Tag Archives: TWUC

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.

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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, www.whenwordscollide.org 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!

Editors: Writers Most Valuable Allies

Blogging feels like freedom, but surprisingly, what I have most missed while creating these freelance blogs is an editor, a second set of eyes to pick up any mistakes. No matter how much we have written, we overlook details when proofing our own work. We “read” what is in our heads, not the words as they appear. Similarly, when new to a genre, we may not realize how style or technology impacts the process.

With WordPress, options abound, and I know I’ll appreciate them as I become more proficient. However, the tiny window for drafting means I can see only one paragraph at a time. Too, I still haven’t found the spell and grammar checks, but initially, I posted without ever proofreading a black and white print copy of the entire article.

As an individual reader and writer, I applaud the concept of going paperless, but it doesn’t work for me. I am a print learner, so seeing the words on paper is the best process for my learning style. I need to view the entire draft to know if it makes sense. I need see the printed words, pick up my red pen and separate myself from the content. I need to become an editor, and that is an extremely difficult task if working with our own words.

When proofing our drafts, we don’t notice that we have repeated ourselves or bored readers with irrelevant details. Similarly, we may not recognize that what is clear in our own heads is not clear for the detached reader. Certainly, I have improved my process. I’m using a word processor for drafts, printing the posts and proofing with pen in hand. But I will always miss some mistakes. So, I was elated when a good friend said she would edit and proofread for me.

I am so pleased to introduce Shirlee Smith Matheson to all of you. She is a talented and experienced writer, author of 16 published books and many short stories. A popular public historian, her specialty is Canadian aviation, as well as the stories and history of northern Canada. Nine of her books are adult nonfiction, but also, she has written seven novels for the juvenile and young adult market. Shirlee has offered hundreds of readings and workshops at libraries, schools and museums, and she has mentored writers as writer-in-residence for Medicine Hat Public Library, Calgary Public Library and Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society (AWCS), Calgary. As well, she has instructed workshops for young writers’ conferences throughout Alberta and B.C. In addition, she has taught for Mount Royal University and AWCS.

Herself an award winning author, Shirlee has been a judge for the Canadian Children’s Book Centre, a responsibility that has required her to read 60 or more books to determine which ones should be the award winners. An avid reader and a graduate of Athabasca University, Shirlee is a member of numerous writers’ organization and aviation museums. In 2001, she received an Honorary Associate of Arts Degree from Northern Lights College in recognition of her contributions to the literary arts. Shirlee understands the power of words and the world of writers.

How fortunate I am to have her help. Shirlee, what an honour it is to welcome you to my blog and to the blogosphere! For more details about Shirlee and her work, be sure to check out her website www.ssmatheson.ca

Finding Fellow Wordsmiths

Friends are important to writers. Without question, writing friends and groups have been invaluable in my growth as an individual, a writer, an educator and a public historian.

For me, the first significant writing group was the Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society (AWCS), based in Calgary and currently approaching its 30th anniversary.  My association with the organization began in its second or third season, and the society and friends I have made at the Centre remain a source of inspiration and support.

So, why is this organization–and others like it across the country–priceless to new and emerging writers? Certainly, provincial and national organizations support our development. Also, many post-secondary and continuing education programs offer creative writing workshops.

In contrast, AWCS is a small and local society, but for me, that is its strength. Such groups make involvement–whether as a student, member or volunteer—easy and unintimidating. At AWCS, round-table workshops usually consist of six to ten people. Clearly, you can’t hide in a back row and just  soak up the ambience. True, initially, you may want to simply watch and listen to whatever unfolds. But in these small gatherings, you will meet like-minded people with whom you can feel comfortable.

Many similar organizations offer eight week workshops. But  if you aren’t ready for anything that intensive, try a Saturday or a weekend workshop. If you don’t want to pay for a course, participate in the informal get-togethers. Talk to others about workshops and upcoming events; and likely, you will find someone who can make a helpful suggestion or at least understand where you are in the journey.

That reassurance is no small thing for those with little writing background. Once, I taught an eight-week course in which a participant had told her family she was going to a computer class. Admitting to the dream of writing, being a writer or being an author–all different stages in the process—can be difficult for the vulnerable, aspiring writer. But it is a dream many of us understand.

Provincial organizations such as the Writers Guild of Alberta (WGA) and national groups like The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) or Canadian Authors Association (CAA)  have outstanding services for you to consider. Still, your best bet is to begin in your own community.

If you are unfamiliar with local writing groups, ask your librarian, who is truly a “fountain of knowledge.” If  it is too intimidating to tell the librarian that you love words, of course there are other sources of information.

On the net, it is easy to remain anonoymus, and online research is a reasonable first step. There, you will discover others with a passion for writing and locate information about readings and workshops. Next step? Enrol or attend an advertised event.

Whether you follow a blogger, join a writers’ organization or take a class, find a group that is focused on the genre and style of writing you admire. Sharing the challenges along the way with those like-minded folk will make the journey even more rewarding.