Grad profile

Carys Cragg

Photo by Greg Ehlers.

“The Writer's Studio invites you into a thriving literary community.”

The Writer's Studio gave Carys Cragg the guidance and support needed to tell her story. After completing the program, she joined the graduate workshop to complete her memoir, Dead Reckoning: How I Came to Meet the Man Who Murdered My Father, which was a finalist for the 2018 Hubert Evans Non-Fiction BC Book Prize and one of the Globe and Mail best 100 books of the year.

Have you always been interested in writing and storytelling?

For as long as I can remember, I have always written. But it wasn’t until my late 20s that I saw myself as interested or talented in creative writing. When I wrote a personal essay for a magazine, I noticed I was interested in telling the stories of my work in child and youth care. That’s also when I noticed I liked to tell stories so readers could experience something they perhaps may never experience in their day-to-day life. Something they would enjoy, learn from, or be impacted by. So they may see themselves reflected through another’s story and find strength in their own voice.

Why did you choose the Writer’s Studio as a place to study writing?

I wanted to go beyond taking creative writing courses here and there, but I didn’t want to do an MFA. TWS was the perfect middle ground because it was a combination of workshopping and courses on writing theory, ethics, production and publishing. A part-time intensive lab was also ideal because I was working full-time. What made the decision for me at that time was two-fold: 1) I now had a story that had to be written, and 2) I wanted to learn from Charles Demers, the non-fiction group mentor, as I had followed some of his work and knew he was a brilliant storyteller.

What was the most valuable part of the Writer’s Studio?

Being amongst people who were asking the same literary-minded questions, grappling with the same writerly challenges and interested in learning more about the craft of writing. This was the first time I’d been in a group with 35+ people who could empathize with the endless questions that run through a writer’s mind: “How does this story begin?” “What should I include and exclude?” “Is this the best form for this story?” Giving generous, constructive, supportive, useful feedback also helped me learn about my own writing. Beyond that, deadlines were extremely helpful.

 

Photo by Greg Ehlers.

Did the Writer’s Studio help you with the process of writing your memoir, Dead Reckoning: How I Came to Meet the Man Who Murdered My Father?

Most of all, the Writer’s Studio helped me protect my creative time and TWS helped me figure out the structure, narrative and voice of my true crime memoir. I wrote, workshopped and edited a handful of pieces, which gave shape to my manuscript and influenced some aspects of the book. I also got a sense of how readers would respond to its subject matter and learned what they needed to know for the story to make sense. My cohort was extremely supportive when putting ourselves out there: reading in public, sending stories out to editors, etc. TWS also helped me understand the publishing landscape and gave me guidance along the way.

Did you develop any connections with instructors or fellow students during the program?

Absolutely! TWS invites you into a thriving literary community. From the first orientation, I felt I was part of a big group across the Lower Mainland that emerged from our writing spaces to attend events, workshops, book launches, etc. I will, without a doubt, see someone connected with TWS at all literary events I attend. I experienced less of a hierarchy than with other groups I’m involved in because everyone is just focused on the fantastic, wild, amazing and boundary-pushing stories that need to be told. My cohort inspired me, challenged me and helped me learn. The mentors are prolific writers and the most generous teachers I’ve ever had. The connections—in person, on social media and in spirit (when writing alone)—uplifted me as a writer and inspired me to give back to the community in some way.

What did you do after completing the Writer’s Studio? Did the learning lead you to explore new ventures?

TWS keeps giving back. After completing the program, I joined the graduate workshop to write my full manuscript, which led to its publication. I now find myself prioritizing creative projects. Whether it’s writing personalized children’s books for family, reading widely across genres or selecting more writing-focused projects at work. I find myself devoting more of my time to writing. I’m experimenting with new forms within non-fiction and, as current faculty in child and youth care, I’m writing a draft manuscript of a textbook. This is something I would have never had the confidence, ability or knowledge to do before completing TWS. I look forward to what comes next!

“The Writer's Studio invites you into a thriving literary community.”

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