Northwords Writing Camps 2011

Dear All,

If you happen to be in lovely Terrace, BC early this August (or if you could be) and you’re a writer (established or newbie), the Northwords Writing Camps are running again and you should be there!  There’s an adult camp running August 2-5 from 6 – 8:30 for four evenings and a youth one (ages 11 – 16) running the same dates from 10:00 – 1:00.  The camps are FREE (thanks to the wonderful Terrace Public Library and generous sponsors noted on the posters below) and feature three different authors presenting–including me. 🙂 

 

You can register for the youth camp at the library and for the adult camp at Misty River Books. I hope to see you there!

Ev Bishop on Ether Books

As some of you know, three of my short stories (“HVS,” “Wishful,” and “Red Bird”) are available through Ether Books, a fantastic forward-thinking publishing company that I can’t say enough good things about. Not only have they published my work, they supply me with an inexhaustible source of new short fiction!

I’ve been playing with the idea of promoting some of my work with video and since Maureen Scott, one of the gurus behind Ether, put a call out for Ether authors to share their sentiments about Ether Books in 30 seconds or less and post them on youtube, I’d thought I’d start there. So all that said, here’s me, Ev Bishop, on Ether Books. Enjoy!



When I have my office back under control, I may do short blip on each of the stories they’ve published. Stay tuned.

And hey, if you haven’t read “Wishful,” or “Red Bird,” or “HVS”—you don’t need to wait ’til there’s a video promo! Grab your iPhone, iPod, or iPad, download Ether Books’ free app here and check me out. 🙂 I hope you enjoy them.

Inklings, Procrastinators and . . . me

C.S. Lewis is one of my favourite writers. I love his Narnia creations, and his books on Christian faith (most notably, Mere Christianity and The Problem With Pain) were instrumental in bringing me to Christ. It was, however, his writing in A Grief Observed that most spoke to me. Though losing a wife and losing a mother are ultimately different; loss is ultimately the same and Lewis’s honest writings about sorrow helped me. And re-affirmed my conviction that books and story—fiction and non—are crucial helpers to us humans as we try to figure out how to live and what it mean to be, well, human. It’s not giving Lewis too much credit to say he’s one of the reasons* I started writing again.

But it’s not really C.S. Lewis I want to write about today. It’s his Inklings—a writing group that, from what I’ve gathered, consisted of twelve or so members (including J.R.R. Tolkien). I won’t embarrass myself with the romantic view I have of the bunch holed up in some pub, corner of a library, or ancient book and antique laden reading room. I won’t confess that thinking of them, I always feel the warmth of a crackling fire glowing from a grate and see it casting looming shadows of the literary greats along the walls—shadows that grow as their stories did, well into the night. And I won’t admit that I’m sure they always drank port—its scarlet red shimmering as firelight refracted off the crystal glasses containing it—cheers! And of course there’s cigar smoke. And equally of course, somehow said smoke is sweet and mellow and doesn’t make me gag or give me a headache just being in the same room with it.**

Oh, how jealous I was of his writing group! And then I got to be part of my own—a smaller group, though, I think, not lesser for being less. We try to meet in person once a year or so (and usually manage to, thanks in part to the huge pull of SiWC—but it’s tricky as we hail from different parts of B.C., and now, London, England), and we meet online regularly in a private forum called Procrastination (which makes us Procrastinators now, doesn’t it?). We drink lots of tea and coffee—and only occasionally port. I do have a wood fire that warms me—or at least the living room near me. We all have tonnes of books—or at least read tonnes of books. I don’t smoke cigars, but can’t speak for the others in the group.

I wish I lived in a place where we could all be together, at least monthly, but I can’t complain too much because I live in a time where despite huge geographical differences, we can still maintain very close relationships and share our words in real time, almost instantaneously.

It has been said that C.S. Lewis would’ve written and published all that he did without the Inklings (and the same has been said of Tolkien), and I suspect that may be true—at least partially. I think his writing community was a huge help to him, creatively and emotionally and practically.

The writing life can be a lonely, misunderstood and alienating (except when it’s the glorious opposite of all those things!). The writing craft is daunting—you only master one thing to notice six other problems you’d never even thought of dealing with. And the publishing world? Well, let’s just say it’s always been rife with tales of doom and gloom and the end of books and reading—not the happiest news when one’s trying to eke out a living with their words. Meeting with kindred spirits who like you, who like your stories, who are kind and funny and compassionate—even while they’ll straightforwardly tell you what is and isn’t working with your stories—keep you keeping on.

In James W. Miller’s review of Diana Pavlac Glyer’s The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community, *** he says that, “using a formula for determining influence created by another scholar, Karen Lefevre, Glyer analyzes the way the Inklings served as Resonators (encouraging voices), Opponents (thoughtful critics), Editors, and Collaborators (project teammates) for one another. She then adds her own fifth category, that they were Referents who wrote about one another and promoted one another’s books to publishers and the public.”

When I read that description, I thought, Egad—I’m so lucky! I have the good fortune of being part of a community like that too.

How about you? What is your writing community like? Are you part of a writing group? Does it have a name? Is it a face-to-face group or an online one? Do you feel there’s an advantage to either type of meeting?

– – – – – – – – – – – –

* Well, him, Stephen King, and Julia Cameron—bwahahahaha, what a combination! I wonder what on earth they’d think of being grouped together?)

** I don’t know if I ever stumbled across this picture and description before I googled, “c s lewis inklings pictures,” but apparently my imagination was well fed! 😉

*** A book I haven’t read yet, but that’s totally on my list now that I’ve read fifteen or so reviews about it.

Get Thee to a Conference!

I can’t believe that this time last week I was at SiWC sitting in a workshop called Polish and Shine led by Elizabeth Engstrom (fantastic class!). This Saturday is decidedly less glamorous and thrilling.

All this past week I rode the post conference high, but now the fuzzy glow is fading just a bit (or being blocked from my immediate view!) in the face of the dishes stacking up, the floors being in serious need of a sweep and mop (oh, my dogs–gotta love’em; wish I could shave’em!), the laundry and meals that never cease to need doing/making, and the bathroom, argh, the bathroom! Let’s just not talk about it. . . However, all grumbling and moping aside, my newly reaffirmed goals remain clear and focussed. My inspiration is freshly topped. And when I think of all I want to do, plan to do, need to do . . . Yes, I feel a bit intimidated, but even more, I feel stoked: being surrounded by 600+ writers for four days is seriously motivating.

Almost every year I hesitate before I hit submit to register for SiWC (my annual conference ;-)). Then I recall what it does for me: refuels me for another twelve months, reminds me that yes, writing is a solitary pursuit, but that I am not alone. Literally hundreds upon hundreds of other people identify with and embrace a similar madness!

Meeting with like minds (or at least similarly bent ones), being surrounded by a crowd of folks who really “get” this strange obsession you have with stories and words, and having the chance to learn from others in different places in the writing path than you–well, corny as it sounds, it’s priceless.

Not cost-free though. I’m already starting to put money away for next year, and I think you should do the same.

And less you’re not convinced you or your writing are worth the extravagance of a first conference (or a third, a tenth, a twentieth!), what am I doing right now? Sitting down to write while the house is empty and clear, dirty and in need of a clean as it is–and that’s the whole point, isn’t it? We want to be writers, so we write. We don’t need conferences to give us permission or to remind us–but they do help us remember it. If you have the chance to take part in a writer’s conference, big or small, nearby or far, I really recommend it. It makes all the time we spend in solitary sweet.

Do-it-yourself online writing retreat

The writing life can be a tad isolating, so a few years back, I started my own writing forum, Procrastination, as a way of keeping my treasured friends-who-also write close as we grew further and further apart geographically. We’re a small board; maybe five of us post regularly, with only three or so more than that who pop in every couple of months. We’ve even taken to (most years) meeting up for the community-building/inspiration-boosting/writing-celebration of them all–the Surrey International Writers’ Conference.

Then this year at SiWC, late Saturday night, missing one of our Procrastinators who couldn’t make the conference, feeling sad and a bit blown away that our wonderful weekend was almost over again already, we started discussing (or maybe bellyaching, just a bit ;-)) how Surrey gives us energy/motivation for our whole writing year, and how the conference never arrived a moment too soon . . . In fact, wouldn’t it be great if we could afford do two a year–SiWC, plus some other retreat or something six months or so later?

Enter fantastic brain wave! It occurred to us that we already had a perfect meet-up place, and instead of just using it as a message/conversation board, as fun and valuable as that is, why not use it for something a little more planned out. An online writing retreat! Our set up was simple.

I created a private thread (only people who had signed up ahead of time could see the thread when they entered Procrastination.) On the set day, at a set time, we each posted one exercise. Then we spent that full day, plus one more day writing according to our own schedules. On the third day, again at a set time, we each posted our results to each exercise (with no disclaimers about perceived quality, etc). Everyone who signed up committed to reading and responding to each participant’s posts. The result was fantastic–much better than we’d even anticipated in terms of fun, inspiration, and concentrated, results-based motivation.

We all came away a bit in awe that we could write so much in such a short time period–and that a lot of it was “keeper” material, stuff we wanted to do more with, possibly lengthen, possibly tighten and polish and submit as short stories.

Seeing as it was such a success, and how (for now) our ability to take in bigger conferences/retreats is limited to annually, we decided to make it a seasonal event–our spring writing retreat is just around the corner; I’m already excited and brainstorming what exercise I’ll offer.

If you’re part of a small online writing community and feeling a bit low energy in the ol’ writing department, I highly recommend organizing some form of your own online writing retreat. And if you don’t have that kind of online community, but long for a bit of a writing extravaganza/refuelling? Well, come visit me here again soon. A while back I did a writing retreat for one and I’ll post a bit about that in a few days.

Happy writing!
🙂 Ev

About the three-author reading . . .

I had the privilege of taking part in a three-author reading event at UNBC (Terrace campus) this past Thursday (July 9th), along with poet Simon Thompson (watch for his poetry collection, coming September 2009 from New Star Books) and Si Transken, an inspiring wild woman who, amidst her hectic life of teaching as a tenured PhD at UNBC and working with street women and in shelters in Prince George, writes wickedly funny, painfully challenging poems about the people she meets—docu-poems.

The way I prepared this time was particularly beneficial and non-crazy-making (bonus!), and evening was totally fun and inspiring night—I went home so fired up that I wrote ‘til 3:00 a.m.

Once Simon began to speak, I forgot my nerves. He made interesting commentary on writing in general, and the poems he shared, full of sharp, vivid images, pulled me in entirely. His poetry is like a camera’s click—each scene is captured with precision, right down to the changes in light and shadow. I especially love how he makes no references to mood or emotion, yet each poem is powerfully felt because of the details he chooses to elaborate on. An excellent take-home point for every writer!

Si was shocking and fantastic—soft-spoken, smiley, constantly joking as a presenter. Her poems? Her words? They flashed and slashed like a pulled knife. She is all about social activism and change and vocal about what’s wrong in the world what needs to be righted and so high energy you wonder if she breathes when she talks and you’re ashamed/challenged—your words your thoughts your art should DO something.

The audience was great—very engaged, laughing and interactive. Yay! Afterward, most hung around to chat a bit. I especially enjoyed talking with Noreen Spence, a wonderful painter, about some of the parallels between painting and writing (maybe between all arts—my sister’s a classical singer and we notice similarities in our processes all the time too).

This morning I received an e-mail from Noreen that said in part: “I was listening to the three of you last night and thinking about what enormous courage it took to do what you did. Another way that writing is similar to painting. All this solitary activity and invested energy and then one day there you are, having to be exposed and suddenly gregarious. What a wild ride. Only crazy people would willingly climb on for this insane roller coaster. Thank heavens for the crazy people!”

Yes, thank heavens. 🙂

Writing is a solitary, intimate endeavour, and while I love that about it, it also makes mingling with people who do what I do (or want to do) and who love and obsess about the same things I do (in different forms or modes) that much more important, special, out of the ordinary, nourishing.

If you can, get thee to a reading soon!

Terrace Writers’ Guild 2009 Fiction Contest

logoTWGThe 3rd Annual TWG Fiction Contest is open for submissions!

Deadline: Postmarked by Tuesday, October 27, 2009

1st Place: $250.00 from UNBC and paid publication in Northword Magazine.

2nd Place: $150.00 from Marion Olson of Re/Max and author’s name and story title published in Northword Magazine.

3rd Place: $75.00 from saz communications and author’s name and story title published in Northword Magazine.

Rules and guidelines:

1. All submissions must be written by individuals currently living in Northern British Columbia—that’s any community north of Quesnel, including the Queen Charlotte Islands.

2. No entry fee is required, and all story rights remain with the author. All genres are welcome, but sorry, no poetry or stories intended for children.

3. Submissions must be between 1500 and 3000 words. Stories that do not meet this guideline will be eliminated from competition.

4. All works must be original and free of plagiarism (which includes third-party poetry, song lyrics, characters, etc., without written permission). The contest’s audience is the general public, so excessive violence or sex, determined by the judges, will result in
disqualification. Entries may not have been previously published.

5. Entries should be typed in 12-font, double spaced in black ink on white paper, and must have a cover page with the title of the work, the author’s name, contact information, and an approximate word count. Every subsequent page must carry the title and a page number, but the author’s name must be deleted in order for fair judging. Any submissions not meeting these guidelines will be disqualified.

6. Manuscripts will be destroyed after judging. A #10 (business size) self-addressed, stamped envelope must be included with the entry in order to receive judging results. Entrants may choose to not send an SASE, in which case winners may be viewed by visiting this website after December 31st, 2009.

Please mail submissions to:

TWG FICTION CONTEST
PO BOX 1046
TERRACE BC
V8G 4V1

Winners will be notified by December 15th, 2009

No email submissions will be accepted. For more information, e-mail here.

On behalf of Terrace Writers’ Guild and all the writers up here in Northern BC that benefit from the inspiration and motivation this contest provides, I’d like to express a tonne of appreciation to our generous sponsors: Northword Magazine, UNBC, Marion Olson, and saz communications.

SiWC 2009 or bust!

So I just did something very exciting—booked a four-night stay at the gorgeous Sheraton Guildford in Surrey, BC. It seems unbelievable, but it’s already time—really time!—to start planning my favourite annual indulgence: The Surrey International Writers’ Conference.

I normally try to rein in my freakish enthusiasm and exuberance while blogging, so I don’t scare readers away, but allow me one, YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!

I know some writers are sceptical of the advantages of conferences. They think they’re nothing but a money grab. They feel you don’t learn anything that you couldn’t from a book or a bit of research. They’re sure everyone’s just there for their egos—I’m a writer, look at me. They’re convinced you’d be better off spending the time writing, not talking about writing.

I confess I don’t understand conference bashers.

1. Yes, attending a conference is a financial commitment. That it costs you something is part of its value. Say what? Just that: Putting money into your craft, saying in essence, “I’m serious about my writing, and it’s worth not just my time, but also my material resources to pursue,” is like giving yourself a big ol’ permission slip to take your goals more seriously. It’s also a big cue to family and friends—Oh, she’s serious about this little writing thing.

Professional development (Yes, a little FYI, conferences are P-D, not just wonderfully social times where everyone sips wine, talks about their favourite things—books and storytelling, of course—and comes away absolutely inspired) betters the quality of your work and boosts your word counts. Being with other people who are excited about the same things you are is motivating.

2. Books on craft are great, and yep, you learn a lot reading them, but—and gasp, I can’t quite believe I’m saying this—there are some things being alone with a book can’t do. Reading alone in your study doesn’t give you the experience of being with 1000 other souls who love what you love—ideas, words, stories. It doesn’t give you the chance to laugh along with one of your favourite authors. It doesn’t provide the opportunity to stick up your hand in the middle of the information to say, “Gah—I don’t get it!” or “Yay—I love how you put that!”

Hearing authors talk about their personal experiences, reassure you that it’s an achievable dream (they’re living proof, after all), and answer every-question-you-can-imagine is invaluable. As is getting to learn face-to-face from agents and editors who accept books (maybe even one like yours!) for their livings.

3. As for the complaints about “egos” . . . I don’t see it. I’ve met people I don’t click with, sure. I may have (it’s terrible) even cringed or grimaced inwardly a time or two on behalf of a cornered agent or author, yep. But people are people wherever you go. The great, the bad, the meh—they’re everywhere. And for what it’s worth, I think writing conferences having a higher per ratio capacity of hilarious, generous, kind, and witty people than most public groupings. The feeling of community and camaraderie is almost the whole reason I go. I work alone day after day all year (Yay for the Internet, but that’s an aside). Even the most reclusive of us benefit from and need human company sometimes.

4. Four days of conferencing and sushilizing does not, in anyway, take away from my productivity. I write almost every day—and that’s in addition to my business writing, editing, and workshops. Surrey energizes me for a whole year. If I have a day where I feel kind of unmotivated, I look at the calendar and recall the goals I’ve set for the next conference . . . Speaking of which, I’m on track, but not ahead of where I wanted to be by this month, so I should go.

Happy writing, everyone—and if you’re heading out to Surrey this October 22, 23, and 24 for SiWC, let me know.

I’m also interested in any comments about why you love writing workshops or conferences—or really mix things up and tell me why I’m out to lunch and they suck! 😀

~ Ev