Tuesday, October 28, 2008

the official announcement

The Ontario Arts Council has put out a press release today. I'd been waiting for it to be made official in that way before announcing here that I am leaving my job at the Professional Writers Association of Canada to take on the role of literature officer for the Council. Lorraine Filyer, who was Ontario's literature officer for the past 18 years announced her retirement this past summer. I will begin OAC work officially on November 24th.

I remember having a phone conversation with Lorraine Filyer in... 1993, I think, when I was trying to drum up some revenue for my little literary quarterly, ink magazine. ink began as a student project while I was in graduate studies at U of T, but had gone national and was threatening to become a real magazine. I phoned the OAC to get details on their support for literary titles in the province. Lorraine was helpful and informative and no-nonsense. "You'd better be paying your writers," she said. Lorraine was and is concerned for the well-being of everyone in Ontario's writing and publishing sector. After all, culture is not created as a hobby. I don't need to be taught that lesson as I take over her position at OAC, because she taught it to me fifteen years ago. I am very grateful for the incredible work Lorraine did to help build Ontario's literature, and it feels like a very intimidating honour to take over her office. I hope she leaves her phone number.

As I mentioned in the posting below, this appointment changes my professional practice somewhat. The OAC has very strict and very necessary conflict of interest guidelines with which I completely agree. I have resigned from a number of the volunteer projects I was working on, because they are too closely tied to work my new office will fund. As well, I have resigned as THIS Magazine's books columnist. I've had a lot of fun with that column, mostly because it allowed me to treat Canadian literature as a strong, healthy, resilient cultural force. Since my new job does the same thing, I'm happy to let the column go.

I attended my last PWAC board of directors meeting two weekends ago in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I'm not sure I've processed my feelings about the move away from PWAC. I'm proud of the work I've done, and very happy to leave the association larger, happier and more vital than I found it. The new relationships and partnerships PWAC has forged across the cultural sector mean more great things ahead for Canada's professional writers, and of course, I'll be watching the progress very closely from my new desk at Bloor and Avenue Road.

That is, when I'm at my desk. I have a lot of plans for my new job, and one of them is to be traveling around the province as much as possible, making sure literature is understood as something for all communities. In fact, Lorraine and I will be in Ottawa in early November -- before I officially begin at OAC -- to do a funding workshop and meet with OAC clients.

What does all that mean for this blog? I'm not sure right now. Things will probably be kind of quiet around here while I get my legs under me in the new job. Clearly, I will not be less interested in the issues and struggles of the arts sector, but I will certainly be less vocal. I'll push as much cultural news through this site as I can manage, and you can follow my movements around the province on my twitter feed.

Okay people, let's go make some literature.


GM said...

Congratulations, John. See you when you retire.

Tanya Gulliver said...

"Julie don't go. I told him 'Julie don't go'"


We will miss you.

Anonymous said...

Tanya said it for me.

You'll be terrific in your new job, John, but as a long-time PWAC person I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes. I've known every one of our EDs (even hired two or three myself when I was on the Board), and you're leaving huge shoes to fill.

Best of luck. Pub crawls whenever I'm in Toronto, OK?

John said...

Thanks all, but seriously, I'm not disappearing. You can take the writer out of the bar, but ...

Annette said...

Wow, big news! Congratulations! As a newly "wac'd" PWAC'er, though, I am slightly disappointed for purely selfish reasons. Mostly happy for you, though!