CanWrite! 2013: Gala and wrap post

Before I begin, I’ll apologize for the apparently drunken photo-taking.  I’m still getting used to the camera in my Galaxy Note II 😛

On Saturday evening (June 15), conference attendees were shuttled out to the Best Western conference centre for out Gala event and announcing of the winners of the CAA literary awards.

Gathering for the Gala

Gathering for the Gala

Our master of ceremonies for the evening was Bruce Pirrie, Second City alumnus and writer for the Red Green Show.

The evening’s events picked up after dinner with an introductory monologue from Bruce about the dubious joys of being a comedy writer.

Then Charles Foran took the podium with an impassioned plea from PEN Canada.  While the organization is best known for its work overseas on behalf of writers and free speech (a current campaign focuses on the events in Turkey), PEN Canada has noticed a disturbing trend here in Canada with the censorship of Canadian scientists and the digital freedom controversy.

Charles Foran

Charles Foran

PEN needs writers everywhere to stand up for the right to free speech and fight the oppression of censorship.  To this end, they are conducting a membership drive until the end of June.  Please consider joining this worthy organization.

Andrew Westoll

Andrew Westoll

Matt Bin

Matt Bin

Next was Andrew Westoll, Author of The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary.  Andrew presented the stories of three of the Fauna chimps, their individual struggles, and the rewards their caregivers reap.  It was an amazingly touching presentation.

Then, President Matthew Bin introduced the CAA literary awards.  Originally started in 1937, the awards were the “for authors, by authors” recognition of excellence in Canadian literature.  They became the Governor General’s Awards and administration of them assumed by the Canada Council for the Arts.  More recently, in 1975, the Canadian Authors Association has once again started their awards program.

Here is the list of the winners.

It was a fabulous evening and I was inspired by having been a part of it.

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The rest of the story

I have been a professional member of the CAA since I joined a few years ago.  As such, I have voting privileges at the annual general meeting.  Two years ago, I expressed interest in taking part in the program committee.

This year, I was invited to join it.

The program committee has a fairly sweeping mandate, including the CAA literary awards and the annual conference.  Also on the list of responsibilities are professional development programs (where my greatest interest is), the roving writers program, editor-in-residence program, members’ book catalogue, and contests.  I’m a little daunted but I have great fellow committee members and a great chair to work with.  Our role is primarily to set policy and make key decisions.  We won’t be doing the leg work, but I can see some of that happening.

There are exciting times ahead for the CAA as it also embarks of a “twig” program and membership drive.

The web site is also undergoing a long-overdue revamp and should be far more oriented to service to the CAA’s membership.

I’ve made some writerly connections: Sharif Khan, author of The Psychology of the Hero Soul, John McDonell, and Vikki Vansickle.  I reconnected with some old friends too: Sandra Stewart attended for the weekend only, as did Betty Guenette, another member of the Sudbury Writers’ Guild.  I reconnected with Sue Reynolds and James Dewar (one of my fellow program committee members), who I’d last seen at the Algonkian conference in the fall.  I met a lot of authors, and bought a lot of books (!)

It was a wonderful experience.  I just wish items like Hermione Granger’s Time Turner actually existed, so I could see and experience everything 😉

Coming up: I’ll be returning to my weekends-only schedule, starting with some long-overdue book reviews.

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CanWrite! 2013: The arrival

Though events and sessions weren’t scheduled to get under way until June 13, strictly speaking, I’m pretty keen to show up and get ready.  I need a little time to rev up and get in the social way of things.  Any conference is pretty much a social marathon for however many days it lasts.  I have to work up to it.

My home for the week

My home for the week

Orillia is a little over three hours away from Sudbury.  I took the full day off on the 12th and relaxed for the morning, picked up my rental car, packed, and got underway just shy of 2 pm.

CanWrite! was hosted this year, as last, by the Orillia campus of Lakehead University.  It is a small campus, but it is a fairly recent construction.  I checked in, unpacked, and collapsed for a few minutes before heading out to my fend-for-yourself supper, returning in time to attend the welcome reception.

At the reception, I reconnected with some old acquaintances and made some new ones.  Among the old were Jake Hogeterp, who heads the virtual branch, Matt Bin, the prez, poet-on-demand, Jean Kay, Lamont Mackay of The Cooking Ladies, and Anita Purcell, our tireless Jacqueline-of-all-trades.  Among the new, Jennie Chabon and Kathleen Schmitt from BC and John McDonell from Nova Scotia.

Though I thought I was heading back to my room early, it was after ten by the time I made it up, and nearly midnight by the time I’d checked my precious social media (SoMe) and powered down for the evening.

The creative writing circles

Each morning of the first three days started off after breakfast with writing circles.  Either poetry or creative writing could be chosen.  Of course, I went for the creative writing.

The first morning, Ruth Walker led the session.  The second and third days were led by Sue Reynolds.

I’m not going to go into detail about these sessions, as the writing done is always intensely personal, but great material was produced all three days by all the participants.

I got some work done on some missing pieces of Initiate of Stone while I was there and that, along with some bits that might produce good stories, made the circles worthwhile for me.

Ruth was new to me, but I’d met Sue before.  I went to the University of Guelph with her sister, Sandy, and then I met her and her partner James last year at the Algonkian conference.

Other bits and pieces

Initially, I was a little concerned.  I could find no information on the Lakehead U site that would tell me what kind of internet would be available.  I’d hoped to try Tweeting some of the sessions.

When I checked in, I was advised that wifi was limited to the common areas of the residence building and required a password, but that I would be able to “plug in” up in my room.

In my room, I looked for a network cable, but couldn’t find one.  It took the kindness of Jean Kay to reveal the secret: the cable was coiled up and tucked into the base of the telephone.

So one problem solved, but the next day, when I attended the first panel discussion, I discovered that there was no signal in the academic building at all.  Bummer.

The food proved very good and was one of the consistent positives of the conference.

The rooms were nice, but the beds were a little harder than was comfortable.  Such is residence life.

Tomorrow, I’ll begin to document the panels and sessions for you.

Until then *waves*