Wednesday, 16 November 2011 15:36

Prairie Quills have written their own history

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By Jessi Gowan — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For 10 years, the Prairie Quills writers group has provided local writers with the opportunity to refine their writing skills and share their works with others.


The group will celebrate its 10th year with a gala held Nov. 22 from 7-9:30 p.m. at the Swift Current Library.

The group started in November of 2001, after author Madelon Smid finished teaching her first creative writing course in Swift Current. Smid was looking for peer support to help her in her own writing, and thought others might be interested in benefitting from that as well.

Five of the women from the class joined her, and the group held its first meeting in January. The following year, members of the no longer active Sweet Grass writing group in Swift Current joined the Prairie Quills. Others joined from Smid’s creative writing class in Shaunavon.

“Our mandate from inception was to support writers and writing in the community,” Smid explained. “Over the past 10 years, with the help of SWG grants, we have brought in award-winning writers and workshop leaders such as: Connie Gault, Rod McIntyre, Shelley Leedahl, Donna Caruso, Linda Aksomitis, and Linda Monahan. We opened these workshops to writers from other areas of the southwest who could not access these authors on their own.”

In association with the Swift Current Library, the group began a monthly Listening Circle, where writers from the southwest area were invited to share their work with the public.

Members of Prairie Quills have also provided various workshops on writing within the community, and assisted the library in providing special events for children, multi-culturalism events, and holiday events.

“Under the auspices of the group, many of our members have developed into award-winning, published writers, which is an asset to our province,” added Smid. “We have published three anthologies of our members’ work and used 50 per cent of the profits from sales to fund writing workshops with top authors, for middle school children.”

The group has worked hard to encourage Swift Current’s youth to write. Prairie Quills members have mentored Grade 4 students from Central Elementary School, who created a newspaper for the Centennial. In 2011, members of the group judged the children’s poetry and prose competition for Doc’s Town and also provided the cash prizes.

In addition, the group has been a supporter of the Lyric Theatre’s Write Out Loud series, and also spends time reading at senior assisted living venues around Swift Current, bringing to the residents a cultural form they can no longer access on their own.

“Many writers who join the group benefit from group critiques of their work, opportunities for reading and publishing their work, and improve their writing skill through the exercises, tips and resources made available at the meetings,” explained Smid. Currently, the group is comprised of 14 members, many of whom are also members of the Saskatchewan Writing Guild.

“Saskatchewan writers have an international reputation for the quality and quantity of writing we produce,” Smid added. “Writing appeals to a large rural population whose work is seasonal. Our vast spaces and sparse population bring out our creative abilities. And writing, for the most part, takes place in isolation, so it is important for us to have a platform from which to share our efforts, to receive affirmation and encouragement and to gain new knowledge from listening to other writers share their work.”

With this in mind, the Prairie Quills sponsor an annual event at the Swift Current Library, where members share new work written around a particular theme. This year, the 10th anniversary gala, will feature the theme Out of This World, and pieces will be based on fantasy, paranormal, fable and magical realism. Refreshments are served at the event, and guests will have the opportunity to visit with the writers and purchase copies of their anthologies and other published works.

“The event is used to showcase members’ work, as well as to thank the families, friends, community and our associates  Great Plains College, Swift Current Library and the Saskatchewan Writers Guild, who have supported us through the year,” Smid explained.

Prairie Quills is always open to making room for other writers who are actively writing and willing to take on their mandate of supporting writing in the community. For more information, contact Smid at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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