Saskatoon, Treaty 6: Jenny Ryan
Jenny is one of the most practical people I know but is simultaneously one of least practical people I know—this is Jenny’s magic. She’s the kind of person that can accidentally go out wearing two different shoes, but totally makes it work. As a librarian, she’s one of the most innovative and dynamic public programmers around —Saskatoon Public Library is lucky to have her. As a writer, she’s able to say all the things you wish you could articulate. Jenny’s raising a toddler, changing the lives of kids and teens at the library, doing house renovations with her partner, hugging her friends and still she has time to make everyone in Saskatoon laugh on a regular basis as part of the No No’s and a founding member of Lady Bits. Jenny is one of my favourite people and I’m glad you get to meet her.
KC: What kinds of projects are you involved in right now?
For about a decade now I’ve been doing improv with the No-Nos Improv Comedy Troupe, but over the past year I’ve been organizing a collective of women improvisers and comedians in Saskatoon.
I started LadyBits because I often have female audience members tell me they would love to do improv but aren’t sure how to start, or they tell me that they are intimated by how male-dominated the comedy scene can be. So I’m trying to create safe spaces for women who want to try this stuff out.
The collective is hoping to start up a regular monthly LadyBits show, and we plan to run some workshops for stand up and improv in the new year. So it’s a good time to be a funny lady in Saskatoon!
I’ve also been working on a YA novel for the past year or so, and I have an adult novel I’m trying to write, too. Other than that I’ve got a toddler; that’s a project, right?
KC: What’s your day job? What do you like about it? What’s challenging?
I work as a Teen Services Librarian with the public library. I like the variety – I order books, I work with teens and families, I meet with agencies and teachers to establish programs and partnerships. The challenge is that I’m only one person – there are so many needs in this town and I can’t be everything to all people. I have to choose my priorities, which means some group or teen or book gets neglected, and that’s hard.
KC: What’s important to you?
Love. Decency. Following through. Returning phone calls. Putting together outfits. Reading books and watching The Young and the Restless.
KC: What do you like most/least about Saskatoon?
I like how funny people are in this town. I’ve never met a more amusing population. When I moved here from Toronto I was like, “These are the most self-deprecating people ever. It’s as though the entire city is filled with female stand-up comedians from the mid-90s.” I also like that people care about people here; these citizens are funny and they are kind.
What I like the least is that, amidst the funny and the kindness, Saskatoon is also so, so racist. I’ve never seen such ingrained racism, it runs under everything, it’s inescapable. It was frightening at first, because people would say these bigoted things to me and it was so unexpected. Over the past ten years I feel like people are losing or at least examining those prejudices. As the city grows the racism isn’t going away, necessarily, but it’s changing because we’re addressing it more.
KC: What is your impression of Regina?
Regina seems cozy to me – from an arts perspective, they seem to have done a good job at making a vibrant, strong, dedicated group of people who are passionate, interested, and committed to their work and friends. It also seems like it might be a hard place to infiltrate, but if you are able to break in it seems you’re guaranteed a great community of support.KC: How do you survive the winters here?
I stay inside, I read books, I drink tea. I visit the Conservatory at the former Mendel building. I wear a lot of layers. I console myself that for at least 5 months I don’t have to worry about mowing the lawn.
KC: (From Proust Questionnaire) What is your greatest regret?
When I was applying for university my father asked me if I’d like to find some sort of writing program in Europe before pursuing my BA. I said no, because I wanted to stay close to my boyfriend, who was in school in Ontario. I want to go back in time and shake my 18-year-old shoulders and say, “What are you doing? You will regret this!” Because I do, (but only really when I’ve been drinking alone and Facebook stalking ex-lovers).