I Am That Woman · My Book · On Writing

TWUC OnWords Writers Conference & AGM

OnWords AGM Writers Conference – The Writers Union of Canada (aka ‘Twuck’ rhymes with…luck.)

May 29-June 1

St. John’s, Newfoundland

I left Windsor on Thursday morning more than ready to get on a plane and venture east. My only worry was how my ears would feel. See, they pop and pressure worse than popcorn at a movie theatre when the plane descends. The flight from Windsor to Toronto was fine. No ear trauma. But landing in St. John’s had me holding my forehead, chomping on gum and trying not to cry out in pain. It helped to look out the window and marvel at the landscape. It looked like the top of a freshly baked apple crumble – bumpy browns sprinkled with icing sugar snow, atop an ocean blue plate. Such beauty. And, as the pilot was quick to point out, there was an iceberg to behold! Indeed, I was told to bring my winter coat, which I did, and I’m glad I did. It was cold! There was frost on the plane window…

I happened to find a typo on the back of the seat in front of me! Notice ‘Use*d* seat cushion for flotation’. I think it’s supposed to say ‘Use’…although I suppose the seat cushion I’d use for flotation could, in fact, be ‘used’. 🙂 (My editor’s brain never really turns off!)

I slept most of the way to St. John’s, and read the rest. I can’t tell you how much it helped my soul to be able to read, read, read. Uninterrupted. Pages upon pages. It felt so good!

I hopped in a cab and headed to my hotel. I chose not to stay at the hotel the conference was at for several reasons. 1) I saved money staying elsewhere. 2) I wanted to have to walk through the city to get to the conference. This way I’d have to explore and experience St. John’s to and from the hotel.

The cab driver was great. The drivers were great (all but one were extremely talkative, informative and friendly!), offering me historical facts and tourist points I should hit. Yes, they spoke quickly. Yes, they had accents, slippery and song-ish, but I understood mostly everything!

It’s true – the folks in St. John’s are friendly, friendly, friendly!

I stayed in an old mansion, that I later found out from a cab driver, was the place the queen and the royal family stayed when they visited. I get it. I felt like royalty staying there! It was a suite, complete with a small living and dining area, a mini kitchen, a big tv, lovely lamps and this bed:

…and this claw-foot tub in a brand new bathroom with *heated floors*. GAH!!!!

I bathed in this tub every day – no matter what. I filled it to a bubbly brim and stayed in it reading until my skin turned to raisins and the water was cold enough to make me shiver. I finished reading Amy Mckay’s The Virgin Cure in this lovely tub. It was heavenly.

I spent my days at the conference in workshops and/or meetings, eating and socializing, and exploring the city. I will admit that on the Saturday afternoon instead of attending plenary meetings, I took a cab to Signal Hill, took photos, wrote poetry, shopped…like the long baths, this exploration of a new, vibrant city was needed and heavenly.

My official name tag – colour-coded in yellow so the others would know I was a ‘Rookie’ attendee!

I passed gardens of daffodils on my way to the conference hotel. So beautiful!

I read and read and read…in every free moment…

 And I ate and ate and ate! Featuring food from @piattopizzeria and @thebagelcafe…

The opening night reception was held at @RocketFoodInc (Rocket Cafe) and made for a grand start to the rest of the conference, with over 100 members schmoozing. We were also graced with the poetry stylings of George Murray (@bookninja), St. John’s Poet Laureate.

Was I nervous? Yes (have you met me?). It was a bit daunting to be in a roomful of people who seemed to all know each other but not know me! But everyone was kind and approachable. I do believe I’ve made some new friends for life.

If you’re on the fence about attending a writers conference, jump off and get to registering. Do what it takes to align your schedule, your finances and your courage, and get thee to a conference.

As a member of the Writers Union of Canada, I was aware of the Annual General Meeting slash conference ‘OnWords’, and I was interested in coming. But I was on the fence. What helped me jump off and into the wonderful world of conference-ing, was the following: 1) it was in St. John’s, Newfoundland and 2) I was invited to be part of a panel of presenters for a workshop entitled ‘The Art of Presenting: Reading  & Performing.

Indeed, being invited to present at a conference certainly helps one decide to attend. I’ve never been to Newfoundland, so the thought of taking a mini-vacation across the country to a place I’d heard was as beautiful as the people who inhabit it, well, that also tipped off the fence.

I had to get my schedule and finances in order…and somehow I managed to get this done. But, I’d like to add, not without asking for help in both departments to make it viable and manageable for me to attend. (In this case, the old ‘ask and you shall receive’ adage worked in my favour!)

This was my first writing conference in Canada. I’ve been to other writing conferences, but they were in the states. And it felt, somehow, extra special to know that I’d be rubbing elbows and book covers with other Canadian writers.

The panel presentation I was on was a complete success! There were over 40 people in attendance. I did my ‘silence is golden – now judge me’ presentation, and it made for a truly engaging and inspiring conversation. Fellow panelists Charis Cotter and Amy House did amazing jobs with their expertise-giving as well.

The presentation was impactful enough for Margaret Laurence Lecturer and Canadian novelist Guy Vanderheaghe to comment: “I was at your presentation! You terrified me! I thought, I can’t do what you do!” And then he proceeded to steal our hearts and get us to our feet after his lecture. *REALLY* It was such an honour to hear him speak. Here is his lecture if you’re so inclined to take the time to be inspired.

The Writers Union of Canada knows how to conference – from the intense brainstorming sessions to the long but effective meetings, and the diverse panel topics and panelists, I couldn’t help but feel elevated in my writing life. And, um, writers know how to party. Can I just put that out there? No matter what age, writers love to talk, share, dance, laugh, applaud, challenge and support each other. I felt a part of something much bigger than ‘me’. And I think it’s important to feel this way as often as you can.

Oh, and at the fancy dinner the Newfoundland Chocolate Company was there to make us fresh chocolate balls. I mean, you had me at choco-llo.

(Do I have anything in my teeth?)

I fell completely in love with St. John’s. I feel as though this city is a scarf I’ve been looking for…colourful, fresh, artistic and cozy. I’m wrapped up, and it feels really good. This city feels like it knows itself, and I like that. The people ‘belong’ here and celebrate their belonging on the page, in the coffee shops, along the water. It’s refreshing and inspiring.

And, it was cold. There were still icebergs in the dark waters that surround the island. But that didn’t stop me from trekking around like a mad-hatter tourist, taking photos of everything and everyone, eating too much, and shopping too much.

The fog on Signal Hill was eerily breathtaking. In case you missed them, here are my photo essay blogs of images of St. John’s…

Day 1

Day 2/3 

I’ve another one to put together still…of my last day exploring the water front and Water Street.

I’ve much more to say about the conference and how it made me feel and what I learned, but I’m writing an article about it. Once it done, I’ll share it with y’all.

Thank you Writers’ Union of Canada, the people of St. John’s, Newfoundland and all the members who attended the conference and/or keep the union alive and strong.



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