Sierra Skye Gemma Falls in Love with Banff

Back in June, I was thrilled to announce that Sierra Skye Gemma is the new core member of the Swoon team, and I boasted about the amount of expertise that she is bringing to our community of love, sex, and chocolate. Sierra recently made connections in another community that she loved being a part of: the Literary Journalism Program at The Banff Centre.

I asked Sierra to share some highlights from her time in Banff. Even the most dedicated writers can sometimes find it hard to love their vocation (for example: the revision process), but having the opportunity to hang out in Banff in an adorable writer’s studio of your very own is enough to rekindle that passion! Take a look at Sierra’s photos, and you’ll immediately understand why she fell in love this place!

—Ruth

Photo by Kelsey Kudak

Photo by Kelsey Kudak.

This summer, I spent four writing-filled weeks at The Banff Centre in beautiful Banff, Alberta, Canada. The Banff Centre calls itself “the largest arts and creativity incubator on the planet” and I believe it. I applied to the Literary Journalism Program, which is funded by Rogers Communications. I’m totally not biased here—and as an objective expert on the subject—I can attest to the fact that the Literary Journalism Program is the BEST. WRITING. RESIDENCY. EVER.

Along with seven other writers from across the world, I received a private writing studio nestled in the woods of the Leighton Artist Colony. I was given The Hemingway studio. The Hemingway was set up with two desks, a computer, a printer, a private bathroom and kitchenette, a deck that was drenched in sun each afternoon, and—most importantly—a napping couch. Here’s a picture of me on the deck of said studio.

Photo by Kelsey Kudak.

Photo by Kelsey Kudak.

Not too shabby, eh? It was within this studio that I had the privacy and the environment to write and polish a long-form narrative non-fiction article, with the help of THE BEST EDITOR IN THE WORLD, Victor Dwyer, and the guidance of THE BEST PROGRAM DIRECTOR EVER, Ian Brown. (These statements have not been verified by The Banff Centre, but are, nonetheless, 100% accurate [reflections of my own personal beliefs] and you really can’t question statements of 100% certainty.)

In between days of angsty editing, I made what I believe will prove to be life-long friendships with the other participants in the program. In fact, one of them, Kelsey Kudak, is already on her way west for a mini-reunion with me and Victoria poet Eve Joseph. When we weren’t writing and editing, The Banff Centre kept the participants busy with meetings with established writers, including Susan Orlean and Chris Turner, and with special arts events, like the The Art of Time Ensemble plays Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the opera #UncleJohn, and the CBC Creative Nonfiction Prize Award Ceremony. In a setting like Banff, especially during the summer, there were lots of opportunities for outdoor recreation as well, from bonfires to hikes to day trips to Lake Louise.

The Banff Centre is kind of like Summer Camp for adults. I don’t have the friendship bracelet to prove it, but I do feel like this experience gave me one of the best summers of my life, both personally and professionally. I strongly encourage non-fiction writers to consider applying to the Literary Journalism Program and I urge other writers to check out the full spectrum of Literary Arts options at The Banff Centre.

 The writers (w) and faculty (f) of the 2014 Literary Journalism Program at The Banff Centre. (Top Row, L-to-R: Matt Aiken (w), Victor Dwyer (f), Ian Brown (f), Charlotte Gill (f), Peter Worden (w). Bottom Row, L-to-R: John Emrys Eller (w), Sierra Skye Gemma (w), Eve Joseph (w), Kelsey Kudak (w), Amanda Waldroupe (w), Dakshana Bascaramurty (w).

The participants (p) and faculty (f) of the 2014 Literary Journalism Program at The Banff Centre. (Top Row, L-to-R: Matt Aikins (p), Victor Dwyer (f), Ian Brown (f), Charlotte Gill (f), Peter Worden (p). Bottom Row, L-to-R: John Emrys Eller (p), Sierra Skye Gemma (p), Eve Joseph (p), Kelsey Kudak (p), Amanda Waldroupe (p), Dakshana Bascaramurty (p). Photo courtesy of The Banff Centre.

 

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