David James Brock (2006 cohort)
I was finishing an undergrad in creative writing at the University of Victoria in 2005, when a professor of mine, playwright Joan MacLeod, showed me a print out of an email announcing a new creative writing MFA at the University of Guelph. At the time, I was focusing almost exclusively on playwriting, and though I’m paraphrasing, Joan said something like, “a lot of playwrights live in Toronto at some point.” A year later, I was on the other side of the country in the Toronto living room of Connie and Leon Rooke at a meeting for the first 15 Guelph MFA candidates. Instant community.
Ten years later, the impacts of that community are still with me as both a writer and teacher. My writing focus has broadened to poetry, something that was certainly inspired by the incredible gang of poets who were present in my Guelph MFA community (poets are a contagious bunch), and I started to take a genre other than playwriting seriously. In fact, the high level of thought that permeated the classes, workshops, reading events and social atmosphere connected with the Guelph MFA made me take everything a little bit more seriously.
Since graduating (I was the first to defend a thesis, by the way!), in addition to plays and poetry, I have been fortunate enough to travel and work on opera projects around the world. Tracing it back far enough, I can attribute the writing I do now to a draft, an idea, or a person directly connected to my time at Guelph.
Picking up and moving across the country for “more school” was a scary prospect. There are always expectations as to what an MFA will bring. Yes, there are the practical aspects: elevation of craft, networking, teaching opportunities, but there are also surprises: the fellow writers that nudged me in new directions, the new little paths that revealed themselves, paths that begged to be taken.
David James Brock is a playwright, poet, and librettist whose plays and operas have been performed in cities across Canada, the US, and the UK. He is the winner of the 2011 Herman Voaden Canadian National Playwriting Award. Brock’s debut poetry collection, Everyone is CO2, was released by Wolsak & Wynn in spring 2014. He is co-creator of Breath Cycle, a multimedia operatic song cycle developed with cystic fibrosis patients that was nominated for a 2014 Royal Philharmonic Society Award. He lives in Toronto and teaches writing courses at the University Guelph, University of Victoria, Humber College and Young People’s Theatre. Learn more about his work at www.davidjamesbrock.com.