Mollie Winter graduated from Dalhousie in 2013 with a combined honours in English and Creative Writing. She is the recipient of the University Medal in Creative writing. Her passport says that she was born in “Tiny, Can.” Mollie grew up on forests, Georgian Bay, skis, horses, and stories, but Dalhousie’s Combined Honours program in English and Creative Writing managed to lure her away from northern southern Ontario. In Halifax, Mollie fell more deeply in love with writing, spurred on by brilliant profs and peers, which got her involved in Dal’s writing community (she helped run the English Society and edit the narrative nonfiction section of Fathom, contributed to Verso, and was chosen to represent Dal’s Creative Writing Department at the 32nd Annual Atlantic Undergraduate English Conference, for instance). Mollie finished her undergraduate degree in the spring of 2013, but she’s still inhaling the salt air of her east coast home. She’s not sure where she’s heading just yet, but she believes that her heart will always be pumping out words.
Dalhousie English alumnus Peter Chiykowski was at a friend's house checking his email when he received his first literary journal acceptance, from Grain magazine. He says (very humbly), "I was expecting another rejection...and totally flipped out when I actually opened the email. For the longest time I was convinced the editors were playing a trick on a gullible first-time writer. It wasn’t until the cheque came in the mail that I accepted it was for real."
Chiykowski graduated from Dal in 2011, after completing both an Combined Honours in English and Creative Writing and an MA in English. Since that first publication, he has published prolifically, with his fiction and poetry appearing in several journals and anthologies across North America, including Best Canadian Poetry, Best Canadian Speculative Writing, The New Quarterly, On Spec, and PRISM International.
While still a full-time student, he also created the online comic Rock, Paper, Cynic, which he describes as "the inevitable result of having a stimulating academic life and a short attention span." On where he finds inspiration, he says, "The things I was reading and learning in school, things that always seemed very serious, fed themselves naturally into jokes." The webcomic has been shared by legend George Takei and tweeted by actor Nathan Fillion. FCWebcomics called it "amazingly entertaining and insightful." He now represents his comic at conventions, so that he can have "idea-spawning conversations with interesting people and get quick and widespread exposure to a huge variety of artists and authors." Creating a single comic strip, including drawing and writing, can take him as long as four or five hours, and even before that, his brainstorming process involves shrewd observation and a lot of trial and error. "Sometimes this yields comic ideas. Sometimes I end up with a pile of garbage. I don’t have a muse, just a notepad and a notion to struggle with it," he says.
Next on Chiykowski's list of projects is to complete a short fiction or poetry collection, in particular, what he calls "a kind of grimoire of unhelpful spells and hexes." The working title is The Petty Spellbook, and it will include poems such as “A Fertility Charm for Your Point-Seventeen Remington” and “A Charm for Communing with Dead Pets During Surgery.”
He credits his experience in the Dalhousie English and Creative Writing programs with furthering his development as a writer, saying without it he wouldn't have pursued a career as a writer. In particular, he learned from the collaborative and critical creative writing workshops, and advises every writer to take one, in order to "learn the skills of writing with other people in mind." According to Chiykowski, before the workshop process, his writing was "reeeeeeeeeally self-indulgent and not at all fit for public consumption." Clearly, this is no longer the case.
On his list of department thank-yous, he includes mentors Carole Langille, Darryl Whetter, and Melanie Little for "[doing] so much to propel [him] as a creative writer.” He says, "Profs like Melissa Furrow, Ron Huebert, and Jason Haslam (to name a small few) challenged me as an analytical thinker and exposed me to new styles of writing.
"Honestly, I felt like I had the English and Creative Writing Department behind me the whole time."
- Shashi Bhat