In March 2008, Simon Fraser University’s Writer’s Studio graduates Elee Kraljii Gardiner and ElJean Dodge held a four-week course to solicit submissions for the Vancouver Memory Project. Three of the four submissions produced were selected by a jury and curated for exhibition to contribute to a balanced history of the city. The participants suggested we continue meeting—these continued meetings grew into the Thursdays Writing Collective.
By the fall of 2008, we settled in to convening every Thursday afternoon from 2-4pm. The class, as now, was free and open to everyone, with preference given to residents of the Downtown Eastside.
The classes are a mix of writing prompts, discussion and theory. Largely, the class is about having a playful, generative space to write, and a supportive group of people with whom to share one’s writing. In 2008, we published our first chapbook. Most of the writing in the chapbooks is done in class. Though writers are welcome to drop in, a core group of participants attends each meeting and forms the community.
First Chapbook (2008): “Thursdays: poems and prose from the Downtown Eastside” Each contributor submitted two pieces. The design and layout was done by one of the writers, Bakir Junaideen, and was published by Otter Press with the financial assistance of an anonymous donor.
Second Chapbook (2009): “Thursdays 2:Writings from the Carnegie Centre” coedited
by Elee Kraljii Gardiner and the poet and translator John Mikhail Asfour. John was the inaugural writer-in-residence at the Historic Joy Kogawa House and the first writer to visit the Thursdays class. His bond with the participants and his excitement about the project are woven into “Thursdays 2,” where he published one of his own poems. This book was also made possible by the contribution of a second anonymous donor and was designed by Trica Thompson, a contributor, and Kei Baritugo.
Third Chapbook (2009): “Thursdays 3.0: These Words,” a compendium of work from the 2009 fall class, launched on Dec.3, 2009. It was published online here and designed by Five Seventeen. Hard copies were printed solely for the contributors.
Poet Fiona Lam visited us in November 2009 to share her work. This first visit turning into an ongoing partnership and friendship with several TWC writers.
Fourth Chapbook (2010): “Storybox,” is an outgrowth of our involvement with the StoryBox Project run in the spring of 2010 by UrbanInk and the Vancouver Society of Storytelling. The class conceived of “toolbox for living” and wrote about items and concepts we consider imperative for life. Thanks to UrbanInk for funding the book and providing the framework for our experience engaging with other writing groups across the Lower Mainland.
Fiction writer Cathleen With, author of Skids and Having Faith in the Polar Girls Prison visited us in the fall of 2010. Angela Mairead Coid and her husband George McWhirter visited as well; Angela taught on the DTES for years and George was Vancouver’s first poet laureate and a former UBC professor.
Many thanks to Kevin Spenst, Joan Flood, Esmeralda Cabral, Molly Ancel who also offered us mentorship an support in 2010, and beyond.
Fifth Chapbook (2011): “The Writers Caravan Anthology” designed by Five Seventeen, and is the product of our spring 2011 project of the same name.
Fiction/Nonfiction writer Michael Turner, author of 8 x 10, Kingsway, The Pornographer’s Poem, and Hardcore Logo joined visited us. Through his partnership, Michael became the guest editor of the “Writers Caravan” chapbook.
Sixth Chapbook (2012): “The Stanza Project” was an international collaboration with MLP Proosten Architecture in the Netherlands. We held readings, social writing events and a gallery exhibit at UBC’s Liu Institute.
Seventh Chapbook (2012): “Voice to Voice” was a collaboration with the UBC School of Music and Instruments of Change on the topic of music and
transformation. TWC created original art song compositions based on our texts with UBC composers, musicians and singers under the guidance of Rena Sharon and Laura Barron of Instruments of Change. The finished pieces were performed in a concert in the DTES. “Voice to Voice” included a wide range of multi-genre writing related to music and transformation and the musical scores of the performed pieces.
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