Recently I had the opportunity to read from my work, at an awards ceremony by the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild. I had won first place in the Short Manuscript Contest, in all three categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry.
As I was deciding how to introduce myself, I realized how many people I have to thank. I was given 10 minutes, and I could have spent all of it thanking people. My professors at the University of British Columbia, of course – Brian Brett for Fiction, Wayne Grady for Nonfiction, Karen Solie for Poetry – but others in local writing groups such as the Phantasts and the Erratics.
I’m not much of a joiner, really, but I’ve come to realize the value of writing groups and organizations to my practice. Critiques are useful, but so is the camraderie and the sense of community that develops between members of a group that share similar interests.
For example, the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC) is one group that brings me into the community of professional writers who earn a living from their words. One value of particiating is the people you meet, like local PWAC and SWG member, Shelley Banks, who recently published an interview with me on her blog. In fact, I feel strongly enough about the value of PWAC to have founded a chapter in my region a few years ago.
The Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild is another group that brings writers together, offering professional development and funding programs that allow writers to grow and thrive. Workshops, retreats and conferences can be useful at a certain point in the writing process, and SWG offers a variety of these over the year.
As well, the Saskatchewan Playwrights Centre helps playwrights at all levels of their career, giving them a chance to hear their words read by professional actors (I’m also a founding member). The short story that won the above contest, “Angelwing,” began as a play. I can still hear actor Ian Black (who passed away in 2006) reading the lead role, and hear the wise counsel of director Sharon Bakker during my cold reading of the play back in the 1990s.
The Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers (CANSCAIP) is another association that I’ve joined recently, after Scholastic Canada published my children’s book Dragonflies are Amazing. Local CANSCAIP conferences and workshops have been a boost to my career. I have a chance to send a manuscript to a publisher this fall because of a pitch session at the last CANSCAIP Prairie Horizons conference.
And there are many other associations that serve writers in all genres, and help us develop skills and reach audiences with our words. What organizations do you find useful in your writing career? And why? Please leave a comment – and let’s form a micro-community by starting a conversation.