Meet New Faculty Member Conor Kerr

Conor Kerr recently joined the Department of English and Film Studies as an Assistant Professor in the WRITE program. We caught up with him and asked him about his work and interests.

29 August 2023

What inspired you to enter this field?
I grew up in a family of storytellers.... whether that was my Ukrainian grandfather droning on about random people that he knew back in the day in southern Saskatchewan or who worked with him up in the northern mines, or my Metis granny talking old stories of the river valleys and ravines of Edmonton and what they looked like when these territories were still under matriarchal governance. They both carry an attention to detail and an ability to infuse humor, anger at the proper moments. True oral storytelling that I feel very fortunate to have been around for my entire life. I've wanted to tell stories like them since I was a little kid and I attempt to do so through my creative process whether that's in poetry or fiction.

What can you tell us about your professional background and what have you enjoyed most about your career so far?
I worked in administration positions in Indigenous education before this opportunity came up, often in Indigenous student centres where I reveled in the laughter, community support, and the strength of the students as they navigated this incredibly complex (unneccessarily so) western post-secondary system. My writing career took of a couple years ago and I think the major highlight from that was last year when the Giller Prize longlist was announced. I was back working as a bird hunting guide down in southern Sask, living in my little camper and trying to figure out what I was going to do next when my agent Cody Caetano (great writer, everyone should read Half Bads in White Regalia) called me up and told me that I was on the long list. Never dreamt that a story that I initially wrote in a class with Marilyn Dumont back in the day would morph into a novel that received national recognition.

What can you tell us about your research?
I'm a "creative-researcher" which essentially means that my stories and writing are the focal point of my work. In the next year I'm working through a "Metis Poetic Novella" highlighting four characters as they navigate academia/the working world/and growing up Indigenous in a system that doesn't want to really acknowledge or recognize that. I like to focus on the idea of the "Indigenous story" and how a new generation of Indigenous writers is taking agency and bringing that back into our own hands and writing stories about us, for us, without the dominant western gaze informing what we're "supposed" to be writing.

What’s your personal teaching philosophy?
Really, I want to focus on how to create opportunities for voices that haven't been heard or recognized (often.... there are people doing incredible work in this space already) to have a space for their narratives to be shared. The only reason I was able to finish a Bachelor's degree here back in the day was because of the support that I had within creative writing courses where my teachers were able to make an anxious, scared kid feel comfortable enough to start sharing my stories/poems. Those stories and poems sucked, don't get me wrong, but they established a foundation for confidence in being able to bring my voice to the page. That's what I want to do for the students who are taking creative writing courses. Confidence in voice. Everyone's story is valid. I'm here for the students at the end of the day.

What are your interests/hobbies outside of work?
I spend the fall months hunting and then the winter months cooking some exceptional meals (a covid hobby to avoid screen time). I have a couple beautiful dogs and I like to walk around with them. Outside of that I just try and stay out of trouble as best as I can.