Not Just Educational But Epochal: Farewell Wishes from Our WIR

Our Kuldip Gill Fellowship Writer in Residence in 2019 was the venerable Robert Wiersema. Here are his parting words after eleven weeks of sharing his insights about writing and life…


One of the only reasons I’m still on Facebook is to check my Memories; I like to start my mornings by looking back at what I was doing (or at least posting about) a year ago, six years ago, eleven years ago…

This morning, March 27, my Memories reminded me that it was actually something of an anniversary. Six years ago – March 27, 2013 – I set my out-of-office autoreply and turned out the lights in my office at the bookstore I had worked at for more than fifteen years. Owing to a fortuitous Canada Council grant, and a very understanding employer, I was taking five months off work to write a novel.

I never went back.

The writing went well, and various other things lined up, and suddenly I was no longer a bookseller who wrote but a writer who taught.

My life changed on that day in 2013, but I didn’t know it until later; I’m trying to be more aware of these things, now.

For example, I’ve been very aware and upfront about this: my time as the Kuldip Gill Fellowship Writer in Residence at UFV has been life-changing.

Over these eleven weeks I have been more productive than I have been in years. I’ve been writing new work, revising and revisiting old work, expanding other writing projects. The time spent talking with students, either in class or in meetings, has been inspiring, and at times overwhelming. There’s so much good work, so many good writers. It’s been amazing, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to spend this time in your company. I don’t need to look back, this time: I have been able to actually feel my life turning a corner.

I’m feeling melancholy that my time at UFV is coming to an end; it’s been good for me here.

I hope I’m not alone in feeling that.

I hope your time at UFV is as positive, as affirming, as transformative, as mine has been.

Maybe you don’t look at it like that. Maybe, with it being the end of the semester, you’re too overwhelmed to think about it at all.

Trust me on this, though – you will.

Down the road, you’ll look back on this time as transformative, not just educational but epochal.

Don’t wait, though. Look around you now. Look for places to explore, challenges to accept, things to fail at. That’s right: actively seek out things to fail out. Things that stretch you to your limit. Look for places to play. Look for places to experiment. Don’t look for the easy A, look for the things that will change your world.

Savour this time in your life. Don’t rush through it.

Or, as a great philosopher once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.”

Everything we learn, everything we experience, becomes a part of our story, and a part of the stories we will grow to be able to tell.

Welcome to my story. Thank you for being a part of it.

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