VOLUME 38 | NUMBER 3
MAGAZINE OF THE WRITERS’ GUILD OF ALBERTA
THE DRINK IS IN THE BLOOD Reversing the writers’ curse
Featured Writers Shari Narine – Indigenous mothers who write Laura Barakeris – Finding solitude to write Jannie Edwards – Letting the monsters out of the box Steven Ross Smith – What is our word worth? Sophie Pinkoski and Tyler Gajda – Young writers creating online audiences
JULY – SEPTEMBER 2018
Literary Arts Fall Programs Hone skills and develop work with expert faculty in contemporary literature. Investigative Journalism Intensive September 17 – 23, 2018 Apply by July 11
Emerging Writers Intensive October 1 – 8, 2018 Apply by August 1
Mountain and Wilderness Writing October 26 – November 17, 2018 Apply by August 1
Late Fall Writers Retreat December 3 – 15, 2018 Apply by August 22
Photo by Doug Robichaud.
WESTWORD VOLUME 38, NUMBER 3 | JULY – SEPTEMBER 2018
15 18 Feature Articles
10 THE DRINK IS IN THE BLOOD Katie Bickell 15 GIVING VOICE TO INDIGENOUS MOTHERS WHO WRITE Shari Narine 18 BREAKING FROM THE CHAOS AND QUIETING THE NOISE Laura Barakeris 20 LETTING THE MONSTERS OUT OF THE BOX Jannie Edwards 22 WHAT IS OUR WORD WORTH? Steven Ross Smith 26 YOUNG AUTHORS IN SEARCH OF AN AUDIENCE Sophie Pinkoski and Tyler Gajda
22 Editor’s Note
Raymond Gariépy Why Am I Telling You This?
Michael Hingston ED’s Note
Carol Holmes 5
New WGA Board
Alberta Literary Award Winners
Scenes from the WGA Conference & 2018 Alberta Literary Gala
Write/Right: Law for Writers
Jeananne Kirwin, Q.C. The Community
28 Member News 29 New WGA Members 30 Donors & Sponsors
31 Book Prize Winners 32 2018 WGA Golden Pen Award Cover photo by R. Gariépy
We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts; the Edmonton Arts Council; Calgary Arts Development; The City of Calgary; the City of Edmonton; Canada Council for the Arts.
Correction In the April-June 2018 issue, the article “In The Company Of Writers” (page 27) incorrectly identified Jane Ross as Jane Roth. WestWord apologizes for the error. Ross wishes to clarify that “our writing group primarily serves writers of Battle River Region (not specifically Camrose/County) and that individuals from other parts of Alberta are welcome and do attend. We are also registered as a Society operating in Battle River.”
FORTIFYING OUR WRITING The Writers’ Guild of Alberta is a community of writers that exists to inspire, connect, support, encourage and promote writers and writing; to safeguard the freedom to write and to read; and to advocate for the well-being of writers. WestWord is published four times a year. ISSN: 0821-4203 © Writers’ Guild of Alberta, 2018 WGA Membership Rates $80/year; $50/seniors; $40/low income; free to post-secondary students until graduation. Membership is open to all writers resident or formerly resident in Alberta. WGA Executive President: Carol Parchewsky Vice President: Leslie Chivers Treasurer: Falon Reed Secretary: Lori Hahnel Members at Large: Alison Clarke Joan Crate Lisa Mulrooney Youth Committee Rep: Sophie Pinkosky Past President: Dustin Archibald WGA Staff Executive Director: Carol Holmes Program Coordinator: Natalie Cook Program Coordinator: Julie Robinson Program Director, Southern Program Office: Samantha Warwick Communications and Partnerships Coordinator: Ellen Kartz Member Services Coordinator: Giorgia Severini Summer Intern: Joshua Dakin WGA Contractors WestWord Editor: Raymond Gariépy WordsWorth Director: Colin Matty WGA WestWord Assistant Editor: Ellen Kartz Layout & Design: Backstreet Creative Printing: Burke Group of Companies Please notify the WGA office immediately of any address change. Writers’ Guild of Alberta Percy Page Centre, 11759 Groat Road Edmonton, AB T5M 3K6 Ph: (780) 422-8174, Fax: (780) 422-2663 Toll-free: 1-800-665-5354 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: writersguild.ca Southern Alberta Office: 505 - 21 Avenue, SW, Calgary, AB T2S 0G9 Ph: (403) 265-2226 Email: email@example.com Submission queries can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
RAYMOND GARIÉPY “Alcohol isn’t just a mind-altering drink: It has been a prime mover of human culture from the beginning, fueling the development of arts, language, and religion,” writes Andrew Curry in “Our 9,000-Year Love Affair With Booze,” National Geographic magazine, February 2017. Fermented fruit beverages have existed since the 7th century BC. No wonder booze is ingrained in our genes. The negative consequences of excessive alcohol consumption are well-known, and writers seem cursed by their susceptibility to the deleterious effect of liquor. In part, we can thank the legendary alcoholic authors who enjoyed literary success for perpetuating the myth that writing drunk makes for better writing. Katie Bickell knows only too well the writer’s curse. In her article “The Drink Is in the Blood” (page 10), she writes: “I believed my character [social media posts] to be best reflected through photos of alcoholic drinks,” which “implied not only was I fun, but obviously classy and intelligent enough to handle a technical writing project, too.” Her relationship with alcohol ended when she hit her “final rock bottom.” For Bickell, staying sober means putting a lie to society’s belief that writers, writing and liquor are linked inextricably. She cautions that sobriety is endangered not only from the existence of alcohol but from “the unexamined marketing of it.” No easy feat, after all, alcohol is pitched as an essential ingredient for making family and social gatherings and sporting and musical events more fun, enjoyable and tolerable. Closer to home, Bickell says the words and images promoting literary festivals and book launches merit scrutiny. Hosting truly inclusive literary events means not to assume that everyone drinks alcohol. It is incumbent upon us to “make space and prop the efforts of those who are trying to quit drinking,” she writes. “We are not alone … we can help one another and everyone else, too …” Bickell’s statement—“we can help one another”—could serve as a subtheme to this year’s Writers’ Guild of Alberta (WGA) conference, awards ceremony and AGM, held June 1–3, in Calgary. Making others shine was one of the weekend’s backstories. Keynote speakers, workshop presenters, breakout session speakers and conference participants, chatting among themselves, reiterated the importance of writers helping writers. Cecelia Frey, who was honoured with the WGA’s Golden Pen Award and winners of the Alberta Literary Awards delivered acceptance speeches noteworthy for acknowledging their fellow storytellers. The conference buoyed my determination to read more Alberta writers and to take my writing more seriously. Being welcomed into Alberta’s community of writers, and participants’ positive comments about WestWord, made my weekend. After the conference, WGA staff and I returned to Edmonton by Queen Elizabeth II Highway. The soporific effect of the grey highway ahead, the flat landscape around us and the dull sky above lifted when a colleague commented that Alberta is rich with writers. Fortifying our writing with their support is one brew worth imbibing. I can be contacted by email at email@example.com.
THE WRITERS’ GUILD OF ALBERTA
WHY AM I TELLING YOU THIS?
TIME TO BUILD AN EFFECTIVE PIPELINE TO THE READING PUBLIC MICHAEL HINGSTON The following does not necessarily reflect the views of WestWord magazine or the Writers’ Guild of Alberta. Earlier this year, the provincial government declared Tuesday, May 15, 2018, the first-ever Alberta Book Day. It was a show of strong symbolic support for a cultural industry that has an economic impact of nearly $30 million annually 1, and as co-publisher of an indie press, I got to spend the day on the legislature grounds, celebrating the announcement and spreading bookish cheer with a dozen of my fellow publishers. It was a fun event and certainly encouraging to see the Government of Alberta recognizing the hard work that goes into producing books in this province. But when it comes to actual, on-the-ground support for the publishing industry, there is still plenty of work to be done. If you are a writer in this province, you can apply for financial assistance in the form of grants from the Alberta and federal governments (maybe your civic government, too, depending on where you live). Plenty of creative resources are available from organizations like the Writers’ Guild of Alberta to the many writers-in-residence at libraries and universities across the province. At the publisher level, too, the model for helping fund new works is clear, if underfunded. The province’s film and TV industry, for instance, has received more
than $150 million from the Alberta Media Fund2 over the last five years. By contrast, the 29 publishers who make up the Book Publishers Association of Alberta (BPAA) receive just $775,000 annually—combined. That gap has prompted the BPAA to call for a dedicated book publishers fund, which would lead to more titles, more jobs, and more Alberta stories spread more widely. That is all well and good, of course. But what about the next step? Once those books have been made—by people who have all been adequately compensated for their time—how do you make sure the Alberta public knows they exist? In supply-chain management, this critical final step is called the “last mile,” and it is a real problem in publishing, too, as any writer who has spent hours of their own time trying to schlepp copies of their books at farmer’s markets and craft fairs can attest. I would like to see governments find ways to ensure that local books, once made, have an effective pipeline to the reading public. Solutions already exist in other artistic fields. Edmonton3 and Calgary4 both have policies ensuring that one percent of the budget of all municipal projects goes towards public art, which is a formula that might be adapted for the publishing world. While at the Alberta Book Day festivities, I dropped by the Alberta Branded5 giftshop on the legislature grounds.
Specifically, $29,700,700—per the Book Publishers Association of Alberta (BPAA). These numbers all come from a BPAA handout 3 publicart.edmontonarts.ca/public_art_-_about_public_art/public_art_-_percent_for_art_policy/
I would like to see governments find ways to ensure that local books, once made, have an effective pipeline to the reading public.
It is a chic, high-traffic showcase for local craftspeople and their wares—but the store does not carry a single book, for some reason. By now, it is clear plenty of great books are produced in Alberta every year. But that does not mean much, ultimately, if the general population and tourists alike are not given more opportunities to discover and fall in love with them in person. Michael Hingston is an author and publisher in Edmonton. His new book is Let’s Go Exploring: Calvin and Hobbes (ECW Press).
calgary.ca/CA/city-clerks/Documents/Council-policy-library/CSPS014Corporate-Public-Art-Policy.pdf 5 assembly.ab.ca/visitorcentre/abBranded.html
JULY – SEPTEMBER 2018
A MOST PRODUCTIVE YEAR CAROL HOLMES EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
The 2017/18 year has been a productive time for the Writers’ Guild of Alberta (WGA). The Youth Committee had been active, and the number of young writers in our membership is growing, a regular venue has been secured to host member nights in Edmonton, and WestWord has published three issues with a new design and format. With the generous support of the RBC Emerging Artists Project fund, we were able to continue the mentorship program with five apprentices and mentors. See the annual report on the WGA website for a full report on activities and finances. If you have questions or comments, please contact me. An Equity Task Force was struck as per a motion at the 2017 AGM. Thanks to task force members Alison Clark, Rona Altrows, Victoria Bailey, Stuart McKay, Catalina Morales and Julie Sedivy for their insight, energy and hard work. A report with recommendations has been submitted and tabled for a full review by board and staff and will be posted on the WGA website in the fall. The WGA received Canada Council for the Arts operational funding for a first time with $35,000 to be given annually for a three-year term beginning 2017/18. This funding, along with that of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, Calgary Arts Development and the Edmonton Arts Council, is a significant contribution to the operational costs of the WGA. We are grateful for their support and that provided for program costs through grants, foundations, sponsors and individual donors. Please see the list of supporters in the annual report and join us in offering them thanks. While funds have increased, we will remain vigilant in our spending and engage actively in fundraising and sponsorship to cover program costs, in particular for those of the mentorship program, rural outreach, the Borderlines program and its expansion to Calgary, and the Alberta Literary Awards. If you have suggestions for support or would like to discuss offering financial assistance, please contact me, your assistance would be appreciated. In April, I attended the Access Copyright AGM. The effect of the inclusion of education in the “fair dealing” exemption in the Copyright Modernization Act of 2012 remained a focus of the meeting. Since 2012, creators and publishers have seen a drastic reduction in their income for the use of their work by the education sector: $6,744,000 was distributed in 2017 to rights holders, a 46 per cent decline from 2016, and licensing royalties collected from the education sector declined by 89 per cent since 2012. A review of the Copyright Act is underway by the federal government’s Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. For ways that you can make your voice heard, please check the Access Copyright website and watch for postings in WriteClick. In closing, I would like to thank the board for its ongoing support and guidance this year with a special thanks to Anne Logan for her five years of incredible advice and inspiration. Thanks to the WGA staff for their hard work, skill and diligence; to our funders, sponsors and donors; and to our members—the heart of the WGA. I wish you all the best with your writing. THE WRITERS’ GUILD OF ALBERTA
NEW WGA BOARD
WELCOME NEW BOARD OF DIRECTORS At this year’s AGM, held on Sunday, June 3 in Calgary, the Writers’ Guild of Alberta voted for our new board. We are pleased to announce the 2018/19 WGA Board of Directors!
BACK ROW, LEFT TO RIGHT: CAROL HOLMES (WGA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR), LORI HAHNEL (SECRETARY), LESLIE CHIVERS (VICE PRESIDENT), CAROL PARCHEWSKY (PRESIDENT), SOPHIE PINKOSKI (YOUTH REP) AND LISA MULROONEY (MEMBER AT LARGE) FRONT ROW, LEFT TO RIGHT: ALISON CLARKE (MEMBER AT LARGE), DUSTIN ARCHIBALD (PAST PRESIDENT), FALON REED (TREASURER) AND JOAN CRATE (MEMBER AT LARGE) PHOTO CREDIT: MONIQUE DE ST. CROIX OF HIP IMAGE PHOTOGRAPHY
Carol received her BSc, Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of Saskatchewan, and her Postgraduate Certificates in Professional Management— PEG, e-Learning, and Creative Writing from the University of Calgary. She is a senior leader with experience in government and civic organizations and in the private sector. Currently, she is operations director of Legend Grafix, a graphic design house in Calgary. Carol writes picture books, middle grade, adult fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction. Her poetry and paintings were published in AWCS Alberta Skies Through Paint, Print, Poetry & Prose. She is finalizing her middle grade novel and working on a collection of interlinked short stories. When she is not writing or reading, she bakes cookies shaped like characters from her writing.
Leslie is an author currently living in Edmonton but who has lived all over Alberta. He attended university in the fine arts program majoring in visual arts and minoring in creative writing. He is a senior manager within a regional organization that looks at planning communities for a 50-year time frame. He has three short stories published and is working on a fulllength novel. Leslie is a member of PEN Canada. He believes in and advocates for free speech.
Lori is the author of two novels, Love Minus Zero (Oberon, 2008) and After You’ve Gone (Thistledown, 2014), as well as a story collection, Nothing Sacred (Thistledown, 2009), which was shortlisted for an Alberta Literary Award. Her work has been published in more than 40 journals in North America, Australia and the U.K. Her credits include CBC Radio, The Fiddlehead, Joyland and The Saturday Evening Post. Lori teaches creative writing at Mount Royal University, and the Alexandra Writers’ Centre, Calgary. She has been a WGA member since 1998.
JULY – SEPTEMBER 2018
NEW WGA BOARD
Member at Large
Falon has a BA of Applied Business Administration—Accounting from MacEwan University. She has previous experience with management accounting in industry and municipal finance. Falon is a freelance reporter for Redwater’s newspaper, The Review. She loves everything magical, so her focus is on middle grade, young adult and adult speculative fiction; however, she also writes literary short stories and creative nonfiction. Falon lives in the small town of Redwater with her husband, son and two daughters. She is the chair of the Fund Development Committee.
Alison Clarke is a writer/artist who also enjoys painting and drawing. She also experiences life as a spoken word artist. Alison is the author of The Sisterhood, a young adult fantasy novel. The Sisterhood is Book One of The Sisterhood Series, for which Alison won the award 2016 Writer Of The Year by Diversity magazine. The second book in the series is Racine, which continues the magical odyssey. It was nominated for Book Of The Year.
Lisa hails from Redditch, England, but now calls Stony Plain home. She has an Honours BA in English and a MEd, both from the University of Alberta. Lisa worked as a high school English/Drama teacher and as a postsecondary Administrator/Instructor. She is passionate about language and education but is most enthusiastic about poetry. While she has taken time away from full-time work to raise her young children, Lisa has been busy writing poetry and volunteering in the nonprofit sector. Lisa is the co-founder and current president of Parkland Poets in Stony Plain and the secretary of the Edmonton Stroll of Poets Society.
Past President DUSTIN ARCHIBALD Dustin is an author hailing from Grande Prairie, where he writes middle grade, young adult and adult fiction. Having been previously published in comic books, his focus is on speculative fiction and creating fantastic worlds. For two decades, he has been involved in technology, from game design to human-computer interfaces, having studied computing science at Grande Prairie Regional College. He is currently vice president and chief technology officer for Cudavision, a security and automation systems business. Since 1997, he has been involved in martial arts, first as a student then as volunteer head instructor with the People’s White Crane Kung Fu Association, and served on its board of directors as president and vice president. In his spare time, he reads, binge watches Netflix, and keeps a blog at DCArchibald.com where he reviews books, offers writing advice and highlights technology releases.
THE WRITERS’ GUILD OF ALBERTA
Member at Large JOAN CRATE Joan was born in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, and has lived in several towns and cities in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan, though her longest place of residence is Calgary. Several years after dropping out of high school, she took a communications diploma at what is now Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops. She worked in radio, writing commercials for four years, before attending the University of Calgary to take an Honours BA in English and then a masters with distinction, completing the first creative thesis at U of C. She taught English Literature and Creative Writing at Red Deer College, Alberta, for more than 20 years before returning to Calgary with her partner, Kamal Serhal. As well as having four adult children, she has two grandchildren. Joan is the author of two novels and three books of poetry. In May of 2017, her poem “I am a Prophet” was displayed on screen at the U2 concert in Vancouver. Her novel Black Apple was published by Simon and Schuster in 2016 and aside from being short-listed for the Frank Hegyi Award, it was the recipient of the 2016 City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Award.
Member at Large
Member at Large (Youth Representative) SOPHIE PINKOSKY Sophie has returned to her hometown of Edmonton full-time after building her literary experiences around the world. After completing her high school education in the U.K., she obtained her BA in English at the University of Victoria, where she gained a fanatical interest in Victorian literature and criminal history. She recently completed her masters in publishing from Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland, where she did marketing and editorial work for acclaimed authors and publishers, including Penguin Random House. Sophie has taken up editorial management roles in numerous projects in the past, from fiction and magazines to academic journals and business proposals. She currently does freelance editorial work through the Pinkoski Consulting company. As a previous member of the Society of Young Publishers U.K., she hopes to emulate the organization’s work as chair for the WGA’s Youth Committee. When not brainstorming ways to engage youth in Edmonton’s literary community, she is writing time travel novels and mentoring new writers.
ALBERTA LITERARY AWARDS
WINNERS OF THE
ALBERTA LITERARY AWARDS The Writers’ Guild of Alberta revealed the winners of the 2018 Alberta Literary Awards in Calgary on June 2. More than 120 guests attended the Alberta Literary Awards Gala in Hyatt Regency Calgary, Imperial Ballroom, as part of the WGA’s 2018 Conference, Refining Our Narratives. The Alberta Literary Awards were created by the Writers’ Guild of Alberta in 1982 to recognize excellence in writing by Alberta authors. This year, jurors deliberated over 260 submissions to select winners in eight categories. The winners of the 2018 Alberta Literary Awards are
R. ROSS ANNETT AWARD FOR CHILDREN’S LITERATURE
Sponsored by the Under the Arch Youth Foundation
• Sarah Everett (Edmonton) – Everyone We’ve Been, Knopf/Penguin Random House
GEORGES BUGNET AWARD FOR FICTION Sponsored by the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity
• Deborah Willis (Calgary) – The Dark and Other Love Stories, Hamish Hamilton Canada/Penguin Random House Canada
WILFRID EGGLESTON AWARD FOR NONFICTION • Stephen Bown (Canmore) – Island of the Blue Foxes: Disaster and Triumph on Bering’s Great Voyage to Alaska, Douglas & McIntyre
GWEN PHARIS RINGWOOD AWARD FOR DRAMA Sponsored by Alberta Views
• Karen Hines (Calgary) – Crawlspace, Coach House Books
STEPHAN G. STEPHANSSON AWARD FOR POETRY Sponsored by Stephan V. Benediktson
• Benjamin Hertwig (Edmonton) – Slow War, McGill-Queen’s University Press
JAMES H. GRAY AWARD FOR SHORT NONFICTION
JON WHYTE MEMORIAL ESSAY AWARD
Supported by the Writers’ Guild of Alberta Board of Directors
• Cynthia Scott Wandler (Morinville) – “ Things You Can’t Do With A Broken Left Arm”
WGA GOLDEN PEN AWARD FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT Supported by Aritha van Herk • Cecelia Frey
Our thanks go out to everyone who came to help us celebrate some of the highest standards of literary excellence within the province. The Writers’ Guild of Alberta would also like to offer our thanks to all of our award sponsors, supporters, and funders!
• Sadia Masud (Edmonton) – “ Taken Over By the West,” Glass Buffalo
HOWARD O’HAGAN AWARD FOR SHORT STORY Supported by Vanna Tessier and Guy Tessier
• Norma Dunning (Edmonton) – “Elipsee,” University of Alberta Press 7
JULY – SEPTEMBER 2018
ALBERTA LITERARY AWARDS
WGA CONFERENCE Scenes from the
2018 ALBERTA LITERARY AWARDS GALA
1. (L to R) WGA Executive Director Carol Holmes and Program Director for Calgary Samantha Warwick—with member and supporter Janet McMahen 2. Author Nancy Lee knocked it out of the park with her keynote lecture on Writing Through Difficult Times 3. (L to R) Conference participants including Shenaaz Nanji and Alison Clarke at Sheri-D Wilson’s workshop exploring creative process, poetry, voice and performance 4. (L to R) Presenters Clem Martini, Cobra Collins, Shawna Lemay and Matthew Stepanic discussed alternative forms and genre crossover 5. Participants of Ali Bryan and Cassie Stock’s session for Emerging Writers and the Second Novel drank some purple Kool-Aid 6. (L to R) Authors Shaun Hunter, Cecilia Frey, Aritha van Herk and Freehand Books Managing Editor Kelsey Attard at the Alberta Literary Awards 7. Benjamin Hertwig, recipient of the Stephan G. Stephansson Award for his poetry collection Slow War, published by McGill-Queen’s University Press (Sponsored by Stephan V. Benediktson) 8. Karen Hines (right), recipient, recipient of the Gwen Pharis Ringwood Award for her dramatic play, Crawlspace, published by Coach House Books. Pictured here with long-time supporter and founding editor of Alberta Views Jackie Flanagan (Sponsored by Alberta Views magazine) 9. Norma Dunning, recipient of the Howard O’Hagan Award for her short story “Elipsee,” published by the University of Alberta Press (Supported by Vanna Tessier and Guy Tessier) 10. Cecelia Frey, recipient of the WGA Golden Pen Award for Lifetime Achievement (Supported by Aritha van Herk) 11. Cynthia Scott Wandler, recipient of the Jon Whyte Memorial Essay Award for her essay “Things You Can’t Do With A Broken Left Arm” (Supported by the Writers’ Guild of Alberta Board of Directors) 12. Stephen Bown, recipient of the Wilfrid Eggleston Award for Nonfiction for Island of the Blue Foxes: Disaster and Triumph on Bering’s Great Voyage to Alaska, published by Douglas & McIntyre 13. Deborah Willis (right), recipient of the Georges Bugnet Award for Fiction for her collection The Dark and Other Love Stories, published by Hamish Hamilton Canada / Penguin Random House Canada (Sponsored by the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity) 14. (L to R) WGA Board member Joan Crate with authors Leslie Greentree and Blaine Newton 15. Natalie Cook, WGA Program Coordinator and Host of the Alberta Literary Awards THANKS TO SAMANTHA WARWICK FOR SELECTING PHOTOS AND PROVIDING CAPTIONS. PHOTO CREDIT: MONIQUE DE ST. CROIX OF HIP IMAGE PHOTOGRAPHY
THE WRITERS’ GUILD OF ALBERTA
WRITE/RIGHT: LAW FOR WRITERS
TIME TO WALK THE COPYRIGHT TALK JEANANNE KIRWIN, Q.C.
y first two WestWord columns explained the ongoing copyright law review and the damage caused by the 2012 introduction of the educational purposes fair dealing exception. You read what the exception is and what the educational sector considers it to be; how the new exception has adversely affected both writers and publishers; and why it must be repealed or substantially clarified so content users will compensate creators. The facts, the figures and the unfairness. Bottom line: Canadian stories matter to the public and therefore to politicians. If writers are not paid to write, high-quality current Canadian literature will be rarer. Such content will not be taught in the classrooms of our next generation. A coalition of associations across the creative industries understands this issue. “We entrust Canadian creators to tell our stories,” runs the motto of I Value Canadian Stories (ivaluecanadianstories.ca). Inspired by the coalition’s emphasis on narrative, it is timely to share stories. This past May, the federal Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology (INDU) toured Canadian cities from east to west, collecting testimony directly from individual creators and publishers. Regrettably, INDU did not touch down in Alberta. However, Matt Bin, past president of the Canadian Authors Association and current secretary of the Canadian Copyright Institute, did attend when INDU convened at a Toronto hotel. “The room was not very full,” he lamented. On the positive side, all but one speaker addressed the need to compensate use of literary materials fairly. “A nonfiction writer said her publisher’s royalty payments dropped because schools were no longer buying her books—they were just copying from them,” said Bin. “A fiction author said his revenue had gone way down because Access Copyright payments had decreased.” The
more creators must rely on day-job income to survive, the less time they have to create. That means reduced output. It is that simple. Another story came from Glenn Rollans, president of the Association of Canadian Publishers (ACP). In that capacity, he too was a witness for INDU. “I’m amazed I’ve had to devote so much time advocating for such a simple principle: [that using something without paying for it causes harm to those who created it]. Especially since if [educational institutions] were to lose the battle and have to agree to licenses or obey [long-standing] tariffs, their lives and operations would go on essentially unchanged, whereas losing copyright protection for writers and publishers is truly an existential issue.” One ACP member related an anecdote illustrating the “huge problem” educational institutions have imposed upon independent publishers. The publisher received an enquiry from an Ontario university professor about a book to be released. The professor sent her course outline, which showed no textbook, but rather a list of book chapters and journal articles posted online for student access. Imagine the publisher’s surprise to note the syllabus included several chapters from books he had published or was about to publish, chapters the university had never requested permission to copy. “The most galling aspect of this,” said the publisher, “is that the prof asked us to provide her with a free copy of the [new] book!” Will that free copy be used to make unlimited copies for students? If so, then the university will have used but not paid the publisher for a single copy of that book. It is impossible for publishers to know “how much of this is going on.” However, “it surely illustrates why payments for our work through copyright have decreased so drastically. [It also shows] how much educators value the content we produce … and the complete disregard for how others make their living.” 9
Last, a personal story. To walk my talk, I met with my Member of Parliament Randy Boissonnault. I recapped the history of the educational purposes exception and outlined recent litigation. Access sued York University and won. York appealed. The provincial ministries of education have now sued Access. His eyebrows went way up when I mentioned that last lawsuit. Following our meeting, Boissonnault wrote a letter to his colleagues at INDU, advocating for creators. He grasped the problem and its solution: removing or limiting the scope of the fair dealing exception for educational purposes. Jeananne Kirwin, Q.C., a lawyer in Edmonton, practices in the areas of intellectual property and corporate/commercial law with an emphasis on trademark and copyright registration and enforcement (kirwinllp.com).
TAKE ACTION Writers must speak up now, while the federal government is still listening. The educational sector is lobbying vigorously and so, too, must we.
What you can do:
• Join I Value Canadian Stories: ivaluecanadianstories.ca • Write your MP: ourcommons.ca/ Parliamentarians/en/members/addresses • Submit a brief to INDU: firstname.lastname@example.org —a guide is available on the government website: ourcommons.ca/About/Guides/ Brief-e.html
JULY – SEPTEMBER 2018
Everyone drinks, it was not my fault this reader happened to be an alcoholic. Besides, what did she expect? I am a writer; the drink is in our blood. THE WRITERSâ€™ GUILD OF ALBERTA
THE DRINK IS IN THE BLOOD Reversing the writers’ curse
art of my daily work used to be crafting social media posts to reflect my writing business’s (that is, my) personality. Unfortunately, I believed my character to be best reflected through photos of alcoholic drinks. An Amaro-filtered shot of a bottle of Writers’ Tears Whiskey captioned “Write Drunk” (misappropriated to Hemingway, naturally), implied not only was I fun, but obviously classy and intelligent enough to handle a technical writing project, too. These uploads grew my page audience and (theoretically) my client base.
you.” Moments later I received a message from a long-time client. A hobby writer herself, she was supportive of my work, sharing my short stories and sending paying clients my way. She wrote she was sorry to unfollow my account and wished me the best in the future.
One evening I posted a staged shot of my desk: a glass of red wine in the glow of a Word document (the rest of the bottle less visible, hidden in the shadows of an applied vignette filter). The caption read: “You must stay drunk on writing, so reality cannot destroy
I winced at the thought of my dumb updates causing another to trip (not to mention that their frequency had been noticed). But then, indignation is far easier to process than shame. Everyone drinks, it was not my fault this reader happened
It was not personal, she insisted—she was trying to quit drinking. “And you post about alcohol a lot,” she wrote. Cringe.
JULY – SEPTEMBER 2018
COVER FEATURE to be an alcoholic. Besides, what did she expect? I am a writer; the drink is in our blood.
number of First Responders to be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) within the course of their careers. With statistics like these and folk sense to boot, it feels safe to claim alcoholism as the writer’s occupational hazard: our industry’s mascot disease.
Knowing she would not read what I posted next, I uploaded a snarky meme: I’d rather be someone’s shot of whisky than everyone’s cup of tea.
This is a strange and interesting thing to consider when compared to the sensitivity extended to other industry diseases associated with mental health. After all, first responders are known to develop exceptionally dark humour to cope with PTSD, but even they do not apply the morbid glibness we do to our dead in articles like “Alcoholic Writers and Their Favorite Drinks” or “How to Drink Like Kerouac” (dead, age 47, liver failure). Dentistry has a problem with suicidal ideation, but it is unfathomable to think of International Orthodontics magazine fetishizing their doctors’ deaths as Vice magazine did in “Last Words.” The magazine's fashion spread replicated female authors (the majority of whom had documented chronic alcohol abuse or died under the influence) in the final moments of their suicides. Similarly, fashion models are as known for the development of eating disorders as we are for our progressive illness, but imagine the criticism if laxative companies brandished products named Runway Ready and Beauty Purge in the same vein of our Writer’s Tears Whisky or Writer’s Block Wine. In fact, when the reality of this disease and our community’s vulnerability to it is considered, well, the number of events we centre around alcohol feels about as sensible as holding the Paralympics in a facility without wheelchair ramps. During the time I used my professional identity to cling to a self-protected lie, others were harmed by our community’s failure to accommodate recovery.
The image received a quick round of “likes,” and I resolved not to think of the message again. And I did not. Not until almost a year later, when scrolling the curated Instagram profile of a writers’ festival. Weeks earlier the event had gained the financial sponsorship of a bar and its daily photos of celebrity authors, poetry readings and book covers had been replaced by sparkling martinis and handsome bartenders, amber pints beside dog-eared manuscripts, fingers pinching wineglass stems in place of pens. Smiling scribes raised glasses; their drinks offered to the camera symbols of camaraderie, success, celebration. From my lonely office, the images were gorgeous and glamorous and extremely unwelcome. I clicked unfollow. It was not personal—I just had to quit drinking. ••• While it is true that most of the world indulges, writers in recovery are far from alone. In the last 50 years, countless artists have shared their stories of achieved sobriety: Stephen King, Mary Karr, Anne Lamott, John Cheever. Before that, recovery was rare; the Modernists typically died young or lost their talents to the disease. But despite the suicides, heart attacks and liver failures, their public scandals gave rise to the mythos of the booze-fueled genius that both our community and pop culture has come to cherish. Sure, there were and are legendary writers unaffected by alcoholism— Jane Austin, Emily Dickinson, Flannery O’Connor, Phillip Roth, J.K. Rowling—but they have often seemed the exception, and seem to know it. For instance, when asked by an admirer how he achieved (and doubly surpassed) the prolific longevity F. Scott Fitzgerald believed impossible, John Updike referenced the fact he did not drink. He did not note this to take a dig at the self-described “well-known alcoholic” but because, as part of the western literary world, Updike knew his sobriety to be rare.
Erin Shaw Street is a former journalist; health, wellness and medical writer; and magazine editor whose 20-year career has repeatedly been affected by our industry’s attitudes toward alcohol. Starting out as “an incredibly shy young writer,” Street suffered acute performance and social anxieties. “It was really difficult to come out of my shell,” she recalls of her early newspaper days. “Of course, we’d all congregate at the bar afterwards. I came to see alcohol as a way to unwind from the stress of the newsroom, as well as to shed insecurities.” What began as occasional heavy drinking devolved into active addiction when she moved into food, travel and lifestyle writing; a niche in which daily happy hours and the office cocktail cart were considered necessary for project development, professional networking and team morale. Despite the deep internal conflict, Street’s skills soon landed her the position of Southern Living magazine’s deputy editor, a role she held until recruited by a creative marketing agency. But professional success and repeated attempts to moderate could not prevent Street from her “final rock bottom.” After weeks of white-knuckled abstinence, she suffered her last relapse at a work conference. When asked about the role her occupation played in the disease’s progression, Street is certain: “My experience in this industry resulted in the development of a serious addiction. I was a writer. I thought writers drank.”
While statistics around modern writers and alcohol use are scarce, what science we do have adds credibility to the stereotype. In research for his book, Alcohol and the Writer, Donald W. Goodwin, chair of the department of psychiatry at the University of Kansas Medical Center, found more writers die of cirrhosis of the liver than workers of almost any other occupation. In fact, the only profession to report higher levels of the disease is bartending. In a longitudinal study by the University of Iowa, Professor of Psychiatry Nancy J. Anderson found 30 percent of writers developed diagnosed alcohol use disorders over the course of 15 years, compared to only 7 percent of the study’s control group of non-writers. For perspective, this percentage is the same THE WRITERS’ GUILD OF ALBERTA
COVER FEATURE So, am I proposing we forsake our literary pubs and enforce a preventative prohibition on all wordsmiths? Of course not. As both a writer and parent, I treasure cozy, cultured, child-free spaces as much as anyone. And while media depicts those who suffer alcohol’s negative qualities as either uncontrollable crave-monsters or fraught figures forever tiptoeing the tightrope between relapse and teetotalism, alcohol use disorder exists on a broad spectrum and recovery is as unique as each person. Yes, there are those who suffer such severe emotional or physical dependencies that any proximity to alcohol creates risk. For the majority of us, the risk is not in the existence of alcohol but the unexamined marketing of it. It is in the tribalism that fashions substance use into identity and diminishes those who do not partake as un-“real.” (“After all,” asks Madison Avenue, “what is a writer without whisky, a mother without wine, a feminist without her limited-edition Jane Walker Scotch?”) The danger is in the privileged reluctance to practice inclusion when we want vice. It is in the false promotion of an addictive and mind-altering liquid as both universally benign and vital for social participation, pleasure, and connection.
The support of a fellow artist-in-recovery led Street into lasting sobriety, but even one year later alcohol continued to affect her career. Laid off due to downsizing, she was thrilled to be offered a spot at a multiday, invitation-only workshop associated with a celebrated literary conference until she realized what the retreat would entail. “I thought the workshop would be great, especially because I was feeling a bit lost. An amazing week with all these amazing writers I really respected! And then I realized, ‘Oh, there’s going to be a lot of drinking.’” Divulging her hard-won sobriety before accepting the invitation, Street inquired of the culture surrounding the event and was informed the writers attending traditionally “worked hard all day and played hard at night.” Eager to make the training work, she searched online for 12-step meetings to fill her evenings, but the workshop’s location proved too remote. “I wouldn’t have been able to write all day and stay alone in my room at night,” Street explains. “I didn’t know if my sobriety was solid enough to say no to alcohol, especially given my history with travel and isolation as a trigger to drinking. I’d gone to too many writing events and woken up with the shame and regret of a blackout. It was too soon to risk it again.”
Yes, there are those who suffer such severe emotional or physical dependencies that any proximity to alcohol creates risk. For the majority of us, the risk is not in the existence of alcohol but the unexamined marketing of it.
Ultimately, she declined the professional development. Now celebrating over two years, Street recently launched the Tell Better Stories project, a campaign challenging storytellers, culture-shapers and content-makers to re-examine the narratives they create around consumption and to explore ways in which they can include those who abstain both in the content they create and through in-person experiences. “There are many editors, writers, and decision makers who just don’t know any better,” Street says. “I didn’t know any better.” While decreased access to the community is a typical experience for writers in recovery, our professional focus on this recreational substance alienates more than just writers battling addiction. For some writers of faith that our circles claim to support—even attending alcohol-centred events is taboo. For those who have loved ones in recovery, gestures as small as clicking “Attending” on an event’s Facebook page can present moral dilemmas—how does one reconcile supporting a spouse while publicly RSVPing to get-togethers like Booze and Books? Others abstain for medical reasons, and some because of the substance’s role in past trauma. Many pursue recovery, not because of addiction but because even moderate use triggers in them destruction similar to that experienced by the women of Vice’s “Last Words.” There are even those who reject the promotion of drinking culture on social-political principles, including those who see it through a lens of Truth and Reconciliation. Writer Harold Johnson presents alcohol in his book, Firewater: How Alcohol is Killing My People (And Yours), as a systematically employed tool of colonization.
But there are concrete ways in which we can acknowledge our community’s unique vulnerabilities, practice better inclusivity, and accommodate all. To paraphrase from the world’s most popular recovery program: the first step is to acknowledge there is a problem. Addiction did not die with its literary legends; be aware of the fact there are people in your social circles invisibly struggling. And knowing this, consider the attitudes you promote—if you are not in the club, do not make the jokes. The second solution comes from Street’s Tell Better Stories project, which routinely reminds, “don’t assume everyone drinks.” If a community event is a truly open invitation, drop words like “wine,” “lush” and “alcohol” from event names, even if the respective alliteration with “writers” and “literary” and “authors” is deliciously tempting. When promoting writing or community events on 13
JULY – SEPTEMBER 2018
COVER FEATURE social media, consider the imagery you choose: must that wine stock photo advertise the launch of a book that has nothing to do with Chardonnay? Do you need to hold a pint in your author photo, or do you not know what to do with your hands? If you are a part of the literary community, audience members likely follow you for stories, insights, news, and not for amateur liquor ads (the industry itself spends $160 million annually; we don't need more produced for free).
By divine or coincidental timing, I happened to sell my technical writing business less than one month before hitting my own “final rock bottom.” Now 19 months sober, I post of health instead of illness. Readers add heart emojis to comment sections before sharing on their platforms the same drink-as-lifestyle content I would have “liked.” There is a disconnect between our theoretical celebration of recovery and social promotion of addiction, which is a strange and interesting thing to consider.
Last, remember that a lack of an option is pressure. Modern psychology insists willpower is a finite resource and while one might succeed in making initial healthy choices (such as declining the first couple of drink offers), even the strongest resolve wears, particularly when one feels isolated by his or her choice of drink. Abstaining makes events like author readings/drink pairings especially precarious as one is not only forced to decline multiple drinks in a short amount of time, but is also aware the drinks they refuse are meant to make up exactly half of the fun. An excellent way to support others in this kind of setting is to provide (and advertise) creative soft pairing options alongside the hard. Crafted mocktails are a delight when compared to the usual offerings of
For the average person, there is more danger in carefully sharing stories of sobriety than in thoughtlessly posting wino memes. You begin to realize the reason for anonymity. Despite having achieved higher levels of health, happiness, safety, and productivity, to disclose of one’s recovery is to risk raised insurance premiums, a loss of income or future professional opportunities, social alienation, misunderstanding, or emotional vulnerability. In some situations, evidence as benign as this article could be used to limit a parent’s child custody or to withhold financial settlement. In this way, a culture of silence is created. Addiction statistics rise, but people forget we are here.
We are a profession known for boozing, yes, but also for sensitivity, intelligence, and compassion. We are writers, and we can help one another and everyone else, too; we can make space and prop the efforts of those who are trying to quit drinking. Count us: we are multitudes. But this is the writer’s disease, and we are writers. While it is personal, it is occupational, too. And be it divine or coincidental, our risks may be less than the average person's—our incomes already meagre and eccentricity expected. We were likely born socially introverted—not much to risk there. Shameless, we are seasoned in hanging our hearts on the page, in withstanding criticism, misunderstanding, rejection. Most important, we are not alone. We are a profession known for boozing, yes, but also for sensitivity, intelligence, and compassion. We are writers, and we can help one another and everyone else, too; we can make space and prop the efforts of those who are trying to quit drinking. Count us: we are multitudes.
stale coffee, carbonated syrup, or lukewarm tap water, and the ability to choose between a book-inspired vodka cocktail or an equally inspired Crushed Sage and Blueberry Placebo Sip, for example, feels far less a sacrifice than a spoil of choice. This tip also extends to the outfitting of formal events. If adding wines to a gala table, for example, consider complimenting each with a bottle of San Pellegrino—it is much easier to decline a colleague’s friendly pour when one’s glass is already full. Pubs that pride themselves as literary haunts should also extend this spirit of accommodation, as to love our community should be to make space for all. Besides, the world’s best watering holes are already adapting to a more health-conscious society by expanding nonalcoholic beer and wine menus, experimenting with placebo cocktails, dry sodas, kava concoctions, distilled faux-spirits, or even offering kombucha on tap. This thoughtfulness welcomes and supports people in recovery, pregnant or nursing women, designated drivers, and almost all who choose not to drink.
And who, greater than us, to tell those better stories? Katie Bickell is the recipient of the WGA’s Young/Emerging Writer Award 2017, AlbertaViews Fiction Award 2015, Howard O’Hagan Award 2014 and Voices of Motherhood Essay Prize 2011. Her debut short story collection, But for the Streetlamps and The Moon and All the Stars, is currently seeking representation. She lives in Sherwood Park, Alberta, with her husband and daughters. For more information, visit katiebickell.com.
••• THE WRITERS’ GUILD OF ALBERTA
GIVING VOICE TO INDIGENOUS MOTHERS WHO WRITE Scholarship for Indigenous, Métis and Inuit Mothers Who Write! offers hope and validates recipients’ writing
ake equal parts kindness, commitment, love and passion, combine them with a desire to help Indigenous writers who are mothers struggling with time and finances and you get the Kemosa Scholarship for Indigenous, Métis and Inuit Mothers Who Write! The scholarship, established by Dr. Nhung Tran-Davies, with assistance from 2017 Edmonton Metro Libraries Writer In Residence Richard Van Camp, was awarded to four recipients in 2017. “You know when something sparks when you feel that passion, that fire? That this is something that you can do, that you're capable of doing? I seized the idea and said I wanted to be part of this. I want to create a scholarship for these women,” said Tran-Davies. Helping Indigenous mothers to find the time to write was a concept Tran-Davies connected with on a variety of levels. She is a mother. She is also a writer (Ten Cents a Pound, 2018). She knows what a struggle it can be to set aside the time to write. But what she is not, is Indigenous to North America. Tran-Davies came to Canada escaping the Vietnam War when she was five years old. Her sponsor family advocated for social justice and often took Tran-Davies and her family to nearby First Nation communities to participate in powwows and feasts. While exposed to the Indigenous culture at an early age, it was not until the work of the
Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission combined with her practice as a physician in the Calmar-Devon area that Tran-Davies began to fully appreciate the complex struggle of Indigenous people. As a physician with income security, she had the finances available to establish a scholarship geared toward Indigenous mothers. The intention was a single scholarship of $1,000 as the funding would be coming from her household. However, that amount soon burgeoned to four awards (three winners and an honourable mention) at $2,250. “When I read through the submissions, I was just amazed by how beautiful the writing was, how high a calibre, how wonderful these writers are that I couldn’t just award one person the thousand dollars,” said Tran-Davies. Van Camp, a Tłı˛cho˛ writer from the Northwest Territories, judged the submissions and he and Tran-Davies decided on the recipients together. Applicants had one month to submit cover letters with up to 15 pages of sample writing. Nine entries were received from Indigenous mothers in Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories. Many were single mothers raising two or three children on their own, battling through their struggles and trying to make time to write when their children were sleeping. 15
“Even though the amount [of the award] may not be huge, it may make a little bit of difference in terms of the bills being paid so they can have some peace of mind to be able to explore their creativity … to express their voice in the way they want,” said Tran-Davies. JULY – SEPTEMBER 2018
DR. NHUNG TRAN-DAVIES
“To have a scholarship that’s very specific to Indigenous mothers is just great,” said first place winner Rhonda Gladue. It is a sentiment voiced by all the scholarship recipients—Catherine Lafferty, Brittany Johnson and Paige Cardinal.
benefit I got out of it is that I’m on the right track, that I’m doing something that is meaningful and that I’m getting recognized. I would do it no matter what, but it’s nice to have that recognition.”
Paige Cardinal, with the Bigstone Cree Nation and attending the University of Alberta in Edmonton, earned an honourable mention and received $500 through the scholarship. Her case was unique, said Tran-Davies. “She had a dream of buying a camera to finish her thesis. I was so moved by her story. Her writing is just beautiful.”
“As a mom and a writer, I found that a lot of time being a mom always comes first with things, which is kind of how I live my life anyway,” said Johnson. “I felt supported to do that creative side of myself.” Rhonda Gladue is a single mother of three children, who writes creative nonfiction, short stories, fiction and young adult. She said the $1,000 allowed her to “keep pushing forward” and devote more time to writing. Growing up, Gladue split her time between the Saddle Lake reserve and Edmonton, and now she is a substitute teacher with the Alexander First Nation. She said it is critical Indigenous children see themselves in the stories they read. “Sometimes just writing these stories helps me feel that I’m giving them something they can relate to or that they know they’re not isolated in their experiences,” she said. “It’s also about having hope and being able to overcome these circumstances.” Catherine Lafferty, a mother of two, living in Yellowknife and affiliated with the Dene First Nation, was second place winner and received $500. With the money, she was able to pay some bills. “More than anything, it just gives me that confidence I need to keep writing,” she said. “The THE WRITERS’ GUILD OF ALBERTA
This fall, Lafferty’s memoir Northern Wildflower will be published by Fernwood Publishing, out of Halifax. It took her two years to write her memoir and then another two years for the editing process. Lafferty also “dabbles” in poetry; her poem “Full Circle” was longlisted in the 2017 CBC Poetry Contest. Brittany Johnson, who is Métis, a mother of two and lives in Beaumont, received $250. She will be using that money for a weekend away to allow herself time to focus on her writing. Johnson writes both fiction and poetry. Four of her poems will appear in an upcoming edition of the magazine Birth Issues. While she has written and performed her songs, this is the first time her creative work is being published.
I think it’s amazing that someone wanted to create a scholarship for Indigenous moms ... I’m honoured. I’m excited to see in the future how this can be a stepping stone for both myself and others who win this scholarship — BRITTANY JOHNSON
Cardinal’s story includes her struggle with postpartum depression. Tran-Davies awarded Cardinal with enough money to buy a camera and pay some bills. She received a thank you letter from Cardinal that included a photograph with her poetry work. “To get a thank you, it was so moving. At this point, I couldn't give all that I wanted to give yet it was enough that it did afford [Cardinal] a camera. She was able to do what she wanted to do. It was very touching," said Tran-Davies. "I was just grateful because I wanted a camera for a long time. I combine my poetry with photography,” said Cardinal. She has won awards and had a poetry/ photography collection published in Glass Buffalo literary magazine in 2016. For all scholarship recipients, the win has validated their writing. “I think it’s amazing that someone wanted to create a scholarship for Indigenous moms ... I’m honoured. I’m excited to see in the future how this can be a stepping stone for both myself and others who win this scholarship,” said Johnson.
FEATURE Tran-Davies would like the Kemosa Scholarship to be awarded annually. To that end, she will be approaching financial institutions to co-sponsor with her to increase the funding and increase the program’s profile. She would also like to recruit a panel of Indigenous judges. Kemosa is comprised of the first two letters of each of Tran-Davies’ three children—daughters Kenya and Monet, and son Sage. “I want them to be a part of something that gives hope and opportunities to women and to help create a better world through their voices,” said Tran-Davies.
The recipients also agree the scholarship allows them to continue to raise their voices “because the voice is all we have … to initiate change and improve the world. And voice gives knowledge and education to the people who are reading them, and
these women have so many wonderful stories to tell,” said Tran-Davies. She hopes the award has given them the lift up necessary to continue writing their stories and getting them published so the world can understand and respect one another.
More information about the scholarship is available at KemosaScholarship@yahoo.com. Shari Narine is the author of Oil Change at Rath’s Garage and is working on her second adult literary novel. She is a freelance journalist and editor.
auth rs Writers helping writers since 1921
Autumn Workshop Series
RICHARD VAN CAMP September 28 - 29 SG WONG, E.C. BELL, JAYNE BARNARD October 26 - 27 LEXIE HANCOCK November 23 - 24
JULY – SEPTEMBER 2018
BREAKING FROM THE CHAOS AND QUIETING THE NOISE A meditation on solitude and creativity
I sometimes wonder if I have a fear of being alone. When I am alone, I learn something about myself, and I worry I will not like it.
urrounded by others all day and crushed by the noise of the Internet, I often struggle to slow my thoughts and pace enough to write. Because most of my day is turned outwards—getting information, communicating, checking my to-do list, meetings—it is hard to turn back inwards and write about what I have to say. But if I do not, how can the stories in my head come out? How can the solutions to the dead ends and traps in my storylines reveal themselves? “Without solitude, I can’t hear myself think or access my true voice. It’s such an essential part of creative living for me,” said Nicole Gulotta, blogger and author of Eat This Poem: A Literary Feast of Recipes Inspired by Poetry. I need solitude to create. When I have not had time to be alone and write down my ideas, I get cranky and lash out at those closest to me. Like a snow-bound runner who has not been able to get out and run, I become antsy and stir-crazy. “Solitude for the writer is hard and glorious and essential. It’s like a good marriage: The more you commit to it, never giving up no matter how difficult things get, the more grace and mystery is revealed to you,” said Ann Tashi Slater, in her HuffPost article, “Writing and Solitude.” What are grace and mystery? Space to think. The ability to be in the moment— not looking back or planning forward. It is stillness and quiet, or at least nothing fighting for your attention. Reflection.
THE WRITERS’ GUILD OF ALBERTA
It is the ability to hear the stories in your mind and to listen to what your imagination tells you. Breaking from the chaos. Quieting the noise. Silencing the chatter. The gifts that solitude hold are different for every writer, and making space for them in a busy schedule requires discipline and creativity. It is a negotiation, a trade-off between silence and solitude and everything else. “A restorer of energy, the stillness of alone experiences provides us with much-needed rest. It brings forth our longing to explore, our curiosity about the unknown, our will to be an individual, our hopes for freedom. Alone time is fuel for life,” writes Ester Buchholz, in “The Call of Solitude,” published in Psychology Today. I, like many writers, do not have long, uninterrupted blocks of time in which everyone and everything goes away and I can create in silence. Usually, the television is on, the phone is ringing and binging, or someone is asking something of me. I must pay the bills, feed the kids, and love the spouse. Time alone to create is pushed aside because of guilt, or exhaustion, or lack of time. “I used to wait for solitude and silence, demand it,” said Shawna Lemay, Edmonton blogger and author of The Flower Can Always Be Changing (2018). “But if I did that now, I’d just never write. So what I’ve learned to do is to cultivate an inner quiet, an inner solitude. It travels with me.”
FEATURE One of the joys and incomprehensible mysteries of the writing process is the conflict between the external and the internal—going out into the world to see and hear what is happening and then going back inside to my thoughts to figure out how I fit (or not) into the world. This past winter, I planned a solo DIY writing retreat to a cabin in the mountains. On the drive there, I wondered if I would be able to write. I gave myself just over 24 hours, but with all that quiet, would I sit frozen at the computer screen calling myself a fake and a failure because nothing would come? Would the quiet silence me? I need not have worried. I wrote 9,000 words. I walked with my dog. I got closer to animals than I ever have before. I breathed in the sweet mountain air. I marvelled at how beautiful the world is, and I understood I have something of value to say. And I realized again; I am a writer. Works cited Buchholz, Ester. “The Call of Solitude.” Psychology Today. Updated June 9, 2016. psychologytoday.com/articles/199801/thecall-solitude Fassler, Joe. “What Great Artists Need: Solitude.” The Atlantic. February 4, 2014. theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/ 2014/02/what-great-artists-needsolitude/283585/
My surroundings, schedule and mood will never line up to provide the ideal writing environment, and if I wait for perfection, I will never write. I sometimes have an hour or two in the evening, and I write when I am a passenger in a car on long road trips. Often, I have an empty Sunday I fill with a few hours of writing—if I take it. And that may be the crux of it all. If I look closely, I do have time, but I hesitate, and then weeks go by and I have not written. “Artistic solitude is a decision to turn and face these feelings, to sit with them for long periods of time,”
says Joe Fassler in “What Great Artists Need: Solitude,” published in The Atlantic. Could there be something else? I sometimes wonder if I have a fear of being alone. When I am alone, I learn something about myself, and I worry I will not like it. What if I have nothing to say? What if no one wants to listen to me? What if the mean girls in Grade 5 were right and I am a “Boring Nobody”? What if I submit my story and I do not get a rejection letter? If you send out a story and there is no response, are you even a writer? 19
Gulotta, Nicole. Eat This Poem: A Literary Feast of Recipes Inspired by Poetry. Boulder, Colorado: Roost Books. 2017. Blog: Eat This Poem. eatthispoem.com Lemay, Shawna. The Flower Can Always Be Changing. Windsor, Ontario: Palimpsest Press. 2018. Blog: “Transactions with Beauty.” transactionswithbeauty.com Slater, Ann Tashi. “Writing and Solitude.” HuffPost. Updated December 6, 2017. huffingtonpost.com/ann-tashi-slater/writingand-solitude_b_6814238.html Laura Barakeris is a writer and editor who lives in Edmonton. She is making her way through an architecture degree and working on a memoir about building a cabin in the woods. JULY – SEPTEMBER 2018
LETTING THE MONSTERS OUT OF THE BOX Fear must not hobble our creative reach
t a dinner at an Indian restaurant, my young friend Astrid (name changed) complained about her boyfriend’s reluctance to see a doctor about a lump in his side. Nagging just drove him into the garage or out to the bar, so she resorted to schadenfreude. She invented a comic character called “Lumpy”—a sunglass-wearing, crimefighting fatty deposit with stick arms and legs whose superpowers come from the toxic chemicals in cigarettes. Although Lumpy had a compelling moral compass, he had no penis. Telling me this between mouthfuls of dal and naan, Astrid cocked her head reflectively and mused: “Maybe it’s because he has no penis that he has a strong moral compass.” My outburst of laughter brought the old cook and his wife from the kitchen to make sure everything was okay. When I recovered, I remembered to cluck at Astrid’s regressive stereotype of masculinity. In the way that old friends riff stories, Lumpy reminded me of one about a monstrous lump I had not thought about for years. My writer friend Joe's first wife, Audrey (names changed), believed she was pregnant. What was growing in Audrey’s body turned out to THE WRITERS’ GUILD OF ALBERTA
be a teratoma, a kind of trashcan growth formed from discarded embryonic cells that continue to live and thrive as they seek lodging in the body. No room at the inn? Try the brain, near the tailbone, in a testicle or an ovary. The word teratoma derives from the Greek: teras, monster, and oma, unusual condition. These tumour-like lumps can harbour body parts and organs; teeth, hair and eyes; and even brains. A quick Google search will take you to a grisly cabinet of grotesqueries. The teratoma they took out of Audrey's body was the size of a grapefruit. It had five teeth, red hair, the beginnings of an eye and some smatterings of small bones. Audrey and Joe did not last, and years after the divorce, Audrey tragically took her life. By then, Joe had married a fierce woman who was a friend of Margaret Atwood. Joe told me he and his wife, “Dragon Lady,” took a birding trip to Cuba with Margaret and her husband, Graeme Gibson. On that trip, Joe told Atwood the story of Audrey's teratoma. Not long afterwards, the tale appeared in Atwood’s short story “Hairball,” a revenge tale in which a hip young woman engaged in an affair with her married 20
boss thinks she is pregnant. What is growing inside her is a teratoma. After it is surgically removed, she asks her doctor to give her the growth. The doctor presents the large lump to her in a jar of formaldehyde, which she displays like a perverse trophy on her mantle. Soon after, the affair with her boss craters and he fires her. Still wonky from the surgery, she unbottles the lump, rinses it, wraps it in saran wrap, nestles it in a gift-wrapped box of expensive chocolates, and calls a cab to deliver it to the uptight cocktail party hosted by her ex-boss and his wife. Surprise! When I arrived home from dinner with Astrid, I found the story in Atwood's collection Wilderness Tips and reread it. What a strange experience to know something of the real-life backstory of a fictional experiment. And that ricocheted me to a memory of my encounter with one of Joe’s short stories where he used my husband Mark and me as prototypes for psychically warped characters. The backstory: For several winters, Mark had a routine of taking our old friend, also Marc, swimming at a city pool designed for the disabled. Marc had had his right leg amputated above the knee and exercise
Writers play a kind of god game. We invent whole people, whole worlds drawn from our personal and historical realities, and we synthesize this inspiration with people and plots we create. was part of his rehabilitation therapy. Both friends looked forward to the weekly swims, followed by a pint. In Joe’s story, however, the husband/friend was distorted into a kind of psychic vampire, creepily flaunting his able body and his self-righteous moral goodness in the pool full of people with seriously compromised bodies and minds. The wife in the story, based on me, was a harpy whose toxic unhappiness helped mould her husband's smarmy hypocrisy. I do not think Joe ever intended for me to read his story. As far as I know, he never published it. I came across a printout accidentally while looking for something to read before sleep at a mutual friend's. Reading it, I was unnerved by deep shock. I was somewhat surprised by my reaction since I have also used real people and events for inspiration in my writing. But even though I defend the rights of writers to draw from a wide and free range of inspiration and expression, reading that story, I felt impaled, betrayed by the savagery with which Joe had distorted us into freakish funhouse mirror images of ourselves. I never told Joe about this, but I never felt entirely comfortable around him again.
I am not the only writer to have wrestled with a sense of moral responsibility to protect those whose lives we exploit for inspiration. In a recent issue of Geist (“Hot Pulse.” Geist. Volume 107, Winter 2017) writer J. Jill Robinson laments the loss of an old friendship because of a story she published based on her friend’s life. “I am sorry I caused you pain,” she writes. “But I thought it was okay.” Writers play a kind of god game. We invent whole people, whole worlds drawn from our personal and historical realities, and we synthesize this inspiration with people and plots we create. This realization led me to reconsider Mary Shelley’s infamous Dr. Frankenstein in this year’s 200th anniversary of her prophetic novel’s publication. The ambitious doctor dreams of creating a master race that would worship him and sets about cobbling a creature from body parts scavenged from graveyards and charnel houses. But when his monster comes to life, Dr. Frankenstein is so horrified he flees in terror and abandons his creation to live as an orphaned, abominable outcast, destined to be both feared and pitied. Years after my encounter with Joe’s story, I am challenged to think about how writing in any genre requires the boldness of risk and creative reach, balanced by ethical responsibility. This challenge has always existed, and even more so in the growing insanity of our world. In this regard, Astrid’s stories give me hope. She mines the wonderfully dark, sometimes heartbreaking motherlode of myth, magic and the reality of our fragile, threatened world. One story tells of memorable characters exposed to radioactivity in Chernobyl who survive by eating auras and shadows. It is a story of heartbreak and loss, of children forced to grow up too soon. Her strange protagonists live at the margins, often yearning for home, for belonging. Her hybrid characters are realistic enough to be recognizable but distorted in a manner that challenges us in a profoundly nuanced way to think about what it means to be human. 21
We can never fully predict or control the reactions to our writing when it goes out into the world. As much as I was disturbed by the distorted mirror that Joe’s story held up to my reality, I am grateful for the nudge it gave me to consider this delicate balance of risk and responsibility. We writers need to investigate and challenge ourselves to examine the ego’s blind spots, the distortions of memory, and the ethics of using the stories of others. But we must not let fear hobble our creative reach in drawing inspiration from our personal and historical experience, and also from what my Appalachian friend David calls “what mightcouldbe”—a range that can extend to the realms of the fantastical, even the monstrous. I leave the last word with writer and educator Azar Nafisi, drawn from her memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books. Amidst the tumult of the 1979 revolution in Iran, Nafisi courageously taught novels by Nabokov, Fitzgerald, Austen, works condemned as dangerous and decadent by the religious fundamentalists gaining political and social control. And although she is arguing for the worth of novels, I believe her words speak eloquently to all writers who write from the heart, from their moral core, in whatever genre they choose. Imagination in these works is equated with empathy; we can't experience all that others have gone through, but we can understand even the most monstrous individuals in works of fiction. A good novel is one that shows the complexity of individuals, and creates enough space of all these characters to have a voice; in this way a novel is called democratic—not that it advocates democracy, but that it is by nature so. Jannie Edwards has deep roots in writing, teaching and mentoring. Her career spans decades of teaching literature and creative writing at MacEwan University, Edmonton, publishing three poetry collections, and collaborating on video poems, theatrical adaptations of her work, and legacy community arts projects. This summer, she plans to study clouds from the vantage of strategically placed hammocks. JULY – SEPTEMBER 2018
STEVEN ROSS SMITH
WHAT IS OUR WORD WORTH? “Money” is not a dirty word; writers must demand more for their work
ighty percent of literary writers earn well below the poverty line directly from their publications and public appearances, according to recent studies (writersunion.ca/news/canadian-writersworking-harder-while-earning-less). Often, we feel vulnerable around the presentation of our work and grateful for any attention that we passively accept the remuneration system that is in place. But it is a flawed system. When invited to take part in publications, conferences, residencies, and other activities because of my practice as a professional writer, I almost always, right away, ask, THE WRITERS’ GUILD OF ALBERTA
“What is the fee for this?” I have found that payment varies widely across the country among writers’ organizations, community groups, universities, festivals and publishers. Fees can range from paltry to generous. My “favourite” offer on the “paltry” side goes like this: “We have no fees in the budget.” Sometimes there is a corollary: “You’ll get exposure” or “You’ll get two free copies.” Writers cannot pay bills with “exposure” or “copies” (though they may stroke the ego). Of course, at my discretion, I can agree not to be paid. I do so rarely. (Yet, like most writers, I have donated work or time when the cause suits.) For much of my 22
career, I have earned money as a freelance literary, journalistic and underpaid writer. I have also worked part-time as a literary coordinator and for a six-year period as a well-paid full-time literary arts director. I know the writer payment scene from both sides. When I had the power in my administrative roles, I strove to pay writers and artists well, and often above “standard,” realizing that without them I would not have my salaried job. Marjorie Doyle, of St. John’s, Newfoundland, is the chair of The Writers’ Union of Canada. She is a writer, journalist, radio host and producer. I asked her about writers and payment. She says:
FEATURE “I don’t write for free. I have always seen myself, as a writer, the same as any other labourer or professional. I expect to be compensated for my skill and my toil.” Recently, I wrote a letter to a publisher on behalf of several anthology contributors who were to receive no fee for publication. I wrote: “It interests me that the printer, designer, courier, distributor, postal service, even the doughnut shop will be paid, but the writer will not.” Many professional staff members in literary organizations—most often dedicated arts workers—receive decent salaries, and managers are paid amounts that most writers only dream of getting. And those administrators usually get substantial health benefits and paid vacations! It is shameful for these organizations to produce books, magazines, events, festivals and so on, on the backs of unpaid or lowly paid artists. I can happily report that the publisher, on receipt of my letter, agreed to pay each contributor a modest sum, but real dollars. The publisher’s openness was exemplary, its budget proved flexible, and its operative mode shifted. Okay, so I look like a hero in that example, yet—though I have been writing, publishing and performing for more than four decades—I sometimes feel hesitant to push the money issue. But I endeavour to remind myself I have to do it, not only for my financial bottom line but also as a matter of principle and for the benefit of all writers. (And I acknowledge that there are local literary coordinators who, too, are underpaid.) If we accept things as they are, the system will not improve. Yes, we have terrific organizations like The Writers’ Union and Access Copyright lobbying on our behalf, and we have, in some provinces, writing organizations paying reasonable fees to presenters, mentors, workshop leaders and other contributors. But across the board, writers are underpaid and, I believe, we are, as professionals, undervalued. Just look at the copyrights struggles. How many magazines still pay only with a free copy of the issue? How many pages of our texts are copied gratis? How many organizations invite speakers without a fee?
How many book promo readings do we do for free? The standard fee for readings set by the Canada Council is a somewhat respectable $300 per solo reading and the less respectable $150 per author for a shared reading. Some travel is compensated (but not necessarily all.) I have long argued that, at least for a two- or three-person reading, each reader should receive the full fee. It takes as long to prepare for a shared reading as for a solo reading; it takes years to create the material that will be read, and each author is present at the event for the same amount of time. Frankly, I do not see why the fee cannot be $400. Think about corporate world compensation, where professionals are paid, over and above their salaries, all travel expenses, per diems and accommodation, and often additional fees, at rates that make writers’ compensation look like pocket
and donors or will have to rethink its budget. The pressure forces upward and can result, in the long term, in a higher standard and higher regard for the writer. Carol Holmes, executive director of the Writers’ Guild of Alberta (WGA), demonstrates that the WGA is perhaps the most writer-affirmative provincial member organization. WGA does not ask writers to work for free, and payments for readings, mentorships, publications and so on are “national standard” or better. She says, about reading fees, “if [there are] only two readers we up [the fee] to $250 each and pay travel and per diem, if travel's involved.” (After its 2018 conference, the WGA matched the Canada Council rate.) Holmes continues, “Our rates can be negotiable when programming new or different ideas if there is a good reason for the negotiation.” I was surprised to find The Writers’ Union of Canada payment for publication
How many magazines still pay only with a free copy of the issue? How many pages of our texts are copied gratis? How many organizations invite speakers without a fee? How many book promo readings do we do for free? change. No couch surfing and Safeway sandwiches for the business types. When approached for an event, a workshop, an article or a talk, I have another preferred line, which even I, flag-waver, sometimes forget to say— I forgot to ask it when offered the fee for this article— “Is that your best offer?” The response may be “Yes, it is,” but I am often pleasantly surprised when it is “Well, how about $x more?” We must remember that budgets are discretionary and flexible, even in tight-to-the-wire arts organizations. We have a right to ask for more. If we do, then the hiring organization will have to push to find more money from funders 23
in its Write magazine is a mere $0.12– 0.15 per word, a long way from Doyle’s stated goal of $1.00 per word. (See “Who Pays What?”) I spoke to Onjana Yawnghwe, a Vancouver writer and micro-press publisher, who was a finalist for the 2018 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize in the BC Book Awards, for her first book Fragments, Desire. She says: “I do not rely on writing income … I’ve been writing for 20 years and have always had to work to make a living.” On negotiating fees, she says: “I generally accept what is offered. Being in the field of poetry, I’ve learned not to expect much … I’m genuinely surprised if I’m offered JULY – SEPTEMBER 2018
WHO PAYS WHAT? SASKATCHEWAN WRITERS’ GUILD The Guild pays writers $0.20 a word for articles published in its magazine, Freelance. For other programs, fees based on Canada Council and national organizations’ rates.
We are not talking about greed, or overinflated egos, begging or extortion, but of expression of value. Until we demand more, the situation will not improve.
Saskatchewan Book Awards pays judges $15/book with a minimum honorarium of $150 and a maximum of $500. The scale is the same across all categories.
THE WRITERS’ UNION OF CANADA The Union pays writers $0.12–0.15 a word for articles published in Write—usually $150 per article in the 1,000–1,200-word range. May pay more or less at editor’s discretion (depending on final length, amount of research required, and so on). The National Public Readings Program pays $300 for a solo reading and $150 for a shared reading. Ontario Writers-in-the-Schools program pays $150 toward a half-day school visit, and the school pays $150 plus the balance of the author’s rates if they charge higher than the base rate. For a full day, the subsidy is $200 toward a base rate of $400.
WRITERS’ FEDERATION OF NEW BRUNSWICK “Fees are based on what we can afford … our events must be self-supporting.” Workshop facilitators and keynotes speakers receive an honorarium of $200 plus travel, meals, and accommodation. Annual writing competition judges receive an honorarium between $100–$300. Readings are usually financed through Canada Council grants (cost to Federation is $75 per application.)
WRITERS’ GUILD OF ALBERTA The Guild pays writers $0.33 per word for articles published in WestWord. (Additional information included in the article body.)
an honorarium. Even a small honorarium feels nice because I feel valued for my work.” She will work for free on projects with friends or for organizations she likes, but she says: “I do have my limits; if it's a well-funded organization that's asking me to do things for free, I may feel a little resentful and taken advantage of.” THE WRITERS’ GUILD OF ALBERTA
Writers are like farmers. We grow the crop (the poems and stories), and everyone who takes our crop to market earns more than we do. I know and have benefitted from organizations that pay above the current average. Such places are exemplary. We should use those entities’ standards to set our own. 24
It is time to rise. Each of us would do well to set a value based on our perception of our worth, do away with vulnerability and unearned gratitude, and memorize the phrases I have already spoken here plus a few others, and practice them in front of a mirror: “What is the fee?” “Sorry, I can’t work for free.” “Is that your best offer?” “What about my out-of-pocket expenses?” “My rate for this activity is $(your fee).” Doyle notes a conundrum that may work against our activism."[Writers] can decide among ourselves we are not going to write for less than $20 an hour, or $1 a word. But it won't change anything because there are always newer writers coming on stream. They are building publication history and experience so will write for less or little or nothing ... I think all we can do is, as individuals, believe in our work and put our value on it." We are not talking about greed, or overinflated egos, begging or extortion, but of expression of value. Until we demand more, the situation will not improve. By speaking up, whether we are novices or old pros, we can initiate change. It might take time, but we can shift the system incrementally, to our benefit, one negotiation at a time. Steven Ross Smith is a poet, performance poet, fiction writer and arts journalist. His 13th book is Emanations: Fluttertongue 6, published by BookThug. Smith was director of Literary Arts at the Banff Centre (2008-14) and director of Sage Hill Writing Experience (1990–2008). He lives and writes in Banff and Galiano Island. Find him at fluttertongue.ca; stevenrosssmith.com; and on Twitter@SonnyBoySmith.
Writing & Editing
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JULY – SEPTEMBER 2018
SOPHIE PINKOSKI AND TYLER GAJDA
YOUNG AUTHORS IN SEARCH OF AN AUDIENCE Building an online community of readers is rewarding and challenging
ith Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and similar services becoming a part of everyday life, the Internet creates new opportunities for writers to reach readers. But how do you use social media to grow your brand? WestWord asked two members of its Youth Committee to explain how they use the Internet to reach readers.
Cultivating a Brand SOPHIE PINKOSKI Sophie Pinkoski is the Youth Representative for the Writers' Guild of Alberta. She returned to her hometown of Edmonton with an MSc in Publishing from Edinburgh Napier University. Pinkoski is developing networking opportunities for young professionals in the writing community. She spends her free time writing time travel and Victorian crime novels. I am lucky to have a loyal audience. Even with my (albeit terrible) initial draft of my first novel, I had friends clamouring for the next chapter. Having that discussion about what is going to happen next and the analysis of favourite characters keeps me going as a writer. I would not be driven to write if it were not for the feedback from my audience. It is one thing to have fans in your family and friends; it is quite another to amass an online following. Stumbling across mine was pure luck. As nerdy as it sounds, I picked up readers not from writing original content, but from being involved in fandom (“The fans of a particular person, team, fictional series, etc. regarded collectively as a community or subculture.” English Oxford Living Dictionaries). The THE WRITERS’ GUILD OF ALBERTA
lull between a book’s publication and the conclusion of a popular series offer an opportunity for readers to fill in the gaps left by their favourite authors. I posted my fanfiction (“Fiction written by a fan of, and featuring characters from, a particular TV series, film, etc.” English Oxford Living Dictionaries) to fan community sites, such as Archive of Our Own, archiveofourown.org (where readers share their stories within their favourite authors’ worlds) and Tumblr, tumblr.com (a blogging platform), to fulfill my needs as a reader and fill in those gaps and answer those what ifs. Along the way, readers’ enthusiasm grew not only for my renditions of their beloved characters, but with my writing itself. I did not come to Tumblr to write. But when I gained a reputation as a writer 26
within a Young Adult fandom, I knew that what Tumblr offered was worth using. I gave readers what they wanted: sweet moments between their favourite characters, and then I would inject my themes and personality into the stories. Over time, my plots became darker and I added more characters. At some point, I wrote weekly chapters for a longer fanfiction, garnering many compliments that motivated me to keep going. After that particular series ended and my interest shifted, I rebranded my Tumblr blog from a fan page to a writer page. I knew this was a risk worth taking as my 1,300 followers already fit within my novel’s demographic. Going from a YA fantasy reader to a YA fantasy writer was a seamless transition. It helped that my novel-length fiction involved similar themes and archetypes as my original work, so readers were familiar with my brand. They knew the “Hell Witch” (a name I called myself as a joke and which stuck) and her penchant for making readers cry. They had grown to love Hell Witch’s angry magic girls and their quirky celestial sidekicks. I had a readymade brand put in place; all I had to do was cultivate it. I engage with my audience on a daily basis. As someone pitching a novel to agents, and with at least three projects going at once, I have material to share with my readers. Building my brand from fandom was not something I had planned, but it is helping me break into the YA market.
Finding an Audience is a Challenge
Branding and Building
Creating a successful online brand relies on building a community around your writing. It is about creating a space where friends and strangers alike can enjoy your work and engage with each other. But you cannot limit this space to the Internet. Print business cards and hand them out. Introduce yourself as an online content creator and get people interested and invested in what you do. Rely on people’s excitement to push your message further. It is easy to get caught up in the Internet's vastness, but a community starts locally. It begins with your family, friends and neighbours.
Tyler Gajda is a member of the Writers' Guild of Alberta's Youth Outreach Committee and creator of the WGA Young Writer's Vlog. He founded his YouTube channel, Fourth Wall Creations, and edits videos and reviews video games. “What should we say about ourselves wh--as we get started?” This was the introductory stammering sentence of the Let’s Play series I started with my partner in 2016. The series was the first step in creating the type of media I consumed when I was younger—short videos and comics by hobbyists and freelance artists published freely online. I uploaded my first video to YouTube without fanfare or hype—no screening or release party—and from there published videos three times a week. I make Let's Play and sketch comedy videos focused around video games and nerdy subjects. Videos provide a medium for me to focus my creative energies. Before, I would start a project and often never finish it. I would abandon projects because they were going nowhere and, besides, I had not identified the audience I wanted to reach. I have since posted online music videos, educational blogs and critical reviews. At present, I am filming a sitcom and starting a podcast. I am honing my craft through the discipline of daily work. I have decided to create things I would enjoy watching and I will worry about finding an audience later (although I am motivated by the positive comments I have received). Creating 30 minutes of video content each week is one thing, convincing people to watch them is another. How do you build an audience? Finding information on how to develop a following is challenging. Advice for growing your online brand and how to reach an audience exists—be original, consistent and listen to your audience.
YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK
These are suggestions on how to create something worth watching, not tips to find an audience. Why this lack of information? Many successful content creators started on platforms that no longer exist and nurtured their audience with strategies that no longer work because of advances in technology. Past creators found their way, figured out what their audience wanted and worked out how to deliver content to them. I am going my own way. I follow advice about consistency and branding, but I have taken risks by keeping all my work under one banner, even when the finished products have little in common. My audience continues to grow, albeit slowly. It is impossible to know how close I am to finding a loyal audience. Most people have one movie, one book, one video they must tell their friends. I will succeed when people put my work on their list of favourites. My first step towards that goal was the day I made something worth putting on my list. 27
to the donors, sponsors, supporters, and funders who to the donors, sponsors, provided us the means to put supporters, and funders who ontothis conference; theyear’s donors, sponsors,to provided us the means to put the presenters, and supporters, andpaneliﬆs funders who on this year’s conference; to speakersuswho provided the enlightened means to put the presenters, paneliﬆs and and inspired us throughout on this year’s conference; to to the donors, sponsors, speakers who enlightened topresenters, the donors, sponsors, the weekend; to all the and atthe panelists supporters, funders who and inspiredand us throughout tendees— members, nonspeakers who supporters, andenlightened funders who the weekend; tomeans all the to at-put provided us the members, ﬁrﬆ-timers, lifeand inspired us means throughout provided us the to tendees— members, non-put on this year’s conference; time members —who came the weekend; to all the at- to on this year’s conference; to members, ﬁrﬆ-timers, lifethe presenters, paneliﬆs and and liﬆened, and helped tendees— members, nonthe presenters, paneliﬆs and time members —who came speakers who build on thisenlightened vibrantlifemembers, ﬁrst-timers, speakers who enlightened and liﬆened, and helped and inspired throughout community of Alberta time membersus —who came andbuild inspired us vibrant throughout on this the to allhelped the atwriters. andweekend; listened, and thecommunity weekend;ofto Alberta all the atbuild onmembers, this vibrantnontendees— writers. tendees— members, noncommunity of Alberta members, ﬁrﬆ-timers, lifemembers, ﬁrﬆ-timers, lifeWe could not have donecame this writers. time members —who time members —who came without and you. helped and liﬆened, We could not have this and liﬆened, anddone helped buildwithout on thisyou. vibrant We build could on notthis havevibrant done this community of Alberta Thank you for helping without you. community of Alberta writers. make Reﬁning our Narratives writers. Thank you for helping such an amazing success! make Reﬁning our Narratives Thank you for helping such an amazing success! We could not have done this make Reﬁning our Narratives We could not have done this without you. such an amazing success!
Thank you for helping Thank you for helping make Reﬁning our Narratives JULY – SEPTEMBER 2018
MEMBER NEWS Paulette Dubé released her new novel Autant on May 10. Autant is a tale woven over the course of four days and fiftyfour years, based on the relationship between bees and one Franco-Albertan family, the Garances, of Autant, Alberta. Tension emerges in the balance of power between siblings, between seen and unseen forces of good and evil, between perception and reality, between loyalty and traitors, and between what we are taught and what we actually learn. Because her parents “made it to a hospital on time,” Paulette Dubé was born in Westlock, Alberta. Growing up in the French village of Legal, she watched her third sister being born on the kitchen table and was hooked on “magic,” as her dad called it. Talon, her first novel, made the shortlists for the 1999 Canadian Literary Awards, the Alberta Writers’ Guild Best Novel Award (2003) and the Starburst Award (2003). Her poetry garnered a number of rewards including the Milton Acorn Memorial People’s Poetry Award (1994), the CBC Alberta Anthology (1998) and the CBC Literary Awards (2005). Her most recent book is the poetry collection, Gaits (Thistledown, 2010). Edmonton writer Peter Fratesi is pleased to announce the publication of his novel, The Symbol (Double Dragon Publishing, 2018). The Symbol is in the Gothic horror genre. It is a psychological thriller and murder mystery, set in early 1800s London. The story features fictionalized, famous historical figures. There are supernatural undertones to the story, garnished with dark humour and unusual twists in plot. The book provokes reflection upon the scientific versus supernatural/mystical viewpoints on the nature of reality and upon the tragic social inequalities of the period. Editor Allister Thompson’s review is as follows: “Peter Fratesi’s debut novel THE WRITERS’ GUILD OF ALBERTA
is an impressive contribution to the genre of Gothic fiction. He expertly mixes a classic tale of horror with period settings and welldeveloped characters. His use of real figures like Lord Byron and Percy and Mary Shelley is particularly interesting and often amusing. However, the oppressive expectancy of horrors to come is what makes this novel a true turner.” The novel is available in eBook and print formats on major internet book sites. Peter is currently working on an anthology of short horror stories. For further information, please visit: peterfratesi.com. Sixty people attended the launch of Like a Pearl, Rebecca Garber’s first chapbook of poetry. The first press run of 100 has sold out, and a second printing is planned. All proceeds from book sales will be donated to PEN Canada. She was recently included in an Anthology of Nanaimo Poets published by the Vancouver Island Regional Library and is included in Nanaimo’s online poetry map. She also completed Writing Home: A Whole Life Practice, a writer’s mentoring program offered by Poet and Author Mary Ann Moore of Flying Mermaids Studio. She participates in Wordstorm, a regular gathering of Nanaimo poets. She is now working on a full-length manuscript of meditations, building on her liturgical writing that is used by Lutheran churches across British Columbia. For a copy, send a cheque for $12 to Rebecca Garber, 6554 Kestrel Crescent, Nanaimo, BC V9V 1V6. ($10 for the book and $2 for postage and handling.) In this fictional Novelin-Verse we take a journey through one woman’s life, told from the perspective of three characters: Isabella, her daughter Alina and her granddaughter Georgia. Three voices weave 28
through a lifetime in and out of harmony as they tell us a story of innocence, feminism, intellect, motherhood, immigration, understanding and loss. The character's voices ring with the echoes of the maiden, the mother and the crone. The story takes us from 1944 Italy to the Prairies in 2014. We meet Isabella as a child and follow her story as she marries, suffers from postpartum depression, immigrates to Canada, struggles to connect with her teen daughter, takes on the care of her grandchild and finds peace in old love. In poems both blunt and confessional a woman’s story is revealed, page by page. This debut collection by Rayanne Haines is a creative threading of perspectives and memories by three women who are fictional and yet remarkably real. “A Suitcase Full of Dried Fish and other stories is a collection of twelve poignant stories about life in Africa and beyond. They would grab you and will not let you go until you read all of them. Skillfully crafted by Edmonton-based Sierra Leonean-Canadian writer Bakar Mansaray, the fast-moving stories glow with humour and hum with pathos as they take you to the bosom of Mother Africa and the African Diaspora, pulsating with both honey and hemlock, tears and laughter.” Gibril Gbanabome Koroma. Bakar Mansaray is a Sierra Leonean– Canadian author. His works have appeared in Sierra Leonean Writers Series, Maple Tree Literary Supplement, Ayebia African and Caribbean Publishing Specialists, Edmonton’s Diversity magazine, Vancouver’s Patriotic Vanguard, and Christian Monthly Library (West Africa). He was a nominee for the 2016 Writer-of-the-year Afro-Canadian Heroes Award, and founder of the Mandingo Scrolls Series. Mansaray is a member of the Writers’ Guild of Alberta. He currently lives in Edmonton, Alberta. His blog address is: mandingoscrolls.blogspot.com.
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Bonnie Sumana Ryan-Fisher announces publication of: Mindful Moment: 52 Weeks of Mindfulness Exercises + Reflections. The book is arranged as a series of weekly topics that can be relevant guides for navigating the challenges we face in the real world. Bonnie Ryan-Fisher is a dedicated lay Buddhist practitioner who leads meditation and yin yoga classes in Whitecourt, Alberta. She's also a longtime writer whose recent work inclines toward Dhamma. Bonnie's first meditation teachers were found in books and her practice began in the 90s in a great deal of isolation. In 2014, two years after finally founding a sitting group in her hometown, she launched her blog, Mindful Moment (mindfulmoment.webnode.com) as a place to share that 20-year journey with others also finding their way. Janet Wees announces the release of When We Were Shadows, a middleschool novel based on the true story of a boy who hid from the Nazis with his family, in Holland, during WWII, which also relates how the Dutch Resistance helped them to survive. It was published by Second Story Press and released on April 3. It can be purchased at Chapters/Indigo and Owl’s Nest Books in Calgary, and at Audreys in Edmonton. The book is being translated into Dutch and will be sold in Holland after the beginning of June. The author is a retired Calgary teacher, who grew up in Saskatchewan. The book took nine years to write but showed the author how writing in later years can rejuvenate a person and be the beginning of yet another new journey. Participation in the Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society’s mentorship program in 2015 had an influence on the completion of the novel, with the support and encouragement of Rona Altrows, as mentor.
NEW WGA MEMBERS Adrienne Adams, Calgary Amr Ahmed, Calgary Alia Aluma-Baigent, Calgary Camille Anunciacion, Calgary Jonah Ardiel, Calgary Tamara Aschenbrenner, Edmonton Sheena Asfar, Edmonton Barbara Belyea, Canmore Courtney Bettin, Edmonton John Blair, Cochrane Jennifer Boyce, Red Deer Madison Burnett, Castor Isy Castillo, Fort McMurray Nicholas Chamchuk, Edmonton Darcy Cheek, Brockville Kimberley Chong, Edmonton Tyler DeWacht, Edmonton Dianne Dodsworth, Calgary Pattie Dwyer, Fort McMurray Seth Ehret, Irvine Brenda Fischer, Calgary Hal Friesen, Edmonton Janelle Grue, Red Deer Taylor Haahr, Calgary Jenna Hanger, Coronation Christina Hausauer, Airdrie Daryl Hooke, Edmonton Sarah Howden, Calgary Janaia Hutzal, Cochrane Emma Jackson, Edmonton Ceara Jamieson, Calgary Dale Jefferson, Airdrie Jared Kane, Edmonton Susan Kasper, Edmonton Anisa Khan, Calgary Justine Klettke, Edmonton Mark Kolke, Calgary Eric Korbage, Calgary Karen Lind, Cochrane Josue Lopez, Taylors Carmen Lowe, Calgary Tannika MacDonald, Calgary Steven Markin, Calgary
Gail May-Melin, Saskatoon Petra McDougall, Calgary Kornelia McKenzie, Calgary Greg McKitrick, Sherwood Park Keesha McNeill, Edmonton Mack Meyer, Calgary Robert Michon, St. Albert Judith Morrison, Calgary Cheryl Nekolaichuk, Edmonton Leslie Nicholls, Calgary Gunnilla Nilsson, Athabasca Dustin Oakley, Calgary Tristan Oram, Calgary Kortnee Paiha, Strathmore Kristina Pappas, Edmonton Kathleen Paré, Calgary Veronica Pocza, Red Deer Joda Popcan, Calgary Jason Purcell, Edmonton Claude R, Edmonton Valerie R. Kelly-Anne Riess, Cold Lake Jacob Risk Annette Scheper, Red Deer Bonnie Shapiro, Calgary Jovan Smith, Rimbey Elysha Snider, Red Deer Jeannette Sommers, Sturgeon County Erin Steel, Calgary Kerri Strobl, Edmonton Moji Taiwo, Calgary Stephanie Tamagi, Edmonton Brandon Teigland, Calgary Rod Telhada, Winnipeg Bruce Thompson, St. Albert Israh Thraya, Edmonton Lisa Tuck, St. Albert Norma Jean Valli, Edmonton Pieter van Staalduinen, Calgary Kristina Vyskocil, Edmonton Aaron Waddington, Edmonton Alana Whitson, Edmonton Emily Wollf, Wetaskiwin
JULY – SEPTEMBER 2018
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DONORS & SPONSORS FRIENDS (UP TO $99) Cynthia Adams Rona Altrows Diane Armstrong Patricia Atchison Shirley Black Carrie Bouvette-Mason Sigmund Brouwer Ali Bryan Eric Bryer Eleanor Byers Judith Campbell Miji Campbell Eve Carter Judith Clark Pamela Clark Alison Clarke Corinne Cowan Joan Crate Jean Crozier Elaine Cust Dolly Dennis Jannie Edwards Wynne Edwards Beth Everest Kathy Fisher Ley-Anne Folks Joan Galat Rebecca Garber Raymond Gariepy Trudy Grienauer Carolyn Hall Annitta Hoffman
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Congratulations TO THIS YEAR'S PRIZE WINNERS! The City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize Taylor Lambert, author of Darwin’s Moving, received The City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize. Presented annually at The Calgary Awards, this award honours acclaimed Calgary writer W.O. Mitchell and is carried out through a partnership between The City of Calgary and the Writers’ Guild of Alberta. The Prize awards $5000 to a winning author who resides in Calgary.
Calgary, Alberta. He is a journalist who has published three previous books, including Leaving Moose Jaw and the Calgary bestseller Rising: Stories of the 2013 Alberta Flood. To pay for tuition and later to offset his freelance writing, Taylor worked moving furniture, which led to the idea to write a book centred on the moving industry: Darwin's Moving.
Calgary, as only movers see it, with its impractical architecture and baffling street designs and naming. In a kind and measured voice, but not averse to display impatience and frustration when the moment calls for it, the author shows those men, often relegated to the margin of society, ‘moving’ across class and into private property, thus jumping over social barriers.” Also on the shortlist were Clem & Olivier Martini for The Unravelling (Freehand Books), and Deborah Willis for The Dark and Other Love Stories (Hamish Hamilton).
Taylor Lambert was born in Regina, Saskatchewan, and eventually settled in
In the words of this year’s jury, “This engaging memoir, with its unusual subject, introduces you to movers and how they work, they with their trucks, their gear and their complicated lives. This well-written narrative offers you a portrait of the other
The Griffin Poetry Prize
The Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize
Congratulations to Billy-Ray Belcourt, who won the 2018 Griffin Poetry Prize for his book This Wound is a World. Griffin Poetry Prize was founded in 2000 to serve and encourage excellence in poetry. The prize is for first edition books of poetry written in, or translated into, English and submitted from anywhere in the world. The award, announced June 7, comes with C$65,000 in prize Money. Debths by Susan Howe won the international prize for poetry.
Billy-Ray Belcourt, author of This Wound is a World, received the 2018 Robert Kroetch City of Edmonton Book Prize. Presented annually in Edmonton, this award is carried out through a partnership between the City of Edmonton and the Writers’ Guild of Alberta. The $10,000 award is sponsored by Audreys Books and the Edmonton Arts Council. Billy-Ray Belcourt is from the Driftpile Cree Nation. He is a PhD student in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta. He was a 2016 Rhodes Scholar and was named by CBC Books as one of six indigenous writers to watch. Billy-Ray studies Indigenous art, literature, and film. This Wound is a World, published by Frontenac House, is his debut collection of poems. In the words of this year’s jury, “Billy-Ray Belcourt's debut poetry collection This 31
The award was presented on June 13 at The Calgary Awards.
Wound is a World comes as a punch to the gut, a cold shower, a knife to the temple. Each poem is a bracing call to attention. All of the jurors described the experience of reading these poems in physical terms— we could feel in our very bodies that Billy-Ray Belcourt is doing something original and vitally important. Raw, painful, honest, and real, This Wound is a World is a collection to be read and re-read. With searing intelligence, This Wound is a World announces an important new talent to the international poetry world. Welcome, Billy-Ray Belcourt.” Also on the shortlist were Norma Dunning for Annie Muktuk and other stories (University of Alberta Press), and Lisa Martin for Believing is not the same as Being Saved (University of Alberta Press). The award was presented on June 21 in Edmonton. JULY – SEPTEMBER 2018
WESTWORD SUBMISSION GUIDELINES
2018 WGA GOLDEN PEN AWARD
Guidelines for Writers
HOW TO SUBMIT AN ARTICLE • Send your article by email to email@example.com with the subject: “WestWord Article.” • Please use Times New Roman, 12-point font, and double-space and paginate your document. • Name your file as “[Surname]—[Title]” (for example: “Smith—Untitled”). • Attach your submission as .doc or .docx files. • We suggest your article be between 500 and 1,500 words in length.
he Writers’ Guild of Alberta Golden Pen Award is presented to acknowledge the lifetime achievements of outstanding Alberta writers. Past recipients are W.O. Mitchell, Grant MacEwan, Rudy Wiebe, Myrna Kostash, Robert Kroetsch, Merna Summers, Aritha van Herk, Fred Stenson, George Melnyk, Alice Major, Betty Jane Hegerat, Greg Hollingshead and Candas Jane Dorsey.
HOW TO SUBMIT A PROPOSAL In addition to commissioned articles, WestWord welcomes unsolicited submissions. • Your proposal should express concisely and coherently the article’s essential elements; how you intend to approach the article; the section of the magazine best suited to the idea; and a summary of your credentials (no CVs please). • Email enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject: “WestWord Article Proposal.” • The body of your email should contain your name, contact information, brief biography and outline of your proposal. • WestWord has a small staff. The response time to all proposals will vary.
This year’s recipient is Cecelia Frey. Frey is the author of seven novels, three collections of short stories, and six volumes of poetry. Her latest books are a novel, Lovers Fall Back to Earth (2018), and a collection of poems, North (2018). For many years, she instructed in writing workshops and classes, worked at editing and freelance writing and was active in the Calgary writing community where she lives with her family.
COPYRIGHT AND PAYMENT FOR ARTICLES PUBLISHED • We buy first Canadian serial print rights and limited, non-exclusive digital rights; copyright reverts to the author after publication. • Publication occurs within a year of acceptance. • WestWord believes writers should be compensated fairly for their work and pays industry rates for articles.
Born in northern Alberta, Frey grew up in Edmonton and was educated at the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary. Her novel A Raw Mix of Carelessness and Longing was shortlisted for the WGA’s Georges Bugnet Award for Fiction, and she is a three-time recipient of the WGA Howard O’Hagan Award for Short Story. She has also won awards as a playwright.
HOW TO SUBMIT A LETTER TO THE EDITOR Letters to the editor are welcomed to encourage an exchange of ideas and opinions among members. • Email enquiries to email@example.com with the subject: “WestWord Letter to the Editor.” • The body of your email should contain your name and contact information.
A prolific and expansively creative writer who has produced work in multiple genres, Cecelia has also long been a teacher, mentor, friend, and example to many writers. “Get out into the literary community, and make friends with other writers; you need each other’s support,” Frey said in a 2016 WestWord magazine profile. One of her nominators for the Golden Pen Award put it this way: “As an aspiring writer in 1970s Calgary, she found literary community and made friends with her fellow writers. In 2017, she continues to do so. Alberta’s literary culture is the stronger for it.”
MEMBER NEWS SUBMISSIONS Writers’ Guild of Alberta members in good standing may submit announcements about book publications, awards won, or other news about their writing life to the Member News section of WestWord. Submit news via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions? Email email@example.com
The Golden Pen Award is supported by Aritha van Herk THE WRITERS’ GUILD OF ALBERTA
St. Albert Public Library presents a lineup of amazing authors this fall. For readers, writers and book lovers in general!
September 14 to November 9, 2018
Ellen Keith Elinor Florence Katherine Ashenburg Tom Wilson Sharon Bala David Johnston Maureen Jennings Patrick DeWitt Cait Flanders Patrick Weekes Eden Robinson Emma Hooper Esi Edugyan Plus a special Halloween STARFest panel with Chadwick Ginther, Rhonda Parrish, E.C. Bell & SG Wong.
Get all the details at www.STARFest.ca Tickets available at www.STARFest.ca or by calling St. Albert Public Library at (780) 459-1530
WGA Edmonton Fall Kick-Off The Almanac, 10351 Whyte Avenue Wednesday, September 5 Gather at 7:00 pm, program at 7:30 pm Free for WGA members, $5.00 for non-members Join us at our annual Fall Kick-off ! Meet old friends and make some new ones while we talk about the upcoming literary season in Edmonton. The WGA will be joined by representatives of various literary organizations, festivals, residency programs, and reading series as they present their much-anticipated annual programming.