WordWorks 2022 Volume II

Page 16

Writing into the New Future

wordworks | 2022 Volume II cov2 November 1, 2022 Open Season Awards | $6000 Three writers split the winnings February 1, 2023 Long Poem Prize | $2500 Two winners split the prize May 1, 2023 Far Horizons Award for Short Fiction | $1000 One winner gets the prize Commit these deadlines to memory Inquiries: malahat@uvic.ca Tunein Constance Rooke Creative Nonfiction Prize ENTER FOR $35 BY AUGUST 1, 2022 WIN $1250

Letter from the editor 2

Letter from Bryan 3 5

Member milestones

Finding creativity in seasons of stress 6

Happy hybrids: Vital lessons from the pandemic  8

Living in a digital world: Tech tools break storytelling mould 10 Graphic novels: A collaboration 11 Evolving the story of the immigrant and the outsider 14

Here to stay: Online writing groups 16

Missing the personal touch 17

A passion for podcasting: An interview with Pamela Haasen 18

I think we need to Tok 20 Diversity in journalism: Are we there yet, already? 24

The 2021 FBCW Literary Contest winners speak 26

Launched! 28 The last word —with The Darling Axe 32

Cover image: Stock photo. Does technology turn writers into robots? Of course not. Tech is a tool. Like a swanky new pen or notebook. It offers alternate ways of doing an existing task, sometimes frustratingly so till it is mastered. But ultimately, tech allows us to do things in new ways. —Diana Skrepnyk

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Letter from the editor

It’s no secret that the writing and publishing industries have been disrupted in recent years. We’ve had to adapt to changes in social media algorithms and issues in the publishing supply chain, to name just a few challenges, and we’ve had to adapt quickly. This kind of displacement can be intimidating. How is a writer supposed to write in uncertain times?

In this issue of WordWorks, “Writing into the New Future,” I hope you will find some thoughtful answers. From #BookTok to graphic novels to representation in journalism, and more, this volume aims to explore

new frontiers with an open heart— and some familiar frontiers with a fresh outlook. In short, we have tried to approach change with imagination and tenacity. I applaud each of the contributors who took on this theme.

In addition to the contributors, I would also like to thank a few other people who were instrumental in getting this issue to print. When I had to step down from my role as Managing Editor earlier this year due to illness, Bryan Mortensen took over and, along with the help of editors Sheila Cameron, Rachel Muller, and Cadence Mandybura, took WordWorks to the finish line. This edition was truly a team effort.

WordWorks is published by THE FEDERATION OF BC WRITERS PO Box 3503, Courtenay, BC V9N 6Z8 www.bcwriters.ca hello@bcwriters.ca wordworks@bcwriters.ca

Copyrights remain with the copyright holders. All other work © 2022 The Federation of BC Writers. All Rights Reserved.

ISSN: 0843-1329

WordWorks is provided three times per year to FBCW members and to selected markets. It is available on our website at bcwriters.ca and in libraries and schools across BC and Yukon.

FBCW Annual Membership Rates: Regular: $80 | Senior: $45 Youth: $25 | Student: $25

FBCW BOARD OF DIRECTORS: Greg Blanchette, Katherine Wagner, Cameron Roe, Barb Drozdowich, Peggi Peacock, Kamal Parmar, Suzanne Venuta, Wiley Ho, Craig Copland

FBCW AMBASSADOR: Joseph Dandurand

FBCW STAFF: Bryan Mortensen, Executive Director; Jessica Cole, WordWorks Managing Editor; Diana Skrepnyk, Design Director; Megan Cole, Programming & Events Coordinator, Meaghan Hackinen, Fund Development & Outreach Associate, Susan McLachlin, Writing Circle Coordinator; Rachel Muller, Community Engagement Associate, Abby Pelaez, Social Media Associate; Emma Turner, Executive Assistant.

Cadence will be returning later this year as guest editor for WordWorks 2022 Volume III, and I would like to welcome her warmly into this role. I think you will be delighted by her vision.

The future looks different for each of us, and while its shape may be unclear, we can be sure of one thing: good writing will always be in fashion. So, going forward, we can continue to strive to master the craft.

I hope you enjoy this issue of WordWorks.

Sincerely, Jessica Cole

EDITORIAL STAFF: Jessica Cole, Managing Editor; Bryan Mortensen, Assistant Editor; Rachel Muller, Assistant Editor; Cadence Mandybura, Assistant Editor; Dana J. Keller, Copy Editor; Sheila Cameron, Copy Editor.

WRITE FOR WORDWORKS: Visit our submissions page at www.bcwriters.ca/submit.

ADVERTISING: WordWorks advertises services and products of interest to writers. Contact meaghan@bcwriters.ca.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: The FBCW gratefully acknowledges the support of the Province of BC, the BC Arts Council, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Magazine Association of BC.

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Letter from Bryan

Fall is here, and with it our latest edition of WordWorks. Our team has worked hard to get this delayed issue to press. I am so grateful to our departing Managing Editor, Jessica Cole, who helped our team put together the last pieces of this amazing issue. So much has happened at the Federation of BC Writers this year, that it’s difficult to choose just a few items to highlight. At the top of my mind is our revamped readON newsletter—our way of helping authors share the news about their books. My favourite part of this revamp is something we are calling Member Book Love. This exciting new feature gives our members a chance to share the love by nominating another member’s book or published work. We know how important recommendations are to book sales; that’s why reviews are so important. This program brings members together to spotlight both the person whose work is being recommended, and the person making the recommendation. Watch your inbox for the next edition!

We have many new members who are going to be reading their copy of WordWorks for the first time. Welcome! The Federation of BC Writers has grown significantly

over the past few years, and we now have over 1,260 members. By the time this letter is in print, I suspect we will be well past 1,300. We are so grateful to you, our readers, supporters, and members, for helping us reach this milestone.

For those of you just joining us, our goal through this magazine—and indeed our entire organization—is to build community. We want writers to feel connected to something positive and supportive. To that end, I encourage you to check out our Writing Circles, which are designed to provide a shared space for writers to connect, critique, and support one another. Each circle has unique goals and activities based on the needs of its participants. The Writing Circles have become one of our most popular new offerings, and many are full. To meet the demand, we are working to establish more circles in the new year. If you are interested in starting a circle, contact Susan at susan@bcwriters.ca.

Lastly, I want to thank Rachel Muller for all her hard work in building our volunteer team at the Federation. We knew anecdotally that many of you wanted to be more involved. Rachel has taken on

all of our volunteer management (in addition to her many other duties) and has created a clear path for prospective volunteers, including job descriptions, estimated time commitments, and more. Feel free to contact Rachel at rachel@bcwriters.ca for more information. Thank you as well to those volunteers who have already contributed so much to our writing community, especially our first two Volunteers of the Month, Alison Colwell (October 2022) and Glenn Mori (November 2022).

Happy writing everyone!

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Bryan Mortensen, Executive Director
We want writers to feel connected to something positive and supportive.

Member milestones

Jes Sugrue’s screenplay Wayward, set on the Camino Ingles in Spain, was a quarterfinalist in this year’s VIWFF screenwriting competition. Another screenplay, dealing with homelessness, was a top ten finalist in 1988.

Lesley-Anne Evans’ debut collection, Mute Swan, published by The St. Thomas Poetry Series, has taken wing. Arrivals are confirmed in Galway, New York City, and elsewhere. Described as a “striking feminist book,” and “powerful, brave.”

B.R. Bentley recently completed an MA (Novel Writing) degree through Middlesex University (London) distance learning programme. He would be happy to share his experience with others interested in furthering their writing studies.

Catherine Lang completed a full draft of her memoir about her niece, Michelle Lang, who was killed while reporting in Afghanistan. Catherine is pleased to have reached this particular milestone after a decade of research and writing.

Word Galaxy Press, a respected U.S. literary publisher, has published Leaving Camustianavaig, a book of metrical poetry by John Beaton. It deals with emigration from Scotland to Vancouver Island and celebrates nature in both places.

Janis Harper’s novel Jonas and the Mountain: A Metaphysical Love Story was traditionally published by Sacred Stories on October 20, 2021.

Frances Peck’s debut novel, The Broken Places (NeWest Press), is now in bookstores. This “sophisticated and razor-sharp” novel about an earthquake rocking Vancouver has been called a “compelling story” with “nuanced, stunning characters.”

George Mercer’s fifth book, Harking, won a Gold Medal in the 2022 Independent Publisher Book Awards for Best Regional Fiction (Canada West).

A recently retired high-school teacher developed a new passion during the COVID lockdown. Gregory J. Corcoran wrote a debut novella that was well received. A sequel based in Turkey in Jan. 2022. Now, a third novella in May 2022.

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Finding creativity in seasons of stress

As I am writing this article, winter is approaching. Grey days. Rainstorms. And now going on well over two years of the COVID pandemic. How am I feeling? Not very motivated. Definitely not creative. While mostly “normal” life has returned for many, the legacy of the pandemic will forever be in our history. Further, the winter season indicates a slowing—animals and insects go into hibernation, trees lose their leaves, and energy levels around us seem to slow down.

This is a time when people may struggle with creativity. It can be hard to find inspiration when all you want to do is nap.

As a therapist, I am always curious about practical strategies to implement for facing challenges. I will review some strategies below, but first some neuroscience about what might be going on if you are struggling with creativity right now.

Fight-flight-freeze vs. rest and digest

When faced with a threat, your nervous system goes into fightflight-freeze mode. Your brain is solely focused on surviving this threat. These threats don’t just include the traditional fears of seeing a bear in the woods. They can include social fears—worries about what others think or anxieties

about visiting certain people during the winter season, for example.

This is also a period of time when many people face burnout. Those “little” stressors add up— pressure at work, stress from the winter weather, a long line at the grocery store, concerns about the rapidly rising cost of living in our province. These all compound and impact our mental health. Unfortunately, you cannot physically fight many of these social stressors (unlike fighting back if a bear attacked you), and you cannot run away from most of the social stressors, either. So, your nervous system essentially gives up. You play dead. Feel numb or dissociate. This is freeze mode, which is really a last resort. The other two strategies didn’t work, so you freeze.

In freeze mode, other bodily functions like digestion temporarily slow down. Your body is focused on survival in the moment, and digesting your breakfast from two hours ago really isn’t the priority right now. Higher cognitive tasks like executive functioning and creativity can also be compromised during fightflight-freeze. These, again, are not crucial for your immediate survival, so they take a back seat.

The opposite of fight-flight-freeze is called “rest and digest.” In this

response, your body can relax and return to a more regulated state. This is when you can sleep deeply and feel at peace. The trouble with social stressors is that they can be a chronic issue—and, for many of us, we are stuck in freeze mode, which results in chronic stress. So where does that leave writers? First, we need to acknowledge the collective trauma and stress that we are going through, and have gone through the past two years. The pressure to produce and be creative can be crushing, and so we need to respond to this as if it is a crisis situation (because it is!). If you are looking for permission to slow down, here it is. You are allowed to pause and take a break. It is okay to step away or reduce the number of projects you take on (if you can). It does not make you a failure or mean that you are no longer a writer or an artist. It means that a change has happened in your life, and you are taking steps to adjust and adapt. Just as we might enjoy snow sports in the winter and sunny hikes in the summer, some people find that their creativity comes and goes throughout the year. This is normal!

Now, shifting into some strategies. As a therapist, one of the most healing practices I see is being able to identify your emotional needs

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and to take the steps to meet those needs. So, if your mind or body is screaming “I need a break!”, your job is to listen and meet these needs if possible. This can help us get back into “rest and digest.”

When you are ready to come back (or if you feel a break is not needed), here are a few tips to jump-start your creativity: Set aside some time for mindfulness

Research by Henriksen et al. (2020) supports using mindfulness as a way to enhance creativity. This also serves a dual purpose— mindfulness practices can help you get back into a rest-anddigest response by bringing your mind into the present moment and encouraging psychological safety. New to mindfulness? Try watching a video of a body scan or doing a mindful breathing meditation as a starting place. Explore new sensory stimuli to encourage mind wandering

During the winter, and also because of the pandemic, our exposure to new sensory stimuli has been greatly reduced due to spending more time at home. Further, if your mood is low, everything can feel grey and boring. The research by Henriksen et al. suggests that intentional mind wandering can assist the creative process.

One of the best methods I have discovered for mind wandering is to start with a new sensory stimulus. Trying a new food, going to a new park or coffee shop, cuddling up with a new fluffy blanket, listening to a new musician, or savouring a new delicious aroma can be that spark you need to access your sense of wonder and let your mind follow new paths of intentional wandering. Ask your inner critic to take a step back

Creativity opens you up to critique, and you can be your own worst enemy. Your inner critic makes you doubt the work you are doing and is quick to find flaws. Humans have an inherent negativity bias (look it up—it is a thing!), and so your inner critic is not going away anytime soon. However, you can develop a relationship with your inner critic and ask them to take a step back: “I see you and hear your voice loud and clear; would you mind taking a step back for a moment?”

You may need to continue this process again and again, but it can be much easier accessing vulnerable emotions and ideas when you feel safe and free from harsh judgement. Journalling can also help in discovering where the inner critic comes from, what its agenda might be, and what the

inner critic needs from you (hint—it is often a projection of earlier hurt that needs love and nourishment from an adult version of yourself).

Be kind to yourself

Feeling creatively blocked can be a natural reaction to stressful situations, so you should never feel bad for needing a break. I hope you keep these strategies at hand whenever you feel you need to nourish your creative self.

Sources: Henriksen, D., Richardson, C., & Shack, K. (2020). Mindfulness and creativity: Implications for thinking and learning.

Thinking Skills and Creativity, 37, 100689. https://doi.org/10.1016/ j.tsc.2020.100689

Victor Wakarchuk, RCC, MSW, RSW is a therapist in private practice specializing in working with queer men.

Learn more at centreforgaycounselling.com

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Happy hybrids: Vital lessons from the pandemic

Maybe next time. Thank you for thinking of me, but no. I wish I could, but it’s not possible. Next year, perhaps. What time does it start? Let me see what I can juggle. Maybe I’ll be able to swing it? For much of my writing career, these were my answers to invitations to read at events, take part in workshops, or join my fellow writers at various conferences and festivals.

Many events took place in the evening when my children had to get to Scout meetings or music lessons. Even when there was nothing scheduled on the home calendar, it was hard to commit in advance—my partner’s job was demanding with long, uncertain hours, and I couldn’t count on finding alternate childcare.

Financial constraints were another challenge; conference registration, festival passes, and travel to and from these events all had to be considered. The cost to take part in something was often an extra line in my budget that just wasn’t feasible no matter how much I wanted to get out and be involved. If I took part in one event, I’d likely have to decline the next.

And my challenges were minor compared to obstacles faced by many in our community when it came

to events. Is the location accessible for people in wheelchairs or with mobility challenges? Will there be someone on hand to do sign language translation? Is the location on or near transit routes? Are there subsidies available for those who may be unable to afford this? In some cases, event organizers would successfully navigate and mitigate these issues, but usually accessibility wasn’t even on the radar unless someone brought it up. Even then, the response was often, “Sorry, our hands are tied.”

And then COVID-19 happened. I certainly won’t argue that the last two years have been effortless; indeed, it’s been an overwhelming and exhausting time for most of us. But there have been positives born out of the challenges. When the world shut down, we learned very quickly that providing events on virtual platforms was not just possible, but pleasurable. From literary festivals to book launches, events went online—often to great success. Barriers to access were functionally removed; people could attend an event from their phone or laptop, no babysitter required, with no worry about wheelchair access, transit schedules, or travel costs.

Like many writers who published new books during this period, I would’ve loved the traditional launch

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events. I had dreamed of heading out on the road to visit small bookshops, hold readings in different towns, and celebrate with friends and family. This was, of course, impossible. Was I disappointed? At first, I absolutely was. But I quickly discovered that this unexpected pivot made my events all the more memorable—friends from around the globe were able to take part, audiences could engage with each other in the chat, I met people I’d never have crossed paths with otherwise, and I was invited to festivals in places that I would’ve normally had to decline. As an extrovert, I did miss having face-to-face interaction with readers and hearing an audience cheer or clap, but the trade-off was more than worth it. It was particularly gratifying to see people pop up in an audience when I knew they would’ve had multiple barriers to attend if it weren’t a virtual event.

Recently, there’s been an uptick in announcements for a return to in-person events. Festivals that are slated for next fall are already sharing lineups and selling tickets. Book launches are starting to take place in various venues. Readings and workshops are coming back to bookstores and local libraries.

I’ve already committed to taking part in a festival next autumn and I have a few workshops coming up that will be done in person (fingers crossed that all will be well to do so). The camaraderie and connection that happens when people come together is a vital part of all communities, and this is certainly so in the literary world. It’s understandable that many people feel an urgency to get “back to business” and return to the pre-pandemic state of affairs. Though I’m hesitant and cautious, I am looking forward to the time when I feel ready to head out to these events.

As we plan for the future, I hope we take this opportunity to re-build and return better—and to keep hold of the lessons we’ve learned and the value we’ve discovered in virtual events. I hope that we focus on ways to incorporate the best of both worlds into our literary events and develop options that will allow for both in-person and online participation. Now that we’ve experienced improved accessibility—whether physical, financial,

or through the elements of time or venue capacity— we can’t go backward. I hope that we will embrace hybrid events often and wherever possible.

There will be a learning curve, and it will not always be simple. In some cases, a hybrid event could be as straightforward as setting up a video to run simultaneously by Zoom during a small reading in a bookstore. In others, it may be much more complex—many festivals run complicated lineups of readings, workshops, panels, and more, with audience participation that ranges from simply listening to back-and-forth dialogue and learning. Making sure an online audience can participate in authentic ways is valuable and necessary.

Many events and activities in the writing community happen through volunteer support or are self-funded by writers themselves; organizing can already feel like a huge task. Trying to juggle a return to in-person events with online components may feel overwhelming or untenable, and organizers may opt for one or the other but not both. As the organizer of a small volunteer-run reading series myself, I understand this feeling. But I know in my heart, it’s worth it.

I encourage all organizers, publishers, writers, and readers to grow from what we’ve learned in the past two years. We can and should commit to preserving and expanding equity and access, to creating a new normal that is fun, open, engaging, and welcoming. When we make things better for those with the highest barriers, we make things better for everyone.

Christina Myers is a writer, editor and former journalist. Her novel

The List of Last Chances (2021) was longlisted for the 2022 Leacock Medal. She is currently at work on her next novel and an essay collection.

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I hope that we focus on ways to incorporate the best of both worlds into our literary events and develop options that will allow for both in-person and online participation.

Living in a digital world: Tech tools break storytelling mould

Despite the oversaturation of books in the world, this is a common refrain. The idea of hunching over a computer keyboard and typing till your fingers bleed is not the average person’s idea of fun. For some, even the thought of writing a two to five page article surfaces flashbacks of teachers with lofty expectations and vindictive red pens.

This reaction is more than writer’s block. It’s an aversion to a particular craft and skill. Not everyone has the privilege of being comfortable with writing, let alone enjoying it. Some people struggle with language just as others struggle with math—they may have had a difficult teacher or a learning disability, or been confronted with a learning style that didn’t suit their needs.

Get those same people in a room full of their peers, co-workers or fellow professionals, and they may wow the crowd with the power of their spoken words. Or maybe they’re terrified of public speaking, but can carry a compelling one-on-one conversation for hours. Should the blank page be eternally out of reach for them, just because they aren’t comfortable wielding a pen or keyboard?

Val Rossi, founder of boutique copywriting and editing company Writer’s Block Solutions, says some of her clients lack confidence communicating in writing, and others just don’t have time to get the words onto the page—but they’re willing to explain their thoughts in an interview or informal conversation. She has been consistently fascinated by people throughout her career. While producing a series of Q&A-style interviews in 2015, she discovered transcription software. This got her away from manually transcribing interviews, giving her more time for formatting, revising, and editing them for posting across multiple platforms.

“If you’re relying on shorthand notes from a conversation or interview, it’s difficult to capture the

personality behind the person’s words,” Rossi says. “I’m old school—I still use a handheld recorder and digitally transcribe the audio to ensure I catch their unique voice for Q&As. I’ve also used audio recordings from subject matter experts to draft blogs and reports.”

In this increasingly digital age, audio has quickly risen as a hot commodity. Audiobook sales have spiked and podcasts have flooded the soundwaves, opening up the world of storytelling to new narrators and audiences. While some people still see audiobooks as a shortcut or “cheat,” this seems to be the result of an ableist mentality. Assistive technology is about accessibility, not about cutting corners. Transcription and dictation software certainly save time by replacing the millenia-old practice of transcribing oral storytelling by hand. But their greater power lies in the previously untold stories that can now come to life. The reason YouTube videos and Instagram reels can include automatic closed-captioning—a great benefit for hard-of-hearing communities—is largely due to automated transcription. Dictation software allows someone who struggles with hand mobility to put their thoughts onto a page without a human intermediary. These technologies lend a voice to those who would otherwise go unheard, opening up a new world of options for communication and learning.

Elise Volkman writes fantasy for fun, reads fantasy for research, and occasionally fantasizes about how many friends she’d have if she left the house. Her more responsible alter ego works for Writer’s Block Solutions, juggling web design, social media management, and the dark arts of SEO and Dr. Google. In 2021, she self-published Roots of Blood, the first novel in her fantasy trilogy, The Nymph Keepers.

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h, I’m not a writer.”

Graphic novels: A collaboration

Illustrator Julian Growcott and I were delighted to hear that a submission from our graphic novel, The Art of Twelve, would be included in this issue of WordWorks (see pages 12, 13). When a brief companion article to run with the excerpted pages was also suggested, it seemed useful and fitting to offer a couple of our experiential side notes rather than highlight the substance of the book itself. Discussion of the working nature of collaboration is relevant to the theme and flow of the current issue, especially when based on experience.

As collaborators, Julian and I come from different disciplines and different generations, and we live and work in different cities. Still this book found its shape for both of us. While a large measure of the work was done individually with pen and ink, brush and paper, collaboration in our case would not have been possible without the resources of a digital environment. JPEGs, Word documents, PDFs, video conferencing, text messaging, and CloudShare all played a part.

We started more or less from scratch, aware only that we would be creating some kind of graphic story as such. We did not shy away from any time-honoured visual books as a benchmark for our nascent pictorial narrative. We understood that we were basically involved in a medium of interplay: show and tell. And so we wanted to do that as equally as possible. We learned along the way that many valuable discoveries are made simply in the course of doing. One of these discoveries was the open and flexible nature of our collaboration. Another was our potential and growing enthusiasm for this kind of shared art.

There is nothing inherently formulaic or predictable in the meeting of words and images. Yet, it remains familiar and approachable in an almost Venn diagram sense. We enjoy and appreciate such collaboration for the generous and immediate possibilities. The illustrator’s graphic compounding influence can be an invitation to getting the writer’s words back in (if differently, perhaps) and thereby affording

more to the reader. The prospect and results of the dynamic juxtaposition of text and sequential artwork is, above all else, a kind of interplay. Like running barefoot along the contours of familiar and unexpected terrain. Always aware and leaving space for the other. Never having it all just the one way. There’s a first time for many things, or so it seems. The delight and consolation come when the showand-tell is not felt as rough surfaces, blunt objects, and hard knocks at speed. And how is anything really far away when you can speak of it and can picture it? There are always other ways of telling stories on the literary journey. This is where narrative and readership find their ebb and flow—where they let the world and us back in. To make meaning together. In genuine collaboration, Julian and I have explored a range of modern communicative means to generate, exchange and assemble our narrative and pictorial ideas in a subjective and inventive language. We look forward to exploring the possibilities for continuing this kind of creative work.

Peter McGuire holds a master’s degree in literary postmodernism and a certificate in woodwork. After many years of study and teaching both in Canada and abroad, he now lives in Victoria.

Julian Growcott studied at Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design. He works as a graphic designer and professional musician. He lives in Nanaimo.

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Evolving the story of the immigrant and the outsider

Good writing often emulates what’s come before, but great writing speaks to the future by challenging the status quo and advancing social discourse. This is especially true for stories about the outsider—of immigrants and minority groups—where stereotypes have grown not only stale but harmful.

As interest increases for narrative abundance, the time has come at last for more diverse storytelling. Stories about outsider groups share themes of alienation, exile, disadvantage and underrepresentation. Writing beyond what already exists then becomes an urgent and worthy consideration for every writer working today.

I have been pondering how to do justice to my own outsider story, how best to avoid cultural clichés to tell an immigrant story that is not a mere echo of the stories that have preceded mine. My family was one among thousands of families that migrated in the 1980s and 90s from Taiwan and Hong Kong to countries like Canada but then became transnationally split for economic and political reasons. I am working on a book about growing up in such an “astronaut family.” It is a specific, yet familiar, outsider story.

As a first-generation immigrant and writer of colour, I struggle with issues of representation. Will readers from a different background understand where I’m coming from? Will readers of a similar background recognize my story? How can one story represent a whole social phenomenon?

Though it would be easier to lean on cultural tropes to establish a quick connection with my reader, the story I wish to tell must stand apart from other diasporic stories. This is because every wave of migration is carried on specific currents of circumstance and chance, and breaks on shore in its own unique moment.

Although I’m writing about events that happened decades in the past, I am writing in 2022 with today’s knowledge and sensibilities around decolonization and social justice. Just as society has become more cosmopolitan, the immigrant story has evolved. Yet, all too often, stereotypes linger. Stereotypes that limit understanding of minority groups and cause grave harm to those who are already marginalized.

As a writer, I want to do better. Telling my story today, I have the privilege of being able to stand on the shoulders of writers who came before me. I also have the responsibility to carry the outsider story forward, to bring new understandings from our current moment, to breathe life into nuanced characters that don’t reinforce stereotypes. The work, then, is to resist the lowhanging fruit that has become overripe and rotten. Specifically, I want to challenge myself and other writers to:

Do away with cultural lowballing. Tropes abound about the immigrant, from the tirelessly hardworking newcomer to loud accents and smelly foods. While stereotypes may work for easy recognition, they make for lazy writing and dull reading. Not only are they predictable, they reinforce characterizations of already disadvantaged groups. It’s time to discard cultural stereotypes or, if we are deft enough, upcycle them.

A brilliant example of the latter is Charles Yu’s Interior Chinatown, winner of the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction. Not only is it a hilarious commentary on the state of Asian typecasting in Hollywood, it subverts the stereotype of the Asian man by overtly naming him Kung Gu Guy, Generic Asian Man, Background Oriental Male, and Delivery Guy and then conflating

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them all into one interchangeable character. In my own writing, I have begun including nonEnglish terms and concepts which are both interesting and challenging. My sprinkling of Mandarin and Taiwanese terms is often not italicized or even explained. I let the context do the work and trust my intelligent, contemporary reader to do the unpacking. Center the outsider. Today’s readers expect the unfiltered voice of the “other.” When writers manage to bring forth authentic voices and fresh perspectives, it enlarges our understanding of the world.

Souvankham Thammavongsa’s How to Pronounce Knife is an excellent example of centering the voices of the marginalized. In each exquisite story, she subtly challenges clichéd views about refugees and social outcasts. The book went on to win the 2020 Giller Prize and became a bestseller, underscoring the increasing willingness of publishers to bring more diverse stories to a ready and interested audience. Evolve our use of language. Language is powerful and has the ability to lift or harm. How can we do better with our use of language? Figures of speech that casually reinforce oppression and violence against marginalized groups must be checked. Rather than default to metaphors and expressions that underpin negative views toward minority groups (unless it is for a specific effect), we must shift away from oppressive language that perpetuates the dominant narratives. This involves moving away from, satirizing, or calling out mainstream standards around beauty, goodness, capability, and desirability. For instance, in Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space, Amanda Leduc does a superb job of showcasing the voices and bodies of the underrepresented and underappreciated. She challenges the mainstream ableist view of what’s beautiful and celebrates the charm of all bodies.

Embrace original names. Should non-English writers use easily pronounceable names or has the time come to use the names given to us at birth? I was born (my surname is the first character followed by my given names). It roughly sounds like Ho Wei-Chiun, the spelling of which was first transcribed on my immigration papers. After arriving in Canada and

starting school, my father gave me the name Wiley, after Wiley & Sons, the publishing company that appeared in many textbooks. Though this good English name was intended to help me fit in, kids at school teased me, calling me “Willy” or “Weirdy.” I knew going by Wei-Chiun would have been worse, so I remained Wiley, which became my legal name.

Today, I use all my names: Wiley Wei-Chiun Ho. This feels the most representative of my immigrant story and one I can finally be proud of. I’ve noticed other writers of colour doing the same. The reclamation of one’s birth name may seem simple, but it is an act of resistance against cultural assimilation.

It also speaks to the need for all of us to be seen as individuals.

As writers, we have a chance to be at the forefront of antioppression and shift the collective consciousness toward true inclusion. Evolving our storytelling skills is part of that work. As such, it is no longer desirable or acceptable to employ hurtful terms, tropes, or themes that blinker us from the diversity and complexity of our world.

There is, of course, no easy prescription for how to do this. But we can be mindful of how we employ language and how our words can land, how our stories and even our names can subtly advance issues around marginalization and representation. As writers, we can contribute to the evolving discourse by writing fresh stories about complex characters that can walk confidently into the future.

Wiley Wei-Chiun Ho identifies as Generation 1.5, inhabiting the haunted space between places, cultures and identities. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies and literary journals. Wiley is revisioning her first book, a memoir about growing up in a Taiwanese-Canadian “astronaut” family.

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As writers, we have a chance to be at the forefront of anti-oppression and shift the collective consciousness toward true inclusion.

Here to stay: Online writing groups

Though online writing groups have been around for years, their popularity soared after restrictions prohibited in-person gatherings.

“When COVID-19 struck we moved outside,” explains Terresa Augustine, founder of Kelowna’s WriteOn! group. “When restrictions tightened, we moved online.”

While Zoom fatigue is undoubtedly real—and the spontaneous joy that erupts around a table cannot quite be replicated online—there are still advantages to digital groups. Increased accessibility, ease of scheduling, and the possibility of building genuine connections are just some of the benefits of participation.

Ilima Loomis, facilitator of FBCW’s new Mid-Career Writers’ Circle, was an early adopter of online writing groups. “I’m originally from Hawaii,” she says. “I lived in a small island community where there were not many other writers, so online groups became a really important way to connect with my community.”

Accessibility is one area where online writing groups shine: whether it’s due to geographic distance, lack of access to transportation, or mobility-related challenges, many factors make travel difficult or even unfeasible. Long-time nature, travel, and memoir writing instructor Carolyn Redl sums up the advantages of meeting online well: “Internetdelivered circles make worries over night driving a thing of the past. [...] New platforms such as Zoom have made delivery far more sophisticated and amenable to participants than it has ever been before.”

Online writing groups are also great for those with busy schedules. Carolyn explains: “Digital groups are convenient for working people because they don’t need to dress up and go out again after coming home. For parents, no babysitters are required.”

Additionally, online groups offer opportunities to engage with others for support, practical information, and encouragement. “For me, online groups have been a valuable resource for talking about the business of writing,” states Ilima. “They have also supported me creatively—my online critique group helped me get inspired and motivated to work on my passion project again, after taking time off to focus on my bread-and-butter work.”

Though COVID-19 restrictions have eased, online writing groups are here to stay. With increased accessibility, ease of scheduling, as well as a demonstrated ability to forge interpersonal connections, the benefits hold strong in a postpandemic world. As Terresa describes: “Last month we discussed meeting options going forward and decided to stay digital, with the addition of a quarterly in-person meeting at a social or private venue.”

Ready to join an online writing group? Check out our Digital Writing Circles initiative—an FBCW member perk! Digital Writing Circles are online groups that meet regularly to support participants’ creative journeys through discussion, critique, knowledge sharing, and more.

Carolyn Redl, facilitator of the Solace through Nature Writing Circle (modeled after a similar online workshop she hosted at Vancouver Island University’s Elder College), is excited. “I grew up in a rural community and would definitely have benefited during my teens from the collegiality offered by a Circle,” she says. “Hopefully, more Circles will evolve over time and more writers will facilitate and participate in Circles related to their areas of expertise.”

Current Circles are dedicated to poetry, flash fiction, grant writing, marketing and selfpromotion, LGBTQ2S+ writers, and more.

We invite you to join us as we grow our online community. Visit bcwriters.ca/circles to view the current offering of Digital Writing Circles and to learn more about getting involved.

Meaghan Hackinen is a bike-obsessed bookworm on a lifelong hunt for exceptional cycling routes. Her debut travel memoir, South Away: The Pacific Coast on Two Wheels is available from NeWest Press. Meaghan has an MFA in Writing and lives in Kelowna, BC.

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Missing the personal touch

As a writer of a weekly newspaper column, I’ve gone from being a member of the newspaper family to the coolly tolerated relative at a funeral. I was so excited to speak with my first editors over a decade ago. Then, editors had time to talk with anyone who wanted to speak to them. They believed in my column, and I needed to be part of their commitment to readers. The weekly or daily newspaper was the heart of a community.

It was a golden age for a weekly columnist like me. Many towns had a weekly newspaper, and the editor had the power to run my column or reject it. The price I charged for the column was a low, flat rate. I was able to establish a personal rapport with several editors, so the readership of my column grew. In fact, I still offer it for a small, flat fee. Independent newspapers in Saskatchewan, where I lived at the time, began to reinvent themselves in the last decade, a practice which continues to this day. Independently owned papers were sold and became part of larger newspaper groups. Local news in these newspaper groups is now integrated with the news of other papers so that the articles are broader in scope but less centred on individual communities.

In my humble opinion, going bigger with newspaper groups such as has been done here in BC with news organizations like the Black Press Media Group is not necessarily better. In my city of Chilliwack, although the breaking, localized news is still there in the Friday paper, human interest stories and community-building articles might get squeezed out for marketing ads. It seems to me the personal touch is gone. For example, I had to call Abbotsford to place an advertisement in the Chilliwack Advance Classified Section. This is just my experience; remember, what I feel, or my opinion, is not necessarily a fact or the facts of the situation.

The future suggests that newspaper audiences will read online, and the actual newspaper in our hands will be no more. They also say that about books. No one can predict the future accurately, but one must wonder whether the control of our local press by a large company, one concerned with marketing solutions

more than with localized news, bodes well for our community paper. The controversy about real and fake news during the pandemic may reflect a lack of trust in newspapers that are part of a media chain. The debate could also be that there is too much information full of feelings and not enough explicit, hard facts.

How will columnists need to change in the future? No doubt, journalism and photography credentials will be paramount. There will be louder cries for facts, but if the future turns out like the present, many readers will believe whatever they want, no matter what the facts say. In the future, reporters must report real stories that matter to their audiences because newspapers are the heart of any community.

Raymond is a spiritual/ religious columnist for several weekly newspapers. So far, both his novels are Historical Fiction set in the Fraser River Gold Rush of 1858 in BC. He is a retired school teacher and minister of religion who lives in Chilliwack, BC. (raymondmaher.com)

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A passion for podcasting: An interview

with Pamela Haasen

Pamela Haasen is a bright and youthful podcast instructor living in Smithers, BC, where she also enjoys a dream career as a radio news producer. Podcasting, in Haasen’s words, is “storytelling like any other kind, relying on the human voice (and sound) to create place, mood, and atmosphere for the listener. Podcasts can be interviews, multi-person narrative, educational, round table, monologue, fictional, or a sub-genre of any of those.”

Having listened to only a handful of podcasts myself, I had several questions about the medium that could be the wave of the future or simply an ancient art form made new. While I was delighted to meet Haasen briefly on Zoom, most of the interview was conducted the old-fashioned way—by email.

Sheila Cameron: What attracted you to podcasting?

Pamela Haasen: I was in school for something completely different but spent my free time making radio shows. Talking to people, telling stupid stories with friends, and creating content for listeners were the joys of volunteering at a radio station. I didn’t realize I was carving out my career with my volunteer pursuits. I just thought it was fun and I liked getting better at it. Then I started listening to podcasts and figured it was a natural shift. I’ve created thousands of hours of radio and podcasts and even though it sometimes feels like work, it rarely feels like a chore.

SC: Podcasting was recognized as a medium in 2004 and continues to gain popularity. Do you think it’s the way of the future, given that so many people access information online these days?

PH: Not really. People have always wanted to listen to other humans talking about interesting things, or holding conversation, or telling stories. Oral history might be the oldest form of communication, so in some ways, humans have always been podcasting; we just didn’t have the “pod” part figured out.

SC: Is writing for podcasts different than writing for print?

and so you can play with words to set the tone for an engaged reader. A podcast audience could be out for a walk, washing dishes, driving, exercising, or cooking. It’s important to get to the point as quickly as possible and let the story do the talking. According to my podcast metrics, there is a dropoff of listeners when my podcasts are like winding roads that eventually lead to the point, whereas if I produce a silly piece that’s direct and short, people listen to the end. In my experience, being succinct provides the better experience, and twenty to forty minutes in length is preferred by most listeners.

SC: Is podcasting a labour of love or a profitable venture?

PH: Haha, the most common question asked about podcasting is: how do you make money? It’s not impossible—if you can create a resume of impressive stuff, send it out, and wait to be absorbed through a company like Gimlet Media, I Heart Radio, PRX Productions, or CBC.

You can also publish a really good show for free and let your listeners know they can give a donation if they liked it. An example of monetizing a podcast successfully that way is Cocaine and Rhinestones, a two-season podcast about country music.

If you start a podcast and put a paywall up immediately, you will lose out on listeners. It sounds harsh, but if you’re not a celebrity or expert, why would anyone pay to hear your interviews about ladybug migration or nineteenth-century schoolyard games? Podcasting isn’t typically a way to make regular money, so if you don’t love doing it, find something else!

SC: Does a podcast have to follow a theme?

PH: It helps. If you don’t have a theme, you’re just turning the mic on and assuming listeners are as entertained by your nonsense as you are. They

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might be! That works for comedians and there are examples of shows that are just people hanging out riffing as they think of things to talk about, such as Call Your Girlfriend, This Is Important, and My Brother, My Brother and Me. But while those shows have a loose theme, they still follow a structure, which I think is what holds the reins on people just wasting time, trying to fill air space with their voice.

SC: What themes trend well or do you anticipate becoming popular?

PH: News stories will always be trending, so shows like The Daily, The Intelligence, and Front Burner are very popular. People are looking for podcasts that align with their political views. True crime podcasts continue to gain listeners, as do sports podcasts. Interview shows hosted by celebrities are also on the rise again with new ones popping up each month. Podcasts are an immediate reflection of what’s happening in the world—they go where the heat is.

The beauty of podcasts is that you can make one and publish it in a day, so you can be on top of trends as they happen. The ugly part is that with zero oversight, anyone can publish whatever they want, including false information, ill-researched topics, or interviews that create an echo-chamber disguised as news.

SC: What are your predictions for the future of podcasting?

PH: I think we’ve been experiencing a “wild west” version of podcasting that will likely come to an end soon. More podcasts will get scooped up and packaged as part of a larger company’s image, with fewer individuals producing shows without oversight. It’s hard for the smaller show to stand out from the mega shows that are beautifully produced with a handful of staff and a marketing team behind them.

That sounds so doomsday-ish, but that is a trend I see. I also see the continuation of beautiful stories and buttery voices telling me about the history of things I didn’t realize I cared about and people I didn’t realize I needed to feel connected to.

SC: Any resources you recommend?

PH: TPX (The Podcast Exchange) is a Canadian company that gathers research, trends and advertisers for podcasters and releases an annual report that is incredibly helpful. See: thepodcastexchange.ca

Haasen says, “You will likely never hit the publish button if you want your first podcast to sound and be amazing. You will nit-pick all the fun out of podcasting if you need it to be great from the get-go.”

Her top tips for a successful podcast are:

• Define your aim.

• Pick something you want to learn more about.

• Get an image of your ideal listener and make the show for them (and that can be you!).

• Start low-tech. Use your phone to record yourself, edit on free software (if you need to edit at all), and go for quantity over quality.

• Volunteer at a campus or community radio station to gain experience.

Pamela Haasen is a news producer and journalist for CICK News on 93.9FM, Smithers Community Radio. Pamela has hosted her own radio show for over twelve years, currently under the name I Digress. She also helps people create their own podcasts with her business, Haasen Pod. She has produced over ten podcast series along with a slew of silly one-offs, parodies, and skits.

Sheila Cameron is a professional editor, writer, speaker, and multi-passionate human. As the author of Shine Bright: Live A Supernova Life, she is dedicated to her own learning journey and to raising our collective human consciousness.

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I think we need to Tok

Ihave always had a love/hate relationship with social media. I’m either posting prompts and promo like an author possessed, or impulsively purging, deleting, and never-again-ing. It’s maddening. Because we writers know we need an online presence. And whether we go the traditional or indie route, we’re expected to do the bulk of the heavy lifting when it comes to book marketing. But things change quickly in the world of social media. Facebook has become a place for grandparents, conspiracy theorists, and myriad new-age life coaches. Twitter is just plain toxic. Instagram is a beautiful place for visually appealing stills, YouTube is great for showing a process, while LinkedIn is for the ultra-serious and career-minded. However, there’s a downside to all this online time. Think about it: you get up, write for a while, and then the ping on your phone interrupts your flow. You succumb. You pour yourself another cup of coffee and check out your screen, and thirty-eight minutes go by in what seems like six. Thirty-eight minutes you will never see again. And what have you achieved? Not much, except maybe you got to see your high school nemesis and her tanned,

yoga-fit body doing a headstand on a white, sandy beach in the Maldives. She’s doing this with perfect hair while her two well-behaved French bulldogs (named Chopin and Debussy, obviously) lay sunning themselves on the dunes behind her. Then there’s that writer friend you have—the one who just posted about finishing her eighth book in four years? The one with twins (whom she homeschools), a veggie garden full of kale, and a wardrobe boasting handmade clothes spun from the ivory manes and tails of ethically raised baby unicorns? Yeah, it’s hard to look away. Man, the online world is rife with distraction. So, when a friend sent me a message last September asking if I’d heard of TikTok’s #BookTok world, I broke out in a cold sweat. “What is this madness of which you speak?” I asked her. “It’s a thing,” she said matter-of-factly. “All the cool writers are doing it.”

I was immediately mired in equal parts dread and excitement. But I’d felt this way before, so I knew it was only a question of time before I caved and checked this #BookTok thing out.

TikTok is owned by a Chinese company called

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ByteDance. It’s been around since 2016, but the platform quickly gained popularity over those locked-down pandemic months. Today, it’s one of the most popular social media platforms globally. I wish I could tell you that TikTok spoke to me from the first video I watched. It didn’t. Instead, it kinda screamed at me to run fast in the opposite direction. Why? Well, first, it’s a very, very busy place. There are over one billion monthly users on the platform, coming in behind the social media behemoth YouTube, which boasts 2.6 billion users. (I can’t even comprehend those numbers.) Second, there is much content on TikTok that doesn’t interest me: fourteen-year-olds twerking, senior citizens dancing to Captain & Tennille, boils being lanced close-up (I kid you not), and good-looking people filming themselves engaging in high-risk activities. So, where was a well-intentioned author supposed to start? Ah, yes. #BookTok. That was “the thing” my friend mentioned. Right. I rolled up my sleeves and typed in the hashtag. OH. MY. GOD. So many bookish videos! I saw numerous book reviews, dramatic scene

reenactments, writing prompts, release party shenanigans, contest and giveaway posts, bookstore tours, editing advice, marketing advice, self-publishing advice… And then I discovered book mail. In this #BookTok initiative, random BookTokers send books to other BookTokers via snail mail. Just because. It’s enormous and lovely, and, to date, I’ve had the pleasure of having three surprise books dropped by my front door. Anyway, back to the beginning. I watched many bookish, writerly videos—some serious, some funny— then took a deep breath and tentatively created an account. I uploaded a pic, wrote a little bio, followed a few people who seemed wonderfully nerdy and interesting, and then made my first video. But it was going to be one that didn’t feature me. Because I didn’t do being in front of a camera. No. Freaking. Way. I didn’t even like being in family photographs. So, being in the limelight? Nope, it was never going to happen.

Instead, I busied myself making a video that featured the covers of some of my favourite YA contemporary novels. I arranged them artfully on my vintage Remington typewriter, added some nice music, and threw in a “Gold Dust” special effect overtop. Well,

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that little video got me over 1,400 views. 1,400! I was flabbergasted. On Instagram, the highest number of views I’d ever received on a post was around 200. On my first TikTok, in addition to the views, there were also many likes and a few shares. Whoa. The platform had reach! Encouraged, I went on to make another video; this one was a “let me tell you a little about my books” post. I displayed my novels (again using my lovely typewriter as a prop) and did a voiceover, blurbing each book as it was featured in my video. That video earned over 6,000 views, 600 likes, a few shares, and some lovely comments. I sold four books because of that post. Six months later, I’ve garnered more than 1,700 followers. But more important than the numbers, I’ve found my readers! Previously on social media, I’d mainly engaged with other writers. Don’t get me wrong; the support and encouragement writers offer each other is necessary and appreciated. But my books are targeted at a Young Adult audience, and I realized I needed to be where they are— and they are definitely hanging out on TikTok. The site isn’t just a “young person’s” platform anymore. It has something for everyone of every age: literature, cooking, science, fitness, spirituality, dogs, how-to’s, travel, world news—it’s all there. One of the biggest advantages of The Tok, as I like to call it, is the creative freedom it gives users. Videos can be as simple or complex as you like, your

message earnest or wonderfully silly. But the real carrot of TikTok is the opportunity it provides to form genuine connections with readers. Interaction is huge, and the best part is that you don’t have to be polished. You don’t have to stage your photos. You don’t have to speak from a script. And you don’t have to (and shouldn’t!) aggressively push your merch. TikTok feels more like a big ol’ living room. You can show up in your ugly sweatshirt with lousy hair and ramble on the way you might with a close friend. You can show up on your good days, bad days, and sad days, and you’re encouraged to fly your own special freak flag with wild abandon. I think that kind of vulnerable authenticity makes people more relatable. In the past few months, I’ve made some “young” reader friends and some “old” ones. I’ve heard about new book releases, and I’ve sent a few book mail packages to other BookTokers. And you know what? I’m showing my face now! Talking in front of the camera. Posting up writing prompts and tips. I’m even participating in a few popular trends! So maybe this experience has been GOOD for my mental health too. Just sayin’… We can all agree that shoving our books in people’s faces 24/7 is not a great way to get to know readers or build a following. So how do we reach readers? Ray Kinsella said it well in Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.” So build a presence. Engage with your readers. Have fun with them and celebrate your passion for reading together. This is not to say

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you can never talk about your books. You absolutely can and should. Here are a few suggestions:

Make a quick video featuring your book cover. Tell people how the design came to be. Ask for their feedback.

Read an excerpt from your latest work in progress or the first paragraph from one of your books. This gives people a snippet of your writing style. You can add imagery or background music to accompany your reading if you like.

Engage in trends. There are tons of them, and they are constantly changing. Trending song clips are always a fun way to play, and it’s easy for writers to match a particular book to a snippet of lyric.

Dance. If you like to entertain and you can dance, there is no end to trends you can take advantage of. Dancing writers and readers can be pretty funny. I like watching them, but I’m far from making one! Shout out another book or writer friend. They’ll love you for it, and, come on—we all need to have each other’s backs. It’s just plain nice.

Recommend a book. Book recs are always popular and appreciated. I love to listen to a reader rave about their favourite book of all time. Gimme!

Learn from others. If you’re still on the fence about what to post, there are a lot of TikTok tutorial accounts that walk you through it. Or you can sit back, watch, and learn.

Being active on social media is a double-edged sword. We need to get our work out there, but we also need distraction-free time to write. I guess it’s all about our eternal quest for balance: days made up of equal parts work, rest, and play.

I still have days when I want to ditch social media altogether—days when I dream about rotary phones, actual library cards, and thoughtfully made mixtapes. But the online world is here to stay, so I’m grateful to have found a platform that fits. Mostly. So, come on over, the water’s fine. And trust me, you don’t have to twerk to sell books—unless, of course, you want to. No judgement from me.

See you on The Tok.

Carol Anne Shaw is the author of the awardwinning “Hannah” series (traditionally published by Ronsdale Press), and three self-published novels for young adults.

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Diversity in journalism: Are we there yet, already?

The journalism industry is currently undergoing a wave of change, thanks to the #blacklivesmatter protests in 2020 that shed light on biases and discrimination plaguing industries worldwide. Finally, a place has been created for inclusivity and diversity that allows POC writers to ride waves of success as they voice their opinions and stories for the world to hear. The need to check off the “only native English writers can apply” box is eliminated, as we transition into an era of equal opportunities and representation.

This shift toward inclusivity helped me to go from writing short-form generic content for a few dollars, to landing assignments from reputed publications at competitive rates. Though I have been freelance writing for many years, publications now reach out for my perspective on global matters or to commission stories about my people and culture. I finally feel accepted in the writing community. This transition has been sudden, and while the massive support from publications and the writers’ community has been very encouraging, there are gaps that still need to be filled for diverse storytelling to thrive in the writing industry.

People of colour are often expected to share stories on topics of diaspora, trauma, or migration. While it is imperative to highlight these stories to create more awareness or attract attention to the issues faced by POC around the world, setting up this expectation takes the limelight away from stories of achievement, success, and breaking stereotypes within marginalized communities.

The easy success formula of selling stories of trauma has become a roadblock for POC writers wanting to shed light on breakthrough accomplishments. For example, my story of struggles while traveling on

the fourth weakest passport in the world became a massive hit and was reshared thousands of times across social media, but my personal essay on how I broke a cultural stereotype by learning cycling at the age of thirty was rejected by a handful of publications for not being relevant to their audiences. This is one area where the writing industry fails to provide equal representation to diverse voices.

The writing industry also lacks POC representation in characters that look and speak like them. Research from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center from the University of Wisconsin revealed that fifty percent of fictional characters in children’s books are White, while the remaining are a mix of African, Hispanic, and Asian. However, all the characters, irrespective of their racial backgrounds, are predominantly written by White writers. This often results in wrongly informed representation of the cultures and lifestyles of marginalized communities who are already trying to shed the stereotypes associated with them.

Publications can support POC writers in numerous ways. Giving someone the opportunity to write characters based on their own cultural norms adds realistic nuances to those characters, rather than replicating stereotypes related to a particular community.

In addition to featuring POC characters and stories, publications can also build ecosystems that seamlessly integrate diverse voices and stories.

One way to achieve this is to give writers from underrepresented communities a space in the editorial panels. If the people who work in publishing are not a diverse group, then how can diverse voices truly be represented? Due to similarities in personal

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experience and culture, it is naturally easier for POC editors to resonate with and comprehend arguments being addressed in a diverse story than it would be for an editor from a different racial group.

Building a dedicated column/space for marginalized voices can help publications divert more attention toward stories that might otherwise only cater to a Western audience that forms a majority. I have faced rejections many times for my cultural story pitches on the grounds of them not resonating with their targeted American/British audience of the publishers. While irrelevance is a genuine reason for rejection, if a POC story of trauma can be relevant, I fail to see the irrelevance of a success story of a POC. This takes away from a publication’s claims of inclusion and diversity, making them meaningless. On the contrary, a dedicated space for diverse stories in a publication is a win-win for both—the publication to earn inclusivity points, and the writers to share their stories with a wider audience and demographic.

The gradual emergence of POC writers on the journalism scene has resulted in the creation of many communities run by POC writers for POC writers. These communities are dedicated to providing continuous support to young and emerging writers entering the competitive world of journalism.

Think In Ink is a BIPOC resource website run by experienced and published authors, poets, and journalists from marginalized communities. They send out monthly newsletters with calls for pitches from unpublished and veteran POC writers alike. They also run workshops and share how-to guides on freelance journalism, covering topics like how to craft pitches, reach out to editors, and draft stories.

Writers of Color is a Twitter account that publishes callouts for pitches and shares opportunities for freelance writing gigs for BIPOC writers. I have had the opportunity to work with both of these resourceful communities. During this time, I have witnessed writers going from no bylines to writing for some of the most reputed publications.

Inclusivity in the journalism industry is a change to be reckoned with, but it is still an uphill climb. The opportunities are plenty, but more support from publications is needed. As publications tap into the potential of POC writers, they will help those writers gain confidence and hone skills, while providing readers with access to underrepresented stories. Being a part of this change, I was able to find my voice as a writer. If a few more roadblocks are eliminated, it will pave the way to success for the diverse writers’ community.

Rahma Khan is a travel writer and independent journalist from Pakistan. Creating awareness for the rights of BIPOC, Rahma uses her travel blog thesaneadventurer. com to share her stories of discrimination and other first-hand experiences with BIPOC travelers. Her work is published in Independent UK, CondeNast Traveller, Matador Network, & Open Canada among others.

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The 2021 FBCW Literary Contest winners speak

Last year, the Federation of BC Writers hosted its annual literary contest. Hundreds of skilled and talented writers entered, and four emerged as winners: Barbara Black (flash fiction), Diane Massam (poetry), Jaymie Campbell (creative nonfiction), and Kit Pepper (short fiction). I recently caught up with these writers and poets via email to chat about the contest and the inspiration behind each winning piece.

Jessica Cole: Tell us about your winning entry. What was the inspiration behind your piece?

Barbara Black: I won in the flash fiction category. The winning story, titled “We Do Not Lie Down,” is about a woman with an unusual adult son who is outside the norm. […] I wrote the piece while I was listening to “Winter” from Astor Piazzolla’s version of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons […]. There are lines in the story that reference the music, for example: “Goshawks strident in the pines screeched like hard-bowed violins.”

Diane Massam: I wrote my poem, “Late(ral) Move,” in hotel rooms as I was crossing Canada. […] The poem expresses transition as we drive across the country, with the old life falling away and the new

life drawing nearer, and it is also a love song to Canada. Crossing during COVID was very intense. Since nothing was open, and we had to isolate, we were pulled entirely into the landscape, as it was all we could experience on our journey.

Kit Pepper: [“Sin Techo,” short fiction.] Grief. And how one can’t come back from the most horrible of horrible losses without the help of something both extraordinary and bare-bones simple. In the case of this story, that something is the inexplicable influence of a waif-like, guardian sprite. The two characters in the story inspired me as they pulled me into their fabulist world.

Jaymie Campbell: My piece, “From This Land,” won the 2021 creative nonfiction category. At its core, the piece is about the journey of a moose hide going through the process of being traditionally tanned and eventually turned into a dancer’s moccasins. It is meant to be a sensory experience, to draw the reader into all the different ways it feels to hold and tan a hide, to be given the privilege of being in relationship with that animal. It is also about

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exploring the stories behind an artistic medium—in this case beadwork—and exploring the individual processes that go into creating these pieces.

JC: How did it feel to discover you were a contest winner?

Kit: I was extremely pleased and happy to know that K. T. Wagner (gothic horror writer) saw enough in the story to reach across disparate genres and appreciate my work. I think this speaks to her capacity as a writer as well as a judge.

Jaymie: It felt really important to share that story with others, as those processes and activities of reclamation are what have shaped me. There is a very real element of fear and vulnerability with sharing writing pieces, and I am grateful I took a deep breath and moved through that.

Diane: Winning the competition was unexpected and joyous. […] To make the short list, and then to win, was beyond my dreams. It means a great deal to me to win such an honour in my home province.


Barbara: I was very grateful for judge Ursula Vaira’s perceptive comments on the story and for detecting the nuances in my writing. I always like to hear from readers how stories affected them emotionally, so her comments were especially appreciated in that regard.

JC: Thank you, winners, for sharing your words and inspiration with our readers.

Jaymie Campbell is an Anishnaabe artist from Curve Lake First Nation and currently resides on unceded Sinixt territory in British Columbia. Jaymie aims to explore connection to land and culture through beadwork, writing, fashion, and visual arts. She is the designer behind White Otter Design Co, which incorporates traditional artistry techniques with contemporary and personal style. Her work is inspired by her Anishnaabe roots, the land, and her family. Jaymie spent the early years of her career working on consultation, negotiation, capacity building and protection of land. She is a wife, daughter, auntie, and sister and loves to spend her time in the mountains.

Barbara Black is an award-winning poet, short fiction, and flash fiction writer. Her debut short story collection, Music from a Strange Planet, was released in 2021. Her writing has been published in national and international journals and anthologies, including Bath Flash Fiction

Volume Five and Six, The Cincinnati Review, Geist, The Hong Kong Review and Prairie Fire. Achievements include: fiction finalist in the 2020 National Magazine Awards; winner of the 2017 Writers’ Union of Canada Short Prose Competition; and, most recently, flash fiction winner of the Federation of BC Writers Literary Contest 2021. She lives in Victoria, BC, where she gardens, collages, and rides her trusty, corner-conquering Triumph motorcycle. Diane Massam is a poet exploring themes of loss, memory, and transition. Her work appears in Sea and Cedar Magazine, Sad Girls Club, Van Isle Poetry Collective, and Island Writer Magazine. She was a winner in the 2020 Janice Colbert Poetry Contest, and her chapbook, Every Now and Then, placed third in the 2022 Raven Chapbooks contest. A linguist with a long career of academic writing on grammatical theory and Polynesian languages, Diane is currently completing a distance education certificate in creative writing at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. She lives, learns, and writes in Victoria, BC.

Kit Pepper has lived on Gabriola Island for thirty years, and for the first twenty wrote nothing but poetry. Ten years ago, characters appeared who wanted more than a cameo, so she turned to fiction. She wasn’t prepared for this shift and has spent considerable time trying to figure out how this genre works. The daily practice, skills, knowledge, and “ear” she gained while immersed in poetry serves her well in short fiction. She dances tango and adult ballet and sporadically and frustratingly tries to draw. Her constant companion is Finn, her eleven-year-old Gordon Setter. This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Jessica Cole is the managing editor of WordWorks. She enjoys supporting writers and developing their work for publication and writes fiction under the pen name Jess Wesley.

27 2022 Volume II | wordworks

Launched! New titles from FBCW members

Surrogate Colony

Boshra Rasti / Atmosphere Press, 2021 / 163988162X / $7.99

An 18-year-old against the algorithms; but will she have enough time to redeem herself before the Database destroys her?

Health in the HimalayaTibet Bhutan Ladakh Hilary Crowley / 2021 / 9781-9990562-1-6 / $25

Health in the Himalaya takes the reader deep inside the Himalayan communities of Tibet, Bhutan and Ladakh. The author shares rich experiences of a health care provider from Canada, who volunteered with medical teams working with people in remote Himalayan communities. Stories of health interventions are interspersed with intrepid adventures enveloped on the spectacular Himalaya. Readers learn about Gross National Happiness, about Buddhist culture, and about how people live successfully, yet simply, in harmony with nature in these harsh environments.

Smelter Wars: A Rebellious Red Trade Union Fights for Its Life in Wartime Western Canada

Ron Verzuh / University of Toronto Press, 2022 / 978-14875-4112-5 / $34.95

In 1938, the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) sent communist union organizer Arthur “Slim” Evans to the smelter city of Trail, BC, to establish Local 480 of the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers. Six years later, the union won the right to represent more than 5,000 workers at the smelter, but the union’s fight for survival had only just begun. Smelter Wars unfolds that historic struggle, providing an exciting Canadian workers’ story in the context of a cultural study of a community shaped by a war of ideas at home and the local impact of the war in Europe.

Trapped at TRIUMF

Sandra Price-Hosie / Friesen Publishing, 2022 / 978-1-03-912322-9

An exciting story for kids nine to twelve featuring a spunky Indigenous girl who leaves her tribal lands at Lillooet, BC for school in Vancouver. There she and her science nerd pals become involved in a gigantic theft from TRIUMF, the huge atomic particle cyclotron at the University of British Columbia.

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Helen Webster / Silverdog Publishing, 2022 / 978-1-7778955-0-9 / $19.99

A charismatic preacher arrives in a fictional small town in Western Alberta. He establishes his own church, an alternate religion, and soon has many willing worshippers who are assured by this preacher that they are a chosen and privileged group. He is a skilled recruiter of new adherents and is an expert in sophisticated techniques of manipulation or brainwashing who insists upon being called the Prophet. He is publicly resisted by one young woman. This resistance will end in tragedy.

Jonas and the Mountain: A Metaphysical Love Story

Janis Harper / Sacred Stories Publishing, 2021 / 1945026804 / $20.99

An eastern mystic, a western psychic, and a broken man who falls in love with them both at a holy mountain in India. There Jonas meets the guru D who shows him a direct path to enlightenment, and Anamika, an oddly familiar woman who reveals yet another reality of multiple dimensions and partner selves. Jonas seeks to reconcile D and Anamika’s philosophies to find what is true with a capital “T” as he struggles to resolve the pain in his past. More than an unusual love story, Jonas and the Mountain is a quest for the deepest truth, an excursion into the nature of reality.


Roy Innes / World Castle Publishing, 2022 / 978-1-95-678830-3 / $9.99

David Radcliffe, an eye surgeon, and his wife, Kathy, returning from a medical convention in San Francisco bypass a highway accident by turning off onto a country road which winds through farm country near Eugene, Oregon. Totally lost when their car’s GPS fails from what appears to be a cyber blackout, they come upon ELDERVILLE, a town nowhere noted on their highway map and with a populace they soon discover is made up entirely of old people. What begins as relief turns to terror as the couple are entrapped in a bizarre scheme to prevent them from leaving.

Worth More Standing: Poets and Activists Pay Homage to Trees

Christine Lowther (Editor) / Caitlin Press, 2022 / 9781773860824 / $24.95

Themes of connection, ecology, grief, and protection are explored through poems about trees and forests written by an impressive number of influential poets.


Genni Gunn / Signature Editions, 2022 / 978-1773240985 / $17.95

In Accidents, her third collection of poems, Genni Gunn takes us through past and present and different continents to examine the emotional, political, and geological upheavals that inevitably shape and alter our lives. She evokes the ghosts of her birthplace in Trieste, Vancouver’s urban alienation and attraction, and Burma’s constant disruption under a military junta. Along the way, she treats us to a sardonic and sometimes appalling history of masks and of spontaneous combustion. Heartbreak and humour leaven and disrupt these poems in equal measure, as does love.

Grounded by Granite

Patti Shales Lefkos / Loon Island Press, 2022 / 978-1-9992298-2-5 / $24.95

Grounded by Granite is a coming of age tale of family connection and personal resilience framed by summers on a remote island in the Canadian Shield by Patti Shales Lefkos, award-winning author of Nepal One Day at a Time. On Loon Island, a granite mound in a pristine lake near Frontenac Provincial Park in the Ontario Canadian Shield, post-war summer days for Patti and her siblings overflowed with swimming, fishing and hunting for snapping turtles. Life seemed perfect until a shocking letter from the Department of Lands and Forests questioned their ownership of the land.

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The Choirboy and the Bellydancer

Christine Potter / Buddha Press, 2022 / 987-1-7752024-4-8 / $25

An entertaining memoir introducing two English-born war babies and their roller-coaster romance. They met at 16 when the choirboy took the bellydancer home. She had nowhere to live. They fell in love. On joining her parents in Aden, she became the dancer and almost the second wife of an Arab entertainer. But love endured and the two reunited in hilarious scenarios. “A breathtaking, humorous romp, teeming with outrageous exploits, travel adventures and a resilient, enduring love story,” says one reviewer. Arriving in Canada in 1965, the adventures, and the romance, continue.

Cambium Blue

Maureen Brownlee / Harbour Publishing, 2022 / 978-1550179309 / $22.95

A small interior BC lumber town, a pine beetle epidemic, a shuttered sawmill, and three disparate characters (a young single mom, a beleaguered weekly newspaper publisher, and an aged junk collector) each with their own crisis looming. A gripping, made-in-BC story for readers everywhere.

Broken t.g. brown / 2022 / 978-1928029052 / $18.84

While bullfrog hunting on a cloudcovered night in the Louisiana Bayou, Josh Ingram had no way of knowing the cogs of a grisly nightmare had already begun to turn. A nightmare that takes root with the murder of a priest in Northern Ireland only to find its way to a schoolyard in Louisiana. Confronted with an impossible demand and an evil that knows no bounds, Josh must find a way to fit the pieces together. For should he not complete the puzzle in time, the consequence of such failure would be unthinkable.


Harbour Centre 5 including Rebecca Holand, Robbie Chesick, Christina Shah, James X. Wang, Jaeyun Yoo / 2022 / 978-1-7781382-0-1 / $15

Harbour Centre 5’s first collaborative chapbook, Brine, is a wild ferment of shoreline lovers, travelling preachers, worm people, and warrior women, poems that invite the reader under the microscope, on a trip to a strip mall restaurant, to the old country, and ultimately—home. Handsome and handbound, with original artwork.

A Boy Named Tommy Douglas

Beryl Young / Midtown Press, 2022 / 978-1-988242-41-5 / $19.95

This colourful picture book for six- to ten-year-olds is the little-known story of Tommy Douglas and his dream to bring Medicare to Canadians. A childhood illness inspired a young boy who was not big for his age, and not from a wealthy family, to grow up to make an important difference to the lives of every Canadian. He is known as the Father of Medicare. This book is also available in French.

Flying, Falling, Catching: An Unlikely Story of Finding Freedom

Henri Nouwen and Carolyn WhitneyBrown / HarperOne, 2022 / 9780-06-311352-7 / $31.99

The true story of a bestselling writer of spiritual wisdom falling in love with a trapeze troupe in a travelling circus. Henri Nouwen travelled with them and planned to write about them in a new style, creative nonfiction. He thought it would be his best book. Carolyn Whitney-Brown uses Nouwen’s own unpublished writings to tell the story of why his poignant, wise, and often very funny manuscript was left unfinished at his sudden death in 1996.

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One Little Coin

Teresa Schapansky / Royal Canadian Numismatic Association, 2022 / 978-1778153204 / $12.95

“I signed up for the coin club, because to be honest, I really like money. Wasn’t that what a coin club was about? That, and how to get it, how much to keep and how much to spend? I saw that the class was made up of an assortment of kids, in my opinion. In the end, who could have guessed that seven totally different kinds of people would form such an unlikely bond in a coin club? Maybe one day, I’ll find one little coin that will change my life, forever. Maybe I’ll find it with Jacque’s metal detector, or maybe it’ll be stuck in some couch cushion. The possibilities are endless.”

A Time of Light and Shadow: To Asia, Africa, and the Long Way Home Ella Harvey / Rocky Mountain Books, 2022 / 9781771605694 / $28

A Time of Light and Shadow is a travel memoir that explores the quests of a young woman, working in dire environments, chasing adventure, and seeking connection in unlikely places. In 1975, Ella lived in Paris, worked as a nurse in war-torn Beirut, and fell in love in Istanbul. A year later, she set off alone for India and trekked solo in the Himalayas. By 1980 she was working for the Red Cross, immersed in heart-wrenching tragedies in Asia and Africa. Four decades later, Ella returned to India, and reflects on poverty and privilege, youth and aging, longing and belonging.

A Dancer’s Pilgrimage

Lolla Devindisch / Rainbow Publishers, 2022 / 978-1-7781603-0-1 / $20

At the heart of this compelling memoir by Lolla Devindisch is a passionate quest to heal the trauma of losing her father in childhood. When dancing came easily to her it provided the cure. With vivid anecdotes, astute observations on dance, travel, and her inner unfolding expressed in a clear and courageous voice, Lolla weaves a potent narrative about her journey to live fully and authentically from the fertile ground of her artist’s soul.

Five Moves of Doom

A.J. Devlin / NeWest Press, 2022 / 9781774390559 / $22.95

Hired by local mixed martial arts trainer Elijah Lennox to find a missing UFC Championship belt, pro-wrestler PI “Hammerhead” Jed must extract answers from the tight-knit MMA community. Still consuming his weight in banana milkshakes, Jed ventures into a world of jewel thieves, bodybuilders, eccentric yoga enthusiasts, and adorable baby goats. As he infiltrates an exclusive and unique no-holds-barred fight club, Jed might just find himself down for the count … Five Moves of Doom is a high-altitude and high-attitude entry in A.J. Devlin’s award-winning mystery-comedy series.


K.L. Phillips / FriesenPress, 2022 / 978-1-03-914558-0 / $27.49

“Your mother made me promise to send you this box if she did not return from her expedition… She wanted to ensure you would find the answers you needed to uncover the truth about your destiny.” When SaRiah receives a mysterious parcel from a grandfather she never knew, she can’t resist learning more about what she finds within. A family heirloom left by her mother, lost years ago on a top-secret space expedition, has everything SaRiah needs to uncover the truth about her family and her destiny. Secrets that are lurking in the past…and the future.

31 2022 Volume II | wordworks

the last word


Right about now, we’d all love to have a functioning crystal ball. The future of publishing seems dire. The pandemic, climate change, war—everything is conspiring against us. Toss in shrinking options in traditional publishing and it almost looks like a perfect storm. Back in 2020, the Big Five publishers became the Big Four when Penguin Random House made a deal to buy Simon and Schuster. The US Department of Justice swooped in with a lawsuit to block this merger in November 2021, so the consolidation is no longer a certainty. However, this is part of a trend that has been going on for years—smaller presses are being gobbled up by the giants, and imprints under the conglomerates are often unwilling to consider competing submissions.

Over at the Chopping Blog, we frequently interview literary agents, and one of the questions we ask is if you could change one thing about the publishing industry, what would it be? The responses almost unanimously relate to this issue of industry consolidation.

Consolidation creates homogeneity

“I would disentangle every major publishing acquisition/merger of the past thirty or so years.” —Paul Lucas

With industry consolidation, we see two immediate results: agents have fewer places to submit their clients’ manuscripts, and there are fewer gatekeepers to ensure the diversity of authors and ideas.

As with most industries, the demographics of the publishing world do not mirror the diversity of readership. While some agents point to gains in this regard, there’s still a long way to go.

A focus on the bottom line

“I wish publishers would hire more editors and devote more energy to supporting and retaining them.” —Kathryn Green

“My absolute dream is to see livable advances given to debut authors.” —Laura Gross

Agents are fed up with the low advances their clients receive and the limited marketing for everyone except the best of the bestsellers. On top of this, the lower rungs of the industry are plagued with burnout and high turnover. In many ways, the top tiers of traditional publishing are governed by the bottom line, at the expense of everyone involved—including the quality and breadth of projects that are published.

A new hope: the rise of the small press

“I wish the publishers would stop buying each other up…. On the plus side, this has created terrific independent publishing houses that are publishing fabulous books.” —Lisa Hagan

The small press is on the rise, both in terms of proliferation and prestige. As the big publishers focus purely on profit, we’re seeing more small press titles nominated for esteemed honours like the Man Booker Prize. If the top continues to consolidate, it’s reasonable to assume the rest of the industry will rise to the occasion.

When the news all around us seems to go from bad to worse, it’s easy to focus on what’s wrong with our industry. But the rise of the small press is good news. Small presses tend to value their authors and pour their hearts into these manuscripts. For them, it’s more of a calling than a business, which is what the beating heart of an arts industry should be.

Michelle Barker and David Brown are awardwinning writers and senior editors at The Darling Axe, which offers narrative development, editing, and coaching. Learn more at darlingaxe.com.

32 wordworks | 2022 Volume II
2022 Volume II | wordworks cov3 Are you our next writer-in-residence? Applications now open for 2024-2025 Apply by Jan. 11, 2023 ucalgary.ca/cdwp

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