If you’re an aspiring writer planning on having a manuscript critiqued, it couldn’t hurt to have it looked at by one of the most well-known and highly regarded authors in Canadian literature.
Alistair MacLeod, novelist, short-story writer and a professor emeritus in the English department, has been named the university’s writer-in-residence for the 2014 winter semester. Besides working on his own creative output, the writer-in-residence is available to help other writers from around campus and across the community with their work.
“I like to talk about writing,” said Dr. MacLeod, who came to Windsor in 1969. “I like to talk with young writers, with tomorrow’s writers and encourage them to be the best they can be.”
MacLeod has long been recognized as one of Canada's greatest short story writers, based on his three collections Lost Salt Gift of Blood, As Birds Bring Forth the Sun, and Island. His first novel, No Great Mischief, has been translated into 15 languages and has won five major national and international literary awards. In 2008, he received the Order of Canada medal for his outstanding literary achievements.
English department head Karl Jirgens said MacLeod’s appointment – made possible through funding from the Canada Council for the Arts, alumni and friends, the Faculty of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, and the English department – was a special one to commemorate the university’s 50th anniversary.
“Alistair has been here almost as long as the university and we can’t think of anyone we’d rather have as writer-in-residence this year,” said Dr. Jirgens. “He’s a literary giant in this country and we’re thrilled that he accepted the position. He’s helped thousands of students through the years, and his dedication to his craft and his literary accomplishments speak volumes for themselves.”
MacLeod, who wrote the foreword for a special 50th anniversary photo book published last year, said he was originally attracted to the university because of its approach to literature.
“The literary community was already very strong here,” he said. “The department was very interested in the creation of literature as much as the criticism of literature. I thought that was great because you could create while doing criticism at the same time.”
MacLeod joins a long list of celebrated authors, playwrights and poets who have filled the writer-in-residence position including Nino Ricci, M. NourbeSe Philip and David French. He said he’s looking forward to working with writers who are emotionally invested in their work.
“People have to write what they care deeply about,” he said. “There’s no point in me telling someone to write about global warming or same sex marriage if that’s not what they’re interested in. So I think of myself as a coach. But I can’t give people imagination any more than a basketball coach can give someone athletic ability. The tension, of course, comes in being constructive and honest without being discouraging.”
As for his own work, MacLeod said he’s thinking about some new short story ideas, but won’t tip his hand as to the subject matter.
“That would be bad karma,” he said.