media release

Downtown eastside writers bare their souls

May 14, 2014

Madeleine Thien (Vancouver resident),, twitter: @madeleinethien
Elee Kraljii Gardiner (Vancouver resident), 604.202.0072,, twitter: @eleekg
Clint Burnham (Vancouver resident),, twitter: @Prof_Clinty
Carol Thorbes, PAMR, 778.782.3035,


In a literary example of community engagement at its most revealing, established and emerging Downtown Eastside (DTES) writers in Vancouver will hold a free public reading of their work on June 19. The event will unfold at 7 p.m. at Vancouver’s Lost and Found Café.

This reading, the third in a recent spate of them hosted by DTES writers and SFU’s English department, will also feature two other well-known writers baring their literary souls.

Amber Dawn, also a creative writing instructor at SFU Continuing Studies, and Alex Leslie, an award-winning author whose work has been published in many Canadian literary journals, will read from their work.

The DTES presenters are members of the Thursdays Writing Collective (TWC), a free ongoing writing group for emerging and published DTES writers.

Founded and directed by Elee Kraljii Gardiner, an SFU alumna and writer, the group has been meeting on Thursdays since 2008 at the Carnegie Community Centre and has published six chapbook anthologies.

The Canada Council for the Arts, City of Vancouver, SFU and Carnegie Community Centre has funded their work.

In April about 40 of them, for the first time, bused up to SFU’s Burnaby campus to share their work with the public. Tom Quirk, a long-time DTES writer, actor, photographer and videographer captured the raw intensity of their readings.

“So many things came together: literature, performance, community, collaboration and an engaged audience,” says Madeleine Thien, the SFU English department’s writer-in-residence and a presenter at the reading-salon-like event.

“The writers from TWC were bold—artistically, politically and through the performing of their work—and, at the same time, generous. I felt like we were making real space in the SFU Library, an open space for thinking and responding.”

Clint Burnham, an SFU associate professor of English, has spent more than 15 years teaching in, and writing with, the DTES community.

Burnham says the TWC reading confirmed to him, “that, after 20 years of teaching, it's great to be surprised and humbled by writers young and old—from the "Bride of the Downtown Eastside" to arguing with professor "Leatherpatches", I say, bring it!”

Janet Fetter, a writer and a graduate of SFU's The Writer's Studio, says: “Writers who read publicly do risky things: They make themselves vulnerable, reveal voice and passions, extend trust, and invite engagement. The TWC writers embrace the risks, and we—the listeners/readers—are richer for it.”

Adds Kraljii Gardiner, “Participants were excited and proud of what we accomplished. It was intriguing to hear each other’s work after creating it side by side.”

Simon Fraser University is consistently ranked among Canada's top comprehensive universities and is one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 125,000 alumni in 130 countries.


Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.

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