Jennifer Irvine reading at the Vancouver International Writers Festival

I am a proud third generation Vancouverite and constantly tell people that I’m actually not the rarity people think I am. There are many of us around, and you can find us in restaurants, cafes or walking off the trendy and well-publicized Vancouver paths. I live on a quiet street in the city of Vancouver; where barely a car drives by. Still.

I made the leap from journal writing to non-fiction stories when I attended The Writer’s Studio Certificate Program at Simon Fraser University in 2010, studying with Ivan E. Coyote as mentor.

The year provided me with a writing experience I only dreamed of having. The motto was to write a lot and read a lot, and I pushed both of these to the max. I showed up every two weeks with 2000 words written, ready to read 1000 words to my mentor group. I learned how to give and receive feedback, something I am still learning to do. If I had to pick one the most invaluable pieces of information I learned, it was putting Dr. Howard Stein’s ‘Ass on Chair’ suggestion into practice because in order to be a writer, I have to write and not wait for the muse to arrive.

Little did I know that TWS was merely a starting point, helping me to move towards revising and writing more polished, deeper pieces.

In 2011 I attended the Vancouver Manuscript Intensive with Betsy Warland as mentor. During this time, I learned to open myself up on the page and write about my family as multi-faceted people in goods times and bad. Showing my true heart and feelings about the death of my sister and father as well as my mother’s descent into Alzheimer’s has given me a way to sort out my own truth and continue to share it with people who, like me, need to hear how others navigate through such difficult times. My manuscript is an authentic look at life with my family through my own eyes.

I began with a few short stories about my childhood, and I now have 91 of them! Some are finished, others almost finished, and some still need a lot of work.

I also enjoy fiction writing, and see now that a lot of writing comes from real life. My goal has always been to communicate clearly, concisely, specifically and that’s likely why my favorite writer is Anne Marie McDonald. It’s not because of her gut wrenching themes, but because her crystal clear prose and clean descriptions inspire me and I think “there it is; this is how I want to write.” There’s a simplicity about her words that seems effortless. I envy her perfect use of tense. Past, present or future, she consciously chose to write her scene in just that way. The problem is, she makes it look simple and I know it is far from easy, even for her. This is something I dream of doing.

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