Chelsea Franz is an artist on the road to completing her creative writing degree at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. During her time at KPU, Franz made sure to leave her mark, from starting clubs, to creating and reviving community connections on campus. As she gets closer to graduating, she wants to share her story and continue to make a difference at KPU and elsewhere.
When did you join the KPU community and why?
I came to KPU in 2016. It wasn’t my choice, I didn’t want to be here at all. I used to go to UVic. I went there for a year right out of highschool and then it became really expensive and I couldn’t really afford to do that anymore, so then I had to move back home — and even getting the degree wasn’t really my choice. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do and anything that was academic I couldn’t focus on and hold my attention. It just wasn’t for me. I couldn’t succeed in those courses, so I was really disheartened by school.
I was that kid in the back of class that was always stoned, that didn’t show up, that didn’t hand in her work, that missed exams, and all that, and then I took a creative writing class and my first class wasn’t that great. I met Aislinn Hunter and I took her 2300 poetry and fiction class. I was like, “wow I really like writing.” I’ve always known I liked writing and that’s why, initially when I was here, I thought I wanted to major in English. I met Aislinn and she was like, “Yo, you can declare your major as creative writing,” and I was like, “Oh, I think that’s something I think I want to do,” and then I decided to pursue creative writing a bit more in depth.
Then I took another class with Jen Currin, and I had an office meeting with her and [she] was like, “You’re a poet!” and I was like, “Really? I’m a poet?” and then it made me believe I could write. From there, I was like, “Yeah, this is cool. I actually like what I’m doing,” and I found I was good at it. I was able to excel and not be a [bad] student. It made me want to try and show up and do things.
I got involved with student life. I’ve always been someone who needs to be doing things, needs to be active in the community. I was really active with my high school community as well, just with clubs and other things. I took over Pulp and I did that for a year, and one of my things was having a launch party when issues came out. First of all, a lot of people didn’t know what Pulp was …. When I took over, it was just KPU students, and now they have expanded that. The cool thing about having a student magazine is that it can bring people together.
At the same time, I started with Slamapalooza. I competed once and then I qualified for their Canadian Festival of Spoken Word, and then I became a team member for their national team and we went to Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in Guelph. That was 2018.
It was really cool to be a part of that team. I took over [what is now called] Kwantlen Poetry Project. I thought it needed some new leadership. It was also losing steam. I didn’t want to see it die. It’s also really important, especially since there is a really big national scene, and that’s cool because Kwantlen Poetry Project is able to connect poets across Canada. It just exposes people to different styles within the community as well, because we get people who aren’t just students. We get community members to come out and share their work and just get a chance to connect.
I’m really big about community and connection. As soon as I step into these roles I’m like, “Okay, this is my new purpose. My new goal is to foster this,” because I’ve seen how important it is as someone who didn’t really have that growing up. I was really seeking that, and since I now have the energy to create that, I figured I might as well do it.
What is your favourite story of your time at KPU?
It has been really cool to see how the community has grown because when I started it was two to three people in a room. Now Pulp is doing its thing and I’m not even involved anymore. They’re still having launch parties and they’re still publishing and that’s really cool.
I left Pulp to start Melanin: KPU’s BIPOC Writers Collective, because all our instructors are white, and it hinders our exploration of BIPOC identity through writing despite most of them being good teachers.
To see the way Kwantlen Poetry Project has grown, that’s really cool. I’ve also run a bunch of community events where we’re trying to highlight different sectors of the community. I’ve done an African descent dialogue poetry night, where I got people who represented that community to speak on their truths. We had a whole bunch of people come out and that was really cool to see the amount of people that would come out to an event when you make the space to make it happen.
What’s something you’d like to say to people new to the community?
Show up and talk to people and try. I know KPU kind of has this idea that we’re a commuter campus and there is no student life here, and that’s not true. Despite where you are, people will always want community, and if it’s not there, go make it. Find a club, start it … and do your thing. Find people who like things that you like and make friends that way through mutual interests and connections. School’s really boring if you just come here, go to class, and go home. If you only talk to people about schoolwork, yeah, you’re not going to make connections. You’re just going to be stuck in your own circles. Through me meeting people at school, now I have some of my best friends ever in the world — like people I truly really love but who support my work and make me want to write better, make me want to do the thing, who give me energy to hold the community.
What are you working on right now?
Right now I’m working on a collection to be published. I just say “collection” and I haven’t defined it because I don’t really know what it is yet. It’s going to be kind of like a poetry-creative nonfiction hybrid or maybe autofiction if I decide what I’m writing is a bit too much and I don’t want to claim it as nonfiction. I’m just trying to figure out what to do because I’m graduating really soon. Being a professional artist is never going to be easy and I feel like you have to have your foot in a lot of little things. You have to have connections. You have to really, really want it. I’m just trying to stay a part of not just the KPU community, but the community at large.
Eventually, my big goal is to own a space that artists can just take up and not worry. There’s so many artists’ spaces that are getting closed down and it’s really hard for artists and creators, musicians, painters, writers, and performers to find that space to take up. That’s my ultimate goal, to create that space on a large-scale level.
What is something you would like people to know about you?
I’m not as scary as I look. You should come talk to me because I’m really shy and I want to be your friend. I just don’t know how to approach you.
Go do the thing. Don’t be scared to chase dreams.