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Shuyu Li interviews Ellen Kartz

Ellen Kartz is an active writer who was born and raised in Edmonton. She has a BA from the University of Calgary and an MFA from UBC. Ellen writes mainly poetry and creative notification. Ellen worked with and for the Edmonton Poetry Festival for many years as a volunteer coordinator, funding and board member. Currently, she is the Communications & Partnerships Coordinator for the Writer’s Guild of Alberta. 

1. I know that you have been studied at the U of C and UBC. Why did you choose those universities to complete your degrees? 

I ended up going to the U of C to finish my bachelor of arts degree because my best friend was moving to Calgary … to study photography and asked me if I wanted to go. On a trip down to Calgary… I was so impressed with what they offered and … then I transferred down to complete my degree. I chose UBC for my master’s because because of the program they offered…The online component of the creative writing program was ideal for me. 

2. Why did you choose to become an active writer? Does this have any specific meaning to you?

For me, I fell in love with books when I was about four and learning to read. I was struck by the magic of how someone I had never met could have a picture in their head, put it down on paper and someone else in another place could recreate that picture in their own mind. Later, I remember reading poetry – even before I could grasp the full meaning of the words or concepts – I was amazed by the musicality of language, the way it made me feel like my mind was dancing across the page. It was pure magic and I knew I wanted to be a part of that in some way.  

3. I know that currently, you are the communications and partnerships coordinator in the WGA. To you, personally, what are some differences between being a writer and a coordinator? 

I define my job at the WGA as one that is performed in the service of writers. The work I do to help get word out about events or let people know about contests that are coming up, or letting WGA members know about the work that other members are doing is about helping to promote and support Alberta writers and their work. Writing is my work outside of my job. I’m very lucky to have a job in the field that I love, but as close as it gets to writing, it’s not the act of writing itself. There’s nothing like finding the right word but sharing our stories. It lets us know that we aren’t alone, how we connect with one another.

4. I noticed you have worked with and for the Edmonton Poetry Festival for many years. Does this work experience affect your interests towards poems? 

I love everything about the Edmonton Poetry Festival. What first drew me to it was its clear mandate of inclusivity… I was very much into some experimental genres at the time…Poetry enjoys a longevity and a continual resurgence as the world changes and new forms emerge, new styles, new voices…I was honored to be able to help bring some of that to Edmonton.   

Ellen’s answers gave me some inspiration for English writing. She says that she is thrilled and excited to work at the Writer’s Guild of Alberta after all of her other literary and artistic endeavors. She is interested in showing the truth, and she is not afraid to speak out.


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