On November 16th, the Writer’s Career Panel was hosted in UTM’s Spigel Hall to provide students with the opportunity to learn from professionals in the writing industry. It was organized by UTM Scribes, UTM Cinema Studies Association, UTM English and Drama Student Society, Language Studies Academic Society at UTM, and Creatives for a Change. It featured five panelists: a linguist, an author and illustrator, a screenwriter, a playwright, and a journalist. Each provided a discussion in their area of expertise, driven by questions asked by the event’s hosts.
University of Toronto professor of Slavic Linguistics Christina Kramer received her Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Raised in a strictly English-speaking family, she struggled with acquiring new languages but remained certain about her love for words and learning languages. She says that she has “tried and failed to learn dozens of them.” Since then, she has published articles and books on South Slavic languages and translated several novels from Slavic to English, saying that “as a translator, I get to be a writer, but I am embodying the mind of another writer and speaking that writer’s voice in English.”
Toronto-based author and illustrator Hana Shafi, known for her work It Begins With the Body and Healing is Not Linear, completed her undergraduate degree at Ryerson University studying journalism. She currently specializes in creative poetry and non-fiction narrative prose. The common misconception in her field she discussed is that every work needs to be excessively profound. Through years of writing, Shafi discovered that “there is nothing wrong with writing about experiences from your day to day life and being honest by writing and illustrating your real life.”
Screenwriter and director Chandler Levack graduated from the University of Toronto with a specialist in cinema studies and later went on to complete a screenwriting program at the Canadian Film Centre. She began by writing music and film reviews for on-campus publications, and went on to writing feature scripts and directing music videos. Last year, she wrote and directed her first short film We Forgot to Break Up, which screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and South by Southwest. She encourages people looking to get into any artistic field to never stop creating: “the more films that you make and the more writing that you do, the more you will understand your own voice.”
Playwright Gary Mok attended and wrote plays at the National Theatre School of Canada and has since been notably awarded the RBC Emerging Playwright Award for We could be clouds (2017). Originally a hotel management student, he discovered his passion for playwriting through a friend in a theatre program. By studying theatre, he was exposed to other forms of storytelling through ballet and frequent visits to art galleries. His takeaway advice for emerging artists is to “allow yourself to be inspired by more than just the medium you want to pursue.”
Journalist Ann Walmsley graduated from Trinity College at the University of Toronto with a degree in English literature and has written for publications such as The Globe and Mail and Maclean’s. Her recent work The Prison Book Club, a novel highlighting her 18-month experience in a men’s medium security prison book club after being traumatized in a violent mugging, aims to tell “a story of two journeys—the man’s story toward literature and my journey toward recognizing their humanity.”
The evening ended with the panelists answering questions asked by students on a more intimate level. The event was successful in providing students with the setting to network with other students and professionals of various writing careers.