Powell River Public Library (PRPL) has selected Gabrielle Prendergast, an award-winning author of numerous books for children and teens, for its inaugural eight-week Writer in Residence program. The library had invited applications from emerging and established authors working in any genre from across Canada.
“Based on our community’s deep interest and appreciation for the literary arts, and how receptive library patrons are to cultivating their writing practice, this opportunity will be a great fit, and Gabrielle’s enthusiasm will resonate,” stated assistant chief librarian Natalie Porter, in a media release. “I’m excited that PRPL is pursuing the Writer in Residence program. It’s typically an offering for larger library systems, and the coordinators here have put in a lot of work to make this happen.”
In 2018, Prendergast won the BC and Yukon Book Prizes’ Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize for her novel Zero Repeat Forever, which is now in film development. Prendergast can draw on a wealth of expertise in mentoring and supporting authors writing for adults, and youth, including those who are interested in self-publishing.
“I’m excited that Gabrielle can offer different kinds of workshops, like screenwriting, that we’ve never had here in Powell River before,” stated library adult services coordinator Mark Merlino. “The community of writers here will really be interested to learn from all her different kinds of publishing experience.”
As writer in residence, Prendergast will run numerous workshops in the library on screenwriting, writing for the lucrative young adult market, lead outreach workshops for community groups, as well as connecting with writers on Texada Island and making various appearances at local schools.
“As a writer of genre and young adult books, I’m excited about inspiring emerging writers,” stated Prendergast. “I’m approachable and I understand what it’s like to want to write, and also being intimidated.
“I remember meeting Margaret Atwood, and I squealed like a guinea pig and ran away. I’m still very intimidated by her. I really hope people know that they can come talk to me.”
After becoming a writer as a stay-at-home mother in Vancouver to a daughter who is now leaving home, Prendergast sees her life as being in transition. Now is a time for growth and opportunities, she stated, identifying this period of transition with the changes that many small towns in BC are now experiencing.
“Small towns are going through changes, too, economic changes, and so many are people arriving from cities; this will change small towns, and hopefully for the better,” added Prendergast, who recently visited the qathet region. “When I arrived on the ferry I saw humpback whales, a mother and baby, and I felt such a connection, just as the sun was setting, it was so beautiful to see.
“I identify as an immigrant. I first moved to Canada as a two-year-old child, to Australia at 21, to the USA at 34 and then back to Canada at 37.”
Her great-grandfather also travelled from Ireland to New Zealand by boat when he was 17 to escape famine.
“His journey took four months and it wasn’t easy as he was in steerage,” she added. “When he arrived he signed his name with an X because he couldn’t write. He had no way to communicate with his people back home. He must have been homesick.”
Prendergast shared an immediate connection to the local landscape, mountains, and the ocean after arriving here by ferry, elements that have formed part of her stories for a long time.
“I want to explore this connection further while I am writer in residence,” she stated. “I’ve never lived in a small community before and I think there is a real hunger in smaller communities for making connections with writers and books that are part of people’s lives.”
Prendergast will also be available for one-on-one manuscript consultations, as well as joining the library’s Poetry Circle, Memoir Writers Groups, adult and youth writing groups and Preschool Storytime.
“I’ve read Gabrielle’s book If Pluto was a Pea during storytime and it was a hit,” stated children’s services coordinator Sonia Zagwyn. “I loved how it helped kids conceptualize distances and scale in outer space, and I’m excited to get a sneak peek of her new book, Dear Polar Bears.”
While it’s normal for larger public libraries to offer writer in residence programs, it’s not a common offering for a small, single-branch library such as PRPL, according to the media release.
Prendergast will be at the library between September 6 and November 4, including a launch event from 2 to 3:30 pm on Saturday, September 10.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity to connect local youth with a writer who has vast experience and interest in writing for youth,” stated teen services coordinator Mel Edgar. “Gabrielle came with a full raft of developed workshop options and was excited about outreach opportunities.”