Tag Archives: writing workshops

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.

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.

Solving Puzzles: Genealogy

I have been teaching a class on writing life stories, and many who register for such classes are researching family history and genealogy. They find hints about fascinating family members and decide to write those stories for others in the family or for the public.

As a writer and public historian, of course, I applaud them. However, I also believe genealogy is like puzzle solving and that is good for our brains, especially for anyone who is a mature adult or senior.

Genealogy does not necessarily involve developing writing skills or style, but we can find information that captivates us. We put on our detective hats and find details about our forbearers. We talk to others and search on internet. All of those processes keep our brains just as active as solving crossword or Sudoku puzzles. Personally, I find genealogy more interesting and fully support the process of discovering details such as “Which steam ship did my grandfather sail on before arriving in Canada?” Generally, the information exists somewhere, but we might have to make our way through mazes to find it, and that is good for our brains.

Also, often, such details are integrated in stories written as nonfiction. For other writers, the details become part of creative nonfiction works, and sometimes they are even transformed into fiction. Whatever the genre and style, I consider it important to find and write family stories.

However, genealogy as related to specific ancestors may be important to the family but not necessarily to anyone else. Of course, many who investigate their family tree hope to find that they are related to famous people. Discovering such ancestors is undoubtedly rewarding, but for others, solving the puzzles and mysteries that they encounter along the way becomes almost addictive. Whatever their motivation, family history detectives are able to contribute to our knowledge of the past.

If you are tempted by the possibilities, you might simply search “genealogy,” and you will find hundreds of websites, many with excellent links and information. However, if a site requires that you register, it likely means you will be giving away information about your family and providing an email address for advertisers. Still, your providing that information could prove worthwhile.

Because I work with Alberta and western Canadian history, I can suggest some websites that might be helpful:

Alberta Genealogy Society www.abgensoc.ca has excellent links and access to the Alberta Homestead Index and other documents. Also, see Alberta Family Histories Society http://www.afhs.ab.ca

Canadian Genealogy Centre www.genealogy.gc.ca of  Library and Archives Canada is devoted to genealogy . Also, find source material in the national archives www.collectionscanada.ca

Ellis Island www.ellisisland.org has information about immigration through the port of New York. Castle Garden www.CastleGarden.org (an earlier name for immigration services through New York) is also useful since Canadian families first arrived at New York and moved to Canada.

Family History Archives www.lib.byu.edu/fhc is a popular site with a searchable data base from Brigham Young University in association with the Mormon Family History Centre

Pier 21 www.pier21.ca has information on many settlers who arrived in Canada through for the port of Halifax.

So, whatever your plan or motivation and whether you use your discoveries for family information, future writing projects or fun, good luck!