Discovering one’s story

Local writer and poet Lynda Monahan is the John M. Cuelenaere Public Library’s writer-in-residence. On Saturday she’s hosting a workshop to help people write their life stories. (Josef Jacobson/Daily Herald)

Library writer-in-residence provides guidance for aspiring wordsmiths

Twice a week, Lynda Monahan sits in her temporary office in the basement of the John M. Cuelenaere Library and gives advice and criticism to aspiring writers. She might meet with a playwright one hour, a short story author the next hour and then a poet after that.

“It keeps me on my toes,” said Monahan, the library’s writer-in-residence.

“I’ve been absolutely deluged with writers. I’m working with about 25 writers now on the hours that I’m here… I’m booked into the future like a dentist.”

Monahan began her role on a voluntary basis at the beginning of the year, but last month she received a grant from the provincial organization Common Weal Community Arts to work at the library until the end of September. She has since applied for further funding through the Canada Council for the Arts and hopes to stay on as writer-in-residence for another year or two.

“What I do is I meet people here, writers who would like to show me their work individually, and I help them on critiquing their work (and) I help them with finding out where they might get their work published,” Monahan explained.

“As much as possible I’ll be getting people to do public readings here once they feel comfortable enough to do that. I would like to set up readings for people I’m working with so they get the opportunity so share their stories publicly.”

Aside from her individual consultations, Monahan also leads group writing classes, like this Saturday’s life story writing workshop, Finding the Key. She said it’s not hard to get people to open up and write about their past. Most people she’s worked with want to write about themselves.

“I try to encourage people’s personal stories because everybody has a story worth telling, everybody does, and so I just help people access those stories in themselves,” she said.

“I think a lot of people think that you have had to have led some big, exciting life or gone on adventures to have a story worth telling, but I believe everybody has a story that matters if they’re willing to access it.”

Those interested in booking an appointment with Lynda Monahan can reach her via email at

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