Category Archives: Canadian Writers

When Words Collided in Calgary

Congratulations on a successful convention for everyone involved in When Words Collide. What did I learn? I am an experienced writer, but still, I learned far too much to cover today.  However, some of it will be subjects for blogs of the future. Many thanks to presenters and volunteers.

One very important detail that I learned from casual conversations was  that anyone interested in the conference must register early. In fact, some of us registered at this year’s conference for next year! I haven’t done proper fact-checking but I understand that, despite about 600 attendees, another hundred were on the waiting list . Obviously, my earlier blog was far to late to give you a chance of getting in the door! So, watch the When Words Collide website http://www.whenwordscollide.org for when registrations are open to the public for the 2016 conference.

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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.

Treasured Books

Books have always been part of Christmas for many of us. There are the books we buy for others, the books we receive from others, the books we read to our children and the Good Book. All are important though for such different reasons.

I admit my own personal reading habits keep changing. Some books I will always keep, not because I will ever read them again but because they are a reminder of things I have treasured, beliefs I have held or continue to hold, have been gifts to me by friends or have been written by friends. And some books have become keep sakes because they have seemingly been in the family forever.

Most of us have copies of The Night Before Christmas, and if it is an old copy and we read it to the young ones in the family, carrying on a tradition that was past from parents or grandparents to ourselves. It is particularly reassuring to pick up the book. For those reading from a family Bible, the meaning goes far beyond the significance of those childhood favourites.

Nothing I have ever written or could ever write comes close to such experiences. However, when I glance through Western Canadian public history books that I gave my father for birthdays and Christmases, I feel closer to him. He enjoyed those books, and after his passing, they returned to me. In fact, in glancing through those books and making selections for him over the years, I became more and more captivated by the same topic.

One of my favourites

One of my favourites

Important ones for me were Salt of the Earth: The Story of Homesteaders in Western Canada by Heather Robinson, and A Harvest Yet to Reap by Rasmassen, Rasmussen, Savage & Wheeler. I loved these books, and I return to them often when doing my research. Both are available on Amazon, and I realize how important online availability has become.

I have also decided to register and sell my books on Amazon. There is a time when it is important to move ahead, move along with contemporary technologies and new ways of doing things. What better time than with Christmas and the upcoming new year. As a result, if you are looking for something about the “old days” in Western Canada, I might have the gift book for the seniors in your life. You can find them on Amazon.ca or my website.

Young Alberta Book Society: Let’s Talk Money

Another long stretch has passed, but I have returned, and as promised, “let’s talk money” as it related to authors’ visits to schools.

In fact, there is still time to book an October author visit through Young Alberta Book Society (YABS). The organization’s program is huge and multifaceted. Artist eligibility is not easily achieved, but since participants are established professionals, those on tour during the October “Taleblazers” festival are asked to set their own fees. For a half day, $300 is standard and includes two one-hour presentations. For a full day of four sessions, $500-600 is fairly standard; however, some artists request $700 or more.

Author accommodation, food and transportation are paid by the program, including during the special, week-long Wordpower programs, in which the fees are the same for everyone and set out in the “call for artist” applicants.

With YABS, both schools and writers must become members, but given the quality and variety of available programs, the $50 membership is invaluable. Each year for Taleblazers, writers update their availability, fees and publications. Also, they indicate where they are willing to travel. Then, based on that information, teachers fill in their request forms.

How is the program funded? The school memberships help cover the organizational costs. Authors set their own fees, and also, schools pay those fees as well as a $20 stipend to cover lunch or one meal. To do so, cheques are made payable to YABS, which deducts a small administration fee and forwards the rest to the author or artist.  Yes, the schools must budget or fundraise to cover the professional fees, but YABS offers suggestions for fundraising, and each year, one lucky school will win a free author visit during the festival.

In a few schools, students and staff may become so inspired by their guests that they decide to set up a writer-in-residence program within the school. In such cases, contacting YABS is a beginning point and then writers negotiate directly with school organizers.

The YABS program is invaluable in assisting writers and teachers to collaborate on programs that promote literacy, learning and the love of words. So, become familiar with it. There is still time to book an author visit for October. Next week, we will talk about money as it relates to the Canadian Authors Association WISP programs, which facilitates author visits to schools in the spring. Remember, a world of wonder and talent awaits the opportunity to connect with your students.