Student hopes to draw together writing community

By Adela Talbot
February 28, 2013

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AlexAdela Talbot, Western News
Alex Carrillo-Hayley, Western’s first Student Writer-in-Residence, is thrilled to have an opportunity to unite the university’s creative community.


Alex Carrillo-Hayley has a new item on her already-packed agenda.

Here to unite writers in the Western community, she is the university’s first Student Writer-in-Residence – believed to be the first in North America. As much as a passing chat with her about this new role would show you, she couldn’t be more excited.

The fourth-year English student, already heavily involved in the campus and creative communities, is most looking forward to bridging the gap separating the university’s writers, individuals she feels often lack an outlet for their creative endeavours. It’s this lack she hopes to fill during her term.

“There’s a lot of creativity on campus – whether it’s expressed through writing, art or music, or different mediums. But I think there’s a lot of undiscovered talent and unknown artists out there. That’s something I want to harness, and work towards bringing out,” Carrillo-Hayley said.

She is surprised, at events like poetry slams or in casual conversations on campus, finding students from various disciplines who write, almost in a vacuum, with no obvious outlets or means to share or publish their work.

“There’s so much out there that would surprise people to hear about, and they need outlets, places to publish, show artwork and places to perform.”

It’s this community of creative types Carrillo-Hayley hopes to foster on campus, offering writers a chance to get together by hosting a weekly writing hour and serving as a resource during her office hours. There’s strength in numbers, and the 21-year-old wants to see a strong creative community on campus.

For her, writing has been an outlet, a coping mechanism and a method of self-realization for nearly a decade. At her grandfather’s funeral, a 12-year-old Carrillo-Hayley read a poem she wrote about his life as part of the eulogy. In doing so, she found both freedom and a calling.

“It was a traumatic time for me and a big loss. That was when I first turned to writing and found a voice in it. Ever since then, I’ve been writing a lot of poetry, mostly free-verse stuff,” she said, adding she’s written verse with metre, rhyme and structure, and as of late, is starting to experiment with prose as well.

“Writing has always been a way of coping, a way of dealing with emotion. I try to understand my feelings, and I get satisfaction in creating something, making something I can reflect on in later years and share with other people.”

Inspiration comes from everyday life, Carrillo-Hayley continued, noting reading and being involved in a creative community provides support as well as stimulus.

“I read a lot – I think reading is really important for a writer. You have to read and know what’s out there. But I more so draw from my everyday life. A lot of my poems have to do with things I’ve seen ,gone through and experienced,” she explained.

The first time she was published, Carrillo-Hayley was in high school. A teacher entered her into a creative writing contest in her native Georgetown. She won, and had a poem published in the local newspaper. This was a “landmark moment,” she said, noting some of her recent works can be found in Western’s Arts & Humanities Student Council’s journal, Propaganda.

“The (Student Writer-in-Residence) position is a combination of my love of leadership and my love of writing. I thought it would be a fantastic way to give back to the Arts & Humanities community and also to the creative community on campus in general,” Carrillo-Hayley said.

“I’m hoping to reach out to people outside the Arts & Humanities. I genuinely want people to write and feel good about producing art, and to have somewhere to go to talk about it, somewhere to get advice or talk about publishing. I want to be there, in general, for other writers.”

The new Student Writer-in-Residence program was proposed by Adam Fearnall, University Students’ Council president, to provide experiential learning opportunities to a fourth-year student engaged in creative writing in any faculty. It is hosted by the Department of English and Writing Studies and is jointly funded between the two entities. In the future, it is hoped the program will run alongside the annual Writer-in-Residence.

Carrillo-Hayley will hold regular office hours 11:30 am-12:30 p.m. Mondays in University College, room 184. A weekly writing hour for students who want to write together in a shared, quiet space is scheduled for 2:30-3:30 p.m. Tuesdays in the University Community Centre, room 379

You can follow her on Twitter @WesternSWIR.


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