WordWorks Online

  • 1 Sep 2022 11:22 AM | Megan Cole (Administrator)

    Writing prompts and exercises can be the perfect way to move your writing project forward. Some of our members have shared their favourite writing prompts to spark your creativity.


    One of the greatest gifts my writing mentor Stella Harvey gave me was the suggestion to read your work aloud, just to yourself, during the editing process. Taking your work off the page and into another realm will help you quickly see errors and help you write and revise realistic dialogue. Printing your work and holding it in your hand can also help with the revision process; anything you can do to change your initial format will help you see things differently and move your writing forward.


    About Jenn Ashton:
    Considering herself a writer from the early age of 6, Jenn Ashton was first published at age 14 and writes in many genres and forms; from children's books, to newspaper editorials, music magazine columns, course and training materials and academic and literary journals. Currently working on numerous works, Jenn has also just completed a year as a Teaching Assistant in the Simon Fraser University's Writer's Studio, and will begin studying History at the University of Oxford in 2022. She is also the Writer in Residence at the British Columbia History Magazine for 2021/22 with her column "Sharing Space: Reclaiming the Indigenous History of BC".

    Jenn was born and raised in British Columbia's lower mainland and interior. In her youth, Jenn began travelling and lived throughout Canada and the US, before coming back to settle in the lower mainland in the mid-80s. She attended Simon Fraser University as a mature student, while she homeschooled her daughter and completed a five year volunteer term for the Canadian Red Cross. For the next 2 decades Jenn worked, volunteered and researched, continuing her education at SFU and Harvard while working in the non-profit sector at the management level. After a further decade in the music industry, Jenn began working as a professional visual artist in North Vancouver in 2015, drawing on a lifetime of adventure, which is now also reflected in her writing

    Jenn is a member of The Writers Union of Canada, The Creative Nonfiction Collective Society, The North Shore Authors Collection, Access Copyright, The Indigenous Literary Studies Association, The Indigenous Editors Association and a past Director of The Federation of British Columbia Writers. Jenn is an Authenticity Reader for Penguin/RandomHouse U.S.A., and has recently completed work for Knopf Doubleday, The Royal Society of Chemistry, Sasquatch Books, and Cengage Canada.

    For more about Jenn and her work click here.

  • 26 Aug 2022 9:27 AM | Megan Cole (Administrator)

    Writing prompts and exercises can be the perfect way to move your writing project forward. Some of our members have shared their favourite writing prompts to spark your creativity.



    Clearing Space for Creativity: an invitation

    I’ve found this prompt helpful when feeling distracted/down/anxious.

    Step One: Clear the Path: Set your timer for 5 min. Write a list about what’s hurting; what’s holding you back; what’s missing in your life. Maybe you are carrying burdens, brokenness, sorrow. Write it all out. At the end of five min, pause. Breathe. Then, turn to a new page. Your page will hold your burdens. You can return to them later.

    Step Two: Now, take another 5 min. Write a letter inviting healing into your practice. Simple abundance works! Maybe brew a fav cup of tea; or choose a pen you love; or write in a genre that makes you laugh. Walk to a place with a view. Maybe your list will contain rituals, objects, actions, that soothe, serve, and support. Try it and see what happens. I’d love to hear about your experience. 


    To share your experience with Renée


    About Renée Sarojini Saklikar:

    Renée Saklikar’s ground-breaking poetry book about the bombing of Air India Flight 182, children of air india, won the Canadian Authors Association Prize for Poetry and was shortlisted for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. Her book Listening to the Bees, co-authored with Dr. Mark Winston, won the 2019 Gold Medal Independent Publishers Book Award (Environment/Ecology). Trained as a lawyer, Saklikar is an instructor at SFU and VCC. She was the first Poet Laureate for the City of Surrey (2015–2018) and was the 2017 UBC Okanagan Writer in Residence. Curator of the poetry series Lunch Poems at SFU and the Poetry Phone (1-833-POEMS-4-U), she has seen her work adapted for opera, visual art and dance. THOT J BAP is her sci-fi poetry epic, ten years in the making. 


  • 18 Aug 2022 1:07 PM | Megan Cole (Administrator)

    Writing prompts and exercises can be the perfect way to move your summer writing project forward. Through August and into September, some of our members will share some of their favourite writing prompts to spark your creativity.


    This week's writing prompt comes from poet Rob Taylor. 


    The following is how I’ve prepared for almost every poem I’ve written in the last five years:

    1. For twenty minutes, read a book you love.

    2. Go outside with the book, a notebook, and a camping chair (if you’re in a noisy neighbourhood, earplugs can be essential, too – not to eliminate all sound, but to dull speaking voices). 

    3. Walk to a destination that’s at least ten minutes away. Ideally somewhere quiet like a park. Don’t wear headphones. Just listen to the rhythm of your walking and breathing.

    4. When you arrive, sit and look at what’s around you. Write about something you can hear or smell or hold in your hands. Start small and see what grows from it.

    5. If nothing’s coming to you, read the book some more and then walk again. Repeat as necessary!

    6. At any point in this process, if a line comes to you, stop and write it down. Stay in that place/moment for as long as it’s productive, then move on.


    Rob Taylor is the author of four poetry collections including The News which was a finalist for the 2017 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. In 2004 he co-founded Simon Fraser University’s student poetry zine High Altitude Poetry, and in 2007 he co-founded One Ghana, One Voice, Ghana’s first online poetry magazine. He was also the poetry editor at Red Fez from 2007 – 2010, and the poetry editor at PRISM international in 2014-15. Rob has run a blog devoted to Canadian (especially Vancouver) poetry, Roll of Nickels, since 2006. In 2011 he was part of the team that “resurrected” Vancouver’s Dead Poets Reading Series, which he helped coordinate until 2018. Over the past decade, Rob has conducted almost 100 interviews with poets and authors. For more about Rob Taylor visit his website here.



  • 10 Aug 2022 6:40 PM | Megan Cole (Administrator)

    Writing prompts and exercises can be the perfect way to move your summer writing project forward. Through August and into September, some of our members will share some of their favourite writing prompts to spark your creativity.


    About Susan:

    Susan Olding’s essays are collected in Big Reader and Pathologies: A Life in Essays. She also writes poetry and fiction. Find out more about Susan here: www.susanolding.com

     


  • 4 Aug 2022 10:48 AM | Megan Cole (Administrator)

    Writing prompts and exercises can be the perfect way to move your summer writing project forward. Through August and into September, some of our members will share some of their favourite writing prompts to spark your creativity.


    About Gail:

    Gail is the author of The Cure for Death by Lightning and The Almost Wife among many other best-selling novels. She offers FBCW members a discount on blue pencil sessions and fiction mentorships. Use the discount code BCWRITERS. For more, visit her website: www.gailanderson-dargatz.ca

     


  • 28 Apr 2022 12:00 PM | WordWorks Online (Administrator)
    By Fern G. Z. Carr

    Traditional "Roses are red / Violets are blue" poetry has undergone a transformative shift. While the Canadian poetry scene respects the time-honoured stylistic conventions of the past, it also embraces the use of inventive styles. This evolution is welcoming of other disciplines—some quite unexpected. I therefore would like to share my poetic practices in terms of how I weave these intersections into my craft and how these connections have contributed to global causes—a poet’s superpower!

    Poetry does not have to be married to poetry. It can partner with different fields without being gimmicky. Rather, this encourages a broader audience by attracting people who don't usually read poetry but appreciate the commonalities associated with various disciplines such as music, science, math, and medicine.

    Two points should be emphasized here: First, I'm not just referring to poems about these subjects but additionally to poems that are physically transformed into the essence of these domains. Second, while I have composed ekphrastic poetry (i.e., poetry describing works of art such as sculptures, paintings, etc.), which is intersectional in its own right, I nevertheless would like to focus here on visual/concrete poems.

    Poetry need not be associated with the written word in stanza form alone. There is poetry in music, and I am not referring to song lyrics. For instance, I wrote my poem, “Cool Jazz”(1), onto music staves with treble and bass clefs in order to resemble a page of sheet music. Meaningful to me as a pianist, my hope was to have this piece resonate with other musicians. If you'll excuse the pun, it did strike a chord and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by The Worcester Review.

    Cool Jazz, a poem by Fern G. Z. Carr

    I've written many science poems which are a blend of traditional and non-traditional forms. An illustrative example is “Balanced + Well Well → Balanced”(2) which is comprised of a series of two-column, two-line stanzas. Each stanza consists of chemical equations along with their corresponding rhymed transliterations, transforming science into poetry and vice versa:

    Poem by Fern G. Z. Carr in the form of a chemical equation

    Of course, sometimes an infusion of humour can draw people toward science as in my poem, “Witches' Brew”(3): “Incantations cackled over a roiling cauldron / stirred by warty hands – / the bubbling brew not so sinister a potion / as the three black and midnight hags(4) intended”. This tongue-in-cheek poem uses science to disprove the ill effects of the ingredients added to the witches’ cauldron in Macbeth.

    Math is another area where poetry has the potential to attract people who might be intimidated by it. For “The Fickle Nature of the Parabola”(5), I wrote my poem in the shape of two parabolas graphed onto a Cartesian plane. Although the poem was traditional in the sense that it rhymed, its format and content were explanatory, teaching a lesson in algebra and geometry.

    Poem by Fern G. Z. Carr in the shape of a parabolaThe intersection of poetry and psychology is profound. Two of my poems that immediately come to mind are “Ghosts”(6) and “Ransom Note”(7). The former, an exercise in negative space art, is written in a square shape wrapped around the image of a ghost at its centre. “Ghosts” deals with the memories of people who have passed on and muses, “Like them, we too will become shadows – / our unfamiliar images haunting / the yellowed photos / of someone else's dust- covered album.”

    Poem by Fern. G. Z. Carr in the shape of a ghost“Ransom Note” is composed of coloured letters cut out of magazines and pasted onto a poetic kidnap note sent by Depression. It alerts people that their mental state can literally hold them hostage. Perhaps psychologists might consider using this type of poetry to supplement counselling.

    Poem by Fern G. Z. Carr written as a ransom note with cut out lettersWriting and translating poetry in six languages provides me with multiple opportunities for poetic intersections. It affords access to a larger readership as well. While I generally write a poem in one language at a time, I prefer to be more linguistically playful. For instance, I enjoy writing poems with alternating non-English, calligraphic-type alphabets which require a line to be read from left to right and then the next line from right to left. Another technique I like to employ is side-by-side translation formatted into columns, each in a different language, as in my poem, “Incertidumbre / Uncertainty / Incertitude”(8).

    Multi-language poem written by Fern G. Z. Carr

    Poetry is a means of remembering past atrocities. Philosopher George Santayana's saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” epitomizes the intersection of poetry and history. Accordingly, two of my long poems deal with the history of social injustices never to be forgotten. “Misogyny at Its Best”(9) examines the brutal treatment of women spanning the years from the Spanish Inquisition to the Salem witch trials: “I implore ye, good sirs! I am innocent! / Do not thus seal my fate! / Ye know me not! By what leave / possess ye so much hate?” “The Devil”(10) chronicles the Holocaust and the valiant struggles of its victims: “yet smoke still belched from crematoria / with tell-tale acrid smell, / unable to camouflage the flames / of those who burned in hell.”

    One of the most important poetic intersections, though, is the convergence of poetry and advocacy. I would encourage writers to support charitable causes with their craft whenever possible. Not only can they contribute their work to peace exhibits, but they can seek out socially conscious publishers. Instead of providing payment in the form of cash or complimentary contributor copies, these publishers earmark payments to be directed to various charities.

    Why not proudly represent Canada via these humanitarian poetic intersections? The opportunities are plentiful. In fact, my poetry has helped support global causes such as medical aid, animal welfare, scientific research, literacy, and child advocacy.

    Although poetry is considered a solitary art, it does not have to be so. A poet's reach extends far beyond the pen or computer. The possibilities of poetic convergences both for the entertainment and betterment of societies around the world are many. Perhaps these intersections are somewhat unexpected, but therein lies their appeal.

    1 Shards of Crystal (book by Fern G. Z. Carr), Silver Bow Publishing – New Westminster BC,

    Canada; The Worcester Review – Worcester MA, USA; The Art of Music – Del Mar CA, USA

    2 mgversion2 – Le Reposoir, Haute-Savoie, France

    3 White Wall Review – Toronto ON, Canada

    4 Macbeth (4.1)

    5 Windsor Review – Windsor ON, Canada

    6 Montana Mouthful – Helena MT, USA

    7 The London Reader – London, England

    8 Triadae Magazine – Madrid, Spain; and Toulouse, France

    9 Legal Studies Forum – Morgantown WV, USA

    10 Poetry Super Highway – Los Angeles CA, USA

    Fern G. Z. Carr is a lawyer, teacher, and poet. She composes poetry in six languages, including Mandarin, and has been published extensively worldwide. One of her poems is orbiting the planet Mars on NASA's MAVEN spacecraft. Her book, Shards of Crystal (Silver Bow Publishing 2018), is available on Amazon. Find Fern at ferngzcarr.com.

  • 4 Mar 2022 1:19 PM | WordWorks Online (Administrator)

    Edited by Al Rempel

    At a recent edition of Interior Dialogues, our workshop participants were asked to contribute a line to a group poem. This poem was edited by Al Rempel, our workshop presenter, and we are excited to share that work with you here.


    Directions "Home"

    Under a soft white sky, always here
    It happens inside yourself
    Up the hill and beside the big old western cedar
    Bare feet on bare ground, lungs drawing breath
    Here I reveal my underbelly and my plume with reckless abandon
    Face East at sunrise where the swelling sky speaks of love
    Not the center – the four winds remind us
    Stroll on by the dog park
    Segregate, two metres
    Enough to swing a long-handled broom
    Through a cloud of smoke and story churning
    Around the ugly coffee table, you know the one
    Peeling around the edges
    You will see our hearts hanging on the front door

    Home is a lighthouse welcoming the way
    You’ll soon be safe, breathe in again, if you just follow the blue line
    Across the sea in a yellow prow, round the boardwalk and up the stairs
    We're looking for structure, seeking the word
    The needle on my rusty compass seized at due North
    Gazing at those gathered at the graveyard.
    Or park a coffin
    Westward, and moonward, and inward I go
    Home is where my soul lives
    Terra firms all the way from the ocean
    Where the Whoodle waits in the window, wagging
    “It is the star to every wandering bark”
    staysit wait comehere wait stayput wait donothing wait

    Five steps out of bed
    As the anxiety bursts in my heart
    It knows the place to soar to heal
    Fly to the highest mountain you see, then land just north of that.
    Travel north below the rainbow
    Towards the squared-off blocky high-rise
    Stop at the valley filled with writers, artists, mountains and sea.
    Dive deep down your windpipe and onto your breath
    Look for the sun showers
    Nowhere to go after a walk but home
    Back to the place of my youth - a place of longing
    In the driveway go around the circle and there you are
    You need a plan where you never lose sight
    The horizon as it should be
    “Called home” they used to say. What home?

    Curve of the Kalum carving the beach
    Voice of the north on the wind
    Trust that your feet can follow your heart.
    You won't go back the way you came
    You'll have to go the unfamiliar route
    Follow the smell of fir candle
    The tide of your breath flows over me
    Resonance, whatever it is -- hold it close and it will lead you home
    You must climb a mountain in NSW, Australia
    Yellow paper stars in the window
    This thin coffee-stained paper slip is home

    From the second annual Interior Dialogues.

    For more sessions of Interior Dialogues, check out our Events page.

  • 9 Feb 2022 9:05 AM | WordWorks Online (Administrator)

    By Victor Wakarchuk

    As I am writing this article, it is the middle of winter. Dark days. Snow storms. COVID surges. How am I feeling? Not very motivated. Definitely not creative.

    Many people have struggled with creativity during the pandemic. As a non-writer myself, I can only imagine the struggle that many writers have gone through during this time.

    As a therapist, I am always curious about practical strategies to implement in the face of struggle and pain. I will review some strategies below, but first some neuroscience about what might be going on if you are struggling with creativity right now.

    When faced with a threat (particularly something that might threaten your health) your nervous system goes into fight-flight-freeze mode. Your brain is solely focused on surviving this threat.

    Unfortunately, you cannot physically fight COVID (unlike fighting back if a bear attacked you), and you cannot run away from COVID, either (as the virus has reached all corners of the globe). So, your nervous system essentially gives up. You play dead. Feel numb or dissociate. This is freeze mode, which is really a last resort. The other two strategies didn’t work, so you freeze.

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

    The opposite of fight-flight-freeze is called rest and digest. In this response, your body can relax and return to a more regulated state. This is when you can sleep deeply and feel at peace. The trouble with COVID is that this has been a chronic issue—and, for many of us, we are stuck in freeze mode which results in chronic stress.

    So where does that leave writers?

    First, we need to acknowledge the collective trauma and stress that we are going through as a society. The pressure to produce and be creative can be crushing, and so we need to respond to this as if it is a crisis situation (because it is!). If you are looking for permission to slow down, here it is. You are allowed to pause and take a break.

    It is okay to step away or reduce the number of projects you take on (if you are able to). It does not make you a failure or mean that you are no longer a writer or an artist. It means that a change has happened in your life, and you are taking steps to adjust and adapt. Just as we might enjoy snow sports in the winter and sunny hikes in the summer, some people find that their creativity comes and goes throughout the year. This is normal!

    Now, shifting into some strategies. What I see in my therapy practice is that one of the most healing practices is being able to identify your emotional needs and to take the steps to meet those needs. So, if your mind or body are screaming “I need a break!” your job is to listen and meet these needs if possible. This can help us get back into rest and digest.

    When you are ready to come back (or if you feel a break is not needed) here are a few tips to jump start your creativity:

    Set aside some time for mindfulness

    Research by Henriksen et al. (2020) supports the use of mindfulness as a way to enhance creativity. This also serves a dual purpose—mindfulness practices can help you get back into a rest and digest response by bringing your mind into the present moment and encouraging psychological safety. New to mindfulness? Try watching a video of a body scan or doing a mindfulness of the breath meditation as a starting place.

    Explore new sensory stimuli to encourage mind wandering

    During pandemic times, our exposure to new sensory stimuli has been greatly reduced due to spending more time at home. Further, if your mood is low, everything can feel grey and boring. The research by Henriksen et al. (2020) suggests that intentional mind wandering can assist the creative process.

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

    Ask your inner critic to take a step back

    Creativity opens you up to critique, and you can be your own worst enemy. Your inner critic makes you doubt the work you are doing and is quick to find flaws. Humans have an inherent negativity bias (look it up—it is a thing!) and so your inner critic is not going away anytime soon.

    However, you can develop a relationship with your inner critic and ask them to take a step back: “I see you and hear your voice loud and clear; would you mind taking a step back for a moment?”

    You may need to continue this process again and again, but it can be much easier accessing vulnerable emotions and ideas when you feel safe and free from harsh judgement. Journalling can also help in discovering where the inner critic comes from, what its agenda might be, and  what the inner critic needs from you (hint—it is often a projection of earlier hurt that needs love and nourishment from an adult version of yourself).

    Sources:

    Henriksen, D., Richardson, C., & Shack, K. (2020). Mindfulness and creativity: Implications for thinking and learning. Thinking Skills and Creativity37, 100689. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tsc.2020.100689

    Join Victor for a Workshop on Overcoming Perfectionism and Imposter Syndrome on Sunday February 27th.

    Register Here: FBCW - Feb 27: Sunday Webinar: Coping with Perfectionism and Imposter Syndrome - Tips from a Therapist (bcwriters.ca)

    Victor WakarchukVictor Wakarchuk, RCC, MSW, RSW, is a therapist in private practice specializing in working with queer men. Learn more at www.centreforgaycounselling.com.



  • 13 Dec 2021 8:38 AM | WordWorks Online (Administrator)

    By Cadence Mandybura

    Finding a critique group is standard advice for writers who wish to improve their craft, but the benefits of a writing community go far beyond the words on the page. The right community can give you hope, support your goals, and sympathize with your challenges. For both your writing and your wellness, it’s worth taking the time to find and connect with fellow writers.

    Community “makes you feel like you are a part of something greater than yourself,” says Crystal Hunt, who co-founded the Creative Academy for Writers, an online writing community, with Donna Barker and Eileen Cook four years ago. “There’s a lot of research […] around feeling like you are part of something and contributing to something that really does have positive mental health impacts.”

    Hunt, who holds a master’s degree in health psychology with a specialization in social support, further explains that community can offer not only practical advice, but also emotional support: “You can come to the community and you can say, ‘Okay, I just got my heart stomped on by my fifth rejection letter on this one piece,’[…] and you’re talking to people who understand what that feels like.”

    Betsy Warland, a writer, manuscript consultant, and teacher, also mentions the importance of finding support from other writers, saying that “most people don’t understand the writing life.” She has built many communities throughout her career, including the Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University and the Vancouver Manuscript Intensive. Building community takes time, she says, and “we have to learn how to recognize each other.”

    Why Writers Need Community

    Because writing is an intensely solitary vocation riddled with rejection, it’s no wonder many writers feel isolated and inadequate. “As writers, I think sometimes we really struggle with issues of our self-worth and what our labour is worth,” says Natasha Deen, one of the mentors for this year’s BIPOC Writers Connect, a mentorship event organized by the Writers’ Union of Canada and the League of Canadian Poets. She acknowledges that this struggle can take on additional dimensions for marginalized folks. “How we exist in the world as women, how we exist in a world as part of the queer community, if we are Black, if we’re Indigenous—the world does not turn the same for us.”

    And the risks of going without community? “You quit,” says Deen. “The reality of writing versus the romance of writing is so huge. […] If you’re not engaging a community, you may not necessarily have a very realistic view of what publishing is and you may not have a very realistic view of what it means to be a writer.”

    Hunt agrees that newer writers might feel like they have to learn everything on their own. Without a community, she says, “your risk of getting stuck, or of getting incorrect or incomplete information, at any stage in the process is very high.” That can be not only demoralizing, but expensive, too. Inexperienced authors might get caught in exploitative contracts, not knowing how to value themselves or where to go for guidance.

    To Thine Own Self Be True

    Knowing the importance of community is one thing, but how do you go about finding the right one for you? Warland advises that it’s a long game—and it starts with self-reflection. “Learning to figure out what makes community within yourself as a writer is really crucial to writing,” she says. For her, this includes things like how she takes care of herself as a writer, her writing environment, the writers she reads, and language and narrative itself.

    Deen agrees. “You have to know who you are as a human being in the world before you start building your community, or else what you’re going to end up doing is going out into communities where you don’t quite fit, and then it’s not going to be what you deserve, [and] it’s not going to be what they deserve.”

    Your values, goals, dreams, and personal history can all factor into what type of community is right for you. Other aspects to consider are what sort of relationships you want to build, how much time you have, what you can be flexible about, and where you set your boundaries.

    The aim, according to Hunt, is “finding somewhere where […] you have to edit as little as possible of who you are in order to participate.” In fact, you should feel welcome even when you’re not at your best. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the social media illusion that everyone else is wildly successful and never has a bad day.

    “Don’t hide if things aren’t going well,” says Hunt. “If we all show up when things are not rosy and perfect, it means that any of us feels like we can show up anytime.”

    You Get What You Give

    The benefits of community are deep and wide-ranging—but like any relationship, it doesn’t come at the snap of your fingers. “For most writers, you have to put in the time and help make it happen,” says Warland. “It is a balancing act, it’s always changing. […] You always have to be adapting.”

    For those seeking community, perhaps one of the most important questions is what you’re willing to bring. “As you’re asking them to bring treasure to you, what is the treasure that you’re going to bring to them?” says Deen.

    Engaging with a community today can have effects long into the future. What you give, you will get back. Find your people—and treasure them.

    Tips on Finding Writing Communities

    Take a writing class, attend a conference, or go on a retreat. Sometimes the best takeaways from writing events are your fellow attendees. Pay attention to whose work resonates with you and connect with them.

    Follow publications you love. Subscribe to their newsletters and follow them on social media. Attend and promote their events. You may soon recognize others who share your artistic sensibilities.

    Go local. Search within your community and region for writing groups. Libraries and educational institutions are great places to look.

    Go global. Especially given the pandemic, many writing groups have moved online—this can be a great option for introverts who are less comfortable meeting people in person.

    Just say hi. Read something you adored? Attended a thought-provoking panel you enjoyed? Reach out to the people involved to thank them. A polite, complimentary note will rarely go amiss, and it could be the beginning of a connection.

    Build your own. If you’re not seeing a place for yourself, find a few like-minded writers and build something new.

    Cadence Mandybura is a writer and editor based in Victoria. Her fiction has been published in Pulp LiteratureFreeFallNōDFudoki, and the Bacopa Literary Review. When she isn’t writing, Cadence enjoys martial arts and Japanese taiko drumming. Learn more at cadencemandybura.com.



  • 13 Dec 2021 8:23 AM | WordWorks Online (Administrator)

    By Angela Douglas

    When my son was born, I experienced a traumatic childbirth during which I almost died. A lengthy struggle with postpartum depression followed. For nearly a decade, I couldn’t talk about “it” or the first year of my son’s life. Then I came across a birth-story contest by the Doula Support Foundation on the Federation of BC Writers Facebook page.

    I hadn’t written in many years but had always hoped to get back to it. It was a dream of mine that I had roundhouse kicked aside out of a lack of time and an abundance of insecurity.

    Initially, I had only intended to write about my daughter’s simpler, safer birth. But after I’d written her story, I knew I needed to write my son’s. I hadn’t planned on submitting it, as I didn’t think that the Doula Support Foundation would be interested in sharing what could go horribly wrong in the delivery room.

    Starting with research, I ordered my hospital records. My memories were in and out—as my consciousness had been. The documents confirmed everything I remembered, had been told, and more. I’d had no clue that my son’s life had been at risk too. I cried for days. Different tears than in the past. These were tears of acceptance. Out of those records and grief came strength.

    I wrote and wrote and wrote. Inspired by a contest with a two-thousand-word limit, I wrote an entry three times as long. Whereas I’d submitted my daughter’s story comfortably, I agonized over my son’s—every single word. I flip-flopped right up until twenty minutes before the deadline, and in one bold and terrifying moment, I hit Send.

    Several weeks later, when I learned that I’d gotten an honourable mention for my birth story, wet joy gushed off my face as I ran to tell my husband. I assumed it was for my daughter’s story. As I read the mention out loud to him, I discovered that it was for my son’s instead. I cried again—validated. Maybe I was good enough to pursue my passion.

    In a short-lived burst of confidence, I agreed to read my story when they asked. Days before the event, I realized I just couldn’t do it. While practising, I cracked and lost my voice after just three paragraphs. Rather than remove me from the line-up of readers, one of the women at the foundation offered to read it for me.

    During the event, I turned my camera off, listened, and appreciated it more than I could say. She doesn’t know how many times I have rewatched her carefully and kindly honour my heartache with such exactness. Each time it is easier to watch.

    This process has been healing and motivational. Since then, I have won mentions or prizes in two more contests and regularly write and enter them. I tend to submit lighter material now, for the most part. This experience also inspired a career change that allows me more time to write. I am working on my first novel and have written several other “therapeutic” pieces that are just for me and will never see the light of day.

    Write your stories and enter those contests; you never know what the outcome may be.

    Angela Douglas loves to write creative non-fiction, especially travel stories. When she isn’t working or chasing her children, she is ripping her hair out at her desk as she tries to edit her first novel. Find Angela at angeladouglas.ca or @anglynndouglas on social media.

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