Writers conference in Montreal

I’ve attended many national conferences of the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC) and always enjoy them. This post focuses on the 2011 conference in Montreal, Quebec. It was terrific! I’d like to thank the Montreal (Quebec) chapter of volunteers for putting together an amazing program that satisfied both my need for professional development and social fun. Being a Gemini, both are equally important to me.

attending writers conferences

The “Writing is a Business” session was well worth the $100 additional cost we had to pay to hear Claude Brunet explain the components of a freelance/publishing contract and Warren Sheffer talk about small claims court. Both men are lawyers and gave us some tremendous insights on how to negotiate, when to back away/off and understanding copyright law.
I also found the editors panel to be quite insightful and expect to land an assignment with one of the editors soon. I could certainly empathize with travel writer, Alexandra Forbes, who shared stories on the life of a food and travel writer. There were many other fascinating speakers who enlightened us on a variety of topics.
There was intense debate during our business meetings as we discussed (and approved) the new “Bylaw” document that replaces our previous constitution. And the motion to hold our national conference and AGM in conjunction with MagNet for three years in Toronto drew intense and emotional debate. PWAC has always taken pride in holding its national conference in different cities across Canada. That has been a big drawing factor in attracting members to attend. You get to see a different part of the country and members who may not otherwise attend, get to participate.
That was certainly a positive aspect of the Montreal conference. Montreal is a terrific city, and we enjoyed the local culture and sights as much as we did seeing one another. Thanks to chapter president, Ian Howarth, for taking a group of us on a lovely walking tour through Old Montreal.
 We’re hoping that not too much of that passion for PWAC will be lost over the next three years while we meet in the Publishing Capital of Canada. Indeed, there are positive aspects to meeting in conjunction with MagNet and I admit to enjoying regular visits to Toronto. Afterall, that city is home to SOMA, one of my favourite chocolate makers.
As is customary by me and several other PWAC members, here are my “Top 10 Moments” from this year’s conference:
  1) Being elected as PWAC’s national vice president. Thanks to everyone who supported me, and to Nate Hendley for being a most worthy running mate. It was actually exciting to have an election and vibrant campaign as opposed to just being acclaimed in the position.
  2) Sitting at the post-AGM meeting of the new board and realizing we have an AWESOME team. It’s really going to be a great year. Trust me.
  3) Rooming with my dear friend, Virginia Heffernan of Toronto. I’ve made many amazing friends thru rooming at AGM’s and serving on PWAC boards. Next time you have the opportunity, take a chance and room with someone you may not know well. You never know what kind of life-alterting friendship may result because of it. I’ve made many over the 14 years I’ve been a member of this association.
  4) Meeting my PWAC “first-timer” buddy for this year, Kim Van Haren, of Vancouver. Kim and I immediately bonded and enjoyed many special moments throughout the conference. (I hope she feels the same way.)
  5) Singing “Night Moves” under the leadership of Tracey Arial’s husband, Pedro’s, leadership. Everyone who knows me knows that I love the musical sessions at the post-meeting sing-alongs. I’m more of a back-up singer, not a lead. Not knowing the exact words to “Night Moves” by Bob Seeger, but loving that song, Pedro was kind enough to get the lyrics sent to his smartphone & lead the singalong so that I could be satisfied. What an amazing guy. Thanks to Tracey for sharing him with us.
  6) Doing a double pinky-shake with former member and past National President, Julie(a) Gedeon (Matusky) of Montreal, who assured me she was rejoining our association after a brief (but all-too-long) absence.
  7) Watching Kate Merlin belly dance at the Friday night singalong. I’m always amazed at the hidden talent of our members. Who knew that a rather straight looking Maritimer would put on bangles and shake it till the cows come home?
                           Kate Merlin of New Brunswick can really shake her bootie!
  8) Learning that Suzanne Boles’s husband, Bob, has size 13 feet. Why is that significant? Because it’s great when members bring their spouses (or significant others) to our events. Bob is kind of a shy guy (who I’d met before) but it was wonderful reconnecting with him, and I know it was important to Suzanne for him to bond with her PWAC friends. We’re all in this together!
  9) Meeting Michelle Greysen, the incoming “Prairies & the North Regional Director” for the first time and realizing she is indeed, one of the “tribe.” As mentioned in item 2, it’s going to be a GREAT year and I am confident that Michelle will be a true asset to our team.
10) Giving my election speech on the Sunday and seeing tears in the eyes of my nominator, Cynthia Dusseault, and realizing PWAC is so much more than a “professional” association. We are a family, and it is only after you realize that, that you will fully appreciate the immensity and value of this truly amazing organization.
That wraps it up in a nutshell. You only get out as much as put into any organization. If you want to benefit from membership, volunteer to take on a role. Any role. Whether it’s at your chapter level, on a national committee, the board, or a task force, you will magnify the benefits of your membership tenfold. And I, and many others, will thank you.
And if you are a freelance writer, attending writers conferences is really important to your spirit and the development of your writing career. If you get the chance to attend a conference in your writing community, take it! You won’t be sorry.

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

24 Responses

  1. wizardofwords says:

    Right on, Tammy! Volunteerism makes us better people, no matter for which org we are volunteering.

    Glad to hear you'll be volunteering for PWAC this year. We could sure use your enthusiasm! Talk to your RD to find out what the opportunities are.

  2. Tammy Burns says:

    I agree 100% that you only get out of an association what you put into it. I haven't done any volunteering with PWAC yet, but I have with EAC, where I quickly learned I could get way more out of the association from a few weeks of volunteering than I could from years of membership and sitting quietly on the sidelines. I've started attending more PWAC events and plan to get involved more as a volunteer. Thanks for reminding us, Doreen, that you only get out of an association what you put into it.

  3. wizardofwords says:

    Thanks, Rachel. I must say I've never been to a writer's conference that I didn't enjoy or benefit from.

    Stay tuned for my guest post on the Happy Freelancer blog, in which I'll talk about how to make the most of any conference you attend.

  4. Rachel Brooks says:

    What a great event! I'm glad to hear you had such a wonderful time 🙂

  5. wizardofwords says:

    Thanks for dropping into the blog, Bev, and congrats again on your win in the PWAC writing awards.

    As a new member of the PWAC national board, I can tell you that we would welcome you taking on any volunteer role that might interest you. PWAC is a volunteer-driven org and there is a job for everyone. Together … we make it better.

    Thanks, also, for making me realize that the word SOMA is a direct relation to the pleasure drug in the literary work, "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley. I may be the only chocolate-loving writer who hadn't previously made the connection!

  6. Beverly Akerman MSc says:

    Hi Doreen

    Thanks for your lively roundup and thanks, too, for the link to Toronto’s SOMA (all I could imagine from your reference is this version: http://www.huxley.net/soma/somaquote.html)

    And I’m especially mulling over your sage advice: “You only get out as much as put into any organization. If you want to benefit from membership, volunteer to take on a role.”

    Be well,


  7. wizardofwords says:

    You're most welcome, Kim. It was such a joy meeting you.

    We are so lucky at PWAC to have such a diverse membership, yet such a kindred spirit. And the buddy system is so invaluable in ensuring that everyone feels welcome and a part of the "tribe."


  8. Kim says:

    I certainly do feel the same, Doreen. Thank you for making me feel so comfortable and well taken care of. I look forward to a year of wonderful exchanges.

  9. wizardofwords says:

    Glad you had a chance to meet some PWAC members while in Montreal, Bonnie. One of the biggest benefits of membership is the wonderful people you will meet who will freely share their friendship – and their knowledge. Welcome to the world of PWAC!

    Looking forward to meeting you with the other SK members in Oct.

  10. Bonnie Zink says:

    Thanks, Doreen, for allowing those of us who were unable to attend to gain a little insight through your Top 10 list. I've yet to attend an AGM, but reading the top tens from members all over the country always gives me a smile. I am working towards meeting PWAC members at the 2012 AGM. Keep your fingers crossed that I'll be posting my own top ten in years to come.

    PS: I was sent to Montreal on a client's behalf the week following the AGM and had a beautiful walking tour of Old Montreal. The beauty and history were wonderful, but the highlight of my week in Montreal was a mini-PWAC gathering hosted by Kathe Leiber. (I finally had the opportunity to discuss Shakespeare and sit on the famous red couch!"

  11. wizardofwords says:

    Apologies to anyone who has unsuccessfully tried to post a comment. I honestly don't know why that might be happening, but I do know that longtime blog members, Irene & Virginia (among others) have told me they've had difficulty this week, despite being able to easily post a comment before. The only advice I can give it to "copy" you comment once you've entered it and then try "pasting" it a 2nd time if it doesn't go thru the 1st time. If that still fails, you can always paste it into an e-mail and send to me that way. I hope Blogger fixes the problem soon, otherwise I will export the blog to WordPress where I have my other blog.

    And thanks so much to Ian Howarth of the PWAC Quebec chapter for linking to this post on my blog via their chapter's own blog. You can find the PWAC QC blog at pwacquebec.wordpress.com. Ian's post gives a terrific account of the PWAC conference – both business and social activities!

  12. wizardofwords says:

    Right on, Rusti! Thanks for all the hard work you've put in as Treasurer over the past couple of years. Looking forward to working with you on the board.

  13. Rusti says:

    Super. Indeed a great conference in a great city – and such an absolute delight to connect with old and new friends.

  14. wizardofwords says:

    Thanks, Craig.

    It's going to be great having you as our leader this year! Congrats again on being elected president. Lots of terrific initiatives on the horizon for PWAC members.

  15. Craig Silverman says:

    A great report about a great event! I love reading these top 10 lists.

  16. wizardofwords says:

    Right on, Tracey! Thanks for sharing why PWAC is so important to you and to your career as a professional writer.

    You're right! There are a lot of writers assns in Canada and PWAC has to prove it is worthy of our mbrshp dollars. But I think the new expanded and enhanced writers.ca will do just that. It's going to be an exciting year, and this is the place to be!

  17. Tracey Arial says:

    Hi Doreen,
    Congratulations on taking on another role leading PWAC. Given all the different writers' organizations in Canada, I think that the direction it takes in the coming years will be very important if the organization wants to keep growing.

    Here are my top ten experiences:

    10. Listening to many talented musicians—including Mark, Dave, Nate, Bruce, Pedro, Rusti and Sandy—perform a series of songs I just love, especially the annual Barrett’s Privateers.

    9. Admiring Tanya’s choice to ask that PWAC donate to a worthy cause instead of giving her a gift for all her hard work as President over many years.

    8. Supporting Cynthia Dusseault and Ross Mavis’ motion to offer emeritus members a discount, even though I’d normally argue that fee changes should be presented to all members prior to an AGM, and not just to delegates.

    7. Participating in the election for a vice-president and hearing about the election for Ontario regional director. Active democracy bodes well for PWAC’s future, especially when all the candidates showed a great deal of passion about our organization.

    6. Reinvigorating the idea of looking for an agent after Julie Barlow’s comprehensive presentation about the multiple steps in preparing a book proposal.

    5. Laughing at Jean Benoit Nadeau’s many fabulous industry stories, especially the one about Lucien’s Bouchard’s view that no deal is fair to both sides unless each tastes a bit of shit (ie. both give more than they wanted).

    4. Enjoying a visit to the Laurentians tour, especially exploring the Petit Train du Nord with Bruce, Bob, Virginia, Rusti and Sandy; discussing the philosophy of life with all of them and Noella too later on; and then, to top it all off, meeting Dominique Brunet, a coordinator with the Association des Auteurs des Laurentides (Association of Laurentian Authors) who is interesting in working with PWAC’s budding Laurentians chapter.

    3. Remembering Larry Jackson’s enthusiasm for his work and commitment to writers’ rights during George Butter’s awesome speech after winning PWAC’s most important volunteer contribution award. Congratulations George!

    2. Being inspired about my career all over again after Carole Beaulieu’s moving speech about “going where no man (or in her case, woman) has gone before.”

    1. Feeling the camaraderie of many, many writers who work hard to make an independent writing career possible.

  18. wizardofwords says:

    Thanks, Kate. And thanks to contributing to the entertainment with your belly dancing moves.

    We're so fortunate in that PWAC gives us terrific professional development opportunities, but equally satisfies the fun side of life. May that never change.

  19. Anonymous says:

    It certainly was a great time reconnecting with everyone as pwac gets ready to move into the future. You'll make a great VP with all your experience. Just wish I could have stayed later at the party on Sunday night. Hate missing all the fun.

  20. wizardofwords says:

    Thanks, everyone for your comments.

    Yes, Heidi, and Michelle, I'm looking forward to serving on the board with the two of you. It was so great to finally meet Michelle after years of being e-pals. And Heidi … you and I have built quite a friendship/collaboration online as well. So I'm looking forward to Sept when we will actually meet.

    That's one of the best things I love about PWAC. It has the greatest people as members.

  21. Heidi Turner says:

    It sounds like it was a wonderful time, Doreen. I'm so excited that you were elected VP and I'm looking forward to meeting you and attending next year's event. It's great that so much fun can be had at a professional event.

  22. Suzanne says:

    Yes, Bob has size 13 feet. Oh well, I'll make it on next year's list. Kidding aside, it was a great event. I'd like to put in a plug for my presentation: Writing for Trade Magazines. Feedback was great. Someone who attended my session got an assignment using one of the tools I gave them.

    Next year in Toronto. Looking forward to linking with PWAC members again then.

  23. Michelle Greysen says:

    Thanks Doreen – so great to be one of the tribe! Looking forward to working on the Board with you for the next 2 years – we have a dynamic group around that table – very exciting!

    Michelle Greysen

  24. Krystyna Lagowski says:

    Sounds like a fantastic event. Great city, great organization and great people – plus SOMA. Yum.

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