Creative Writing Guild finds new ways to tell stories

Guild’s podcast series offers platform for student writers

Courtesy of the Kwantlen Creative Writing Guild

In August of last year, the Kwantlen Creative Writing Guild released the first episode of a new podcast/YouTube series called Comma Splice. The series is made up of short plays, prose pieces, and poetry from Kwantlen Polytechnic University writing students.

Each episode revolves around a single concept that the stories can explore and interpret as the writers see fit. The first installment of the series was based on the concept of “Outsiders,” and in the fall they followed that up with an episode about “Generations.” This month, the Creative Writing Guild release their third episode of Comma Splice, which takes a look at the multiple meanings of the word “asylum.”

“Asylum is such a fractured term,” says Winston Le, president of the Kwantlen Creative Writing Guild. “Our last two themes … were very character-driven. For this one I wanted to focus on setting.”

This particular episode is comprised of two stories and three poems. Shay Kennedy, a first-year writing student who joined the Guild last fall, is the author of “Truth be Told”, the episode’s first piece. The story follows two girls, Emma and Madison, who break into an abandoned insane asylum and discover something shocking.

“In society, we don’t take care of people who are elderly or who have mental health issues,” says Kennedy, about how she chose to interpret the episode’s theme in her writing. “A lot of the time we just lock them away, not wanting to think about them. And we don’t think about what that can do to them.”

After Kennedy’s piece is another prose narrative, this time by fellow Guild newcomer Alice Coonce, whose story—“Seeking and Escaping”—is also set around an insane asylum.

The episode’s poems were written by Guild veteran Nina Mosall, who chose to examine the other side of the “Asylum” coin. Her contribution uses the backdrop of the current refugee crisis to depict those who seek asylum, who long for safety when beset on all sides by fear and danger.

Each episode of Comma Splice ends with a short discussion amongst the authors and the show’s host, where they share their thoughts on the central theme. Le explains that in the discussion for episode three, he and the writers focused on how the dichotomy of the word “asylum” led to such different takes on the concept.

“We talk about how asylum can be an institution to rehabilitate people with mental illness, but it can also mean people seeking safety, or a place to call home,” says Le. “In the show, the ideas of rehabilitation and sanctuary are melded together, so it’s kind of a reconciliation of both terms.”

In attendance for every Comma Splice reading and discussion thus far is Kimberley McMartin, who both records and edits the episodes as the series’ unofficial audio engineer. Her interest in the show began when the idea of a Creative Writing Guild podcast was floating around Guild meetings. McMartin saw it as a good opportunity to both promote student writing and begin laying a foundation for a potential radio station at KPU.

“I’m working on starting up Radio Free Kwantlen,” she explains. “I wanted to do a proof of the concept to help get funding, such as microphones and software for editing.”

Back in 2009, the students of KPU voted in referendum to establish a 13 cents-per-credit fee that would go towards the creation of a university-based radio station. After a few years, the KSA voted to stop collecting the fee, as the radio initiative never moved forward. However, the funds are still waiting to be put to use.

McMartin hopes to work with other clubs like the Creative Writing Guild to create content that could potentially form the basis of a radio program.

“If people are interested, they could have any shows, anything that they want. We can hash it out and I can record it,” says McMartin. “I’m also trying to create standardized forms to help get programs fleshed out, programs written, and even promotional material. But I’m also in school, and I’m basically the only one doing it.”