Since 2010, I have co-organized a monthly mixer group in Edmonton for creative women professionals. I am constantly amazed by their expertise and experience, and thought I would do Q&A’s with them to get their stories – and tips!
Alexis Kienlen is the author of two books of poetry “13” and “She dreams in Red”. She’s a poet, fiction writer, editor, journalist and writing teacher who works full time as an agricultural reporter. She’s lived in four different provinces in Canada, and has worked overseas in Indonesia and Mongolia. Alexis reads as much as possible and talks a lot. She loves books, writing, movies, Leonardo DiCaprio, bees, bellydancing, the tv show Friday Nights, teen movies and young adult literature, her parents, and lots of dogs, especially cairn terriers. You can learn more about her at https://www.alexiskienlen.com
She tweets about agriculture, literature and other sundries at @alexiskienlen
What kind of background do you have (education, training, experience)?
I started publishing poetry when I was 14 years old, and I’ve been building my career as a writer ever since. My first full length collection “She dreams in Red”, was published in 2007 with Frontenac House. My second book “13”, came out in 2011.
I have an Honours degree in International Studies with a focus on race, ethnic relations and development from the University of Saskatchewan. I followed this up with a Graduate Diploma in Journalism from Concordia University (Montreal). I’ve taken a lot of writing and marketing courses, and in September, I’ll have a Certificate in Food Security with Specialization in Urban agriculture from Ryerson University.
Since 2001, I have worked for newspapers and magazines, freelanced, taught writing, and edited writing for others. I work full time as an agricultural reporter for Alberta Farmer newspaper, write a weekly column about books for the Grande Prairie Daily Herald Tribune, and do a variety of freelance gigs whenever I can.
What is the best thing about your job?
My day job with Alberta Farmer helps me to keep learning. I love meeting farmers and talking with them about everything from their grandchildren to their cows to their vacation in Mexico. It’s been eye opening to see how we produce food in this province. Last week I went to an egg laying operation on a Hutterite colony. My focus on agriculture has also taken me all over the province, and last summer, it took me to Sweden to attend the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists conference. My day job completely informs my creative work as well, and I’ve written a lot about farming. I’ve also become an advocate for agriculture.
I also work from home and work with farmers, so I get to spend a lot of time wearing pyjamas (home) or jeans and a t-shirt (out with farmers) Sometimes I get to play with cute animals, eat good food, and stand around outside.
How do you network? What works best for you?
I am a natural Connector. I first read about Connectors in Malcolm Gladwell’s book “The Tipping Point”, and I recognized myself immediately. I don’t have any trouble making friends or acquaintances. Social media helps me to meet and connect with people and get information quickly. I find I make my best connections when I go to events for things I’m already interested in. When I’m at these events, I tend to meet other like-minded people. I have a natural ability to talk topeople, and I’m not ashamed to admit I use it to my full advantage. At the same time, I try to be a good person, to be friendly and helpful and to give people what they need. I try to interact with others in ways that are beneficial for everyone. I love learning, and I try to learn from everyone I meet.
What advice can you give to someone starting out in your field?
I’ll give the same advice that was given to me. Find people doing what you love to do or want to do and talk to those people. I was told early on that I needed to spend time with other writers. I did this, and it has proved beneficial. I’ve learned a lot from my connections and my mentors. Anyone who wants to be a writer should read and write as much as possible. And if you want to be a writer, you should really love reading and writing and have the passion to work at it. It’s a skill you have to develop, and you have to be prepared to commit to it. Anyone who wants to be a writer should also learn as much about the craft and the business as possible.
How are you involved in the community?
I do a lot of volunteer work. I do volunteer communications work with the Edmonton Poetry Festival, and have volunteered with the Edmonton Folk Festival, LitFest and the Edmonton International Film Festival. I also do the odd thing for my dance studios, Bedouin Beats and School of Raq. I believe in reciprocity and karma I love to try to help in any way I can. Sometimes that just means showing up at an event, or sending someone a kind email or card. I try my best to promote people I like, respect and care about and I find that it all works out in turn. I’m an advocate for many things including agriculture, human rights, mixed race identity, teenage issues, and mental health and I try to promote these causes. I really commit to things and people that I’m passionate about, and it makes my life fun and rewarding.