What better kind of back-to-school present could you imagine than Yukon-born, Vancouver-based Ivan E. Coyote as the new writer-in-residence at your university? Well the students at Western University in London, Ontario (formerly known as the University of Western Ontario—yes, the name change is silly) are in luck: the English department at Western recently officially announced the arrival of Ivan in the ‘forest city,’ and she’ll be literally in residence: as in, she’ll actually be living in London for a semester and not doing the two-hour commute from Toronto as others have done in the past. What exactly is a writer-in-residence, you ask? Maybe some of you are also asking, who is Ivan Coyote (although, I hope not, if you’re queer and Canadian!)?
Equally known as a published writer and a live storyteller, Ivan Coyote is, in my opinion, a living queer legend and one of the Canadian LGBTQ’s community’s most tireless activists. Her disarming but delightful short stories often straddle the border between fiction and non-fiction, queer and straight, and masculine and feminine. The author of six short story collections and one novel (which won the ReLit award in 2007), Coyote was also a member of the ground-breaking performance troupe Taste This in the 90s (see my review of the book version of this tour here). She and her wife Zena Sharman are the editors of the recent Lambda-nominated collection Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme. She’s also done collaborations with well-known musicians including a recent show called “Gender Failure” with Rae Spoon, a queer performer from Alberta. As per her website, live storytelling is Coyote’s first love; as someone who’s seen her perform numerous times, I can’t recommend going to one of her shows highly enough. Seriously: it will make you cry tears of laughter, joy, and sadness. I am not making that up, as cheesy as it sounds. Coyote writes and speaks with a natural storyteller’s eye; although a lot of what she has to say is profound, how she says it often makes you feel as if she’s just telling you a story across the kitchen table or the bonfire.
As writer-in-residence at Western (a position I don’t mind saying I originally nominated her for when I was a PhD student in the English department!), Coyote is going to be holding weekly office hours where she’ll meet with aspiring writers from the university and London community to give them feedback about their work. As in, you can send Ivan some of your creative writing and then meet with her to talk about it! Is that not awesome?? Ivan will also be doing a storytelling performance on September 27th at the university. It’s free, and all are welcome! The writer-in-residence is a position funded by a few different university departments (the cool ones, like English and Women’s Studies) and institutions/foundations, all so that the writer can give back to the community where they’re in residence, but also so that the writer can in return have time to write in which they don’t have to also be slaving away at a day job. So this residency means we can probably expect some awesome new work by Ivan Coyote soon!
Also, Ivan is apparently a very busy queer: she’ll also be appearing at the Vancouver Writers Fest in mid-October, as well as at WordFest in Calgary, which runs from October 9th – 14th. Finally, check out this awesome interview with the Rumpus, where Ivan talks about performing for queer/non-queer audiences, working with Rae Spoon, and new projects.
[*note: as of 2014, Ivan is using they as a pronoun and identifying as trans]