Better writing, better health
Tololwa M. Mollel knows how to write good stories, and he’s passionate about helping others do the same.
Athabasca University’s writer in residence for 2011-12, Mollel works with students of all ages around the world to elevate the quality of their writing. He occupies what he calls “the middle ground somewhere between cheerleader and critic,” providing invaluable feedback that helps students hone their writing skills.
“Writing is always tough, and you do much of it in isolation,” says the celebrated children’s author and dramatist. “It’s also very personal. I can’t write for people, but I can offer the good, honest, supportive advice that’s required of any mentor.”
Funding from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts made it possible to launch AU’s Writer in Residence program in 2010, and Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Joseph Boyden was the first author to hold the post. Continuation of those funds plus support from another community group is enabling Mollel to expand opportunities for even more writers.
Last September, ZoomerMedia committed to funding a new facet of the program that will engage people who have a lifetime of stories to tell: seniors. ZoomerMedia publishes Zoomer magazine for the Canadian Association for Retired Persons (CARP), Canada’s largest not-for-profit association for people aged 45-plus and those who care for them.
“Writing offers value to people from age 22 to 82, and the Writer in Residence program is a great resource for writers, students and faculty”
“Writing is seen as a key to healthy aging,” Mollel says of the group’s interest in supporting this creative opportunity. “It’s a tool that can be used to support mental health as people advance in years. It’s a way to look back on experiences and relive life.”
In addition to helping more writers, expanding the horizons of the Writer in Residence program is also a way to build community, says Marilyn Dumont, a writing instructor in AU’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences who was instrumental in creating the program.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to partner with all kinds of organizations,” she says. “Writing offers value to people from age 22 to 82, and the Writer in Residence program is a great resource for writers, students and faculty.”
Still in development, the ZoomerMedia aspect of the program is likely to include in-person and online talks by Mollel, web-conferenced workshops, virtual space on AU’s e-Lab that will enable CARP writers to connect and create their own e-portfolios, and writing-focused articles and videos for ZoomerMedia online and print publications.
“Working with them lets me spread my wings and think about different forms of writing,” Mollel says. “I can see how powerful writing can be as you get older.”
To find out more about the Writer in Residence program, visit: athabascau.ca/cll/writer-in-residence.