what I learned from the TWUC conference
I recently attended the annual conference of The Writers’ Union of Canada (informally known as “TWUC” by the writing and publishing community) in Vancouver. TWUC is comprised of roughly 2,000 writers whose books have been “professionally published.”
When “The Union” (as it’s fondly referred to by longtime members) was established in 1973, professionally published meant published via a traditional publisher. In today’s world, that is changing, and The Union is looking at ways to develop criteria to admit self-published writers into its ranks. In fact, much of the professional development day at the conference was devoted to the subject of self-publishing and e-books, so there is no doubt that The Writers’ Union of Canada will be changing, and with it, its membership criteria.
Although I’ve been a professional writer for 19 years, I only recently joined TWUC as I’m looking to every possible information source for guidance to help me make the right decision when it comes to publishing Chocolatour: Your Passport to Passion, my upcoming book about the world of artisanal chocolate. I learned much from the well-executed professional development sessions, but I also learned a few other things I’d like to share about the psychology of being a writer in today’s changing marketplace.
1) Above all else, I learned (and already knew) that I am fuelled by writers’ conferences. I love hanging out with other writers: learning from them and sharing my own thoughts on situations that may be relevant to their own careers and paths.
2) I learned that although writers share a desire to express our creativity through our work, the motivations driving us to express that creativity can be dramatically different. I’ve always written to make a living, and although I love what I do, earning a sustainable living from my words has been my prime motivator. That doesn’t make it any more or less valuable or relevant than a poet who writes strictly from passion, with little expectation to earn enough to live on from their words. We may therefore have different needs and expectations from the writers’ association(s) to which we pay our dues.
3) I learned that writers tend to function within our own areas of interest and may be completely unaware of affiliate organizations and associations that may be of benefit or interest to them. Having been a member of the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC) for 15 years, I was quite surprised at how many TWUC members had never heard of PWAC or had no idea that we changed our name from the Periodical Writers Assn of Canada about eight years ago. I can see we’ve got some work to do!
4) I learned that there is a groundswell for writers to become the authors of our own fate. Self-publishing gives writers the opportunity to retain full creative control over how our work is produced, showcased and marketed. How exciting! (You may be interested in the popular post we devoted to self-publishing on this blog.)
5) I learned that it’s never too late to clear up a misunderstanding. It took 15 years for a fellow writer to open up to me and disclose that she’d had a misconception about something that had prohibited our alliance from turning into a friendship. We are both relieved that the misunderstanding has been cleared away.
6) I learned that being billeted by a writer I did not know (personally or professionally) is a great way to make a new friend, learn about her craft as a poet, and discover her neighbourhood of Vancouver (an area which I’d never previously explored.)
How about you? Are writers’ conferences important to you? Have you experienced some exciting revelations at them you may otherwise have missed?
Next week, I’m off to attend the PWAC national conference at MagNet in Toronto. PWAC has long been my tribe. TWUC is my new extended family. I’m happy to be a part of both and appreciate them for their differences – and similarities.