(L to R) PhD student Lindsey Bannister, and Writer in Residence Cecily Nicholson at Writers in the Round

Students, English

PhD Student Lindsey Bannister on Writer in Residence Programs

May 09, 2017

Cecily Nicholson is a poet, activist, and arts administrator. Since 2000 she has worked in collaboration with artists and educators in the Downtown Eastside neighborhood of Vancouver, and is the administrator of the artist-run centre Gallery Gachet. She belongs to the Joint Effort prison abolitionist group and is a member of the Research Ethics Board for Emily Carr University. She is the author of Triage, and From the Poplars, winner of the 2015 Dorothy Livesay Prize for poetry. And from January to May 2017, she mentored emerging and established writers as Writer in Residence in the Department of English at SFU.

Cecily Nicholson

Nicholson’s tenure as Writer in Residence culminated in “Writers in the Round” on April 28, 2017, an evening of readings by those who benefitted from her guidance, supported by the Ellen and Warren Tallman Endowment. Among them was Lindsey Bannister, a PhD student in the Department of English. Bannister read from her essay, “The Warning,” a family history narrative that she has been working on for a few years.  

Bannister's newest project is a longer work that explores a string of violent acts committed against young and marginalized women in and around London, Ontario in the 1960s and 1970s. She says she participated in the writer in residence program because she wanted to discuss her project ideas with a more experienced writer, and that she accomplished this (and more) by connecting with Nicholson. She says, “I had heard about Cecily’s community work in the downtown eastside and so I welcomed her perspective on those texts. I met with her and I was impressed by her attentiveness. Her feedback was extremely thoughtful. In addition to being a wonderful poet, she has a very sharp editorial eye, but, more importantly, I appreciated her openness and her warmth. Community-building is important to her and this came through in my conversation with her. It was just what I needed.”

Writer in residence programs offer critical and creative feedback as well as important opportunities for connection. Bannister, who is from Ontario, says she benefitted from a similar experience when she was a BA student in the University of Windsor’s English and Creative Writing program, and that these programs are needed because they provide students with opportunities for feedback and can help writers tap into local communities: “I am relatively new to the Lower Mainland. I am also a busy grad student, so I don’t have a lot of time to seek out these communities and so the writer in residence program is very useful.”

Bannister says, “In some respects, community is more important to me than feedback (at least in this stage of my creative process—I’m just starting out). I like to talk to other writers more generally about where they come from and how they approach things. I’m interested in their ideas, but I’m also interested in talking to other people for whom writing and storytelling is important.”

To this end, Bannister says reading at Writers in the Round was an affirming experience: “As someone who is just starting to write and publish and as someone who is not from the Lower Mainland, this exposure provided me with a crucial introduction to a wider community of Vancouver writers. In terms of the actual readings, the novelist Anakana Schofield was very entertaining.  I also enjoyed the gorgeous poetry of Dallas Hunt and Afuwa.  As a whole, the experience was quite invigorating.  I think Cecily does an excellent job of bringing people together and creating a welcoming atmosphere.  That is part of her strength as a writer in residence, I think… ‘Writers in the Round’ provided me with an opportunity to test this particular story on a new audience.  I’m so glad that I did so.”