The exec for 2012 stands as follows:
President Carol O.
Vice President Michael Mcgovern
Treasurer Laura Smith
Secretary Sheila Martindale
Members at Large:
Sheila Martindale won a thirty dollar gift certificate from Bolyn Books from the draw.
Volume 9 Issue 1 of Island Writer launched tonight. It was my first issue as Editor In Chief.
So, this is where I usually put my writeup of the most recent Victoria Writers’ Society general meeting, as it’s the first Wednesday of the month.
Last Wednesday Robert Wiersema came to talk to the Victoria Writers’ Society about writing in the real world and his new book Bedtime Stories. He will be touring the Island and the Gulf Islands for the next eight weeks. His wife will drive, to protect society. In the book, father and son bond over bedtime stories, since father is a big reader – a writer, actually – but the son is dyslexic. Despite the similarities to Wiersema’s own life, he reiterates often that his main character is not him. They may both get up at 4am to get in an hour and a half of writing before facing the day, and both write everything longhand in fountain pen before typing it up, and both have sons the same age. But the character is not him. “Chris is not me. I want to be very clear on these things,” Wiersema says with a smile.
The very funny Wiersema never plans what he’s going to say . . . ever. Which has gotten him in trouble on more than one occasion. He doesn’t specify the occasions, but talks of surreal moments in his career as a writer. “Some days are strange. Some days you stay after work getting your picture taken for the Globe and Mail lying on the floor with the book open on your chest like publishing it has killed you.” He nods at the VWS audience, “some days you give speeches you’re in no way prepared for.”
His topic for the night was “writing in the real world,” so he elaborated on how and why he got into writing. He started by as an English Literature student, commenting that “there are few things more arrogant than a second or third year English Literature student, especially one with creative writing pretensions.” Working in a bookstore was one of the two more important things in his career as a writer – the other being getting together with his wife. Working in a bookstore exposed him to what people actually read, not just what was considered part of the CanLit canon. “That was a great moment for me as a writer, realizing that there was value outside of what was considered normal.”
He then posed the question, “What part of your real life gives birth to the writing?” For him, it’s fear. What kick-started his first novel was he and his wife getting pregnant. He realized that he was going to be a father, and thirty. He was happy, then terrified, then wrote Before I Wake in three months in a white fear of “what’s the worst that can happen?”
As a last point, he said, “If you take nothing else away from this, take this. This is the double underscore point. Write what you know is bullshit. Write out of what you know. If you have a happy marriage, don’t write a happy marriage. Write about someone else’s happy marriage, or about someone’s bad marriage. . . . Give your characters their own tragedies.”
He finished with a reading, then entertained questions he promised to answer entertainingly; a promise he fulfilled. As a writer and reviewer and bookseller, Wiersema has a lot of insight into the local book world.
An interesting note from the question period is how he got his agent; he already had a reputation as an honest reviewer who didn’t pull his punches, and that got his name moderately well known, and known for integrity. That came up particularly glaringly in my notes as I’ve been writing this, as this is the first time I’ve let a speaker know I’ll be writing about them for my blog.
On Tuesday we had the first meeting of the new editorial board of Island Writer. We gathered at Simeon’s house and had his own white wine and chips and salsa and chocolate in his sunny living room, with Christine and I plugged into our little machines. It’s exciting, to have the working period of the next issue looming. Not too many submissions so far, but they’re trickling in. And, if the last one is any indication, I can expect about 70 in the two days before the deadline.
But talking about our vision for the magazine and the ways we want to organize it was great – I jumped in very late in the game on the last issue, and so wasn’t part of that. It wasn’t necessary, of course, but I really like having a better idea of what we’re doing. And I like that I’m going to be more involved in the process.
The rest of the board; Chelsea Rushton, Simeon Goa, Sheila Martindale, Christine George, and Kim Nayyer, all seem wonderful. Kim wasn’t able to attend, but Chelsea took minutes. I’m looking forward to working with everyone on this issue.
The Victoria Writers’ Society had its last meeting before the summer on Wednesday. Tricia Dower spoke about character creation and read from her book, Silent Girl. Despite being sick and having to leave the room a couple times, she gave a really great talk.
Character creation, and the role of the character in the story (should they drive the plot? should the plot dictate everything about them? is setting a character, and should it be?) is a topic that comes up on every writing forum I’m a member of. Every writer is different, and takes different approaches, even amongst different of their own works.
Tricia Dower had an interesting approach to interviewing one’s characters, getting to know them as individuals beyond the page so that they inhabit the page as whole beings.
The launch for the Summer 2010 edition of Island Writer was this last Wednesday. It was my first launch; I was on vacation during the last one, and it was also my first launch as a member of the editorial staff. I was and am the editorial assistant for the magazine, and it’s a tremendous learning experience for me, seeing exactly what goes into a publication. I was also lucky enough with this issue to have two illustrations included. At the launch I got the meet the author of one of the stories I illustrated, Judith Mackay, and that was wonderful, to actually meet the person whose work I worked with. I hadn’t even spoken to her before that, except in form letters sent in my capacity as editorial assistant.
This issue was also the last issue for the editor in chief I worked with, Stacey Curtis. She’s spent the last several issues as the editor, and is moving on to other projects. She was wonderful to work with; creative, open to input on the technical side (we used Google Docs for some stages, which was a great and easy way to get everyone the files), and patient of my inevitable mistakes.
I met several of the new editorial staff at the launch, as well, and am looking forward to working with them on the next issue, coming out in December.