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The Writer-in-Residence program began in 1965 due to the efforts of Desmond Pacey, head of the English Department at UNB at the time. Funding from the Canada Council helped to create the first position of it's kind in a Canadian university. The term of the appointment varies from a few months to several years, the notable exception being Alden Nowlan, who remained as Writer-in-Residence for fifteen years. Writers-in-Residence have an office in the Department of English where they meet with students and community members to provide feedback and advice on their creative writing. They also give public readings and are generally involved with the literary community.

The writer-in-residence program has its roots in post-World War II Canada. After the war, there an exponential increase of enrolment in universities across Canada as well as New Brunswick. Most of these new students were former soldiers who had gained an greater interest in studying culture during their time spent in Europe. Pacey, and the university more broadly, were thus interested in establishing programs that would provide cultural programming to satisfy the demands of this new influx of students, and to make sure that this programming was especially relevant to students in the Maritime provinces. Due to the slow nature of the bureaucratic process, the residency was not in serious consideration until about twenty years later in the early 1960s.

Funding for the writer-in-residence position has come from various sources throughout the years. Initially the funding was granted by the Canada Council for Norman Levine’s residency. In "Writers-in-residence in Canada, 1965-2000: Patrons, Authors, and Canadian Literature", Nancy Earle states that “the council expressed optimism that the ‘experiment’ would promote its goals of fostering literature and promoting community development and interest in the arts.” However, for Dorothy Livesay’s second year of residency in 1967, the university arranged to provide half the stipend. Additionally, provincial premier Richard Hatfield ensured that a “miniscule fraction” of the province’s operating budget would go towards Alden Nowlan’s permanent residency until the poet’s death in 1983. The New Brunswick Department of Tourism, Recreation, and Heritage has also played a role in funding the residency in the past.

The writer-in-residence has fulfilled a variety of roles and responsibilities. They are not required to hold any formal classes (though Livesay did teach a graduate poetry workshop in 1967), but are expected to have a certain amount of hour per week dedicated to critiquing the writing of students and other local writers. Livesay and Nowlan also contributed to the writing community by establishing meetings places for writes to converse and workshop. In 1966, Livesay began using McCord Hall as a space for creative writing workshops, a tradition which continues to this day. Nowlan’s house on Windsor Street where he lived during his residency became a social hub for writers and students at the university, and is now used as a campus pub and meeting place for the English department. Previous writers-in-residence have done readings and lectures on campus and other places; one example of this is David Adams Richards, who was a guest lecturer at The New Orleans Center for Public Arts in March of 1985. 

As of 1 September 2008, UNB Saint John established the Lorenzo Writer-in-Residence program, made possible by the support of UNB president John McLaughlin. This writer-in-residence program operates on a three year term.

Year(s) Name
1965-66 Norman Levine*
1966-67 Dorothy Livesay
1968-83 Alden Nowlan
1972-73 John Metcalf
1983-86 David Adams Richards
1985 (September - December) John Hearne^
1987-88 Douglas Glover
1988-89 Helen Weinzweig
1989-90 Nancy Bauer
1990-92 Bill Gaston
1992-93 Don Hannah
1993-94 Karen Connelly
1994 (September-December) Elisabeth Harvor
1995-96 Anne Michaels
1996-97 Kenneth J. Harvey
1997 (September-December) Carol Malyon
1998 (January-April) Bill Bissett
1998-99 Richard Sanger
1999-00 Colleen Wagner
2000-01 George [Douglas] Fetherling
2001-02 John Steffler
2002-03 Anne Simpson
2003-05 Ken McGoogan
2004-05 Erin Mouré
2005-06 Catherine Bush
2006-07 Karen Solie
2007-08 Patricia Young
2008-09 Gerard Beirne
2009-10 Fred Stenson
2010-11 John Barton
2011-12 Sue Sinclair
2012-13 Joan Clark
2013-14 Douglas Glover
2014-15 Jeramy Dodds
  • First appointment of its kind at any Canadian university.
  • Although funded by an outside source and not by the Department of English, Hearne did hold the title of Writer-in-Residence


Sources: UA Case 191; Section 2

Archives Canada MG 4 SERIES D 339 VOL. 4 PGS 4, 56

Tremblay, Tony. David Adams Richards of the Miramichi.Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010. eBook.

T. Tremblay (Personal Communication, November 2, 2015.)

G L 1: Desmond Pacey Fonds, Series 2.3, Case 12, Files 1-3

Earle, Nancy. Writers-in-residence in Canada, 1965-2000: Patrons, Authors, and Canadian Literature. Burnaby: Simon Fraser University Library, 2006. PDF. 

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