Victoria Wiebe is no stranger to putting pen to paper to turn her creative thoughts into works of poetry or young-adult fiction.
Now, the published author and Psychology student will be helping other writers find their voice as the 2016-17 Student Writer-in-Residence. Since the program’s inception in 2013, Wiebe is the third non-Faculty of Arts & Humanities student to assume the role.
“Part of what makes creative writing unique is everyone brings something different to the table,” she said. “With psychology, I study human nature and human interactions and how people behave. That is something really important for creativity and for being able to tell stories.”
When Wiebe joined Western in first year, she was enrolled in the Faculty of Science. Used to writing feverously in high school – she wrote the majority of her current novel before attending university – she found herself in a creative drought.
“I was so busy with labs and getting work done. I didn’t realize how important creative writing was,” she said. “I didn’t realize that when I didn’t have time for it what a big gap it would be.”
Making the switch to her current program, including taking a minor in Creative Writing, has brought Wiebe back to the artform. She now uses her academic studies as a foundation for developing well-rounded characters. In her current novel, Wiebe has characters with physical and mental-health conditions.
“Mostly, I dabble in novel writing and poetry. For novels, developing a character and a strong sense of an individual really requires you to get into someone else’s shoes and I think part of having an academic background in studying humans and understanding them is being able to be more empathetic and realize the unique challenges people have,” she said.
When it comes to poetry, Wiebe is usually inspired by a single line that flows to her organically, then she is compelled to break from whatever she is doing to compose the rest.
Writing in a technical, essay-style format for her courses has expanded her writing skills and has directly influenced her creative side.
The author of numerous poems and three novels, Wiebe has been published in Occasus, Teen Ink and Creative Communications. She served as president of the Creative Writing Club and editor-in-chief of Nom de Plume literary journal for 2014-2015.
Wiebe hopes to encourage students from different faculties to get involved in creative writing.
“You don’t go into a Psych class and immediately find other people who are interested in writing poetry,” she noted. “There are a lot of people here who are more likely to fall under the radar, specifically people who are in other programs.”
She feels strongly about the editing process. One of her goals for the Student Writer-in-Residence position is to get the community involved through workshops or special events.
“When you are getting together with a group of people who care about writing and who genuinely want to make your writing better, it is so helpful to have someone be objective and say, ‘This part is good, but this part really needs some work.’ When you are writing, you kind-of get attached to what you are writing about and your idea, and maybe you are going to be a bit hesitant to change things. Having someone else point it out is really invaluable.”
Wiebe plans to hold weekly office hours and hopes to use the time to help other students develop their own style, tone and voice. Engaging first-year students, in particular, will be a focus of her term.
Although Wiebe categorizes herself as a young-adult fiction writer, she does not line her bookshelves with only these titles.
“Read vastly, read widely; don’t subscribe yourself to one particular genre,” she said. “I don’t need to read only young-adult fiction in order to be a good young-adult fiction writer.”
Adding to the resources at her disposal is the newly announced Western Writer-in-Residence, Margaret Christakos, an award-winning poet, fiction author, critic and creative writing instructor. The accomplished author has nine collections of acclaimed poetry and one novel. She is the recipient of the ReLit Award for Poetry and the Bliss Carman Award, and has been nominated for the Pat Lowther Award twice and the Ontario Trillium Book Award. In 2012-13 she was the recipient of a major Chalmers Arts Fellowship.
Wiebe hopes to partner with Western’s Writer-in-Residence and Creative Writing faculty on events and workshops to support the creative writing community, as well as draw on Christakos’ experience to develop her own work.
“My time at Western has shown me that communities for creative writing exist,” Wiebe said. “Creative writing will always be a part of my life. It is important to my life regardless of where I end up.”