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Enter Nisha, your new writer in residence

Edmonton's current poet laureate has a new gig to cap off all of her other current projects. She will be virtually accessible for the calendar year as the metropolitan area's regional writer in residence.

Don’t worry, struggling wordsmiths. Nisha Patel has your back as your new writing coach.

Metro Edmonton's incoming regional writer in residence knows what it’s like to fight those words on the page while you’re fighting yourself and the world at the same time. She can tell you all about going through hard times in order to see a project come through with flying colours. As Edmonton’s current poet laureate and a slam champ in a frilly neon pink skirt (and matching hair), she can probably show you a thing or two about fearlessness especially during these tumultuous times.

As an observer of the human condition, she has seen a lot of people already developing their potential in spite of the state of the world and all.

“After we got over some of those initial months where everything was up in the air and people were able to settle down a little, I think turning inwardly has been positive for a lot of them and turning to passion projects, insofar as people are able to do that. It has been really wonderful for some people trying to cope with, I think, what is the deep loneliness of trying to stay safe during the pandemic,” she began.

“I think in other cases, creative outputs have been new for some people. They've undertaken new journeys. There was the run on yeast as everyone took up breadmaking. One of the first things I purchased in the pandemic was more art supplies, knowing that I would be stuck at home for what I thought was a couple months. And so I do think that people taking this opportunity is a sign that maybe our regular workweek was not designed for maximizing our happiness and our health. I think this is a really good time for us during a pandemic to take a hard look at what it means to work 40-plus hours a week and not have time for helping your child through school or not have time for your own creative projects.”

St. Albert Public Library CEO Peter Bailey said he is thrilled about Patel's posting.

"She brings tremendous talent, creativity and energy to the role and we know local writers will thrive and grow under her mentorship,” he stated. “We had great success moving the writer in residence programs online in 2020 and are excited to have Nisha continue that creative work reaching and supporting aspiring writers in 2021."

"I'm super excited. I think Nisha has this amazing energy. She actually reminds me of the energy Natasha Deen had who was our very first writer in residence," offered Michelle Steinhusen, the library's adult programming librarian.

The regional writer in residence position was created several years ago as a roaming variant of the more established and more stationary person with the Edmonton Public Library. This regional counterpart was designed to spend a calendar year being shared between libraries surrounding the capital. This year, she gets six months at the Strathcona library before ‘starting’ up in St. Albert.

Of course, COVID has made everything virtual so while face-to-face consultations now forgo a handshake for the magic of Zoom, there is the added benefit that everything Patel does can be accessed by anyone anywhere. Area writers are invited to connect with her for free one-on-one consultations via email (at ), phone or online. Currently, people can check in with her programming by visiting sclibrary.ca/writer-residence.

In addition to mentoring people through their various writing projects, she also has a slate of periodic programs, workshops and special events for the public’s consumption. The first such date on the calendar is a literary chat and open mic on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

Patel knows very well of St. Albert’s literary community, especially its fire-fueled slam poets, and is looking forward to the public’s forward rush for her consultations. Email her at [email protected] to get started on things.

In the same breath that Patel was announced for that posting, playwright Vern Thiessen was called out as the Edmonton writer in residence for 2021.

"Libraries are essential to the soul of a city. For thousands of Edmontonians, the EPL is not just a place to get books, it is a safe space to think, read, write, learn and gather with others. I am excited to meet Edmontonians from all walks of life with stories to tell,” he stated.

He can be contacted via email at [email protected]. or you can check out his programming at epl.ca/writer-in-residence.

While in residence, each writer will devote roughly half their time to mentoring other writers and the other half to working on personal projects. This will certainly be a busy 12 months for Nisha Patel who also serves as the director of the Edmonton Poetry Festival and is the founder of Moon Jelly House, a publishing house devoted to the voices of marginalized poets by publishing chapbooks for emerging spoken word artists. Her new chapbook I See You is currently available and she is also the author of Limited Success and co-author of Water. Check them out at Glass Bookshop.

She is also anticipating the publication of her first book of poetry, COCONUT, set to hit shelves in April 2021. For more information visit nishapatel.ca.


Scott Hayes

About the Author: Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.
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