I began my annual vacation this year by attending the Spring Writes Festival in Nanaimo, organized by the Federation of BC Writers. I traveled up from Victoria with a friend from my Sunday writing group, arriving on Thursday for the evening Word Slam event. The event began with an open mike where a number of brave souls stood to share their poems with a very receptive audience.

The remainder of the evening was a showcase of well-known poets who shared some of their word magic accompanied by an interpretive dance performance. I thought this was an interesting meld of two very different creative forms. The dancers came from two very opposite genres; modern and tap. It was an unrehearsed, interpretive dance based on their previous reading of the poems and accompanied by the poet’s recitation.

This was a very interesting attempt to combine the two, but for me, it didn’t really work. I found one distracted from the other, especially the tap, which I felt was more in competition than complimentary. I’m not saying that this creative cooperation wouldn’t work, but I think it has to be more structured and rehearsed.

One of the poets, Carla Funk, was one of my instructors at the University of Victoria when I was taking introductory writing courses. I chatted with her after and was happy to know she remembered me. I’ve always enjoyed her work and first discovered her at a local library reading event in the early 2000’s, shortly after I moved back to Victoria.

On Friday I attended one workshop and one Masterclass. The first concerned networking with readers and how best to utilize social media to do so. The masterclass focused on Creative Non-Fiction with Angie Abdou. It was very informative and she was very personal in sharing her writing journey, which is always nice.

Friday evening there was a gala at which several members of the local First Nations community shared their stories and history in a traditional oral storytelling format. The main storyteller was Celestine Aleck from the Snuneymuxw First Nation and I must say she was riveting.

Another interesting and quite moving portion of the program was the sharing of poems by local middle school children involved in an Elder Project. This project pairs students with an elder in their local First Nation community. The students met with their elder and listened to their personal story/journey and then wrote a poem based on their interview. These poems were very moving, and two of the subject elders stood with the students as they read their poems, which added an extra level of emotional impact.

The evening concluded with a question and answer period with three of the presenters from the weekend; Celestine Aleck, Angie Abdou and Steven Price.

On Saturday I attended one more master class with Steven Price on Novel Writing Techniques. As I am in the process of editing my first novel, I found this class perfect for where I am at present in my process. There were several moments throughout the three-hour class where I wanted to say ‘stop’ and pull up my manuscript and start applying things I was learning right there and then.  It truly felt like a master class. Steven Price taught writing at the University of Victoria up until a few years ago when he left teaching to focus on writing. He has had two works of poetry and two novels published. His most recently released novel is titled By Gaslight and came out in the fall of 2016 and is about a Pinkerton detective in London. It is on my wish list.

Even thought the Spring Writers Festival was continuing on Sunday, it ended for me with the Annual General Meeting held on the Saturday afternoon, which I happily attended and cast my membership vote on a number of issues.

I must say, in comparison with the Surrey Writer’s Conference, which I have attended for the last two years (you can read about my most recent experience here), I found this writer’s festival to be much more approachable if I can describe it that way. Of course, it is on a much smaller scale. The mix of free workshops and masterclasses which you paid for individually made it more accessible than Surrey I felt, especially if you are on a limited budget. It also used local venues in Nanaimo, which allowed attendees to experience more of this beautiful harbour city. As I cannot afford to attend the Surrey conference this year, I will try to attend some other smaller conferences where and when I am able.

What I love most about writers’ conferences is the opportunity to mingle with other writers to learn and share about the writing journey. It is also an opportunity to have more in-depth discussions with established authors and learn from their experience. I gave out a few of my newly printed business cards in addition to collecting a few as I met some lovely people from different parts of BC.  I am looking forward to developing relationships with more local writing organizations in my region and to attend other events.

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