One of the first things you notice about the St. Albert Public Library’s new writer in residence is her strength and confidence. If you are expecting the stereotypical quiet, geeky writer, you may be disappointed.
Rayanne Haines is a self-assured and determined woman eager to assist any writer or poet willing to work hard. But laced throughout her no-nonsense approach to work is a deep sensitivity that grew from personal struggles as well as the nurturing mentorship from writers who supported her journey.
“Newer writers lack support and a second pair of eyes. They become afraid of sharing. For me the most important role I have is recognizing the value their voice has and acknowledging that their voice matters,” said Haines, a Metro Edmonton Federation of Writers 2022 writer in residence.
As a 2022 writer in residence, Haines has just completed a six-month shared residency with the Strathcona County Library. The residency’s second leg is at the St. Albert Public Library where she will offer her mentorship skills and insights for 20 hours each week until December. Free one-on-one consultations, programs, and workshops are open to writers of all levels.
Once a newbie writer, Haines moved to Edmonton from the Bruderheim-Josephburg area with two babies in tow. Fortunate to be named executive director of the Edmonton Poetry Festival, Haines’s position allowed her to meet many artists unavailable to other writers. One such writer was Alice Major, a Canadian poet, writer, and essayist.
“She created the Poetry Festival and was on the board of directors. We had a strong working relationship. We worked together and became fast friends. We were both interested in community building,” Haines said, adding Major personally mentored her through one book after Haines received a rejection slip for a Banff residency program.
“Most writers don’t have that kind of support and can’t access it any other way than a residency. I was very lucky.”
In 10 years as a professional and prolific hybrid writer, Haines has authored seven books: a four-part urban fantasy-romance series and three books of poetry. Her poetry book, Tell the Birds Your Body is Not a Gun, earned the 2022 Alberta Literary Awards' Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry.
In addition to receiving accolades as an award-winning writer, Haines has honed critical mentorship skills as a sessional instructor at MacEwan University’s arts and cultural management program.
“Mentorship skills are different from writing skills. You focus on the work, not the person. You are more into critiquing the work than the person. It becomes a conversation on how to elevate the craft.”
Currently, she sees the publishing industry shifting, with more people of colour being recognized.
“The competition is fierce to get a book published, but there are a lot of important writers now that were passed over before. That’s one of the reasons to have a book crafted as strongly as possible.”
From her experience, talent only goes so far.
“Strong writing comes from hard work. Any path you choose to succeed requires hard work. As writers, we must work so many hours every day, so many days a week. Every writer has their own individual voice, but that well-crafted book comes from doing the work.”
Before starting a project Haines suggests writers ask themselves an important question: “Am I ready to make that leap putting words on a page?"
"It doesn’t have to be public. It’s about allowing yourself to put pen to paper and start the process of writing. And no one else needs to set eyes on it until you are ready. Just approach me. Send me your work, and I will find a way to help you.”
To contact Haines's email [email protected]