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Program(s): Creative Writing - Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction, Poetry

Sandra Birdsell

Sandra Birdsell grew up on the prairie whose people and landscape continue to be the inspiration for her work. The further west she goes, the better she feels in her skin.

At 11 years old she began writing a novel about a large family, but abandoned it after filling an entire scribbler without being able to get the heroine out of bed and downstairs for breakfast. Sandra has been employed as a waitress and sales clerk, filing clerk, information writer, office manager and a volunteer in an inner-city program and an events organizer. One of the first events she organized was a Book Fair where she invited the venerable author WO Mitchell to be the star attraction so that she could meet him. She wanted to talk about writing. WO Mitchell, so impressed by the success of the Book Fair and her management, fondly referred to her thereafter as Attilla the Hun.

By the age of 35, Sandra could no longer not write, and so she began by enrolling in creative writing at the University of Winnipeg and continued to study with Robert Kroetsch at the University of Manitoba.  Turnstone Press published her first two books, Night Travellers and Ladies of the House. Those short story collections are now published in a single volume as Agassiz Stories. They reflect her haphazard journey to adulthood, the uncertainly of living on a flood plain, and the conflict of her parent’s cultures.

Sandra has since published 6 novels and 3 collections of short fiction and written for television, theatre and radio. She have become an editor of fiction, and a mentor in the Humber College Correspondence School of Writing. Her books have been reviewed widely and most favourably, and have been recognized and awarded by The Canada Council For the Arts, The Manitoba Arts Council and The Saskatchewan Arts Board.

Sandra has been writer in residence at the University of Alberta, the Universities of Prince Edward Island, Vancouver, Winnipeg, British Columbia, Lethbridge, the universities of Waterloo and McMaster, and public libraries in both Manitoba and Saskatchewan. She is a founder of the Manitoba Writers’ Guild, member of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild and The Writers’ Union of Canada as well as a member of the Manitoba Metis Federation. 

Sandra is pleased to say that she eventually finished writing the novel she began when she was 11 years old. And she did, at last, manage to get the heroine out of bed. Children of the Day, a story about a large family, was published in 2005 by Random House Canada.

Sandra says her greatest accomplishment in life is that she is mother to three children, and grandmother to four grandchildren. She lives in Regina, Saskatchewan with her life partner, a filmmaker, Jan Zarzycki. However, Winnipeg remains her spiritual center, specifically, a certain rock at the forks of the Assiniboine and the Red River.