. The work you’ve done in this program has been exemplary. Please, keep working on the pieces you’ve begun. They are top notch. You are stronger writers now, and your work is worthy. Congratulations on your published book and your successful completion of this program. I look forward to seeing your names in print again in the near future.
A huge thank-you to Talia Pura ACI’s adept and charming Mentorship Coordinator, Alix-Rae Stefanko from Winnipeg Public Library who was a total support, and Sarah from McNally Robinson for facilitating the printing and design of our beautiful book, ACI Nightscrawlers. You will soon find the book in the WPL catalogue. In the meantime check out some of the previous ACI anthologies available at the library.
— Carolyn Gray