Monday, June 7, 2010

Highlights from TWUC AGM in Ottawa

I just got back from The Writers' Union of Canada Annual General Meeting in Ottawa. It's the first one I've attended since becoming a member back when Cheeseburger Subversive came out. I don't know why I waited this long to attend one - what a rush!

Some highlights:

- Lunch at Zak's Diner with Sarah Roberts and her husband Eli. Sarah just won the 2010 Danuta Gleed Award for her amazing book Wax Boats. I joked that winning a $10,000 prize is the financial equivalent of selling 10,000 books, and she quoted me in her acceptance speech! When she is rich and famous and I'm still virtually unknown, at least I will have this to brag about.

- Had a "speed-networking" meeting with the wise and well-connected Hal Wake, Artistic Director of the Vancouver International Writers Festival. His speech, "The Flowering of CanLit: Can We Keep the Bloom on the Rose" was also quite inspiring.

- Enjoyed some enlightening late-night conversations with some of the Who's Who of Canadian Literature at one of the hotel room after-parties (thanks for the invitation, Hal. . . )

- The AGM Banquet featured a short, entertaining remembrance from (almost) every living former chair of the TWUC. Wow - talk about the Who's Who of Canadian Literature!

- Finally met Bill Freeman in person, whose book The Shantymen of Cache Lake was a favourite of mine in Grade Eight!

- Also finally met Susan Musgrave in person, who edited my second book, Featherless Bipeds, for Thistledown Press.

- Took in a great workshop on web media by Hugh McGuire, Jenny Bullough, and Nichole McGill. I joined Twitter today as a result.

- Enjoyed another thought-provoking workshop on Teaching Writing. A couple of (paraphrased) food-for-thought appetizers from the participants: "It's a story when something is transformed." (Catherine Bush) "Write the kind of stories that you want to read." (Tim Wynne-Jones)

- During a panel discussion about lit mags and small presses in Canada, the always witty Margaret Atwood talked about the history of the small press in Canada, and I was surprised to learn from John Barton (editor of the Malahat Review) that certain government incentives to magazines are limited to those with circulations over 5000, effectively eliminating these advantages for most literary and cultural magazines.

- Discovered that everyone who works at the TWUC office are cool, fun, and attractive (and, wow, can that Valerie Laws ever dance. . . and she loves Jackie Chan movies, too).

- Got signed copies of books from new friends Sarah Roberts, Heather Wood, and Jeanette Lynes. Can't wait to read them, starting tonight!

- Set a new personal record for wine consumed on a VIA Rail train with the encouragement of TWUC's lovely and talented Leanne O'Brien.