Canadian Writers’ Summit 2018 – Feminist Caucus Power Panel and More!

The bi-annual Canadian Writers’ Summit is upon us once again! This upcoming weekend – from Thursday, June 14 until Sunday, June 17, 2018, writers and their leagues, organizations, groups and more will gather at Toronto’s Harbourfront and share words over panels, readings, annual general meetings, meals, awards and key note speeches. To give you a bit of context, each year the many organizations/unions/leagues get together with their members for an ‘AGM’ or Annual General Meeting. What happens at these important gatherings are things that directly affect the members like: voting, membership information and concerns (like copyright, Public Lending Right, equal rights, and so much more!), awards, volunteering, council voting/roles, financial information, meetings with teams/groups within the organization, panels and readings, and general ‘let’s get to know each other more’ social events. Depending on the the location, there are also tours of the city and opportunities to explore the city where the AGM is held. It’s kind of a conference-meets-business-meeting type of event. I’ve been to many over the years for both the Writers’ Union of Canada and the League of Canadian Poets. What sets the CWS apart is that it gathers EVERYONE – all the groups and more! – together over one power-punch of a weekend. This enables a different vibe and experience to attending your group’s AGM. It also enables you to meet more writers, publishers and industry professionals than maybe you would otherwise. And, you don’t have to be a ‘member’ of any of the groups to attend, as far as I know. If you’re a writer (whether you self-identify as such or not!), you can pay for the conference and attend.

One of my favourite events is the Margaret Laurence Lecture. This lecture is hosted by the Writers’ Trust of Canada (the folks who also give us numerous incredible writing awards!) This year, the MLL welcomes Tomson Highway. Did you know it’s a dream of mine to be invited to give this lecture!! It recognizes a lifetime of creative writing achievement – and the writer talks about his/her/they writing life – it’s ups and downs and all arounds, and is most inspiring. Jean Little gave the last MLL that I saw – and I still get a surge of inspiration when I remember her and the words she shared with us.

I am a member of both the Writers’ Union of Canada and the League of Canadian Poets. I am a member of the Feminist Caucus (FC) for the league, and I am the Action Committee Chair – a role born out of last year’s FC panel at the AGM in the Toronto. Each year the FC holds its business meeting – where EVERYONE IS WELCOME! – and where the theme for the next FC panel comes to life. This year’s panel is chaired by Carol Casey and its theme has its roots in ‘dialogue’.

The theme of this year’s panel is REMEMBERING FORWARD. It features poets who will share a dialogue between each other about their experiences of feminism – then and now. The poets include Lee Maracle, Anne Burke (one of the founding members of the FC), Canisia Lubrin and Charlie C Petch. Last year, Charlie and I co-chaired the panel, and out of that is coming a brand new chapbook that includes the essays from the panelists. The chapbook is launching just after the panel presentation, and also, there is a poetry reading too!

It is truly an inspiring, emotional, passionate, powerful panel, launch and reading to attend. Here are the details of the panel, launch and reading: CLICK HERE!

Another GREAT WAY TO GET INVOLVED WITH THE FEMINIST CAUCUS is to attend the business meeting (click to find out the room/time) which is happening on Friday, June 15, 2018, and welcomes members of the League to attend. Any League member can attend. Are you wondering how to become a member of the Feminist Caucus? Why, it’s soooo easy – just let the league know! It’s a simple as getting your email added to our e-blasts and newsletters, and as intense and busy as you want to make it in terms of giving your time and energy to volunteering to chair the panel or any new committee/idea/event you have in mind!

I asked Carol Casey some questions about her panel idea, and her goals and beliefs too!

VS: How long have you been a member of the Feminist Caucus with the League?

CC: I am pretty new to the League and the Caucus.  I joined the League last spring and the Caucus in June of last year.

VS: What motivated you to join?

CC: I have identified as a feminist for a long time.  It is a theme in my poetry.  I was excited to see that there were other poets who felt the same.  I was curious to see what feminism in poetry looked like for others, and to share ideas.

VS: When did you start identifying as a feminist – in your own life?

CC: For me it was a slow process of awakening.  I was aware of the feminist movement in the 70’s, but not sure how I fit in.  A really good high-school friend became a radical lesbian.  While I was happy for her, I thought because I was primarily heterosexual, it was not for me.  There was a lot of anger at men expressed at the “consciousness raising meetings I attended.  I was pregnant at the time and did not know how to resolve these sentiments with being the mother of a boy.  When I look back, I see how simplistic my thinking was about feminism.  I was barely skimming the surface. I then tried to fit into a traditional marriage.  This did not work well for me. One turning point came when, after thinking there was something drastically wrong with me because I was so desperately unhappy and emotionally all over the place within my marriage, I read in a feminist article that sometimes what seems like insanity is actually a sane response to an insane situation.  It got me thinking.  I started to see my situation in a new way.  After this, I became progressively radicalized.  I ended the marriage, joined Women Today, a women’s advocacy organization and met my life partner, who identifies as a feminist.  I still had reservations because of the half understandings I had developed in my youth.  The clincher came when I took a university course in Women’s Studies that described a feminist as someone who works to end oppression.  That finally give me a place of comfort and the incentive to explore further.  I was able to define myself as a feminist in my mid-thirties. My identity as a feminist continues to evolve as my understanding deepens.

VS: Can you give us the ‘definition’ of feminist that you live by?

CC: At this point my definition of a feminist is: A person who honours the feminine.  They are against oppression of any kind and consciously work to eradicate it both within themselves and in the outside world.  They question societal norms and beliefs that limit human potential, always asking “who profits?” and who does not.

VS: Share your idea and its origins for this year’s FC panel. What is your intention with this panel?

CC: My idea was to get different generations of feminists together to see what they can learn from each other about how feminism and its relationship to mainstream society is evolving.  I am also interested in how feminists visions and ideas change over time.  I remember a line from a song in Mary Poppins about the suffragists, “Our daughters’ daughters will adore us, as they sing in grateful chorus, Well done, sister suffragette”.  While we are all grateful to the suffragists for obtaining the vote for women,  I wondered how the political situation today would jive with the hopes and dreams suffragists had for future generations of women.  It would be fascinating, but nearly impossible anymore to get that perspective.  Then I thought about the changes made by the second wave of feminists in the 70s and 80s.  I wondered how young women today view these changes.  Do they take some of them for granted, like we now take the vote?  Have some become foundations to further change?  Do some seem like they were a waste of time?  Did some of the second wave feminist ideals get coopted, coerced or commercialized- cause further oppression?  For example, the struggle for educational and workplace equity has led more women into the workforce and educational institutions.  While this is definitely progress, I see many young couples, especially with small children struggling to juggle work and childcare responsibilities.  Young women I know are putting off child-raising indefinitely in order to further their careers without the setbacks caused by maternity leaves.  Is their quality of life better because of this?  Have we traded one form of oppression for another?  It was thoughts like this that prompted me to put the idea to the caucus.

VS: What will make this panel a ‘success’ in your eyes/heart/mind?

CC: For me it will be a success if
– I see three pairs of poets, excited and engaged with what they have learned from eachother sharing the insights they gained.
– I see a responsive and inspired audience participating in the dialogue
– I feel inspired by the presentations and grow as a feminist as a result
– I, and the audience, gain insights from the various perspectives presented: age, race, culture, gender that help us understand what has been accomplished and what still needs to be done.

VS: How do you think poetry moves Feminism?

CC: On a deeply personal level, poetry gets me in touch with my own truth.  It has been my way to understand what it means to me to be a woman in our society who is learning to honour women. Writing poetry has helped me clarify my experiences and definitions of oppression. I share my poems in the hopes that others will resonate with them and reflect on their own ideals. I feel that a good poem can affect us and educate us profoundly and on many levels.  It can get us thinking and feeling about what is going on around us.  It can transport us deep into the intangible roots of life.  We enter the poet’s world and gain understanding of “the other”. Poetry is a grassroots tool to address the multifaceted challenges and perspectives that feminism faces and to express the richness at its core.  It moves feminism both in the sense that it evokes passion and inspiration, and that it furthers our intellectual understanding of what we are doing and still need to do.

I do hope that if you’re attending the CWS, you take the time to meet the friendly poets at the League, and attend the Feminist Caucus panel and book launch.

For more information about the LCP – click here.

For more information about the FC – click here.

For more information about the CWS – click here.

For more information about the Writers’ Union of Canada – click here.

I’m proud to be a writer – are you? Show your pride by sharing this blog with your friends! #cws #lcp #feministcaucus

Thank you!

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