Report on the 2017-18 Mentorship

2017-18 Protégés Ria Raut (left) and Caitlin McAllister produce hand-printed copies of their work at Thee Hellbox Press, January 2018.

With the generous support of corporate and community donors, Kingston WritersFest has once again offered a unique opportunity to the city young writers through the Merilyn Simonds Protégé Project.

Two local high school students, Ria Raut (Kingston Collegiate and Vocational Institute) and Caitlin McAllister (Loyalist Collegiate and Vocational Institute)   were selected by a jury of educators and authors to receive a four-month, one-on-one writing mentorship with a local professional author. Starting in late 2017 and continuing into spring 2018, Ria and Caitlin experimented with a range of genres, developed their writing skills, and expanded their knowledge of the literary and publishing worlds. Examples of their best work have been published on the Kingston WritersFest website, and they have participated in public reading events and radio interviews.

The Protégé Project is intended for high-school students in grades 9 to 12 who demonstrate an enthusiasm and talent for writing. Special consideration is given to students who confront challenging circumstances in their personal or community lives that might limit their creative opportunities. In 2017-18, students from across the city were eligible to apply, as were those affiliated with Pathways to Education.

The Project mentors were two well-known Kingston authors, Susan Olding and Lawrence Scanlan. Both were serving their second tours as mentors, and both found the experience of working with these students exhilarating. Says Larry, “I wrapped up the first mentorship program convinced that my mentee could not be surpassed. She was that good. Then along came a second student, Ria, just as talented. My hope is that the program has a long life and that these young and gifted Kingston writers get the nurturing they so richly deserve.” Of her protégé, Susan says, “Caitlin grew from a talented hobbyist to a budding professional… she developed skills, knowledge, and attitudes that will enable her to express herself with grace and clarity in all her future endeavours.”

Fostering a love of writing and reading among young people is one of Kingston WritersFest’s core objectives. This initiative complements a roster of Festival youth programs designed to nurture creative expression, enhance communications skills, and open the imagination to new worlds. The mentoring of young writers was a particular passion of the Festival’s founding artistic director, Merilyn Simonds, for whom the Project is named.

The 2017-18 Project was supported by corporate donations, in-kind gifts, and individual donors under the administration of Kingston WritersFest staff and volunteers.

“Writing gives young people a voice, the confidence that their story is important, their view of the world valid and vital. We’ve seen again and again how story has brought joy and purpose to those struggling in the margins of adulthood.”
Merilyn Simonds

“I have grown so much in confidence and ability as a young writer… I will always carry the Protégé experience with me.”
Caitlin McAllister 

Thank you to the mentors and to all who made this second Protégé Project term such a resounding success!

Corporate Donors
Novel Idea Books
Kawartha Credit Union

Individual Donors
B’nai Brith Kingston
Alison Li
Jan Walter

Community Partners
Pathways to Education
Queen’s University, Faculty of Education

You too can support this initiative by donating to:
Kingston WritersFest, Merilyn Simonds Protégé Project