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MacEwan’s 2022 writer in residence

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Meet Naomi K. Lewis, the writer in residence at MacEwan University this year. Lewis is a well-known author of fiction and non-fiction literature from Ottawa. 

“I’m really excited to work with people at all stages in their writing careers and writing lives,” Lewis said. “I hope lots of people make appointments with me.”

Lewis’s profession as an author 

“I’ve been writing as long as I can remember,” Lewis said.

Lewis knew she wanted to be a writer since her childhood, even though she didn’t necessarily think it would be easy or possible. 

Lewis’s love of reading, especially fiction, is another reason she turned to writing: “Reading is my favourite thing,” she said. “It always has been.”

“I love stories with fully developed characters who come alive and feel real, with complicated relationships and dilemmas that feel both familiar and surprising,” Lewis said.

Lewis is interested in specific genres such as science fiction like stories of Philip K. Dick, who brilliantly tells stories with powerful story plots and themes.

Originally, Lewis wanted to be an astronaut, but she realized that she was not athletic or good at math. She decided to drop her plans and study philosophy instead in university. However, philosophy didn’t click with Lewis either, and she dropped out of grad school the day before she was supposed to begin her MA in philosophy.

“That’s when I decided to try to be a writer seriously, and perhaps professionally,” Lewis stated.

When it comes to writing style, Lewis tries to bring humour to her writing. She always combines a humorous and philosophical voice in her work. Lewis has several published works including Cricket in a Fist, One Heart Five Habits, and Tiny Lights for Travellers. One of her favourites among her works is I Know Who You Remind Me Of — a collection of short stories that was published in 2012. 

Lewis noted one of her favourite experiences in her professional journey as a writer: “You (tend to) create something you didn’t know you’re going to create — you realized you’re getting somewhere,” said Lewis. “That’s the best feeling.” 

For Lewis, it is a fantastic experience to see your book in print for the first time and to get nominations for awards. Still, the most extraordinary experience she has had is when all her ideas flow well together into a story. Lewis always feels good when she writes something great. 

Lewis published her first short story in 2002 and published her first novel in 2008.

What does Lewis hope to accomplish? 

Lewis’s job as writer in residence is to spend time with the writers in MacEwan University and in the Edmonton area. It is her job to help student writers improve their writing. Writers in residence usually spend a certain amount of time helping fellow writers in the community. Student writers who need help with their work can contact Lewis for guidance and feedback to improve their writing. 

If the pandemic isn’t happening, writers in residence do public appearances as well, such as going to campus and giving public presentations and readings. 

As MacEwan’s writer in residence, Lewis hopes to work on her own novels this year and help student writers improve their work. 

“I hope to have lots of writers come talk to me,” Lewis stated. 

Lewis hopes that  student writers ask her for help with their writing, for advice about writing and publishing, or about the writing career options available out there. 

Lewis’s advice for writers

“The big part of how you learn to write is by reading,” said Lewis. 

Lewis advises student writers to read a variety of genres of stories as often as they can, as it is the only way to become a good writer. 

Lewis also advises student writers to try not to be obsessed with publishing. Writers often desire their writing to be published as soon as possible so that people can see their work — some also think that it is the only way to write. But Lewis suggests that students “keep writing” first, as it takes tons of practice before writers get better. 

As for building connections, Lewis stated that going to writing classes is an excellent way to make connections such as meeting fellow writers in the writing community. Lewis also noted that social media is a great way to create connections with different writers.  

Lewis lastly noted “to keep trying” when things get too difficult in the publishing industry and the whole writing career. 

“Just keep writing anyway,” Lewis concluded.

Lewis stays on as MacEwan University’s writer in residence from February to April 1, 2022. 
For anyone interested in working with Lewis, she can be reached at wir@macewan.ca.

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