The Federation’s annual conference for writers is one of the highlights of our year. In 2021, things looked a little different than they have in years past. Due to the pandemic, we were unable to gather in person, so we offered an online event instead: the BC Writers’ Summit. This week of Zoom-based programming encouraged writers to cross genre boundaries, write in new mediums, and engage with new audiences. It was a week of insights and inspiration for attendees and staff alike.
I caught up with a few of our newest staff members post-event and asked them to share their favourite moments from the Summit. Here are their responses:
What was the highlight of the Writers' Summit for you? Did you have a favourite presentation, insight, or moment?
Tara: I loved Nisha Patel's performance!
Amber: I was brought to tears by two readings over the course of the summit. One was from Angie Abdou during Megan Cole's Creative Non-Fiction Panel. The other was by Vicki McLeod during the closing gala. I can't say why each overwhelmed me. Ms. Abdou wrote about a changing marriage and how to weather the moments of scarcity in a long relationship. Ms. McLeod wrote about her grandfather and what it meant when he brought music to a small town. Each touched me profoundly and surprised me in doing so. The highlight of the summit was the connection between the words and my heart that every reading evoked. It's hard to measure how much it means to connect with someone's work during such a disconnected time but it meant so much to me to be able to absorb so many stories in a deep way.
Meaghan: Just one? Oh wow, that's a toughie. Top my list was Cooper Lee Bombardier's presentation about the embodied voice in memoir, which included practical ways to write yourself as narrator onto the page by means of vigorous self-examination and questioning. Can't wait to apply some of these techniques into my next project!
Cristy: I loved everything in which I was able to participate but found the soothing Writing Sprint Serenades really helped me to focus in on my own writing and were wonderfully calming.
The Summit sessions spanned a range of topics and genres. What did you discover that will inform or alter your writing practice?
Tara: I really enjoyed Lorri Neilson Glenn's workshop on lyric writing. Her discussion of the different ways lyric writing can work in a narrative were really helpful as I work on a novel in verse.
Amber: I have never considered myself a writer of creative non-fiction though I've had essays published in a variety of places. My novels have always been what I talk about when I talk about writing. My essays felt indescribable or odd - something I did when I needed to work through something. I didn't really have a category for what I did. Sometimes, I called the work true stories. Other times, I loosely described them as "confessionals". Now, thanks to Megan Cole and the amazing panel, I realize that what I write is aligned with a genre of honest, personal, raw pieces that find truth in the everyday.
Meaghan: As someone who writes primarily in creative non-fiction but is keen to dip my toes into fiction, I was excited to learn about writing between genres and merging different types of writing. Gail Anderson-Dargatz's session, Crossing Genres to Add New Life to Your Craft, was especially informative. In addition to practical lessons, my biggest takeaway was that writing is a broad, expansive medium - and I look forward to applying my creativity, curiosity, and research to my future endeavours, whatever they may be!
Cristy: The Darling Axe 'Setting the Stage - World-Building' session helped me hone in on the layers of world building and will further inform my writing practice as I edit books one and two in my trilogy, and as I set out to write book three.
How will your experience at the Writers' Summit inform your work with the Fed as you go forward?
Tara: It's always helpful to know there are other writers out there working through some of the same questions as I am. Connecting with community at the Summit helps me to feel less alone in the process!
Amber: Starting this position with a jaw-dropping showcase of the talent, depth and diversity of our writing community in BC was inspiring and energizing. My role at the Fed is largely fundraising which can be a bit dry at times but knowing the incredible people and programs for which I am raising money is majorly motivating and extremely exciting.
Meaghan: The Summit was a reminder of the value of community, and the importance of coming together to share knowledge, ideas, and experiences. Departing, I felt motivated. Excited to dive back into my writing life with renewed enthusiasm. Hopefully, my work compiling contest bank listings for FBCW members will continue to spark creativity in the coming months, and keep the momentum rolling.
Cristy: I loved meeting so many people over the course of the Writer's Summit; the energy and positive vibe was contagious! I plan to seek out future events from the Fed and to engage with more writers across BC.
Tara Borin is a poet and writer living in the traditional territory of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in, Dawson City, Yukon. They are the membership associate at the Federation of BC Writers. Tara's debut poetry collection, The Pit, is out now with Nightwood Editions. You can find Tara online at taraborinwrites.com and @tara_borin on Twitter.
Amber Cowie is a novelist living in a small town on the west coast of British Columbia. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Salon, The Globe and Mail, Crime Reads, and Scary Mommy and has been endorsed by numerous bestsellers including Samantha M. Bailey, Shannon Kirk, Kerry Lonsdale, Catherine McKenzie, Robyn Harding, and Blake Crouch. Her first novel, Rapid Falls, was a Whistler Book Awards nominee, hit number one overall on Amazon, and was a top-100 bestselling Kindle book of 2018. Her next book, Last One Alive, will be released by Simon and Schuster Canada in the summer of 2022. Her work can be found at ambercowie.com. Amber is also a devoted (if slightly distracted) mother to two awesome kids and a partner to the amazing head brewer of Andina Brewing in East Van. She enjoys skiing, running and securing funding for awesome organizations like the Federation of BC Writers.
Meaghan Hackinen is a west coast writer, ultra-endurance cyclist, and contest bank compiler for the FBCW. Meaghan's two-wheeled adventures have taken her from Haida Gwaii to Mexico’s high plateaus, across Canada and the United States, and from North Cape to Tarifa along Europe’s highest paved roads. Her debut travel memoir, South Away: The Pacific Coast on Two Wheels (NeWest Press, 2019) was shortlisted for two Canadian book awards. Find Meaghan at meaghanhackinen.com.
Cristy Watson has eight published novels for MG and YA readers. She loves entering writing contests and was pleasantly surprised to receive Editor’s Choice in the CV2, 2-Day Poem Contest in 2013, where contestants have 48 hours to write a poem using ten selected words. She also regularly participates in the Poetry Marathon in June, preferring the half-marathon where she writes twelve poems to twelve prompts in twelve hours. She is currently the Committee Chair for a secret, but very exciting, project that will be announced in the coming days. You can find Cristy here: cristywatsonauthor.wordpress.com and facebook.com/watsoncristy.
Jessica Cole is the Managing Editor of WordWorks Magazine.
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