Local workshops offer opportunities for writers

Hone your skills write now!

When it comes to technique, writers don’t need to brainstorm for long to find where to learn more. There are many workshops for the emerging writer to hone their skills – and for the experienced writer to stay sharp.

“The Manitoba Writers’ Guild (MWG)  is a good place to start,” president of the MWG board Susan Rocan says. She herself joined the Guild when she started writing as an adult and found helpful guidance with her work.

A $30 student membership grants members reduced rates to writing events. The MWG hosts a critique group the last Thursday of every month, as well as workshops with topics ranging from mystery writing to graphic novel techniques.

Another perk of membership is the Blue Pencil workshops. These occur monthly and focus on reworking pieces written by members.

“Participants sign up and send the facilitator the work they want critiqued. The facilitator will go over it, mark it up as they see fit and explain their corrections in class – this benefits all participants,” Rocan explains.

Thin Air (the Winnipeg International Writers Festival) is another option. Their workshops and lectures are hosted by local and international writers.

“This year, we’ve got our most international group, in that we’ve got the most countries represented,” Keith Cadieux, administrative coordinator of the festival explains.

The festival runs from Sept. 22-30 this year. It hosts a series of workshops dubbed Bootcamp for Writers at McNally Robinson, as well as a more technical lecture series, The Writing Craft.

Thin Air is bilingual, making it a rare resource for francophone writers. Cadieux believes this aspect works particularly well with the Franco-Manitoban community.

“Winnipeg is actually a really good place to pull off a bilingual aspect, because the French community is so involved,” Cadieux says.

Cadieux believes Manitoba to be one of the three main places producing French literature, along with France and Québec. This allows for singular workshops such as Translate That!, a lecture about the idiosyncrasies of translating.

“This is something that I think would be great to do in the future with some Indigenous languages as well,” Cadieux says.

While there are many resources available for writers in Winnipeg, they are not always financially accessible for everyone. Classes at the MWG cost between $50 and $85 for members and even more for non-members.

Rocan maintains that the prices accurately reflect the expertise of different writers, as well as the value of what is learned.

“The Master Classes are very intensive, taught by established writers, and with a lot of writing exercises and good information,” Rocan explains.

The MWG, on the other hand, factors in the income brackets of their diverse community.

“There is a different price for students and low-income (folks),” Rocan says.

Thin Air receives government funding and can afford to offer many of their workshops and lectures free of charge, Cadieux says. However, the festival takes place for only one week every year, and many of the events do not involve a practical aspect for participants.

Year-round, emerging writers can seek counsel from the Writers in Residence programs at local universities. This year’s Writer at the University of Winnipeg is Katherena Vermette, while Jordan Abel holds the title at the University of Manitoba.

Find out more at thinairwinnipeg.ca and at mbwriter.mb.ca.

Published in Volume 72, Number 1 of The Uniter (September 7, 2017)

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