Tag Archives: writing

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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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.

Spring: Planting Ideas

With this Easter Monday, I hope your weekend was a time for reflection and rest. Of course, spring means many of us entertain fresh ideas about what is possible in the year ahead. Farmers plan crops; backyard gardeners consider changes to their flowerbeds. As the daughter of a farmer, I, too, find spring is a time for considering new options.

I realize that teachers are introducing their final course units of the year and preparing students for final exams. But, spring is a season for dreaming about special programs to offer in the future. For writers and teachers alike, preplanning pays off. Many teachers and writers want to collaborate, and becoming familiar with the great programs already in place to support that objective is the best guarantee of success.

A number of fine, collaborative possibilities for writers, teachers and youth are options in Alberta. As mentioned earlier, Calgary Young Writers Conference (CYWC) invites many authors to present workshops at a huge one-day conference. The Writers Guild of Alberta has summer camps and other programs for keen young writers. So, check out its new, youth-oriented website www.youngalbertawriters.com. Bound to be successful and appreciated by youth and parents, the website suggests writing-related enrichment opportunities for kids in various communities. Currently, registrations are underway for summer camps.

Two other great options exist for Alberta teachers who want to enrich programs and develop student interest, positive attitudes and skills related to words. One is the Writers in Schools Program (WISP) offered by the Alberta Branch of the Canadian Authors Association (CAA). The other is Taleblazers, a touring program organized by the Young Alberta Book Society (YABS). Both provide exceptional assistance for teachers setting up author visits to their schools, and both feature talented writers with expertise suitable for all grades levels.

As a visiting author in both programs, I highly recommend them to teachers who want to enrich their English and Language Arts courses. Also, I recommend them to published writers who are enthusiastic about working with students.  Given my experience, I am happy to sing the praises of both programs, and on occasion, I’ll make suggestions.

Obsessed About Losing History

From earlier times, I remember many a computer program incompatibility, as well as actually losing important documents from my history files. So I have learned to backup my backups. As I set up my new computer, I am particularly anxious. What will I lose? What programs won’t transfer? And what files won’t I be able to open as a result? Very scary stuff!

Actually, in the past, I saved, saved an extra copy and backed up everything. Although that seems extreme, this past year, I was thankful for my precautions.

Did I save a digital copy of the manuscript?

For instance, my newly released book, Settling In: Early Homes of Western Canada, is based on an earlier and smaller book Settling In: First Homes of the Prairies. The book sold well and went out of print. The publisher didn’t plan to reprint, so I requested the return of my rights and entered into a contract with another publisher.The new book was to be an expansion of the old one. It would include BC settlement and more material regarding early forts. Too, I planned additional material on Manitoba. As a result, a digital copy of the designed and published book would be marginally useful. Having my research notes and digital copy of the actual manuscript would be invaluable. The original book was published in 1999. So, did I still have the manuscript and notes?

I checked my computer’s hard drive. No luck. Might I have a draft somewhere else? I had used an external hard drive for backups and those “extra copies.” I checked the folder list. No luck. But I did find a folder on the hard drive labelled Faye’s Old Computer. Hidden away in it was the folder I needed, one stuffed with bits of research, early drafts and the manuscript I had submitted so long ago. What a relief!

Now, with another new computer, I realize that I need to keep all the files from both old computers. On my external hard drive, I’ll have Faye’s Old Computer 1 and Faye’s Old Computer 2 plus the backup for the current computer.

Over time, digital files can deteriorate, disappearing into space, and today’s computers can store massive folders and files. But somehow, I hate to clutter my new machine with everything I had on the old ones. All the same, inevitably, more of my history books will go out of print. Certainly, I’ll want to have them back in print with new publishers if necessary. If there are to be changes to new editions, I may need the research and drafts from earlier times. So, I’ll continue to be obsessive about keeping copies of my old files–just in case. Who knows? One day I might even have to go searching for my old files among the clouds. But I’m not quite ready for space age travel.