Meet Edmonton’s Writer-at-Work

When I saw the position of Writer –at-Work with the City advertised in the Writers Guild newsletter, I was excited. I remembered how much I enjoyed hanging out on pipeline construction projects, talking to the crew about their jobs, when I worked for Northwestern Utilities. Or interviewing employees with 30 or 40 years of service for retirement profiles when I worked as a freelancer. Work takes up a large part of our lives and I’m always interested in finding out what it means to people. Once when my dentist said how much he loved doing root canals I wrote him a poem!

So, I’m delighted to have been hired for this pilot project with the City where one of the things I’ll be doing is writing about the people behind the desks and snow plows for the Transforming Edmonton blog. It takes a lot of people to run a city and most of them never make the news. I’m looking forward to getting to know some of them and finding out how all the pieces fit together.

One of the goals of my tenure is encouraging more City employees to contribute to the blog. I’ve facilitated writing workshops for years and am still teaching writing to MacEwan students. I also work part-time for the Friends of University Hospitals as an Artist on the Wards encouraging patients to write, so this is right up my alley (pun intended).

Many people are intimidated by writing, but it’s essentially just talking on the page. I remember helping a man who’d had a transplant write a thank you letter to the donor’s family. I asked him questions and wrote down everything he said. When I read it back to him, he thought it was wonderful. What he didn’t seem to realize is that I didn’t write the letter; he did. They were his words.

I’ll also be available to meet with employees one-on-one to look at writing or answer writing-related questions. We can all use an extra set of eyes when it comes to our work. Other people catch things that we miss, and there are few things worse than seeing our mistakes in print. My approach to other people’s writing is to make it the best it can be, not to tear it apart. I’m also interested in connecting people who like to write with Edmonton’s wonderfully supportive and inclusive literary community.

All in all, it should be a great six months.

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About the Author
Shirley Serviss
Shirley Serviss is the City of Edmonton's first Writer-at-Work. She is a founding member of the Writers' Guild of Alberta and Edmonton Poetry Festival. Her poetry, essays and articles have appeared in numerous anthologies, magazines and textbooks. She currently teaches in Communications for MacEwan University, works part-time as the staff literary artist for the Friends of University Hospitals' Artists on the Wards program and is president of Artists Urban Village.
1 Comment
  1. […] I think the role is similar to what Councillor McKeen was doing before the election). Here’s her first post. She’s in the role for six […]

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