The Amazing UVic Writing Program

August 28, 2014 by Nevin Thompson

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We’re stoked: Shane Koyczan, who stunned billions of viewers around the world with his impassioned performance of We Are More at the 2010 Olympics, will be appearing at Experience Tectoria in a couple of weeks.

But did you know that Tectoria also plays a leading role in Canada’s literary scene, thanks in part to the hard work of UVic’s visionary Department of Writing?

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“An invaluable training ground for a TV-writer-in-the-making”

“The UVic Writing program was an invaluable training ground for a TV-writer-in-the-making, even though I studied fiction when I was there,” says Daegan Fryklind, executive producer of Bitten, a popular Space/SYFY series that documents the lives of werewolves.

One of Television’s Most Innovative Showrunners Has Tectoria DNA

She’s also recognized as one of North America’s most innovative and creative “showrunners,” an emerging class of creative masterminds who wield overall creative authority and management responsibility for a particular television program.

Fryklind is getting attention as a showrunner everywhere from  CBC’s The National to Variety Magazine, and she got her start at UVic’s Writing Department in the early 1990’s.

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“The UVic Writing program’s workshop process teaches you to write to deadline and take feedback to incorporate into your next draft,” says Fryklind.  “It was a supportive community of writers in which I was able to hone my voice.”

While Fryklind went on to study at Concordia (“I was following in the footsteps of Tamas Dobozy,” she says) and Canadian Film Centre’s Showrunner Bootcamp, the UVic Writing program’s DNA can still be detected in her work.

UVic Writing Graduates Are Winning Stacks of Awards

“UVic’s writing program has a huge impact on local culture and the national literary scene,” says department chair David Leach, one of North America’s hottest creative non-fiction writers who also attended the Writing program in the early 1990’s.

“W.P. Kinsella is our most famous early graduate,” says Leach. “One of his baseball books got turned into the Kevin Costner movie, Field of Dreams.”

More recently, UVic Writing grad and Langford resident Esi Edugyan had huge international success with her novel Half Blood Blues, which has been published around the world and won a stack of awards, including Canada’s Giller Prize.

“Every day, though, I learn of one of our graduates launching a new book or landing a new job,” says Leach. “For example, one of our grads Erin Frances Fisher has been receiving awards and recognition, and has even been published by Granta, which is kind of the British equivalent of the New Yorker.”

Transforming How We Think About Victoria

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“Most people don’t know we’re part of a Fine Arts Faculty, rather than in an English Department like most other creative writing programs, so our colleagues are visual artists, musicians and theatre professionals,” says Leach.

Scott Amos is one UVic Writing grad (and now an instructor) familiar to Tectorians that is mixing visual arts with writing.

Besides designing the kinetic sculptures that are transforming Victoria’s visual style, the UVic Fine Arts alumni is one of the creative minds behind Tectoria-sponsored Thinklandia, which is launching on September 2, and will last until mid-September to coincide with Rifflandia and Experience Tectoria.

Writers as Entrepreneurs

Victoria writers also represent the mixture of creativity and entrepreneurialism that is helping transform Victoria into a vibrant technology hub.

“Writers are scavengers by nature, turning scraps of experience and bits of ideas into art by making connections that nobody has seen before. That’s the same DIY ethic behind innovation and entrepreneurialism,” says Leach.

Showrunner Daegan Fryklind says entrepreneurialism is a key skill in her medium.

“If you want to get your own show on the air, you’re going to have to learn how to pitch to studios and networks,” she says. “It’s tough, but honestly, no one will be able to pitch your vision better than you, and it’s a skill that can be learned. And when you’re first starting out, before you have an agent, the best way to get work is to put yourself on the radar of other writers and showrunners who will bring you into the fold. It’s being an entrepreneur wherein the business you’re selling is yourself and your talent.”

 


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