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‘Fierce and funny’

Creative writing spring graduate is one to watch

special feature: Student Success 2019

Part of a special feature celebrating the success of Memorial's graduates. This feature coincides with spring 2019 convocation ceremonies.

By Janet Harron

With convocation on the horizon and summer within sight, the title of spring graduate Heidi Wicks’ thesis-turned-upcoming-novel, Melt, couldn’t be more appropriate.

Melt refers to the spring thaw, or the period after winter when we start to feel like a fresh start could be around the corner,” said Ms. Wicks, who will receive her master of arts degree in creative writing during convocation at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre on May 28. Her first novel will be published by Breakwater Books in 2020.

Part-time studies, full-time job

Ms. Wicks has already had a stellar year, besides the aforementioned high points. She received the 2019 Cox and Palmer Creative Writing Award, a Landfall Trust writing residency at Kent’s Cottage in Brigus and a Newfoundland and Labrador Arts and Letters Award.

A lifelong lover of reading and writing, Ms. Wicks completed her graduate degree in three years, balancing part-time studies with parenting and a full-time job.

“I feel such a sense of accomplishment and I am so glad I stuck with it,” she said.

Heidi Wicks will pick up her master of arts degree at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre on May 28.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

So is her supervisor Lisa Moore, who is full of wholehearted praise for what she calls Ms. Wicks’ “fierce and funny” work.

“Heidi represents a brand-new voice in Newfoundland fiction,” stated Ms. Moore. “She is wildly smart, sensitive and daring. And she writes from a feminist sensibility that’s boldly honest about love, children, sex, relationships, divorce and politics.”

The award-winning novelist and creative writing professor goes on to call Melt “the most loving portrait of St. John’s I’ve ever read, warts and all . . . I’m very excited to see what Heidi will write next.”

Fundamental to thought process

Ms. Wicks hopes to complete a short story collection for her next project and says she would also love to work on a screenplay or TV pilot/series.

She credits Dr. Noreen Golfman’s undergraduate film studies course for giving her an appreciation of the visual medium, with its added ability to employ sensual details such as colour and movement.

“I do think learning to absorb films critically changed my writing . . . I imagine the scenes and the dialogue I write as if they’re happening in front of me, and really try to capture those live action details.”

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O’Connor

An active member of the Naked Parade writing group, Ms. Wicks published fiction and a podcast with the Newfoundland Quarterly, is part of the Best Kind creative nonfiction anthology (2018) and has a piece in author Bridget Canning’s What’s Written in the Ladies.

Writing is fundamental to her thought process, citing Flannery O’Connor’s famous sentiment: “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”

For the St. John’s native, writing and reading is also about the ability to empathize and connect with others.

She considers her experiences with like-minded creative individuals in Memorial’s English department elemental to her success.

“The support network in our writing community is immense – it’s the reason this place has so many writers and that so many graduates of the MA program get published,” she said.

“A lot of that is thanks to Lisa Moore – she’s such a generous, sensitive soul and so selfless with her time and creative sparkle. She’s an inspiration and head cheerleader to so many students. I would never have completed this program without her.”

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