Vernon writer who pioneered creative writing classes in Interior giving lecture this week | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Vernon writer who pioneered creative writing classes in Interior giving lecture this week

John Lent is the UCBO 2020 writer-in-residence.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / UBCO
November 19, 2020 - 1:12 PM

A Vernon writer and teacher who was fundamental in establishing the creative writing community in the Okanagan is offering up advice to aspiring writers this week.

John Lent has had a lengthy writing career as the author of 10 books. In 2005, he short-listed for the B.C. Book Awards for his novel So It Won’t Go Away and was proclaimed Poet Laureate of the Okanagan Valley in 2009, according to his website.

He’s been living in Vernon since 1978. Back then, there wasn’t any post-secondary courses for creative writers to hone their craft so he created his own and offered them at Okanagan College.

READ MORE: Writers take note: John Lent is UBC Okanagan's writer-in-residence

“My dad was an English teacher, in fact he was my English teacher, so I had this real love for literature and at that point at university, there really weren’t creative writing courses you could take. Creative writing as a discipline in colleges and universities didn’t really kick in until the 70s,” Lent said.

“When I got here, there was no creative writing being taught except for one course in Prince George. There was nothing outside of the Lower Mainland. I invented the first-year creative writing (courses) in Kelowna and then we grew it… and it became really big.”

Along with his teaching career, he published multiple books of fiction and poetry.

“It fed my teaching and my teaching fed my writing,” he said.

Lent, originally from Edmonton, has a master’s degree from the University of Alberta and taught creative writing at York University in Toronto, among other places in Canada, before eventually settling in Vernon.

By the time Okanagan University College split into Okanagan College and UBC Okanagan in 2005, the writing program was huge, with creative writing professor Nancy Holmes then spearheading it at UBCO and Lent at the new Okanagan College. New teachers and writers were hired, and the college ended up with an almost brand new English department, he said.

“Suddenly, we have this incredible community of writers... all teaching in the Okanagan Valley. We not only teach a lot of students, suddenly there are all these writers that live here now and teach so that whole community has become so rich.”

Lent also helped found The Kalamalka New Writers’ Society, Kalamalka Press and the Kalamalka Institute For Working Writers.

His most recent work, a poem called The Ordinary’s Incense published in June, can be found online.

Lent enjoyed teaching first-year English and creative writing classes at Okanagan College.

“That was really important to me, to focus on how you start (writing). That stayed with me, in my body, kind of like DNA and so even when I retired I always loved going into the first-year classes and saying ‘what do you want to do?’ ‘What do you need to know?’ And the answer for me was in the forms of writing, how to use them and how to play with them,” he said.

“I love that point of contact… I love talking about the shapes of writing.”

For students, he recommends reading James Joyce’s’ A Portrait of the Artist of a Young Man, and Sylvia Plath as well as Canadian writer Sharon Thesen, all of whom he will be speaking about in a lecture organized by UBCO.

Lent is giving a free Zoom lecture to kick off the Inaugural Sharon Thesen Lecture, Nov. 19 at 7 p.m.

To register for his lecture, sign up online through UBCO.


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