For the McGill student with a passion for the fine arts, creative expression is often an uphill climb. With no actual fine arts program offered at McGill, artists and performers must flock to extracurricular fairs and find their way around the city to somehow gain the seasoned arts education they cannot receive inside a McGill classroom. For the creative writer, while actual writing classes are few and far between, there are countless clubs and organizations at McGill and in Montreal that provide opportunities for students to hone their craft. One such organization is Ink Movement, a youth-run writing group that hosts prose and poetry workshops for CEGEP and university students, allowing them to gain experience and exposure for their artistic careers.
Ink Movement Montreal’s first workshop of the semester took place at ECOLE, a community workspace that is devoted to sustainability – both environmental and social, through endeavours such as community living and anti-oppression projects. ECOLE’s comfortable space set a pleasant and relaxed tone for the workshop, as participants sat crosslegged on different couches and chairs scattered around the room. The dozen-or-so attendees came from diverse writing backgrounds – some had published books, while some merely dabbled in poetry or prose – demonstrating the appeal of these workshops to newcomers and experts alike.
During the editing process, each submitted piece was given new life.
Each Ink Movement workshop is facilitated by a more senior writer; this one was led by current Concordia graduate student Aimee Wall. Originally from Newfoundland, Wall is now studying translation, which, as she described, is, “a whole different kind of writing.” Wall said she was “interested in the type of stuff that refuses to be what it’s supposed to be.” As a facilitator, she chose to participate in the workshop equally alongside the others, making subtle suggestions about the works, rather than lecturing.
The workshop’s atmosphere was natural and not strictly organized – it was, in no way, equivalent to a course at another university. This provided a relaxed peer-editing experience, but not the same level of rigorous critique and instruction that might come from the classroom. During the one-hour lunch break, students did, however, express their appreciation for a program like Ink Movement that allows them to communally edit work. As Ink Movement is a youth-run organization, it depends on the full participation of its volunteers and event attendees to function as an organization, and whose contributions make up the substance of workshops.
During the editing process, each submitted piece was given new life. Each piece was read aloud and then critiqued by the group members, who took turns sharing their thoughts – with no response from the writer. The writers received constructive criticism, comments, and compliments, of course, for approximately forty minutes. Each story differed just as much as its writer did; while some participants were prose writers, others were bloggers, and yet others spoken word poets, representative of the numerous ways to be a writer in the 21st century. At the end of each writer’s turn, their work had been discussed in-depth and received a high level of attention from complete strangers that it would never otherwise have seen.
While workshops such as this are an important resource for aspiring authors, organizations like Ink Movement are about more than just improving practical skills. They foster creative communities within Montreal, providing an outlet for youth who might otherwise get left behind. As Victoria Linel, French Literary Editor of Ink Movement, said to the group, “Ink Movement is not just about writing, it is about self expression.”