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More than Money: The value of conferences, workshops and networking

When I ask colleague writers if they plan to attend an upcoming writers’ workshop or conference, I’m sometimes surprised by the answers.

“I don’t have time.”

“I don’t have the money.”

“I don’t read the kind of stuff those guys write.”

Disclaimer here: I teach writing workshops and organize writing retreats through Writescape. I will be facilitating programs at both the Ontario Writers’ Conference in May and the Canadian Authors’ Association CanWrite! in June, for which I receive compensation. But I am also flying out to St. John’s, Newfoundland in May to attend OnWords! conference with The Writers’ Union of Canada and next weekend, I’ll be attending poet Daniel Scott Tysdal’s WCDR workshop The Work of Wonder.

Ruth, Gwynn, & friends with guest author Jonathan Bennett at Writescape's "Turning Leaves" retreat at Fern Resort in Orillia, fall 2011.
Ruth, Gwynn, & friends with guest author Jonathan Bennett at Writescape’s “Turning Leaves” retreat at Fern Resort in Orillia, fall 2011.

I expect it will be worth my time and money to meet and spend time with writers who write completely different work than I do.

Oh my goodness. If I only attended workshops and conferences that feature “writers like me” I’d be a much less interesting person, let alone writer. Many of our most successful writers are a success because they go to new places in their work. They challenge themselves. They bend and blend genres. In short, they surprise and engage readers.

And yes, time is an issue for most of us. But not making time to learn and grow in my craft risks letting down my readers. So I make time. Not as much as I like but enough to keep asking myself, why not?

Delighted to have Michael Cross's company at the CAA CanWrite conference
Delighted to have Michael Cross’s company at the CAA CanWrite conference

As for money, grants can help. Provincial arts organizations, like the Ontario Arts Council’s Works in Progress and Writers’ Reserve grants. Writing organizations like The Writers Community of Durham Region offer members scholarship opportunities.

When I attended Sage Hill Writing Experience in Saskatchewan, I applied for and received a bursary to help offset travel costs. And some writing programs and events offer full scholarships for writers in need.

In Saskatchewan with other participants and staff of the 2010 Sage Hill Summer Experience and the Fiction Colloquiem. (Ruth, third from left, front row. Photo: Sage Hill)
In Saskatchewan with other participants and staff of the 2010 Sage Hill Summer Experience and the Fiction Colloquiem. (Ruth, third from left, front row. Photo: Sage Hill)

And there are low-cost and even free events — library author readings and open mic reading series in many cities and towns, like east-end Toronto’s Hot Sauced Words .

So the next time your local library is hosting an author reading and/or interview, even if that author is writing Young Adult Fantasy novels and you are writing the Great Canadian Literary Novel, take the time to attend. It is free.

Toronto Star Report and author Robyn Doolittle at the Whitby Public Library
Toronto Star Report and author Robyn Doolittle at the Whitby Public Library

You never know what you might discover there to bring new life and energy to your work.

 

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