I have just attended the third writing conference in as many weeks. (The other two were the Ontario Writers’ Conference and The CCWWP.) I didn’t want to go; I wanted to write, and work in my garden. It was hot and sunny under a perfect sky. I had peer critiques to do, laundry to hang, memoir pieces to type up and submit for class, and the last thing I wanted to do was go sit in some over air conditioned room and listen to someone tell me things I may already know.
But I made myself go. Because I’d paid. Because I said I would. And because it was relatively close – the Orillia Lakehead campus, about half an hour away. Not even our Simcoe County Writers’ meetings are that close. And because, no matter how many times I hear the same advice, I always learn something. If I listen with “Beginner’s Mind”, I am enriched and my craft develops. So I stood under my outdoor shower in the warm sun and psyched myself up. And I am so glad that I did.
It was the Canadian Authors Association conference – a three day event – with workshops, readings, and what sounded like the usual fare. But I did a double take on the time allotment for Cordelia Strube’s Master Class on fiction. Three hours. All the workshops were that long. Wonderful. Cordelia is a no nonsense, no bullshit, straight-from-the-hip woman with a great sense of humour. She launched that class with a bang – a great intro exercise similar to one Barbara Turner-Vesselago uses, with participants pairing off, interviewing each other and then introducing their partner to the group. Instant bonding. We worked on character, conflict and setting – the usual elements, of course, but with enough innovation and punch to engage everyone. It was over too soon. She laughed when she told us she was trying to bring us to a place that normally takes a whole semester.
There were about twelve of us, representing several genres and backgrounds, but we were all giddy thrilled as we walked back to the cafeteria for drinks and eventually a fine dinner done on the grill.
Every writing circle in which I’ve participated has introduced me to a thrilling new writer. This time it was Lauren Carter, a Creative Writing professor at Lakehead University who stole my literary heart. Initially, she was a bit nervous about reading raw – the work that had just rolled off the pen – but oh my my, what delicious pictures she painted with those brand new words… like paintings on silk but maybe with some singed edges… tough scenes that I couldn’t pull myself away from. In the evening she read from her book of poetry, Lichen Bright, which I loved so much I bought a copy and buried myself in later before bed.
After dinner, there was an open mic session, where several people read various pieces. I read a story that I’ve entered in CBC’s Canada Writes creative non-fiction contest. I discovered that I love reading aloud. In writing circles I’m always eager to read what I just wrote because I want to know how it sounds, roll the words around in my mouth, so that I can hear the music or the dissonance in them, and I am also hearing what they hear – a double projection, if you will. The words are heard by me as they come through my lips, and by them, but also by me again as I imagine what they might be hearing. In reading the story, three spots emerged that need fixing and realized that I should have had my best listener, Sharon, hear it before I sent it away.
Last night, I was asked to read from one of the poetry books nominated for the CAA literary awards. I chose three poems from the many beautiful pieces in E.D. Blodgett’s Apostrophes VII: Sleep’ You’ a Tree. The difference between reading them silently and reading to people stunned me. The images came alive, hovered, danced. Poetry, I believe, is meant to be read aloud, so its music can be savoured.
On June 5th, I’ll be reading What’s Left, my short story that won first place in the Whispered Words contest, at the launch of the anthology by the same name. Several of the shortlisted authors will be there to read from their work as well, so it should be a great evening. And I get to read once again!
I do enjoy writers’ conferences; I always meet great people, hang out with my writing friends, and usually learn a thing or two. But that’s it for awhile. My laptop, my sweetheart and my garden have my attention now. Oh, and my son, my critiquing peers from Author Salon, my memoir writing course, my ever-breaking down house, and oh yes, my day job as a massage therapist… And… this my beloved blog.
The Whispered Words launch is in Ajax at 7 pm at Azian Cuisine. Admission to the event is free, with free appetizers and a cash bar. Azian’s will also have their regular menu available for anyone who wishes to place their own order. Last year it sold out, so book your spot now! See you there.