Author Tags: Education, Fiction, Poetry

Born in Toronto on October 1, 1950, Meredith Quartermain came west with her family in 1962 to live in the silver boomtown of Argenta, B.C. at age eleven, on the north end of Kootenay Lake. In 1983 she was commissioned to write a history of York House School in Vancouver, prompting her investigation of pioneer narratives and archive materials related to Vancouver.

She has studied at UBC, taught English at Capilano College, been associated with the Kootenay School of Writing, started a literary website called The News and founded a small press imprint in Vancouver, Nomados Literary Publishers, with her husband Peter Quartermain, that has released more than 40 chapbooks of innovative Canadian and US writing since 2002.

Her poetic descriptions of Vancouver were gathered for Vancouver Walking (NeWest Press, 2005), winner of the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize in 2006. An “earth-geist” named Geo helps Quartermain explore human behaviour and architecture in her city in Nightmarker (NeWest $14.95), a slim collection of prose-like observations in a similar vein. She became the Vancouver Public Library's 8th Writer in Residence in 2012.

Earle Birney once concluded a satirical poem called Can. Lit. 1947 with the lines: “no Whitman wanted / it’s by our lack of ghosts / we’re haunted.” Meredith Quartermain is solving the problem. In her collection of short stories about writers and writing, Quartermain is haunted by the writers who have walked the streets of Vancouver before her, such as Pauline Johnson, Malcolm Lowry, Robin Blaser and Daphne Marlatt. Its collection a meditation on the nature of creative writing, raising esoteric questions such as: Who is writing whom and what? The writer or the written? The thinker or the alphabet? The calligrapher or the pictograms hidden in the Chinese characters she writes? Publicity materials suggest Quartermain is taking her cue from "genre-bending writers like Robert Walser and Enrique Vila-Matas." The collection called I, Bartleby (Talonbooks $14.95) blurs the lines between fiction and reality.

Reviews of the author's work by BC Studies:

Set largely in Stettler, Alberta, and echoing some of the bleakness of Sinclair Ross' view of the Prairies, Meredith Quartermain's Depression-era first novel, Rupert's Land (NeWest $20.95), unites two, young and restless spirits. Growing up in the agrarian dustbowl, Cora Wagoner wants to study science rather than pig-sty procreation; Hunter George is a Cree who prefers his grandmother's stories of the legendary Wisahkecahk to the demeaning policies of the Indian Agent. On page 233 they ride her horse Arrow past the Nuisance Grounds to share the challenging freedom of scrubland wilderness for the final fifth of the story.

U Girl (Talonbooks 2016) is a coming of age story set in Vancouver, 1972 where Frances Nelson is headed to the big city for her first year of university after escaping her small-town life. Sexual experimentation, drugs, working at menial jobs, meditating on Wreck Beach, and studying at the University of British Columbia during the “free love” era are all incorporated in the struggle to be taken seriously as a woman and the desire for gender equality.


Not For Ourselves Alone: 50 Years at York House (York House, 1984) - history
Terms of Sale (Buffalo: Meow, 1996) - poetry
Abstract Relations (Vancouver: Keefer Street, 1998 - poetry
Wanders [with Robin Blaser] (2002)
The Eye-Shift of Service (2003)
Vancouver Walking (NeWest Press, 2005) - poetry
Nightmarker (NeWest 2008) - prose-poetry
Matter (BookThug 2008) $20 978-1-897388-18-1
Recipes from the Red Planet (Bookthug 2010)
Rupert's Land (NeWest 2013) $20.95 978-1-927063-36-1
I, Bartleby (Talonbooks 2015) $14.95
U Girl (Talonbooks 2016) $19.95, ISBN 978-1-77201-040-4

[BCBW 2016] "Poetry" "Education"

Quartermain named 8th VPL Writer in Residence
Press Release (2012)

Known across Canada as a writer of urban spaces and an innovator of narrative forms, award-winning poet, writer and historian Meredith Quartermain is Vancouver Public Library’s eighth Writer in Residence.

Ms. Quartermain, the author of five books, will begin her residency today by inspiring and sharing her vast experience with young writers at the Library’s annual Writing & Book Camp. During her four-month tenure she will mentor emerging writers, teach new song writers how to jumpstart their lyrics and encourage workshop participants to explore and map their neighbourhood through memoirs, stories and poems.

"Vancouver Public Library is delighted to have Meredith Quartermain as our eighth Writer in Residence," said Chief Librarian Sandra Singh. "She combines extensive experience as an author and an educator to create an innovative slate of public program ideas. The community will benefit from her passion for stories and the spoken word."

The Writer in Residence program allows the writer to spend 75 percent of their time working on their own project. Ms. Quartermain will work on her new novel set in 1970s Vancouver. The remaining time will be spent on community projects, events and mentoring emerging writers one-on-one.

"Learning from artists who have traveled the road ahead is one of the most valuable experiences I've enjoyed," said Ms. Quartermain. "That's why I wanted to give some time to helping aspiring writers in Vancouver, and in this way, through writing and reflection, help to make our community more visible to itself."

Ms. Quartermain’s first book, Vancouver Walking, won the 2006 BC Book Award for Poetry. Her second, Nightmarker, was a finalist for the 2009 Vancouver Book Award and Recipes from the Red Planet was a finalist for the 2011 BC Book Award for fiction. Her work has appeared in The Walrus, Canadian Literature, CV2, Matrix, Prism and other Canadian and U.S. magazines, and was recently included in Best Canadian Poetry.

An active participant in the writing and publishing community, Ms. Quartermain has taught at schools and universities across Canada, including Kootenay School of Writing, Toronto New School of Writing, Naropa University, Simon Fraser University, Capilano College and University of British Columbia. She also is a co-founder of the award-winning Nomados Literary Publishers, which has published more than 35 books of contemporary writing.

Emerging writers who would like a one-on-one consultation with Meredith Quartermain must apply to be considered. Information is available at www.vpl.ca/writer_in_residence.

Ms. Quartermain’s inaugural public reading is on Tuesday, September 11 at 7 p.m. at the Central Library, Alice MacKay room. Admission is free.

The 2012 Writer-in-Residence program is made possible with financial support from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Friends of the Vancouver Public Library.