Category Archives: Courses, Classes, Workshops

Opportunities for Learning in Alberta & Western Canada

Calling Writers and Language Arts Teachers

I feel fortunate to be one of the guest authors presenting workshops at the Calgary Young Writers’ Conference (CYWC) on April 21. This very special full-day event is in its 29th year and is offered by the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) for hundreds of Grades 4-8 students who love to write. Dedicated volunteers have spent months organizing the 40 guest speakers who will address students and the six of us who will share ideas with the teachers and other adults in attendance. In order to celebrate home-grown talent and “writing in our own back yard,” the 2012 conference features Alberta writers only. With keynote speakers Jacqueline Guest and Michele Martin Bossley, as well as dozens of other well-known Alberta writers who will offer small group workshops to the students, the CBE and volunteers deserve thanks and credit for what is certain to be a memorable day.

In the past, my CYWC workshops were dedicated to motivating and encouraging student writers, but this year, while presenting to the teachers, volunteers and parents, I will suggest how a humanities approach to reading and writing is a great option. That approach does not have to be offered within an official humanities program. Rather, the approach is a very contemporary method of interesting and supporting all language arts students, whether their preferred learning mode is print, visual, tactile or auditory and whether they love English, social studies, science, art or other subject matter.

Also, I’ll reveal how my own attitudes about writing instruction have been dramatically changed with my increased awareness concerning what brings on writer’s block for me and what helps me pursue my own writing goals and interests.

Lastly, I’ll explain and recommend reading/writing-related options developed to facilitate visits by Alberta writers to schools. I believe that it is mutually beneficial for teachers and writers to work together in their efforts to encourage reading and writing among today’s busy, high-tech kids. So, I will highlight what is available throughout Alberta. However, details concerning such programs offer writers and teachers in other locations useful information and ideas for setting up their own programs or improving existing ones.

Whether you are a writer or teacher in Alberta or elsewhere, stay tuned. Discover available options, and decide what is right for you.


When Words Collide

If you love writing and are able to be in Calgary from August 12-14, the multi-genre writing conference “When Words Collide: A Festival for Readers and Writers” might be for you. The conference promises to be different and exciting because of the diverse writers, publishers and writing organizations that it will bring together. Organizations include: Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society, Mystery Writers Ink Society, Writers Guild of Alberta, Society of Children’s Writers & Illustrators, Calgary Romance Writers of America, Imaginative Fiction Writers Association, and Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association. As well, Mount Royal University, University of Calgary and librarians will be represented. Still in development, the program already includes panels and sessions featuring publishers, authors of short and long works, and devotees to fiction and nonfiction for adults and children. Even thematically, panel topics are far-ranging as writing history, mountain, science and medical themes.

I have long believed in the value of bringing together diverse writers whose knowledge encompasses vastly different topics and writing styles. As well, to me, every individual–whether adult or child, whether working on literacy skills or a graduate degree–deserves good writing. So, I congratulate the planning committee for staging this unique conference.

 With a proposed 130 hours of programming, options and opportunities abound. On the website, find information on registering and a tentative schedule. Also posted is a list of confirmed speakers and their bios. I am on two panels with themes of importance to me. At 2:00 pm on Saturday, my colleagues and I will be discussing “Writing Groups: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.” The next day, at 10:00 am, I’m on a panel called, “It’s About the Writing,” which will address the difficult topic of whether or not we can make a living at writing.

The conference location is the Best Western Village Park Inn, Calgary, and festivities begin Friday night with two 6:00 pm sessions, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo—What’s Next” and “There are More of Us Than You Think.” Then, at 7:00 pm, enjoy the keynote address. The following morning, at 9:00 am, the day begins with “Blurring the Boundaries,” the theme of the conference. For the next two days, there are so many fascinating sessions planned, you really need to study the program schedule well in advance to discover sessions most relevant to you.

What a great event to have in Calgary. So, thanks to all the participating organizations, individual volunteers and funders. Hope to see you there!

Guest Ellen Kelly on Lifelong Learning

I’m pleased to introduce Ellen Kelly as my first guest blogger. Ellen is a long-time friend and a columnist for Airdrie Life magazine.  With many publications to her credit, she has been twice short-listed for the John Whyte Memorial Essay Prize, sponsored by the Writers Guild of Alberta. A member of the WGA, she is also a founding member of Airdrie Regional Arts Society (ARTS). At the Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society, Calgary, she is a valued member, volunteer and instructor. This spring, she is teaching the eight-week workshop “Our Own Stories: Personal Essays with Public Appeal.” For more information, check out the AWCS website. And enjoy more of Ellen’s writing at her blog http://aekwordgoddess.blogspot.


by Ellen Kelly

In elementary school during the 1950s, if someone asked me what I wanted to become when I grew up, I probably would have said teacher, nurse or secretary – very limited choices for young ladies of the day. However, those were acceptable vocations for girls born after the Second World War, the first of the baby boomers who were joining a somewhat unfriendly workforce. 

Careers in what were then considered masculine professions were either unattainable or frowned upon.  Even becoming a writer was a stretch. So, how did I get from that point in elementary school to where I am today? 

Serendipity – things fall into place. I’d always kept a journal and written stories; English was my favourite subject, but in the ‘60s (yes, I remember them and the ‘70s), I expressed my creativity in other ways – fibre arts, ceramics, raising children. Then someone asked me if I’d write a community column for the weekly newspaper. 

The writer in me was born. Off I went in a brand new direction towards a destination not yet reached. My journey was filled with courses (many of them taken through the BA program at Athabasca University), seminars, the WGA retreat in Banff, mentorships and participation in writing groups. Somehow, the journey made me realize how important it is to never stop seeking, never stop learning. 

As happens more today than at any other time in history, we need to be open to change. Occupations that were popular twenty years ago have become obsolete; occupations that thrive today will change evolve or disappear in the next twenty years. Whereas once our IQ (intelligence quotient) was a high priority, more attention is now given to our AQ (adaptability quotient). Adapting requires both a willingness to change and the resources to make it possible. Many post-secondary institutions have extension courses and distance learning programs that make change an option for adults with full-time jobs and families. Employers often encourage their staff to seek answers, take courses and grow professionally. Those unable to adjust to the changing times risk being left out. Lifelong learning is no longer a luxury. It has become a necessity.