Powell River Public Library Announces Selection of Writer-in-Residence
The Powell River Public Library (PRPL) has selected Gabrielle Prendergast, award-winning author of numerous books for children and teens, for its inaugural eight-week Writer-in-Residence program. The library had invited applications from emerging and established authors working in all genres from across Canada.
“Given our community’s deep interest and appreciation for the literary arts, and the receptivity of library patrons to cultivating their writing practice, this opportunity will be perfect and Gabrielle’s enthusiasm will resonate,” Deputy Chief Librarian Natalie Porter said in a news release. “I am delighted that PRPL is continuing the Writer in Residence program. This is usually an offering for large library systems, and the coordinators here have put a lot of effort into making it happen.
In 2018, Prendergast won the Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Award from the BC and Yukon Book Prizes for her novel. Zero repetition forever, which is currently in film development. Prendergast can draw on extensive expertise in mentoring and supporting authors writing for adults and young people, including those interested in self-publishing.
“I’m thrilled that Gabrielle can offer different types of workshops, like screenwriting, that we’ve never had here in Powell River before,” said Mark Merlino, adult services coordinator for the library. “The writing community here will be really interested in learning about all of their different types of editing experience.”
As writer-in-residence, Prendergast will lead numerous library workshops on screenwriting, writing for the lucrative young adult market, lead outreach workshops for community groups, as well as outreach to writers on Texada Island and will make various appearances at local schools.
“As a genre and young adult writer, I’m excited to inspire emerging writers,” Prendergast said. “I’m accessible and I understand what it’s like to want to write, and also to be intimidated.
“I remember meeting Margaret Atwood, I screamed like a guinea pig and ran away. I’m still very intimidated by her. I really hope people know they can come and talk to me.
After becoming a writer as a stay-at-home mom in Vancouver to a daughter who is now leaving home, Prendergast sees her life as one in transition. Now is a time of growth and opportunity, she said, identifying this transitional period with the changes many small towns in British Columbia are currently experiencing.
“Small towns are also going through changes, economic changes, and there are so many people coming from the cities; it will change small towns, and hopefully for the better,” added Prendergast, who recently visited the qathet region. “When I got on the ferry I saw humpback whales, a mother and her baby, and I felt such a connection, just as the sun was setting, it was so beautiful to see.
“I identify as an immigrant. I first moved to Canada when I was two years old, to Australia when I was 21, to the United States when I was 34, and then back to Canada when I was 37.
His great-grandfather also traveled from Ireland to New Zealand by boat when he was 17 to escape starvation.
“His journey lasted four months and it was not easy because he was in steerage,” she added. “When he arrived he signed his name with an X because he couldn’t write. He had no way of communicating with his people back home. He must have been homesick.
Prendergast shared an immediate connection to the local landscape, the mountains and the ocean after arriving here by ferry, elements that have long been part of his stories.
“I want to explore that connection more while I’m writer-in-residence,” she said. “I’ve never lived in a small community before and I think there’s a real hunger in small communities to connect with writers and books that are part of people’s lives.”
Prendergast will also be available for one-on-one manuscript viewing, as well as joining the library’s poetry circle, memoir writer groups, adult and youth writing groups, and preschool story time.
“I read Gabrielle’s book If Pluto was a pea during story time and it was a hit,” said Children’s Services Coordinator Sonia Zagwyn. “I loved how it helped kids conceptualize distances and scale in space, and I’m excited to get a preview of his new book, Dear polar bears.”
While it’s normal for large public libraries to offer writing-in-residence programs, it’s not a common offering for a small, single-branch library such as PRPL, according to the press release.
Prendergast will be at the library from September 6 through November 4, including a launch event from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 10.
“This is a great opportunity to connect local youth with a writer who has extensive experience and an interest in writing for young people,” said Teen Services Coordinator Mel Edgar. “Gabrielle came with a full range of workshop options developed and was excited about the outreach opportunities.”