Stories with heart

Profile: Marlene Campbell by Julie Bull

Marlene Campbell [Photo by Adriane Gaudet]

Marlene Campbell has been writing for as long as she can remember. “My mom says that I was scribbling since I could hold a pencil!” 

Before she started penning her own books, Marlene’s mom was an active participant in documenting Marlene’s stories. “I was a bossy little creature and would get my mom to write out the stories I was telling.”

A lover of storytelling in all its forms, Marlene has also always enjoyed reading. “As a kid, I’d take several Nancy Drew books home for the weekend and would hide in a blanket fort reading them.” Still an avid reader, she says “I may forget the author’s name, but I always remember the story.” 

Growing up on a dairy farm, Marlene has always been working and she has always been hearing stories. “As a child, I remember helping out around the farm and getting to listen to the stories being told amongst my dad and the other farmers.”

Between hearing stories all around her and being a keen reader, Marlene was primed to become the writer that she is today. 

Every writer has their own processes and practices when it comes to their writing style. For Marlene, the practice includes letting the pen flow, even if that flow isn’t in the direction she thought it would go. “Sometimes I sit down to write something and what comes out is nothing like what I thought it would be or what I started to write. I just let it flow instead of trying to get back to what I thought it ‘should’ be when I started writing.” Sometimes she asks herself, “who is holding the pen?”

Allowing her writing to flow, Marlene published two collections of Christmas stories from rural PEI in 2016 and 2022. “Christmas is a hard time of year for many and it’s also a beautiful time of year. I was interested in how we find the life and light in the hard times because the world needs light.”

It was her co-workers who encouraged her to publish the Christmas stories. “I’m so grateful to work with such a supportive team.” 

Marlene is the Cultural Programming Coordinator at Culture Summerside where she gets to bring her love of storytelling to life in a variety of ways. “I’m privileged to live and work on PEI and to be part of the growing arts and culture scene. The Island is so full of artistic and cultural talent.” 

Through her work with Culture Summerside, Marlene has written plays, vignettes, radio dramas, and she authored the book, Lighting the Way: The 100 Year History of Summerside Electric. “Arts and culture are not just for the elite, and I am so glad I get to work in an environment where we strive to make arts and culture more accessible to wider audiences.”

Marlene’s roots are deeply planted on the Island, and she takes inspiration from the people and places around her. “Our creations come from the land and the sea and the environment around us.”

Along with her work and writing, Marlene is an enthusiastic learner who continues to actively seek further education and training. She has participated in a Screenwriter’s Bootcamp with Film PEI and was a participant in the Playwrights Atlantic Resource Centre (PARC) Playwright Retreat. “It’s been such an incredible experience to get mentorship and guidance from people at PARC.” 

After her participation in the PARC retreat and learning from her peers and mentors, Marlene went on to win the PEI Playwriting Competition in 2023. “I really enjoy being the writer. It’s such an amazing experience to see my words come to life on the stage.”

In true multi-genre fashion, Marlene has yet another new type of writing in progress. She is working on a novel that will be published by Acorn Press. “Interestingly, the novel started out as a screenplay. People usually do it the other way around,” she chuckled, “but I’ve done it in this order instead.”

Marlene embodies the heart and soul of a writer with the wisdom of experience across decades and genres. “You learn a lot about yourself through writing.” 

There is a deep vulnerability required in sharing our stories and ourselves with the world. “I encourage people to find the place where they are no longer worried about what other people think and allow yourself to tell the stories you want to tell.”

“Write for yourself first and the rest will follow.”

Julie Bull, an Inuk (NunatuKavut) researcher and educator, has extensive experience in community-based participatory action research, emphasizing Indigenous perspectives. A champion of social justice, Julie envisions collaborative efforts between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities worldwide. With a focus on research governance and ethics, her work with NunatuKavut has yielded notable publications and presentations.