Strengthening Our Writing Community

I had the pleasure of attending the When Words Collide festival for readers and writers (WWC) last week in Calgary at the Delta Calgary South. This is Canada’s premier event for authors, as 750 writers from across the country converge in Calgary, Alberta, every August to be inspired, improve their craft and business skills, and to expand their fan base through interactions with readers throughout the course of the volunteer-run three-day event.

When Words Collide always has terrific looking programs that help you navigate your way through the three days of events. What a great reason to visit Calgary!

Personal responsibilities made it necessary for me to cut my participation in this year’s event short, but not until I’d made one presentation on behalf of the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC), and attended a couple of other sessions. I co-presented the Public Speaking for Writers session with Lisa Caroglanian Dorazio, another PWAC board member who, like me, is a seasoned Toastmaster. Toastmasters International provides a network and the learning tools to help anyone and everyone improve their speaking and listening skills.

The Lennon-Ono Bed-In for Peace, an around-the-world campaign and honeymoon, arrived at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal on May 26, 1969, and stayed for a week. United Press International sent reporter Bob Bott up to the suite along with UPI photographer Gordon Karam, who took the photo above of Bott (left) with Lennon.

PWAC also hosted the Copyright for Writers session led by Laura Mac Farlane, a copyright lawyer based in Calgary. Copyright is a topic of critical concern to writers and all creators of intellectual property and I heard that this session was exceptional. PWAC also presented a session on the Art of the Interview, during which four members of PWAC on the Prairies shared tips on how to plan for and conduct an interview. I loved panel member Bob Bott’s story about his interview with John Lennon in Montreal back in 1969 when Lennon was in Canada for the Lennon-Ono Bed-in-for-Peace.

This was PWAC’s third presence at WWC. In 2017, we made our brochures available to gauge interest, and as all the brochures were picked up, WWC organizers knew there was interest in topics about freelance and non-fiction writing. In 2018, PWAC presented a session at WWC that I write more about in this post.

Members of the 2018-2019 PWAC board at the AGM in Calgary included Vice President Doreen Pendgracs, Ontario Regional Director Sue Bowness, BC-RD Lisa Caroglanian Dorazio, Regional Director for Prairies and the North Paul Verhaegh, Atlantic-RD Trudy Kelly-Forsythe, Past President Kathe Lieber, and Association Administrator David Petrie. (Missing are President Christine Peets, Treasurer Barb Lehtiniemi, and QC-RD Julie Barlow. )

But in 2019, we expanded our presence in Calgary to not only make three presentations at WWC, but to also host our annual general meeting and conduct our elections. I am pleased to say that I was elected PWAC’s national president on August 9, 2019, and will lead PWAC through some additional strategic alliances as we move forward to launch the Canadian Freelance Guild in April, 2020.

Attending writers’ conferences and events is equally about strengthening and building friendships as it is about professional development and business. Pictured from front left to front right are PWAC members Sue Bowness from Toronto, Trudy Kelly-Forsythe from New Brunswick, Doreen Pendgracs from Manitoba, Paul Verhaegh from Calgary, Cynthia Dusseault, from Edmonton, Kathe Lieber from Montreal, Marie Powell from Regina, Saskatchewan, and Joanne Carnegie from Montreal.

I hope this post has increased your interest about Toastmasters, attending writers’ events, joining writers’ associations, and supporting the writing community in whatever way you can. Please join the discussion if you have anything you’d like to share on the subject. And please mark your calendars for When Words Collide 2020, August 14-16, as WWC celebrates its 10th Anniversary!

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I researched and wrote Volume I of Chocolatour that won a Readers' favourite Award in 2014. Always enjoy experiencing new destinations and flavours.

24 Responses

  1. It was an awesome conference and I was so happy to be there in person to enjoy the social, networking and educational opportunities. Also looking forward to serving on the 2019-2020 PWAC board of directors. Here’s to a great year!

  2. Doreen, you were a very supportive vice president for me this past year and you will make a great president for PWAC as we continue to discuss our options about an alliance with the Canadian Media Guild Freelance branch. As others have said, the more that freelancers engaged in all media fields can work together, the better it will be for all of us. I’m sorry that I had to miss the event in Calgary this year. I hope to see PWAC friends in Toronto over the coming months, because you are so right about the camaraderie being so important for our well-being, professionally and personally.

    • Thanks so much for your gracious comment, Christine. It was a pleasure to serve on the PWAC board as your vice president this past year. You are so fortunate to live close enough to Toronto to be able to attend some of their events. It is often quite isolating living in a rural area so far from writers’ groups. I think that’s why I belong to a number of associations, and why I gravitate to social media. It helps me feel connected to the writing community at large.

  3. Bruce Smith says:

    Hi Doreen,
    Congratulations on your appointment as President of PWAC. I am certain that you will provide excellent leadership.
    I wanted to add to the comments about Toastmasters. I am a long-retired person with a technical background. During my career I made scores of technical presentations which were adequate but probably quite dry. I joined Toastmasters 6 years ago and have had a great time gaining new presentation skills and meeting with a group of keen and interesting people.
    I wish I had started Toastmasters sooner but is never too late.

  4. Congratulations, Doreen! You’ll make a great president! The organization and event sound valuable.

  5. Bob Bott says:

    The funny thing about the Lennon interview is that he is the only real “celebrity” I could recall among thousands of interviews in 54 years of writing for a living. In fact, i had forgotten all about it for more than 20 years until some friends spotted the photo in a box of memorabilia and had it framed. Visitors see it on my wall and make a big deal about it, so it’s become part of my lore. It also happened to provide some useful examples for my WWC presentation about “the art of the interview” and reinforced some points already made by my fellow panelists.

    Here’s how it happened, if you’re interested. I was working as a reporter for United Press International in Montreal when John and Yoko arrived May 26, 1969, for a week at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel as part of their around-the-world honeymoon “Bed-In for Peace.” By then, the couple had already spent a week in Amsterdam, and the stunt was old news. However, we got a request from a newspaper in Ireland to get some quotes from Lennon about his Irish ancestry and Celtic connections. I went up to the suite and ended up staying for a couple of hours, getting snatches of interview amid the chaos (Lennon the phone with radio stations, Yoko doing another interview, Buddhists chanting, aides and hangers-on coming and going). I got the requested quotes and also wrote a little feature about the scene in the suite, but it was just another day in nine years as a “deadline every minute” wire service reporter.

    One interesting footnote is that Lennon at that time had not made a big deal about his father’s Irish ancestry, but in the 1970s he became quite passionate about it. His 1972 solo LP, “Some Time In New York City” offered up two songs about Ireland: “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “The Luck of the Irish.” Both were banned by the BBC and became protest anthems during the troubles in Northern Ireland.

    I’ve heard about Toastmasters from Doreen and others over the years, but never had any direct contact with the organization. If I were younger and had to do more public speaking, I would give it a try. I have been tremendously impressed by her ability to speak fluently and coherently without a script or detailed notes, most notably during three hours chairing the PWAC AGM as part of WWC. Some of that ability has to be innate talent, but obviously it has been honed to perfection during her years with Toastmasters.

    • Thanks for your very generous comment, Bob. Indeed, Toastmasters is something that can help people at any age. We have two members in our club who are over 80 years of age, and we have people as young as 20. Our member who is 81 has said she joined TM to keep her brain active and it’s amazing to see how she has progressed from being a soft-spoken introvert, to being someone who now speaks with confidence and flair. And I really love the mix of attitudes and experiences we share among members. If you decide to join a TM group, join a community group as opposed to a corporate one, as it will likely also have members from all ages and walks of life. I’ve said it many times: Toastmasters changes lives, and it’s always for the better. 🙂

  6. Beverly says:

    I would like to congratulate you on being elected president. Your many talents continue to shine.

  7. Janet says:

    That was so cool that Bob Bott interviewed John Lennon!

  8. I agree that we need to band together as creators as much as possible. The winds have been failing us for a long time, too long. Forming a larger, stronger group while maintaining standards has the potential to put a breeze back in our sails – all you really need to escape the doldrums.

    • Thanks for this awesome comment, Virginia. We have an amazing team put together to help move us forward. We’ll always be looking for input and insights from members like you who care and are committed to our beloved PWAC. 🙂

  9. Ceci says:

    Sounds like an amazing event. Good to see PWAC liaising with other writers’ organizations. Congrats on your Presidency!

    As both a writer and photographer, many of the topics mentioned are of great interest to me as well. Perhaps another year I will get to attend!
    Ceci recently posted…It’s almost timeMy Profile

    • Your comment is very encouraging, Ceci. PWAC is indeed pursuing a much closer alliance with the Canadian Media Guild’s Freelance Branch that will also hopefully bring in the News Photographers Association of Canada. That would give us a huge pool of talent to learn from, and a much stronger voice with which to advocate for improved working conditions and more favourable contracts. Together, we can make things better. 🙂

  10. Glad to hear that everything went well at WWC. Interesting that writers of all stripes are looking to broaden their income opportunities. I’m sure that WWC attendees learned from the PWAC presentations!

  11. Kathe Lieber says:

    It was a great conference, Doreen! I never miss a PWAC conference — the camaraderie is exceptional, and even after 37 years of freelancing, I always learn something.

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