Bren Simmers

Bren Simmers

Workshop Warrior

Workshop warrior and resident writer, Bren Simmers, opens up about life at the Ranger Station Art Gallery

World of Words is pleased to present a free writing workshop called Think like an Editor at the Agassiz Public Library on Saturday Mar. 4 from 1-4 p.m.

The workshop will be led by writer in residence Bren Simmers who will teach the student how to revise for clarity, narrative, pacing, imagery, structure, and language. She will also provide a checklist to assist the author with future revisions.

“I will be giving advice to writers on what an editor would do and I’m hoping people will share tips as well,” said Simmers.

After the workshop Simmers will be hosting a 7 p.m. reading at the Ranger Station Art Gallery in Harrison Hot Springs, which is also her home for the year, as its new writer in residence.

The poetess and author of Night Gears and Hastings-Sunrise took a moment to sit down with The Observer at her new home above the gallery to chat about how the year has been going.

Simmers acknowledges that life at the gallery is a different way of being and that she enjoys making her own schedule and having the time to plan her days and do things of her own accord.

“It’ s quiet and it’s fantastic,” she says of experiencing Harrison with her husband, who joined her for the residency.

Simmers, speaks of walks on the beach, time for reflection, a good cup of tea, a stellar view and time to commit to the art of writing.

Holding an MFA from UBC, Simmers’ goal is to make writing a way of life and her residency is a good start. It’s the beginning of living her life in an uncompromising manner.

“It just feels right,” she said.

The residency program has been going strong for 25 years and allows residents to work on their craft for a year while they are fully emerged in an artistic space. It’s sponsored by the Kent Harrison Arts Council.

The residency provides ideal accommodations on the second floor of the Ranger Station Art Gallery. In exchange for the space Simmers is expected to devote an average of ten hours per week to the operation of the Arts Council and the Ranger Station Art Gallery which leaves plenty of time for her own work.

Just like its namesake the art gallery used to be a ranger station and sometimes retired rangers will come in and point out where their old offices used to be, an occurrence, that Simmers finds endearing about the space.

The experience is great for Simmers and she enjoys having the opportunity to chat with patrons and artists about art and life.

Simmers is coming in from Squamish where she spent three years and before that she was in east Vancouver.

“I’ve been progressively moving to smaller and smaller places,” she says. “It’s funny because Squamish was a big jump from east Vancouver and now this is a big jump from Squamish.”

Simmers calls Harrison a peaceful place.

“It’s fantastic for making work and for reflecting and getting into that daily rhythm of constructing your day in your own way and that’s part of the gift of living here but also living in a residency and having the freedom to decide what I want to do with my day — today for example, I got up and I went outside and I read.”

On other days, she’ll go into the studio to work, or she’ll go for walk.

The quality of living is high at the gallery according to Simmers.

“I have more time to make my life what I want it to be, whereas when you are in a bigger place you spend more time going from one place to another, waiting for a bus, or driving into the city for work.”

For Simmers being a resident is engaging and fulfilling because it allows her to talk about process and creativity.

“You have so much in common and I find it really inspiring to get to chat with some of the local artists.”

Having arrived in September, Simmers is here until late August, and she plans to make the most of her time as she explores the trails, waterways, and nooks and crannies special to Harrison.

Most of all she’s excited about the quality of work that she is producing and is hoping to get out a couple of manuscripts while she’s here.

“People have been coming to this place for healing since time immemorial, including the First Nations, it’s an important place and I think about that when I’m here, it does feel very calm and restorative and reflective.”

On the culture in Harrison…

“It’s amazing what’s happening in such a small place.”

Simmers often finds inspiration in nature and several of her current works have to with the wilds and have been inspired by the bountiful and natural settings Harrison is famous for.

She is working on a project called ‘Narratives of the Lost’ as a collaboration with her good friend Laurel Terlesky that charts lost objects found during walks Terlesky takes, combined with photographs, and a poem written about them to be displayed in an exhibit in June.

“I started working on poems and she started working on drawings from the photos, so the show is sort of a conversation about these lost objects in various configurations,” said Simmers.

To register for the Think like an Editor workshop at the Agassiz Public Library on Saturday Mar. 4 from 1-4 p.m. call the Agassiz Library at 604-796-9510.

For those interested in attending the evening reading at Ranger Station Art Gallery on Mar. 4 at 7 p.m. the address is 98 Rockwell Drive, Harrison Hot Springs.