Emily Deming has been The Overcast’s primary food writer since we started this paper. Lately, she’s been wielding her pen in the direction of fiction: a discipline she’ll now be tackling from tables of one of the country’s top-ranked restaurants.
For those unfamiliar, a Writer in Residence is a mutually beneficial gig where a writer is given space and time to write, and paid in some fashion, in exchange for adding some culture to a place by offering things like workshops, readings, and being approachable to other writers in the community who want some advice or edits on their own work.
“Like most good things in my life,” Emily says, “this residency started as an off-the-cuff joke. Every time I ate at Mallard Cottage I would say, ‘my dream job is Writer in Residence at Mallard Cottage.’”
Eventually, she suggested it, and co-owner Stephen Lee was interested, but, they were both left wondering how it should work. Emily “wrote to a large international group of food writers online,” only to find out a WiR at a restaurant was entirely unprecedented.
“I was intrigued,” Stephen says, “and it turned out my ignorance of the idea was because it is one that Emily dreamed up herself. I was attracted to the idea of a writer creating something in our space that is not food or beverage related. Mallard Cottage is one of the oldest structures in the province, and the idea that it could help inspire a series of writings just felt like a great idea.”
“Emily’s a good soul and super creative, so it’s exciting to have her around the restaurant, and I am thrilled to help create a program that could benefit writers in the future, and add to the experience of our guests.”
“For now,” Emily says, “We are keeping it simple, with a lot of room to discover what this is and what it might become. I get space to write, undisturbed by internet, phone, home, or family, while working in a beautiful building. I write for a few hours each Tuesday-Thursday morning, when just the staff are in, prepping for the day.”
Friday mornings, from 10:30-noon, she is available for chats with “other writers/artists, customers, media, your kid. Anything. Come by and eat cake and game meat with me!”
For the inaugural go at Mallard WiR Program, she gets what every writer’s idle hand needs: “coffee/tea and a slice of cake when I’m writing, one cocktail at the end of Friday’s shift (I put that part in writing) and a stipend.”
“I also have access to kitchen staff and to watch how things run through the week which is great fodder for my freelance work. I have already been getting inquiries from all over North America from people looking to either write about this program, or asking me to write about Mallard Cottage from this close perspective.”
As for what she’s working on Tuesdays through Thursdays, it’s a “sort of fiction” project. “I am writing a fictional version of real horror.” At the end of her residency in Mid-April, Emily will give a reading of some of the work she produced, during one of Mallard’s lively Sunday afternoons.
“It’s funny,” she jokes, “I just wrote about this city’s habit of rewarding those who go ahead and ask for what they want, and it turns out I was writing about myself.”