Alexis Kienlen was born in 1976. She holds a degree in international studies from the University of Saskatchewan, and a graduate diploma in journalism from Concordia University, Montréal. She has lived in Montréal, Wainwright, Alberta, Jakarta, Indonesia, and Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia. She is a poet, fiction writer and journalist whose work has appeared in over 30 publications. She is currently "between gigs" as she prepares to move to Vancouver.

Stephanie: What made you decide to become a journalist/writer? How did you become a journalist/writer?
I've always been sort of a writer. I started writing stories and poems when I was in elementary school. I started writing contests when I was in high school. I've always loved words, books and stories, so writing just seemed like a natural choice.

I became a journalist when I was 24. I'd already done a degree in international studies, but I wanted to use my writing skills. I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do, but I loved to write, so I thought I would try journalism. It turned out to be a good decision. I like learning new things, meeting people and writing, and journalism offers all those options. I need to be constantly challenged, and reporting gives me that opportunity.

Right now I currently write poetry, fiction and journalism pieces. Going to journalism school really opened my options.

Stephanie: What advice do you have for someone considering becoming a journalist/writer?
I would advise them to follow current events, read as much as possible and write as much as possible.

It's also good to meet other writers, because they will give you perspective. I was fortunate and got to attend a lot of writing workshops at a young age. I learned a lot at these workshops. I'd also advise people to keep at it. That's the hardest thing. However, it eventually becomes something you can't stop doing. For me, stopping isn't an option any more.

Stephanie: What kind of an education do you need to be a journalist/writer? What kind of education did you get?
There are a number of good journalism schools in Canada. I did a graduate diploma in journalism at Concordia University in Montréal. This program was a high-speed one for people who already had degrees. It was great, because I have the advantage of a liberal arts background with my journalism training. I've also taken some courses in creative writing, but I find that I'm mostly self-taught when it comes to poetry and fiction. I don't really think a degree in creative writing is necessary to become a writer, but workshops can be beneficial.

I think a diploma course in journalism is just as practical as a four-year bachelor's in journalism. Journalism is something you learn by doing, not by studying.

Stephanie: You recently returned from Mongolia - what was that experience like? Can you tell me about the group that you went with/for? How did it affect your writing and your work?
My time overseas in Mongolia was one of the best experiences of my life. It was a challenging and growing experience which gave me a new appreciation for the cultures of the world as well as my life in Canada, and my strength as a person.

Last year I was an intern with the Canadian Cooperative Association, and I did a Youth Experience International Internship. This program is funded by the Canadian International Development Agency, which gives money to non-profits who fund overseas internships. The Canadian Cooperative Association helps promote and develop cooperatives in over 30 countries around the world.

In March 2003, I began an overseas assignment in Mongolia. I lived in an apartment in the capital city, where I began researching how cooperatives benefit communities in Mongolia. I eventually ended up touring various villages in six provinces of Mongolia and conducted research by interviewing coop members and the local governments. In many villages, the coop was the only social and economic organization, so it was easy to see the impact of the coop in the community. I then compiled the research into a report which will be published by the Canadian Cooperative Association and distributed to international development bodies such as the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank. I returned to Canada at the end of July.

Since then, I've been trying to save money to move to Vancouver.

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