Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Hats off

...to those who planned the SWG Conference and AGM. It was excellent. The Park Town Hotel is the perfect venue for the event. I love the place.

On Friday I had to choose between concurrent sessions. I attended "Imagine Getting Published" and listened to Barbara Sapergia and Geoffrey Ursell of Coteau Books and Paul Wilson of Hagios Press discuss the realities of publishing and ways writers can work with it. That evening, hyped on chocolate, I emailed some writer friends from afar about some of the points made in the session that applied most to my own situation, and we yapped back and forth a bit before I went to the lecture. I just revisited the emails.

After that I attended Warren Cariou's session called "Narrative Economies: Telling, Showing, and the Experience of Time." In the session he had us revisit and rethink the advice we've all heard in creative writing classes and workshops: show don't tell. The discussion around the collapsing and expanding of time in a narrative was timely and useful. Hopefully my novel will be better paced as a result.

Then I hosted Dave Carpenter's session "Re: Vision" which focussed on revising. Again, this session was timely. There was an active discussion during which a number of established writers in the audience shared their experiences. Thanks to them, I feel a bit more at ease with my projects.

That evening I attended the Caroline Heath Memorial Lecture presented by Denise Chong. If you were there, lucky you. Here I go with the superlatives again, but it was incredible and incredibly moving. The next day I heard several people say that they were awake well into the night because of it. I was still trying to get to sleep at 3:30. I kept thinking about what Chong said about mining memory. I imagine the lecture will be published in Freelance, so be sure to read it. Unfortunately, what she said during the Q&A that followed will not be published. A professor and writer asked for the low-down the next day, but I was unable to properly summarize it. I'm happy I was there.

The next morning I drank too much coffee at the Hot Issues Session. Some great things came up.

After that I sat in on "Imagine a Writing Life." Brenda Baker and Steven Ross Smith discussed the challenges and rewards of fitting writing into their lives. The awareness of time, of having only so much time left in life to get the writing done, really resonated. I heard this again today in the Bookninja interview with Trevor Cole. It's something I've been thinking about a lot lately.

That afternoon I attended a session called "The Censored Imagination." The panellists Warren Cariou, Denise Chong, Jean Hillabold and Candace Savage talked about censorship, self-censorship, voice appropriation and the problems around political correctness. Again I came away with plenty to think about. I'm now aware that I haven't given adequate thought to the problem of self-censorship.

Then I hosted the session called "Imagine Your Literary Archives." Archivists Cheryl Avery and Ken Dahl talked about what to save, how to store it, and how to prepare your material for the archives. During the discussion I was thinking about their emphasis on correspondence, the importance of it, and the ephemeral nature of digital media, email, of course, included. Nowadays most of my correspondence is by email. For the past few years I've been involved in the editing of poets' work and this has been done entirely through email. What evidence of that process will survive to see the archives?

After readings by Warren Cariou and Denise Chong, and a great chat with a gathering of writers in the lounge, I attended the John V. Hicks Dinner. This year the John. V. Hicks Long Manuscript Awards recognized plays. Two Saskatoon actors, Cheryl Jack and Bruce McKay, gave us a great taste of the winning manuscripts of Barbara Sapergia (Saskatoon), Gordon Portman (formerly of Regina, now of Brandon) and Geoffrey Ursell (Saskatoon). The food was great. I ate way too much cake.

Then Gerry Hill hosted the open mike. Hats off to Gerry. His introductions are hilarious. Brilliant. It was a lot of fun. I read a couple poems from my new project Grid. During the evening I saw several writers taking the opportunity to talk to Joanne Gerber, Literary Arts Consultant with the Saskatchewan Arts Board and Paul Seesequasis, Program Officer in the Writing and Publishing section of the Canada Council for the Arts.

Our table was the last to leave. A few of us wandered over to the pub and chatted. It was fun. I caught the hockey highlights and learned that Mats Sundin scored his 500th. I quit watching TV as soon as the non-hockey fans among us threatened to give a play-by-play of the Toronto-Calgary game, which, for some reason, they were broadcasting again.

The AGM was held on Sunday morning. A good turnout. Again I drank too much coffee. I did manage to avoid the sweets table. I left Saskatoon early in the afternoon with a belly full of pizza, a jar of Tracy's irresistible salsa and a CD of the Klass Brothers / Cuba Percussion, also from Tracy.

The thing I found most remarkable at this conference and at Talking Fresh earlier this year was a noticeable increase in the amount, range and level of audience participation. Specifically, many more established writers in the audience asked questions and contributed to the discussion. This adds an enormous amount to the sessions. Hats off to all of them.


Carla said...

Thanks for the play by play Brenda. Sounds like the weekend was full of thought-provoking discussion, just as it should be. Sorry I couldn't make it.

Berlynn said...

Glad to hear it went well, B. And thanks for the kudos; I was on the AGM committee. We had to do some scrambling, but with Amy on staff, it was easy.

PS: Who's the new Prez?

Brenda Schmidt said...

It was thought-provoking, Carla. Have you seen the line-up for the next Talking Fresh? It looks great. I studied Joy Kogawa's Obasan in a Canlit course way back and loved it. I hope to make it down to Regina for that weekend. Maybe see you there?

Hey Berlynn! Great job! And yay Amy! The only thing missing was enough time to sleep. If I were in my 20s, those late nights would've been nothing to handle. Thanks goodness I'm a mere tea drinker...
Bob Calder is the new president.

Anita Daher said...

"The next morning I drank too much coffee at the Hot Issues Session. Some great things came up."

Um...I hope it wasn't your breakfast.


Sounds like it was a full and enriching program. Thanks for giving us the scoop!

Ariel Gordon said...

You know, I don't think I could ask for a more toothsome report of your doings, your comings and froings...

Tracy Hamon said...

Well, the conference sounded lovely, although I was glad to see you and H. and all those others I haven't seen for so long on Saturday.

I must admit, I didn't know (that's my story and I'm sticking to it) about the 50 goals--though I recall the hockey heckling. I think.

Brenda Schmidt said...

Ha! I didn't see that, Anita. This pre-Maalox moment is brought to you inadvertently by our proud sponsors... :)

Ariel, you're the only person I know who uses the word toothsome.

Tracy, it's 500. 500 goals. That's a lot. And I'm happy you recall the heckling, you being the prime heckler and all.
It was great to see you and the others I haven't seen in some time. It was great to meet new people, too. I was thrilled to finally meet Marie Elyse St. George. I didn't recognize her, but thanks to Mari-Lou for telling me who she was. I have Voice and I bought her recently released memoir Once in a Blue Moon when I was in Saskatoon a couple weeks ago. The book contains lots of great photos of, for example, her 7th Street Studio and another of her first show at The Mendel Art Gallery in 1974 in which she's standing there presumably discussing the work with painter Marsha Delouchery. Their expressions speak volumes. Another one that struck me was a photo taken at St. Peter's Abbey with Father Peter (the Father Peter who became Abbot? It's hard to say from that angle) and colonists Barbara Sapergia, Geoffrey Ursell, George Melnik and Marie Elyse St. George looking on from the right. I'm not sure when the photo was taken. Anyhow, the photo captures the kind of intense gaze one would expect from an artist of her calibre. In the caption she says "...with me observing like a large, bemused bumble bee." She's wearing a dress with wide horizontal stripes. Ha! I'm really enjoying the book.

Amy said...

Thanks for the kind words, everyone! I didn't do much--we just had great presenters and great hosts for sessions.