Jennifer MacLeod, co-founder of the Writers’ Exchange, at their East Hastings location. Home to writing workshops, family literacy programs, and even more after-school fun.

Community, English

On the Write Track

April 09, 2015


It’s December 18, and an unassuming storefront on Vancouver’s East Hastings Street is buzzing with dozens of kids and their extended families. Chief party instigator Jen MacLeod (BA’06) brings out steaming pans of turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing — the works for a festive dinner — as kids ranging in age from six to 13 challenge their parents to games of Stackwords and Boggle. The excitement is tangible, and although it is nearing “the big day,” it isn’t Santa that has these kids charged up. It’s a book launch.

More importantly, it’s their book: each of these children has written a story that appears in The Pencil and Eraser That Never Gave Up. One by one, they’re gently cajoled into taking the mike and reading the short story that now appears on the printed page. Nine-year-old Hannah* drags her mother up with her for the occasion. “Let’s go on page 7,” she says, then waits an appropriate period of time like a pro speaker. “Is everyone there? Okay, this story is called, ‘Pokémon!’” She reads her story, beams at the crowd, and then tears back to her seat.

It’s just the kind of scene 34-year-old MacLeod imagined when she and co-founder Sarah Maitland launched the Writers’ Exchange in 2012. All the kids at the evening event face a barrier to learning that might normally make it a battle to get them to school every day. But MacLeod and Maitland have created a space that makes learning a joyous activity, and most importantly, that celebrates the work each child produces. As eight-year-old Emma says that night, not only does she like the Writers’ Exchange better than school, “I like it better than anything.”