In November 2018, Nellwyn Lampert was on her way to a writing retreat in the south of France, which had been recommended to her by a fellow graduate of the University of King’s College Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction program.
She was eager to “dig into my second book” while her agent shopped her first — Every Boy I Ever Kissed, her MFA project manuscript — to publishers back in Canada.
When she arrived at the train station in Carcassonne, however, she discovered there were no cabs. She’d been on the road for week with her phone off, so she decided to turn it back on to call a cab to take her to her hotel. “My phone was on for about half a second when I got the call from my agent” telling her she had an offer of a book deal from Dundurn Press.
Nellwyn, now 29, describes Every Boy I Ever Kissed, which was published by Dundurn in July 2019, as “a millennial coming-of-age memoir about gender and sexual liberation. Sex was supposed to be fun, liberating, empowering, and easy,” she says. “It turned out it was exactly the opposite. From porn-induced erectile dysfunction to other crises of masculinity, nothing went according to plan in the bedroom.” In the book, she “looks back on my experiences to explore what true liberation and empowerment might look like for today’s young women.”
The call from her agent that day, Nellwyn says now, was “strangely serendipitous.” But it wasn’t really.
Nellwyn has been plotting her career as a writer since she was an undergraduate studying playwriting and play development. She knew one day she would take an MFA in creative writing “to diversify my areas of expertise to include prose as well as drama” and, perhaps, prepare her for teaching one day.
And then she discovered the King’s MFA program in nonfiction.
“I always say that doing the King’s MFA was one of the best decisions I’ve made for my writing career so far,” explains the Class of 2017 graduate. “The process of working with my mentors and classmates, both in and out of residency, took my book from a simple memoir to a story that I believe has broader social implications and that I hope will really help young women.”
What she calls her “amazing community of writers” has also endured well past graduation. During her MFA, she became part of a Toronto writers’ group of fellow students that still meets regularly. Those sessions, where “we continue to workshop our projects much like we did during our residencies, are always a highlight of my month.”
With Every Boy now in bookstores, Nellwyn is finally ready to return to that second book. “I have a few ideas percolating, most of them are nonfiction but I’m also playing with the idea of exploring a fiction project,” she says. For now, she adds, “I’m excited about starting over again at the beginning when the process is purely about the joy of writing and the fun of exploring a new idea.”