Inside the Writer’s World: Writing Climate Change

Saturday, May 6, 2023 from 11:00 am to 4:30 pm Archived

Carol Shields Auditorium + adjacent meeting rooms, Millennium Library, 251 Donald Street

Join us for a day of writing and conversation on the topic of Climate Change!

Is the climate crisis a scientific problem or something created by Western capitalist culture? Do writers—novelists, non-fictioneers, and poets—have a role to play in reshaping contemporary mindsets and imagining a different way?

Join us for a day of writing and conversation, presented by the Winnipeg International Writers Festival and the Winnipeg Public Library, that includes a keynote by celebrated Manitoba author Joan Thomas followed by genre-specific workshops.


Where: Carol Shields Auditorium + adjacent meeting rooms

When: Saturday, May 6, 2023.

Audience: Writers at every level are welcome. We’re all part of the solution!

Cost: FREE! Bring your own lunch.

Registration required: Register HERE



11:00 am – 12:00 pm: Keynote by Joan Thomas in Carol Shields Auditorium

12:00 – 1:00 pm: Lunch Break

1:00 – 4:00 pm: Genre-specific Workshops

4:00 – 4:30 pm: Closing Plenary


KEYNOTE — Taking It On with Joan Thomas

The premise of this presentation is that climate change is, at root, not a scientific problem but a problem created by Western capitalist culture. We’ll look at aspects of this world view that underlie the current crisis—a sense of exceptionalism among the earth’s species, a view that nature is here for humanity’s use and exploitation, a belief in endless economic growth, a focus on individualism and competition rather than community, etc. The presentation will consider art as a vehicle for creating new narratives, addressing denial, being present to our emotions about the crisis, and imagining a different way.




Workshop #1— Contemporary Realistic Fiction with Joan Thomas

While speculative fiction has taken the lead in engaging with climate change, this workshop looks at how contemporary social realism can take up the challenge. We will examine the conventions of realistic fiction (its preoccupation with the individual, its emphasis on insight rather than event, its reliance on the consolations of nature, etc.) in the light of the reality of climate change. Participants will work together to identify new conventions and strategies that take on a rapidly-changing world.


Workshop #2Non Fiction in A Changing World with Josiah Neufeld and Erna Buffie

How do you find your voice and write about climate and the environment in a way that empowers and engages people rather than making them run for hills?  Non Fiction is a powerful and hugely popular literary genre that can deliver your story in different forms to a variety of audiences. From the short form OpEd to magazine articles and books, this workshop will explore how voice, tone, research, structure and personal stories can be woven together in a way that enlightens, entertains and moves both the public and policy makers to action.


Workshop #3The Poetics of Climate Change with Chimwemwe Undi

Climate change is a human-made disaster with deeply human repercussions that implicate culture, society, politics and the personal. The poet is then called to describe and engage with the terror of a warming world, its inequitable impacts and the predictable and unknowable ways it shapes our everyday. In this generative workshop, we will read poems by Saeed Jones, Emily Riddle, Franny Choi, and others, that ground disaster in the people working to survive it, and then try our trembling hands at it. Together, we will turn to poetics to question, to rage, to mourn, and to give audience where it is easier to turn away.



Joan Thomas is the author of four highly acclaimed novels, all of which are intimate depictions of characters in times of rapid social change.  Five Wives won the 2019 Governor General’s Award for Fiction and was described by the Globe and Mail as “brilliant, eloquent, curious, far-seeing.” In 2014, Joan was awarded the Writers Trust of Canada Engel Findley Prize for mid-career achievement. Her new novel, Wild Hope, will be released in September.

Erna Buffie is a writer, author and environmental activist whose documentary films have won awards around the world, including a Save The Seas Foundation Award for her film, The Changing Sea, which explores of the impact of climate change on the world’s oceans. Her first novel, Let Us Be True, was nominated for the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction at the Manitoba Book Awards. As Chair of the Trees Please Coalition of Winnipeg (2020-2022), Erna has written numerous op-eds on climate change and the need for sustainable funding for the urban forest—a critical part of the city’s essential infrastructure and one of the keys to creating a climate resilient city.

Josiah Neufeld is an award-winning journalist who grew up as an expatriate in Burkina Faso and returned to Canada as a young adult. His essays, journalism, and short fiction have been published in the Walrus, Hazlitt, the Globe and Mail, Eighteen Bridges, the Ottawa Citizen, the Vancouver Sun, Utne Reader, Prairie Fire, and the New Quarterly. His first book, The Temple at the End of the Universe: A Search for Spirituality in the Anthropocene, will be published by House of Anansi Press in June 2023.

Chimwemwe Undi is a poet and editor with work appearing in Brick, Border Crossings, Canadian Literature and BBC World, among others. She was the recipient of the 2022 John Hirsch Emerging Writer Award from the Manitoba Book Awards, and she is the Winnipeg Poet Laureate for 2023 and 2024. She is an editor at CV2 Magazine, and a lawyer called to the Manitoba bar. Her debut collection will be out with House of AnansiPress in 2024.



Millennium Library

  • 251 Donald Street
  • Winnipeg, MB