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Writers in (their own) residences go online

The two Metro Edmonton library writers in residence have busy schedules with their own writing projects on the go and lots of burgeoning writers to help over the phone, through email, and via Zoom conferencing.
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Edmonton Public Library writer in residence Susie Moloney and regional writer in residence Conni Massing during a Zoom interview with the Gazette last week. While the numbers of writers seeking advice dropped off at the onset of the global crisis last month, they have picked up again. The two continue to offer their services with online programming and other avenues of consultation.

Putting yourself ‘out there’ as a burgeoning writer isn’t necessarily trickier in the age of mass isolation. The two writers in residence with the Metro Edmonton Federation of Libraries have found a new online tool whose name is quickly becoming as synonymous with the zeitgeist as COVID-19.

It’s called Zoom – a free online conferencing software service.

“This is my Zoom Room. This is where I do all of my best Zooming,” said Edmonton Public Libraries writer in residence Susie Moloney to the Gazette during an online video interview.

“I will confess at the beginning of March, I had never even heard of Zoom. Now, I'm not exactly expert, but I'm very familiar with it,” added Metro Edmonton Libraries’ writer in residence Conni Massing.

The service, they aver, offers the closest facsimile to being in the same room with a literary mentor. Moloney is no stranger to videoconferencing, offering excellent critiques of Skype and WhatsApp. Nothing comes close to Zoom, however; she discovered it a few years ago and now it’s the only such service she uses.

It has become a common word in the vocabulary of her household with her partner, playwright Vern Thiessen.

“I'm using it all all the time now because of work but we've used it through this whole crisis to have what we call COVID cocktails with our friends across the world. We lived in New York for many years,” Moloney added.

“I've been indulging in the COVID cocktails as well and coffees, but happy hour just seems like a good time to connect with people sometimes,” Massing said.

Massing, as the regional writer in residence, will spend the year stationed at rotating posts across the metropolis. Currently, she’s in residence with the Strathcona Public Library, though she’s not physically in that residence, of course. Pandemic notwithstanding, her time has been going well.

“I've been having a wonderful time. I'm really, really enjoying it and meeting all sorts of fantastic people and reading really great diversity in what's coming across the transom. I’ve delivered a bunch of short courses and those have been fun as well.”

The big change she noticed is the huge dropoff of people contacting her once the crisis hit. The closure of the libraries possibly led some writers to jump to the conclusion that all of their services were down as well. That is certainly not the case, both Moloney and Massing confirmed.

Massing is currently in the process of organizing an online version of the course that she was meant to teach this month: four sessions on writing a 10-minute play. Those are scheduled for consecutive Tuesdays, starting April 14. It was originally meant to culminate in a reading with professional actors, but she’s still figuring a revised version of that experience.

Moloney suggested Zoom’s gallery view option connects all of the speakers in a Brady Bunch grid pattern that would still afford a decent table read simulation.

Massing is already hard at work planning programs for her upcoming ‘move’ to the Fort Saskatchewan Public Library.

“We can do that all online and if they're up for it, I'm up for it,” she vowed.

For her part, Moloney hosted a fun, informative and engaging Zoom workshop called the Plot Code: 5 Must Haves for Page-Turning Success that was presented by Minister Faust on Monday afternoon. Before that, she held a video conferencing webinar on poetry (with poet and former regional writer in residence Mary Pinkoski) that was attended by 40 people online. It was so popular that it had to be split into two sessions.

The two agreed many successful writers develop their talents to be not only resilient with restrictions – time, technology or otherwise – but they also rise to be proficient as the challenges mount.

People should pay attention to their posted schedules and offerings on their Facebook page. They can also be emailed directly: [email protected] for Massing and [email protected] for Moloney.

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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