Writers aren’t strangers at Langara reading series

Community groups support authors and students

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By Daniel Johnston

Many think that writers are solitary creatures, but members of a Langara College writing group find that working in a community lets them flourish.

Writers read their work with others

Daniel Poirier, an English instructor at Langara, is one of the organizers for Strangers on a Train, in which Langara students, faculty, and outside authors read and share their literary work.

“It’s basically just meant to sort of engage writers from across Metro Vancouver, different writers from all sorts of walks of life,” said Poirier. “And a lot of writers that wouldn’t normally interact with one another, it’s kind of part of the idea.”

Strangers on a Train, a writing group created by the Langara English department, allows creativity and dialogue to grow. This term’s last Strangers on a Train meeting took place over Zoom on Tuesday. Meetings are to be resumed in the fall.

Collaboration is key

Simon Rolston, an English instructor at Langara, said collaboration is key to developing as a writer. “Writing is all about communication. You often don’t really know whether what you’ve written is any good until somebody else reads it,” he said.

“Strangers on a Train is a great opportunity for new writers, younger writers, to share their work and get feedback from writers who’ve been doing it for a long time. And I think that’s invaluable and also is really invigorating for people who’ve been writing for a while.”

Strangers on a Train has been held over Zoom for the last two years since the start of the pandemic. Poirier said the meetings are still valuable, despite being online.

“I find that it has its pros and its cons. For example, one thing that we’ve sort of tried to do while we’ve been on Zoom is to bring in writers from other places,” said Poirier. “We’ve had writers from Eastern Canada, so Zoom has allowed us to sort of expand.”

Writers work better together

Poirier said Zoom meetings limit the level of connection shared by authors. “We do miss kind of the sort of physical interaction,” said Poirer. “The fact that the readings are done, you can just kind of sit down with the writers and chat for a while.”

Many people assume that writers work in solitude, said Bryan Mortensen, executive director of the Federation of BC Writers.

“In reality, most artists and most writers actually work really well collaboratively and with supporting each other.”

Mortensen said writing groups are especially important in colleges and places of learning.

“A lot of times you have people who are just getting into the field,” he said. “In this case, having a student group where people can provide critique and feedback to each other can help enhance the sharing of their learnings.”

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