As you can read in today's press release from The Writers' Union of Canada (below), I am leaving my job with the Ontario Arts Council to take over the Executive Director position at TWUC. Kelly Duffin, who has been leading TWUC brilliantly for the last two years is moving on and will be dearly missed. I will especially miss sitting with her at the Giller dinner, and losing my bet to her about who will win.
I've been with the OAC for just over four years now, during which time the Literature Office has seen immense change, both in the numbers of applications, and the functioning of the granting programs. I'm very proud of the work I put into public funding in this province, especially of the advances we've made in spreading the funding for writers more widely (and in a more northerly direction). I leave this position with a mixture of excitement and sadness. Extraordinary people work at the Ontario Arts Council - folks dedicated to a healthy cultural sector, whose days are jammed with client meetings, outreach opportunities, advisory sessions and an almost unbelievable amount of administrative detail. I will miss all of them.
While I could have happily stayed at the OAC until retirement, the chance to help lead Canada's writing community into a future full of opportunity and immense challenge is one of those offers you just don't refuse. We are all aware of the uncertainty and risk involved in being a cultural worker today. This week's news about Canadian publisher Douglas & McIntyre filing for bankruptcy is the latest knock to writers' confidence. I've been deeply involved in the decade-long struggle for a copyright reform in Canada that carries crucial protections for the work of writers into the digital age, and it's no secret that I see much work remaining in that file. The national conversation about copyright and cultural work is just beginning, and I intend to make sure our writers are leading that conversation.
While I'm fully aware of the challenge and work ahead, I want to stress my overwhelming confidence in the continuation of Canadian writing as a profession. There are far too many gloomy predictions out there. I believe there has simply never been a better time to be writing in Canada. As a great Canadian publisher, Matt Williams at House of Anansi Press, wrote just this week, "We don’t come to work to survive. We come to work to publish books for readers today and into the future."
I leave my Bloor Street office with a bit of sadness, but I'll be arriving on Richmond Street ready to get on with this vital and growing business of writing in Canada.
For immediate release
Toronto, October 26, 2012
The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) is pleased to announce that John Degen, well-known cultural commentator and arts administrator, has been hired as the new Executive Director of TWUC.
John is a skilled administrator, policy analyst, and writer. Outspoken in defense of writers' rights
on issues such as copyright, John is at the forefront in using digital technologies to communicate
within and beyond the cultural sector. He is currently the Literature Officer with the Ontario Arts
Council, and was formerly the Executive Director of the Professional Writers Association of
Canada (PWAC) and the Communications Manager for Magazines Canada (formerly Canadian
Magazine Publishers Association). He knows the literary world from the inside as a published
novelist and poet and as founding editor of Ink magazine and host of The Book Room, an online
audio show featuring author interviews and readings.
Degen replaces Kelly Duffin, who leaves on November 23 to become Executive Director of the
Ontario Institute of the Purchasing Management Association of Canada. Kelly advanced the cause
of authors in this country, forging alliances within the sector, both nationally and internationally.
John’s passion, commitment, and expertise will not only carry on the current work of the Union,
but advance us even further as a strong professional and advocacy organization for Canadian
John begins his duties on November 26, 2012.
The Writers’ Union of Canada is our country’s national organization representing more than
2,000 professional authors of books. Founded in 1973, the Union is dedicated to fostering writing
in Canada, and promoting the rights, freedoms, and economic well-being of all writers.