Getting Back on Track

Writers’ Conferences and Connections

Well, I’m back—at least for now.

That is I am back at blogging and back from The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) conference in Winnipeg. In fact, one good reason to go to writing conferences is hearing featured speakers, panelists and fellow writers talk about their experiences and the industry. Another plus is all the information. It can help motivate us to start projects or in my case restart projects and other options related to writing.

At times, I have enjoyed exploring my ideas regarding my favourite topics through my blog. At other times, I just have too many commitments for writing—any kind of writing. Sometimes, those commitments have left me physically or emotionally tired. At other times, the energy drain has meant the ideas simply aren’t passing through my brain.

However, writing conferences do help energize me. So, what did I learn in Winnipeg that was valuable? Unfortunately, writing incomes are trending significantly downward since 1998. There is a gender gap in incomes. Most writers are female, between the ages of 50 and 69 and well educated.

Another inspiration included Golden Boy atop of the Manitoba Legislative Building.

Another inspiration included Golden Boy atop of the Manitoba Legislative Building.

Those are the facts according to TWUC report entitled “Devaluing Creators, Endangering Creativity.” So what helped energize me? Well, I admit I am always interested in the business aspects of the meetings, but one panel “Affirming the Artistic Life: Managing Setbacks and Successes in Writing” and the Children’s Writers Meeting were both thoughtful and realistic. Of course, meeting with old friends and industry professionals is always great, too. If you are interested in this writers’ group, the web page is www.TWUC.ca

Anyway, I am back, which is a testament to the value of such conferences. Undoubtedly, there will be other conferences during the year. When I am able to attend, I’ll tell you some of what transpired. When attendance is impossible for me, I might simply give you what information I have so that you can attend.

September Art Walk

Last November, I had the pleasure of meeting Faye Reineberg Holt at a craft show in Calgary where we were both selling our wares – she her books and me the art that had been donated to canadian artists for the poor.

canadian artists for the poor is a non-profit organization that began in 2008 in order to break the cycle of poverty. We host various fundraising events, such as the Calgary Art Walks on Stephen Avenue each summer and give to charities working with those living in extreme poverty. For example, we have given to an orphanage in Kenya.

We have four Art Walks each summer, and the last one of the season will be taking place on Thursday, September 4th from 10 – 5. If you haven’t walked down the pedestrian mall Stephen Avenue lately, you should make plans to come. It’s a wonderful part of our city with many patio restaurants along the way.

The Art Walk has many local painters and photographers who come to show and sell their work. Many styles of art at a variety of price points are available. Some artists create onsite. It’s an inspiring way to spend the day. Of course, there is no fee to come, but feel free to stroll along and offer a word of encouragement to the local artists and take home a one-of-a-kind piece of art.

It’s a win-win-win event. Local artists gain exposure and sell their work. The charities we give to are supported (the entry fees the artists pay go to charity) and the buyers take home an amazing piece of art.  Special thanks goes to the downtown association who makes these Art Walks possible.

For more information, please visit our website at www.artistsforthepoor.ca

Julie Chandler
Executive Director

Alberta Prairie Railway & Fairs: Always a Hit

I recently returned from being a guest with Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions in my hometown of Stettler, Alberta. I loved the train ride, and I celebrated my mom’s family roots in Big Valley, the destination station for the excursion. The village was celebrating its 100th anniversary, and I showed some Powerpoint images and talked to visitors during the stop-over. I highly recommend the excursion for train buffs and those who enjoy wandering through the small villages that are a vibrant part of our rural heritage. There is plenty of time. So check out www.absteamtrain.com.

AB Prairie Railway 1991

My first trip on APRE, 1991

I was first on the train in 1991. Two years previous, Bob Willis and Don Gillespie, both of Stettler, made their dream of operating a heritage train come true. After 25 years, they have made their own history, and their trains attract countless visitors.

Honoured to be on the train this year, the journey brought to mind some earlier writing I did for Awed, Amused and Alarmed.  Bob’s grandfather owned the local paper, the Stettler Independent, and he covered local events. In the summer, the fair and rodeo were important events to the community.  Mr. Charles L. Willis seemed to be was one of the few newspaper men who wrote about women’s participation. In the 1930s, not surprisingly, much of their participation meant volunteering or submitting to the “homemaking” competitions. Willis’s work was true to the time frame, but I remember having a laugh when reading his coverage. He wrote:

“No mere man can afford to give a description of  the Ladies’ Work….” the newspaperman wrote. With a tongue-in-cheek tone, he continued, “He is quite incapable for the job…. For example, what does he know about pillow slips except as a place to lay his head on. His ignorance of embroidery work, of crochet work, or of tatting particularly is colossal. All he knows is that the work looks good and is good, while in the case of the cooking department it also tastes good.”

The viewpoint was standard for the time, but his humor was most enjoyable.

“Unfortunately, from one standpoint, most of the prize winners were married,” he wrote. “This is satisfactory as far as it goes but gives no opportunity to build up the community by paving the way for future weddings. The single girls have overlooked a golden opportunity in not exhibiting more of their fancy work and cooking at the Exhibition. There should be special prizes for their class at the next Fair.” (Awed, Amused & Alarmed, 122)

For all who help organize such community events, compete in them or volunteer, I am offering a special price for Awed, Amused and Alarmed. Go to my website; purchase one copy, and I’ll mail you an extra for the same price. It’s the Buy 1, Get 1 Free concept. Request as many as you want, but order a specific number, and I’ll add your free copies to the package (eg. order 2, I’ll send 4, but you pay for 2). This applies only to Awed, Amused & Alarmed. Order through my website at www.wordsandhistory.ca and pay with Paypal or email me with your order. The offer ends October 1!

Pioneer Acres: A Great Farm History Event

Friday, August 8 to Sunday, August 10, 2014, 9 am – 5 pm daily, I will be at Pioneer Acres Annual Reunion and Show just north of Irricana, AB. During the event known as the “The Old Time Show Where There’s Always Something New,” you can enjoy a parade, field demonstrations including horse-drawn plowing, cultivating, and binder work. As well, check out steam-driven plowing and threshing, pioneer exhibits and races.

Threshing with Family Sm Fx 2

Compliments: Shirlee Smith Matheson. Check out Shirlees’ upcoming events on http://www.ssmatheson.ca

The first time I was at the Pioneer Acres event was a number of years ago and being there was such a pleasure. Like most women. I am not really a heavy machinery buff, but I have to say, watching all the events was fascinating. There were steam engines, threshing displays and a sincere commitment to saving our history among all the organizers and participants.

I was raised on a farm in Alberta, and my dad was interested in the history of the area. He had started farming with the threshing crew on our farm, and because harvest ended so late that year, it was too late (at least in someone’s mind) for him to go back to school. So, that harvest likely changed his life.

To purchase this book check out my website at http://www.wordsandhistory.ca

To purchase this book check out my website at http://www.wordsandhistory.ca

Somehow his respect for our past and the history of families in our area rubbed off on me. As a result, I wrote two “farm” books, one Threshing: The Early Years of Harvesting, and the other Monarchs of the Fields: the History of the Combine Harvester. My dad past away before the books were published, but when I am at Pioneer Acres, he will be on my mind when I meet so many people like him, people who truly care about preserving our past. And perhaps, I will meet you there, too.

If you are one of the many who help organize such community events, volunteer or share your knowledge of our shared past in other ways, I am offering a two for the price of one for Awed, Amused and Alarmed. Check out my website; purchase one copy, and I’ll mail you an extra for the same price. Order a specific number, and I’ll add your free copies to the package (eg. order 2, I’ll send 4, but you pay for 2). But this applies only to Awed, Amused & Alarmed. Order through my website and pay with Paypal or email me with your order before October 1!

For more information, see http://www.pioneeracres.ab.ca