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Two for one

St. John’s literary couple to share residency during winter semester

Teaching and Learning

By Janet Harron

Don’t let it be said that the English department doesn’t know a good deal when they see it.

Celebrated novelist Elisabeth de Mariaffi and acclaimed poet George Murray will share the department’s writer-in-residence position during the winter 2018 semester.

Elisabeth de MariaffiDr. Robert Finley, chair of the writer-in-residence committee, says the department is excited about its first collaborative residency.

“Both Elisabeth and George bring tremendous energy to the residency, and between them have such a breadth of expertise, from screenplay to fiction to poetry, their residency is going to be a very rich resource for writers at Memorial and in the wider community,” he said.

“Both of them are gifted mentors, they’ve got a really generous array of workshops and consultations planned, as well as readings, class visits, talks. It’s going to be a great literary winter at Memorial, no doubt about it.”

“A no-brainer’

During the couple’s tenure, from January to April, they will engage with the public, the city’s literary community, students and faculty, and participants in Memorial’s creative writing programs through an array of readings, workshops, and other activities, while also working on their own projects.

The two have done some joint touring and faculty work in the past: in 2015 they were adjunct faculty in a creative writing summer semester at the University of British Columbia and they have also completed several joint, one-time university visits.

“When Memorial approached us about sharing the residency here, we were thrilled. And it was also a no-brainer,” said Ms. de Mariaffi, whose most recent novel, The Devil You Know, is currently in development for television.

As poet laureate for the City of St. John’s —  his four-year term ended in December 2017 — Mr. Murray focused on engaging non-arts communities around poetry. He also teaches an online poetry class for the University of Toronto.

George Murray
Photo: Submitted

“I’m looking forward to once again engaging with writers, artists, musicians and would-be-sames in a more rigorous setting.” said Mr. Murray.

Upcoming projects

With their own specific areas of expertise, Ms. de Mariaffi and Mr. Murray plan to alternate office hours and one-on-ones with students.

“Having said that, we do a good tag-team roadshow, and I know that we are already scheduled to visit at least one English class in January, so I imagine there will be some of that, too,” said Ms. de Mariaffi, who plans to offer a workshop on developing screenplay concepts.

During the residency, Mr. Murray plans to complete a new collection of poetry, Things Cut in Half, that reveals “the innards and viscera of the power structures, privileges, and scripts at play in human interaction.”

Ms. de Mariaffi will be at work on a new novel, Safe Harbour, which “seeks to place the way we view domestic abuse and violence in an uncomfortably close context — one that brings our power and our responsibility as witnesses into our most intimate friendships, into our own marriages, and into the way we view ourselves.”

Office hours

Elisabeth de Mariaffi holds a BA(Hons.) in French language and literature and an MFA in creative writing, both from the University of Guelph. Her office hours are Tuesdays from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. by appointment only. She can be reached via email.

George Murray holds a BA(Hons.) in creative writing from York University. His office hours will be Tuesdays from 5-7 p.m. by appointment only. He can be reached via email.

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