The A-frame Residency
The A-frame house at the edge of Roblin Lake was built in 1957 by Al Purdy and his wife Eurithe, who had set aside $1200 from CBC radio plays Al had written in Montreal. They bought a piece of land and a load of used buildings material from a structure being torn down in Belleville, then set to work, building from architect’s plans ordered from a popular magazine. As Al made clear in his autobiography, Reaching for the Beaufort Sea, in the first years they endured fierce cold and poverty and worry. “But Roblin Lake in summer, planting seeds and watching things grow; doing a marathon swim across the lake while Eurithe accompanied me in a rowboat; working at the house, making it grow into something that nearly matched the structure already in your mind. Owls came by night, whoo-whooing in a row of cedars above the house; blue herons stalked our shallows; muskrats splashed the shoreline; and I wrote poems.” At 39 Al was a little known poet, still publishing what he later decided was bad poetry. He called a book from that period The Crafte So Long to Lerne. But he and Eurithe hung on, and in the following years, Al’s poetry took a new turn and his reputation began to grow.
Many of Al Purdy’s best-known poems were written in Ameliasburgh, a lot of them derived from the history and geography of the village. He lived in the A-frame house – which was gradually improved and expanded – for many years, and he spent at least part of every year at Ameliasburgh until his death in 2000. He and Eurithe were always warm and welcoming to writers who came to visit, and dozens – some would say hundreds – did. There is surely no house in Canada so strongly connected with an important poet and his literary community.
The Purdy house is now the site of the A-frame Residency Program, under which writers are offered a time and place to work in a location that is attractive and of historic significance. Each year between mid-April and mid-October, the house will be open for the residency. Writers who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents may apply for a term of two to twelve weeks. The residency will be open to all writers, but preference will be given to poetry and poetry projects. Each year the Selection Committee will also consider proposals for a one- to four-week project in critical writing about Canadian poetry, and will be open to unusual and creative ideas for residencies.
While the primary aim of the A-frame is to provide writers with time and space to concentrate on their projects, the residency also gives them the opportunity to interact with the community. As part of the residency plan, writers are encouraged to develop a community-based project. Such projects should provide the opportunity for writers to interact with the local community but should not require more than one or two days of the writer’s time over a four-week period. Katherine Leyton’s project was How Pedestrian. Katherine travelled the community with a video camera and asked people to read Purdy poems. She also had friends and other writers visit, and recorded their readings. The recordings were posted to her blog and a final performance was held in Rednersville at Active Arts Studio.
One possibility would be to invite other writers and artists to visit, develop a performance event that could be staged at the Townhall in Ameliasbugh. Writers are encouraged to be innovative about the community project aspect of the application.
Young writers tell us they are particularly grateful that they can bring spouses and children to the A-frame. To date there have been several infants and toddlers, and some teens – our Poetry Families. We do as much as we can to connect young families with local resources to help them with their stay – provide playpens, cots, and connections to daycare and summer camps.
Travel to Ameliasburgh will be paid. Those awarded the residency will be given a stipend of $750 dollars ($600 honorarium and $150 travel) a week while living in the A-frame, and will be free to spend their time on their writing. Residents will be expected to participate in one public event for each four weeks of their stay, or complete a community-based project as noted above – the event could be a reading, lecture, workshop, an event in a local school or some other literary activity – and to consider other reasonable requests. These events will take place in one of the larger communities nearby: Picton, Belleville, Kingston, Tweed, Trenton. Residents will be offered a temporary library card for the excellent library at Queen’s University in Kingston, where many of Al Purdy’s papers are held. Those awarded a residency will be asked to donate at least one copy of one of their books to the Residency Library at the A-frame. Writers in residence will also be encouraged to make themselves known at the Purdy Library in Ameliasburgh and to donate a book. They may also wish to discuss with the local liaison the possibility of working with local schools.
Applications should include:
- A brief professional curriculum vitae (max. 2 pages)
- A plan for your residency at the A-frame (max. 2 pages)
- A letter of reference (if desired by the candidate)
- A 10-20 page sample of recent writing.
- Community-based project, if one is being proposed (1 page)
Applications should consider “Why the A-frame?” and “Why now?”
Successful applications will be asked to submit a grant proposal to the Canada Council for the Arts for matched funding for the residency, and travel expenses. A final report is due two to three months after the residency is complete.
Applicants should propose alternate residency dates if possible.
 Pending successful CC and OAC funding
 Pending successful fundraising
How to Apply
- Read all of the information to the left.
- Send five hard copies of the application and the accompanying material to:
The Al Purdy A-frame Association
401—4542 West 10th Ave.,
Vancouver BC V6R 2J1
- Email electronic copies of the same files to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send one email with all documents and a subject line that includes your name and “20XX residency application.”
Any questions can be addressed to email@example.com.
(Applications for residencies from July 2020 to end of June 2021 will close on October 18, 2019 – mailed materials must be postmarked October 18, 2019, or before. Electronic copies must be received by 4 p.m. PT. If you wait until the last day – October 18, 2019 – to mail your hard copies please send by courier.)
NOTE: Applications for 2019-2020 closed in the fall of 2019 and residencies were announced (see NEWS section).