Twenty-three is award-winning Winnipeg author Joan Thomas’s lucky number.
Earlier this month, Thomas began her term as the Winnipeg Public Library’s 23rd writer-in-residence. She will remain in the position until next April.
Danielle Pilon, head of reader services at the Millennium Library, said Thomas joins a list of other internationally-acclaimed local writers, including David Bergen and Miriam Toews, who have filled the post.
The purpose of the library’s writer-in-residence program is to offer Manitobans an opportunity to have a sample of their writing read by an experienced writer, who will provide comments and suggestions at a subsequent meeting or via email. Writers can send in their manuscripts, which must adhere to the library’s guidelines
The service is offered free of charge by the Winnipeg Public Library, Manitoba government and Manitoba Writers’ Guild.
"This fits in with our mission of life-long learning," Pilon said.
As writer-in-residence, Thomas will spend two days each week reading submissions and replying, then three days on her own writing. The North End-based author prefers writing in the morning, and usually spend afternoons in her office on the second floor of the Millennium Library.
Thomas knows first-hand how important getting feedback from an experienced writer can be. She still clearly remembers her meeting 19 years ago with the library’s then-writer-in-residence Geoffrey Ursell.
Ursell told her to keep a notepad with her and write down any conversations or tidbits that interested her, then keep them in an envelope so she could draw on them for future writing projects.
Thomas wasn’t exactly a novice writer at the time. She had already reviewed books for the Winnipeg Free Press and The Globe and Mail. She also taught English classes at Nelson McIntyre Collegiate in St. Boniface and Collège Béliveau in Windsor Park, and developed curriculum for Manitoba Education and Training and worked at the Manitoba Arts Council.
"I got tired of that 800-word limit (for a book review)," she replied when asked why she took the plunge into creative writing.
After attending a workshop on short story writing, Thomas decided to tackle a novel.
"Something clicked for me at that time," she said. "I fell in love with the novel form."
Over the next four years, she worked on Reading by Lightning, which won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book and the Amazon.ca First Book Award in 2009.
Thomas said, while working on the book, she received some great advice from friends who were editors.
Still, despite having her manuscript accepted by Goose Lane Editions, it wasn’t until she held a copy of it in her hands at the 2008 Book Expo in Toronto that she felt like a published author.
Her second novel, Curiosity, was published by McClelland & Stewart in 2011, and was nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
Thomas is enjoying her time at the Millennium Library and sharing her experience and knowledge with other writers.
"I just love walking in here every day," she said.
Information on how to send your manuscript in to Thomas is available at http://wpl.winnipeg.ca/library/contact/writer.asp or call 204-986-2802.