The Unstoppable Force of Brittney Hubley

If there is any veracity to the proverb, fortune favours the bold, then Brittney Hubley is destined for glory.

Donna McKinnon - 08 June 2018

A rare extrovert in a field that often attracts the opposite, Hubley's love of words and storytelling extends beyond her own work as a published author to the people and organizations that share her passion. And if they don't exist, she creates them.

As the founding member of both theEnglish and Film Studies Undergraduate Network (EFSUN) and the Spoken Word Collective on campus, as a peer educator with the Career Centre,
and as a regular contributor toGlass Buffalo magazine andThe Gateway, Hubley has always sought out connection.

"I really had to fight to find opportunities," she says. "And it was me being 18 and showing up at a bar I'd never been to for a writers group full of people I'd never met before, and I was curious if it would be possible for me to bring those opportunities a little bit closer to the students and the creative writing community that exists here at the university. So I started to ask people whether they wanted to do that, and as it turned out, people did. I've been very lucky that way."

Growing up in Morinville in a military family, Hubley says she exemplified the typical writer's story of the "lonely teenager" who devours books, particularly science fiction and fantasy.

"At a certain point, you get that arrogant thought in your teenage brain, oh I could do that, but better," she laughs. "And then you start to try and it's all horrible, but at the time you think you're actually sort of doing it."

Entering the Faculty of Arts as a double major in Creative Writing and English, Hubley experienced her first supportive community of writers and mentors, including Tom Wharton, Janice Williamson, Ted Bishop and especiallyRuth Dyck Fehderau, whom she calls a "huge influence" on her work. Still, she was looking for more.

Hubley says that writers "need to have their stuff read", but unlike many who put pen to paper, she actively seeks opportunities to engage with potential publishers, even in the earliest stages of a project. Currently strategizing with the University of Alberta Press regarding the publication of a suite of poems structured around an earlier Canadian Literature Centre award-winning piece of poetry, she says simply, "I'm not going to wait to be discovered."

With creative energy to spare, Hubley's biggest challenge as a student was letting herself become vulnerable. Describing herself as "bull-headed", she says that asking for help when her energy tapped out from exhaustion - an inevitability in any students life - was difficult but ultimately rewarding.

"Those moments of vulnerability have only ever strengthened my relationships with my peers and professors," she says. "People have been so extremely understanding and generous with their advice and time, and all you have to do is ask."

While an inclination toward advocacy and connection are key drivers in Hubley's life, creative writing is at the core of her passion. It's about realizing ideas and making tangible 'something that I want to think through deeply', she says. Throughout her academic career, this has taken the form of a research project on gentrification - the Roger S. Smith Award-winning Unstoppable Force Meet Immovable Object: A Literary Cartography of Edmonton's ICE District, and, more recently, a story about a sapient robot, entitled Sh** Bucket, currently undergoing a final edit before submission for publication.

"I write a lot of weird fiction, just left of normal," she laughs. "What you'd expect from formal realism, but with an uncanny event, or something that's extremely unlikely to happen. I love the unsettled reality where the presence of this one thing, so immersed in reality, that gives you an opportunity to look at it a little bit differently. A new element that makes strange the things we take for granted in our actual lives. I love that kind of writing."

Newly armed with a Bachelor of Arts (Honors), Hubley will soon begin a MFA in creative writing at the University of Toronto, followed by, she says, a PhD in media, communication and culture, most likely at an American university.

"And," she says, "I wouldn't hate publishing a novel someday too!"