Poetry, journalism mix for Student Writer-in-Residence

Gabrielle Drolet, student writer in residence

Debora Van Brenk // Western NewsGabrielle Drolet, a fourth-year English and Writing Studies student, is Western’s 2019-2020 Student Writer-in-Residence.

She has one foot in journalism and another in poetry. She writes in English (mostly), but speaks French at home. She writes fearless opinions for all to see, but would rather be birdwatching alone. She loves reading for fun – except during the school year when it seems like work.

Gabrielle Drolet eludes easy boxes – and she likes it that way.

This fall, the fourth-year English and Writing Studies student takes on the role of Student Writer-in-Residence. As she starts a school year as mentor and advisor to student writers in a variety of genres, Drolet is keen to discover how her diverse experiences can contribute to a culture of creativity across campus.

“Right now, I’m fielding a lot of questions about pitching (stories) – people asking, ‘How do I get my voice out?’”

The Student Writer-in-Residence program, begun in 2013 by the University Students’ Council and the Department of English and Writing Studies, supports a different accomplished undergraduate writer each year while allowing other students to benefit from the writer’s creativity, expertise and organizational skills.

While nature poetry is Drolet’s passion, she has also written opinion and feature articles for national newspapers and online outlets. Last school year, she was opinions editor at the Western Gazette student newspaper and returns this year as its culture editor.

“I had never intended to go into journalism; it’s surprising to me to find myself doing this,” she said.

A transfer student from Dalhousie University where she studied French and English, Drolet had been looking for a way to connect with people at Western and found a ready-made community by volunteering at the Gazette. “It emboldened me.”

Publicly stating opinions about politics, climate change, identity and equity was daunting and felt risky for someone whose writing is usually private and introspective, she said. “But, it’s important to talk about that – even if it’s tough.”

In her spare time this summer, she had every intention of reading Pulitzer Prize-winning books, only to find herself re-reading some of the young-adult literature that first inspired her passion for writing.

“During the school year, I won’t read for fun. It feels like work because then I’m highlighting parts and thinking, ‘This would be good for a commentary,’ ‘This would be good for a personal essay.’”

Drolet was the recipient of the 2019 Marguerite R. Dow Canadian Heritage Award for Little Malta, a short piece of creative non-fiction, and received an honorable mention in the Lillian Kroll Prize in Creative Writing for her poetry. She will be writing her undergraduate thesis in poetry during the academic year.

She can be reached on Twitter @GabrielleDrolet or via gabrielledrolet.com.