Queen’s writers: where are they now?

Creative Queen’s alumni discuss their experiences with student publications and where they took them

After graduating from Queen’s, Grace O’Connell, ArtSci ’06, went on to make her mark on the literary world.
After graduating from Queen’s, Grace O’Connell, ArtSci ’06, went on to make her mark on the literary world.
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If you’ve ever wondered about where our literary scholars end up after they leave Queen’s, look no further. Here are a few Queen’s graduates who, after making their mark at Queen’s, left to make their mark on the literary world.

Melissa Kluger, ArtSci ’98, was an avid contributor to the literary scene when she was an undergraduate—a contributor to the Journal, a member of the Queen’s Feminist Review editorial board and, during her time spent in Carolyn Smart’s creative writing class, came up with the idea to start her own student publication, Ultraviolet Magazine, which is now in its 13th year.

“When I took Carolyn’s class, I was so impressed by the quality of the writing in that group,” she said. “It became clear to me while I liked writing poetry, I wanted to give other people a place to share their work and there wasn’t a place for them to share their work with their community.”

After she graduated from Queen’s, Kluger decided to go to law school but she knew she didn’t want to leave the writing scene.

“I went because I wanted to be able to represent artists and writers and that came out of my experience from working on Ultraviolet. I wanted to help writers spend more time writing poetry while I spent more time advocating on their behalf.”

During her studies at the University of Toronto, Kluger started a student newspaper called Ultra-Vires—which means beyond the powers or “outside your jurisdiction”—a student-run newspaper for U of T’s Faculty of Law, now in its 10th year. When she graduated from the University of Toronto, she practiced media law with one of Canada’s leading lawyers, Brian MacLeod Rogers—who graduated from Queen’s in 1971.

After realizing there was no magazine that spoke to young lawyers in the first 10 years of their practice, Kluger decided to start one herself.

As the editor and publisher of Precedent: the New Rules of Law and Style, Kluger gears her content towards young lawyers in Ontario. Kluger said the magazine has a circulation of 18,000 people.

“I think for students who want to be writing, they could keep it up no matter what they do when they graduate from Queen’s,” she said. “Whether you go to law school or get an MBA … the fact that you like writing and you’re good at it, the more you do it and the better you are at it, the more opportunities will come to you where you can make writing your career.”

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Lisa Kellenberger, Sci ’08 and currently studying for her masters in life science at the University of Guelph, was heavily involved with student publications during her time as an undergraduate.

“One of the first things I did was join Undergraduate Review,” she said. “I worked on UR every year.”

Kellenberger was also involved with Ultraviolet Magazine, CultureSHOCK, the Journal, Diatribe and the Queen’s Health Science publication. She said her love for writing developed before she came to Queen’s.

“In high school, I worked on a literary magazine,” she said. “I was a closet poet for a long time and I was interested in reading what other people my age are writing.”

Today, Kellenberger is a poetry editor for Carousel, a magazine published out of the University of Guelph.

“It’s different from the Queen’s publications,” she said. “It’s not only student work but a nationally distributed magazine.”

Although Kellenberger is a science student, she said she plans to continue writing creatively.

“The most important thing in working for the publications is getting a sense of what other people are writing and the publication process itself,” she said.

Even if you’re not editing or writing, Kellenberger said it’s still important to stay involved with creative publications by reading as many as possible.

“I went to the University of Iowa this summer to attend a writing workshop and the editor of their review came in and talked to us,” she said. “The way the Queen’s publications are done is practically the same way real publications are run.”

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Grace O’Connell, ArtSci ’06, during her time at Queen’s, published her work in Ultraviolet, the Undergraduate Review, the Queen's Feminist Review, Lighthouse Wire as well as the creative writing master class publication, Lake Effect. She also wrote articles for the Journal occasionally. In her last year at Queen’s, she won the annual fiction contest as well as the McIlquham Prize.

O’Connell said she was inspired to get involved in the writing scene at Queen’s because she was heavily influenced by the creative writing classes she took with Carolyn Smart, with whom she is still in contact.

“The creative writing classes were a good jumping off point for forming a community in the University,” she said.

O’Connell organized a series at Queen’s called the Open Box Literary Society, which hosted monthly readings at the Grad Club and featured a poetry contest between professors of the English department. In her last two years at Queen’s, she helped friend Devon Lougheed run his micro press, A Bicycle Made of Anarchy, which published four CHAPbooks. After her time at Queen's, O’Connell went on to intern at McClelland & Stewart, working under editors Anita Chong and Ellen Seligman. She spent the year after that working for Margaret Atwood's LongPen Company before returning to school to take a Masters of Fine Arts at the University of Guelph, where she is currently in her first year.

In 2008, she signed with Anna McDermid & Associates and in 2009, she was awarded a grant from the Ontario Arts Council in order to complete her first novel.

“I currently work at an independent bookstore in Toronto, support myself with freelance publishing work and maintain a blog about writing at graceoconnell.com,” she said.

She said her future goals include publishing novels internationally and supporting herself through teaching, grants, writer-in-residence gigs and freelance work.

“I would so love to be the writer-in-residence at Queen's someday,” she said. “I am thrilled that the University finally has its own writer-in-residence program.

“I encourage people to submit to magazines, start their own publications and presses, attend and start up reading series and connect with the local writing community in Kingston.”

O’Connell said it is important for writers and literary types to maintain a strong community to encourage and maintain creativity.

“It's important for writers to meet each other and support each other during university and afterwards,” she said. “If we don't support each other, how can we expect anyone new to break into the market?”

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