Power of the pen

Marty Chan adapts his mentorship of young storytellers as a recipient of the 2020 Edmonton Artists’ Trust Fund

Marty Chan’s passion for writing goes beyond his own words.

In addition to his successes as a children’s author, he encourages young writers to tell their own stories through workshops and classroom visits.

The impact of those visits is readily apparent: Reflecting on his last pre-pandemic workshop, Chan notes that any meekness on day one is quickly replaced by excitement.

“By the second day, they were running around just full of bouncy energy and sharing their love of creating stories,” Chan recalls. “When you see that opportunity for kids to grab onto something that says, ‘Hey, this world is for me,’ it makes a huge difference. It encourages people who are creative to continue pursuing their passion, rather than squelch it.”

Chan is one of this year’s recipients of the Edmonton Artists’ Trust Fund (EATF), which provides him and the other recipients with $15,000 each. The Fund is designed to support local artists’ work in Edmonton, provided by a joint-partnership between the Edmonton Arts Council and Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF). The EATF supported more than 100 local artists since its inception in 1997.

Chan’s first novel for kids, The Mystery of the Frozen Brains, was a hit: It won the 2005 City of Edmonton Book Prize and spawned the successful Marty Chan Mystery series. That’s just one of the series he now has to his name, in addition to decades of work in theatre, radio, and television.

Stephanie Gregorwich, Executive Director of the Young Alberta Book Society, nominated Chan for the Fund. She praises the impact he’s had on the next generation of storytellers.

“He’s done a wonderful job of captivating and inspiring young readers and showcasing our city in the process,” she says.

For Chan, the EATF money will help him both survive and adapt to the pandemic. He’s been doing virtual classroom visits in lieu of in-person ones, and is working to make his online presentations more engaging. He’s also developing a series of YouTube videos with writing tips for young storytellers, to continue inspiring those he can’t directly connect with.

“It’s great to be recognized for the contributions I’ve made to the Edmonton art scene over the last few years,” Chan says, of receiving the EATF. “But also, in light of the pandemic, it gives me some breathing room for this next year — to continue trying to do what I would normally do live, but taking it into a virtual world.”

Learn more about the EATF